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The 85th Academy Awards: A Look at the Song & Score Nominees

February 24, 2013

846xBy Erin V.

With the 85th Academy Awards being announced tonight, I wanted to give my brief thoughts on two of the categories I’m always watching.  Best Original Song and Best Original Score.  Enjoy!  

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The nominees for Best Original Score are:

Anna Karenina – Dario Marianelli

Argo – Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi – Mychael Danna

Lincoln – John Williams

Skyfall – Thomas Newman

The lineup this year for Best Score is almost identical to the lineup for the Golden Globes (where Life of Pi won), with one exception – at the Globes, Skyfall was replaced by Cloud Atlas (also a great selection).

First up nominated tonight, is Anna Karenina, by Dario Marianelli.  This is a very classical score, for a classic story.  With waltzing elements and sophistication, Marianelli’s score for the film is a very classic entry in this category and deserving of the nod.  That being said, while it is one I very much enjoy listening to, I don’t think it will win tonight.

Next up is Alexandre Desplat’s score to Argo.  I didn’t mind the score in the film, and it does work quite well in context – it creates a real sense of unease at times.  That being said, this is certainly not my favourite of the nominees.  While it has its moments, I don’t really enjoy this score as much per say, save for one thing.  The final track that plays over the end – “Cleared Iranian Airspace.”  This is one of the most beautifully written pieces of the year.  After the at times aggravating insistence of the score, we can finally breath again – and maybe that’s the point.  Because if you think about it, it is these feelings that this music can evoke that match the film, and is that not what film music is supposed to be about?

Next is the winner of the Golden Globe, as well as the IFMCA award for Score of the Year – Life of Pi by Mychael Danna.  After winning other awards, this could be the winner, although this is a different set of voters, and a different playing field so anything could happen.  It is certainly is an interesting and beautiful score, complimenting the visuals of the film very well.  This is a film that captivated me until the last few scenes took a strange turn and I wouldn’t discount it from taking several awards tonight.  Will score be one of those?  There’s a good chance of that.

Then is Lincoln, by John Williams.  It is a very good score as we have come to expect from Williams.  To me though, it is just a little too much like last year’s War Horse to feel particularly unique.  Still, it plays very well in the film, and it is not a surprise to see it here.  Will it win?  Small chance, but like last year’s War Horse, probably not.

Last, but certainly not least, is Thomas Newman’s Skyfall.  Newman’s score has classic Bond elements, as well as feeling fresh.  It is an exciting action score, with more depth than many, and in some ways reminds me a bit of Giacchino’s writing for an action film.  I was pleasantly surprised by this score, and on multiple listens (in the film, and then a couple times of soundtrack), came to really appreciate it.  Keep an eye on this one tonight.

Who will win: Toss-up between Life of Pi and Skyfall.  

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The nominees for Best Original Song are:

• “Before My Time” from Chasing Ice – music and lyrics by J. Ralph, performed by Scarlett Johannson and Joshua Bell

• “Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted – music by Walter Murphy, lyrics by Seth MacFarlane, performed by Norah Jones

• “Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi, music by Mychael Danna, lyrics and performed by Bombay Jayashree

• “Skyfall” from Skyfall – music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth, performed by Adele.

• “Suddenly” from Les Misérables – music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil, performed by Hugh Jackman

After last year, it is nice to see five nominees again.  There is also a nice variety here, with each providing a different tone and type of songwriting.  There were many other songs in film this year, but this an eclectic mix and one that I am pleased with.

First in the category (alphabetically) is “Before My Time” from the gorgeous documentary Chasing IceChasing Ice took home the audience award at Hot Docs last year, where I first saw the film.  The song plays over the credits of the film, as images of ice and glaciers play behind the credits.  The song is a quiet and thoughtful piece sung by Scarlett Johannson, that fit the film perfectly, performed with a simple arrangement of piano and strings.  While I don’t think it will win tonight, it deserves to be here, and when it plays at the end of the documentary, you can’t help but stop to listen.

Next is the jazzy big band entry from Ted – “Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” performed by Norah Jones.  For those who’ve seen the film, you’ll know that it fits perfectly – the whole score has a big band flavour to it, thanks to writer/director Seth MacFarlane’s love of the style.  With a classy sound and sharp writing, this is one song always enjoyable to listen to and could win tonight.

Then there is the beautiful “Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi.  The song plays with a quality like gentle waves, melody and voice mixing together as one.  Like so much of the film, there is a beauty here and this has a chance to be the winner tonight.

Next is “Skyfall” from the film of the same name.  When I first heard the song, I knew two things.  This is both an Adele song and a Bond song.  The lyrics are layered and once you know the meaning of the title the words take on a whole other interpretive level.  The song plays fully over the opening credits sequence, with the classic bond shadow-play, although the theme recurs throughout the film.  I love the melody here, and consider this one of the best songs of last year.  I think this will be the clear-cut winner tonight, although only time will tell.  “Skyfall,” in one word, is amazing.

By adding an original composition to the film adaptation of Les Misérables, they were just about guaranteeing a nomination.  “Suddenly” is that song.  Performed by Hugh Jackman, it is your classic Best Song nomination from a musical.  The lyrics and arrangements are classic and fit with the rest of the songs that were actually in the musical.  It is a fine song and I have no qualms with it being here, although with the brilliant lineup amassed this year, I do not think it will win.

Who will win: Skyfall

Hope you enjoyed my last minute thoughts on these two categories – have fun watching the Oscars tonight!

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