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The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

This time we are going to talk about Score.

Music (Original Score)

The nominees are:

  • The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
  • The Artist, Ludovic Bource
  • Hugo, Howard Shore
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
  • War Horse, John Williams

BRIAN

I enjoyed many of the scores that came out this year and am generally pleased with this crop of nominees. I’d have liked for there to have been room for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ work on The Social Network was stronger, but their collaboration was a good match for Lisbeth Salander’s detached perserverance. Other good scores: X-Men: First Class and Super 8. (I’m a sucker for Michael Giacchino’s work)

On to the nominees (with an interesting note — only the film names are included on the ballot, not the composers):

John Williams for Tin Tin and War Horse: Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Tin Tin, so my knowledge of this score comes solely from YouTube audio streams. I’m guessing if I saw it I’d have stronger feelings, but what I heard didn’t sound very adventurous or exciting. Williams’ composition for War Horse was one of the high points of the much-maligned (unnecessarily, honestly) film. He transposed an Irish jig tune into a moving theme that popped up throughout the movie. It’s not Williams’ fault that the movie itself was overlong and melodramatic, but the score fit the tone well.

Howard Shore for Hugo. I loved this movie for many reasons, and Shore’s score helps it along. But where Williams’ War Horse succeeds by infusing what the audience knows (an Irish motif) with something new, Shore’s Hugo fails by being too close to the cliched Parisian cafe tones. The multiple train station characters were enough of a reminder of what I loved about Amelie — the music made it just too much.

Alberto Iglesias for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: This nominee is probably my least favorite of the bunch, though my criticisms of it are also the same I have of the movie itself: too plodding and sparse, not enough tension. Giving it a 2nd and 3rd listen don’t bring back any visceral memories of watching the film — no specific memories or callbacks. A good score should at least do that.

And my pick for winner, which I think will be the Academy’s as well, is Ludovic Bource’s phenomenal work for The Artist  Just consider how much heavy lifting the score had to do to keep the action moving. There were at least 2 or 3 distinct reoccurring themes that had as much personality as the characters each represented. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to mock Kim Novak for her bizarre tirade against Bource’s sampling of Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo. The absurdity of it makes me think that she may be mentally ill, so I won’t dwell on it or mock Novak for it, but the homage was far from “rape.” I thought it was a great wink-and-nudge for the film buffs in the audience. The Artist gets pretty bleak in parts, and theVertigo score was used well. Now if it had been used in The Hangover Part II, then maybe Novak would have something to stand on.

JOHN

Original Score is an interesting category because who I want to win and who should win are a bit different. The best of the nominees is John Williams for The Adventures of Tintin. It’s the right amount of playfulness for the fun motion-captured/animated adventure flick and it’s consistently complementary without overwhelming the rest of the film. That’s not the case with Williams’s other nomination, for War Horse. That score is more quintessentially Williams and overbearing. That dude knows how to hammer home a swell in the music and it becomes way too much.

But Williams already has five Oscars and this is a fairly insular branch. It’s good for everyone to spread the love around a bit in this category. I would probably vote for Alberto Iglesias’s work in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a string-heavy, understated yet tension-building work. I think The Artist will win and I wonder if that’s partly because there’s just so much music. The score is the dialogue and is therefore very noticeable. But is any of it really memorable? Don’t get me wrong, it complements the film well and has a nice period-appropriate style. I just hope voters have the right motives.

I’ve heard a lot of good music in movies this year, even if they didn’t always qualify as original scores for the Oscars. The Tree of Life uses music marvelously though much of it was not original to the film. Other great uses of music include the electronic scores in Hanna and Attack the Block and the colder but still terrific Contagion and Drive. Music went a long way to establishing the disturbing atmospheres of Shame and The Skin I Live In.

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The 84th Academy Awards is almost here!  Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small.  We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before.  On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

This time we are going to talk about Song.

Music (Original Song)

The nominees are:

  • “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets, Music and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie
  • “Real in Rio” from Rio, Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyrics by Siedah Garnett

JOHN

All right, let’s move on from the travesty of these Original Song nominations. I’ve said my piece so let’s just talk about what should win.

Of course I’m voting for the Muppets. I’m always voting for the Muppets. Not just the movie The Muppets, but the Muppets in pretty much anything they do. I’m sort of in the bag for the Muppets. But while “Man or Muppet” is my choice, I’ll admit I’m not thrilled by the song. It’s part of a fantastic scene in the movie where human Gary imagines himself as a Muppet and Muppet Walter imagines himself as a man. It’s a hilarious scene with a wonderful cameo. I think it was the part of the film that had my screening’s audience in stitches the most. But, if we’re being honest, it’s not that great as a song. The Muppets‘ other two eligible songs, “Pictures in My Head” and “Life’s a Happy Song,” truly are really good songs that stand on their own. “Man or Muppet” just doesn’t have the same strength musically and it has always sounded to me like the lyrics and music don’t quite complement each other well. Regardless, it’s a good enough song and the best of the nominees.

I’ve been ready to dismiss “Real in Rio” as a bland animation tune, but my opinion changed after I saw Rio. Not coincidentally, the song is also part of a really nice scene with birds swooping around and dancing. It’s a colorful delight and I bet it was great in 3D. In that context it’s a fun song. I generally don’t like movie songs that involve each character singing a line, which tends to result in lame lyrics and a choppy rhythm where the need to focus on every character outweighs the need to make a good song. In this case that forces us to hear Jesse Eisenberg sing and that’s not so hot, though, God help me, I like will.i.am’s contribution.

BRIAN

I don’t have much to add to this one except to say that the Academy clearly has no idea what to do with this category and until they figure it out — they should just get rid of it. Not only is the nomination process fakakta, but it also mucks up the telecast too. Do they run the full songs? Do they abridge them? Who performs them? It’s such a train wreck.

I really wish the two other Muppet songs were nominated, but since I’m stuck with “Man or Muppet” — I’m hoping that one wins.

JARED

Well, when there are two nominees in this category and one of them is a Muppet song, I guess there’s not going to be a whole lot to say, huh?  Let me take a second to pimp for the other other other Muppet song: “Me Party”.  It is a fun, groovy, 70s disco song.  But it also is used to great effect in the film, if Amy Adams and Miggy Piggy had simply expressed these emotions in dialogue it would have sounded trite.  Also, the line “Haven’t I seen me here before?” is kind of brilliant.

I’ll pretty much echo John here.  “Real in Rio” is a decent enough tune.  I don’t begrudge it the nomination and it starts to get a little catchy after the third listen or so.  There are year in which it could have been a serious contender.  Not in a Muppet year, though.  My theater was also rolling in the aisles “Man or Muppet”, so I guess props to the Muppets for finding a great cameo.  I didn’t think it was quite that funny, personally.  If I had to critique the song, it feels a little derivative, doesn’t do a great job expressing feelings, and is maybe my fourth favorite song on the soundtrack.  But it is a Muppet song, so that beats just about anything else.

Also, after Zachary Levi’s appearance singing on last year’s nominated “I See the Light”,  and Jesse Eisenberg and Jim Parsons on this year’s songs, I’m wondering if we are seeing some sort of trend of nominating songs featuring actors who play dorky characters.  If so, what an incredibly bizarre trend.

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