Before I get to the list, I'd like to state something I've been feeling for a while. I no longer care for these awards, especially the Oscars, as much as I used to a few years earlier. The nominations and winners have gotten increasingly ridiculous as the years passed, and the film score fan in me got increasingly sick of watching undeserving people walk away with the trophies while the true, worthy gems returned empty-handed. Awards seem to be given more on the basis of hype and "exotic" nature of a score rather than its true quality. But I am following the major awards because of the esteem and popularity they still hold among the masses. We must admit that Oscars are one of the very few events which honour film scores on such a grand scale and help them gain at least some media attention. For that reason, I want my favourite composers to win the award for their hard work, because I am their well wisher and I want them to gain recognition, get better projects and deliver more great music for us. They have already gained the highest respect I can hold for them in my heart with their stunning music, yet I can only be happier watching them gain even more prestigious recognition for their work. The title of "Oscar-winning" means a lot for producers even today and therefore I continue rooting for my favourites at the awards, even if it means risking disappointment in the end.
Now that my semi-rant is over, I'll shed some light on my views about the Oscar nominations for Best Original Score, announced two days ago. As I already mentioned in the corresponding review, I was disappointed with A.R Rahman's much hyped Slumdog Millionaire score winning the Best Original Score award last year. Not because it was a bad score, but because the other four nominees alongside it were simply too good for it to be chosen over them. Yet it happened, and two of my all time favourite composers - James Newton Howard and Thomas Newman, who I had been rooting for since years, were once again robbed of their well deserved award. This year, I'm having more hope because it seems like the winner will likely be my top favourite score of the year, for once. The nominations are -
Avatar (James Horner)
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Alexandre Desplat)
The Hurt Locker (Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders)
Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer)
Up (Michael Giacchino)
I would specifically like to mention, first of all, that this is Hans Zimmer's first Oscar nomination after 10 years, the last being his score to Ridley Scott's Gladiator back in 2000. As we all know, the German maestro won the Oscar in 1994 for his stunning score to the hit Disney Renaissance classic The Lion King. And for Sherlock Holmes, he's come up with a most unique and innovative sound that has won him near-universal praise, even from his fiercest critics. Although I haven't had the time to review it yet, I'll definitely say that I would be most thrilled if Hans takes that well-deserved Golden man home once more.
I don't need to expand on my love for Michael Giacchino's Up anymore that I already did. Given how it's already swept nearly every existing film music award till now, I'm ready to bet a lot that it will be the winner here too, and a well-deserved one. James Horner's Avatar score, of course, was a shoo-in here too. Although fitting the film well (which I haven't seen yet, but heard from various reliable people) and a good listening experience on its own, I was rather disappointed with how Horner recycled material from his own previous scores and showcased all those techniques here (the choirs from Troy, ethnic instrumentation from Apocalypto and of course the (in)famous four-note "danger motif"), especially considering the vast amount of time he had to work on the project.
I was rather surprised that from all of Alexandre Desplat's fantastic output in 2009, Fantastic Mr. Fox was the one to be chosen, especially seeing that it consisted of very little score among a horde of songs and source cues by Georges Delerue (a practice of Wes Anderson). After all the Academy disqualified Randy Newman's score for The Princess And The Frog on these grounds this very year (he's been nominated for two songs from this film though). But I'm not complaining because Fantastic Mr. Fox definitely showed how versatile Desplat can get, and being one of the industry's fastest rising talents I can only support the well-deserved recognition he gets. I haven't heard The Hurt Locker score yet so I can't comment on it. I will try to check it out, though.
The winner will be announced on March 7. Congrats to the nominees (especially Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino and Alexandre Desplat), and best wishes for the award ceremony.