Oh right, movies have music, too!
Every year, each Academy Awards category has its share of snubs and dramas, but Oscar followers usually only get a taste of the ones that pertain to actors and directors. Major television networks and cable stations like E!, MTV, and Albuquerque-based ReelzChannel seem to concoct many of these pseudo-rivalries and dramas to give the televised awards ceremony a ratings push— and to fatten the Oscar-season news cycle.
Let’s face it: only a small percentage of Academy Awards viewers pay attention to the Best Original Song and Best Original Score categories. If they were more popular, more gambling sites would post odds on music categories— like they do for Best Actor and Best Actress. If you have your ear to the ground for drama regarding the music nominees this year, forget the tabloids — here, for your reading pleasure, are a few talking points when it comes to this year’s notable music-related Oscar snubs and controversies.
▼ While the runaway favorite in the Best Original Song category seems to be “TheWeary Kind,” Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett’s countrified theme to Crazy Heart, overexposed composer Randy Newman waters down the category with two nominations for songs from the animated Disney film
The Princess and the Frog (“Down in New Orleans” and “Almost There”). Is the deck stacked? Maybe, but not as much as in 2007, when Enchanted took three out of the five nomination slots, or 2006, when three of five were claimed by songs from Dreamgirls.
▼ Deserving rock and pop musicians who got disqualified or ignored this year include Jack White (for “Fly Farm Blues” from the rock doc It
Might Get Loud), the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O (for “All Is Love,” from
Where the Wild Things Are), and Lykke
Li (for “Possibility,” from The Twilight
Saga: New Moon). It’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially considering that five songs (nearly 10 percent) on the shortlist of possible nominees came from Hannah Montana: The Movie.
▼ Perhaps Newman’s double entrée for Best Original Song is a consolation prize for having been denied a nomination in the Best Original Score category. The Princess and the Frog score was initially included on the first-round list of award-eligible films by the Academy, but in January it was announced that it had been removed from the running, due to an Academy rule that states: “scores diluted by the use of tracked themes or other preexisting music, diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs, or assembled from the music of more than one composer shall not be eligible.” However, in a stellar field of contenders that includes Avatar ( James Horner), Fantastic Mr. Fox (Alexandre Desplat), The Hurt Locker (Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders),
Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer), and Disney-Pixar’s Up (Michael Giacchino), Newman hardly stood a chance anyway. The Oscar in the Best Original Score category should go to Desplat for
Fantastic Mr. Fox— in particular, for the composition titled “Just Another Dead Rat in a Garbage Can (Behind a Chinese Restaurant).” But the winner will probably be Giacchino’s music for Up, which has already snagged a Grammy and a Golden Globe. Everybody loves a sweep.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY The heavyweight Avatar made its mark with effects and got snubbed on writing. It was nice to see outsiders District 9 and In the Loop recognized, and Precious and An Education get their due. We’d give an outside shot to Precious, but one of the year’s better pictures, Up in the Air, ought to get thanked somewhere, and this is probably the place. Choice: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air Prediction: ditto BONUS ROUND Look for Avatar to score in the technical categories. The song in Oscar’s heart this year is likely “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart. In a field of relative unknowns, Michael Haneke’s allegorical tale of the roots of Nazism, The White Ribbon, stands a good chance in Foreign Language. Dolphincide could move Oscar toward The Cove in the Documentary Feature category. And things are looking up for Up in Animated Feature, where it belongs. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Supporting roles often offer the liveliest choices in handicapping the Oscars. This year, in spite of some exceptional talent, the die seems cast here as well. Penelope Cruz ( Nine) won last year, which all but rules her out, and likable, talented Maggie Gyllenhaal ( Crazy Heart) isn’t a factor. Two excellent supporting performances from Up in the Air, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga, make legitimate claims on the gold, but the winds are blowing toward Precious and the powerful job turned in by Mo’Nique. Choice: Vera Farmiga Prediction: Mo’Nique BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Screenplay is where the Academy honors the pictures that didn’t quite make the grade in Best Picture. Quentin Tarantino has called Hans Landa “one of the best characters I’ve ever written and ever will write,” and that kind of writing could land him his Oscar if The Hurt Locker doesn’t get on a roll. Choice: Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man Prediction: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds CHEATED AND MISTREATED The above-mentioned Pippa Lee and Pirate Radio belonged in the bloated field for Best Picture, and the former’s Robin Wright Penn should have been not just a nominee but a favorite. Marion Cotillard should have had Nine’s Supporting Actress nomination. Michael Jackson’s This Is It was released too late for a Documentary Feature nod and then didn’t squeeze into Oscar’s Top 10.
Ex marks the spot: Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker