This year, the Academy tried to spread the wealth musically. When the nominations were announced this morning, the music categories honored a rock band (U2), an idiosyncratic experiment (the music and score from Her), two animated films (Frozen, Despicable Me 2) and John Williams (The Book Thief). But like each year, there was a whole lot left on the table.
Here’s are 5 places they should have looked instead.
Young And Beautiful For Best Original SongIt seems exceedingly unusual that the Academy wouldn’t even bother to acknowledge Baz Luhrmann’s music-stuffed F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation, produced by Jay Z himself. This song was eligible, and pushed by Warner Bros., but perhaps it suffered by being associated with the troubled critical reception towards Lana Del Rey, who performs beautifully on this somber, romantic track. Perhaps the vote was split: Gatsby featured several eligible songs, including the haunting end-title track Together by The xx, which bears an even closer relationship to the themes of Luhrmann’s adaptation.
Prisoners For Best Original ScoreThe Oscar chances for Denis Villenueve’s haunting drama slowly faded as the film slowly exited theaters this fall but the hope still burned bright that the industry would honor this gorgeous piece of music. Johann Johansson is the composer, and his first time out he delivered a series of compositions of both overwhelming dread and a sliver of hope. The film is two and a half hours long and loaded with dead spots, but the viewer is never bored because of Johansson’s sonic experimentation. Hollywood owes Johansson in a way: it’s used his music to sell their product frequently, with Johansson’s original work popping up in trailers for blockbusters like Battle: Los Angeles and Edge Of Tomorrow. Maybe some other time.
Coldplay’s Atlas For Best Original SongIt’s said that Academy voters are immediately biased against end-credit tunes, as most of them have already left the theater by then. But clearly some of the voting branch are devoted listeners: how else to explain them nominating the title track from Alone Yet Not Alone, a movie that, anecdotally, none of us have EVER heard of. Good for that small film for getting exposure. We’d hate for this to be a David and Goliath situation, but if the Oscars can select a subpar U2 tune, they can at least consider this track from Coldplay, which ends the year’s biggest movie, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, on a triumphant, but muted, note.
Where Is Hans Zimmer?Zimmer’s got his detractors, and rightfully so: he’s a notorious recycler who has bogged down the last decade in film composition with increasingly similar rising/falling soundscapes. The expectation, however, was to see him get nominated for 12 Years A Slave, riding that film’s Oscar wave. It’s a good thing he didn’t: that composition relies too heavily on overdramatic, reheated Zimmer cues that are at best inappropriate, at worst tone deaf. We would prefer his caffeinated work on Rush, which elevated a nerds vs. jocks narrative into a propulsive high-octane grudge match. And how about some blockbuster love? Zimmer’s Man of Steel is packed with rousing themes and a gorgeously isolated piano portion that nails the essence of Superman in only a few notes better than Zack Snyder could.
All Is Lost For Best Original ScoreOne of the year’s quieter movies depended greatly on some sort of sonic stimulation to keep audiences from drifting away like a deflated raft. Enter fresh newcomer Alexander Ebert, who also contributed a lovely closing track ("Amen") to JC Chandor’s spartan lost-at-sea narrative. The composers in the Academy should have known what an impossible task it was to both provide suspense for the film while also avoiding distracting the viewer from Robert Redford’s relatively mundane survival techniques. Ebert’s soft hum of a score is both tuneful and insistent, grounding the picture by reminding us of the grace found within despair.