BEIJING, February 14, 2012 - Any good film soundtrack goes unnoticed. It is woven so seamlessly into the narrative that it seems no different from the visible or audible dialogue or sound effects onscreen. The nominees for this year’s best original score have achieved this plateau of musical achievement, setting themselves apart from the rest with not only an Oscar nomination, but a place among the best soundtracks in film history.
To start off, though, one glaring exclusion must be mentioned, the score for Cloud Atlas. A film that has its title plucked from the name of musical piece should be a shoe in for a nomination. The intertwining plots, each with their own musical themes, come to an eventual climax along with the soundtrack, which combines each preceding musical piece into an amalgam of masterful sounds that was somehow not nominated for an Oscar. But I digress.
The nominees for the 2013 best original score are as follows: Anna Karenina by Dario Marianelli, Argo by Alexandre Desplat, Life of Pi by Mychael Danna, Lincoln by John Williams and Skyfall by Thomas Newman. This apples and oranges batch of nominees are all worthy of the prize on their own merits. Argo’s soundtrack, for example, creates a subtle tension that collaborates seamlessly with themes of realism in the film, which is based on a true story. The score knows when to tighten and loosen its grip on the trigger of tension and scores a well-deserved nomination because of it.
Marianelli’s Anna Karenina nomination marks his third for the Oscar award. Those familiar with the sounds of Pride and Prejudice and Atonement have heard his skilled composition before. Anna Karenina, though, is not a best picture nominee and unfortunately, the last nine award winners in this category have this distinction. Moreover, the film has the least nominations of any other contenders, leaving Marinanelli again the bridesmaid but not the bride.
Lincoln’s composer John Williams is an Oscar winner and has worked with Spielberg before on films like Jaws, E.T. and Schindler’s List. Lincoln seems to be nominated in every category this year and therein is poised for an upset. With zero previous wins during this award season, including the invaluable Golden Globes, Williams is likely to have to wait at least another year for his next Oscar statue.
Skyfall, to be frank, is fortunate to be on the list, taking a slot that many believe should be filled by, again, Cloud Atlas, The Master or Les Misérables (it’s a musical for God’s sake). But on the strength of another nomination, Best Song for Skyfall and a worthy score, Thomas Newman managed to nab a nomination, though a win is unlikely.
The sparsely dialogued Life of Pi uses the Indian-influenced sounds to express to the desperation, horrors and joys of a character who has no one but a tiger to communicate with. The soundtrack whispers to the audience in the silence of ocean nights and wails during the rainy ocean days when wordy descriptions will not suffice. And riding the wind of his Golden Globe win, Danna is likely to find himself holding another golden trophy on Oscar night.
Dario Marianelli Anna Karenina
Alexandre Desplat Argo
Mychael Danna Life of Pi
John Williams Lincoln
Thomas Newman Skyfall
Winner: Life of Pi
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