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Longlists to Nominees: Original Score

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Best Score is a tricky category for me, because, having had no musical education at all, I can only say what I like or don’t like. And I tend to like a lot of things–I’ve got 14 contenders on the longlist (I probably should’ve considered the score for Oblivion as well, but I hated that movie), and what criteria can I use to whittle them down to 5?

Let’s see what I’ve got listed:

  • All is Lost
  • The Butler
  • Captain Phillips
  • Frozen
  • Her
  • Man of Steel
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • The Place Beyond the Pines
  • Prisoners
  • Rush
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Upstream Color

Where do I even start? Is there anything I can take off the top?

For what it’s worth, my initial list was this: The Butler, Man of Steel, Nebraska, 12 Years a Slave, Upstream Color. My intermediate list was: All Is Lost, Her, Nebraska, 12 Years a Slave, Upstream Color.

Frozen was more about the songs than the underscoring. I’ll remove it.

Hans Zimmer has three scores on here (Man of Steel, Rush, and 12 Years a Slave). Let’s just get Rush out of here.

Ok, we’re down to 12. Let’s go through these one by one.

  • All Is Lost: Won the Globe, wasn’t even nominated by the Academy. That’s weird. And stupid on their part. This score is amazing. Truly haunting. The Academy really fucked up here. My intermediate list was right; this is on. At the very least, it’s not coming off without a hell of a fight.
  • The Butler: I couldn’t find the full score online, just the main theme and the variation of it used at the end of the film. And it’s a good theme, a suitably catchy, sentimental piece that fits the old-fashioned schmaltz the film was going for. But good enough for the final five? Eh…I don’t know.
  • Captain Phillips: A good thriller score, but space is limited. It doesn’t need to be here.
  • Her: A lovely score, but one that really needs the film for maximum impact–same as with “The Moon Song”. That’s a criticism of the score at all, but it makes evaluating it apart from the film difficult. Because watching the film, I thought, “This music is amazing”. On its own, it’s just fine, and I’m not dropping it, not yet, at least.
  • Man of Steel: I mean, it has possibly the best single track of the year (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nas00vMIsiE). I’m just not 100% sure if the score as a whole is worth the nomination. This article, we’re having semi-finals.
  • Nebraska: This made both lists for a reason. It’s such a perfect score for this movie, evoking country music while maintaining the film’s sense of quirky humor. And it’s just fun to listen to. This belongs, especially because it’s been so terribly overlooked otherwise.
  • Philomena: The Academy nominated it, and I can see why; it’s a very nice score for a very nice film. But with space limited, I think I have to put it aside. Alexandre Desplat knows his way around a score, though, no question about it.
  • The Place Beyond the Pines: I had this on my earliest list; it was actually #3 on that list. My lack of enthusiasm for the film itself probably caused me to overlook the score in retrospect, but listening to it again…it’s a very interesting score. I won’t nominate it, but it (and the cinematography) are probably the most successful aspects of an ambitious but underwhelming film.
  • Prisoners: Johan Johansson’s score is really good in context, but out of it…it’s pretty repetitive. Maybe if I saw the film again I’d change my tune, but I’ll take it out of the running.
  • Rush: Yeah, definitely the least of Zimmer’s three big scores of the year. I think that’s all I need to say. Perfectly fine, but it wouldn’t make the cut.
  • Saving Mr. Banks: Like The Butler, it’s a good score that adds to the old-fashioned sentimentality of the material. And even though the Academy mostly ignored the film (which was initially predicted to be a major player), they nominated it. But…remember when I said they erred in leaving All Is Lost off? This shouldn’t have been there instead.
  • 12 Years a Slave: Maybe it’s a little closer to the Inception score than I would like, but it’s used incredibly well in the film. It should go on.
  • Upstream Color: It’s an incredibly beautiful score that perfectly enhances the film’s mood and style. That it was written by the director, screenwriter, star, etc. doesn’t hurt, either. No way am I not putting it on.

Remember when I said there would be semi-finals? Yeah, that ain’t happening. The real question is, do I go with Her or Man of Steel?

Just as I limited each film to one Best Song nominee, so I think I’ll limit Hans Zimmer to one nomination.

Apologies if this article got a bit out of hand. Listening to all those scores gets pretty draining after a while.

The nominees:

  • All Is Lost
  • Her 
  • Nebraska
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Upstream Color

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