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« Days Until...* | Main | Podcast: Side Effects & Oscar Symptoms »

10 Days 'til Oscar: Score, Song, & Sound

We're in the final crunch now. Oscar voters have to make their final decisions by Tuesday February 19th (with the winners announced Sunday February 24th) so I'm throwing up my own nominees (which I like to announce before the Oscar nominations even. Oy) so you can see my film bitch award picks for the best in the various aural categories here. But while we're on the subject of sound, a film craft I always vow to learn more about and then forget to educate myself, let's make some early Oscar predictions.

Naturally I prefer my nominees to Oscars. Unlike many pundits, I knew that the Beasts of the Southern Wild score didn't have a prayer since Oscar's music branch is notoriously exclusive. In addition to their resistance to new composers they also don't really cotton to directors muscling in on their territory, so step away from the sheet music Benh Zeitlin, Benh Zeitlin. (Even an Oscar God as Revered as Clint Eastwood hasn't been able to do it.) Nevertheless Oscar voters and I do have a bit of overlap here as we all swooned for Dario Marianelli's work on Anna Karenina and Mychael Danna's evocative score for Life of Pi. I'd be pleased if either of them won the category. As for the other nominees, I never quite understand the mandatory nature of John Williams nominations. He's certainly created some classic scores over the years but I swear if he just whistled a few bars on a soundtrack he'd be nominated. I also still don't get the Argo score being nominated since Desplat wrote about five film scores this year and they're ALL better than his decent but surprisingly generic work on Ben Affleck's well regarded thriller. A nomination for Zero Dark Thirty would've been so preferrable.

Should Win: Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
Will Win: Mychael Danna, Life of Pi. (Even though the music branch is loathe to welcome new blood once they do, they don't tend to have issues with them actually winning the gold.)
Possible Spoiler: Despite Williams' endless nominations, Oscar voters don't seem to be sentimental about giving him a final (and sixth) statue, so I'm guessing Danna's only potential loss comes from Argo-Mania. Alexandre Desplate still hasn't won an Oscar which is starting to seem crazy. 

Though Oscar and I don't have much overlap -- look, I know Joyful Noise is a crap movie but Dolly Parton writes beautiful movie songs and still doesn't have an Oscar --  I really love the Oscar nominees anyway. All of 'em! It was a good year for original movie songs. I'm looking forward to the performances (should we get them... and it seems like we will).

007 Skyfall - Opening Credits (Best Quality Yet) from Gunnar Lien on Vimeo.

Should Win: Skyfall
Will Win: Skyfall (the night's biggest lock?)
Possible Spoiler: Skyfall... in case they decide to give Adele two Oscars just to see if she pisses herself laughing. 

Oscar likes exceptionally loud movies in the sound categories from the following genres: sci-fi, war, musicals. Which is why you rarely see fragile sounding haunted dramas like, say, The Deep Blue Sea, or fascinating soundscapes like Cosmopolis or artful indies like Beasts of the Southern Wild in the mix. So the weirdest nominee from their choices might be Lincoln which is not particularly loud or showy in terms of sound. I think they missed the boat in ignoring Prometheus in both sound categories this year... but the studio didn't really campaign so there's that. The sound categories can be difficult to predict since who knows what actors make of "sound", you know? And they make up the biggest voting block for winners. Greg P. Russell has been nominated 16 times without winning and he's up again for Sound Mixing on Skyfall. If enough voters become aware of his Oscarless plight, I can't see him losing for such a well loved widely seen film. But are they aware?

watery films are often popular in sound categories

Should Win (Mixing/Editing): abstain... I'm still thinking about this
Will Win (Mixing/Editing): Skyfall & Life of Pi... wild guesswork. They do sometimes split those prizes... and these two films might be in tough battle after tough battle for the entire first half of the ceremony in the craft categories.
Possible Spoiler (Mixing/Editing): Les Misérables & Skyfall

What are you rooting for soundwise with Oscar and what do you think of the film bitch award nominees

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Reader Comments (18)


I too think it will be a split in Sound Mixing/Sound Editing for Skyfall and Life of Pi. I'm just not sure what film will go where


I loved Danna's score, but really want Desplat to finally win. Still, Argo was a fairly low key and dare I say it - serviceable score.

February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Isn't it refreshing to have a year where the Original Song nominees aren't terrible?

February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWill H

I'm expecting Life of Pi to sweep most of the tech awards (except Song) with Les Mis winning something else (Makeup?) other than Hathaway's win. Instead of wondering about Adele winning, I'm wondering how the songs will be performed. It'd be fun to see Scarlett singing, followed by Norah Jones, then the Life of Pi song. The Les Miz cast would get a small showcase (give me Eddie over Hugh's Suddenly). Adele would go last, followed by a duet with Shirley Bassey?

February 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames

I still wish "Breath of Life" from Snow White & the Huntsman would've made the cut (Oscar and now Film Bitch) because I absolutely LOVE that song and it just narrowly beats "Skyfall" as my favorite of the year. But even without it, the song nominees aren't terrible, and at least Adele (who I'm more than a little obsessed with) will have an Oscar.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeelay!

I'm on the Marianelli train. I like how his scores sometimes incorporate other sounds from the movie itself and manages to blend so smoothly.

and ADELE for the win. I only recently managed to stop listening to Skyfall on my iPod daily. I do like that "Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from Ted got a nom though. Such a nice little ditty.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

None of the Django Unchained songs? I love "Freedom" so much, particularly over the snoozy song from Chasing Ice, generic Indian tune from "Life of Pi" and nowhere-near-as-good-as-the-original-songs "Suddenly" from Les Miz.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I love Adele, but I'm totally rooting for Pi's Lullaby. Highly recommended for stretching exercises.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Not to repeat myself and others, but "Breath of Life". Other than that, Nathaniel, come on! I loved, no, I adored "Les Miz". but... "Suddenly"? Really? That's not even a song. That was just Harvey's calculus.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpockets full of stones

I'm hoping a Skyfall win will finally kill off musicals shoving new songs in where they don't belong in the hope of getting a Best Song nomination. Les Mis is a well-balanced musical and the new tune just throws it off balance.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Any award for Damsels in Distress makes me happy.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

The only way Adele's performance and win can be better is if Paul F. Tomkins joins her on stage.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

Rooting strongly for Marinelli and "Anna Karenina."

But it would be great to see Thomas Newman win. He's done so much good work on film scores for so long, and his "Skyfall" score is more complex than it had to be for an action film.

Oh, and that song from "Chasing Ice" is better than "Skyfall" IMHO.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Great choices for the Film Bitch original score nominees. If only those were the Oscar nominees. I agree that Marianelli should win.

For the sound categories, I am disappointed that Killing Them Softly failed to get any recognition.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHarry Lime

Music Score is one of my favorite Oscar categories. I loved Danna's score for Life of Pi...breathtaking. I'm rooting for him. I haven't seen Anna Karenina, but just the trailer gave me a good bite of ear candy. Still haven't seen Skyfall yet either, but Newman is always great.

I had to chuckle at your hilarious commentary about Williams, Nathan. So true. I am a huge fan, but I still think his best work was in the 70s. His score for The Towering Inferno is one of the best ever created for a genre picture. Expansive, dramatic, melodic. Sigh.

If Adele doesn't win for Skyfall, I'll shoot myself. Nathan, would this be the first Oscar for a Bond movie?

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Goldfinger has won "Best Sound Effect", Thunderball "Best Visual Effect". But I am pretty sure it would be the first oscar for "Original Song"

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterskyfly_to

Also that Argo score is such a pedestrian Desplat score when you consider the man's work. Moonrise Kingdom (I guess people just felt The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra was too much of the music star in that film), Rust & Bone, and Zero Dark Thirty (perhaps a little too minimalist of choice but it works so well for that film) are such better scores. Team Marianelli.

I wonder because Tarantino is always anachronistic with his music choices that there was actually stuff originally written for the film. Did any of his movies have that before?

And bringing up The Deep Blue Sea and not think of the craftsmanship of the sound and visuals being ignored just breaks my heart a little.

Also something to note but Paul N.J. Ottosson is one of the few overlaps besides Bigelow and Boal with The Hurt Locker and ZD30 and he won for the former. Fingers crossed on the latter but I would be cool with Mitchell winning.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Keelay!, I agree with you regarding "Breath of Life." That is an epic monster of a song.

February 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I'm kind of late in commenting, but I completely agree on "Breath of Life"! Also, what about "Dull Tool" by Fiona Apple from "This is 40"? Granted, I didn't see the film so I have no idea how it's used, but it's a great song. (And "Suddenly" doesn't deserve any nomination anywhere.)

That said ... Adele for the win.

February 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

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