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Entries in Original Score (48)


"Jackie" Sells to Fox Searchlight. December Gets Yet More Crowded

The Oscar Race just got a lot more crowded.

Natalie Portman as "Jackie". Photo by William GrayWhile Natalie Portman may be enjoying the lion's share of buzz for playing the title character in Jackie (her best performance yet) if Fox Searchlight plays their FYC hand correctly the film could be a major player across the Oscar board (Portman and Sarsgard are the only acting possibillities. Greta Gerwig, Max Casella, John Carroll Lynch, John Hurt, and Beth Grant support them well but in extremely limited doses) including especially Costume Design, Director, Screenplay, and Production Design. The Cinematography, Editing, Sound and Original Score are also marvellous but the film is a little out of the box challenging so not everyone is going to respond to it; in its own caged bird way it's as angry as Pablo Larraín's Chilean pictures.

As expected given the festival raves and the film's connections to Darren Aronofsky, Fox Searchlight had first dibs. The deal took longer than expected but they will distribute on December 9th. That puts the film at the end of a flurry of major Oscar contenders opening between October and early December (Fences is the only possibly major player -- that is not a sci-fi/fantasy --  opening after Jackie. It opens Christmas day). 

Pablo Larraín and Natalie Portman in Venice for the premiereThe schedule right now of golden hopefuls:
Oct 7th -Birth of a Nation, The Girl on the Train
Oct 14th -Certain Women, Miss Hokusai (animated feature)
Oct 21st -Moonlight, The Handmaiden (if there were justice in the world but alas, South Korea didn't select it as their Oscar bid)
Oct 28th -Eagle Huntress (documentary)

Nov 4th -Loving, Doctor Strange, Bleed For This 
Nov 11th -Arrival, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Elle
Nov 18th -Manchester by the Sea, Nocturnal Animals, Fantastic Beasts
Nov 23rd (Wed) Allied, Moana (animated feature), Rules Don't Apply
Nov 25th - Lion

Dec 2nd - La La Land
Dec 9th - Jackie, Miss Sloane, The Salesman (Asgar Farhadi) 
Dec 16th - Rogue One, Collateral Beauty, The Founder, and Neruda (also by Pablo Larraín) 
Dec 21st (Wed) - Assassin's Creed, Passengers, Sing! (animated feature)
Dec 23rd - A Monster Calls
Dec 25th (Sun) - Fences, Toni Erdmann (foreign film submission)

Qualifying Releases: Hidden Figures, The Red Turtle, and ???


5 Days til Oscar. "5" being the Sacrosanct Number.


The Film Experience had quite a scare earlier this season when it was suggested that the Academy might change the number of nominees per category (ostensibly to promote diversity though it would send a terrible message of "now, you might be worthy with more slots. might not" We still don't know if they'll spring this ghastly proposition on us and whether it will ruin every chart and stat for the future. The varying number of nominees in Best Picture already makes for messy comparisons from year to year which used to be half the fun.

The sacrosanct number is 5 and it should not ever change. Any deviation from 5 feels blasphemous as in those years when Original Song or Short Films kept changing the number or the continued satanic tradition of denying the Makeup and Hairstylist branch two of their deserved nominations each year - the only category with 3.

So here's to five, the best number. Five forever. FIVE BY FIVE. Never change the number, Academy! Never.

Just for fun here are the 5 categories this year with the highest across-the-board quality


  1. Best Actress - All wonderful. And from mostly great films, too! 
  2. Original Score - When the worst nominee is __ you've got playlist heaven
  3. Adapted Screenplay - Mostly wonderful and filled with films about women: Brooklyn, Carol, Room. And the two most deserving screenplays are written by women, too: Phyllis Nagy & Emma Donoghue
  4. Cinematography - Don't quite understand what Robert Richardson is doing here again but he's no slouch in general and otherwise this is a list for the all time list of great lists in this particular category. 
  5. Visual Effects - It was a toss up for this fifth slot but it's worth including to point out that for once they didn't go "Most" and actually included two films with very convincing effects (Ex Machina & The Revenant) that would work without those visual effects, too. Worthy Best Supporting Visual Effects is a nice change of pace here.

5 of my favorite Oscar nominee interviews this season in case you missed any: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Deniz Gamze Ergüven (Mustang), Phyllis Nagy (Carol), Sandy Powell (Carol), and Jack Fisk (The Revenant)



Jóhann Jóhannsson Picks Ten Scary Scores

Glenn here. Was it just me or was Jóhann Jóhannsson’s nomination this year for his original score to Sicarioone of the highlights of the lot? That film didn’t quite take off the way many, myself included, thought it ought to have, but its three nominations are nothing to sneeze at in all honestly for such a prickly, devisive film. Jóhannsson’s nomination, however, sticks out. Not necessarily because of the quality of the work – although, clearly, it’s quite an accomplishment – but because Jóhannsson’s work in the Denis Villeneuve thriller marks such a diversion from his work on The Theory of Everything for which he was also Oscar-nominated. He probably even came close to a win for that on his first try (he did take out the Golden Globe).

It can sometimes get a bit tiresome when the same composers appear year-in-year-out for work that is remarkably similar to their own work. For instance, it was what made the difference between Alexandre Desplat’s The Grand Budapest Hotel being a wonderful nomination and Alexandre Desplat’s The Imitation Game being a bit of a shrug. Let’s be honest, there’s not much to compare within the lush orchestral arrangements of The Theory of Everything and the bone-crushingly intense soundscapes of Sicario and that makes both of his Oscar nominations exciting and makes me anticipate his next work. One hopes that if this Icelander keeps getting high profile gigs that he continues to be as eclectic as these two suggest he can be.

If you have seen the film and heard his work to Sicario then you will guess Jóhannsson knows a thing or two about scary scores. You don’t compose “The Beast” (or the rest of that movie's score for that matter) and not get to boast about that. So when I came across a list of “the best 10 scariest soundtracks” compiled by Jóhannsson, I knew I should share it. There’s horror disco, sinister synths, and legends of the craft. I have included a few of his choices after the jump, but check out Dummy Magazine for the rest as well as his own thoughts on the music.

Click to read more ...


Interview: Carter Burwell on Composing "Carol" and "Hail, Caesar!"

Carter Burwell gives great soundtrack. The proof is all around us. His scores are everywhere right now, in movie theaters with Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa and the Coen brothers Hail, Caesar! and in the Oscar mix; his work on Carol brought him his long long overdue first nomination for Best Original Score.

The 60 year-old composer started his music career in the punk scene but after that fateful first collaboration with the the Coens on Blood Simple (1984) he quickly become a film regular. He's composed every Coen brothers score since then with the exception of Inside Llewyn Davis. They aren't the only filmmakers who steadily rely on his gift. He's worked frequently for Bill Condon, Michael Caton-Jones, Spike Jonze, John Lee Hancock, and Todd Haynes among others.

I asked him how he keeps his work fresh with so many projects and how he approached the recent challenges of the "ridiculous" comedy of Hail, Caesar! and the restrained drama of Carol.

Our interview follows after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Sicario's Hell in Harmony

Chris here. Available this week on DVD/Blu-ray is Denis Villeneuve's Sicario, a controlled descent into the cartel battles being waged between the Mexican and American borders. Like the ongoing war on drugs, Villeneuve's film presents a complex landscape of violence wherein rulebooks have been forsaken - and on both sides. It's a masterful piece of filmmaking (recently nominated by the PGA, ADG, and WGA), and Villeneuve has assembled an intimidating group of craftspeople working harmoniously to create a living hell.

Front and center is Emily Blunt's idealistic and by-the-book agent Kate Macer, straining composure and grasping for opportunity while in over her head. Blunt is ferociously present and flummoxed, giving as much subtlety and nuance as she has in her broader roles like The Devil Wears Prada. She's so believably rattled that you're reaching for fistfuls of cigarettes along with her. It's a performance that deserves to be right in the thick of the Best Actress conversation, even in such a deep field as this. While many have claimed her to be far too passive, her lack of control is just another element of Villeneuve's all-pervasive synthesis.

more after the jump...

Click to read more ...


"The best kind of music comes from experimentation and messing up" - on Scoring 'Steve Jobs'

Daniel PembertonAs we move towards the Oscars each year the public tendency is to look back and reassess the most interesting contributions to cinema in a given year. From this impulse, a good one we'd argue, top ten lists, "best ofs" and awards traction are born. Though the legendary names of film scoring all seemed to be quite active this year -- even recently absent giants like Morricone and Williams -- some of the most innovative and exciting work was being done by the relative newcomers.

One of the buzziest among them is the 38 year old composer Daniel Pemberton. He made an award-winning name for himself in British television but his feature film work only began in force just a few years ago with highly praised work on the supernatural period drama The Awakening (2011). It's safe to say that 2015 will be regarded as his breakout year. He did stylish rethink work on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and in just a few weeks he'll presumably be at the Golden Globes where he's nominated for his innovative triple-scoring of Steve Jobs

Will an Oscar nomination follow? It's tough to say given the temperament of Oscar's notoriously insular music branch but it would not be undeserved. He recently spoke with The Film Experience about innovation, 80s synthesizers, and how he'll keep it fresh moving forward.

NATHANIEL R: So I'll be up front with you. I find music, particularly scoring, completely mysterious. I can read music and play piano a bit but it feels like a foreign language. How does a film composer even discover their talent for it? 

DANIEL PEMBERTON: I basically started messing around with on the piano when I was very young, and I just started writing music just for fun. And then one day I saved up enough money to buy myself a synthesizer and a tape recorder, and I started making music. Pretty much from that is how I got to here!

NATHANIEL R" But there are so many different careers in music. Did you imagine yourself as this type of composer or did you want to be a rock star when you were young? [More...]

Click to read more ...


Star Wars & Oscar. How Will "The Force Awakens" Fare? 

The second that people started realizing that everyone was actually loving the new Star Wars episode, you could feel the Oscar buzz wave building and building and broke with lots of "Best Picture nomination! demands online. The BFCA even announced a ridiculously embarrassing extra ballot measure to ask the members if they'd like to add the movie into their Best Picture lineup after the fact. In short: no one will ever take this group seriously again. (Sigh) 'The Force Awakens will be swimming in Oscars!' the internet seems to have proclaimed en masse.

But not so fast young padewans.

Oscar nominations can prove elusive, especially for franchises, family films, and genre films three groups to which Star Wars belongs. People will cite "Oscar voters grew up with the franchise -- they'll be nostalgic!" but, consider: I grew up with the franchise. I loved episode 7. And I wouldn't vote for it. 

This is not to say that I would make a typical Oscar voter. I would not. But typical Oscar voters tastes lie somewhere in the space between critics and general audiences. Put more plainly: there's a difference between totally enjoying a spectacle and wanting it honored as the very "Best" of its year.

Let's look back at Star Wars Oscar history to get some clues as to how The Force Awakens will fare after the jump...

Click to read more ...