Music in the movies: this year’s Oscar nominations

With the Academy Awards mere days away, Glen looks at this year’s music nominations, and which ones are truly deserving of a golden statue...

With awards season in full swing and the Oscars due to take place on Sunday, I thought it about time that I take a look at this year’s contenders for Best Original Score and Best Original Song.

Like last year, Clint Mansell has been criminally overlooked, this year down to a technicality, so my favourite isn’t listed.


A.R. Rahman – 127 Hours

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Having worked with Boyle previously on the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, the pair reunited again for the director’s latest film, 127 Hours. Whilst Slumdog Millionaire‘sMumbai setting allowed Rahman the opportunity to create a score in the Bollywood style, something which he has had significant experience and success with over the years, the score here sees him adopt a more western approach.

This is far from my favourite score nominated, but does feature a number of highlights, particularly when it moves away from the slower numbers that accompany the earlier moments of the film into the guitar-laden up-tempo numbers that accompany the film as it draws closer to its finale.

John Powell – How To Train Your Dragon

My favourite animated film of the year, How To Train Your Dragon is an exciting and emotional viewing experience that features breathtaking flight sequences and an amazing score composed by John Powell.

Powell is a composer whose work I admire, but I was surprised at just how good this score was and how well it enhanced the film. There’s not a piece that seems out of place throughout the entire score, and had it not been for some other strong efforts, this would have been my runaway winner for score of the year last year. It was the front runner for quite some time.

In Test Drive, Powell has composed one of the finest leitmotifs of recent times, a stirring number that dominates the score and is infectiously catchy.

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Hans Zimmer – Inception

Zimmer’s scores have accompanied some of the biggest and best blockbusters over the years, so it was little surprise that he was the composer of choice for Christopher Nolan to score his ambitious and intelligent sci-fi epic, Inception. Zimmer had worked previously with Nolan through his fantastic work on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, so clearly Nolan was confident he could deliver the goods.

Zimmer is accompanied here by former Smiths guitarist, Johnny Marr (who has also recently been a member of both Modest Mouse and The Cribs), who contributes guitar work to Zimmer’s bold orchestrations. It’s an incredibly emotive piece that can turn from morose melancholy to out and out action with ease, an astonishingly good score for an utterly amazing film.

Alexandre Desplat – The King’s Speech

Having earned an Oscar nod for his previous effort for a film accompanying a biopic of a member of the monarchy, Desplat was obviously an ideal choice to score The Kings Speech.

2010 was a great year for Desplat, with scores for The Ghost Writer (which was among my favourites of last year), Harry Potter And The Deathly Part 1 and The Kings Speech.

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Desplat recorded at the Royal Albert Hall using microphones designed to be used by King George VI, which is a nice touch.

I think the score, for what it is, is fine, but not Desplat’s best of the last year and certainly not the best of the scores shortlisted. However, this is likely to be a favourite given the critical acclaim directed at the film.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – The Social Network

Reznor’s first full length score with collaborator Atticus Ross is one of the more interesting of last year and has already seen the duo rewarded with a Golden Globe. It’s a break from much of the traditional orchestrations that accompany many dramatic pieces of work. This is, instead, an extension of his latter work with Nine Inch Nails and his other side projects, as he interweaves simple and melodic piano lines with walls of distorted guitar and glitch electronic noises.

It’s a confident and assured piece of work, and perhaps most importantly, it’s hugely effective within the context of the film. It provides such an important role, but never becomes oppressive or takes the focal point away from the rich dialogue.

At the centrepiece of the score is an excellent rendition of Greig’s At The Table Of The Mountain King, which could have seemed ridiculous had it not been so well executed. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with for Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

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Coming Home (Country Strong)

I have yet to see the film itself, but the soundtrack is a great country album with some fantastic vocal performances by Gwyneth Paltrow, this one being the highlight. Paltrow’s vocal skills shouldn’t be a surprise, given her contribution to the soundtrack of Duets.

It’s a very strong song, however, unlikely to be a winner on the night, as it faces two strong efforts from Disney.

I See The Light (Tangled)

The fantastic Alan Menken has had huge success composing music for Disney and Simon was lucky enough to interview the man himself recently (and you can read the interview here). Whilst the film itself doesn’t stand up to some of the best of the studio’s output, there are moments of the soundtrack that do.

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This is one of the many highlights and perhaps the one most likely to be as iconic as some of the classic Disney songs from the past. Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi perform the song brilliantly, with Menken’s masterful touch evident throughout.

If I Rise (127 Hours)

Dido nominated for an academy award? Incredible! This is a fairly forgettable song as a standalone listen, however, it works quite well in the film at quite an emotional point.

Not the best song in the film, by any stretch, and I’d be hugely surprised if this won on the night.

We Belong Together (Toy Story 3)

As this is the final instalment of one of the finest film franchises of recent times, I can see We Belong Together from Toy Story 3 taking home the award and bolstering the win count for the film that will most likely miss out in a number of other categories. Not as strong as I See The Light from Tangled, but still a favourite.

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My Picks:

Original Score: John Powell for How To Train Your Dragon would be amazing. However, I think Reznor and Ross for The Social Network is more realistic.

Original Song: I See The Light – Tangled

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