Oscar Circuit: Best Original Score


Will Butler & Owen Pallett – Her

Arcade Fire’s Oscar nomination was perhaps the most surprising entry into the Best Original Score field.  Of course, the surprise wasn’t because the score isn’t deserving, but rather because this type of score is so atypical for the Academy’s music branch.  You don’t have to look that far back to see contemporary-musicians-cum-film-composers snubbed when it came time for Oscar nominations.  In 2011, reigning champions Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross failed to land a nomination for their work on David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  Likewise, in 2010 we saw Daft Punk’s critically loved score to Tron: Legacy fail to secure a nomination.  Additionally, the music branch is usually adverse to nominating scores composed by more than one person, snubbing both Cloud Atlas and Beasts of the Southern Wild last year, and The Dark Knight back in 2008.  Nevertheless, Owen Pallett and (representative of Arcade Fire) Will Butler celebrate their first career nominations.

One of the things I really love about Arcade Fire’s score in Her is how continually pleasant is it.  “Pleasant” is often used as a knock on a score (as I just did describing John Williams’ The Book Thief score!) but here, it’s a positive.  It somehow manages to sound futuristic while also feeling contemporary.  You never feel like the score is forcing itself upon you, trying to convince you it “sounds like the future.”  Rather, the score functions much like Theodore’s job and technology itself: as a greeting card for the whole film.  It invites you in, calms you, warms you, and in the end, breaks you.  A very worthy nomination, and a potential darkhorse if voters are feeling adventurous.