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Battle of Oscar’s Overdue Composers – Newman vs. Desplat vs. Everyone Else

ThomasNewman_imageGearing up with the screenings of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” on Saturday morning, the awards community is getting their first looks at many of the top contenders for this year’s Oscars.  Word has it that Sony Pictures had planned a secret screening of David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” this week but was canceled due to “technical difficulties.”  That is just one of the big mysteries of the season that can score big.  I’m very excited as the season begins to unfold.  Many races are wide open, films are living up to their potential in a big way, and there’s still so much more left to see.  I make it no secret that I always spend special attention to two specific tech branches when watching film, cinematography and score.  They have the real and tangible qualities in which you can judge the film.  On Power Hour this week, we spoke about the two briefly.  The Original Score race looks to have a few big names fighting for long overdue recognition from their branch.

Saving Mr. Banks” is already hitting the ground without anyone getting a first look at yet.  Walt Disney Pictures has put a strong team in place and believe very heavily in the works of director John Lee Hancock, Emma Thompson, and Tom Hanks.  Versions of the script have leaked online from months back and some of our own readership has said there’s a lot more “umphf” to the script than the initial trailer suggested.  Not to mention that one of the most overdue composers working today, Thomas Newman, is behind the music.  Nominated for eleven Oscars, one for Original Song, Newman has composed some of the best compositions heard in film.  Coming off a nomination for last year’s James Bond flick “Skyfall,” Newman has a vehicle that can bring him to the finish line.  Disney can just throw buckets of money at “Banks” and I’m sure lots will be spent on Newman.  I have a special appreciation for his works on “American Beauty,” which surprises me as something he didn’t win for judging on the love for that film.  Also, love “WALL-E” in a big way and his snubbed work on Sam Mendes’ “Revolutionary Road.”

Alexandre+DesplatAlexandre Desplat sits in nearly the same boat as Newman.  Nominated for five Oscars, four of them in which were nominated for Best Picture resulting in two winning (“Argo” and “The King’s Speech”), the French composer has come up short every time.  This year, he works on George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” from Sony Pictures, a company that knows how to push.  He also lended his craft to Stephen Frears’ “Philomena” but not so many critics singling it out as one of the year’s best.

One of the most compelling and exciting elements of “Gravity,” which opens tomorrow is the work of Steven Price.  In a film that opens up with a title card explaining there is no sound in space, Price steps up and creates his own character in his music.  In our long sequences spent with Sandra Bullock and a whole lot of empty space, everything about his work stands out.  It’s one of my favorites of the year so far.

Of course, there are the previous winners like John Williams, who will be going for his 49th Oscar nomination for “The Book Thief” and Hans Zimmer, who composes two of his finest efforts on “12 Years a Slave” and “Rush,” that will likely get love any way you slice it.  Williams “coming out of retirement” to score Brian Perceival‘s adaptation of the popular book SHOULD mean something.  Zimmer will ride in with which ever film brings the Best Picture heat.  I think we know what that is.

With 20 nominations and 2 Oscars, Randy Newman‘s work on Pixar’s “Monsters University” was one of the film’s key highlights.  There are also some composers getting a push already from studios.  Daniel Pemberton is said to give a unique quality to Ridley Scott‘s “The Counselor” and you can never count out a possibility for Howard Shore for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

You can’t ever count out the power of Disney.  Christopher Beck is sure to be at least in conversation for “Frozen” later in November.  That won’t be the only Animated film looking for recognition for its score.  The campaign has lifted for Dreamworks’ “The Croods” and may be able to do something for composer Alan Silvestri, two-time nominee for “Forrest Gump” and Original Song for “The Polar Express.”

Hope you’re all catching some of the big contenders this weekend.  “Captain Phillips” is doing a sneak preview screening in a bunch of cities on Saturday.  I love the work of Henry Jackman, which is definitely taking some emotional cues from John Powell on the finale of “United 93” in his latest.  It’s worth mentioning and worthy of Oscar consideration.

Moving forward.

Include your favorite scores in the comment section.

What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of AwardsCircuit.com. Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times, CNN.com, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.

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