Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Original Score

As I note each week in Aural Fixation, music is one of the most important components in a film, providing the underlying emotion in certain scenes as well as the overall tone of a film. Creating this musical landscape is no easy task and the five scores nominated this year were brought to the screen by four talented composers (yes, someone got nominated twice.) While last year gave us slightly more innovative music with scores from first time composer Trent Reznor and the more electrified Hans Zimmer, the past year in film seemed to hearken back to the more classical era of filmmaking and the scores followed suit.

From tales of adventure, spy thrillers, a different perspective on war to a look back at the early days of filmmaking, the nominated scores kept pace with their respective films and came from composers that ranged from Academy veterans to first time nominees. While I was admittedly more excited (and felt slightly more invested) in the nominees last year, the composers selected for the potential honor this year are well-deserved and created scores that undeniably elevated each their films.

Who will take home the golden statue this year? Stay tuned to see if my prediction of who will win proves true. Read on for the nominations and my predicted winner in red

The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams

Why He Was Nominated:

Based on the famed comic series, Williams helps bring this story to life with strings that practically jump off the screen and horns that would inspire anyone to dive into the mystery surrounding the much sought after Unicorn. Williams’ score keeps this adventure moving while still sounding light, fun and never too serious. Tintin was a great time at the movies and Williams’ score helped keep that kinetic energy running through every frame.

Why He Might Win:

Williams is no stranger to the Academy (and has over forty nominations to prove it) and his well-honed chops created a score that is both full-bodied and layered while never being overwrought. Even when creating music for a “children’s film,” Williams never plays down to his potential audience, keeping the music as rich as the visuals on screen and proving why he is constant fixture on the Oscar nomination list.

Why He Might Not Win:

Williams is not only going up against three other composers, he is also pitted against himself (with a second nomination for his score for War Horse.) Seeing as his score for War Horse is rooted more in emotion than entertainment, Williams may prove to be his own toughest competition. TinTin is about the fun of adventure while War Horse deals with the ramifications of war, a subject matter more likely to be associated with Oscar than the slightly madcap consequences of TinTin’s adventures. War Horse’s more serious tone may tip the scales away from TinTin if voters find themselves choosing between the two Williams efforts.

Previous Nominations: 47

Previous Wins: 5

The Artist, Ludovic Bource

Why He Was Nominated:

Grand and moving, Bource’s score for The Artist already sounds like a classic. Rising to the challenge of creating the music for a silent film, Bource composed a score that not only sounded like it was from another time, it also provided the whimsy needed to accompany wordless actors left with only their facial expressions and gestures to express their emotions. Just as full, live orchestras used to perform in theaters along with a movie’s screening, Bource called on the full range of orchestral instrumentation from strings to percussion to horns to create a score that is not only comprehensive, but strong enough to stand as the only sound in The Artist.

Why He Might Win:

With a Golden Globe for Best Original Score already under his belt, Bource seems poised as the one to beat come Oscar night. Unlike his fellow nominees, Bource’s score did not just play under scenes and highlight climatic moments, it provided all the sound in The Artist (no small feat.) Taking us back to a time in film when instruments had to convey the myriad of emotions we can now rely on words for, Bource’s score truly sounded like it was taken from the 1920s and gave The Artist real weight making this return to the early days of filmmaking both exciting and entertaining.

Why He Might Not Win:

As Bource’s first Oscar nomination, going up against heavy-hitters like Williams and Shore may prove too great for the composer (who has a mere nine films under his belt while his competition has more than double that on their resumes.) While Bource’s score impressively made up for the lack of dialogue in this silent film throwback, it also did little to bring anything new to the table and may prove to be too “by the numbers” in the end.

Previous Nominations: 0

Previous Wins: 0

Hugo, Howard Shore

Why He Was Nominated:

In a story that stars children (but is certainly not aimed at them), Shore was able to impressively navigate Hugo’s darker moments with music that never lost its sense of magic and hope. With soaring strings and curious wind instruments, Shore created a score that was inspiring while still giving those heavier scenes the weight they deserved through dissonant piano refrains and rumbling percussion. Complex and intricate, Shore’s score helped made Hugo a breathtaking time at the movies and thanks to its level of detail, holds up outside of the film as well.

Why He Might Win:

Shore has won an Oscar almost every time he has been up to bat and Hugo once again finds him creating music for a specific time period in a setting laced with mystery and adventure – tropes that served him well during the Lord of the Rings reign and got Shore his four Oscar wins (his fourth for Best Original Song for “Into the West” from Return of the King.) Shore’s score not only elevated Hugo’s scenes, it also enhanced the character’s performances by giving slight winks to the audience that coincided with various character’s reactions that were slightly less on the nose than The Artist.

Why He Might Not Win:

Having already lost to The Artist at the Golden Globes, Shore’s darker sounding score may yet again see itself beaten by Bource’s more dramatic and classical sounding one. While Shore’s score also played along with the characters and action in Hugo, Shore’s more subtle approach may end up working against him and get overlooked when comparing these two scores which were both influenced by the early days of filmmaking.

Previous Nominations: 4

Previous Wins: 3

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias

Why He Was Nominated:

With off-putting oboe, piano refrains, and almost jazzy percussion, Iglesias’ score stands out from the crowd with its more varied tone which keeps you guessing at every turn (much like the film itself.) While Iglesias is known more for his music in Spanish films (particularly those directed by long-time collaborator Pedro Almodóvar), he takes on the world (and sound) of a British spy thriller with a masterful hand that proves music truly is a universal language.

Why He Might Win:

The only nominee working slightly “out of the box,” Iglesias created a score that is rich with intrigue and added to the film without directly interacting with it. While unquestionably up against some stiff competition, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy could end get its recognition here (and end Iglesias’ losing streak) if it ends up getting overlooked in the other two categories it is nominated for.

Why He Might Not Win:

Having been nominated twice before (with no win), the still slightly green Iglesias may get passed over on a ballot with Academy favorites like Williams and Shore. In the face of more “classic” sounding scores, the reason Iglesias may stand out may also end up being the reason why he loses.

Previous Nominations: 2

Previous Wins: 0

War Horse, John Williams

Why He Was Nominated:

Williams’ score for War Horse is both epic sounding and thoughtful with robust instrumentation that shows Williams full range and talent as a composer. The score for War Horse spans various tones from hopeful to heartbroken, violent to comforting as the Narracott family and Joey navigate the rough and unpredictable waters of life during wartime. While Williams explores these different tones, he is also mindful to bring it all back together in the end, proving he had a purpose and a plan for every note.

Why He Might Win:

Williams is clearly a favorite among Academy voters and his score for War Horse is the definition of Oscar gold with its singing strings and booming percussion. As I said earlier, given the choice between the two, Williams’ score for War Horse seems like the stronger Oscar contender (as opposed to his score for TinTin) as it tackles slightly heavier fare and does so with a score that is never monotonous or bogged down.

Why He Might Not Win:

While certainly grand in its own right, Williams may simply be out matched here. Having also lost to The Artist at the Golden Globes (and with War Horse bolstering six other nominations), War Horse may suffer the same fate as Hugo and pick up its Oscar gold elsewhere, leaving The Artist to yet again take home the win here.

Previous Nominations: 47

Previous Wins: 5

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