Mychael Danna

Emmanuelle Riva

The Academy Awards are not always the best place to look for fresh faces, and this year is no different. The list is full of perennial nominees, to the point of occasional absurdity. The Best Supporting Actor race is the most obvious example, all five actors having won before. Yet it doesn’t stop there. Guys like John Williams and Steven Spielberg, with five and three Oscars respectively, seem like obligatory nominations. There are others who still haven’t won, but find themselves nominated over and over again anyway, like Thomas Newman and Roger Deakins. Some categories are easier to break into than others, but on the whole, the Academy loves recognizing their favorites. This makes it all the more exciting when the elusive first nomination does happen. Whatever you think about the provenance of her performance, it’s going to be neat to see Quvenzhané Wallis on the red carpet. However, I think it’s even more thrilling when long-neglected talent is recognized at last. Gary Oldman’s nod for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy last year was by far my favorite, if only because I thought it would never happen. After someone has gone so long without getting the attention, it seems almost impossible. In that spirit, here are my five favorite first-time nominations of the 85th Academy Awards, with a look back at some of the work that somehow got overlooked in the past.

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annakarenina10

There are currently only two Academy Awards given out for music: Best Original Score and Best Original Song. This might seem like a silly thing to point out, but it wasn’t always the case. As recently as 1998 there were separate categories for Dramatic Score and Musical or Comedy Score, divided like the Golden Globes divide their acting and picture awards. And in the past there’s been a Best Adaptation Score, the name of which was changed over and over again, while back in the late 1930s there were another two separate categories, Best Scoring and Best Original Score. Music at the Oscars has had a complicated history. The context makes it all the more strange that, with only the Best Original Score category left, stuff can get thrown out for being too “adapted.” True Grit and Black Swan were both declared ineligible for nomination because they were based on 19th Century hymns and Swan Lake, respectively. The Academy, which once went out of its way to recognize adaptation in musical composition, now rejects it entirely. This year, however, in both musical categories the best work is full of allusion and the blending of influences. Gone are the days of Max Steiner and Bernard Herrmann, whose music was often brilliant but tended to strive for originality within a single orchestral playbook.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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