Or: “Why Academy Awards Prejudices Will Prevent Us from Seeing Daft Punk, in Their Robot Masks and Tuxedos, Walking up to the Podium to Accept a Best Original Score Oscar, No How Much They Absolutely Deserve To.” (Sub-subtitle: “Trent Reznor Won’t Be There Either.”)
In recent years, two huge prejudices have surfaced in regard to the Best Original Score Oscar, which is one of my favorite categories to think about and puzzle over. This category seems to have some of the most entrenched biases, grudges, and politics behind the nomination process. For example, former pop musician Mark Mothersbaugh was never nominated for his work on any of Wes Anderson’s films. However, Alexandre Desplat, a more widely accepted classical composer, got a nod right out of the bat for his first job with Anderson, last year’s ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox‘.
But we’re not here to deconstruct the whole category, just to look at how a pair of grudges will likely leave the two greatest scores of the year without nominations (or wins).
Grudge #1: The Academy Hates Teams
Remember Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s amazing scores for both ‘Batman Begins‘ and ‘The Dark Knight‘? Remember how neither of those scores were nominated for Academy Awards? In the past, the Academy has not looked too positively on teams of artists when it comes to Best Original Score.
The only teams that are consecutively nominated are the Disney musical teams. Even then, since they can handily be divvied up into two camps (both Score and Song), it’s no big thing. (Usually only one person, Alan Menken, handles the musical score.)
This does not bode well on the year’s two greatest scores: Daft Punk’s glittery, techno-and-orchestral jams for ‘Tron: Legacy‘, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ glitchy score for ‘The Social Network‘. These are the scores that people are talking about, and they’re the scores that people will remember. Both combine the best of classical orchestration with cutting edge innovation.
The fact that each score was composed by two humans (or, in Daft Punk’s case, robots) that doesn’t bode well for their chances.
Grudge #2: The Academy Hates Pop Stars
This is another truth that has been cemented in recent months. Sure, the Academy will give out the Best Original Song Oscar to pop stars. (Phil Collins beat out the ‘South Park’ team, if you’ll recall.) But Original Score? Not so much. The most egregious of these oversights happened a couple of years ago when Jonny Greenwood, composer of the screechy ‘There Will Be Blood‘ score and member of international pop phenomenon Radiohead, was overlooked for a nomination. [See also the aforementioned Mothersbaugh/Desplat divide.]
This year, the two leading Best Score contenders are double whammies. They’re teams AND pop stars! Good lord!
Trent Reznor is, of course, the mastermind behind goth pop band Nine Inch Nails, where frequent co-conspirator Atticus Ross also has a presence. They’re a group known most memorably for getting teenage girls to sing along to the giddily filthy chorus of “Closer”. (“I wanna fuck you like an animal,” etc.) They make Cee-Lo seem tame.
It’s telling that Reznor and Ross chose to use their actual names on the ‘Social Network’ score instead of adopting their Nine Inch Nails alter ego. That decision seems like a purely artistic one, as a soundtrack album “by Nine Inch Nails” probably would have sold more copies and gotten more buzz from the interweb. It probably won’t help their chances much, though.
Daft Punk, on the other hand, are even more screwed. They chose to use their stage name, as opposed to the more hard-to-swallow Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. The band name is recognizable for a commitment to cutting edge dance music. (The 2001 album ‘Discovery’ remains a dance pop classic.) They’re also notoriously press shy, meaning they won’t be hitting the press and awards circuit campaigning for a nomination. Also, the only way to really feel the power of the almighty ‘Tron: Legacy’ score is by seeing the film in an IMAX 3-D theater, where the sound feels like it’s literally erupting from within you.
Neither score will get nominated. This will lead to the internet exploding in flames of indignation. As hard as it is to secure a nomination from Academy members, it’s even harder to get them to dance.