Statuesque: A Score to Settle

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.

Final Verdict:

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.


  1. Well dang! I feel like I’m going to have to get out and see Tron just for the music.

    Also, I’m guessing that Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich won’t get honored for Scott Pilgrim either.

    • Keith

      Tron is the first movie I’ve seen in a theater since District 9 was out, and as a self professed hater of 3D I just knew this would be the movie to see. I wasn’t disappointed. So yes, you really do need to go out and see this if you haven’t already. Tron isn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, but the total experience in imax 3d is well worth it. I was absolutely blown away by it.

      I will say however that I really don’t get all the hype surrounding the Daft Punk score. Sounded pretty much just like any other electronica I’ve ever heard… *shrug*

  2. Rolltide1017

    Well, I guess your taste and mine are just different. I love scores, been collecting them since I was in Jr. High and now have over 500 score albums. I think that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight where both dull and boring scores with only a few nice moments, most of which were from Howard. I’m actually tired of the Zimmer sound of late, his early scores were much better IMO.

    I have tried to listen to the new Tron score because so many people seem to like it but, it just burns my ears.

    Like I said, my taste are different but The Social Network is the only score that you mentioned that I think even deserves a nomination.

  3. Ian Whitcombe

    To clarify a few things:

    The reason The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for best score had to do with paperwork deadlines. Rumourmill says that the sheer number of ghostwriters and assistants made proper cue sheet attribution incredibly difficult.

    James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer were nominated that year for Defiance and Frost//Nixon, respectively. I should also point out that many people in the film score community of fans (myself included) perfer those two scores to Dark Knight.

    Johnny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood was deemed inelligible due to it featuring adaptations of his prior compositions. It almost certainly would have been nominated otherwise.

    Renzor and Ross also adapted some of their prior work into The Social Network. If they are to be nominated then it would introduce a double-standard to their previous snubbings of Greenwood and most notably Nino Rota for The Godfather.

    Finally, if Daft Punk were not to be nominated, than that would be a true snub. There should be nothing to disqualify them this time.

    • The only thing consistent about the Academy is its inconsistency.

      Nino Rota’s nomination for The Godfather was withdrawn when the Academy realized that significant portions of it, including the main theme, were adapted from his previous work. (Rota was shameless and unapologetic about recycling his older music.) However, just two years later, the Academy went ahead and gave him the same award for The Godfather Part II, which has all the same problems (and even uses the exact same main theme).

      So there’s already a double-standard in place.

  4. I just saw this movie in Imax 3D. Gorgeous film, and it especially helped that they didn’t do a 3D conversion to the non-grid world.

    As as extremely silly and inconsistent as the movie was (for instance, why does C.L.U. look so computer-generated compared to all the other programs and why would this film be named for a character with almost no bearing on the plot?), the set design and especially the music were absolutely fantastic. This may be my favorite musical score this year, not necessarily because it’s the best (it is excellent), but because the movie and music were absolutely perfect for each other.

    I’d like to see them win or even be nominated for an Oscar (they deserve it absolutely), but for me it won’t be the end of the world if they aren’t. It was great in and of itself, and that is enough. It would just be another example of how irrelevant the Oscars are.

  5. EM

    For what it’s worth, I saw “Tron: Legacy” a couple of weeks ago, and I don’t recall the score at all (I do recall hearing one…). In my mind, that doesn’t make for a great score. Of course, I’m not the final arbiter of taste, and your mileage may vary. I don’t put much stock in the Oscars anyway: ultimately, as Gareth Callenby says, they’re irrelevant.

  6. In this case, I don’t think ‘The Academy’ has anything to do with it. I’ve never noticed scores being ignored in a snobbish manner, the way certain genres are for the other awards (e.g. Science Fiction and Fantasy, if you ignore Return of the King).

    As for ‘Daft Punk’, the hype surrounding that score is simply because it’s Daft Punk, and it’s got people who normally ignore soundtracks to listen to it and give it more consideration. I’m a soundtrack junkie (rarely listen to much else), and I personally found it rather run-of-the-mill, with the occasional cheesy/out-of-place piece. Certainly nothing more than average.

    How often has this site had discussions that popularity does not equal quality? Daft Punk are popular, and the quality? Well, it’s at the very least debatable. So if The Academy ‘snub’ the TRON: Legacy soundtrack, it does not necessarily have anything to do with its origin.

    Then again, The Academy will just as often turn around and go for the ‘popular’ opinion, to seem more ‘cool’, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win against superior scores.

    • EM

      “How often has this site had discussions that popularity does not equal quality?” Alas, our widespread esteem for that notion does not guarantee its merit either. 😉