Looking for an early Christmas present to rip open with the fervor of an 11-year-old? Dig into Julian Sancton’s recent post over at Vanity Fair‘s Oscar blog "Little Gold Men" highlighting the potential nominees for Best Original Score. It’s always been one of our favorite categories on the Academy Awards telecast and the options for this year make it seem destined to be a classic. Eleven scores make the cut here, and while there are some questionable exceptions–no love for the excellent music by Danny Elfman for Milk?–it looks like a good barometer for what to expect come nomination time on January 22nd.
We’ve already gushed about our love for Alexandre Desplat’s amazing score for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. To us, that sounds like the leader in the clubhouse: a deft mix of mawkish emotionality and simple beauty. But old Academy war horses like Thomas Newman and Hans Zimmer are definitely set to give Mr. Desplat a run for his money. Mr. Newman (an eight-time nominee, most recently for The Good German) has two pieces in contention this year–the jaunty and exciting score for Wall-E (better than the movie) and the slowly building trouble-laden music from Revolutionary Road. This is the first time we’ve gotten to hear a sampling of his work for Sam Mendes’ latest, and on first listen we’re a little disappointed. It sounds so similar to his American Beauty score that we half expected to see a plastic bag drift through our apartment as we listened.
As for Mr. Zimmer, 2008 was a bellwether year for the seven-time nominee. In Frost/Nixon he employs a ticking clock (literally) and manic strings to give the movie a panicked drive. In another year, it might be our top choice. But, of course, it is Mr. Zimmer’s co-writing work on The Dark Knight (with fellow lauded composer James Newton Howard) that has our hearts soaring. The definition of "epic urgency", it happens to be the one score selection here that will likely rouse your soul. Free from the ridiculous Academy Awards rules controversy that almost sabotaged its very possible nomination, if The Dark Knight doesn’t win this award, we’ll be shocked. We deserve a better class of musical score; Messrs. Zimmer and Howard have given it to us.