Soundtracking is a regular column that appears on Cineplex.com looking at the music featured in the biggest new releases both in theatre and on home video. Shane McNeil looks at the musical nominations for the 86th Academy Awards .
While the rest of the world bristles over perceived snubs to Inside Llewyn Davis and Tom Hanks, it is the sworn duty of Soundtracking to take you through Oscar’s musical categories for the 86th Awards.
Once upon a time the Best Song category was a fierce battle between smash hits and memorable soundtrack staples. However, in recent years, the battle has become a bit more academic. Whether that’s due to artists no longer offering their best original work to filmmakers or Academy rule-lawyering is yet to be determined, but that’s no reason not to give this year’s nominees their moment in the sun.
The name that immediately jumps out amongst Thursday’s nominations announcement is U2. The “best band in the world” (according to Bono) scored a nomination for their song “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, marking their second Oscar nomination after receiving one in 2002 for their work onGangs of New York.
U2 were not the only big names announced on Thursday, as Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen Oscored a nomination alongside co-writer and filmmaker Spike Jonze for their “The Moon Song” from Her. The chief competition to the big names comes from a pair of tunes from animated films: Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 and “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen. An Oscar for Pharrell would cap off a massive year that saw him contribute to two of the summer’s biggest songs: Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” andRobin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”.
Rounding out the category is the eponymous track from Alone Yet Not Alone. Conspicuously absent, though, is the music of Inside Llewyn Davis, due to aforementioned Academy rule-lawyering. Despite having been written specifically for the movie, the memorable and infectious “Please Mr. Kennedy” was deemed ineligible for Best Original Song due to similarities to a few 1960s protest songs pleading with the then-U.S. President for various causes (mostly an end to war).
The Original Score category featured John Williams getting his 44th Best Score nomination and his 49th nomination overall for his work on The Book Thief, while Oscar familiars Thomas Newman – who got his 11th career musical nomination for Saving Mr. Banks – and Alexandre Desplat, who got his sixth nomination in the last eight years for his Philomena score, will challenge Williams alongside Gravity’s Steven Price.
Best Score also featured some excitement for the casual music fan, though, as Arcade Fire received a nomination for their contributions to the Her score. Well, more specifically, the band’s multi-instrumentalist William Butler and frequent collaborator and friend-of-the-band Owen Pallett received the nomination despite the film’s credits reading: original music by Arcade Fire, additional music by Owen Pallett.
The Academy’s music wing has been alternately cruel and kind to rock musicians in recent memory. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor won the 2010 Oscar for his Social Network score alongside composing partner Atticus Ross. However, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood was ruled ineligible in 2007 for his incredible There Will Be Blood score due to its occasional use or reference to pre-existing musical works (mostly his own … again, rule-lawyering).
This year’s victim could well be Alex Ebert, who just won the Best Score Golden Globe for his work on All is Lost. The Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes singer didn’t have the rules stacked against him, he just wasn’t chosen in either Best Original Song or Score.
Though, one might wonder how much an Oscar nomination really means to a rock star. Still, it’s nice to be recognized. Here’s one of Ebert’s solo efforts to get lodged in your head for the rest of the day, a small compensation for getting overlooked.
In the non-music categories, Belgium’s bluegrass-y Broken Circle Breakdown got a nomination for Best Foreign Film while 20 Feet from Stardom was successful in working its way into the Best Documentary race.
[Ed. Note: The Academy stripped Bruce Boughton and Dennis Spiegel of their nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone” on Jan. 29 for improper campaigning. The Best Song category for the 86th Academy Awards will now consist only of the four other nominees]