All About Oscar: Categorically Speaking
Will The Academy Ever Recognize These New Categories?
By Tom Houseman
April 11, 2012
The Argument For It: There are two awards already dedicated to music in film: the conservative but pretty good Best Original Score and the lately terrible Best Original Song. But these are both very specific awards that ignore an enormous amount of the music used in films. What about collections of songs written for movies, such as Eddie Vedder's songs for the Into the Wild Soundtrack? What about adapted scores, such as Clint Mansell's adaptation of the music of Swan Lake for Black Swan or Carter Burwell's use of Protestant hymns in True Grit? What about the eclectic appropriation of found music that define the films of Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson?
There is as much artistry in finding and placing the perfect music for a film as there is in composing it. We at BOP realize that, which is why we have a specific category for Best Use of Music. If the Academy is really interested in rewarding all of the different aspects of the film industry, they should consider all of the music that is used to create great films, not just original film scores and specific original scores.
Last Year's Likely Nominees: There is no precursor for this award so it is difficult to say which direction the Academy would lean. The two frontrunners would likely be the two films nominated for Best Original Song, The Muppets and Rio. There are a few other musicals that would be considered, notably Winnie the Pooh. There are also several films that use older songs and music for their score, from Drive to Gnomeo and Juliet to Sucker Punch to We Need to Talk About Kevin. But really the Academy could go in any direction with that category, which makes the concept of adding it to the Oscars even more exciting.
Why It Will Probably Never Happen: Because it's too weird, I guess? There are a number of issues that one could take with this category. There are different cinematography styles, of course, and different types of filmmaking techniques (i.e. film vs. digital) but all cinematography is pretty much the same, and can be judged on similar standards. But how can you get a group of thousands of people to agree on what makes a great soundtrack? How can you reasonably compare a soundtrack of original songs to a soundtrack of appropriated songs to a soundtrack of just music?
And who would the Oscar go to? With Best Original Score there is a composer, but with Best Soundtrack? Would an Oscar for The Muppets go to Bret McKenzie, the Music Supervisor who wrote some of the songs? What about the people who wrote the rest of the songs, or composer Christophe Beck? And what about if Inglourious Basterds won for its curated pastiche of musical homages? Would the Oscar go to Music Supervisor Mary Ramos or to director Quentin Tarantino? Generally, both of these issues point to the fact that it is far too vague a category to merit Oscar consideration, even if it means that great soundtracks never get recognition from the Academy.