I sat near the back with a program folded in my joined hands as composer Jerry Goldsmith took his position before the symphony to a polite flutter of applause.I wore the same dress I’d wear months later to my high school graduation.Ruffles on the cap sleeves, tiny cloth-covered buttons, narrow all the way down.An idea of adulthood I’d squeezed into too soon. Most likely I hadn’t told my friends I was here, but I would be clearing a special place amongst all the rock-concert ticket stubs in my scrapbook to add this one.
I’ve always had a thing for instrumental scores.My little sister and I used to sit in front of the television as our cassette player recorded opening themes straining through the little grate of speakers.As soon as the “stop” button clacked under my fingertip, we’d plan our accompanying dance routine.At our cousins’ house, we’d act out impromptu plays to Hatari’s “Baby Elephant Walk” or “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I knew the Somewhere in Time pieces so well my fingers could tap them out on a tabletop.In my mind, I was a virtuoso on piano.In reality, I plunked through selections from The Sting like someone struggling against a current.
But it wasn’t until Goldsmith’s white hair bounced in and out of his shirt collar in sync with the rhythm of his hands in a blur as Patton played that I considered the composer of a score instead of merely its respective film. It wasn’t until then that I made a point of learning who was who.Now when the names of the likes of Rachel Portman, James Newton Howard, or Michael Giachhino are read on Oscar night I pay attention with a restrained fervor befitting a narrow, button-up dress.
And the nominees are ….
The Social Network
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
When I saw Reznor accepting a Golden Globe Award for this score, I said, “Aw, look!It’s Trent in his big-boy suit!”I’ll be watching to see if he’ll opt to show up at the Academy Awards wearing his “Closer” goggles, dragging an animal carcass behind him, and accepting his award at a be-nippled microphone.My one complaint with techno-driven scores, or any other score that’s too much of its era, is that it can become dated fast.But of course this isn’t a problem if the subject of the film is also distinctly of its era.Such is the case with the Social Network.And what better music with which to punctuate the story of a socially inept mogul-in-the-making orchestrating the means of our online, artificial closeness?This score’s artful thumps and whirs whistle along with the cool detachment of an “unfriend” button.
How to Train Your Dragon
Makers of animated films for children, I implore you.Give us all the bodily-function jokes and dead moms you want if you must, but please, please stop skimping on the musical score.Take your cues from How to Train Your Dragon.For it, John Powell composes one of his grandest scores to date.Big swells, lots of brass, it announces “I am a big Hollywood extravaganza” with many exclamation marks even though it’s film really isn’t.No matter.The mere suggestion of that score booming in the background makes me like this film a lot more than is warranted.In fact, I’m convinced this score worked its magic on the Academy as well, thus its nomination in the Best Animated Feature category.
The King’s Speech
Peppy and proper, this score’s ready for tea and crumpets and its Oscar.By George, I think it’s even wearing an ascot for the occasion.Desplat, one of my absolute favorite composers, has delivered gloriously understated scores for the likes of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Syriana, Girl with a Pearl Earring, and The Painted Veil.Even Wes Anderson, who needs no imploring from me, used a pitch-perfect score from Desplat for Fantastic Mr. Fox (good man!).While his work for The King’s Speech is not my favorite of Desplat’s as a stand-alone piece, it fits this film like Colin Firth’s arm in mine.Which is to say like a dream.
Of all the Inception theories, I don’t think anyone has considered that Zimmer’s entire Inception score might very well be a sentient being, sweeping through this film on a mission to patch its emotional deficits.You want to know if that top stops spinning or not?Ask the score.It knows all.By sheer intuition, it knows all.Mostly it knows what it takes for me to finally sympathize with Cobb’s losses.It takes a glorious, simplistic crescendo in the closing scene.Other notable scores in Zimmer’s repertoire include The Thin Red Line, Gladiator, Sherlock Holmes, and The Dark Knight.
A. R. Rahman
While Best Original Score might be one of my favorite categories of the Academy Awards, the usual presentation of the scores through interpretive dance marks the moment I go refill my drink.Maybe because I can still see a ten-year-old me flashing jazz hands on a pivot to the “Knight Rider” theme.Sometimes the dancing works.Most of the time it’s absurd.Remember the Hurt Locker dance of last year?I can only imagine the stuck-under-a-boulder-hack-your-own-arm-off moves that await us on February 27.But when the moment comes, if we close our eyes we can at least enjoy Rahman’s blend of diverse influences – from world music to techno to traditional score – that naturally insinuate themselves into the textures of 127 Hours, so much so one can’t possibly imagine the film without it.