Thursday, February 13, 2003

My only reaction to the Oscar nominations is to note the absence of a nomination for James Newton Howard's superb score for Signs, a tension-filled work that pays grand homage to the great scores Bernard Herrmann wrote for the films of Alfred Hitchcock. I think Signs should have been nominated in place of Catch Me If You Can, which is a good score but isn't really all that notable except for a different kind of John Williams sound than the big, epic sound for which he's so well-known. It's become almost robotic for the Academy to nominate John Williams, even if they don't nominate his best score of the year (which was either Minority Report or Attack of the Clones).

The Academy has also decided to codify its long-standing distaste for sequel scores. (The "Best Original Score" Oscar in 1980 went not to The Empire Strikes Back, one of the finest scores of all time, but to Fame.) Sequel scores, which are based on themes from the earlier films, will no longer be Oscar-eligible. The rule doesn't take effect until next year, apparently, but that didn't stop the Academy from ignoring Howard Shore's work on Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which doesn't make extensive use of the material from Fellowship. Ah well....

The consensus among film score afficionadoes is that the winner this year will be Elmer Bernstein. I haven't heard his score to Far From Heaven, but Bernstein is the current dean of film composers (followed by Jerry Goldsmith and Williams, both of whom celebrated birthdays this month) and recognition for his fine, fine career would be more than welcome.

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