2011 Oscar Nominations for Music

In 35 years of watching and obsessing over the Oscars, 2011 turned out to be my best year yet in terms of seeing potential nominees prior to the nominations announcement. This year, I own all of the Best Original Score AND Best Song nominees (a ridiculous obsession that still hasn’t abated) and I have seen all the films in those two categories (plus every single nominee for Best Picture, Directing and acting), firsts all the way around. What does this mean in the great scheme of things? Not a bloody thing.

But the Academy Awards are my Super Bowl, my World Series, my Tony Awards. Just as silly and pointless, but a powerful marketing tool in our own niche world of film music. With a global audience of 37.6 million for the 2010 awards, that’s a sizable group of people who are exposed to film music, at least for three brief minutes. If they’re smart, they take the Oscars all in the spirit of good, clean fun that it is. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be inspired to explore this wonderful world of film music, even if they don’t agree with the Academy’s choices. That is, if they didn’t go to the bathroom during that segment…

The Oscars were my entry into film music. Perhaps these 2011 nominees will spark a lifelong love in some young 14-year-old…


  • “Man or Muppet” from THE MUPPETSBret McKenzie
  • “Real In Rio” from RIO—Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyric by Siedah Garrett

After all these years and the many idiosyncracies of the AMPAS Music Branch, I didn’t think it was possible for me to be shocked anymore. But  when I first read the Song category on Oscar.com, I couldn’t believe it. I thought there had to be a mistake. Only TWO nominees?! I quickly went to other sites to verify that I wasn’t seeing things. Yup, only two nominees. In the numerous rule changes over the last few years, they’d always threatened that it could be as few as two and as many as the normal five nominees in the category. I just never thought I’d see two, much less missing the predicted winner (the rousing production number “Life’s a Happy Song” from THE MUPPETS).

Missing are expected nominees like the beautiful ballad “Lay Your Head Down” from ALBERT NOBBS and “The Living Proof” from THE HELP, co-written by Thomas Newman and Mary J. Blige. The nominating trend over the past few years, and this year in particular, is sending a clear message to songwriters and filmmakers—If you want a song nominated for an Oscar, it damn well better be part of the film and not a thrown onto the end titles scroll as audiences are leaving the theater.

As for the nominees themselves, “Man or Muppet” is a particularly funny sequence during THE MUPPETS, though it doesn’t strike me as a stand-alone classic. But, hell, neither was Randy Newman’s phone-it-in winner last year from TOY STORY 3.

Then again, RIO is a big, splashy production number in the animated film that starts the film off with a colorful bang of Brazilian pop, with a melody that becomes integral to John Powell’s score. Having a trio of music powerhouses as songwriters won’t hurt its chances either.

Prediction: “Real In Rio,” strictly because of its bigger box office and the chance to give Sergio Mendes an Oscar. (Hey, it worked with Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Melissa Ethridge, and many others.)


  • THE ARTIST—Ludovic Bource
  • HUGO—Howard Shore
  • WAR HORSE—John Williams

Here, we see a return to the heyday of John Williams double nominations. While I wasn’t a particular fan of TINTIN, the score or especially the film (which didn’t even get a nomination for Best Animated Film), I won’t deny any love shown for Williams (though TINTIN takes a spot that rightfully should have gone to Alexandre Desplat). Williams’ action writing in TINTIN is, as always, colorful and superb, and WAR HORSE is one of his most mature works. In most years, the two nominations cancel each other out and they will do so again this year. (The only time Williams has won during a double nominations year was in 1977 for STAR WARS, when he was also nominated for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. I don’t count the E.T. win as a double nomination, since the second nomination came in the Best Song category for “If We Were In Love” from the long-forgotten YES, GIORGIO.) With all the deserved love being shown THE ARTIST, just take these 46th and 47th nominations as equally deserved recognition for the Maestro.

HUGO goes into the awards with the most nominations of any film (11, as opposed to THE ARTIST’s 10). Martin Scorcese’s loving shout out for film preservation waltzes beautifully onscreen thanks in no small part to Howard Shore’s superb score. A well-deserved nomination that will hopefully remind people that there is more to Shore than just LORD OF THE RINGS.

Alberto Iglesias’ TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY just missed making my Top 10 list, but I’m thrilled that the Music Branch honored his moody, atmosphere score. With echoes of Jerry Goldsmith’s CHINATOWN, it’s a chilly evocation of John Le Carré’s Cold War spy story.

As for THE ARTIST, I’ve been trumpeting Ludovic Bource’s score for months now. I’m running out of adjectives and superlatives to heap on this marvelous work. See it, hear it, and enjoy.

Prediction: The Artist, hands down. Nothing else stands a chance.

What do you think? What are the highlights and snubs of this year’s music nominees?


  1. I must say that I agree with your lukewarm response to Tintin. While like most aficionados I eagerly awaited Williams’ return to the big screen, Tintin on a purely musical level didn’t work for me.

    Frankly, I think the maestro may want to consider teaming up with a bright, new thing in the world of directing to cement his aging legacy in the minds of new film buffs. Otherwise I’m farewell that Spielberg’s waning talents a director of note may diminish his (still vital, but inevitably final) contributions to the genre.

    1. I don’t think TINTIN or WAR HORSE were worthy of Spielberg’s talents as a mature filmmaker. Twenty years ago perhaps, but he’s move beyond that. That being said, I thought both were sloppy pieces of filmmaking (though with some typically brilliant touches here and there). Perhaps he’s stretching himself in too many different directions with all the producing and other gigs he does.

      As for Williams, at age 80 I wouldn’t expect him to move away from such a lucrative partnership at this point. Maybe he’ll get a one-off here or there, but probably not. At least the best things= about those two films was the music, even if it didn’t always work completely in context.

Leave a Reply to Jim Lochner Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *