2014 Oscar Nominations for Music

This is the first year in a long time that I don’t have a favorite film that I’m rooting for going into the Oscars. There were films that I enjoyed (THE IMITATION GAME) and that surprised me in a good way (AMERICAN SNIPER) but then there were the inevitable overrated entries that left me scratching my head (BOYHOOD) or loathing (BIRDMAN). For such a lackluster year, the Academy came up with some surprises (and not) in the Music categories, which, as usual, are the only categories I truly care about.

 

Best Original Song

  • “Everything Is Awesome” from THE LEGO MOVIE, Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
  • “Glory” from SELMA, Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
  • “Grateful” from BEYOND THE LIGHTS, Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
  • “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from GLEN CAMPBELL…I’LL BE ME, Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
  • “Lost Stars” from BEGIN AGAIN, Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

The frontrunner in this category is SELMA’s Golden Globe-winning song. And given the snubs the film received in other categories (Actor and Director in particular), voters may want to show some support for the film. Unfortunately, the Music categories seem to always be the consolation prize when a film can’t win in another slot.

If voters are incensed at other snubs, then expect to see some love for THE LEGO MOVIE, which was inexplicably denied a nomination for Animated Film. The song’s integration into the film as a mini-production number and in Mark Mothersbaugh’s score should give it a boost—if voters even pay attention to that sort of thing. Plus, it’s a damn catchy tune!

Diane Warren racks up her 7th nomination in this category. Even though she’s a pop songwriting institution, her songs make my skin crawl. Musically, the woman can write a hook like nobody’s business, but her lyrics are vapid and generic. Even more egregious is the way she sets those lyrics musically, especially the misplaced accents and multiple notes on syllables that don’t deserve them. “Grateful” isn’t as bad as some of her other nominated efforts like “Because You Loved Me” and “How Do I Live,” but it too suffers from everything I’ve mentioned above. My only consolation is that no doubt she’ll go home empty-handed once again.

The biggest surprise (for me) out of this list is Danielle Brisebois. I had no idea that the child actress from ALL IN THE FAMILY and ARCHIE’S PLACE was now a songwriter. Attagirl!

The sentimental favorite in the category is Glen Campbell. Though his documentary didn’t even make the Oscar shortlist, I’m thrilled to see the 78-year-old Grammy-winning country music legend among the nominees. The fact that Campbell now resides at a long-term care facility for Alzheimer’s patients gives lyrics like “I’m still here but yet I’m gone” and “I’m not gonna miss you” added poignancy. Even without the backstory, the song is a heartbreaking instant classic…or should be.

Will Win: “Glory”
Should Win: “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”

 

Best Original Score

  • THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, Alexander Desplat
  • THE IMITATION GAME, Alexander Desplat
  • INTERSTELLAR, Hans Zimmer
  • MR. TURNER, Gary Yershon
  • THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, Jóhann Jóhannsson

Alexander Desplat’s best chance in years at an Academy Award is all but nullified by his double nomination. In the entire Academy history, multiple nominations in this category have only yielded a win four times—Bernard Herrmann in 1941 for ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY (also nominated for CITIZEN KANE), Max Steiner for SINCE YOU WENT AWAY in 1944 (also nominated for THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN), Miklós Rózsa in 1945 for SPELLBOUND (also nominated for THE LOST WEEKEND and A SONG TO REMEMBER), and John Williams in 1977 for STAR WARS (also nominated for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND). The ’40s don’t count. Academy rules at the time allowed every studio to submit nominations in the technical categories. So basically that means a double nomination has resulted in a win only once—Williams’ worthy Oscar. On the other hand, GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL has gotten a late season surge (and tied for the most nominations along with BIRDMAN) and IMITATION GAME has the powerful Weinsteins behind them. Unfortunately, odds—and history—are against Desplat.

Zimmer garnered some of his best reviews—and publicity—for INTERSTELLAR. There’s no denying the music’s impact on the film, both aurally and emotionally. But the film and its surrounding scientific/religious discussion divided viewers and the film’s heavy Oscar push resulted in only five technical nominations. Still, it’s been 20 years since Zimmer won for THE LION KING. Since then, his impact on film music is undeniable. Will it be enough to win him a second Oscar? We’ll see.

The first newcomer in the category is Golden Globe-winner Jóhann Jóhannsson. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING goes into the Oscars with six nominations, including high profile categories like Picture, Actor, and Actress. Its best chance is for Eddie Redmayne’s excellent portrayal of Stephan Hawking—and in this category. The score has some lovely moments and does its job admirably in the context of the film, and tear ducts go a long way in swaying Oscar voters.

I literally did an out loud “whoa!” when Gary Yershon’s name was announced on TV. To be clear, that’s a GOOD “whoa”. I have yet to see MR. TURNER (though I have the screener sitting in front of me) but I was entranced by Yershon’s music when I first heard it a month ago. With its bent melodies, and unorthodox harmonies and chamber orchestrations, the score cast a spell over me from the very first notes when I received the promo a month ago. I’ve been looking forward to the film ever since—strictly because of the music. I want to see how this unconventional accompaniment works alongside the life of painter J.M.W. Turner. Music Branch voters deserve a round of applause for thinking outside the box.

Will Win: THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Should Win: Anybody else

What are your reactions to the nominations?

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