This is the second of seven prediction and analysis articles for the Oscars being given out at the upcoming 85th Academy Awards on February 24th, hosted by Seth McFarlane (full site). This quick article follows the music and sound categories. In these artistic and technical categories, you'll see a good mix of art (Anna Karenina and others) and blockbusters (Skyfall, etc.) with a few oddballs mixed in (Ted for "Best Original Song" and it's not the "Thunder Buddy" song).
Like last year, I offer the categories of snubs and happy nominations to go along with a choice of "who should win" and "who will win." This season, I've been doing my due diligence by tracking what movies and people have won the precursor and lead-up awards to the Oscars on my "2012 Awards Tracker" page. For a full breakdown of earlier 2012-2013 award results, please check that page and tab. Enjoy and good luck with your Oscar pool!
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
The nominees: "Before My Time" (Chasing Ice), "Everybody Needs A Best Friend" (Ted), "Pi's Lullaby" (Life of Pi), "Skyfall" (Skyfall), "Suddenly" (Les Misérables)
AWARDS TRACKER (number of earlier award wins): 5- Skyfall, 1- Les Miserables
Who was snubbed: In a really thin category and field (nobody seems to do original songs in movies anymore), it's hard to find a true notable snub. Back in the day, Disney's animated features dominated this category, so I'll say that either of Scottish Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis's songs from Disney/Pixar's Brave were worthy to make this group. Both "Touch the Sky" and "Into the Open Air" cemented the movie's tartan-clad style well. While neither were the old "Be Our Guest" showstoppers of Disney's past, they were better than a few of the obscure ones here. Does anyone remember any song from Ted other than the "Thunder Buddy" song? I didn't think so. Don't even mention Taylor Swift's song from The Hunger Games. I think all award shows, and all of us too, have had enough of Taylor Swift.
Happy to be there: Every single nominee not named Adele is happy to be there. This category is one of the sure-fire locks of the night. You can bet the house on this winner. The extremely distant second is "Pi's Lullaby" from Life of Pi.
Who should win and will win: This is a no-brainer for Adele's "Skyfall," the brassy and awesome title track from Skyfall. Her dramatic and smokey vocals and the song itself is just perfect. This is a big-time singer performing in a big-time spot and she nailed it. Welcome back to prestige, James Bond films!
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The nominees: Dario Marianelli- Anna Karenina, Alexandre Desplat- Argo, Mychael Danna- Life of Pi, John Williams- Lincoln, Thomas Newman- Skyfall
AWARDS TRACKER (number of earlier award wins): 3- Jonny Greenwood (The Master),
2- Life of Pi, 2- Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), 2- Reinhold Hall, Johnny Klimek, and Tom Twyker, Cloud Atlas, 2- Alexandre Desplat, Moonrise Kingdom) 1- Lincoln, 1- Argo, 1- Skyfall
Who was snubbed: Kind of like cinematography in the previous article, movie music is an area that I'm a bit of a movie snub about. I take great interest in these nominees and the art involved. To me, you can't beat a great soundtrack. When executed the right way, it's another character in the film. So, from my point of view, the most memorable movie music from the year (and deserving of a combined prize) was the outstanding culmination of Hans Zimmer's trilogy of work coming together in The Dark Knight Rises. Combining his memorable themes with experimental group vocals this time around, Zimmer's music has defined the Batman character as much as Christopher Nolan's stories and visuals. As a Chicagoan, any time I drive down on lower Wacker Drive, Hans's booming theme comes into my head and my car becomes the Tumbler. That's memorable movie music! That's better than some of the wimpy atmospheric background-only pieces from these nominees and even some of the prior award winners from 2012 like Jonny Greenwood's mess on The Master. If anything comes close to Zimmer as a snub, it's trio of composers on Cloud Atlas. With solid themes and an epic feel, it's a real movie score, but too few people saw or appreciated the film (myself included). The eclectic music fans will want Romer and Zeitlin's grassroots work on Beasts of the Southern Wild. Neither are better than Zimmer.
Happy to be there: No disrespect to the great John Williams and his 48th Oscar nomination (second only to Walt Disney himself in Oscar history), but his Lincoln score was weak, unremarkable, and unmemorable. Don't get me wrong. It's well done and the London Symphony Orchestra is perfect, but it didn't register like his other scores do. I know nothing can top his famous Star Wars, Superman, and Indiana Jones marches, but something with the emotional power of his Schindler's List score might have lifted some of the boring labels off of Lincoln.
Who should win: While I think the non-nominated Hans Zimmer is the clear-cut best of the year, I have to still choose from these five nominees. Of them, I will put a vote of approval on Thomas Newman's score for Skyfall. Newman normally never leaves the quiet (The Shawshank Redemption, Meet Joe Black, The Horse Whisperer) and understated (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Wall-E) realms. He elevated his game was kinetic force and impending doom that matched Adele's brassy start for the newest James Bond film.
Who will win: Mychael Danna and Life of Pi will be winning this award. Even a snob like me can tip my hat to the eclectic and exotic flavor of Danna's score. It's a very good score and worthy to be here, even if it is a little bit of that same wimpy atmospheric stuff I mocked. Of the more ethereal-other-theme-based scores from this year, it's the best one. Like in visual effects and cinematography, this is a place that the Academy can honor its second-most nominated film. This will be its third and last win of the night. Unless Ang Lee scores an upset in wide-open Best Director race, you won't hear Danna's background music as a winner walks to the stage again for the rest of the night.
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
The nominees: Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty
AWARDS TRACKER (number of earlier award wins): 2- Les Miserables
Who was snubbed: Now we are getting into some of the more technical categories that are hard to predict, detect, and define. From the Awards Tracker data, you have to say Les Miserables deserves to be here. When I think of sound editing, I think of movies where the sounds are well-separated, well-leveled, and well-maintained from becoming an indiscernible pile of over-combined white noise. The action movies normally get some spots here, but I can't call the salad bowl of sounds from something like Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, or The Avengers as being better than the five that are here.
Happy to be there: With action movies normally rising in these categories, of the five nominated films, Argo is the meekest when it comes to sound and sound editing. It's still good work, but definitely the least focused of the five.
Who should win: To me, from a "should" standpoint, this is between Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty. While Life of Pi will gain its share of technical and artistic wins (score, cinematography, visual effects), I think this is where a thriller like Zero Dark Thirty deserves to sneak a win, merely for that outstanding hear-every-sound scene of the bin Laden compound raid that climaxes the film.
Who will win: The bigger and louder movie wins and that's Skyfall. In my opinion, it borders on the over-combined white noise level of other blockbusters, but's its got the audio credentials to take this one. I'd still rather have Zero Dark Thirty.
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
The nominees: Argo, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Skyfall
AWARDS TRACKER (number of earlier award wins): 2- Les Miserables
Who was snubbed: Much like I just discussed in sound editing, these technical categories are a bit of crap shoot. Another thing that doesn't help is that these two sound awards don't really appear in too many pre-Oscar minor awards. It's, again, hard to call out any big snub, but I'll throw out Flight as a possible snub, just for the amazing crash sequence where every sense was permeated, especially sound, in such a suspenseful and riveting way.
Happy to be there: Once again, mirroring my sentiments from Sound Editing, the meekest and oddly nominated film on this list from technical standpoint in Lincoln. I don't see the sound mixing talent of dust settling and arguing congressmen. This is another of that movie's fluff nominations to be the #1 nominated film.
Who should win: If the Academy is going to give Sound Editing to Skyfall, as I predict it will, then it really deserves Sound Mixing as well. The Life of Pi's technical/artistic award streak could sneak a win as well, but Bond should get this one, but it won't.
Who will win: This is where the big musical numbers and huge singing voices of Les Miserables gets its Oscar win for being the best movie musical in a generation. This is almost an award more for the cast's singing than for the sound department, but that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes. Only Russell Crowe's awful singing voice could ruin this award for them.
NEXT UP: The minor film categories of documentaries, shorts, animated, and foreign films!