Academy Disqualifies Scores For 'Black Swan,' 'True Grit' and Others From Oscar Consideration

by Oliver Lyttelton
December 21, 2010 2:40 AM
9 Comments
  • |


The trouble with the Academy awards, and indeed in putting too much stock in them, is that you're relying on the decisions being made by a relatively small, aging group of people. In many ways, things are improving -- Academy membership is getting younger, and it's starting to show: we can't imagine "The Hurt Locker" winning Best Picture even a decade ago. But in some categories, and some branches, there's still a frustrating conservatism at work; the Foreign Language branch, for instance, have a long history of picking safe choices over other, more worthy films.

As much as anywhere, this is true in the composer's branch: nominations for Best Original Score of late have ended up disqualifying and/or overlooking some celebrated scores with Johnny Greenwood's "There Will Be Blood" and Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's "The Dark Knight" a couple of the more notable works to be deemed ineligible in recent years. And that won't change this year.

Variety report that the scores for four major awards season contenders, "Black Swan," "True Grit," "The Fighter" and "The Kids Are All Right," have been disqualified by the Academy music-branch executive committee. The former two were counted out because the scores are based, at least in part, on pre-existing material -- namely Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" and 19th century Protestant hymns, respectively. The latter two, meanwhile, were deemed to have scores "diminished in impact by the dominant use of songs."

The scores for "The Fighter" and "The Kids Are All Right" were unlikely to be major players in the category in the first place, however well-liked the films. But, Carter Burwell's work on "True Grit" and Clint Mansell's on "Black Swan" number among the most distinctive and effective scores of the year and, while their disqualification had been expected for some time, the category will certainly be the weaker for their exclusion. However, awards front-runners, "The King's Speech" seems to have been deemed eligible -- not a certainty by any means, as it also includes a certain amount of pre-existing compositions.

While we understand the logic of trying to keep the purity of the Best Original Score race, well, original, and the ruling out of "Black Swan" seems fair, when you're disqualifying the best work in the category, it suggests you need to rethink your rules. Maybe it's time for a Best Adapted Score category? We'll be delivering our verdict on the best scores and soundtracks in the next week or so, so look out for that in the meantime.

You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

9 Comments

  • Scott | December 22, 2010 8:56 AMReply

    Ditto, Joie: The TRON score clearly stood out of this year's bleak offerings (background elevator music isn't a score). It perfectly utilizes orchestral and electronic elements to heighten the immersive experience of that particular digital world. It would be a shame for the Academy to ignore Daft Punk out of insular nepotism, ie Golden Globes' WTF omission. Here's actual 100% music written for the film.

  • Chris | December 21, 2010 8:38 AMReply

    What I don't understand is why they no longer have a " Best Score Adaptation" Oscar. John Williams' won his first Oscar for adapting/arranging music for "Fiddler on the Roof". Seems apt for these types of situations, but they phased that award out in the 80's.

    It is worrisome though when you see the cover of Black Swan and it says "Original Score by Clint Mansell", with no MENTION of Tchaikovsky. Should read Score Adaptation by...

    Despite that, it's still the best use of classical music in a film since Kubrick, and would easily win the Adaptation Oscar, if they still had it.

  • Dallas Jay | December 21, 2010 8:22 AMReply

    Does anyone remember over the summer when the soundtrack controversy of the moment was the validity of the music for Inception? It was loosely connected with Edith Piaf's song "Non, je ne regrette rien" which is prominently displayed in the movie and infiltrated into the orchestral score.

  • cirkusfolk | December 21, 2010 6:25 AMReply

    I actually noticed the ambient score to The Fighter through all the songs, and thought it was quite good. I looked up who did it and saw it was Michael Brook, who did Into the Wild a couple years ago, which I also liked. Maybe not substantial enough to win an Oscar, but works well in the movie.

  • Jamie | December 21, 2010 5:59 AMReply

    Don't get me wrong, I love Reznor and Ross's work in every they do; however, The Social Network score SHOULD have been disqualified. A few songs were featured also in the Nine Inch Nails album "Ghosts I-IV." If they give an award to Trent, they should go back and give one To Johnny Greenwood's excellent score.

  • Joie | December 21, 2010 5:58 AMReply

    I just want to see Daft Punk and Grizzly Bear at the Oscars, for Tron (one of the year's best OSTs), and Blue Valentine, respectively. Enough said.

  • rodie | December 21, 2010 3:47 AMReply

    Why can't the Academy get with the times and have TWO categories for score?

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (completely new)

    and

    BEST SOUNDTRACK (can contain cover versions or previously published music alongside new compositions)

  • BuntyMan | December 21, 2010 3:08 AMReply

    At least they didn't disqualify Reznor/Ross's Social Network score.

    Shame about Black Swan and True Grit.

  • Rashad | December 21, 2010 2:58 AMReply

    Why the derision? The work is called Best ORIGINAL Score. How would people feel if the Best Original Scripts were based on books?

Email Updates