Ennio Morricone, John Williams Make Oscars List of Eligible Scores
112 Film Scores Declared Eligible for Oscar.
Three of John Williams’ seven Star Wars scores have been nominated for an Oscar. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences unveiled 112 scores from 2015 films that are in contention for original-score nominations for the 88th Academy Awards.When you look at the titles supposedly in the hunt for Oscar glory this year, there are — as per usual — few connecting links between them: “The Martian” and “Carol” are on different planets in more ways than one, while “Spotlight” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” have about as much in common as Donald Trump and the Dalai Lama.MAD MAX: Fury Road’s path to the Oscars appears likely to be paved in gold with the film’s largely Australian make-up and hair team short-listed for nominations.At this time of year, all eyes are on the best-picture prizes; otherwise, the media devote most of their energy on the “money categories” — i.e. acting. (Writers and directors get a little attention, if they’re lucky.) But in truth, the artisan races are often the most interesting.
Among the eligible feature-film titles are the final three scores from the late James Horner: “The 33” (in photo), “Wolf Totem” and “Southpaw.” And the exec committee OK’d the Ennio Morricone score for “Hateful Eight,” which includes about 30 minutes of new material along with several minutes of old scores written by him. Notable exclusions include “Love & Mercy” (Atticus Ross), “Crimson Peak” (Fernando Velázquez), “The Revenant” (Alva Noto and Ryûichi Sakamoto) and “Youth” (David Lang). There are exceptions, of course. “Titanic” won best picture in 1997, and ever since the best picture field expanded to 10 potential nominees, there’s supposedly more space for less weighty movies. On Saturday, Jan. 9, members of the Academy’s makeup artists and hairstylists branch will be invited to view ten-minute excerpts from each of the seven films.
The Academy has always liked movie stars, after all: From the past few years alone, the likes of Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock have golden statuettes to prove it. Under Academy rules, a feature-length motion picture must have a running time of more than 40 minutes and must have been exhibited theatrically on 35mm or 70mm film, or in a qualifying digital format. Last year it was top earner “American Sniper.” Meanwhile, the award winner, “Birdman,” was the 78th most profitable film of 2014, and none of the other hopefuls cracked the top 30. The 88th Oscars will be held on Sunday, Feb. 28, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, Calif., and will be televised live by ABC. Feature films that receive their first public exhibition or distribution in any manner other than as a theatrical motion picture release are not eligible for Academy Awards in any category — although films that bow day-and-date in theaters and on streaming services are eligible.
According to the Academy, “To be eligible, the original score must be a substantial body of music that serves as original dramatic underscoring, and must be written specifically for the motion picture by the submitting composer. If some years find Academy voters welcoming outsiders into their circle — “The Artist” and Frenchman Jean Dujardin, for example, or the diverse ensemble of “12 Years a Slave,” Brad Pitt notwithstanding — this season’s race thus far looks like more of an inside affair. Ross, who won an Oscar for his work on The Social Network (with Trent Reznor), used samples and snippets of Wilson’s work, as well as his own orchestrations, in creating the score for the movie.
Take “The Revenant,” for example: a tough, potentially uncommercial film, for sure, but one heavily reliant on the hefty star power of Leonardo DiCaprio to carry auds through its most grueling challenges. DiCaprio’s lead actor chances are already the subject of fevered fan-forum speculation; if he finally takes the gold at his fifth attempt, it’ll likely be the headline of the night. In a year when many long-gestating franchise flicks flopped — think “Entourage” and “Terminator: Genisys” — people flocked to theaters to see George Miller’s dust-covered summer blockbuster. But it wasn’t just the masses that enjoyed seeing Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron as partners-in-justifiable-crime, kicking tail in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Blockbuster “The Martian” owes much of its success and awards buzz to the genial charms of Hollywood’s dependable Everyman: It’s hard to imagine a less-established name holding down vast stretches of Ridley Scott’s marooned-astronaut adventure (with no tangible scene partners for company) to quite the same effect.
So is SAG nominee Johnny Depp, whose slithery, physically made-over turn as Whitey Bulger in “Black Mass” works as a more counterintuitive reminder of his star presence — it’s the Depp you can’t see that you keep thinking of. In “Furious 7,” the visual-effects team used a library of footage to create close-ups of the late Paul Walker, and made them look like they were filmed on the spot. Louis, San Diego and Boston, among many others, have proclaimed that the movie or the director (and in some cases both) are the most impressive of the year.
The two-time Oscar winner may not score another nomination for Steven Spielberg’s old-school best picture player “Bridge of Spies,” but either way, it’s a film heavily dependent on his sturdy gravitas as a leading man. Many critics have likened his star persona in the film to that of James Stewart for Hitchcock — the kind of comfortingly familiar presence cast to guide mainstream viewers through thematically shadowy material. The multiple vehicles have different sounds; for example, the team added subtle animal noises (whales, bears, lions) to augment the engine sounds of the War Rig (Charlize Theron’s vehicle). Globe nominee Will Smith acts similarly to draw the audience to solemn subject matter in “Concussion.” Over in supporting actor, meanwhile, a veteran icon could take the gold for revisiting his name-making role: A win for Sylvester In the actress categories, typically kinder to new arrivals than their male counterparts, big names also pepper the conversation.
Then there’s Cate Blanchett, serving up a kind of Lana Turner glamour assault in “Carol”; never has a film traded quite so luxuriantly on the Australian star’s physical magnetism. Her co-lead Rooney Mara’s no slouch, but perhaps it’s that very imposing aura that has led the Weinstein Co. to classify Blanchett as the lesbian romance’s sole lead.
For starters, most of the heroes in the movie are women, and they’re more interesting characters than the man of the title, who spends much of the movie grunting. Lawrence and Blanchett seem likely to take a back seat in the race to two relative ingenues, with “Room’s” Brie Larson and “Brooklyn’s” Saoirse Ronan currently sharing the front-runner position.
The most memorable is Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, the one-armed vigilante driver of a war rig who risks everything to rescue a group of sex slaves and deliver them to a better place. They may not be supernova-scale stars yet, but they’re hardly unknown quantities: Ronan, after all, has been a regular presence in prestige productions since scoring an Oscar nom at the tender age of 13 in “Atonement” eight years ago. The movie isn’t entirely progressive, as the first time we see the women, they’re wearing next to nothing: But “Mad Max” is unquestionably about more than showing skin. Ronan’s striking face is repeatedly caressed in close-up in the old-fashioned immigrant love story, practically billboarding the actress’s still-burgeoning star quality. The landscapes look ripped from your most gorgeous nightmares, and the high-speed chase scenes aren’t just muscular; they’re acrobatic and strangely beautiful.
The same could be said for ubiquitous Swedish up-and-comer Alicia Vikander in “The Danish Girl” and “Ex Machina,” the two films for which she received dual Globe noms; even the less-established names on this year’s awards trail feel like heavyweight fixtures to come. During an interview with HitFix, cinematographer John Seale said that Miller manipulated the frame rate in many of the scenes, slowing down the action so that audiences could really grasp what was happening, then speeding things up. Ridley Scott’s sci-fi adventure about an astronaut who is accidentally left behind on Mars was an enormous crowd-pleaser, bringing in more than a half-billion dollars worldwide. On the surface it seemed like a relatively serious movie about a single man’s struggle to survive — something along the lines of “Gravity” or “Cast Away” in space.
The large ensemble cast of talented actors, including Matt Damon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and Kristen Wiig, reveals an expansive story about many people, in various corners of the galaxy, coming together to try to save one man’s life. So even if “The Martian” winds up missing out on a best picture nod — which is a pretty big if — Scott could very well get love for his direction simply because the man behind “Blade Runner,” “Thelma & Louise” and “Black Hawk Down” is long overdue for a win. Whether the movie is as good as Tarantino’s others, the academy may give him points for his high regard for film, not to mention his personal quest to remind people how exciting movies can be.
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