Again this year, I’ve made it my mission to see all the films nominated for Academy Awards in the major categories. I’ve skipped the documentary, foreign language (unless they’re nominated in other categories such as ‘Amour’) and short films.
At the time of writing I’m still two films away from a clean sweep, so I’ll leave those categories till I’ve seen the remaining movies (‘Hitchcock’ in Makeup & Hairstyling, and ‘Wreck It Ralph’ in Animated Feature).
But seeing as we’re 10 days out from the ceremony I thought I’d give my personal picks. I do not work in film or drama production, I do not work in any ancillary professions around the film industry, I just watch a LOT of movies and I have a blog – which makes me about as good a critic as 99% of the people on the internet.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
- Before My Time (Chasing Ice)
Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
‘Before My Time’ is my personal pick for best Original Song – and it’s the only song I had to go out of my way to listen to as finding a screening of ‘Chasing Ice’ in London was proved more difficult than I imagined. In addition to being a great, melancholy song about life with a surprising vocal performance from Scarlett Johansson, as a coda to this documentary is really nails home the emotional point without hitting it directly on the head.
I think it’s just stunning.
Will it win? Maybe not, the film is more obscure and up against heavier competition such as ‘Pi’s Lullaby’ and ‘Skyfall’.
- Everybody Needs A Best Friend (Ted)
Music by Walter Murphy, Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
I very almost picked this as my favourite until I heard ‘Before My Time’ while researching this category. As an introduction into the world of ‘Ted’ it just works. Fun, bright, funny – a great mood-setter and a great little tune. Ultimately I guess I marked it down slightly for being a little on the emotionally light side. Is that a bad thing?
- Pi’s Lullaby (Life Of Pi)
Music by Mychael Danna, Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
A beautiful song, yes, and a very strong contender for me. In a way this one suffers for me from blending a little too seamlessly into the film’s score. It’s beautiful but washed over me a little too easy.
- Skyfall (Skyfall)
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
‘Skyfall’ is one of the best Bond songs in recent memory, but personally I found it underwhelming. I expected more from Adele. The opening credits to the film however are another story – just stunning.
- Suddenly (Les Miserables)
Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil
‘Suddenly’ from Les Miserables was frankly one of the weaker songs in the musical, I’m a fan of Jackman, but I’ve never actually liked his vocal delivery, it’s just a personal preference thing (the only other time I’ve heard him sing live was during ‘The Boy From Oz’ on Broadway). In a film with such big, iconic numbers, this one falls flat. It seems, quite literally, like it was shoe-horned into the film merely so they could get a nomination in this category. At least, to their credit, it falls into the narrative instead of being shoved over the credits (ala Chicago’s ‘We Move On’).
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
- Anna Karenina – Dario Marianelli
- Argo – Alexandre Desplat
- Life Of Pi – Mychael Danna
- Lincoln – John Williams
- Skyfall – Thomas Newman
I was a little torn on this one, between Dario Marianelli‘s ‘Anna Karenina’ score and Mychael Danna‘s ‘Life of Pi’ (the other scores didn’t really rate in my mind). I think I went with Pi because music really underscored the artistic cues on the screen. I felt the music was unobtrusive but a well-balanced, integrated piece of the filmmaking.
Okay – so the ‘Sound’ categories. These are always tricky because, let’s be honest, it’s a very specialised field that most people simple ignore while watching a movie. The question is, is good sound mixing the kind that makes you pay attention to it, or the kind that takes you into the film without you noticing?
- Argo – Erik Aadahl and Ethan van der Ryn
- Django Unchained – Wylie Stateman
- Life Of Pi – Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
- Skyfall – Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
- Zero Dark Thirty – Paul NJ Ottosson
Films with action and/or effects are always good show-pieces for sound mixing as they require a greater soundscape in their set-pieces which is why I’ve picked ‘Skyfall’. From the casino to a fight in an empty skyscraper (with windows knocked out), to the gunfight in Scotland and the chase through London’s Underground – there’s a vast array of sounds at play and they all felt organic yet also fresh.
- Argo – John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
- Les Miserables – Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
- Life Of Pi – Ron Bartlett, DM Hemphill and Drew Kunin
- Lincoln – Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
- Skyfall – Scott Millan, Greg P Russell and Stuart Wilson
It’s odd NOT to go with the same film in both these categories but, in terms of mixing, a musical like ‘Les Miserables’ has the upper hand, especially in this case as the vocals were recorded live on the set and then the orchestration (and the rest of the sound-scape) was mixed in. Had it not been for this I probably would have gone for ‘Skyfall’ again.
Up next: I’ll look at the Writing categories (and maybe some of the other technicals)…