Friday, October 20, 2023

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1998: The Scores

To close out the week, we're looking at two categories: Best Original Musical Or Comedy Score and Best Drama Score.

The Best Original Musical Or Comedy Score has its antecedents, of course, in the Original Song Score, Original Musical Score, and Adaptation Score categories, categories separate from Original Score or (briefly) Original Drama Or Comedy Score to delineate between wholly new compositions, orchestrations of previously existing music, and musicals written for the screen. The last time any of these were used was 1984, when Prince won for Purple Rain. Just 11 years later, the Academy, reportedly in response to Disney's domination of the Song and Score categories since 1989's The Little Mermaid, once again came up with an alternate honor for musicals. The weird thing is, comedies were mixed in this time, even though they're not similar approaches at all: a score for a comedy is still a score, different from composing music and lyrics that are later adapted into underscore. The category only lasted four ceremonies, with this one being its last:

Listen to the scores and you tell me who should've won:

A Bug's Life
Randy Newman
sixth of nine score nominations; Golden Globe nominee for Best Score

Shades of Aaron Copland, the better to hit home this Western saga of a town (of ants) protecting their home from an outside menace (grasshoppers). Even some Nino Rota-esque mischievousness with the circus bugs.

songs: music by Matthew Wilder, lyrics by David Zippel
score by Jerry Goldsmith
the seventeenth and final score nomination for past score winner Jerry Goldsmith; Wilder's first and only nomination; Zippel's first and only score nomination

The songs are among my favorites from a Disney film. Score-wise, also among my favorites from a Disney film, standing on their own while "riffing" on tunes like "Honor To Us All" (at 1:24 of the first video). But you see the weirdness in trying to choose between something like this and A Bug's Life to represent one thing while even the choice of nominated artists shows how they're two different things?

Patch Adams
Marc Shaiman
third of four score nominations

First of all, this is not a Comedy, nor is it a Musical. Second of all, dull piano plinking.

The Prince of Egypt
songs: music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
score by Hans Zimmer
third of three score nominations for Schwartz; fifth of twelve nominations for past winner Zimmer; Golden Globe nominee for Best Score

Probably the purest example of what this category was intended for, Zimmer interweaving Schwartz's songs through his own work, his style guided by the songwriter's.

Shakespeare in Love
Stephen Warbeck
first and only nomination; BAFTA Award nominee for Best Film Music

It's sweeping, lovely, and fun - all of which you want in your Shakespeare rom-com.


Warbeck won the Oscar, but my vote goes to:


But that's just one score category. Let us not forget the prestigious Drama Score Oscar! Let us listen:

David Hirschfelder
second of two nominations; BAFTA Award winner for Best Film Music

Director Shekhar Kapur said he didn't want a historical drama, but a melodrama, a political thriller, an over-the-top statement that yanks th Elizabethan age into the 20th century. I think Hirschfelder's loud music - with much of its background winking at Holst's "Mars" - is completely appropriate and helps drive the battiness home.

Life is Beautiful
Nicola Piovani
first and only nomination

There's a whimsy here. Not sure this is a Drama score, but I suppose when you set the second half of your film in a nazi extermination camp, "comedy" is a tough sell. I do think Piovani's score is what makes the movie work.

Randy Newman
seventh of nine scoring nominations

Again, not completely convinced this is a Drama score. It is very effective though, part of the magic.

Saving Private Ryan
John Williams
past five-time winner, his thirty-second of forty-six original score nominations; BAFTA Award nominee for Best Film Music, Golden Globe nominee for Best Score

Yes, perfect, this is what this movie should sound like.

The Thin Red Line
Hans Zimmer
past winner, sixth of twelve nominations

The one track from Zimmer's score to actually make the cut turns out to be the most influential piece of music in the last 30 years. How was it eligible? Who cares, it's perfect.


A bit of a cheat, maybe, but if we're talking about scores that are most effective within their films and with the best replay value (and maybe you're not, but I am), then the winner is, haha:


On Sunday, the nominees for Best Actor: Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful), Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan), Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters), Nick Nolte (Affliction), and Edward Norton (American History X).

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