Thursday, February 19, 2009

Movie help

Yes, this is an official bleg. One of my colleagues is running an Oscar pool (no money, just bragging rights). Despite having seen almost none of the nominated movies, I feel very confident about my picks in all the main categories. After all, I listen to NPR's Fresh Air regularly. But, ironically, the categories I feel I have no clue in are the soundtracks. Perhaps it is because I care most about these categories, and don't want to make a rash decision based on no information (I've only seen one of the movies). I don't feel the same way about acting, so I'm willing to go out on a limb with no reasoning whatsoever. Anyway, here are the categories and the nominees. Tell me who you think will win the Oscar, and why.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Alexandre Despiat)
Defiance (James Newton Howard)
Milk (Danny Elfman)
Slumdog Millionaire (A.R. Rahman)
WALL-E (Thomas Newman)

“Down to Earth” from WALL-E (Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman)
“Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire (A.R. Rahman and Gutzar)
“O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire (A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam)

As a related bleg, I'm also not certain about the short films (documentary short subject, Animated short film, and Live Action short film). Any advice on those also appreciated, but I won't clutter the blog with those more unrelated topics.


Peter (the other) said...

Hey Scott, as the Oscars have little to do with the ontology of the music score, it should matter little that you may not have seen the films. It is almost all about "buzz" and politics. Given that, having seen three of the nominated films and being up for the parlor game, I'll express opinions.

1) Tom Newman's work on WALL-E is such an example of great craftsmanship and shear quantity, and the fact that he was robbed for American Beauty in 1999 (Corigliano's score may havee been great music beautifully finger-synced, but as image/music/story non-diegetic score, which is the heart of film/music, has proven no where near as important as Newman's) means it should be his. I think they will toss him the song as a consolation though (a mediocre thing only emboldened by Peter Gabriel's name and vocal presence). There is also the problem that in animated, non-musical films, the music has so much kinetic and temporal business to take care of, there is often less "musical" elements to sit up and be taken notice of.

2) Danny Elfman's score for Milk is a nice enough pastiche of some minimalist techniques, but suffers from a sense of post editing, ie the music feels moved from an original placing, edited to fit. Still, Oscar voters (a very sad and strange group indeed) may toss it a nod in consolation for not giving the film any other awards. It is far from Elfman's better work.

3)Desplat's score for Benjamin Button is a lovely, traditional/melodic score. If the voters vote their ears, they may well vote for this.

4)I have not seen Defiance, but Newton-Howard has had something on the order of seven nominations, they may toss him this one.

5) Slumdog, still unseen by me, is the wild card.

Scott said...

Peter, you've just given reasons for all five nominees! That's it: I'm voting for Slumdog Millionaire, since I just heard an interview with Rahman on PRI's The World, and "Jai Ho" because the same interview played that song.

Peter (the other) said...

Oh, you are saying that I should commit? ;-)

(here comes more reasoning)

If Slumdog does collect picture and director, which all the buzz seems to be pointing to (I'm going to start sounding like Uncle Wiggly here), then if Mickey Rourke deprives Sean Penn, the score category will be thrown into the air. I will bet my personal favorite, WALL-E, which will curse it, natch.

I could imagine my perception might be skewed by my being overseas for the last month/

Now I wonder wether my captcha word, "dootgari", means something in Hindi, some kind of cosmic hint... ? I'm sticking with Mssr. Newman.

Peter (the other) said...

Well, a day after the Slumdog sweep, I find myself on a Boeing 777 winging over Greenland, and watching the the movie. Oy! Once again proof that the Academy votes for best score with all the cinematic music, political acumen of a bunch of 8th graders.

I found the score just competent and conservative. The I-VI-II-V theme at the great romantic resolution is a bit toooo corny to be believed. The "action" sequences, such as at the chase in the opening, is a ham fisted attempt at what Hans Zimmer perfected over ten years ago. Okay, so there are some kind of Indian drum pounding instead of tom-toms, but the lack of of accuracy in the visual/musical synchrony department made it of far less quality then you might hear on 24 every week.

What is with Boyle's scatological fascination?

Oh well, the academy... is just that.

Meanwhile, congratulations, and I sure am glad nothing was bet :-)

To quote someone: "Nobody knows nuttin'."

Scott said...

Alas, I didn't win the contest, not even third place. I forgot to always pick the biography for best actor, so I had chosen Mickey Rourke over Sean Penn. I also thought this was finally Meryl Streep's year, and I had no clue for the short-subject films. Otherwise I nailed 'em.