News / Arts & Entertainment

Music to Oscar's Ears

This image released by 20th Century Fox, April 9, 2013, shows Geoffrey Rush, left, and Sophie Nélisse in a scene from "The Book Thief," about a girl who loves books.
This image released by 20th Century Fox, April 9, 2013, shows Geoffrey Rush, left, and Sophie Nélisse in a scene from "The Book Thief," about a girl who loves books.
Adam Phillips
Sunday is Oscars Night in Hollywood.  And while the Oscar nominated actors and actresses have the larger fan base, insiders also will be paying attention to the five film composers whose work has garnered them nominations for Best Score.

The opening music for The Book Thief is just one small part of the varied and complex score John Williams composed for the film about a German family that hides a Jewish man in its home during World War II. The 82-year-old Williams has been nominated for an Academy Award 49 times, but his most recent win was 20 years ago for Schindler’s List.

Hollywood veteran Dan Carlin, who chairs the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program at the University of Southern California, thought a Best Score Oscar for The Book Thief would be well deserved. He pointed to one musical sequence called "Revealing the Secret," in which the main character, a young girl who has been saved from the death camps, told her best friend about the Jewish man her family was protecting.

"It just grabs your heart and rips it out.  It’s a very emotional cue.  And John can do that probably better than anyone else.  He’s amazing," he said.

Carlin added that the reason Williams remained "the most sought after film composer on this planet" was easily understood while listening to The Book Thief score.  "I've talked to some composers and they say, 'I can't listen to John's scores anymore because 'when I do, I just want to chop my fingers off.'  How does he do it?  And a range of stuff too - from jazz scores to action adventures to futuristic stuff to this. It's just extraordinary!'"

For the sixth time in eight years, the French film composer Alexandre Desplat has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score - this time for Philomena.  It's a drama about an elderly Irish woman and a journalist searching for the son who was taken from her as an unwed teenage mother and put up for adoption.

Carlin called the score complex and sophisticated, yet accessible.  He was curious about a carousel-like melody that was very prominent near the beginning of the film. 

"And I wonder if he had in mind the fact that they go around in circles, these two lead characters, when they are trying to solve this mystery, when they are trying to track down her son.  You never know if composers think about this stuff consciously, but it winds up being very effective," said Carlin.

William Butler and Owen Pallet Warner, two composers better known for their work with the Canadian indie rock band "Arcade Fire," got an Oscar nod for Her.  The film is about a man in the near future who develops a romantic relationship with a computer program with a woman’s voice and personality.

Carlin said the mix of high-tech electronic music with romantic melody mirrored the relationship humans were developing with technology.

"You have the sweetness of the melody and the theme trying to tell a love story, but at the same time you’ve got technology coming in and trying to get in the way of it.  It’s a very interesting notion," he said.

Carlin is not a great fan of electronic music, but admires the way veteran film composer Tom Newman combined it with traditional orchestral writing in Saving Mr. Banks.  The drama recounts the two weeks that Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers spent in Los Angeles in 1961 being wooed by Walt Disney, who wanted the screen rights to her book.

"But the Academy has not embraced this film," he said.  "Walt Disney remains a controversial figure in Hollywood and is not generally beloved and that backlash may hurt Tom’s chances of finally receiving an Oscar," adding, "but the score is really superb."

The film Gravity, which takes place entirely in outer space, features perhaps the most unusual score among this year’s nominees.  Because there are no "earthly" sounds out there, composer Steven Price combined music with raw audio effects.

"It’s a scrubbing percussive type of sound that is not rhythmic," Carlin observed.  "He’s made that part of the soundtrack what he's created.  That’s not an easy thing to do.  So that may work in his favor and also that this was a huge box office film."

Dan Carlin wouldn't say which score he will be rooting for on Sunday night, but opined that Gravity may have the most weight going in.  Like these composers themselves, Oscar Night’s tens of millions of TV viewers will just have to wait for the name that follows the three words, "the envelope, please..."

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

"Soul Lounge" host Shawna Renee catches up with soul singer and songwriter Russell Taylor to hear what he’s been up to since winning the VH1 "You Oughta Know" title in 2013. She also convinces him to share a few songs from his album "War of Hearts."