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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Paquito D'Rivera, who has won 12 Grammys, is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. D'Rivera's latest project, “Jazz Meets the Classics,” was released this month. He joins us on the latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."