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At Sunday's Academy Awards, Trent Reznor could become the second rock bandleader to win the Oscar for original score, joining Talking Heads' David Byrne, who took home the trophy for The Last Emperor in 1987.
It's not an unlikely scenario. Reznor's score for The Social Network, written with Atticus Ross, received the Golden Globe in January and in recent years original score has been the one category that consistently overlaps between the two kudos fests. Michael Giacchino's score for Up, A.R. Rahman's Slumdog Millionaire and Dario Marianelli's Atonement music were all double trophied over the last three years.
Last year, the Globes and Oscars aligned with T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham's "The Weary Kind" (from Crazy Heart), but a similar feat will not occur this year as the Globe winner, Diane Warren's "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," is not up for an Oscar. Oddly, a performance of the song Cher sang in Burlesque was rehearsed for the Oscarcast, but scratched on Thursday.
While Reznor and Ross may appear to be a busman's holiday writing music for film, this is not be a case of one and done. They are slated to score David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is scheduled for a December release.
If 2011 is the year the Oscars and Globes do not line up, the Academy could send a message about honoring its veterans or welcoming young orchestral composers to the winner's circle.
Two veteran winners, Hans Zimmer and Alan Menken, are up for Oscars in the score and song categories, respectively. But as common as their names appear on nomination lists, neither has won in more than a decade and a half: Zimmer took home the score award in 1994 for The Lion King and Menken last won in 1995 for Pocahontas.
The Academy could also choose to honor first timers. Alexandre Desplat, who won the BAFTA for his The King's Speech music, has been nominated four times without a win; John Powell received his first nomination this year for How to Train Your Dragon. A.R. Rahman, up for 127 Hours, won the only other time he was nominated, in 2008 for Slumdog Millionaire.
On the song side, the Academy could go country for second year in a row, reward Dido or push Randy Newman's Oscar record to 2-18.
Newman received his 20th nomination for We Belong Together from Toy Story 3 and he still only has one statuette to his name, the 2001 award for "You've Got a Friend in Me." It could be said Newman and Menken, up for "I See the Light" from Tangled, are overdue.
"Coming Home" is the name of the nominated song from the film Country Song, penned by the prize-winning team of Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey. Douglas' "The House That Built Me" won a Grammy two weeks ago for Miranda Lambert, Lindsey wrote the Carrie Underwood hit "Jesus Take the Wheel" and Verges is part of the team behind Martina McBride's "Blessed" and Faith Hill's "Stronger."
Dido and Rollo Armstrong are first-time nominees for "If I Rise," the song they wrote with A.R. Rahman for 127 Hours.
On Sunday's show, Gwyneth Paltrow will perform "Coming Home," A.R. Rahman and Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine) will perform "I Rise," Menken will accompany Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi on "I See the Light" and Newman will perform his "We Belong Together."
The Academy has altered its music categories numerous times in its 83 years. Between 1938 and 1984, Oscars would be given to original scores and "song scores," an award won by Prince for Purple Rain, the Beatles for Let it Be and numerous film adaptations of Broadway musicals. They have also altered the rules along the way.
This is the third year in which the Academy has screened the clips featuring eligible songs -- there were 41 -- for voters who then assign number grades to each tune. In a convoluted system based on at least one song averaging better than 8.25 on a 10-point scale, the Academy decides whether to include the category and how many songs to nominate. This year the number is four.