The Hardest Oscar Category to Crack Into... Is Best Original Score?!

John Williams - H 2011

John Williams - H 2011

As most of us prepare to give thanks, some among us -- particularly young and up-and-coming film composers -- are saying please, as in, "Please Academy, give us a chance!"

Why? Because the Academy permits one individual to be nominated for more than one film in its best original score category -- unlike its acting categories, but like its directing and other technical categories -- and the Academy's music branch, which determines the category's nominees, has shown as much of a tendency as any branch to take advantage of that option. The result, over the last few decades, has been that veteran big-name composers have wound up with multiple nods on a fairly regular basis, while lesser-known emerging talent have struggled to get their moment in the sun.

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This year could prove to be a tipping point for things, with a number of established veterans each in the running for multiple scores opposite a number of very worthy newcomers.

John Williams, arguably the greatest living film composer -- he has scored an unbelievable 40 best original score nominations, nine of which have resulted in Oscars -- has both War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin in the running this year, and will almost surely be nominated for both. He alone has had two nods in one year on eight previous occasions that came in four different decades: 1969 (The Reivers and Goodbye, Mr. Chips), 1972 (Images and The Poseidon Adventure), 1977 (Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars), 1984 (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The River), 1987 (Empire of the Sun and The Witches of Eastwick), 1989 (Born on the Fourth of July and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), and 2001 (A.I.: Artifical Intelligence and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), and 2005 (Memoirs of a Geisha and Munich).

Then, there's Alexandre Desplat, who has been nominated four times in the last five years (but has yet to win), who has churned out four major scores this year, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Ides of March, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and A Better Life; Howard Shore, who has been nominated and won twice in the past decade, who has both Hugo and A Dangerous Method; and Alberto Iglesias, who has been nominated twice in the past decade (but has yet to win), who has both Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Skin I Live In.

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After those four composers alone are accounted for, there may not be any space left in the category for anyone else!

Nobody is saying that Williams or the others should do what Oprah Winfrey did in 2000 -- after racking up 39 Emmys, plus a lifetime achievement award, she withdrew her name from future consideration -- although it's worth noting that that is precisely what composer Hans Zimmer, an eight-time nominee who won for The Lion King (1994), did this year, even though he would have had a shot at nods for any/several of four films that he scored, Rango, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

But some young composers and publicists with whom I have spoken do feel that it would be fairer -- and make it likelier that newer and/or never-before-nominated talent like Ludovic Bource (The Artist), Cliff Martinez (Drive, Contagion, The Lincoln Lawyer), Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood (We Need to Talk About Kevin), Brian Byrne (Albert Nobbs), David Wingo (Take Shelter), Jonsi (We Bought a Zoo), and Nathan Larson (Margin Call) would receive some attention -- if the Academy adopted the same rule for best original score and other technical categories that it applies to the acting branches.