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Oscar's Choice: The Last Rule Bender

posted Jan 12, 2011, 9:50 PM by Kaya Savas   [ updated Jan 13, 2011, 1:23 AM ]

It's January 2011 and that means one huge deal in Hollywood. Awards time! This is the time of the year where all of the respective organizations celebrate 2010 by honoring the "best" in certain categories. The major ones being the Golden Globes and the Oscars. It's largely accepted that an Oscar is the most prestigious award one can win in this business. But what does winning an Oscar really mean? Does it make a person or a film more marketable? Does it mean they are the best at what they do? It's all up to what you believe. In my eyes the Oscar's shine has been fading over the years.

Is winning an Oscar a huge accomplishment? Yes. It's still an amazing feat for anybody in the business to be called an Oscar winner, but a lot of people give the award more weight than it holds. There are so much politics going on in these awards institutions that it becomes ridiculous. Then again it's no different than any other industry with things like this. My only problem becomes their own hypocrisy. Sure the Academy has garnered heat for certain things. How has Peter O'Toole never won as Oscar? How did Eddie Murphy get nominated? Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson? Really? Was Scorsese's Oscar for The Departed a pity Oscar? You betcha. And the winner for best picture is . . . Chicago? So, yeah there has been some controversy, but none so much as the score category.

Best Original Score has always been a topic of discussion, but the last 10 years have gotten to a point where I have lost considerable respect for the AMPAS. For awhile the Oscars had two score categories. One for drama and the other for musical/comedy. I was always in favor of this because comedy/musical scores have a tough time competing with the emotional bombs that are dropped in dramatic scoring. They got rid of that category so it's pretty much guaranteed that no comedy score will ever win an Oscar. Then in the year 2000 a small travesty happened. Tan Dun won an Oscar for the score to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which beat out Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard's score to Gladiator. I say Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard because they worked together on the film's music. That's how they were credited in the film's credits and on the CD release. The Academy refused to nominate Lisa Gerrard so Hans Zimmer was the only person listed.

So, what does this say about the Academy? They have the right to judge who gets credited? The same thing happened this year with The Town. When the eligibility list was released to the public The Town was on there but only Harry Gregson-Williams' name was listed and not co-composer David Buckley. Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard's score to The Dark Knight stirred up some controversy a few years ago. The Academy disqualified it because of too many names on the cue sheets and then reinstated its eligibility after getting opposition from the public (the score was not nominated). The biggest cake taker though is of course the Babel scandal (yes, I call it a scandal).

Gustavo Santaolalla won back to back Oscars for Babel and Brokeback Mountain. Babel even being nominated was a direct violation of Academy rules because it included multiple works from other composers that were previously composed. Some of Gustavo's own work was also previously composed (some 10 years ago from a solo album). Despite all this the Academy awarded Santaolalla the Oscar, which directly violated several of its rules. Now fast forward a bit.

Slumdog Millionaire comes out and everyone has Boyle fever. The film is getting WAY more praise than it should. It's a great film, but seriously? Best Picture? Well besides that A.R. Rahman sweeps for his musical efforts. He wins Best Score and Best Song. The score itself is completely outnumbered by songs in the film so the fact that the score was nominated is again against Academy rules. These are the same rules that have rendered films like The Fighter and True Grit ineligible for Oscar consideration this year in the score category mind you.

I believe it was last year that the Academy finally admitted Babel should not have won. However, year after year stupid decisions are being made and hypocrisy overrules. We live in a time where John Williams gets nominated anytime he has a whistling booger yet the greatest composer of all time, Ennio Morricone has never won an Oscar for score. Composers are frowned upon for collaborating and co-composing scores. Composers are punished and ruled ineligible if their score doesn't meet the Academy's long list of stupid rules. However it seems that they break their own rules anytime they want a score to win when it shouldn't even be nominated.

The bringing back of 10 Best Picture nominees is a sign of desperation. The Academy is losing the public and the term "Oscar Winner" is slowly holding less and less credibility. The score and song categories are tragically run by the Academy's music branch and in a word it's disgraceful. Seeing Michael Giacchino win last year was the brightest light in that category in the longest time. It's starting to show more and more that the Oscars are no different than an uppity after school club in high school run by the popular kids. Will I watch them? Yes. Do I still pick who I think will win and count how many I get right? Yes. It's a tradition of the industry that still holds excitement. Except now when someone wins an Oscar it's more of a ripple in the ocean than a ripple in a pond. Meaning it doesn't make any waves anymore and the broken surface is quickly lost. Besides I really want to see if Inception gets nominated even though Hans Zimmer has publicly stated that his themes were derived from the Edith Piaf song used in the film. But they can bend the rules just this once. Right?