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Obligatory Oscar Babble

By Jason Foster

The latest batch of Oscar nominations arrived Tuesday morning to the usual debate about the snubs and surprises. Of course, the major difference this year for film music fans is the combination of the Dramatic Score and Musical/Comedy categories back into one. What you are about to read is my analysis of the nominees. However, my logic is based on about 10 percent musical quality and 90 percent Oscar tradition/politics/whatever you want to call it. So let the babble begin.

HANDICAPPING THE NOMINEES

AMERICAN BEAUTY (Thomas Newman) -- Newman is gradually becoming an Oscar favorite, at least as a nominee. The now four time nominee's best chance to take home the Oscar gold this year will be if a flood of support for AMERICAN BEAUTY results in a virtual sweep of the awards. When this happens, it doesn't necessarily have any bearing on the actual quality of the music. Past similar scenarios include SCHINDLER'S LIST and THE ENGLISH PATIENT. But even if AMERICAN BEAUTY does end up sweeping all the categories, it doesn't mean for sure that Newman will get the award. This also happens from time to time -- PATTON and FORREST GUMP come to mind. Nevertheless, Newman may just be the favorite this year, at least in the early going.

ANGELA'S ASHES (John Williams) -- For some reason, every time John Williams gets nominated, film music fans seem to think he's automatically the favorite, no matter what he's up against. However, this simply hasn't been the case recently. His last win was for SCHINDLER'S LIST in 1993. Since then, he's received five more nominations (not counting this year), but hasn't taken home any more awards. Although I believe that will be the case again this year, he still has a decent chance at winning. After all, he is John Williams, and that is always worth a lot when it comes to the Oscars. However, that alone probably won't get him his sixth golden boy. If it were that easy, he'd probably have double the number of statuettes he has now. Not to mention that the film hasn't received as much buzz as one might expect, which is the main reason it's unlikely to win. Not that a film needs buzz to win in this category, but it's always something to consider. Unfortunately for Williams's fans, he's likely a dark horse at best.

THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (Rachel Portman) -- This seems to be one of those movies that receives a handful of major nominations, but only walks away one or two awards. And 90% percent of the time when this happens, one of the awards it gets happens to be for the score. Recent examples include IL POSTINO and THE FULL MONTY. However, Rachel Portman does already own an Oscar, so that could work to her benefit. However, this year there are two score nominees that meet the criteria discussed above, so it's possible they will cancel each other out.

THE RED VIOLIN (John Corigliano) -- He's written three film scores in his career and two of them have been nominated for Oscars. He's never won, however, but this just might be his year. In fact, if the "Murphy's Law" of the Oscars takes effect here -- meaning that the candidate that doesn't quite fit in takes the award -- I'd say the odds are very good. When I just said "the score that doesn't fit in," I didn't necessarily mean a score that doesn't deserve to be nominated. It's probably more accurate to refer to them as the "surprise" candidates. But whatever you want to call them, they almost always seem to win. Nobody knows why, but there are theories. Nevertheless, I think it would be a very safe bet to pick this as the winner.

THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (Gabriel Yared) -- This is that other film that fits the same mold that THE CIDER HOUSE RULES does. We have another composer who's already won an Oscar and another film that may not have a chance to win in any other category. So, of course, that gives this score a legitimate chance at winning. But, as I said before, there's a good chance that this and THE CIDER HOUSE RULES will cancel each other out, which makes the category only a three-way race.

MY PICK: John Corigliano for THE RED VIOLIN

SECOND BEST CHANCE TO WIN: Thomas Newman for AMERICAN BEAUTY

BEST SONG

Rather than handicapping the five nominees in this category, I'll just say that I got a good chuckle when I read that "Blame Canada" from SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER, & UNCUT received a nomination. That's what I'll be pulling for, as I'm sure many others will be as well. When you think about it, the fact that it got a nomination may speak volumes as to it chances of winning.

CHANGES MAY BE NECESSARY

Since the Academy announced the combination of the scoring categories, I've tried to come up with an "official" stance on how I feel about it. I'm still not 100 percent sure how I feel, but I'm leaning toward the idea that the way things are now might be the best way to do things. But that's not to say that the nominating and voting rules couldn't use a few changes. What kind of changes? I still don't know about that either. I've got some ideas, though. But until I'm able to put them intelligently into words, I pose this question: What changes would you make, if any? I want to hear some of the varying opinions that are out there on the subject. I know some people have some strong feelings about it, so let's get it all out in the open. Maybe we can turn this into an intelligent debate. Well, that may be a stretch, but we can try.

See you next time.

Feedback: jgfoster@ix.netcom.com

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