GUEST COLUMN BY JAKE THOMPSON
I have to admit that it was extremely difficult to pick just five major snubs of all time in the Best Original Score Oscar category (musical/song/adaptation scores are not included here). There were so many classic scores that DIDN’T get nominated that picking just five seemed unfair. In order to best approach this, I set a couple of guidelines for myself. First, I tried to determine which score was the composer’s best score (which wasn’t entirely easy). Then I double-checked to see if the composer was nominated that year (for any score that he/she composed for a film). If the composer was nominated that year, then I would have to pick a different score. For example, let’s say I pick First Blood as a snub. Jerry Goldsmith was the composer, and its year of release was 1982. Maestro Goldsmith was indeed nominated that year for Poltergeist. Therefore, I couldn’t submit any Jerry Goldsmith score from 1982 (he scored six films that year) as a major snub. The basic idea behind this is to give every composer a fair chance at having a shot at making my list.
My first pick is 1958’s Vertigo, composed by the legendary Bernard Herrmann. It was difficult to pick a Herrmann score; I almost went with 1959’s North By Northwest, but
Herrmann’s haunting love theme from Vertigo could not be beat. It is such a marvelous score filled with mystery and the foreboding sense of tragedy. The real tragedy, of course, was that it didn’t get nominated, but it has lived on for nearly 55 years now and is highly regarded (as it should be). Herrmann himself was a five-time Oscar nominee. He was double-nominated for the year 1941 (nominated for Citizen Kane, and won for The Devil and Daniel Webster). He was nominated again for 1946’s Anna and the King of Siam, and it would be 30 years before his next nomination. In fact his double-nomination for 1976’s Obsession and Taxi Driver occurred after his death in 1975.
The actual nominees at the 31st Academy Awards were:
The Old Man and the Sea – Dimitri Tiomkin (*Winner)
Separate Tables – David Raksin
The Big Country – Jerome Moross
The Young Lions – Hugo Friedhofer
White Wilderness – Oliver Wallace
For my next pick, we jump to the year 1982 for Trevor Jones’ score to The Dark
Crystal. This was a tough one to pick mainly because of the year (among the non-nominated classic scores of that year are James Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Basil Poledouris’ Conan the Barbarian). I picked Jones’ score because it is such a rich score, filled with various motifs to represent the Gelflings, the Skeksis, and the world of the dark crystal. Jones wrote a tender love theme for the romance that develops between the two surviving Gelflings, menacing yet mysterious music for the Skeksis, and the pod party music is just so enjoyable. It is a shame that Jones not only did NOT get nominated for this score, he has yet to land a single Oscar nomination for any of his terrific works.
The actual nominees at the 55th Academy Awards were:
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – John Williams (*Winner)
Gandhi – Ravi Shankar and George Fenton
An Officer and a Gentleman – Jack Nitzsche
Poltergeist – Jerry Goldsmith
Sophie’s Choice – Marvin Hamlisch
Jumping ahead to 1985, my next pick is David Shire’s Return To Oz. Shire wrote a terrific score for Walter Murch’s take on Dorothy’s return to the land of Oz. The main theme is a somber one for most of the film to represent Dorothy’s sadness over missing her friends from Oz. Shire creates a ragtime-like motif to represent the awe and wonder of Oz (what it used to represent and what it can again). The material for Mombi and the Nome King is menacing yet beautiful. It’s a shame the film’s only nod was for Visual Effects. Shire himself is a two-time nominee; he was double-nominated in the Original Song category for 1979’s The Promise and Norma Rae (he won for Norma Rae). He has yet to receive a nomination for any of his scores.
The actual nominees at the 58th Academy Awards were:
Out of Africa – John Barry (*Winner)
Agnes of God – Georges Delerue
The Color Purple – Quincy Jones, Jeremy Lubbock, Rod Temperton, Caiphus Semenya, Andrae Crouch, Chris Boardman, Jorge Calandrelli and Joel Rosenbaum, Fred Steiner, Jack Hayes, Jerry Hey and Randy Kerber
Silverado – Bruce Broughton
Witness – Maurice Jarre
1990 brings my next pick, which is Danny Elfman’s Edward Scissorhands. This Elfman score is a bona fide classic. Ask any Elfman fan which of his scores should’ve been nominated, and Edward Scissorhands is the title that usually pops up. From Edward’s theme to the hauntingly beautiful chorus, Elfman perfectly complements the visuals with a score that is timeless. It’s such a shame it wasn’t nominated. Elfman would eventually get nominated for 1997’s Men in Black (in the Musical/Comedy Score category) and Good Will Hunting (in the Dramatic Score category). He would also get nominated for 2003’s Big Fish (the only Tim Burton film so far that Elfman has been nominated for) and 2008’s Milk.
The actual nominees at the 63rd Academy Awards were:
Dances with Wolves – John Barry (*Winner)
Avalon – Randy Newman
Ghost – Maurice Jarre
Havana – David Grusin
Home Alone – John Williams
My final pick would end up being from 1995. John Debney’s Cutthroat Island was an
early score in his career that would turn out to be his greatest and most popular. He wrote what is arguably the last (so far) great swashbuckling pirate score. Though the film itself is terrible, its only redeeming factor was the score. Debney’s score is bold, menacing, adventurous, full of intrigue, and romantic while elevated by a wondrous chorus and unforgettable motifs. His action cues here are among his best. Had the film been good, he could’ve gotten some serious recognition for his work here. Debney would finally land a nomination for 2004’s The Passion of the Christ.
The actual nominees at the 68th Academy Awards were:
Il Postino – Luis Enriquez Bacalov (*Winner)
Sense and Sensibility – Patrick Doyle
Apollo 13 – James Horner
Braveheart – James Horner
Nixon – John Williams
Other scores that were considered included 1990’s Total Recall by Jerry Goldsmith (17 score nods & 1 song nod, 1 win for score), 2001’s The Mummy Returns by Alan Silvestri (1 score nod & 1 song nod, 0 wins), and 1997’s Princess Mononoke by Joe Hisaishi (0 nods).