The score of a film is its beating heart. Music subtly, or sometimes not so subtly, juxtaposed with visuals can do almost anything from create tension, elicit themes, set tone, link scenes or raise goosebumps. Without music, most films are a cold, dead fish. That’s why the Oscar for Best Original Score is such a big award. Many times, the film that wins Original Score will take home several other awards because great music can make a director, editor and even actors look better.

Now, four of the films expected to have strong showings on Oscar night have had their mute buttons pressed. The scores from The Fighter, Black Swan, True Grit and The Kids Are All Right were all deemed ineligible by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Read the reasons and implications after the jump.

According to Variety, Clint Mansell‘s Black Swan score and Carter Burwell‘s True Grit score were disqualified because the “scores diluted by the use of tracked themes or other pre-existing music,” while the scores for The Kids Are All Right, also by Carter Burwell, and The Fighter, by Michael Brook, were deemed ineligible because the music is “diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs.”

So, in layman’s terms, the scores for Black Swan and True Grit aren’t original enough and draw upon too much music that has already existed and The Kids Are All Right and The Fighter have too many songs in them.

The first one makes sense. It happened a few years ago with Jonny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood so I see how Mansell’s use of Tchaikovsky’s music from Swan Lake is ineligible. That’s a famous piece of music in the first place and Mansell can’t take credit for it. He wrote an amazing score that uses those themes, but there’s a precedent. As for Burwell’s True Grit score, it reportedly draws from 19th century hymns. Having not seen the film yet, I can’t say for sure if they’re recognizable, but maybe you can let us know in the comments.

Penalizing The Kids Are All Right and The Fighter for using found music is ridiculous though. So many movies use found music in addition to a score and it’s never really an issue. They’re used for two different things. Yes, found music is sometimes used like a score, to set mood and tone, but many times it’s just used to place a film in a cultural time and place. Both The Kids Are All Right and The Fighter are both about very specific times and places: current Los Angeles and late 1990s Lowell, Mass. respectively. The scores are used in conjunction with that to move the film along and keep them even.

Just because these scores were disqualified doesn’t mean the films cheated or anything. There’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just that they don’t fit into the crazy rules of the Academy. I still think each one of these films will find themselves with at least one Oscar come Oscar night.

What do you think about these disqualifications? Do you agree with all the Academy’s reasoning?

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