Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 by Brendon Connelly
Griping about the arbitration of those Oscar folk at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seems to be a rather popular sport, and one in full season right now. For some reason, the most frequent complaints seem to revolve around the terms of admission to the music categories.
You may recall the hubbub when Johnny Greenwood’s music for There Will Be Blood was denied eligibility, or when the song Falling Slowly from Once was challenged. The song was ultimately allowed to compete after AMPAS deemed it had been initially conceived for the film despite appearing elsewhere before the film was completed. This year’s victims would appear to be Karen O, T Bone Burnett and Brian Eno. What do all of these people have in common? They’re from the world of pop music, not specifically film composition. Surely somebody will cry “Prejudice!”?
Of course, it’s not that simple because the scores for the latest Harry Potter, The Blind Side, Bruno and Funny People have also been scratched off the list this year – though I suppose the involvement of sometime pop musician Jason Scwhartzman in the Funny People score wouldn’t go unnoticed.
Though it isn’t clear from the story at The Wrap, it seems that the Where the Wild Things Are score has been ruled out because both Karen O and Carter Burwell contributed and the AMPAS rules read that scores “assembled from the music of more than one composer shall not be eligible” excepted only when “two composers function as equal collaborators in producing the score, each contributing a substantial amount of original music for the film.” It definitely sounded like Burwell did all the heavy lifting in the film. In fact, I’d probably have been far happier with the end product had he scored it all and Karen O’s material not been used.
For Eno and Burnett, the Lovely Bones and Crazy Heart composers, the issue seems to be that they’ve woven a lot of material from pre-existing songs into their scores, though a rep for Eno has said he didn’t actually complete a submission as he didn’t want to make the necessary time commitments.
There’s controversy in other categories as well this year. Bright Star, definitely one of my picks for the year’s best, looked to be a shoo in for a Best Original Screenplay nod. According to the Academy, however, Jane Campion‘s screenplay is eligible only for the Adapted Screenplay category.
Now, I’m not sure if this is such a tragedy – it’s eligible for something after all, and are voters really so dumb that they’ll be thrown off the scent by all of the FYC ads listing it as an original? – but it does seem like a spurious call. The film is so highly fictionalised and has a lead character that history has barely recorded in any way, I’m not quite sure what exactly the Academy think it is adapted from. There’s a story on the decision, again at The Wrap, but they seem to have no better an idea on why the Academy made this decision. Is it really because Campion credits Andrew Motion’s book on Keats as her primary research material? Surely they could very easily just take a look at that book and see how much more of Bright Star is invention than historical fact?