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Filmtracks to eliminate major awards coverage
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• Posted by: Christian Clemmensen   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Monday, January 25, 2010, at 9:21 a.m.
• IP Address:

After decades of frustration with the ridiculous methodology and dubious merit of the "Best Original Score" categories (and their variations) at major awards ceremonies, Filmtracks will no longer provide coverage of such fraudulent popularity contests. Notes about the award consideration earned by scores and composers will continue to be marked in the individual reviews and composer tributes, but no special mention of the major international awards (nominations or winners) will be made on Filmtracks' homepage or in the awards section of this site. That latter directory of information will, in the forthcoming weeks, be stripped of its database of past winners of Oscars and Golden Globes and will concentrate on only those awards published by this site and its esteemed peers within the soundtrack community.

All of the major awarding bodies that include a film music category, including the Golden Globes, BAFTA's, Oscars, and Grammy's, are, to some extent, guilty of the transgressions of illegitimacy outlined below, though the Academy Awards, considered the pinnacle of this group, are especially the target of this condemnation. While film music collectors of the 2000's have been stunned by the senseless awarding of two Oscars to Gustavo Santaolalla (while the legendary Jerry Goldsmith won that award just once in his entire illustrious career), the problems with those golden statues go back many decades. Whether it was Vangelis' Chariots of Fire, a one trick pony, defeating a classic like John Williams' Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, or a genre-crossing flash in the pan like Herbie Hancock's 'Round Midnight astoundingly finishing ahead of both Goldsmith's Hoosiers and Ennio Morricone's The Mission in 1986, there can be no excuse for such hideously uninformed choices.

The reason for the general stupidity of the AMPAS choices in particular is two-fold; procedural and popular. This is a group that has changed the rules so many times, even altered the number of scores nominated back and forth through the years, that it's impossible to evaluate their nominations because of asinine restrictions on eligibility. For instance, twelve composers were nominated for The Color Purple and three won for The Last Emperor while several legitimate scores ten years later were ruled ineligible because the duties were split between multiple composers. Eventually, AMPAS required detailed cue sheet attribution in order to be deemed eligible for a nomination, and collaborative composers like Hans Zimmer eventually decided to not even try to submit their scores for consideration. Likewise, the rule about the use of previously existing material has changed several times throughout the last few decades, with some senseless, floating percentage applied to scores to determine if they contain enough new material to be eligible. The most recent folly in these regards led to the initial ruling of Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers as ineligible and then statues were then handed to both Shore for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Santaolalla for Babel, the latter making use of previously available material that, in the most memorable portions of the film, wasn't even the composer's own.

Even if you can stomach the eligibility issues that plague these awards, it's difficult to tolerate the reasoning of the voting members. There are general unspoken rules about nominations and winners, and they never, never, never point votes in the direction of the truly superior scores in any given year. When things like John Williams' Star Wars or Schindler's List sweep through the majority of the awards, those triumphs enjoy the right result for the wrong reasons. Foremost in this behavior is the rule that dictates that the "Best Picture" nominees will often directly correlate with the "Best Score" ones, even if that extends to the realm of the insane by nominating James Newton Howard for Michael Clayton and ignoring his score for Lady in the Water. Another rule pertains to the preference for cute scores for animated films in the wake of the Alan Menken era; though good, these works are often short and derivative. Nostalgia is a typical favorite of voting members, stubbornly preferring substandard works by older, popular favorites rather than spectacular successes by the younger generation (until an unofficial waiting period of five to ten years is met). Finally, there are politics to be played, and the Los Angeles industry liberals would undoubtedly nominate Danny Elfman for Milk because not only did the film meet their political agenda, but Elfman, who started a political action committee to fight Governor Sarah Palin that year, personally did the same.

Perhaps the most damning condemnation comes in the form of an insult of the voting member's intellect regarding film music, a tragedy given both the importance of this music to their trade and the fact that the composers themselves typically do the nominating. The Santaolalla phenomenon of the 2000's has had its equivalents throughout the decades, and such nominations and awards point to a general level of stupidity on the part of the voting body. These people are easily swayed by song content and the contemporary, pop-culture favorites of any given year, resulting in choices that look foolish just a few years later. They have no concept of perspective across time, no idea of a significantly important score even if they can sometimes distinguish one of technical merit from one of adlibbed trash. In the late 2000's, the industry was banned from sending promotional copies of eligible scores to voting members in an effort to curb bootlegging, an effort that has inevitably failed. This lack of promotion (despite the fact that it was unseemly and favored composers and studios with powerful marketing influence) only encourages even more uninformed stupidity from the voting members.

In sum, it's amazing to see fans at this site (and others) who still take the industry's music awards seriously. People who invest themselves emotionally in these ceremonies are only setting themselves up for a lifetime of anguish or, at the very best, disgruntled acceptance that some of the choices could have been worse. Do yourself a favor and consider such awards with only casual amusement. Roll your eyes at them and move on. That's what Filmtracks will do henceforth, affording these awarding groups only the cold indifference they deserve.

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rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. Scoreboard created 7/24/98 and last updated 4/25/15.