Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Posters and Oscars

I haven't felt this good in months. It's incredible what circumstances can do to change your mood. It's as simple as seeing the sun after a weekend of rain, or getting one of the most awesome posters I've ever seen from the immensely talented Rachel Edelman. I told her to go free with this one, and had no idea what I was going to get. I had even less of an idea when I opened her email with the first draft of the poster, and received only this message inside:

"It's made out of INTESTINES."

Lo and fucking behold, it is.

But enough about my exploits. THE OSCARS JUST OCCURRED.

Sunday's ceremony was rife with boring banter between co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco, some truly bizarre presenters and the first ever dropping of the F-bomb in Oscar history (from a PURCHASE alum, no less. Represent). For me, the most intriguing award of the night has always been the "Best Original Score" award; while still bogged down in Academy bureaucracy bullshit, the category gives composers who worked their hearts out on less than stellar movies a chance at recognition. Last year's award went to composer Michael Giacchino for "Up", which, in my humble opinion, was one of the only things the Academy's gotten right in the past 5 years. Giacchino's score plays with rousing, uplifting themes orchestrated throughout various ensembles, maintaining a sense of childlike whimsey and wonder while still portraying a depth of character and being incredibly mature at the same time.

This year's winner? Nine Inch Nails and his producer.

Surprised? I'll admit, I was too. At the same time, though, it seemed entirely expected. "The Social Network" really only had competition from "Inception" this year. Alexandre Desplat's score for "The King's Speech" was too tame, too safe, much too much like his soundtrack for "The Queen", a former Oscar contender. "127 Hours" I have admittedly not heard, but it seemed like the movie was thrown on the ballot simply for the sake of having another movie nominated for Best Picture. Nobody expected it to win anything. As for John Powell's "How To Train Your Dragon"? Dreamworks movie. If it isn't Pixar, the Academy usually doesn't care.

Which really left the score battle between an absolute heavyweight and a couple of newbies to scoring movies. Hans Zimmer left us with one of the most iconic scores of last year with his work on "Inception"; you couldn't walk anywhere without hearing people shout BRAAAAAHHHHHMMMMMM in imitation of the film's french horn blasts. He created a rousing score that served to make Christopher Nolan's high concept and higher budget as intense as it could possibly become and redefined what the term "bombastic" could mean. Hell, it even has its own button.

Then we have "The Social Network", a score that couldn't be more different than "Inception" if it was recorded entirely on ukulele. Trent Reznor and producer Atticus Ross composed what amounts to a whole lot of electronic mood music. Without the context of the movie, the music is somewhat banal and repetitive, following a very familiar ebb-flow pattern and employing the same couple of approaches to each track: lets drench everybody in reverb and throw in some distorted synths for TENSION. And piano for RELEASE. And oh, we have these brooding dark synths for... well, BROODING MOMENTS. Honestly, did you expect anything else from a man who was responsible for, "I want to fuck you like an animal"?

But put the score in the context of "The Social Network"... ah. NOW I understand it. In the movie's portrayal of betrayal, greed, fame and misfortune, the score ceases to become melodramatic and boring; instead, it becomes gripping, evocative, and ultimately the only thing that could've worked in the context of the movie. Reznor and Ross's score succeeds in the way that it is TRULY movie music, composed with the exact vibe of the picture in question. Ultimately, that's why "The Social Network" deserved to win. As music... whatever. As FILM music: nearly flawless.

In closing, as for the original songs? FUCK Randy Newman. You Got A Friend In Me was great... FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. Talk about over the hill songwriters.

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