The producers of the Oscars have decided to shorten the ceremony scheduled for March 27 by removing the live presentation of the trophy in eight categories, including that of best original music. The decision sparked an outcry in the professional circles concerned.
On March 27, 2022, the 94th Academy Awards took place in Hollywood. Heckled by the Covid, but also by its detractors, who accuse it of being against the current of societal issues and the new demands of the public, the high mass of American cinema has been in free fall in television audiences for a few years.
In response to this erosion and this loss of love, the producers of the Oscars decided to shorten the ceremony by removing live the presentation of the trophy in eight categories, including that of the best original music. Outcry within the professional circles concerned, in particular among film composers who fear that their profession will be relegated to the rank of minor art.
The music from Jane Campion’s Western “The Power of the Dog” is the big favorite at the 94th Academy Awards. For her feature film, the New Zealand director has hired the services of composer Jonny Greenwood, better known for being the guitarist of the group Radiohead. Hailed for the excellence and originality of his work, the British musician was nominated for the Oscar for best film music for the first time. In front of him, prestigious competitors: Hans Zimmer, Alberto Iglesias, Nicholas Britell and Germaine Franco.
>> To listen to the music of “The Power of the Dog” by Jonny Greenwood:
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Despite this beautiful cast, and while the public will surely hear excerpts from all these works during the broadcast, the announcement of the winner will not be broadcast for the film music category. The short films, sounds and make-up categories are also excluded from live. The presentation of these trophies will be recorded and available in a deferred version.
A shocking decision
Outraged by this decision, professionals in the sectors concerned sent an open letter to Variety magazine in early March. The letter was signed by more than 70 personalities who ask the organizers of the Oscars to reconsider this decision and not to relegate these categories to the rank of secondary art.
Surprising to see film music undergo such a sanction when the genre and its representatives at the Oscars are more popular than ever and identifiable by the general public. Hans Zimmer, for example, whose music for the film “Dune” by Denis Villeneuve is a favorite, is a real star. As for Nicholas Britell, he is already essential thanks to his theme for the “Succession” series. Let’s also mention Germaine Franco who made history by becoming the first woman hired on an animated feature film for the Disney studios, and not just any film since she signed the soundtrack for “Encanto”.
>> To listen, “El Camino De Mirabel” by Germaine Franco:
A battered category
In reality, this is not the first time that film music has been mistreated by the Oscars. In the early 1990s, the category was the subject of controversy. This is the time when the Disney studios release “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”, “The Lion King” in quick succession and, with them, make a veritable raid of musical prizes. The Academy of Oscars then decided to split the category in two, with on one side compositions for comedies and musical films, and on the other compositions for dramas. A rule of circumstance, intended to block Disney, which will not last long.
Following this episode, in the early 2000s, the Oscars saw the resurgence of cinematographic sagas and their many very popular sequels. While the Canadian composer Howard Shore wins the Oscar for the soundtrack of the first chapter of “Lord of the Rings”, and seems well on the way to winning the bet on the whole trilogy, the Academy decides on a new rule: from now on, the score for a film sequel should not appeal to pre-existing themes or motifs. A rule with extremely vague outlines for which Howard Shore will immediately pay the price and which will prevent him from winning the statuette for the second chapter of the trilogy, before this same rule is canceled the following year.
One might think that film music was until then a field taken very seriously by Hollywood. So why throw it out the window by removing it from the ceremony today? With such cuts, will the Oscars really regain their power of seduction, when they have still not found a satisfactory solution to respond to criticism of the lack of parity and representation of minorities? It will be up to the public to decide.
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The private Oscar ceremony film music this year