Last night, the soundtrack music fan community was collectively shocked when Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’ music for THE SOCIAL NETWORK was the recipient of the Academy Award for Best Original Score.
While the expected favorite to win was Alexandre Desplat’s work on THE KING’S SPEECH, the bulk of the soundtrack music fan community was rallying behind Hans Zimmer’s INCEPTION and John Powell’s HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.
Within minutes of the announcement, online forums went ballistic.
At Film Score Monthly, such things were said as:
- “This category is always a disappointment. Most members of the Academy don’t know a thing about music or scoring for motion pictures. No surprise this year.”
- “It truly sickens me to think that Danny Elfman, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat, John Powell, James Newton Howard, etc. who have been composing amazingly effective scores for years have not gotten the Oscar recognition they richly deserve. The first few notes of Howard’s The Village or Newman’s Shawshank or Elfman’s Edward Scissorhands or Powell’s Dragon signify music, not sound effects. Eventually Music and Sound Design will just be rolled into one category since its clear voters just have no idea about what music underscore actually means…. ”
- “Obviously the f***-tards at The Oscars and Academy Awards don’t know what the hell a good score sounds like these days. I can’t believe The Social Network out-beat How To Train Your Dragon.”
- “As the Academy becomes more and more populated by Generation X and Y, the awards are going to go more and more for simple name and movie recognition than actual worth. That’s not to say we haven’t had that all along – the Oscars are little more than an industry celebrating how great it is being an industry – but the slim idea we once held that people who win are people who (usually) deserve it is going to vanish like morning fog.”
And at SoundtrackFans.com, similar sentiments were echoed through the night:
- “I knew either this or The King’s Speech would win. They are so predictable and they hardly ever actually give recognition to really great music.”
- “Somehow, I’m really not that surprised. Obviously the award is not based on the quality of the music, and the people voting on it probably didn’t even care if the soundtrack they voted for the best music of the year was really that good or not. Really sad.”
- “I hate Oscar for letting that trash music win… How To Train Your Dragon should have won 100%.”
At its basest, the soundtrack for THE SOCIAL NETWORK was a combination of four things:
- A handful of less-than-minimalistic piano licks (so basic that they would make Carter Burwell cry, “That’s all you came up with, really???”)
- Non-descript, 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System ditties remixed for a disco
- Unused demos and outtakes from the first three Nine Inch Nails albums
- A sound effects loop that mimicked buzzing bees, an army of rats, and the labored breathing of a marathon runner
And all Reznor and Ross really did was mix and match those four elements for the entire film. It would have been much befitting of a movie set in an earlier time period, like TRON (the original, not TRON: LEGACY) or even REVENGE OF THE NERDS, but not a film set between 2003-2005. This is not a cry against electronic music, it is simply a head-scratching moment forever to be locked in the annals of the Academy.
According to the Academy rules for the nomination process of a motion picture score, outlined here, “The work’s eligibility shall be evaluated on its effectiveness, craftsmanship, creative substance and relevance to the dramatic whole.”
While all of those factors are completely subjective to the listener/viewer, many scores are produced each year that easily obliterate THE SOCIAL NETWORK on a creative scale alone – not the least of which was Zimmer’s work on INCEPTION, which, while I did not personally enjoy it as a CD, it was impossible to deny the monolithic effect it had on the film.
Adding further insult to injury, in the Voting Rules on the official Academy website, it actually states:
“The Academy’s entire active membership is eligible to select Oscar winners in all categories, although in five – Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, and Foreign Language Film – members can vote only after attesting they have seen all of the nominated films in those categories.”
This means that for all of those high-profile “Big 4” Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress), the voting body DOES NOT even have to prove they’ve seen the movies to be able to vote for them. Likewise, for Best Original Score, no one has to prove they’ve even heard the soundtrack.
Continue reading on Examiner.com: THE SOCIAL NETWORK wins Best Original Score Oscar; Soundtrack fans outraged! – National Soundtracks | Examiner.com