The blogosphere couldn't care less about this award now that Jonny Greenwood's There Will Be Blood score was preemptively taken out of competition. (One naturally assumes it would've been nominated, since nearly every other below-the-line branch found the film's intoxicating formalism worthy of note.) To be honest, we don't particularly care either, but only because this year's slate of nominations are a textbook combo platter of transparently ignorable background noise and disastrously self-aggrandizing scores seemingly designed with CD sales in mind over cinematic congruence. In the former category are 3:10 To Yuma (I watched the movie just last week and can't remember a single leitmotif) and Michael Clayton. Both coast entirely too much on sustained notes from the string section, but the latter stands a reasonable outside chance to win the award, if only because composer James Howard Newton has now racked up seven nominations without a win (lately for providing any number of Hollywood thrillers aimed at middlebrow adults with the tasteful, nondescript musical undertows they deserve). In the latter category (the one in which There Will Be Blood would frankly have shared company) are Atonement and The Kite Runner. Just as the aesthetic and moral sins of Atonement are far more forgivable than those of The Kite Runner, Dario Marianelli's very literal-minded approach to suggesting the film's writerly secrets via unexpected percussion (really just a high-minded version of Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter") is outrageously preferable to Alberto Iglesias's score. When Iglesias was nominated two years back for The Constant Gardener, we acknowledged that his use of African drums to accompany the arrival of evil was ethically dubious, but figured it was an honest faux pas and gave him our personal vote. It's not happening this time. We would admittedly refer to Iglesias's ludicrously calisthenic hodgepodge of multicultural influences as "open minded" if it appeared in just about any other film. Juxtaposed against Forster's shallow appropriation of whatever registers as "exotic" to boutique moviegoers, it embodies the film's vehement self-importance. Ratatouille (not really comfortable in either category) is only sporadically the sort of cultural caricature that would be expected to win this award in the wake of Babel. Like both Babel and Finding Neverland, we expect Atonement to pick up this trophy in the name of Best Picture lost causes.
Will Win: Atonement
Should Win: None
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.