At the risk of milking a joke whose teets have been sore for weeks, The Artist’s musical score will do just fine without Kim Novak’s vote. In the hierarchy of Oscar scandals, which have a way of surfacing every season (just ask THR subscribers), the ire of an old Hitchcock muse is meager compared to blockbuster-bashing emails and history’s tackiest FYC ads. So, rest easy, Ludovic Bource, for your rape charges won’t take you the way of Herman Cain, and few Academy members will be able to resist the sprightly notes subbed in for Jean Dujardin’s dialogue. If anything, The Artist’s perfectly legal Vertigo sampling will strengthen that skim-off-the-cream nostalgia, which has yet to relent in its ability to charm the Depends off Novak’s peers.
There’s a small sector of pundits who think the wintery Parisian beauty evoked by Howard Shore’s work in Hugo will translate to a tuneful victory, but the notion that Scorsese’s film will ride so high on its hefty nod count is beginning to sound like its own overplayed song. We’ll stand behind a healthy performance in multiple tech categories, but this triumph seems beyond Hugo’s reach, despite the score being the most deserving in the bunch. The second most-deserving? Without doubt, it’s the minimalistic, retro-paranoid gem composed by Alberto Iglesias for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, unfortunately one of this year’s surefire “pleasure to be nominated” films. Get an earful of Iglesias’s delicious “George Smiley” and you’re taken instantly to the cloak-and-dagger, smoke-and-swagger hallways of the Circus. Likewise, a listen to Shore’s “The Invention of Dreams” will have you right back in that busy train station, if not on a trip to the moon with Georges Méliès. That’s more than can be said for what Bource conducted for Michel Hazanavicius.
Amid all this, the man certain to cancel himself out is John Williams, whose dual Spielberg soundtracks entranced the nominators as expected, but won’t ride off with gold. The Oscar record-holder’s work on War Horse far exceeds what he devised for The Adventures of Tintin, as the former score has a distinctive wind-in-the-reeds quality that leads to o’er-the-plains heart tuggery, while the latter is easily the category’s most generic, despite its admittedly rousing crescendos. In another year, we could see the classic, yet specific sound of War Horse trampling the competition, but this year, it and its fellow runners-up are bound to be thwarted by one tight-lipped, inflexibly stubborn mule.
Will Win: The Artist
Could Win: Hugo
Should Win: Hugo