I'm now as much caught up with the Oscar hopefuls as I've got time for. A few things will have to wait for their Blu-ray debuts. But I'm on top of the score candidates. And it's been quite awhile since I've cared much. The 2006 award to Gustavo Santaolalla's Brokeback Mountain over several more worthy scores that year was painful. To have Santaolalla take the same award the following year for Babel was insanity. Knowing that members of the Academy felt this composer was worthy of more Oscars than Bernard Herrmann or Jerry Goldsmith or Hugo Friedhofer or Alex North or Jerry Fielding or Laurence Rosenthal or Bruce Broughton or Elmer Bernstein or Ennio Morricone… well, you get the idea. But that's old news. This year is new news.
So Morricone is up this time and no one in that room can be more deserving of this supreme of recognitions. That has me excited. And a win for Thomas Newman would be terrific. I'm there. Yep, I'll even smile if Carter Burwell takes home the prize. He's a class act composer. And John Williams is… well, John Williams. He's a god. Wins for him are always welcome.
That leaves my - probably surprising - number one choice for this year's Best Music (Original Score) Oscar. Sicario. I don't know oodles about Jóhann Jóhannsson beyond what I've read up on these last couple of months. But I know his score fit this picture like nobody's business. It's a knockout movie. Tough, tense, explores moral ambiguity in fascinating detail, crosses borders between right and wrong philosophically as well as Arizona and Mexico physically via the deserts of today's headlines, has moments of violence, great sadness… all captured in perceptive, subtle, eerie, dramatic musical terms. Yep. I'm happy with all the choices this year. And if Sicario takes home the prize, I'm happier still. Basically, this is a great year for the music award.
Little parenthesis here. The album for Sicario disappoints somewhat in that the music is mastered with some distorted electronic effects and boosted levels, injuring some of the subtle dynamics between things like the hushed strings and low brass clusters for the suspense, the eerie drone-like ideas for the desert, the descending solo cello lines for Benicio Del Toro's complex and crucial Alejandro and those voices and sustained minor-key harmonies for the pain of Mexico. To hear what could have been, one should view the cool special features on the Blu-ray and focus on the segment about the score. There you can hear - and see - those haunting cello lines as they are being recorded, the subtly played suspense ideas and other aspects of the score without the distortion. In fact, the music in the film itself actually sounds cleaner, more like an orchestra and less like an electronic vibrator or whatever it is that dominates the album. Just my two cents. Anyway, on the plus side, the album does include every one of the score's highlights. Ok, that was a big parenthesis.
Be sure to check in this Monday eve, February 1, for artwork and samples of our two newest Intrada releases, available Tuesday the 2nd. They'll probably appear like some kind of Halloween coupling but that's actually just a coincidence in scheduling. Both are horror movies to be sure. One is a CD offering the premiere release of an intense and genuinely frightening score, the other becomes our second vinyl release in the resurgence of the format, this one being a two-LP set. Like our previous Troll, this one continues our model of doing these with state-of-the-art mastering, 180 gram premium vinyl pressings, deluxe gatefold jackets, shiny UV coating, artwork titles on extra-width spines and loose high-grade poly wrap instead of shrink wrap.
Last but not least: New U.S. postal service rates went into effect a few days ago - naturally they went up. The most affected areas were in the international rates. So, whereever possible, bundle up on your orders to get the most mileage out of them. Literally.