Best Score Prerequisites

ar-rahmanAs most people are now aware, the Oscar for Best Original Score went to A.R. Rahman for Slumdog Millionaire. It’s great to see the Academy reaching out and awarding filmmakers beyond Hollywood. While I applaud them for their decision, there is still one area of the awards that still bothers me. It seems that the prerequisite for getting an award for original score seems entirely dependent on the popularity of the film for which it was written. It would be great if the award was judged on the quality of the work irrespective of how much the film brought in or it’s popularity at the time.

There have been numerous films made that weren’t critically acclaimed yet had an incredible score. These soundtracks are now available and are just as popular as ever. There are underground cult status for certain soundtracks that were never even considered for an award simply because the film that they were written for wasn’t critically acclaimed or ‘Oscar material’. Is it possible for a second rate action film or comedy to have an incredible score? Is it possible for the score to add a dimension to the film even though the film isn’t meant to be taken seriously in the first place? Is it possible to have a film that doesn’t have great production values or great performances to have a completely relevant, timeless or cutting edge score? Of course it is.

So what happens to these scores? What happens when a composer creates compositions deserving of some recognition but is passed by simply because the film doesn’t qualify? It would be nice to see these composers receive some recognition for their work. There must be some sort of separate decision making within the Academy to be able to assess scores based on their own merit. There must be a system where film scores are judged on their support of the film and the quality of the music, not on the level of box office receipts or the popularity of the leading man/woman.

I don’t want to take anything from A.R. Rahman for winning the Oscar but it seemed to bring home the question: if Slumdog hadn’t been the runaway surprise hit of the year, would have it even had been considered?