Inside Move: Acad shoots down ‘Aviator’ music

Acadamy muffles tuners hopefuls

Howard Shore’s music for “The Aviator,” which has already won Golden Globe and Broadcast Film Critics Assn. awards and has been shortlisted in the BAFTA race, will be missing from Tuesday’s Academy Award nominations.

Shore’s score is one of several that have been disqualified by the Academy’s music branch executive committee under Oscar rules, which are more restrictive than those of the other organizations.

Also failing to make the Oscar cut are Craig Armstrong’s score for “Ray,” Harry Gregson-Williams’ music for “Shrek 2,” James Newton Howard’s score for “Collateral” and director Clint Eastwood’s music for his “Million Dollar Baby.” None was among the 81 films on a reminder list sent to the approximately 240 branch members for voting.

Nomination ballots were due in last Saturday.

Academy officials wouldn’t comment on the record, but committee sources confirmed “Aviator’s” score ran afoul of music rule B.5.(d): “scores diluted by the use of tracked or pre-existing music.”

Shore’s half-hour of original score constitutes between one-third and one-fourth of the film’s total music, which includes classical selections and many period songs chosen by director Martin Scorsese, similar to the musical collage he fashioned for “Gangs of New York.”

Reached after his Golden Globe win, Shore said he respects the committee and accepts its decision. Shore’s “Aviator” music also won Chicago and Seattle critics prizes.

“Ray” was eliminated based on music rule B.5.(e): “scores diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs.” “Shrek 2” reportedly was dropped because much of the material was based on the first “Shrek” score. “Collateral” was another case of the director using a variety of music and not primarily the work of a single composer.

Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” score failed to qualify because the paperwork was submitted too late for committee consideration.

One music branch committee member said the group screened the films in question with cue sheets (detailed breakdowns of the music) in hand and debated each decision to ensure strict adherence to the rulebook.

Over the years, the rules have been tweaked to ensure that only original scores — by Academy definition, “a substantial body of music in the form of dramatic underscoring written specifically for the film” and not a group of songs or a compilation of music from various sources — can be nominated.

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