Every year, there are complaints about the Oscars in the music categories. There has been no shortage of bad choices through the years — at least in the minds of the composers and songwriters — mostly because the entire Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences votes for the winners and, let’s face it, most actors don’t know a lot about the craft of dramatic underscore.
That’s one of the reasons that, eight years ago, the World Soundtrack Awards were inaugurated by the Ghent Film Festival. The honors — both nominees and winners — are decided by the 292 voting members of the World Soundtrack Academy, of whom 246 are working composers or songwriters (and the others are music execs, producers or agents representing composers).
“We do not want to compete with the Academy Awards,” explains Marian Ponnet, who oversees Music and Special Projects for the fest. “Our academy members, only people involved with film music, determine the nominees and winners. So it’s really the professionals who vote.”
Last year, for example, veteran composer David Shire (“The Conversation”) received a WSA nomination for his comeback score for “Zodiac,” and the prolific John Powell was nominated for the complex job he did on “Happy Feet.” Neither was eligible under AMPAS rules. Previous years saw nominations for James Newton Howard’s massive “King Kong” score and Howard Shore’s “The Aviator” (the former snubbed, the latter ruled ineligible, by the AMPAS).
Among this year’s nominees in the category of best original song written directly for film is Eddie Vedder, whose uniformly strong work for last year’s “Into the Wild” was snubbed in both the Academy’s original song and score categories, while three songs from “Enchanted” made the final cut.
Also different about the WSAs is the eligibility period: July 1 to June 30, which encompasses not only the year-end movies but honors achievements during the first half of the year that are often forgotten by Oscar time. This year’s original score nominees, for example, include three Oscar nominees (“3:10 to Yuma,” “Atonement,” “The Kite Runner”), a controversial one that was ultimately disqualified (Jonny Greenwood’s “There Will Be Blood”) and one from the first half of 2008 (Thomas Newman’s “Wall-E”).
A substantial portion of the WSA voters are European composers, so the nominees tend to represent a broader view of what constitutes great film music.
The fest also has a unique category, the World Soundtrack Discovery Award, to celebrate “emerging film composing talent.” Such past newcomers as Gustavo Santaolalla and Michael Giacchino were honored years before their Oscar and Emmy wins.