The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Alert: The Academy reverses itself on "Dark Knight" score

My sources say the Motion Picture Academy has reversed its decision to disqualify the score for "The Dark Knight." Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, who collaborated on the music, will now be able to compete in the best original score category. The Academy had ruled the score ineligible last month, saying there were too many composers--five, in all--listed on the music cue sheet. I can't get the Academy's executive director Bruce Davis on the phone, but I've seen an Academy release saying its music branch executive committee voted to change the decision last Friday. When Davis and I spoke earlier last week, he was still defending the decision, saying that the Academy's music branch "sees this as an award, like cinematography or directing, where you want to award a single creator. This isn't like visual effects. Except for extraordinary circumstances, it's an award that should go to one person."

If the Academy has caved in, this should be a sweet victory for Zimmer and Howard, who were also disqualified in 2005 for their previous collaboration on "Batman Begins." They are both seven-time nominees, Zimmer having won best original score for "The Lion King."   

 
Comments () | Archives (12)

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I think the important thing to remember here is that the other three composers signed a statement that Howard and Zimmer were the major composers and that the names were only included for proper credit, nominally and financially. Despite this statement, the Academy decided to disqualify the score, which is where I believe the real problem is. Even though I am biased towards this score, I think I can safely say that I think this was the wrong decision even if I hated the score, and I'm glad they reversed it.

As for my personal opinion of the score, this and the Batman Begins score are my two favorite albums, period. I do think that there are two themes that recur in every piece (they can be found in 'Why So Serious?' and 'Molossus' from the Begins album). Honestly, I think 'Why So Serious?' is the epitome of excellent composing, as is 'A Dark Knight.' I understand that many people would prefer a more obvious theme (like Tim Burton's scores), but I think that Zimmer and Howards' deliberate decision to go with something more visceral and complex, like the movie itself, is a much better direction.

"Why on Earth does this score need *five* composers? Hans Zimmer and his Media Ventures gang (now known as Remote Control Productions) are the only composers I'm aware of who frequently collaborate with each other. And I suppose it's fair enough if two composers want to work together - as I believe that Zimmer and Howard have wanted to for a while - but what could the fifth composer possibly bring to the score that the other four couldn't?"

You said it, Paul! Zimmer regularly sub-contracts out cues he doesn't want to write. Sure, lots of big time composers do, but he a repeat offender and that's widely known to be his standard work style. This score should NOT be Oscar eligible unless everyone who worked on it is nominated. The idea that Zimmer and Newton Howard wrote all the music without any help from underlings is a joke.

 
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