Movie Music 2009: Oscar-Nominated Scores

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Sunday night is the night when the 81st Academy Awards will be announced at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Tucked in among the Oscars for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Picture will be an important but lesser-known category: Best Original Score. Film-music specialist Andy Trudeau has come in to discuss the nominees every year since the 68th Academy Awards.

The rules for the nominated scores seem to change every year. Last year, studios were told not to send recordings of the nominated scores to Oscar voters — a move Trudeau assumes was made so that voters would make their decisions based on how the music works within the context of the film.

This year, however, sending recordings is acceptable.

"I guess someone decided that hearing the music is a good thing," Trudeau says. "Works for me, but we'll see what happens when Oscar 82 rolls around."

Noticeably absent from this year's list of nominees is the score for The Dark Knight, written mostly by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. The Academy gatekeepers originally counted up the number of composers who had a piece of the score and decided that there were too many cooks in the kitchen. After a second listen, it was determined that Zimmer and Howard wrote enough to make the score eligible for nomination, but the honor was not awarded after all.

Last year, Trudeau's pick for best score (Atonement, written by Dario Marinelli), took home the statuette. We'll find out tonight if his pick — Alexandre Desplat's score for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — has the same success.

"Call me old-fashioned, but if I had a ballot, I'd go for a score with strong melodies, crystalline orchestration; one that takes us on an emotional journey," Trudeau says.

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