Oscar Predictions 2011 – Best Original Score

View the Oscar Chart for Best Original Score

There is no established guild in the United States that recognizes the work of film composers, which limits the amount of precursor awards given for Best Original Score. Two of the significant indicators are the Golden Globe Awards and the Critics choice awards, both of which have a category that recognizes film scores. Between 2009 and 2011 the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Broadcast Film Critic Association have chosen the same winner all three times and in the two years preceding this one that winner has gone on to win the Academy Award. The recent trend would indicate that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for The Social Network is the frontrunner for the Academy Award. However, going back beyond three years, the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards have a long history of disagreement with the Academy. What kind of year will this be?

In mid-January, before the Oscar nominations were announced and before the DGA and PGA gave their top prizes to The King’s Speech, the Oscar race was leaning heavily in favor of The Social Network. The film was the favorite to win major Academy Awards like Best Picture and Best Director, and it was assumed its major wins would carry some of the films technical elements to victory as well. Thus it was easy to place The Social Network as the frontrunner in some pretty significant technical categories like Best Original Score. However, after The King’s Speech landed a stunning 12 Oscar nominations and took home significant guild prizes it seems like everything is tilting towards its favor. It is now expected that Tom Hooper’s film will be the big winner come Oscar night and many of The Social Network‘s hopes have been dashed in major and minor categories alike.

Alexandre Desplat is a recent favorite of the Academy with his score for The King’s Speech earning him his fourth Oscar nomination in five years. Not only will he be riding the wave of support for his film, but he also earns some points for the overdue factor. The Academy likes to right any of its past wrongs and it may see Desplat’s losses for his composing in The Queen or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as mistakes of the past that need to be corrected. With so many recent nominations his name has become almost household even for people who don’t pay attention to movie scores and that notoriety should get his name written down on many Oscar ballots.

Some categories at the Oscars have an “in the club” mentality where they are unlikely to award nominees who have not proven themselves in the industry. The music branch is definitely one of those categories as they frequently use their bizarre rules to eliminate movie scores that are outside of their normal pattern of nominees. Take 2007 as an example when they eliminated Johnny Greenwood’s brilliant and subversive score for There Will Be Blood because it contained elements of other works. The Social Network is the first film score for Trent Reznor and second for Atticus Ross, so they are not yet “in the club.” They may not have proven themselves like Desplat (4th nomination), Zimmer (9th nomination), or Rahman (2nd nomination).

Speaking of Hans Zimmer, his epic and booming score for Inception was one of the most widely loved of the year as it was singled out in many reviews of Christopher Nolan’s film. With Inception appearing to be this year’s strongest contender in the technical categories, it could garner enough support from some branches to sneak ahead of the Best Picture frontrunners. It also has a memorable, repetitive bass line that will no doubt ring in Academy voters’ ears when they sit down to fill out their ballots.

A.R. Rahman was a somewhat surprise nominee for his 127 Hours score and he seems the least likely contender as his film has gotten little precursor support and he won as recently as two years ago. There is a lot of support around the internet (including here on Film Misery) for John Powell’s How to Train Your Dragon score, but despite Dreamworks’ recent promotional push, it does not seem likely to contend with The King’s Speech and The Social Network.

Predicted to Win: Alexandre Desplat – The King’s Speech

Potential Spoiler: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross – The Social Network

Deserves to Win: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross – The Social Network

Should Have Been Nominated: Randy Newman – Toy Story 3

Listen to segments from all of the nominated scores below and vote for your favorite in the poll!

127 Hours

How to Train Your Dragon


The King’s Speech

The Social Network

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  • Jose

    Because I really want to know, why are people in love with the score for The Social Network?
    And why did Randy Newman pull himself out of the Oscar race?

    Go Dragon!

  • I think either “The Social Network” or “The King’s Speech” will win here. I really think “Toy Story 3” and “True Grit” deserved nominations, and those two are my favorite scores of the year. “Scott Pilgrim” had the best soundtrack, that wasn’t really score.

  • mike

    the best original score of the year is “How To Train Your Dragon” . If other wins, this category doesn’t deserved to be named ” best original score “

  • julian

    I think bith Zimmer and Powell did an amazing job this year. TSN is a great score, not so much for the quality of the compositions in and of itself, but because they go so splendidly well with the dynamics of the movie. And that is what a great score should do: support the storytelling of the movie. In that sense, the Ross/Reznor collaboration was uniquely suited to its source material.
    On my stereo at home: I would rather listen to Zimmer or Powell, granted, but that is not what original score is only about…so TSN for the win!

  • Someone

    HTTYD for the win. Definatelt a beautiful soundtrack, and an underdog! lets say it gave me chills that I have never got in an animated film more or less a live action one.

  • Someone


  • I would vote for the Social Network on this one. It works well with the movie and I don’t remeber the one from the King’s Speech.

  • Ben

    The Social Network is a very mediocre and forgettable score. Inception or HTTYD ought to win this one; however, Tron: Legacy should have been nominated. It seems like the academy chose the films for best original score merely because they were attached to films nominated for best score.

  • Ben

    **”attached to films nominated for best picture”**

  • Welcome to Oscar season, Ben. The time where everyone forgets that more than 15 films were made in a given year.

  • Jose

    Should have been Nominated, Did no one else see The Ghost Writer? Way more deserving than Toy story 3, and most of the nominees.

  • Mike

    The Social Network for Best Score? For what?! They made some happy techno music (sad for the sad parts though!). That’s it, nothing else. They did get one thing right however. The music DOES fit the film: Pointless, shallow, and makes old people feel cool for voting for it.

    A.R. Rahman had a great score but won’t win. He didn’t deserve it for Slumdog Millionaire for the same reasons that TSN doesn’t deserve it now (see above). 127 hours IS a worthy contender though the best music in the film is provided by Sigur Ros and not A.R. Rahman. NEXT!

    How to train your Dragon has a great GREAT score, but with one glaring problem. He wrote Scottish music for a film set in Scandinavian Viking territories! Still John Powell is one of my favorites. He won’t win this time, but you’ll see him at the Oscars again soon.

    Unfortunately I can’t comment on Alexandre Desplat’s score for The King’s speech as I haven’t seen the movie nor heard the score.

    That leaves Inception. Though the music was repetitive, obnoxious, and way too loud in the mix, it is the clear winner. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “Are we really ready to reward this guy another trophy when we still haven’t forgiven him for all those cheesy action movie scores like ‘The Rock’? Let alone for accidentally creating 20 million soulless Zimmer wannabees?”
    The answer is YES. Why? Because his score sits in that rare and wonderful grey area where the music fit the film perfectly, while making the audience feel that no one else would have done it the same way (nor as good).
    C’mon Hans. Your turn again buddy.

  • Alex

    For the best score award lets not confuse the music with the actual movie. if you take apart the music from each movie independently there is really one that stands apart from the others. That is how to train your dragon. John powell does a magnificent job composing all the separate parts and pieces and they fit in so well with the movie in my mind he deserves to win head and shoulders above the others

    Yes the other scores are all fine but the social network is just Techno music come on Inception is repetitive and boring as it contains no “give you the chills moments”

    i don’t think anyone is even considering 127 hours or the kings speech all fairly boring except john Powells score for HTTYD

    And although this is Powells first oscar nomination (correct me if I’m wrong on that one) i think he deserves to win for his outstanding musical work even if other people have been nominated before always go with the best talent not who has more experience being nominated and not winning.

    Get em at the oscars John, Your time to shine!

  • Jose

    Alex I was about to say a lot of what you did, I’ll post what I was going to say anyway.

    Mike, what you said about Dragon’s score:”How to train your Dragon has a great GREAT score, but with one glaring problem. He wrote Scottish music for a film set in Scandinavian Viking territories! ” Really? So because its in the wrong setting you’re dismissing your feelings for the film even though you admit that its a great score?

    I agree with what Alex says about The Social Network score, I’m a fan of Raznor’s work on “NIN” but the music sounded too much like something you’d hear at a rave.

    As for Inception, that was probably among Zimmer’s weakest works he has ever done. A score is supposed to put you in the moment and allow you to rock to it when you’re not watching the film Dragon, Black Swan, and The Ghost Writer were among the scores that did both, Inception only did the former. And the music was so loud, obnoxious, and repetitive, and there were only 1-2 tracks that I liked. The only ones I see that enjoyed the music are people that get wet dreams from Nolan’s movies.

    And Mike, others could’ve done it better.

    127 Hours meanwhile was repetitive and The King’s Speech, while nice was kind of light.

    And Alex, this is indeed Powell’s first nomination.

  • Mike


    I think you may have taken my comments as per HTTYD the wrong way. I very much loved the movie and it’s accompanying score. In fact John Powell is probably my favorite composer. His geographical “mistep” did not ruin the movie/score for me, nor will it cost him an Oscar. I just thought that it was odd, that’s all.
    As for Inception, while I agree that there are many Nolan/Zimmer fanboys out there (I certainly don’t consider myself one of them), there are an equal amount of haters who hate it just because it’s Zimmer. Could that be the case here?
    You can’t blame the guy for a loud mix or the overuse of his music in the film. That’s somebody else’s fault. It can be argued that it’s not really an “authentic” score since he didn’t technically write to picture. But then neither did A.R. Rahman when he scored “Slumdog” and he won the Oscar for it.
    Personally, I bought the score the day it came out and only saw the movie months later. I will admit to being initially unimpressed with the score, but once I saw the film I completely changed my mind. I thought the music fit perfectly and I can’t imagine anybody else doing it better. Who would have done a better job?
    If you don’t agree, that’s fine. I will be equally happy to see HTTYD win, I just think overall it should be Zimmer’s night. Having said that, since the Academy often gets “Best score” and “Best song” wrong (again just my personal opinion) I think we’ll see Social Network win it in this category.

  • John WI.LL.I.A.M

    John Powell won’t win and doesn’t deserve to – the score is way too cliched and unoriginal.

    The Social Network music is really good and quite interesting, besides fitting perfectly with the film – would be a well-deserved win. Come on guys, film music DOESN’T have to be all John Williams/ Jerry Goldsmith-style!!!

    My 2nd favorite is Hans Zimmer. I love the simple, powerful and memorable score he did for Inception – movie music at its best. Here’s a composer who knows exactly what a film needs, and no wonder he’s one of the most successful composers in this field.

    But I think Alexandre Desplat’s score for The Kings Speech might finally give him an Oscar. I like it, its simple, cute and pleasant to listen to. Not his best work, and not as good as Social Network or Inception, but I agree with Film Misery and I think Desplat might benefit from the hype surrounding The King’s Speech, and if the film is the big winner of the evening, then a soundtrack Oscar is likely – which would be OK with me, as desplat is a wonderful composer!

    I absolutely hate everything A.R. Rahman does.

  • Mike

    I agree that film music doesn’t have to always be in the orchestral genre, but I were to nominate a “non-traditional” score this year it would be TRON Legacy and not The Social Network. But the Academy would never do that. TSN’s score is good, but very overrated. It’s just some light techno songs. Then again, I thought the movie was very overrated.

    I laughed out loud when you said that you hate everything A.R. Rahman does :) You don’t mince words. I like that!

  • Jose

    Mike, that’s not the issue. I am a fan of Zimmer but I just don’t understand the love that his work for Inception is getting. When I first heard it I liked it fine enough and then when I saw the movie the effect it had diminished. When I heard the music again I honestly could not remember why I liked the music in the first place.

    And John, you’re right. Not all music has to be orchestral, but it does have to be good, that’s why I’m not rooting for The Social Network.

  • John Donne

    How to Train Your Dragon is the absolute best score. And surprise, there were Vikings in Scotland, but more importantly, the Cressida Cowell books are set in Scotland.

  • Aaron Blackmore

    I remember going to watch How to Train Your Dragon, and I remember enjoying the film for what it was, and it was really good, I’ll admit freely. I remember that the second I got home, I went straight to see if the score to the movie was already out, for that was perhaps what got my attention the most of that movie. Every song fit so well with the scene, thinking back, I cannot think of any better score for such a great movie. I found the score online, and I listened to it intently, enjoying the spark each song had, and i still listen to them today.

    When the social network came out to theaters I went to see it, and it was good too. I found it to be well made and interesting, and at times I listened to the music when it stood out. The music fit ok with the movie, i won’t say it was great, but it was good. I just didn’t find anything ‘wow’ in it, and going back through the score, there really isn’t much. I think for this category, How to Train Your Dragon really stands out in a good way, compared to the other contenders. And in a perfect world should win the award. However, now in times where people might judge the score because the movie was not as ‘serious’ or ‘overrated’ as some other contenders, i think the Hans Zimmer’s score fairs a good chance, as well as the score of The King’s Speech for some good moments in its score. 127 Hours, I don’t think so.

    Overall, I feel that the true winner of the award should go to John Powell’s score for How to Train Your Dragon, for it’s exciting and fitting score, but chances are very slim. Next, I’d say Inceptions, and under that by a small margin, The King’s Speech, then The Social Network, for it’s entertaining and fresh, but not as captivating score, and last 127 Hours, which’s score kinda put me to sleep. Beautiful, but kinda boring.

  • Allie

    I think that the only way a person could overlook the HTTYD soundtrack is if they haven’t heard it. John Powell created such a masterpiece, that it is a shame so many are neglecting it.

    Sure, the Inception score is memorable, and I like Reznor as much as the next person, but in no film this year was the score so integral to the movie experience. It is complex and emotional without being completely overbearing, like Inception. And I have to agree that while a great movie, The King’s Speech soundtrack wasn’t anything spectacular, especially compared to Dragon.

    Still, awards these days are 20% deserved and 80% politics, so I doubt that Powell will win out over whichever movie wins best picture. Quite a shame, if I do say so myself.

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