The unsung Oscar nominees

February 24, 2014 8:45 AM

Derek Toten

Derek Toten, who was heard on WTUL radio first as a student at Tulane University in the summer of 1986, has hosted WTUL’s “Stage & Screen” show for 28 years. Here are his picks for the unsung Oscar nominees — Best Original Score and Best Original Song.

Oscar nominees - music
William Butler and Owen Pallett’s Her has a contemporary sound, and though not my favorite of the bunch, is very right for its film. Gravity from Steven Price, on the other hand, also has a contemporary feel, but is also interesting in its own right. It’s suspenseful, atmospheric and tuneful, with a great use of voice within the symphonic arrangement.

Alexandre Desplat’s score to Philomena can be lyrical and light at times, and also strangely serious, but ultimately comes off as repetitive. Not his best work. Thomas Newman’s Saving Mr. Banks had a tough needle to thread as the musical score to a film about a movie musical featuring several well known and much loved songs. Enjoyable, but not a standout in any way.

I am an unabashed John Williams fan and believe that his scores always add an extra dimension to any film, but in the case of The Book Thief, the music sounds just a little too familiar, like he’s borrowing musical phrasing from himself. In this case, a little too much like ET meets Harry Potter — perhaps Mr. Williams has visited the well once too often?

My pick for Best Score: the exciting and unique Gravity by Steven Price.

I’m not really tuned into pop music, so I often find myself at odds with the choices for Best Song. To my ear, each year’s selection sounds like that season’s pop radio song du jour — I’m usually drawn to something more distinctive. The nominee from Frozen is “Let It Go” but I much prefer Josh Gad’s snowman’s lament, “In Summer.” I’m also not a fan of the song that doesn’t really have a connection to the film and is added to the credit sequence for no good reason.

My vote for Best Song: “Happy” from Despicable Me 2.  

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