Saturday, July 11, 2015

Will "The Hateful Eight" Finally Get Morricone an Oscar?

It seems like an odd yet perfect pairing. Over the course of his past few films, director Quentin Tarantino has made a habit of borrowing music. As he has grown as an artist, he has gone on to incorporate composers into his work. One of the most prominent is legendary composer Ennio Morricone, whose music can be heard in a few of the director's work since Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Today at the San Diego Comic Con, Tarantino announced a big shocker: Morricone would be producing the director's first fully original score for his upcoming film The Hateful Eight. It is a shocker for many reasons, but it is also likely to mark a hopeful evolution as the director matures as a filmmaker.

The biggest reason that this news comes as shocking ties back to Django Unchained. In the film, Morricone wrote the original song "Ancora Qui." Following its release, the composer noted that he was disappointed with the way that the song was used in the film. This lead many to believe that he and Tarantino were not kindred spirits. As this recent news suggests, it was all a misunderstanding. Morricone claims that Tarantino shares an "artistic brotherhood." Even then, it is more staggering because of a more blatant thing that even the most casual of Tarantino fans will recognize.

Ever since his debut with Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino's films have been equally known for their soundtracks. He has an renowned ear for picking jukebox hits and obscure favorites and blending them into his own, often anachronistic vision. It is why many find issue with his authenticity as an artist. While he has incorporated original content into his films in the past, The Hateful Eight will be the first to feature a full-on original score. While details are very sparse at this time, it does bode well for the film. There was a video presentation for The Hateful Eight at a different panel at Comic Con, but the music used was predominantly Morricone's work for The Thing.

While there haven't been too many noteworthy scores yet in 2015 for the Best Original Score contention (Michael Giacchino's Inside Out is the only one that comes to mind), there is an off chance that this will be a big deal. To summarize, Morricone is a legendary composer best known for his theme to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. He has worked on several projects since and has a very distinct, soaring sound that has elevated the quality of westerns and war films alike - two genres that Tarantino has shown a passion for. He may not be as much of a household name as John Williams, but his legacy among cinephiles is well known.

Here's the sad catch, though: he has never won an Oscar. While it is true that he has been nominated five times and has received an Honorary Oscar, he hasn't actually earned a trophy. His last nomination was in 2000 for Best Original Score for the film Malena. While some could pass off the Honorary Oscar as its own achievement, it would be interesting to see someone of his stature win in a competitive category. While there will likely be debate on if it should be done by a Tarantino film, it wouldn't be the first miracle worker move he made. Besides himself, Christoph Waltz won two Best Supporting Oscars (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained) after Tarantino featured him in his movies. 

If anything, it is interesting to see that Oscar season is able to get some speculation rolling out of Comic Con. While this wouldn't be the first Oscar-winning film to feature a panel at the event (Tarantino has been there before with Django Unchained), it is interesting to even see that there's a modicum of crossover appeal. Of course, there's few filmmakers as stylistic and loving to cinema as that of Tarantino. He makes movies that appeal to both sensibilities. It is a wonder that he has remained more relevant as he has become more assured. Even then, here's hoping that Morricone is about to get some much deserved recognition.


  1. I think Mad Max: Fury Road's score by Junkie XL is just as, if not more, impressive than that of Inside Out by Michael Giacchino. They're both sides of the perfect score.

    MMFR's score, while not exactly possessing one particular motif to carry away from the film, matches every scene with the precise tone and emotion. Intense when it need to be, emotionally heavy at others, but managing to provide gentle resolution by the end of each piece. Much like Steven Price's score for Gravity. However, unlike Gravity's, I think I might find myself listening to Junkie XL's score more often.

    That's not to slam IO's score, which actually does provide a memorable motif with which to leave the theater. I can't, however, remember that much of the score outside of that motif, but it features in enough scenes to center the film's score. And what a great motif it is! One that conveys the intrigue and sweet melancholy that surrounds the narrative. It's there for the emotional moments and the key plot moments.

    Both, in my opinion, are my favorite scores of the year, with MMFR's score slightly ahead of IO.

    However, if Morricone manages to construct an excellent and thoroughly-Western score, I'm totally down for him to finally receive his first competitive Academy Award.

    1. I am with you on Junkie XL's score. It definitely made Mad Max: Fury Road a lot more intriguing. My reservation is that while it is this great action movie, the Oscars are going to overlook it much like The Dark Knight. I see it getting some technical nods, but I don't feel like the Oscars notice action scores that much because of how "different" it is from their regular nominees. The Best Original Score nominees tend to be more stylistic accompaniments to prestige dramas (though yes, Gravity is the exception to this rule). I want to believe that it won't be excluded, but I am prepping myself for the obvious snubbing that always goes on.

      Inside Out is not as impressive, sure. I just think that its melodic structure and the Oscar's interest in Pixar already gives it some edge, also considering how many times Pixar scores have been nominated. In fact, Giacchino won for Up just a few years ago.

      I do enjoy speculating the Best Original Score category largely because at this juncture, I have no idea what the big boys will be. In fact, I am still very surprised that Grand Budapest Hotel came up strong last year, so anything is possible.

    2. Music in film was the first ever film-related class I ever took. I learned that, no joke, before sound, before color, before set design, and before was film's first special effect. Even though sound could record and sync it with the film, you had a piano man or even a full orchestra in the auditorium covering up the awkwardness of watching something truly sound-less. What people realized immediately was that the music carries the emotional power of the film to the surface for the audience to grasp it.

      I knew Gravity was a masterful film from the moment I realized afterwards that the score took me for a ride. Same for Mad Max. I can appreciate a score with beautiful motifs, but I appreciate more the scores that firmly drive the emotion.

      To reply, while the Dark Knight was arguably snubbed, at least WALL-E was nominated. That score was brilliant. Still, even though I'd've voted for Thomas Newman in a heartbeat (especially since he STILL HAS NO OSCAR...ugh), A.R. Rahman is a film composing legend and Slumdog Millionaire was going to win Best Picture anyway, so it's acceptable.

      Giacchino knows how to make melodic motifs, sure, and Up deserved the Oscar. Yet he wasn't even nominated for The Incredibles, which I think is his best score. That's a score that takes the emotions for a ride.

      If I had to gauge the contenders, I would list these films:
      - Bridge Of Spies (Thomas Newman)
      - The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)
      - Inside Out (Michael Giacchino)
      - Love & Mercy (Atticus Ross)
      - Mad Max: Fury Road (Junkie XL)
      - Sicario (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
      and, if it's original enough...
      - Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (John Williams)

    3. I don't dislike Thomas Newman, but I have conflicting views on him based on his past few nominations (Skyfall and Saving Mr. Banks specifically). This is more of a jab at The Academy's voting system. They disqualified Jonny Greenwood's There Will Be Blood because it used preexisting music (which fine, it happens). But then to nominated Newman TWICE for films that incorporate motifs that we all know more obviously to be Bond and Mary Poppins work just drives me up a wall. I know it isn't a fair representation of him as a composer, but those two nominations bother me.

      I likely will be writing another, more researched, piece about my predictions for Best Original Score nominations sometime next month when I have an idea of what's to come.

      Though yes, I fully agree with you about music being the main drive of a film. The best films have to work on that level. It gives it personality and emotion in ways that dialogue or action cannot.