As always, I'm happy to see one of my favorite composers up for Best Score once again - Danny Elfman scored a nod for Milk. Unfortunately, he finds himself amid heavy competition and is likely to loose once again. There's the dramatic action of Defiance, the comically bittersweet music of WALL-E, and the mournful Benjamin Button to contend with. Most of all, though, is the musical explosion that backs up Slumdog Millionaire. A.R. Rahman's score spans action, suspense, and love scenes with Bollywood flavor. My concern, though, is that voters will confuse the score with the songs (two of which are also up for Oscars) and the "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" theme music and dismiss the score. Still, it gets my pick.
I must admit that I have a bad history with the Best Song category. Last year was the first time in a long time that I actually picked it correctly. What I've learned, though, is that voters prefer to award songs that are integral to the fabric of the film (last year's "Falling Slowly" from Once) or that bring depth to the characters ("Loose Yourself" from 8 Mile or "It's Hard Out There For A Pimp" from Hustle And Flow). This year we have two songs from Slumdog Millionaire - "O Saya," the "running through the slums" music from the beginning of the film, and "Jai Ho," the dance number heard over the closing credits. The third nominee is "Down to Earth," written by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman for WALL-E. I think that the biggest disadvantage for the Slumdog entries is that they're not in English - lyrics go a long way here. I also think that while the Slumdog songs set the mood and tempo for their respective scenes, "Down to Earth" does more to illuminate the characters. It manages to humanize robots, which is an amazing feat and worthy of the prize.