Musical "Genius" To Finally Win An Oscar?
What is a genius? When can we really attribute this highest of accolades to an individual? In today’s world, the task is fraught with difficulties. Nowadays, everything said is in the form of superlatives in order to grab people’s attentions. Is labelling someone “a genius” subjective? If we are careful and selective, perhaps not. In music, on what basis can someone be called a genius? Based on number of records sold? Awards? Longevity? That they are influential? Ground breaking? Multi-talented? Whatever the criteria, one thing stands true for me: We should aim to be selective in bestowing the term to any one individual so that we can truly differentiate those geniuses from the rest of us, mere mortals.
One composer who deserves strong consideration is Ennio Morricone. He has composed over 500 film scores, generating over $1Bn in gross revenues, and penned themes that will be hummed, whistled and sung for generations to come. He’s probably best known for his music to Westerns including Sergio Leone’s “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” and “Once Upon A Time In The West” but looking through his discography, almost every film genre has featured his extraordinary musical talent.
In 2007, he won an honorary award at The Oscars. Perhaps, the humbled Academy members thought someone of his stature and age may not get another chance? And yet, in his 88th year, here we are, with his 6th Academy award nomination, and competing against Thomas Newman’s “Bridge of Spies”, Carter Burwell’s “Carol”, Jòhann Johannsson’s “Sicario”, and John Williams’ “Star Wars”. They are worthy contenders in their own right.
Johansson’s score for "Sicario" plays a subtle yet hugely influential role, matching the film’s cinematographic haunting beauty; Burwell, better known for his contributions to The Coen Brother’s movies, “Carol” takes a different route and is wonderfully intimate, painting this love story; Thomas Newman dos an admirable job stepping into John William’s masterful shoes for “Bridge of Spies”, and, of course, the man himself - John Williams - with his score to JJ Abrams’ new look Star Wars. His re-invention of his composition sparks so many emotions. The “Hateful Eight” may not be Tarantino’s finest, but Morricone’s score and orchestration is up there with his best work. The mesmerising D-C-D-Eflat-B-C-D-EFlat motif along with the imaginative use of the orchestra and chromaticism are signs of a composer very much at the top of his game, a staggering achievement and a reassuring one too for those hoping their creativity can last...
If Ennio Morricone doesn't win on Sunday, it won’t detract me from my own opinion that he is a genuine genius of his art. His compositions, orchestrations, and motifs are characters in their own rights and without his talent and creativity, many of his past movies would not have been so popular, memorable or influential.
Here is one of my favourite themes, “Deborah’s Theme” from "Once Upon Time In America". Or else, click on this Spotify link and enjoy a playlist featuring his catalog spanning decades.