Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” is expected to win several Oscars at Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, but the prize for best original score won’t be among them.
The score for the historical drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio, composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto with Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner as collaborators, was disqualified by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in December.
According to AMPAS rules, “To be eligible, the original score most be a substantial body of music that serves as original dramatic underscoring and must be written specifically for the motion picture by the submitting composer. Scores diluted by the use of tracked themes or other pre-existing music, diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs, or assembled from the music of more than one composer shall not be eligible.”
Iñárritu, who appealed the decision, said in an interview with Thompson on Hollywood, “They said the music was incredible, the tapestry was so cool, but they didn’t understand who did what, it was very confusing. This was the plan, to blend the sounds of nature and the complexity of nature with no way to understand what is what. The complexity of that tapestry in concert is not accidental. The percentage was more than 56 percent Ryuichi, what it needed to be to be eligible …
“We’ve been working for 30 years in sound, so we understand the code of that, and Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner, that trio became a weird guacamole of music.”
Referring to the fact that the score for his acclaimed “Birdman” was rejected for similar reasons, the director added, “This is the second time they are not doing it right for colleagues in the work. And this is scandalous. Ryuichi sent a beautiful letter to them. I hope they reconsider this. It’s a serious threat for musicians. It’s the wrong message to send to everybody, it will paralyze anyone who seeks to try something different.
“I respect every branch who may think we are doing something wrong, but if it’s about understanding the tapestry, let me and Ryuichi clarify, and they will understand a new way of doing music.”
In an interview with The Vinyl Factory, Sakamoto responded, “Well, every award organization has their rules, and of course none of us joined the project with any award being our pursuit. That being said, in the future I can see more great films having this issue, and since art is not a static part of culture, but flexible, changing, and interpretative, I think it would benefit the Academy to take a closer look at their rules.”
Sakamoto won a BAFTA Award in 1984 for “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” an Oscar and a Golden Globe in 1987 for “The Last Emperor,” and a Golden Globe in 1991 for “The Sheltering Sky.” He received both Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for “The Revenant.” At the time, the score for “The Last Emperor” was eligible for an Academy Award even though it was a collaboration between Sakamoto, David Byrne and Cong Su.
A former member of the band Yellow Magic Orchestra, Sakamoto also appeared in “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” and “The Last Emperor” as an actor.
The Oscar nominees for best original score are Thomas Newman for “Bridge of Spies,” Carter Burwell for “Carol,” Ennio Morricone for “The Hateful Eight,” Jóhann Jóhannsson for “Sicario,” and John Williams “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”