Two of the most continually controversial categories in Academy Award history deal with one of the most important contributions to the final effect of a film: music. The number of Oscar howlers in the category of Best Original Song range from outrage among some that absolutely nothing from the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack was even nominated to "That Thing You Do!" losing out despite being the most vital song to a movie's entire reason for being to appear on the scene in some time. Then there is the ridiculous rules that excluded Jonny Greenwood's positively breathtaking score for "There Will Be Blood" from even being considered.
After many decades of genuine pop standards routinely taking home the Oscar for Best Song, a series of missteps in the music categories at the Oscars took hold sometime around the late 1970s, when the winning Oscar song was, as often as not, irrelevant in the larger world of pop music. This trend has continued unabated since then.
With the rise of the Internet arose a feeling that it was time to stop conferring legitimacy to perhaps the most illegitimate of all Oscar categories (excluding Best Documentary, of course). Ignoring what mostly clueless members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences saw as the ultimate achievement in film sound, more and more entities looked to correct the situation and honor their musical brethren on the basis of accomplishment rather than familiarity alone.
Beginning in 2001, the World Soundtrack Academy began handing out awards, "Come What May" from "Moulin Rouge!" picking up the honor for Best Song from a Movie. What really sets the World Soundtrack Academy awards apart from the Oscars, however, is their recognition of Soundtrack of the Year, which differs substantially from Original Score. Among past winners is the absolutely delightful soundtrack to the utterly charming stop-motion animation film "Fantastic Mr. Fox." It would certainly be nice to at least see Oscar voters attempt to pick a choice for a future category of soundtrack as perceptive as "Fantastic Mr. Fox."
The Sammy Award is named in honor of legendary composer Sammy Cahn, who received Oscar nominations for writing songs for movies an astounding 26 times. While the Sammy Awards tend to coincide with the picks at the Academy Awards very often, there have also been palpably inspirational cases where Sammy voters are much more on the ball, such as in 1992 when they chose the exquisitely evocative score for "Howards End" over Oscar's utterly uncreative honoring of yet another Disney cartoon.
What really makes the Sammy Awards worth checking out, however, is the irregular addition of irreverent and praiseworthy categories. For instance, a song from "Armageddon" became the first winner of Worst Song in 1998. In 2000, "On the Beach" was retroactively recognized several decades after its release with Best Overlooked Score. In the late 2000s, the Sammy Awards did something the Academy Awards really should do but never will in a million years by expanding the concept of rewarding shamefully overlooked past achievements.
Sammy Awards have been handed out to classic and older movies soundtracks in categories like Best Vintage Collection, Best Restored Film Score, Best Golden Age Film Score, and Best Film Music Compilation CD. Like the World Soundtrack Academy, the Sammy Awards also recognize the Best Soundtrack of the Year as an accomplishment distinguishable from Best Original Score. Among the 2012 winners of the Sammy Awards are "War Horse" for Best New Film Score, "The Sand Pebbles" for Best Silver Age Score, and "The Greatest Miracle" for Best Overlooked New Film Score.
It is certainly too much to ask of the Academy Awards to compete with an award dedicated solely to film music, but certainly Oscar voters could pluck a few ideas from the collection of alternative awards for film music and refashion their own approach.
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