Listening to the Academy Awards: Part One NPR's coverage of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 2003 Oscar awards: Film music critic Andy Trudeau talks about the Oscar-nominated film scores, and dissects how music can make a good film great.

Listening to the Academy Awards: Part One

Andy Trudeau Reviews the Oscar-Nominated Film Scores

Listening to the Academy Awards: Part One

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Music critic Andy Trudeau Bob Malesky/NPR News hide caption

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Music is often a critical, final factor in making a film a success. For nearly a decade, Weekend Edition Sunday listeners have turned an ear to the subtleties of Oscar-nominated movie scores with the help of Andy Trudeau, NPR's resident film music buff.

This year's nominees, in alphabetical order:

CD cover for Cold Mountain soundtrack (Miramax)

Listen to samples from the CD:

Listen 'Ada Plays'

Listen 'Anthem'

Listen 'Anthem, Part II'
'Big Fish'

CD cover for Big Fish soundtrack (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Listen to samples from the CD:

Listen 'End Titles'

Listen 'The Growing Montage'

Listen 'Sandra's Theme'

Big Fish by Danny Elfman

Cold Mountain by Gabriel Yared

CD cover for House of Sand and Fog soundtrack (DreamWorks in association with Cobalt Media Group)

Listen to samples from the CD:

Listen 'The Waves of the Caspian Sea'

Listen 'Behrani's Thoughts'

Listen 'The Shooting, A Payment for Our Sins'
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Finding Nemo by Thomas Newman

House of Sand and Fog by James Horner

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by Howard Shore

Trudeau begins this two-part series by looking at the scores of Cold Mountain, Big Fish, and House of Sand and Fog. The first two films represent established composer/director relationships: Gabriel Yared with director Anthony Minghella for Cold Mountain and Danny Elfman with Tim Burton for Big Fish, the latter team sharing a repertoire of ten films. James Horner, by contrast, is a veteran composer paired with first-time director Vadim Perelman for House of Sand and Fog.

Trudeau picks out signature musical gestures from Yared, Elfman, and Horner that characterize and individualize their works. He then traces those trademarks back through previous film scores.

Although the films are quite different, the composers of all three scores had an obligation to evoke something of a "local color" due to their nature -- southern bluegrass in Cold Mountain and Big Fish, and an Iranian flavor in House of Sand and Fog. "But instead of going for an overt statement, they really meld it in very carefully to the texture of what they're doing," says Trudeau, who shows how each score retains the distinctive style of its composer, with nods to the setting of the film.

Next week, Trudeau reviews the film scores of Finding Nemo and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and gives us his own Oscar pick.