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All Quiet on the Western Front Best Score Winner

I had heard of All Quiet on the Western Front because of the heroic efforts of one of the screenwriters and producers, Lesley Paterson to get it made after 16 years.

When it won four Oscars (international feature, score, production design and cinematography), I thought—hey, that’s on Netflix, I should watch that. So I did!

Folks, this is a good movie.

I knew the gruesome combat would be well done—ever since Spielberg showed the way in Saving Private Ryan, people have known how to do that—but the fact it works so well as a modern movie is a testament to the creators. (Sometimes movies based on old books—what we used to call “literature”—have wonky structures, but this one feels fresh and also contemporary.)

So, bravo to them.

Now, the score. I did not know who Volker Bertelmann was. And, let me remind you, I created Film Score Monthly. (He often records under the artist name, Hauschka.)

As the film was introduced at the Oscars, I could hear a three-note motive (outlining a minor chord) that persistently acts as a kind of bleating, synthy klaxon of the inhuman machinery of war.

It was mildly annoying, but I have to say, really easy to remember.

When the score won, I figured that probably it was really well done, and had this “sticky” motive running through it, which is why people remembered it and voted for it.

And I think that’s what happened.

It’s a good score. Tasteful, subtle, lovely orchestration, highly sensitive without ever becoming sentimental (way harder than it sounds).

Is it the kind of thing soundtrack fans will listen to, like Ben-Hur or The Magnificent Seven, and love forever?

No, but that’s not where scores are anymore.

Also, keep in mind there’s a long history of Best Score winners that were just a bit gimmicky, so that they stood out to the voters.

What surprised me is that a few people online seemed really pissed off that it won.

As opposed to what? The Fabelmans by John Williams is brilliant and wonderful (and the only one of the five I’ve actually paid attention to), but that film just didn’t seem to connect with the public, or the voters.

A few people, by the way, seemed to infer that my column was dumping on the winners. Not at all.

My point is, let’s say there are a hundred super-talented, hard-working, wonderful people in each category who do work that is worthy of the award.

The fact that only five get nominated, and one wins, is the luck of who gets what project— and the project works, and it gets promoted, and it connects with the public and the voters, and there’s not somebody else more famous “whose time it is.”

I think anybody that spends time and effort getting emotional over luck is, well, foolish. Sorry, but that’s my opinion.

But I appreciate that people like to follow and debate the Oscars, the way I like to watch baseball games—so of course, people should do what they want!

I think All Quiet on the Western Front is a terrific score and I’m happy for the composer.

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