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Listening to the Academy Awards: Part Two

Music critic Andy Trudeau
Music critic Andy Trudeau

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:

Big Fish by Danny Elfman

Cold Mountain by Gabriel Yared

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

In part two of this series, Trudeau dissects the film scores of Finding Nemo and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Trudeau says the agile cartoon music of Finding Nemo and the expansive orchestration of The Lord of the Rings represent polar opposites of movie music.

Composer Thomas Newman, best known for dramatic, dark film music was a bold choice for the animated Finding Nemo, Trudeau says. But director Andrew Stanton listened to Newman's previous scores while writing the screenplay, and Newman created a variety of musical twists and turns, perfect for an animated underwater world.

Howard Shore won the Oscar for this category in 2001 for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Trudeau says his approach is far more classical than one usually finds in movies -- in part because Shore and director Peter Jackson regard the music as one giant epic divided into three parts. The result, Trudeau says, is a massive film score crafted with intelligence.

And Trudeau's pick for best film score is…

"There's only one score in this bunch that I believe will be long-remembered and will really be considered an important part of film music history. It's such an incredible achievement that there's no way I cannot say that the best score this year is Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

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