The Academy has released a list of 145 eligible scores for this year’s Oscars, and there were three notable omissions. Arrival, Manchester by the Sea and Silence were all absent from the eligible list, despite their generally excellent awards prospects. Turns out, all three were disqualified by the Academy.
According to Variety, the Academy’s music branch ruled unanimously that voters would be influenced by the use of borrowed material in Arrival, which would make it difficult for them to determine the value of Johann Johannsson’s original compositions for the film. The most conspicuous borrowed music in Arrival is Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight,” which has also been featured in several other films. That piece is used as a bookend to the film, and it was determined that there would be no way for voters to distinguish it from the score written for the film.
Pre-existing material also led to problems for Manchester by the Sea, which mixes Lesley Barber’s original score with a number of classical compositions. Barber’s contributions were not seen as substantial enough to qualify the film for the category. “It certainly comes as a disappointment to learn that my score to Manchester by the Sea was deemed ineligible by the Academy,” Barber told Variety. “While I accept the Academy’s decision, I also support my director’s decision to use these pieces and I’m also very proud of the substantial contribution (referenced correctly in many reviews) that the original score made to the film as well.”
The Academy made the same ruling on Martin Scorsese’s Silence, which features a score written by Kim Allen Kluge and Kathryn Kluge. The Academy specifies that original scores must be “a substantial body of music that serves as original dramatic underscoring and is written specifically for the motion picture by the submitting composer.” There are no specific definitions of “substantial,” beyond the collective opinion of branch members, nor is there any appeals process, meaning The Academy’s decisions are final.