truegritscorearticle.pngOn Monday, Variety reported that the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences disqualified four scores from being considered for Oscar nominations. Specifically, the music composed for True Grit, Black Swan, The Kids Are All Right and The Fighter all supposedly violate the Academy's historically-stringent rules about incorporating pre-existing music into new compositions. Meanwhile, Alexandre Desplat's score for The King's Speech remains eligible for consideration, despite the fact that the music similarly includes elements of classical compositions.

While the scores that were ruled out are not particularly avante-gardeall four of them come from studio-funded and distributed filmsthe arbitrary choice to keep The King's Speech while ousting the others only reflects the Academy's advancing age, inflexibility, and quite frankly, relevance. Tom Hooper's film is precisely the kind of safe Oscar-bait that Academy voters swallow up every year, and its music is a similar sort of line-drive that does everything that's expected of it without providing anything dynamic or unique. And even though the actual nominations haven't been announced yet, there are eminently more transgressive or singular scores to consideramong them Daft Punk's music for TRON: Legacy and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' work on The Social Networkwhich now seem to be pre-emptively handicapped by the validation of a score which not only breaks the selfsame rules that rendered the other scores ineligible, but is a safe back-up in case nothing more noble or elegant gets nominated.

The use of music in films is an integral component of their emotional impact, and in the last two decades, samples and even source music has become an essential component of many scores. While something like Will Smith's use of Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots" for his theme to Men in Black may not qualify as award-winning film music, Howard Shore used themes from Swan Lake for the score of Tim Burton's Ed Wood, and gave Bela Lugosi's descent into drug addiction a poignant sadness. Coincidentally, Black Swan's ineligibility was also based on using Swan Lake, but it's the interplay of Tchaikovsky's compositions and Mansell's original work that gives the film as a whole such a sumptuous and moody atmosphere.

Meanwhile, to dismiss Carter Burwell's music for True Grit because it references 19th century hymns is an egregious example of fealty to rules that no longer apply in the same way they did when they were put into effect. Listening to the music, it's clear that those themes have been reimagined and transformed via orchestral arrangements that evoke the time and place of the film. But the question, of course, is what percentage of a score can be comprised of pre-existing materialnot in the sense that an artist or composer can borrow from other performers, but how the Academy arbitrarily decides that Burwell and Mansell violate that amount, while Desplat remains eligible. To make such distinctions compromises the integrity of the Academy as a whole, and highlights how outdated and pointless their rules truly are.

Of course, there are a number of scores released this year which use almost exclusively pre-existing material, and they're equal (if not superior) to films with completely original content. (Luca Guadagnino's use of John Adams' music in I Am Love, for example, creates one of the most memorable and evocative musical backdrops in recent history, as does Martin Scorsese's use of Adams and other avant-garde composers in Shutter Island.) But ultimately, until the Academy acknowledges its capricious and obsolete restrictions for not only otherwise eligible but truly worthy, it will continue to fail to live up to its very raison d'etre - to celebrate and champion significant and groundbreaking accomplishments in cinema.


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Zwaag -- One of Germany's most famous cinemas, Schauburg Kino & Theater in Karlsruhe, at the foot of the Black Forest, is one of the few cinemas left in the world which can show 70mm films. As well as being able to accommodate earlier technology it also features the most modern developments, the latest of which is an Alcons Audio system.

Opened in 1927, the cinema's decor has remained essentially the same since a major refurbishment in 1968, which saw a large, curved screen installed and the capability of showing 70mm ‘Todd-AO' format films. As a format that has become a cult favourite amongst cinema enthusiasts, this has ensured that the venue continues to be extremely popular.

But this is not the only reason for its fame. Behind the evocative chandeliers and velvet curtains, an ongoing programme of technical modernisation has seen the latest formats running alongside 70mm screenings. For instance, it was the first cinema in the city to install Digital 2k projection and the ability to show 3-D movies.

And it is not just the visuals that are cutting edge - a recent upgrade to its audio system has seen five Alcons CR4 cinema front systems, tri-amped with ALC2 amplified loudspeaker controllers and SDP processing, installed.

"The previous system was installed in 1992 and was one of the more advanced speaker systems of its time. However, by modern standards the system lacked the proper punch in the upper bass frequency range. The horn reached its limit at higher reproduction levels, resulting in increased distortion and harshness," says Herbert Born, the venue's managing director.

"Both became a problem with demanding newer mixes in uncompressed audio, but also with magnetic 70mm sound tracks when played loudly."

The Schauburg technical team examined a range of options but, being highly satisfied with an Alcons CR1 system installed in the venue's smaller screen, they were 100% confident that the CR4 system would deliver a major improvement in sound to the main house.

(Schauburg / Alcons press cont'd)

Working closely with Alcons Audio Germany's Carsten Albrecht, the system was specified by Gunter Oehme of contractors Filmton und Kinotechnik. It is a unique installation, with the system mounted in bespoke movable towers.

The house has a huge stage which, with the screen removed, is also used for live performances. Because of this, the loudspeakers are mounted in towers that can easily be moved into different positions. This allows them to be used for both cinema showings and live productions.

"As it doesn't have a baffle wall, the stage can cause acoustic problems like excessive reverb if it is excited too much. The Alcons system works very well without a baffle wall and has also made a significant difference to evening out the SPL differences between the front and rear of the theatre," says Herbert.

The versatility of the Alcons system has been clearly demonstrated by the improvement in sound for both film screenings and live productions. Cinema enthusiasts are renowned for their high expectations and the new system has met with universal approval.

"The sound improvement is obvious," Herbert continues. "Overall the sound is much more natural, music really sounds purer on such a high-end system.

"Colouring of the sound and distortion, which are typical for many cinema sound systems - for example when violins are playing - are completely gone. And with high sound levels, it just gets loud, not distorted.

"The sound localization has also greatly improved, due to improved time alignment and better coverage of the auditorium. We are very happy with it."


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LOS ANGELES -- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. ("MGM") today announced that the company's restructuring has become effective, with exit financing of $500 million in place. The company's "pre-packaged" plan of reorganization (the "Plan") was confirmed on December 2, 2010, by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

"MGM is emerging from one of the most challenging periods of its storied history. We are honored and inspired at the opportunity of leading one of Hollywood's most iconic studios into its next generation of unforgettable filmmaking, global television production and distribution, and aggressively pursuing, developing and exploiting new digital entertainment platforms," said Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum, Co-Chairmen and Chief Executive Officers of MGM. "Beginning today, MGM is a stronger, more competitive company, with a solid financial foundation and a bright future. We look forward to working with MGM's dedicated employees to build upon this company's legacy."

MGM has a significantly improved financial position with secured lenders exchanging approximately $5 billion, including accrued interest and fees, for most of the equity in the company. As part of its exit financing, MGM raised $500 million to fund operations, including production of a new slate of films and television series. JPMorgan arranged MGM exit financing.


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CHICAGO -- NEC Display Solutions of America, a leading provider of commercial LCD display and projector solutions, plans to award a total of $100,000 in NEC products through a series of new contests. Registrants of its innovative Star Student (education), Business Advantage (small-to-medium businesses), Medical+ (healthcare) and Cinema Advantage (theater) programs are each eligible to win $25,000 for their respective facilities.

Besides registering in the NEC marketing program for which it qualifies, each participating organization must complete a registration form and upload a two-to-three-minute video, detailing why its classroom, office, lobby or theater needs a technology makeover. The deadline for photos and video entries is February 28, 2011.

"The makeover phenomenon on television and the Internet has really struck a chord with people, so we wanted to give our valued customers the opportunity to showcase the energy they exhibit each and every day to succeed," said Ashley Flaska, Vice President of Marketing at NEC Display. "Successful organizations put their creative hats on to inspire students, turn prospects into advocates, and assist patients in their respective fields, so we're looking forward to channeling that creativity into some very compelling entries."

The top 5 entries in each marketing program will be chosen by NEC judges and then posted on NEC's website for public voting between March 7, 2011, and March 31, 2011.

Winners will be announced in April 2011. In addition, runners-up in all four categories will each be awarded a 32-inch NEC E321 LCD display for their respective schools, offices, medical facilities or theaters.

For more information on participating, please visit


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