In a year in which the Academy Awards appeared to not give a hoot about film music -- no musical performance during the show, just two nominees for Best Song -- they proceeded to reward a film in which the only dominant sound WAS music.
"The Artist" won five awards, including best picture, director, actor and score, all of them given to first-time nominees. Considered a silent film due to its lack of dialogue until the final frames, it is the first silent to win since "Wings" won at the first Oscar ceremony in 1928.
With Ludovic Bource winning the score honors and producer Thomas Langmann picking up the picture, "The Artist" becomes the sixth film in the last 20 years in which the score honors have gone to the best picture winner. Last to do it was the 2008 release "Slumdog Millionaire"; 1996-1998 was a rare three-year run in which best score and best picture aligned each year.
A French film (based on its financing), "The Artist" was the only nominee filmed entirely in Los Angeles. Set in the days when the silents were giving way to the talkies, the Weinstein Co. release introduced an assortment of French talent to the U.S.
"All of the work I did on 'The Artist' was a declaration of love to American culture," Bource said backstage after the win. "If Hollywood accepts me I would love to be a part of it."
Bource certainly showed his love for his brethren in the composing community, hugging nominees Howard Shore and Alberto Iglesias and shaking the hand of John Williams in the audience before taking the stage to accept his award.
The Oscar was the latest in a long line of awards for "The Artist," which was named best picture at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday and won six Cesars, the French equivalent of the Oscar, as well. Bource was one of the six winners.
While Bource won the score award, Brett McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords won the best song award for "Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets." A fan of Jim Henson since his youth in New Zealand, McKenzie took on the role of music supervisor and composer knowing how big the shoes he was filling were.
"When I got the job," McKenzie said backstage, "a friend said you'll never write another 'Rainbow Connection.' [That song] didn't win an Oscar but this ['Man or Muppet'] is nothing in comparison" when it comes to cultural gravitas.
This year's Oscar ceremony had a big question mark surrounding the presence of music as it was announced early on that the two song nominees would not be performed. Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams were brought in as music consultants and they provided energetic bumpers to take the show to commercials through the night, genre-hopping from from tribal drums to disco to gypsy jazz to ethereal reggae. Williams was caught early on camera drumming alongside percussionist Sheila E.; Zimmer was seen playing a Gretsch guitar among the violinists in the orchestra.
Host Billy Crystal took a jab at the music operation -- rumored to be significantly over over budget -- when a massive set piece of a musical score on a music stand rose from the floor. "This is why there's a buffet," Crystal joked, a reference to the fact that the Governor's Ball after the ceremony was not going to be its traditional sit-down dinner.
For his part, Crystal did his usual song-and-dance routine with videos that spoof the best picture nominees, nine this year. Among the songs he dragged through the joke-mill were Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kerns' "I Won't Dance," Jay Livingston and Ray Evans' "Mr. Ed" theme, Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Alfie" and Harry Warren and Jack Brooks' "That's Amore."
Also during the show, Esperanza Spalding, last year's Best New Artist Grammy winner, sang "What a Wonderful World" during the "In Memoriam" segment.