It’s not the sexiest category, but it’s got teeth. After all, good music is the backbone of any film. In the past, the winner of the original score category has often followed two trends: match up wth the eventual Best Picture winner, or (imagine this!) reward the actual best original score. Let’s take the second part first. I’ve listened to all five nominated scores. Believe me, this is not an especially easy task. Tower Records is not exactly overflowing with CDs featuring the instrumental music of The Constant Gardener. Anyways…three of the five nominated scores are fairly bland. Pride and Prejudice is your run of the mill, costume drama score. Interchange it with Sense and Sensibility, Vanity Fair, or Howard’s End and you won’t be able to tell the difference. Munich is too heavy, its overpowering notes a tad bit too strong for a dark picture. As for The Constant Garderner, there’s just simply nothing memorable. In fact, all three of these scores lack that killer theme, the one that gets stuck in your head ever time you see the movie. Which leaves Memoirs of a Geisha (composed by veteran John Williams) and Brokeback Mountain (by relative newcomer Gustavo Santaollala). Of these two, Geisha is by far the more powerful, dramatic score, punctuated by beautiful violin and cello solos. Brokeback, however, leaves the more lasting impression. Its utter simplicity is its greatest virtue. It complements the movie, never outshining it. But even if Brokeback is the best, does it necessarily mean it will win? John Williams is the greatest movie composer of his generation. The maestro behind Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and others has been nominated over 25 times in this category. He’s been up for awards four of the last five years and this year, he’s nominated twice! But wait a minute. Wait a minute. In 2002, when he was up for both A.I. and Harry Potter, he lost. The honor went instead to Frida. Let’s also rewind back to 1995. That year James Horner scored double nods for Apollo 13 and Braveheart (both awesome scores). Il Postino took home the award that year. As you can see, the phenomenon of the split vote is very real. So if voters divide their votes between Williams’ Geisha and Munich scores, Brokeback is your likely beneficiary. Also in Brokeback’s favor is the fact that it is a likely Best Picture winner (recent score winners include Best Pic winners LOTR-ROTK, Titanic, and The English Patient) and its composer Santaollala was lauded for his “Motorcycles Diaries” score last year. Ladies and gentlemen, you have yourselves one of the most intriguing races of the year here. It’s so intense that the normally reticent Williams made an appearance on Jay Leno a week ago. Geisha won both the Broadcast award and the Golden Globe, clearly strong indicators, but obviously, for reasons stated above, Brokeback is in a strong and unique position. We’ll stick with Santaolllala for now, but keep your eyes open in the next few weeks. Anything can happen.