Are we underestimating Alexandre Desplat (‘Philomena’) for Best Score Oscar?

The prevailing wisdom is that Steven Price will win the Best Score Oscar for “Gravity.” He has a strong lead in our racetrack odds, and I’m predicting him too, but I have a hunch about Alexandre Desplat‘s “Philomena” score and I’ve been thinking about switching.

My hunch has less to do with the relative merits of each score than with the mindset of a hypothetical Oscar voter. Yes, it’s foolish enough to base an Oscar hunch only on anecdotal evidence, let alone a hypothetical anecdote, but bear with me.

Even if you’re a voter in the “Gravity” camp, are you going to check it off in every single category? That’s possible. Voters fawned over “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” and “Titanic” in most or all categories.

But if you’d like to spread the wealth, where would you do it? It’s hard to imagine a voter looking elsewhere in the Cinematography, Visual Effects, or Sound categories. Editing is also probable for “Gravity,” though I’d look out for “Captain Phillips.” Production Design you might give to the more sets-heavy “The Great Gatsby” or “12 Years a Slave.”

RELATEDWatch: Steven Price on scoring the ‘immersive experience’ of ‘Gravity’

Then there’s Best Score. If you like “Philomena” – and even if you don’t love the film it’s so agreeable that it’s hard to imagine many disliking it – you might want it to win somewhere. And even if you’re voting for it in one of its three other categories – Picture, Actress (Judi Dench), or Adapted Screenplay – you probably know it doesn’t have much of a chance to take those.

Voters like to spread the wealth from time to time, and we occasionally see an otherwise losing film get a consolation prize in a below-the-line category: for instance, “Elizabeth” (1998) winning Makeup, “Atonement” (2007) scoring Score, “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006) and “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012) each getting Sound Editing, and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011) taking Editing.

However, predicting where it might happen is tricky. After all, last year we all knew Daniel Day-Lewis would win Best Actor for “Lincoln,” but few expected the academy to also give the film Best Production Design.

Then again, other times voters don’t give any consolation prize at all: “True Grit” had 10 nominations in 2010 and lost all of them. Infamously, “The Color Purple” (1985) and “The Turning Point” (1977) were shut out despite 11 nominations apiece.

It might also help “Philomena” if voters know composer Desplat has been nominated six times without winning, but even then voters aren’t usually so sentimental. Just ask Desplat’s rival Thomas Newman (“Saving Mr. Banks“), who has been nominated 12 times without success.

In addition to Price, Desplat must defeat Will Butler and Owen Pallett for “Her,” also a viable option for spreading the wealth, though that futuristic film also has a chance to claim Original Screenplay. Our odds rank them second behind “Gravity,” while Desplat sits in third at 33/1.

Am I overthinking the race, or does Desplat have a real chance? Make your predictions below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. 

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