From The Dissolve:
It wasn’t necessarily clear on the evening of February 27, 2011, but Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross winning an Academy Award for the dissonant industrial score for The Social Network, beating the likes of Hans Zimmer and his protégé John Powell, was a watershed moment. Zimmer lost for Inception, the “Braaahmms!” that soon became ubiquitous in both movies and their marketing, but the impact of the win had less to do with the music than with the musicians.
The Academy had vouched for rock stars before, but giving an Oscar to the mastermind of Nine Inch Nails isn’t the same as giving one to Talking Heads frontman David Byrne for helping Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su evoke traditional Chinese compositions in The Last Emperor.
In an instant, the same award for which John Williams had been nominated 44 times belonged to the guy who wrote “Closer,” and suddenly anything seemed possible.In the years since, it’s become increasingly apparent that Reznor and Ross’ win identified, validated, and perpetuated a much-needed renaissance in original film music. When The Social Network arrived, its soundtrack effectively certified a phenomenon that had been brewing for some time.
The film was released three years after Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood threaded There Will Be Blood with menace—his terse string arrangements like a Steve Reich suite paced to a ticking time bomb instead of a metronome. The Oscar telecast took place mere weeks after Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine distilled a devastatingly effective score simply by stripping the vocals from a handful of Grizzly Bear songs.
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