Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far .
Today, Alex Withrow of And So It Begins is here to look at the Best Original Score Category.
Best Original Score
Snubs Dominate the Best Score Oscar Conversation
By Alex Withrow
When the Oscar nominations were announced a few weeks ago, the Best Score category featured a glaring omission that people still can’t wrap their hands around. In this post, I’ll talk about the significance of the scores that actually were nominated, and the surprising snubs that deserved inclusion.
Ludwig Göransson – Black Panther
I may catch some flak for this, but in all honestly, if you played the musical score for most any Marvel film released in the past 10 years, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what movie it was from. The standard bombast, the leading strings – my ears blend them all together. Ludwig Göransson’s score for Black Panther is a welcome and rare exception, as it’s unique arrangements stand on their own, while still fitting into the Marvel platform. The tribal drums, the African chants – these compositions feel like they were recorded right in Wakanda. I can’t say it’s one of the top five movie scores of the year (the film’s soundtrack, curated by Kendrick Lamar, is a different story), but it’s nice that it was recognized.
Terence Blanchard – BlacKkKlansman
The score for BlacKkKlansman marks Terence Blanchard’s first Oscar nomination, and, much like the Academy giving Spike Lee his first Oscar nomination for Best Director this year, I have some mixed thoughts about it. Terence Blanchard, like Spike Lee, should’ve been nominated many times by now. It’s a shame that it took the Academy this long to recognize them both, but I am absolutely thrilled by their nominations. Hopefully this is just the beginning of the Academy finally waking the hell up and to Blanchard and Lee’s respective talents. If I voted for the Oscars, Blanchard’s score would be a very close second.
Nicholas Britell – If Beale Street Could Talk
Forgive me in advance, because I’m about to launch into full-blown hyperbole. There are a few film scores ever year that I adore, but there is usually only one that I absolutely fall in love with. I play these scores while I write, while I drive, and while I wonder around a city, appreciating everything before me. And that is certainly the case for Nicholas Britell’s score for If Beale Street Could Talk. These compositions are so fluid, poetic, and singular, that I can’t help but be in awe of them, day after day. The score plays against the film seamlessly, and the songs on their own are things for magic wonder. I’m so in love with this music, and seriously hope Britell takes home the Oscar for his work.
Alexandre Desplat – Isle of Dogs
Alexandre Desplat is no stranger to Oscar attention, having been nominated 10 times for his scores, and winning twice (for The Grand Budapest Hotel, and last year’s The Shape of Water). Much like the specific cinematography and production design of Wes Anderson’s films, Desplat’s music now seems like a staple of Anderson’s vision. I appreciate the Oscars continuing their love for Desplat, even though he likely won’t win this year.
Marc Shaiman – Mary Poppins Returns
Shaiman’s whimsical score for Mary Poppins Returns is the kind of film music the Oscars love to highlight. The fun arrangements and easy melodies make this score a pretty standard Disney offering. Marc Shaiman has seven Oscar nominations with zero wins so far (he should’ve won Best Song for “Blame Canada” from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut), and while his Mary Poppins Returns score wouldn’t get a nomination from me, I completely understand why the Academy recognized it.
I think the most interesting thing about the Best Score race this year isn’t the nominees themselves, but the scores that were omitted. You Were Never Really Here (Jonny Greenwood), Suspiria (Thom Yorke), and Mandy (Jóhann Jóhannsson) all deserved to make the cut, but I know their unique compositions are a little to outside the box for most Academy members. Similarly, the scores for Vox Lux (Scott Walker), Hereditary (Colin Stetson), Game Night (Cliff Martinez), Annihilation (Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow), and The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (Carter Burwell) all had something great to offer outside of standard Oscar fare.
But the glaring omission here is Justin Hurwtiz’s fantastic score for First Man, which, a few months ago, seemed to be the front-runner for the Oscar, but eventually failed to even be nominated. Justin Hurwtiz won two Oscars for La La Land (for Best Score and Best Song – “City of Stars”), so maybe the Academy was interested in spreading the love a little? Or maybe it’s the Academy’s issue with First Man in general, as the film seemed poised to land far more nominations than it actually did (seriously, where was this movie’s nomination for Best Cinematography?). Who knows, but Hurwtiz’s omission this year was baffling to me. It seemed like such a worthy, foregone conclusion.
Who Will Win
If I voted for the Best Score nominations, the only one of the nominees that would’ve made my ballot is Nicholas Britell’s score for If Beale Street Could Talk, and thankfully, I think it has a fair shot at winning. Britell’s biggest competition is Terence Blanchard, and because I’m such a life-long fan of Blanchard’s work, I won’t be complaining if he wins. But noting all that, Britell’s score is something I will listen to and love for years to come.