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, David Brooks of BluePrint: Review is here to look at the nominees for Best Original Score.
Scores play an integral part in most films. Even in the silent era, films would always be accompanied by music and, though some films can be effective without a score, well-composed music can enhance a film a great deal.
I’ve never been a fan of the Academy’s choices for Best Original Song as, more often than not, they tend to be cheesy power ballads that wouldn’t be caught dead on my Spotify playlist/CD collection (yes I still collect CDs). I find songs, other than those in musicals, are often shoe-horned into the credits to sell soundtrack albums and serve little purpose to the film itself. Best Original Score, however, is a category I’m more interested in. The Academy often make ‘safe’ choices here, as they do in most categories, picking many of the same composers each time (John Williams may as well pencil the ceremony date in his diary every year – though not this one, I should say). However, this year, though not every nominee is a first-timer, I think they’ve picked a decent bunch.
Below are my thoughts on the nominees.
Composed by Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
This seems to be the favourite as it won at the SCL and Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards. I wouldn’t argue with it winning the Oscar, as I enjoy the soundtrack a lot. I’m a big jazz fan and Jon Batiste’s contributions to the score in this regard offer some very good, genuine jazz tunes (I say ‘genuine’ because a lot of jazz used in modern Hollywood films is watered down big-band stuff written by composers with little experience of the genre). This side of the score is countered by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ music which blends the ambient and ethereal with the experimental and playful. The combination makes for an original and fun listen. The soundtrack is an absolute joy, though it helps that it taps into my love of jazz and experimental electronica. There are some beautifully touching tracks in the last third too.
Da 5 Bloods
Composed by Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard’s Da 5 Bloods soundtrack has a Jerry Goldsmith feel, particularly his score for First Blood, which makes sense given the similar subject matter. There are some dull extended ‘samey’ passages that blend into one another but overall the score has a nice, classic 80s/90s Hollywood sound with haunting passages alongside rousing, militaristic touches, using horns and percussion. There’s a warmth to the sound too that reflects the brotherhood between the characters. It’s not my favourite soundtrack of the nominees, but it’s still a decent one.
Composed by Emile Mosseri
Emile Mosseri’s music to Minari is sweet, tender and gentle, like the film. There’s an otherworldly quality at times too with what sounds like a theremin playing in the background (actually created by a Korg synthesiser, according to an interview with Mosseri). There are some beautiful piano melodies too (I must find the sheet music!) It’s a simply gorgeous soundtrack. Lush but understated, with a hypnotic feel to its repeated patterns. There are some more upbeat tracks too, but these still have a dreamlike quality with their unusual instruments and semi-whispered vocals. Mosseri said he wanted the score to reflect the idea of the film being a dream-like memory of the past and it achieves this beautifully. This might well be my favourite score of the bunch and I’d be very happy if it won.
Composed by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Reznor and Ross again, this time working for regular collaborator David Fincher. Their score for Mank has the orchestration and sound of a Golden era Hollywood soundtrack as well as plenty of jazz and swing numbers, to fit the era. There are also a few subtle modern twists at times. There’s a dreamlike quality to moments of the soundtrack too, reflecting the flashback nature of much of the film. There are also nods to Bernard Herrmann’s Citizen Kane score throughout, for obvious reasons. It’s quite a departure from Reznor and Ross’ usual scores, but one that works like a charm. I think they’re more likely to win for Soul and I prefer that soundtrack myself, but I wouldn’t be entirely disappointed if they won for this instead.
News of the World
Composed by James Newton Howard
Veteran composer James Newton Howard’s score for News of the World is a more traditional score in comparison with the rest, though it’s nevertheless very beautifully composed and orchestrated. It’s relatively understated too, making good use of strings, which fits the intimate, human nature of the drama. It, as you might imagine, has a flavour of the west too, in its use of guitar and fiddle. There’s a fair sense of foreboding and melancholy throughout too, mirroring the dangers of the characters’ journey and sadness inherent in their pasts and futures. There are a couple of interesting action cues too, such as the train-like rhythm of Dime Mountain (as titled on the soundtrack album). Like the film, the soundtrack isn’t breaking new ground but it’s solid and effective. It’s unlikely to win but it’s still a decent score.
What will probably win – Soul
What I would prefer to win – Minari (though I like Soul a lot too)