The Oscars shortlist was revealed today outlining remaining contenders in nine categories including best original song and score.
Credit the music branch for offering a few surprises in its choices for the year’s best song, including no fewer than five from Disney movies and three from documentaries.
The 300-member music branch chose 15 songs from 75 entered this year, and 15 scores from an eligibility list of 170. Both lists will be whittled down to five each when voting for the nominations begins Jan. 2. Nominees will be announced Jan. 13.
The biggest surprise may be the omission of “Beautiful Ghosts,” the much-talked-about collaboration between Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber and the only new song in “Cats,” which opens this week. Few Academy members have seen the Tom Hooper film.
Elton John made it onto the song list twice: once with lyricist Bernie Taupin for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman,” and once with Tim Rice for “Never Too Late,” the end title song from “The Lion King.” John has publicly distanced himself from the “Lion King” remake, so the inclusion of the latter raised eyebrows.
“The Lion King” is the only film with two songs on the list. Beyoncé’s “Spirit,” also from that film, made the cut. Other major pop figures represented include Pharrell Williams, whose “Letter to My Godfather” accompanied the end titles of “The Black Godfather”; and Thom Yorke, whose “Daily Battles” is heard in Edward Norton’s period drama “Motherless Brooklyn.”
The Williams song is one of three from documentaries to make the list. Another was the Charles Fox-Paul Williams song “Da Bronx,” sung on-camera during the opening of “The Bronx USA.” Williams, the president of ASCAP, won an Oscar in 1976 for “Evergreen” but hasn’t been nominated since 1979; Fox, the veteran songwriter (“Killing Me Softly”) hasn’t been on Oscar’s list since 1978.
Kathryn Bostic’s song “High Above the Water,” from the documentary “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” was another longshot. Similarly, the song “A Glass of Soju,” from the foreign-language hit “Parasite” by Jung Jae-il, was included.
The remaining songs from Disney movies were expected: “Into the Unknown” from the current box-office hit “Frozen II,” by two-time Oscar winners Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez; “Speechless” from the “Aladdin” remake, by eight-time winner Alan Menken and “La La Land” winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul; and two-time winner Randy Newman’s “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself” from “Toy Story 4.” The other animated film to pop up was “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” for its amusingly titled “Catchy Song.”
Ten-time nominee Diane Warren made the cut for her song “I’m Standing With You” despite the obscurity of its film, “Breakthrough.” The similarly obscure “Wild Rose” managed to sneak in with its song “Glasgow,” co-written by actress Mary Steenburgen. “Harriet” star Cynthia Erivo also co-wrote the song “Stand Up” from that film, and it too made the cut.
Among the original score pre-nominees, the surprise omission was John Powell’s score for “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” which film music critics widely praised as his among his best work. The surprise inclusion was Alex Weston’s score for “The Farewell,” the much-praised Lulu Wang film starring Awkwafina.
Five-time Oscar winner John Williams’ ninth score in the “Star Wars” series, “The Rise of Skywalker,” did make the list even though almost no one has yet seen it. The premiere is tonight and the press will screen it tomorrow.
Cousins Randy Newman and Thomas Newman were singled out, as expected, Randy for “Marriage Story” and 14-time nominee Thomas for the war film “1917.” Two comic-book movies also made the cut: “Avengers: Endgame” by Alan Silvestri and “Joker” by Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir.
Christophe Beck’s score for “Frozen II” was something of an unexpected inclusion because the music branch generally shies away from dramatic scores in song-filled animation movies. Theodore Shapiro’s music for “Bombshell” made the cut, as did Oscar winner Michael Giacchino’s score for “Jojo Rabbit” and two-time winner Alexandre Desplat’s music for “Little Women.”
Previous nominees on the list include Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders for “Ford v Ferrari,” Nicholas Britell for “The King” and Alberto Iglesias for “Pain and Glory.” Respected composers Daniel Pemberton and Michael Abels, neither of whom have yet been Oscar nominated, made the cut with “Motherless Brooklyn” and “Us,” respectively.
As previously reported by Variety, six major scores (including “Captain Marvel,” “The Irishman,” “A Hidden Life,” “Knives Out,” “The Two Popes” and “Ad Astra”) were either disqualified or not submitted to the Academy, and one song (Regina Spektor’s “One Little Soldier” from “Bombshell”) failed to be submitted in time for Oscar deadlines.