×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscars’ Music Shortlist: 7 Song and Score Surprises

For many years, Oscar “shortlists” narrowed down the choices in a preliminary round that would eventually lead to the five nominees for original song and score. Academy executives discontinued that practice after the 1979 awards, but have brought it back for the 2018 honors.

It was problematic then and it remains so now. Not everyone agrees that the shortlist concept is a good idea, primarily because it forces music-branch members to see and evaluate dozens of films before the first round of voting in early December. Previously, they had until early January to wade through all those “for your consideration” screeners and CDs.

In May, Academy executives insisted that the shortlist “gives smaller or lesser-known films a better chance to be nominated.” Speculation at the time focused on music from films released in the first half of the year, which have often been ignored in favor of end-of-year releases, generally deemed more “important.”

There are 311 active voting members in the music branch — composers, songwriters and music editors — but the evidence suggests that fewer than 100 actually participated in the first-round voting. Academy executives don’t release actual statistics.

Some surprises from the 15-score and 15-song Oscar music shortlists:

The Absence of Women Composers
Sixteen of the 156 qualified scores were  by women. That’s better than 10 percent, probably the highest number in years, yet none were shortlisted at a time when “diversity” is on everyone’s minds. Where were Jocelyn Pook’s “The Wife,” Anna Meredith’s “Eighth Grade,” Germaine Franco’s “Tag” or Miriam Cutler’s “RBG”?

Annie Lennox’s “Private War” Is M.I.A.
Oscar voters inexplicably passed over Lennox’s first new song in eight years, “Requiem From a Private War,”  a memorial to slain journalist Marie Colvin as powerfully played by Rosamund Pike in “A Private War.”

Box-Office Dud Makes Good
The score to “Annihilation” was perhaps the biggest surprise of the score shortlist. A sci-fi-horror film starring Natalie Portman, it was only in theaters for eight weeks and earned low marks in moviegoers’ surveys. Yet its mostly atonal combination of synthesizers, acoustic guitar and eerie voices created by Ben Salisbury (of BBC documentaries) and Geoff Barrow (of trip-hop trio Portishead) clearly impressed voters.

Arlissa Over Kesha
“The Hate U Give” and “On the Basis of Sex” are powerful films about needed change in America: the former, a ripped-from-the-headlines story about a white cop who kills an unarmed black youth; the latter, about crusading lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s landmark sex-discrimination case before the Supreme Court. Kesha’s “Here Comes the Change” from “On the Basis of Sex” missed the cut, but British newcomer Arlissa made the list with her “We Won’t Move” from “The Hate U Give.”

Alan Silvestri and James Newton Howard Return
Two popular, respected composers, neither of whom has been nominated for years (Silvestri’s last was in 2004; Howard’s in 2008), were recognized for work in very commercial enterprises: Silvestri for the Marvel movie “Avengers: Infinity War” and Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One,” and Howard for the Harry Potter prequel “Fantastic Beasts 2,” none of which were heavily promoted by their studios.

Music Movies’ Moving Target
Multiple songs from the same film can be submitted, although only two can be nominated. Disney chose to submit a pair from “Mary Poppins Returns” (“The Place Where Lost Things Go” and “Trip a Little Light Fantastic”), both of which made the shortlist. But Warner Bros., in a tactical move, submitted only “Shallow” and not the other likely Lady Gaga contender, “I’ll Never Love Again.”

British Buzz
“The Death of Stalin,” Armando Iannucci’s political satire, was little seen, but British composer Christopher Willis’ uncanny replication of 1950s-era Soviet classical music has been the talk of the film-composer community for months. At the same time, neither British classical composers Max Richter, who supplied acclaimed scores for both “Mary Queen of Scots” and the German film “Never Look Away,” nor Thomas Ades, who composed his first feature-film score for Keira Knightley in “Colette,” were acknowledged on the score list.

More Film

  • Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at DuArt

    Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at New York's DuArt Film Labs, Dies at 88

    Robert Smith, a longtime executive with New York’s DuArt Film Labs, died Jan. 11 in Montvale, N.J. He was 88. Smith spent some 62 years with DuArt, the film processing and post-production facility founded in 1922 in the penthouse of an automobile garage in Midtown. Smith rose to president of DuArt before retiring in 2015. [...]

  • Bird Box

    Los Angeles On-Location Feature Filming Surges 12.2% in 2018

    On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles expanded impressively in 2018, gaining 12.2% to 4,377 shooting days, according to FilmL.A. Production activity for feature films rose 15.5% to 1,078 shooting days during the fourth quarter, with 146 days coming from projects receiving California tax credits — including Netflix’s “Bird Box,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a [...]

  • 'Ghostbusters': First Look at Jason Reitman's

    Watch the First Teaser for Jason Reitman's 'Ghostbusters' Sequel

    If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, it’s time to watch a teaser for Jason Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” forthcoming film. Sony Pictures released a first look at the upcoming movie, a sequel to the 1984 classic. The footage shows a glimpse of the memorable station wagon Ecto-1. The studio announced on Tuesday that the wheels are [...]

  • Anne Hathaway

    Anne Hathaway to Star in Robert Zemeckis' 'The Witches' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anne Hathaway has closed a deal to star as the Grand High Witch in Robert Zemeckis and Warner Bros.’ “The Witches” adaptation. Variety first reported that Hathaway was holding the offer for both that and “Sesame Street,” and at the time, scheduling for both films were holding up dealmaking. With those issues settled, Hathaway is [...]

  • Film Ratings Overhauled in the U.K.,

    Film Ratings Overhauled in the U.K. With Tougher Restrictions on Sexual Content

    The body that oversees film ratings in the U.K. is tightening its age restrictions and giving movies with certain types of sexual content older age ratings. The British Board of Film Classification said the changes were in response to public demand after a consultation that took in the views of over 10,000 people in the [...]

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame

    'Hunchback of Notre Dame' Live-Action Reboot in the Works at Disney

    Disney is in early development on a live-action “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” movie, based on Disney’s animated film and Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “Notre-Dame de Paris.” Playwright David Henry Hwang is attached to write the script, with Mandeville Films and Josh Gad set to produce. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz will pen the music. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content