×

Complete Guide to This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Scores

Unlike the song category, it’s impossible to predict the winner from this year’s quintet of original-score nominees. It’s almost anyone’s game.

Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson spent a month in Africa recording unusual drums, flutes and vocals, then adding them to a massive London orchestra and choir to create a unique soundscape for the fictional land of Wakanda in “Black Panther” — the first Marvel movie to land a score nomination.

Terence Blanchard, like Göransson, is a first-time nominee for “BlacKkKlansman” — amazingly, as he has been Spike Lee’s house composer since 1991, doing acclaimed work on films like “Malcolm X” and “Inside Man.” He’s also the first African-American composer to be nominated in this category since Herbie Hancock won 32 years ago for “Round Midnight.”

Nicholas Britell, previously nominated for 2016’s “Moonlight,” reunited with director Barry Jenkins for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” from James Baldwin’s story of racial injustice. His more intimate music, mostly for strings and brass, stands in sharp contrast to the bigger, more traditionally orchestral scores in this group.

French composer Alexandre Desplat, who has won twice in the last four years (“The Grand Budapest Hotel” and last year’s “The Shape of Water”), is nominated for the animated “Isle of Dogs,” his fourth film for “Budapest” director Wes Anderson. But will Academy voters reward him a third time in five years? Only Alan Menken has accomplished that, and that was back in the days of the classic Disney musicals.

Speaking of Disney musicals, what of “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman? If “Shallow” wins best song, could this be the place where Academy voters honor the long-awaited sequel to one of the studio’s most famous films? Shaiman has been nominated five times before this year without a win (he’s also up for Best Song with “The Place Where Lost Things Go”). And if he wins — having already received an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony — he becomes one of only a handful of EGOT honorees.

 

Black Panther

Ludwig Göransson

Oscar record: First nomination

Musical style: African sounds, rhythms plus big orchestra

Composer’s POV: “I came back from Africa with a totally different idea of music. This music was so unique and special, so the challenge became, how do I have that as the foundation of the entire score, but infuse it with an orchestra and modern production in a way that it didn’t lose its African authenticity?”

Surprising fact: Famed Senegalese musician Baaba Maal and members of his band perform on the score.

 

——

 

BlacKkKlansman

Terence Blanchard

Oscar record: First nomination

Musical style: Blanchard’s ’70s style “electric band” plus orchestra

Composer’s POV: “I started thinking about Jimi Hendrix playing the National Anthem. That was the most American thing I could think of — the rebellious nature of it, the classic melodic thing we all stand for and have all come to revere, but done his way.”

Surprising fact: Blanchard started playing trumpet on Spike Lee scores in ’89, began composing them in ’91

 

———

 

If Beale Street Could Talk

Nicholas Britell

Oscar record: Second nomination

Musical style: Chamber-style score for strings and brass

Composer’s POV: “It’s mostly cellos and basses. To us, that felt like love. The film focuses on romantic love, parents’ love for their children, an almost idealized kind of love at times. The strings represented love, and the brass elements represented extremes of emotion.”

Surprising fact: Britell also scored another multiple Oscar nominee: “Vice”

 

———

 

Isle of Dogs

Alexandre Desplat

Oscar record: Two wins, seven other noms

Musical style: Strange ensemble of taiko drums, saxophones, male choir

Composer’s POV: “The taikos drive us along, like a long, tedious, difficult march that these dogs have to walk, from one point to another on the island, to find the lost dog.”

Surprising fact: Desplat’s fourth unconventional score for a Wes Anderson movie

 

————-

 

Mary Poppins Returns

Marc Shaiman

Oscar record: Five previous noms (also nom’d this year for song)

Musical style: Classically, nostalgically symphonic

Composer’s POV: “The little boy in me had this fantasy, this dream, to somehow become part of the ‘Mary Poppins’ story. The weeks of scoring this movie were the greatest weeks of my life.”

Surprising fact: Shaiman recorded an early version of the score for director Rob Marshall to play on the set; it all ended up in the movie

More Film

  • San-Sebastian

    San Sebastian, Zurich to Take Up SXSW, Tribeca Titles at Newly Created Film Markets

    The San Sebastian and Zurich film festivals have teamed to launch new film markets that will cater to the gaps created by the cancellation of SXSW and the postponement of Tribeca due to the coronavirus pandemic. The programming of both fall festivals will feature titles originally scheduled for spring fests SXSW and Tribeca. The markets [...]

  • Coronavirus Placeholder COVID19 Variety

    Japan's Toei Closes Tokyo Studio After Coronavirus Infection

    Toei closed its Tokyo studio Tuesday after actor Reo Komiya was diagnosed with the coronavirus. The star of the “Mashin Sentai Kiramager,” a sci-fi/action show broadcast on the TV Asahi network, seventeen-year-old Komiya tested positive for the virus while shooting new episodes at the studio. His condition is not known at the present time. A [...]

  • Aqute Media Takes North America on

    Aqute Media Takes North America on Helen Reddy Biopic 'I Am Woman'

    London-based sales agent WestEnd Films has closed a North American deal with Jeff Sackman and Berry Meyerowitz’s company Aqute Media for “I Am Woman,” the biopic about Australian singer Helen Reddy. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival as the opening film of the Special Presentations section. The film also recently [...]

  • Sundance Film Festival Placeholder

    Sheffield Doc/Fest Rejigs With Fall Programming, Virtual Forums in Lieu of Festival

    The Sheffield Doc/Fest pitching forums, MeetMarket and Alternate Realities Talent Market are to take place virtually in June, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The rest of the June festival is being replaced by a series of programs that will take place on weekends through the fall. The planned programming will include film screenings, talks, panels, [...]

  • Southland Tales

    Streamer Mubi Partners With Prada Foundation on 'Perfect Failures' Film Series

    Specialist streaming service Mubi has teamed up with fashion label Prada’s Fondazione Prada foundation on “Perfect Failures,” a curated selection of movies deemed to have been “widely misunderstood” upon their release. The joint project will launch on both the Mubi platform and the Fondazione Prada’s website on April 5 with U.S. director Richard Kelly’s 2006 flop [...]

  • Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) in

    'Morbius,' 'Ghostbusters' Sequel and More Sony Movies Pushed Back to 2021

    Sony Pictures has pushed back many of its major tentpoles — including “Morbius,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Uncharted” and “Peter Rabbit 2” — to next year, the studio announced on Monday. Jason Reitman’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” has moved from July 10, 2020, to March 5, 2021; Jared Leto’s “Morbius” has been pushed back from July 31, 2020, to [...]

  • Anne Hathaway to Star in 'French

    Film News Roundup: Anne Hathaway Stars in 'French Children Don't Throw Food'

    In today’s film news roundup, Anne Hathaway will portray an American journalist in Paris, blockbuster director Michael Bay signs with Sony Pictures, and “Extra Ordinary” and “The Etruscan Smile” are added to arthouse streaming services. CASTING Anne Hathaway is starring in the movie “French Children Don’t Throw Food,” based on Pamela Druckerman’s autobiographical book, “Bringing [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content