Academy Awards Project: Best Original Score
When someone first starts to love film, they may notice the performances first. There is something about faces on a screen and voices being heard that greatly affects people. For many casual movie watchers, the next step is to go straight into the score: not the direction, not the editing, not the writing, but the score. The music of a film plunges deep down into your heart. Hearing a split second will bring back many memories, including the scene of which the specific track came from, where you viewed the film, and how it makes you feel. There will always be a certain knack as to how a score should be composed, but rule breaking is always nice, too. We have five titles that played it relatively safe, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be recognized (or that they aren't good). Here are the nominees for Best Original Score, ranked from worst to best.
Biggest Snub: Annihilation
An acoustic guitar peaks in and out between ambient murmuring. As the film slowly dissipates, so does the music's conventionality. By the end, we are facing a avant garde, electronic headspace. Things are familiar, but not overly. Annihilation loves go make statements when it comes to its score, but it loves working with the empty space even more.
5. Mary Poppins Returns-Marc Shaiman
You get what you pay for when it comes to the score for Mary Poppins Returns. The original songs are nicely connected by the score that lingers in between them. Its whimsical, uplifting, magical, and sweet. This is kind of expected anyways, and it may not have been here if the film wasn't doing so strongly. Still a solid score, with lots of imagination to boot.
4. Isle of Dogs-Alexandre Desplat
Alexandre Desplat has created quite a name for himself when it comes to his basic, music-box-esque scores. Isle of Dogs is another example in that particular portfolio. It compliments the quirky-yet-moving nature of the film very well. This is a corrupt world through the eyes of a child not willing to give up. This is a pack of dogs that have been abandoned being reintroduced to kindness. The score replicates these themes very well through its gentleness and its imagination.
3. Black Panther-Ludwig Goransson
This is typical super hero music. Nothing to see here.
Have the cinema purists left? Good. Let’s talk serious business. This score goes beyond most comic book scores, because it is not afraid to dive deeply into its cultural roots. Orchestral pits begin to function rhythmically once you toss in the beat of the world into it. This is a creative score that channels its source material’s themes so nicely. Once again (like everything Black Panther), this is an amalgamation of origin and the future.
2. BlacKkKlansman-Terence Blanchard
This score goes the extra mile because it is a very clever series of tributes. There is the pulse of blaxploitation films here, as well as the experimenting that Quincy Jones was pulling off with In the Heat of the Night (no coincidence that this is also a film about race politics). The twanging guitar in particular becomes a highlight that courses through the film as if we are watching a '70s procedural drama. Its nostalgic, yet refreshing.
1. If Beale Street Could Talk-Nicholas Britell
Not many scores were as memorable as this one. The muted trumpets, heavy piano chords, and all of the swirling instrumentation around them created an American jazz vortex. Every measure is different, and intriguing. You honestly feel like you are hearing these sounds coming from all of the open windows on the street, and they are hitting you at once blissfully. There is no contest here. If Beale Street Could Talk has the best score of the year.
Our Predicted Winner: This is currently one of the hardest categories to predict, because none of these films are destined to blow away any other category. For arguments sake, I'll guess that either If Beale Street Could Talk or Blackkklansman will win here, but it's really anyone's game.
Our Academy Awards Project is an ongoing series that will continue until all the categories have been ranked and reviewed. Tune in Monday to Saturday for a new category each day.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.