I am not the type of person who remembers a film’s score long after I’ve left the theater. I kind of just let the score wash over me in the moment, and then it slowly escapes from my mind after I have written my review. Perhaps, then, I am no authority on the Best Original Score category. However, this year’s race has a pretty clear divide from which we can delineate frontrunners.
- Alexandre Desplat – Little Women
- Hildur Guonadottir – Joker
- Randy Newman – Marriage Story
- Thomas Newman – 1917
- John Williams – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Will Win: Joker
Could Win: 1917
Dark Horse: Little Women
I think Desplat’s score for Little Women is quite stunning. In a different year, I could see it being a frontrunner. As Little Women is currently in danger of getting completely shut out by the Academy, this may prove to be simply another casualty. But it has an outside chance.
The true race, though, is between Guonadottir and Newman (Thomas, that is). The score for 1917 is certainly in the fore, bombastic and triumphant in spurts. Enough so that the Academy is likely to remember it. But Guonadottir’s score for Joker has received the most accolades this awards season, and it is another omnipresent score which the Academy certainly likes.
The biggest thing working in Thomas Newman’s favor, however, is that he is a 15-time nominee with no wins. Guonadottir, on the other hand, is entering the ceremony with this being her first nomination. I don’t know if veteran status is a major factor in this category, and we know from history that sometimes multi-nominees get stuck in the rut of losing out year after year. But it could play a role, in that Newman is a familiar name on the ballot.
As for the other two, John Williams is in here almost obligatorily. The Star Wars score nomination is an odd duck, as it continues to happen even though no one ever expects it to win for reformulating the same themes and melodies again. And Randy Newman’s score for Marriage Story is good, but it is not as foregrounded as the three top contenders. I think the Academy generally does not favor scores with a lighter touch. Perhaps this is because they share my inability to recall scores months after a film has been released, which is another reason why 1917 might pull an upset on Joker, as it is the most recent release of the five.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)