Tuesday, January 31, 2023

2022’s Strongest Best Original Score Contenders

A film with an impactful score lifts its audiences into the universes being created. Audience goers and artists alike will hum a special tune to themselves after hearing an infectious piece of score. With the Oscar shortlists recently announced, the race for Best Original Score is heating up.

This year’s field is filled with major Oscar winners, along with a few previous nominees. Dwindling the list down to five with all these incredible names will certainly challenge Academy voters. This year, most of the speculated nominees also come from films expected to be nominated for Best Picture. Looking at last year, last year’s Best Original Score winner Hans Zimmer for “Dune,” along with “Don’t Look Up” and “The Power of The Dog,” were nominated for both Best Picture and Best Original Score.

With the release of the Oscar Shortlist, fifteen film scores have been highlighted for their exciting work this season. This is the first step towards discovering the final nominees after the music branch votes, which will dwindle this list down to five. Here are those 15 shortlisted films:

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
The Banshees of Inisherin
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Devotion
Don’t Worry Darling
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Nope
She Said
The Woman King
Women Talking

From these fifteen names, I will discuss the five that are receiving the most attention so far during the precursors, making them our likely final five Oscar nominees. Along with those five films, I will list another two films that are alternatives and could receive enough love from voters to sneak into the final nominees. Some notable snubs included “The Batman” score by Michael Giacchino, which many people speculated would at least make the shortlist along with M. M. Keeravani’s work on “RRR” and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ work on “Empire Of Light” or “Bones And All.” With huge names like the masterful John Williams and recent winner Hildur Guonadottir included in this year’s Oscar race, it should be exciting to see who finds their way into one of the final five slots. Let’s talk about them then, shall we?

Babylon – Justin Hurwitz
Justin Hurwitz returns with his score for the controversial and divisive film, “Babylon.” This marks his fourth collaboration with director Damien Chazelle. Hurwitz previously took home the Oscar for Best Original Score and Original Song for his work on “La La Land” in 2016. This would be his first nomination since then. His latest work fully embraces his admiration for big bands and jazz music, creating an intoxicating feeling that gives the over three-hour-long film a rhythmic pulse. The praise for Hurwitz’s work has already been piling in, and many consider his score to be a lock for an Oscar nomination. However, we all felt confident about him getting in for “First Man” in 2018, too, and that didn’t exactly pan out.

Women Talking – Hildur Guonadottir
Hildur Guonadottir is a recent Oscar winner who has made waves with her latest score for “Women Talking.” She was the first woman to win Best Original Score since 1997 for her work on “Joker” in 2019. She has had a busy year also composing the score for “Tár,” which was deemed ineligible by the Academy earlier this month. She has already been receiving many nominations and praise for her work and will most likely make it into the final five. This would be her second nomination in the category, and we expect many more to come in the years ahead.

The Fabelmans – John Williams
John Williams, the legend himself, is back in the Oscar conversation yet again. “The Fabelmans” marks his 29th collaboration with director Steven Spielberg spanning 50 years, and is their final work together. Williams is a five-time winner and, if nominated, would add to his record for the most nominations for Best Original Score from 52 to 53. Many consider “The Fabelmans” to be Spielberg’s most personal work to date, and Williams’ delicate orchestrations accentuate this. In an iconic career with so many masterful and memorable film scores, Williams has established he is one of the best ever to do it, maybe even the best, and many would be shocked to see his name left off the nomination list this year.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio – Alexandre Desplat
Alexandre Desplat is receiving lots of praise for his latest work on “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.” Desplat is a two-time Oscar winner for his scores in del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” and Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” His latest collaboration with de Toro will likely bring Desplat back to the Oscars with another nomination for one of his most beautiful scores, which puts an Italian spin on the classic fairytale story. This will be an impressive 12th nomination for Desplat if he makes the cut.

The Banshees Of Inisherin – Carter Burwell
Carter Burwell has been collecting precursor nominations for his work on Martin McDonagh’s highly regarded “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Burwell has received two Oscar nominations previously for his work on “Carol” and McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” This fifth spot will be highly competitive, but Burwell has been a consistent early presence with the precursors, and with the film solidifying itself as a top-three Best Picture contender, it stands a good chance of bringing him along with it.

Despite these final five predictions, it is important to mention another composer who could land a nomination. Oscar nominee Terence Blanchard received his previous two nominations for Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” and (more shockingly) “Da 5 Bloods.” His latest work on Gina Prince-Bythewood’s epic “The Woman King” could very well earn him a spot since he seems to have been established as being a part of the club now, and many of the early precursors are bouncing back and forth between him and Burwell. The fifth and final spot will likely be going to one of the two in what should be an exciting Oscar race!

Finally, I would also like to highlight Son Lux with their magical score for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Composed of members Ryan Lott, Rafiq Bhatia, and Ian Chang, their score has made it onto the shortlist, and I sincerely hope it gets nominated despite them not receiving many nominations on the circuit. Considering how well “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has been doing lately, I wouldn’t rule it out as an outside possibility.

I believe these five scores have the best chance of receiving an Oscar nomination, along with two alternatives. With all of the names listed being previous winners or nominees (except for Son Lux), it will be a tough battle to see who takes the Oscar. But no matter who wins the Oscar for Best Original Score, we can all take comfort in knowing we’ll have some great new tunes to hum and listen to for many years.

What do you think will be nominated for Best Original Score at the 95th Academy Awards? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Twitter account and check out the Next Best Picture team’s latest Oscar predictions here.

You can follow Jordan and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @Jordan_Hudec

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