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10 March 2023, 17:28 | Updated: 12 March 2023, 13:51
Here are the next-level nominations for Best Original Score at this year’s Oscars. Lights down, popcorn at the ready, let’s celebrate the music that transports us into the world of big screen stories...
On 24 January 2023, the highly anticipated list of Oscar nominees was released into the world just under two months ahead of the upcoming 95th Academy Awards.
In the category of Best Original Score, five films were chosen as potential winners of the top prize, and the composer behind one of these soundtracks will take home the coveted statuette this Sunday 12 March.
The five movies nominated are The Fabelmans, The Banshees of Inisherin, Everything, Everywhere All At Once, Babylon and All Quiet on the Western Front.
The Fabelmans composer, John Williams, is up for his 53rd Oscar nomination, while this is the first major Academy Award nomination for the rock band behind Everything, Everywhere All At Once, Son Lux.
There’s something for everyone in this line-up of films, and critics have been subsequently reluctant to name a favourite among the assorted scores.
Thrillingly, this means it’s anyone’s game come Sunday night – but if you can’t wait until then, why not join Classic FM’s new presenter, Jonathan Ross, as he celebrates the music of the Oscars this Saturday.
Read more: Which film scores have won at the Oscars over the last 50 years?
Williams broke records when The Fabelmans was announced as a nominee for Best Original Score, as the 91-year-old composer became the oldest person ever to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award.
Directed by his good friend and long-term creative partner Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans is also up for six other award categories at the 95th Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The Fabelmans is dedicated to the memories of Spielberg’s parents, who Williams knew well. Upon hearing the music for the film for the first time Spielberg said, “[John] wrote this score as a gift to them and, when he first previewed it for me on his Steinway, I knew he had made this his most personal gift to me as well”.
Despite not being Spielberg ourselves, the personal nature of the soundtrack is impossible to ignore. The heart-on-your-sleeve solo piano featured throughout the score is brimming with nostalgia and a tribute to Spielberg’s mother Leah Adler, who was a concert pianist herself.
Alongside Williams’ piano heavy score, the soundtrack also features familiar classical music works from Beethoven, Satie, Haydn, Bach and more.
Read more: What classical music is in Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’, and does Michelle Williams really play the piano?
Set on a fictional island off the coast of Ireland during the end of the civil war in 1923, the film tells the tale of a feud between two friends, Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson).
Instead of the traditional Irish folk music one might expect to accompany a film like this, Burwell instead takes an original path. “Everything else is very Irish. The accents, the clothes, the situation, the pub,” Burwell told TheWrap magazine in an interview last year.
He added that the director, Martin McDonagh, “wasn’t clear with me what he wanted to do, but it’s clear that what he didn’t want it to do was for the music to leave you in Ireland. He wanted it to take you someplace else.”
Instead the composer uses instruments like celesta, harp, marimba, glockenspiel, and low gongs, to give the score an otherworldly feeling.
In the film, Colm’s knack for playing the fiddle and composition is a central plot point, and the audience often watches him play in either his house, or the local pub. Gleeson, in real life, is also a fiddle and mandolin player with a love for traditional Irish music. The actor is actually responsible for the titular main theme, The Banshees of Inisherin.
Read more: The 50 best film scores of all time
Everything, Everywhere All At Once, a sci-fi action film about an ageing, Chinese immigrant recruited to save the Multiverse, is also up for Best Picture, like every other film on this list except Babylon.
The soundtrack comes from American experimental band Son Lux, who are in starry company here, with every other composer on this list having received an Oscar or Oscar nomination before.
Their score is a sonic whirlwind, featuring a raccoon voiced by Toy Story composer Randy Newman, a flute-playing André 3000 and a stunning reimagining of Debussy’s ‘Clair de lune’ (listen below).
In a statement about their work on the project, Son Lux said: “Even though we knew from the moment Daniels asked us to score this film that it would push us in new and unexpected directions, we couldn’t have predicted how much we’d learn from the project.
“What emerged was our most ambitious undertaking to date, over two years in the making, resulting in two hours of new music. It was an opportunity for us to play, to infuse humour into our work, and to experiment from and beyond our various musical backgrounds.”
If you recognise the name Justin Hurwitz it could be for his work on the film responsible for his previous Oscar win, La La Land, a collaboration with director Damien Chazelle with whom he reunites on this 1920s set, golden-age of Hollywood era romp.
Babylon, starring Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt, centres on the importance of music in the production of silent movies. And for fans familiar with La La Land, and Hurwitz and Chazelle’s 2014 work, Whiplash, the composer’s jazz-inspired score for Babylon should come as no surprise.
Inspired by the sounds and instrumentation of the 1920s, but with hints of electro-dance-pop and rock and roll, the score is a melting pot of raucous refrains stylistically suited for the colourful chaos unravelling on screen.
In one of the starring roles is Jovan Adepo who plays trumpeter Sidney Palmer. Prior to the film, Adepo didn’t play the trumpet so learned how to in just a few months.
Alongside Adepo’s on-screen playing, Hurwitz sourced three trumpet players to record emotive brass solo lines for the soundtrack, and enlisted the help of social media sax sensation, Leo Pellegrino to record his own wild improvisations throughout the score.
All Quiet On The Western Front, the German anti-war epic based on Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel, might feature a rather wonderful Bach cantata, but the rest of the soundtrack turns to a more unsettling sound.
“So I wanted to find music to express this kind of longing,” he told TheWrap magazine. “Every now and then there was light shining through the trees, and that could help you to accept the length of the torture, in a way. And that’s what I helped with, I think, with the music as well.”
Ahead of composing his original soundtrack, German pianist Volker Bertelmann was given a specific instruction by director Edward Berger: not to write a ‘normal score’.
Bertelmann tracked down instruments that would depict the devastating sound of war, first refurbishing an old harmonium, a keyboard instrument similar to an organ, which was once owned by his great-grandmother.
When thinking about military sounds, Bertelmann added, “Of course we talked about snare drums. But we wanted to find something that is not like this rolling snare in a marching band. We wanted the sound of a bullet shot or something disturbing.”