As usual, several of Hollywood’s top composers offer multiple contenders for Best Original Score, among them usual suspects Hans Zimmer and Michael Giacchino. Zimmer’s experimental score for action spectacular “Dunkirk” was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s pocket watch, and an improvised piano riff was the spine for Denis Villeneuve’s dystopian epic “Blade Runner 2049.”
That score was composed in collaboration with his credited protege Benjamin Wallfisch, who also worked on “Dunkirk” along with Lorne Balfe, but only two could be submitted to the Academy, so Zimmer filed alone. Wallfisch also composed “It.”
The creative collaboration between Zimmer and Wallfisch on “Blade Runner 2049” was co-equal (following the departure of Jóhann Jóhannsson because of “creative differences” with Villeneuve). After Zimmer created a haunting theme (which became “The Mesa”), the composers then delivered a 15-minute suite that formed the basis of the score, which, through refinement, blended into the soundscape provided by sound designer Theo Green.
Ever since Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” 49-year-old composer Michael Giacchino has moved freely between animation, sci-fi, and superhero movies, winning the Oscar for Pixar’s “Up.” Music was integral to “Coco” as Lee Unkrich’s love letter to Mexico and Día de los Muertos. Giacchino reached back to his own childhood memories of Mexican music, organizing the animated film around his own flavorful score, traditional source music (popular songs indigenous to the region), and original songs (including the signature ballad, “Remember Me,” by “Frozen” Oscar winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez).
Giacchino experimented with two very different scores for Matt Reeves’ haunting and melancholic “War for the Planet of the Apes” and Jon Watts’ recharged Marvel entry, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” using unorthodox orchestration and instrumentation.
For veteran French composer Alexandre Desplat, Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” provided a rare romantic love story to score, as everything becomes an aquatic metaphor. The composer found a haunting melody that plays like waves, orchestrated in a way that evokes the sensation of being underwater, starting with the opening scene that introduces serenely floating dreamer Eliza (Sally Hawkins).
Three-time Oscar nominee Philip Glass (“Notes on a Scandal,” “The Hours,” and “Kundun”) is also in the running with Brett Morgen’s documentary “Jane,” which would mark the first documentary score to be nominated for the Oscar.
Finally, after being left out for “There Will Be Blood” (deemed Oscar ineligible) and “The Master,” Jonny Greenwood could land his first Oscar nomination, for his score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s music-laden “Phantom Thread.”
This time the scores left out for not having enough original music was “Call Me By Your Name” and “I, Tonya” were also disqualified from Best Original Score as well.
The Oscar contenders are listed in alphabetical order. No film will be deemed a frontrunner unless we have seen it.
Carter Burwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”)
Alexandre Desplat (“The Shape of Water”)
Jonny Greenwood (“Phantom Thread”)
Dario Marianelli (“Darkest Hour”)
Hans Zimmer (“Dunkirk”)
Michael Giacchino (“Coco”)
Michael Giacchino (“War for the Planet of the Apes”)
Philip Glass (“Jane”)
John Williams (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”)
John Williams (“The Post”)
Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch (“Blade Runner 2049”)