In this exclusive Best of Craft video, IndieWire Editor-at-Large Anne Thompson, Crafts Editor Bill Desowitz, and Toolkit Editor Chris O’Falt gather to discuss the year’s best in film music — and the year’s contenders for Best Original Song and Best Original Score at the 2020 Academy Awards.
For Best Original Song, the music branch of the Academy often leans into pop stars in this category — perhaps wanting to see them perform the song on the Oscar stage — as well as hit songs from Disney animated musicals. And the shortlist of Best Original Song contenders is very much part of that tradition. Leading the shortlist of 15 songs are these major contenders, which scored both Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award nominations: Elton John’s original song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Dexter Fletcher’s bio-musical “Rocketman,” Beyoncé’s single “Spirit” from the “live-action” “The Lion King,” and the follow-up to Idina Menzel’s Oscar-winning “Let It Go” juggernaut, her “Frozen 2″ ballad “Into the Unknown,” also written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. That win is in the bag.
At the top of the Best Original Score shortlist of lauded composers vying for Oscars this year are the four who landed both Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe Best Score nominations. Challenging never-nominated frontrunner Hildur Guðnadóttir (“Joker”) are two-time Oscar winners Alexandre Desplat (“Little Women”) and Randy Newman (“Marriage Story”), who is dueling with his cousin Thomas Newman, long overdue with 14 nominations (World War I epic “1917”).
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Perhaps the favorite to beat is Icelandic cellist/composer Guðnadóttir’s unique experimental orchestral score for “Joker,” which tunes into the inner emotional struggles of the lead character, Arthur Fleck. The composer has been praised not only for inspiring Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, but recently took home an Emmy for her avant-garde score for HBO hit series “Chernobyl.” She would be the sixth woman to be nominated for Original Score (Rachel Portman has two nominations, one win), and the fourth to win.
While the Critics’ Choice Awards nominated Robbie Robertson’s score for “The Irishman,” it was deemed ineligible by the Academy, which also took out of the Oscar running — for not having enough original music — “Knives Out” and “The Two Popes.” (Par for the course, submission and credit issues plagued “A Hidden Life” and “Ad Astra.”)