Awards season is officially upon us and we're counting down the days until the Oscars on 24th February 2019. Here are our tips for the Best Original Score contenders...
1. Black Panther – Ludwig Goransson
Multi-talented composer, instrumentalist and record producer Ludwig Goransson has a tendency to mix up his projects, from his collaborations with Childish Gambino (including this year's sensational 'This is America') to the rousing, Bill Conti-inspired strains of the recent Creed II.
However, it's his score for Black Panther that we're tipping for Oscars success. Rarely has a Marvel score sounded so distinctive, so alive with the colour of the landscape it accompanies, and that's all down to Goransson's month-long immersion in Senegalese culture.
Blending tribal instrumentation, the vocals of esteemed musician Baaba Maal and Xhosa click singing with the needs of a more traditional symphony orchestra, it's a rich tapestry of emotion. Of particular note is the trap/tribal mixture of villain Killmonger's theme, a piece that nails the tricky blend of emphasising streetwise grit while alluding to the character's claim to the Wakandan throne. If Goransson's previous collaborations with director Ryan Coogler were impressive, Black Panther takes it to the next level.
2. Isle of Dogs – Alexandre Desplat
French composer Alexandre Desplat is one of the brightest voices in modern day film scoring, having worked on a vast plethora of movies from Harry Potter to The King's Speech and Godzilla.
This year, he won his second Academy Award for his elegant music to Guillermo del Toro fantasy The Shape of Water – but it's the first win we're most interested in. The film in question was Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, a delightful confection of a movie that waltzed along to the nostalgic, quirky strains of Desplat's score that worked in Eastern European instrumentation like the balalaika and cimbalom.
This year's Isle of Dogs marked the latest collaboration between Anderson and Desplat, being the story of a group of feral canines stranded off the coast of a dystopian Japan. The previous collaborations between the two have accumulated critical acclaim and further Oscar attention (Desplat's score for 2009 animation Fantastic Mr. Fox was Oscar nominated), so Isle of Dogs would appear to stand a chance at the Best Original Score Oscar. Propelled by an idiosyncratic blend of thunderous taiko drums and jazzy woodwinds, Desplat's score is brilliantly imaginative and adds further layers of character to Anderson's vision.
3. Ready Player One – Alan Silvestri
Director Steven Spielberg birthed the popcorn blockbuster with 1975's Jaws, and the film also cemented his enduring partnership with composer John Williams. In the 40-odd years since, their collaboration has always tended towards the lushly symphonic sense of orchestral grandeur, and Spielberg is never backwards in coming forwards in prioritising Williams' compositions. (He even re-edited the final 15 minutes of E.T. around the score.)
Williams has won two Oscars when working with Spielberg and accumulated a huge number of nominations. However, when it came to this year's Spielberg epic, virtual reality adventure Ready Player One, Williams made way for Alan Silvestri, an inspired choice given the movie draws in part on the legacy of Back to the Future, which Silvestri scored back in 1985.
Silvestri's typically robust and heartfelt orchestrations are anchored by a nostalgic main theme that is pure eighties nostalgia piped into our ears. Given Spielberg's affinity for film music, not to mention the sheer level of prestige the scores for his films attain, we reckon Silvestri could be in with a shout.
4. Solo: A Star Wars Story – John Powell
If the Ready Player One score is nostalgic, the intricate tapestry fashioned by John Powell for Solo: A Star Wars Story is even moreso. Ron Howard's Han Solo origin story is part of a rich Star Wars heritage, and this of course extends to the music – John Williams' Oscar-winning music for 1977's A New Hope is widely credited with reviving interest in the Hollywood orchestral film score.
The Solo score is in fact a meeting point between two masters, Williams and John Powell. The former contributes the main theme for Solo himself, which is then incorporated into the remainder of the score by the latter, alongside a variety of other themes for Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).
Powell channels the energetic, flamboyant tone of his How to Train Your Dragon scores to both honour the spirit of Williams and fashion one of the most excitingly expansive blockbuster soundtracks in recent memory. While the film has its detractors, the score never puts a foot wrong.
5. Incredibles 2 – Michael Giacchino
It was 14 years ago that Michael Giacchino distilled the gung-ho bravado of superhero family the Incredibles into one jazzy package. The retro soundtrack was akin to John Barry's James Bond scores on acid, throwing subtlety to the wind and instead championing the sheer heroism of Mr. and Mrs. Incredible and their super-powered offspring.
When it was announced Giacchino would be returning this year for Incredibles 2, expectations were sky-high. After all, many of us had his 'Incredits' track on rotation in the last decade-and-a-half. Right from the outset of Incredibles 2, picking up from the end of the first movie as our heroes battle the Underminer, Giacchino's score resounds with the same tongue in cheek energy of old.
The composer is by now an in-house Pixar favourite, having landed his first Best Original Score Oscar for their 2009 classic Up. (He also scored Inside Out and Coco, landing Oscar noms for both.) He is therefore a frontrunner in this year's battle for greatest movie soundtrack.
6. BlacKkKlansman – Terence Blanchard
Director Spike Lee has always emphasised music in his films, going right the way back to Public Enemy's 'Fight the Power' in 1989's Do the Right Thing. One of the key collaborators throughout his career has been composer and jazz artist Terence Blanchard, stretching back to the days of 1991's Jungle Fever and 1992's Malcolm X.
Lee has always favoured the all-encompassing sound of a symphonic score in his movies. The classical traditions of such music play in powerful contrast to the street-level grittiness of the environments featured in his films. This approach works brilliantly in the director's triumphant comeback movie BlacKkKlansman, the true story of an African-American Colorado Springs police detective who worked with his partner to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.
While Lee approximates the look and feel of blaxploitation movies through the visuals and song placements, it's Blanchard's brooding, film noir-inflected score that informs us of the urgency of the situation. Playing in intriguing contrast to Lee's kinetic visual style, it helps ensure we've got characters to root for, and is arrestingly haunting.
7. First Man – Justin Hurwitz
There are many different ways to musically represent the depths of space. Stanley Kubrick used striking classical compositions from the likes of Strauss in his lauded 2001: A Space Odyssey, while the aforementioned John Williams announced the start of the Star Wars saga with a thrilling blaze of horns and trumpets.
Director Damien Chazelle's First Man, the story of how astronaut Neil Armstrong got to the moon, is a somewhat cerebral, introspective drama, and therefore requires a different music approach. The director reunites with composer Justin Hurwitz, multiple Oscar winner for musical La La Land, to build from stark electronics in the early sequences to full-blown orchestral majesty during the utterly captivating landing sequence in the climax.
It's a score that takes its cue from the emotional journey unfolding on Armstrong's (Ryan Gosling) face, an impressive dramatic work that ultimately stuns by virtue of how much it initially holds back. Given Chazelle and Hurwitz's past form at the Oscars, they've got a strong chance at triumphing again.
8. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – James Newton Howard
Composer James Newton Howard is a veteran of the fantasy realms, having composed swirling, enchanting soundscapes for the likes of Maleficent, Treasure Planet, The Hunger Games and many more. He was therefore an inspired choice to become the in-house composer for the Fantastic Beasts franchise, capable of swerving between quirky intimacy for Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and awe-inspiring orchestral grandeur to mirror the wider majesty of J.K. Rowling's vision.
His score for sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a formidably complex, beautiful and overwhelming expansion of his work on the first movie. Developing the themes we first heard in 2016 (including the one for the tentative romance between Newt and Tina Goldstein), and adding all-new ones (the heart-breaking one for Zoe Kravitz's Leta Lestrange stands out), there's a genuine sense of magic interwoven throughout.
Howard has past form at the Oscars, having been nominated eight times before, and the sheer complexity of the Grindelwald score deserves recognition.
9. Mary Poppins Returns – Marc Shaiman
Come on – it's Disney and Mary Poppins, so this has to be a shoo-in for the score Oscar, right? Rob Marshall's follow-up to Disney's 1964 masterpiece is said to be sticking very close to the original's blend of whimsy and moral lessons, and of course it's destined to follow in some formidable musical footsteps.
Composer Marc Shaiman is the person with the daunting task of following up beloved Sherman brothers numbers like 'Feed the Birds'. Early word is his beautiful, feather-light score weaves magically around a host of new numbers including the Lin-Manuel Miranda-performed 'Trip a Little Light Fantastic'.
Shaiman has received several Oscar nominations in the past, including one for his warmly enveloping score for The American President in 1995, so he has past form with the Academy. That said, he's never won before – will the weight of history plus the strength of the Disney brand steer him to success? Listen to a segment of his score in the following clip, which incorporates some classic melodies from the original movie.
What do you think will win the Best Original Score Oscar? Tweet us your suggestions @Cineworld.