FACT weighs in on 2018’s Oscar nominations for best original score and adds some suggestions to the pile.
This year’s Oscar nominations for best original score aren’t bad, by any means. Jonny Greenwood leads the charge with his magical score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s excellent The Phantom Thread, accompanying Alexandre Desplat, who scored Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water and Carter Burwell, who provided the soundtrack to Martin McDonagh’s acclaimed Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
But does John Williams, the most Oscar nominated living person in history, really need another nod for Star Wars: The Last Jedi? And while the Dunkirk score was undoubtedly one of his best, does Hans Zimmer honestly need the encouragement? Will we now have to expect a decade of Dunkirk soundalike scores?
FACT has put together a handful of alternate suggestions – from Oneohtrix Point Never’s eerie Good Time score to ex-Devo man Mark Mothersbaugh’s neon accompaniment to the better-than-it-should-have-been Thor: Ragnarok.
Dawson City: Frozen Time
Sigur Ros producer Alex Somers crafted the perfect accompaniment to Dawson City’s hypnotic saga of previously lost silent-era film footage. His crumbling, William Basinski-inspired guitar work may have proven too subtle for the Academy, but things worked out in another way. His acclaimed new score for Hang The DJ, an episode from the recently-aired fourth season of Black Mirror, has Somers entering 2018 as one of the most talked about new film composers. MB
Daniel Lopatin’s Good Time score sounds like adrenaline, there’s no other way to put it. Just as well though, really – the acclaimed indie is a street thriller that doesn’t pause for breath once across its lean 90 minute run-time, as an almost unrecognizable Robert Pattinson attempts to break out his brother, who has a learning disability, from Rikers Island after a robbery-gone-wrong. Synths purr and menacing echoes ring out as OPN weaves his inimitable magic. It should have had an Oscar nod – if only so the Warp man could perform at the ceremony and I could spend the rest of 2018 making GIFs out of Meryl Streep and co’s confused reactions. AH
Former Dirty Projectors’ drummer Brian McOmber’s dense, nail-biting soundscapes for It Comes At Night – where scraping strings, synths and heavy bass drums collide – not only bolster the film’s post-apocalyptic subject-matter but display a deeply symbiotic relationship to the narrative. McOmber’s committed working practice involves him spending quality time with a director to understand their vision. “What do they mean,” he noted in a 2016 interview, “when they say that they want something to be ‘emotional’?” Jordan Peele’s gory Get Out bagged four Oscar nominations this year so the Academy’s anti-horror tide is indeed turning. A nod for Brian McOmber’s impressive score would have been another worthy win for the cause. ACW
Jon Brion’s always made great scores, working on offbeat classics like Synecdoche, New York, I Heart Huckabees, Punch-Drunk Love and Magnolia. Bizarrely however, he’s never even been nominated for an Oscar, something we assumed would be remedied with his whimsical accompaniment to Greta Gerwig’s impressive Lady Bird. Sadly, 2018 isn’t his year, but there’s a reason Kanye West tapped Brion to assist with Late Registration and Graduation and Frank Ocean had him help out on Blonde: there’s just nobody making scores quite like this. JT
Pablo Clements and James Griffith were both members of Mo Wax in-house band UNKLE before forming Toydrum in 2011 and despite their twee moniker, their score for Prevenge is a worthy exercise in synth-led terror. Stranger Things might get most of the spotlight, but Toydrum’s accompaniment to Alice Lowe’s exploration of loss and pregnancy is equally memorable and markedly less self-consciously retro – the addition of a creepy voice to represent Alice Lowe’s psychotic unborn fetus is just the cherry on top. JT
Mark Mothersbaugh brings Devo’s cracked genius to his plethora of film scores that range from cartoons like Rugrats to every Wes Anderson film. Mothersbaugh’s ornate, playful synth flourishes fit perfectly for not just Thor: Ragnorak, but really Marvel’s entire world. It’s the best score in the franchise, and now the Acadamy is taking notice of superhero movies – Logan was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay this year – maybe a future Oscar nod is not out of the question. MB