Who will win the Academy Award for best original score next February?


The contest to obtain the Academy Award for best original score seems wide open this year, if only judging by the quality of the nominated composers. 2015 marked a strong return for old school orchestral type soundtracks.

Coen Brothers regular, Carter Burwell gets, surprisingly, a first ever nomination for his work on Todd Haynes Carol. It seems a pretty late recognition after all these great works Burwell was associated with through the years. The more conventional character of this recent offering is what probably helped him to finally get a well deserved recognition. On the other hand, being a relatively new comer to the world of Hollywood film scores, Johann Johansson is already earning a second invitation to the Academy Awards (after last year’s The theory of everything) for his dark atonal work, a third collaboration with director Denis Villeneuve, on action thriller Sicario. This nomination highlights one of the most interesting match director-composer of the day in films and their fruitful collaboration will go on in 2016, as confirmed by the director who talked about his high level of satisfaction with the composer’s output at a November meeting of RIDM Festival in Montreal (Jonhansson was invited with End of the summer a film he directed and scored).

bridgeThomas Newman gets his 13th nomination for his effective Bridge of Spies soundtrack to Steven Spielberg’s film. Because of John Williams stepping out, due to temporary illness, it marks the first time since Quincy Jones soundtrack to the Color Purple, in 1985, that Spielberg uses another composer than Williams. But Spielberg was in good hands since Newman is part of the film history being from a great family of film composers. No less than eight members of the Newman family composed for films. His father, the late Alfred Newman, being the champion of the Academy with 9 Oscars and the composer of the famous Fox fanfare which opened all of the Star Wars franchise prior to its selling to Disney. It is ironic that the son of a legend will challenge, in this Oscar race, the living legend he replaced as health was no longer an issue for John Williams when it came to step again in a galaxy far far away to the franchise that made him famous and earned him his third of five oscars almost 40 years ago. Williams gets an impressive 50th nomination with Star Wars: the Force Awakens.

There is another legendary composer of the same stature as Williams who, in 2015, also returned to what made him famous. It also resulted in an Oscar nomination for Italian composer Ennio Morricone’s Hateful Eight by Quentin Tarantino. It marked a return to the Western for the maestro who was last associated with the genre that made him marketable in the 60’s as a self parody in 1981 for the Bud Spencer comedic Spaghetti western Buddy goes West. Prior to the assignment on Hateful Eight, Morricone caused half a commotion, which probably led to his collaboration on the film, by apparently saying in an interview he was not too keen about the use of his existing work in Tarantino’s previous movies. It is only the 6th Oscar nomination of his career, an anomaly being partly corrected in 2007 as the academy offered an honorific Oscar for his body of work.

An interesting guess is that, after all these years, the academy will finally acknowledge Morricone’s historical significance in the proper category simply because its due time (and the score is actually good). And, as it was once put, as the title of a Morricone sample on RCA records, We all love Ennio Morricone.

(Note: You can access other Cinetalk articles about 2016 Oscars (Feb. 28) by Clicking among the tags (below this article) on Academy Awards 2016 or  Oscars 2016. More to come…)