PART 1: THE MUSIC AND SOUND CATEGORIES
The short turnaround 92nd Academy Awards arrive host-free for the second consecutive year on Sunday, February 9th, barely a month after nominations were announced. The pace has added excitement and urgency right on down to my website’s 2020 Awards Tracker. Let’s start calling some winners. As always, that prognostication data is cited in these predictions. This column examines the music and sound categories of score, song, sound mixing, and sound editing. As I say every year, stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The nominees: Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Who should be here: Michael Abels’ infusion of horror beats for Us deserved one of these five spots as a score that is a change of pace, a nominee of color, and honoring an underappreciated film.
Who should feel lucky to be there: I know John Williams is the greatest of all-time and The Rise of Skywalker stands as his final Star Wars score. Still, his inclusion feels ceremonial more than serious, even with his status. If they wanted to honor some franchise totality, they could have included Alan Silvestri’s Avengers: Endgame score crescendos instead.
Who should win: With a career spanning introspective romantic dramas (Meet Joe Black), Pixar movies (WALL-E), and even James Bond (Skyfall), Thomas Newman has been nominated 14 times for Academy Awards and has never won. In a taut thriller like 1917, his music is the nerve that amps that entire presentation. This is the year he deserves to win.
Who will win: As much as Newman would be wonderful, an even more monumental winner is coming in the form of Hildur Guðnadóttir, the Icelandic composer of Joker. It’s rare to have a woman lead this field. She is the first solo one ever nominated and her win for the moody rhythms would be historic.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
The nominees: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4, “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman, “I’m Standing With You” from Breakthrough, “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II, “Stand Up” from Harriet
Who should be here: Call me a guy asking for a challenge, but I think these original songs need to actually be a part of the movie and not just something playing in the end credits as a send-off. Sorry, Celine Dion. With that in mind, the hands-down best infused song of any film last year was “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)” from the under-seen and outstanding Wild Rose. Jessie Buckley nailed the wrought emotion of that ballad. It shouldn’t just be here. “Glasgow” should straight-up win.
Who should feel lucky to be there: Christy Metz’s spiritual ballad from the faith-based Breakthrough is the slightest outlier of this field. It’s a fine song, but, again, it’s credits fodder compared to “Glasgow.”
Who should win and will win: Like Bohemian Rhapsody last year (and from the same director no less), the most popular music-driven film was Rocketman. To have the knighted legend come back and make a new song in “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” weaves assured adoration all its own. Cynthia Erivo will have the best performance with “Stand Up,” but the familiar rock god will win.
BEST SOUND EDITING
The nominees: Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Star Wars: The Rise of SkyWalker
Who should be here: When it comes to mixing music, dialogue, and setting-based elements, science fiction tends to score well here. I’m surprised Ad Astra couldn’t crack this final five. The space sequences alone are outstanding in this discipline.
Who should feel lucky to be there: The work may be the largest in volume, but the maelstrom that is Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t scream the same tuning and nuance of the other nominees.
Who should win: From a technical standpoint, this should be Ford v Ferrari. The merging of engine foley and stunt sequence sounds is off the charts. I think it gets beat by the buzz wave of the eventual winner.
Who will win: Ford v Ferrari may still win, but I think a little top contender sweeping is going to happen with 1917 coming through for the win. It’s no slouch in this department for how it was shot to merge the elements it did. It’s a worthy winner, but not the same as the superior racing film.
BEST SOUND MIXING
The nominees: Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Who should be here: I’m going to go indie here, but the ambient mix of Waves blew me away. The score punches into the jarring drama and fevered emotions on screen without losing the moments. It was too small, but I think it would have been a nice nod.
Who should feel lucky to be there: Going back a category, I think I have to say Ad Astra was lucky to finally get its due attention. It’s a contender that should win, but there are bigger hitters next to it with four Best Picture nominees flexing muscles.
Who should win: Call it two in a row. The growling and revving of Ford v Ferrari stands out with its combinations of sounds, but I’m going to double-down from editing to mixing.
Who will win: Part of me probably knows that 1917 likely won’t win both sound awards, but because I can’t decide which one, I’m giving it the win in both. Watch it win both and I do cartwheels on my Oscar prediction couch.
NEXT: THE MINOR FILM CATEGORIES
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