John Williams (‘The Fabelmans’): 5 reasons why we’re all underestimating him at Oscars

The current frontrunner to win the Best Score Oscar is Justin Hurwitz for “Babylon,” with 12 Gold Derby Experts predicting him, but I believe John Williams could surprise in this category for “The Fabelmans,” despite only having the support of two Experts: Sasha Stone (Awards Daily) and Susan King (Gold Derby). Williams’ nomination for “The Fabelmans” is his 53rd overall, which gives him the record for most Oscar bids for a living person; only Walt Disney has more with 59 total. Williams’ work in “The Fabelmans” has been celebrated by many critics, including Maria Lattila, who says in Why Now, “With a classic score from John Williams and precise direction from Spielberg, ‘The Fabelmans’ is one of the finest films about cinema itself.” Are we all underestimating the legendary composer’s chances to win? Here are my top five reasons.

1. He’s 91.
This might be the last chance the Academy gets to recognize John Williams again. He just celebrated his 91st birthday, and his score for the upcoming “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” could potentially be his last, although he did reveal last month that he’s not retiring. In practical terms, however, Williams has only so many film scores left in him, and it’s not guaranteed that he will receive another Oscar nomination in the years to come. Rewarding him in 2023 could be a career Oscar for a lifetime of incredible film music, as it also would also reward him for his lovely score in “The Fabelmans.” As Mike Manalo writes in Nerds of Color, “The score by John Williams is wonderful.”

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2. He hasn’t won since 1994.
Williams receives Oscar nominations all the time, but he hasn’t won since “Schindler’s List” 29 years ago. In essence, John Williams’ incomparable work is often taken for granted by Academy voters, nominating him nearly every year it seems but rarely awarding him the gold trophy. He won his first four trophies within about a decade of each other — “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Jaws,” “Star Wars” and “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” — but since his victory for “Schindler’s List” in 1994, Williams has been nominated for the Academy Award 22 more times. Think about that — 22 Oscar bids in a row without a win! He has been more than deserving to win on many of these nominations — “Catch Me If You Can” especially — and if any other artist with that many nominations hadn’t won by now, there would be an uproar. 2023 also marks the 50th year of Spielberg and Williams collaborating on films together, their first project “The Sugarland Express” released by Universal Pictures in 1974. This season offers the perfect moment to give Williams his sixth Oscar and give a final tribute to his extraordinary work with Spielberg.

3. “The Fabelmans” deserves to win an Oscar.
“The Fabelmans” was nominated for seven Oscars, and the Academy will want to give the film something. As of this moment, the only gold trophy some are predicting the film to win is Best Director for Spielberg, since he won Best Director at the Golden Globes, but his chances fell sharply when Spielberg didn’t even make the longlist at the BAFTAs, the film only nominated there for Best Original Screenplay. Michelle Williams is unlikely to win Best Actress despite being on her fifth nomination, and Original Screenplay and Picture will go to “The Banshees of Inisherin” or “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” What’s a category not overly competitive that “The Fabelmans” could win? Best Score for Williams’ terrific work. As Shomini Sen says in Wion, “The film’s cinematography by Janusz Kaminski and music by John Williams aids the narrative effectively.”

SEEJohn Williams: All 53 Oscar nominations, including history-making ‘The Fabelmans’ [PHOTOS]

4. “Babylon” is vulnerable in the category.
Another reason Williams could surprise is that the frontrunner in the Original Score category — “Babylon” — underperformed in its number of Oscar nominations, as well as with critics and at the box office. Earlier in awards season, “Babylon” was expected to be a major player at the Academy Awards. But the film opened soft at the box office, and critics were mostly mixed on the movie. It only showed up in three technical categories at the Oscars, so it seems likely many voters will look to movies that performed better with critics and that received more nominations in total. In addition, Hurwitz won two Academy Awards for “La La Land” six years ago, so he’s not overdue, and thus voters might want to reward a composer in the category who hasn’t won in decades.

5. Nostalgic score.
The final reason could take the gold trophy this year is due to his lovely, restrained score that accompanies “The Fabelmans.” It’s not one of his most memorable scores. It’s not his score to “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.” But it adds a quietly haunting blast of nostalgia to the world of Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” and I believe it’s time to give him a sixth Oscar, his first in nearly thirty years. As Arjun Persaud notes in FilmSpeak, “Maestro John Williams is debatably the world’s most talented composer, and to no surprise, once again evokes emotion in the most beautiful ways possible, delivering an incomparably joyful and tender score. ‘The Fabelmans’ is yet again another example that Williams and Spielberg are a match made in heaven, and if ‘The Fabelmans’ marks their last collaboration together, their remarkable tenure will have gone out on a beautiful note.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

PREDICTthe 2023 Oscar winners through March 12

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