Oscars: Best Original Score Predictions 2021

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Anne Thompson
·2 min read
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Among the lauded composers vying for Oscars this year are the group who’ve already landed both Critics Choice and Golden Globe Best Score nominations. Leading the field of top original scores of the year is James Newton Howard’s soaring, elegiac music for Paul Greengrass’s post-Civil War western “News of the World,” starring Tom Hanks. Howard has been nominated eight times, including for “Defiance” and “Michael Clayton.” He’s overdue.

Howard competes against the score for Christopher Nolan’s glossy espionage thriller “Tenet,” Grammy-winner Ludwig Göransson’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning score for Marvel’s “Black Panther,” along with two-time Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat (“The Shape of Water,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) for George Clooney’s dystopian space drama “The Midnight Sky.” There’s also possible dual nominations for Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, who won the Oscar for “The Social Network” a decade ago. They landed both Globe and CCA nominations for their New Age score for Pete Docter’s Pixar feature “Soul” — with help from jazz musician Jon Batiste — as well as the very different Bernard Herrmann-tinged orchestral score for David Fincher’s “Mank” (Netflix).

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Terence Blanchard could follow up his first nomination for Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” with his second, for Lee ’s 60s-flashback to Vietnam, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix). Also in the running is Emile Mosseri’s CCA-nominated score for Lee Isaac Chung’s ’80s rural Korean-American family drama “Minari” (A24).

And another popular Hollywood composer who has never won, Thomas Newman, could finally win the gold statue after fifteen tries, for late-breaking moody LA noir “The Little Things” (Warner Bros.), starring Denzel Washington.

Here are our predictions for the shortlist of 15, listed in alphabetical order. No film will be deemed a frontrunner unless I have seen it.

Frontrunners:
Terence Blanchard (“Da 5 Bloods,” Netflix)
Alexandre Desplat (“The Midnight Sky,” Netflix)
James Newton Howard (“News of the World,” Universal)
Thomas Newman (“The Little Things,” Warner Bros.)
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste (“Soul,” Disney/Pixar)

Contenders
Ludwig Göransson (“Tenet,” Warner Bros.)
Emile Mosseri (“Minari,” A24)
Daniel Pemberton (“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Netflix)
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (“Mank,” Netflix)
Benjamin Wallfisch (“The Invisible Man,” Universal)

Long Shots
John Debney (“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” Netflix)
Harry Gregson-Williams (“Mulan,” Disney)
Dustin O’Halloran, Volker Bertelmann (“Ammonite,” Neon)
Lolita Ritmanis (“Blizzard of Souls,” HBO)
Gabriel Yared (“The Life Ahead,” Netflix)

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