The amount of potential doubled up nominees in Original Score this year is impressive if not entirely surprising as this year is packed with previous winners and nominees. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Hans Zimmer, Kris Bowers and Terence Blanchard all have scores from at least two films that are in real contention and some of them are likely to find themselves double-nominated this year. The last time that happened with was when Alexandre Desplat found himself with nominations for 2014’s The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel, winning the Oscar for the latter. 11-time nominee and two-time winner Desplat has just one this season (The Midnight Sky) but would have had two had Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch not moved off the schedule.
Reznor and Ross have both Soul and Mank this year and it’s hard to think that they’re not getting in for both. They won their Oscar with David Fincher’s The Social Network but did miss out on scoring noms for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl but Mank is surely to be a stronger overall Oscar player than those films. With Soul, a question arises; Reznor and Ross composed the ‘soul’ side of the score, where the film’s protagonist experiences life before and after, but jazz pianist John Batiste wrote the original jazz music featured in the film. Where the Academy and the music branch will land here is something to keep an eye on. Will they consider all three eligible?
Someone who definitely won’t be eligible is Ludovico Einaudi for Nomadland. While the music in that film is one of its greatest strengths, it’s overwhelmingly pre-existing music. Same goes for The Father, which also merges score and existing music to a degree that makes it ineligible. The music branch of the Academy has swung wildly in opposite directions here; in 2016 they deemed the Arrival score, from two-time Oscar nominee Jóhann Jóhannsson, ineligible because of director Denis Villeneuve’s use of Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” being such a prevalent piece in the film.
Daniel Pemberton is looking for his first nomination, with The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Dustin O’Halloran is looking for a second after Lion, with Ammonite. 8-time nominee James Newton Howard is back in the mix and could earn his first nomination since 2008’s Defiance with the Tom Hanks film News of the World. Black Panther winner Ludwig Göransson is also looking for another, this time with Tenet. Oscar winner Hans Zimmer has no less than three chances here with Dune, Hillbilly Elegy, and No Time to Die.
The trio of music biopics: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Respect and The United States vs. Billie Holiday might have a tough time here with songs by the films titular characters being omnipresent.
Here are my ranked 2021 Oscar predictions in Original Score for September.
1. Soul (Pixar)
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (John Batiste?)
2. Mank (Netflix)
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
3. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
4. Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Dune (Warner Bros) [moved to October 2021] Hans Zimmer
Volker Bertelmann, Dustin O’Halloran
Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix)
David Fleming, Hans Zimmer
The Midnight Sky (Netflix)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
News of the World (Universal Pictures)
James Newton Howard
No Time to Die (MGM/UA)
One Night in Miami… (Amazon Studios)
Over the Moon (Netflix)
Tenet (Warner Bros)
The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Paramount Pictures)