Of all the below-the-line categories at the Oscars, Best Original Score is the most difficult to predict early on due to the finicky nature of the music branch of the academy. Scores that sound like frontrunners are disqualified for a variety of reasons, from the number of credited composers to the amount of previously recorded music used. (Scroll down for the most up-to-date 2021 Oscar predictions for Best Original Score.)
Even when we know the players, it is still difficult to predict the eventual winner given the diversity of the recent champs. The epic orchestrations of Howard Shore‘s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2002) and “LOTR: The Return of the King” (2004) sound nothing like A.H. Rahman‘s pulsating, Bombay-infused work on “Slumdog Millionaire” (2009), Alexander Desplat‘s whimsical tunes for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2015) or Hildur Guonadottir‘s pulsating rhythms in “Joker” (2020).
As with many of the creative arts categories at the Oscars, most usually equals best when it comes to Best Original Score. So, the more music in your movie, the better your chances. Is it any wonder Justin Hurwitz (“La La Land”) took home a trophy for composing an original movie musical in 2018, or that Ludovic Bource (“The Artist”) triumphed for penning wall-to-wall score for a silent film in 2013?
In the first part of the last decade, there was a push-and-pull within the music branch over recognizing rock musicians. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails won for scoring David Fincher‘s “The Social Network” (2011), but then were snubbed for their equally haunting work on the director’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2012) and “Gone Girl” (2015). And for every Arcade Fire that get nominated for “Her” (2014), there’s a Junkie XL or Jonny Greenwood who get left out for “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2016) and “The Master” (2013), respectively.
Starting with the 2019 Oscars, the academy released a shortlist of 15 contenders. We’ll get this year’s roster of semi-finalists on February 9, 2021.
A second round of voting by the members of the music branch, again using preferential voting, will cut these 15 down to the final five nominees. These will be announced, along with the final contenders in all of the other competitive categories on March 15, 2021. The entire voting membership of the academy will then vote for the winners, which will be revealed during the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony on April 25, 2021.
UPDATED: February 10, 2021
Alexandre Desplat, “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix)
James Newton Howard, “News of the World” (Universal Pictures)
Ludwig Goransson, “Tenet” (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Pemberton,”The Trial of the Chicago 7″ (Netflix)
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste, “Soul” (Pixar)
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “Mank” (Netflix)
Terence Blanchard, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix)
Thomas Newman, “The Little Things” (Warner Bros.)
Harry Gregson-Williams, “Mulan” (Disney Plus)
Emile Mosseri, “Minari” (A24)
Volker Bertelmann, Dustin O’Halloran, “Ammonite” (Neon)
John Debney, “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” (Netflix)
Lolita Ritmanis, “Blizzard of Souls”
Benjamin Wallfisch, “The Invisible Man” (Universal Pictures)
Gabriel Yared, “The Life Ahead” (Netflix)
We will be updating our Oscar predictions for each competitive category often in the days to come so be sure to bookmark this page and keep checking back as the race heats up.
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2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress: Updated – February 2, 2021
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2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Screenplay: Updated – February 6, 2021
2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Cinematography: Updated – January 22, 2021
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2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Film Editing: Updated – January 24, 2021
2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Updated – January 24, 2021
2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Score: Updated – February 10, 2021
2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Original Song: Updated – February 10, 2021
2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Production Design: Updated – January 22, 2021
2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Sound: Updated – January 22, 2021
2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Visual Effects: Updated – January 24, 2021
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2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary Feature: Updated – February 9, 2021
2021 Oscar Predictions: Best International Feature: Updated – February 9, 2021
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