The agony and helplessness of “The Queen of Camelot” would not have haunted the audience without the painlessly hopeful sounds orchestrated by Mica Levi in “Jackie.”
The giddy limerence between Sebastian and Mia would not have had viewers dancing in their seats, at least not without the same romantic, calculated beats, if not for the involvement of Justin Hurwitz in “La La Land.”
As for “Lion,” Saroo’s journey couldn't have been a cultural phenomenon if not for the tragic, yet promising theme, spearheading the rest of the alluring soundtrack.
Thomas Newman has been nominated for 14 Academy Awards, but has yet to score a win. Would his cryptic soundtrack get him the win this year for “Passengers”?
Lastly, the hardships of a homosexual African American man are told not only through the screen, but conveyed via poetic piano composition scored by Nicholas Britell for “Moonlight.”
These Oscar nominees represent a diverse and focused group of films, with an original score to match. And the Oscar goes to…
Along with Best Picture and a multitude of other categories, “La La Land” was expected to win Best Original Score at Sunday’s 89th Academy Awards. The film is nominated for an intimidating 14 Oscars overall, tied with “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for the most nominations ever.
As CNN stated, “As Oscar equations go, this is a no-brainer: Best Picture + Musical = Best Score.” “La La Land” has already been recognized for its score by a multitude of other awards shows, including the Golden Globes, but does simply being a musical give it leverage above the rest for Best Original Score and Original Song?
Let’s look at the history.
A musical hasn’t won a Best Original Score or Song award at the Oscars since 1996, when “Evita” scored gold for the song “You Must Love Me.” Even longer ago, “Dirty Dancing” won Best Original Song with “I’ve Had the Time of my Life” in 1987.
That’s pretty sparse, considering the numerous musicals that have been produced since, such as “Moulin Rouge,” “Chicago,” “Topsy-Turvy,” “Dreamgirls”, and “Les Misérables.”
Perhaps it’s time a musical has rightfully won an award for music. Perhaps the Academy is primed for “La La Land.”
When looking at the bigger picture, the title musical may not matter. Some of The American Film Institute’s top five film scores of all time weren’t recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Unforgettably, “Star Wars” is considered to have the greatest film score of all time, according to AFI, with John Williams winning the award in 1977. “Gone with the Wind” comes in at number two, a film whose score was nominated in 1939, but fell short from victory.
Third belongs to the 1962 Oscar-winning “Lawrence of Arabia” and composer Maurice Jarre. Fourth, and my personal favorite as far as film scores go, is Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” which revolutionized the way music was used and viewed in film. Its score paved the road for almost every horror film after it — think “Prelude” in the shower scene.
Ranking as AFI’s fifth-best score all time is “The Godfather.” Its sequel won an Oscar for Nino Rota’s work on the score in 1974, but the music for the first film of the trilogy had a rather tragic ending at the 1973 Academy Awards.
“The Godfather” was nominated for Best Original Score, but its recognition was revoked due to the score having sampled music from the 1958 film “Fortunella.”
From Wookies and mafias, to lovers and first ladies, music is the bond between the actor and the audience. Through the score, we become the adopted Indian existing in a foreign life longing for his roots, his home.
We become a young widow with two children, a dead husband and Camelot, searching for sanctuary while running from the spotlight.
We become a young African American man fighting his own racial battles in the streets of Miami, along with the embers of love from a forbidden relationship.
We become two humans on a starship, cells in a universe.
We become the struggling musician and actress that fell in love within the City of Stars.
Sunday night’s Oscars prompted a diverse set of cultures, time periods and fantasies to be told through song and sound. Critics told us one will win, but history implies a plethora of possibilities.
Charissa Inman is contributor to Daily Lobo Music. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.