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  • Sheldon Gaskell

2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Music (Original Score)

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

Nominees: Hildur Gudnadóttir (Joker), Alexandre Desplat (Little Women), Randy Newman (Marriage Story), Thomas Newman (1917), John Williams (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker)

Will Win: Hildur Gudnadóttir (Joker)

Runners-up: Thomas Newman (1917)

Should Win: Hildur Gudnadóttir (Joker)

Runners-up: Thomas Newman (1917), Randy Newman (Marriage Story), Alexandre Desplat (Little Women)

My Choice: Emile Mosseri (The Last Black Man in San Francisco)

My Nominees: Hildur Gudnadóttir (Joker), Jung Jae-il (Parasite), Thomas Newman (1917), Randy Newman (Marriage Story)

Runners-up: Mark Korven (The Lighthouse), Alexandre Desplat (Little Women), Michael Abels (Us), John Williams (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Michael Giacchino (Jojo Rabbit)

Hildur Gudnadóttir's soundtrack is the rails that drive Joaquin Phoenix's crazy train performance as Arthur Fleck in Joker. Much of his choices in method acting were inspired by the often audibly uncomfortable rises and slides of Gudnadóttir's cellos as they warily stalk into unknown musical territory. Her soundtrack perfectly captures the feeling of Joker's slide into insanity, highlighting the early cautious triumphant notes--slightly reminiscent of what we may think of as Batman's origin hymn--which rise with shaking anticipation (much like Arthur's aspirations to be a stand-up comedian) only to sideswipe and crumple into the shredded shrieks of strings and crackling, defeated stomps of drums. Her music billows with smoky mystery, then shakes the audience with splitting, malignant exactitude, driving the plot with equal measure as Phoenix's unnatural performance.

Where Gudnadóttir's score operates as the anthem for the vile, polluted streets of Gotham City, Emile Mosseri's score in The Last Black Man in San Francisco feels God-given, almost holy in its ability to shroud the city of San Francisco in comforting heaven-sent clouds. The soft orchestral surges and piano touches blend perfectly with the choir's glorious praises, sending the audience into a state of bliss and nostalgic remembering of once great pasts. The music brings tears to the eyes and hope in the soul for new possibilities to spawn from brokenness.

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