While it certainly may not be as popular as the other categories, Best Original Score at the Academy Awards is home to an array of soothing, thrilling and divine sounds that are mastered by some of the most acclaimed composers of our time. A film’s score can bring emotion, excitement and suspense to the viewer, yet most of the time we don’t even notice it all.
And while many of us can recall the iconic John Williams themes from “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones,” most movie scores are so subtle they fly over our heads. Though the quality of a film’s soundtrack is less determined by how memorable it is, it adds to every film and every scene.
Here are four of the films nominated for Best Original Score.
1. “La La Land” — Justin Hurwitz
We’ll start with the frontrunner “La La Land,” which will almost certainly snag the Oscar for this category as well as many others. Composer Justin Hurwitz earned his first three nominations this year for bringing Damien Chazelle’s original musical to life. Hurwitz, who is a long time collaborator with Chazelle (previously working together on “Whiplash”), stated that he worked on “La La Land’s” music for over seven years in order to get it perfect. While it was absurd two years ago that Hurwitz was snubbed for his work on “Whiplash” he will surely take home a few Oscars Sunday night.
2. “Passengers” — Thomas Newman
Easily the strangest of all nominated films for this category, the science fiction film “Passengers” was nominated for one other Academy Award outside Best Original Score: “Best Production Design.” With two of the biggest box office stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, plus the Oscar-nominated director Morten Tyldum, “Passengers” was still not able to overcome a weak script and generic plot. Composer Thomas Newman earned his 14th Academy Award nomination and it seems rather unlikely that he’ll take home his first win this year.
3. “Jackie” — Mica Levi
Composer Mica Levi earned her first Academy Award nomination with her score for the biographical drama “Jackie.” Having only worked as a composer on one previous feature film (“Under the Skin”), Levi is easily one of the most promising and rising composers of our time.
4. “Moonlight” — Nicholas Britell
Another rising composer of the film industry is Nicholas Britell, who was nominated for his first Academy Award for his work on “Moonlight.” While he’s worked as an assistant composer on many feature films, it was 2015’s “The Big Short” where he kicked off his career as the sole composer of the film’s score.