Oscars: Best Original Score Predictions 2021

Among the lauded composers vying for Oscars this year are the group who’ve already landed both Critics Choice and Golden Globe Best Score nominations. Leading the field of top original scores of the year is James Newton Howard’s soaring, elegiac music for Paul Greengrass’s post-Civil War western “News of the World,” starring Tom Hanks. Howard has been nominated eight times, including for “Defiance” and “Michael Clayton.” He’s overdue.

Howard competes against the score for Christopher Nolan’s glossy espionage thriller “Tenet,” Grammy-winner Ludwig Göransson’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning score for Marvel’s “Black Panther,” along with two-time Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat (“The Shape of Water,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) for George Clooney’s dystopian space drama “The Midnight Sky.” There’s also possible dual nominations for Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, who won the Oscar for “The Social Network” a decade ago. They landed both Globe and CCA nominations for their New Age score for Pete Docter’s Pixar feature “Soul” — with help from jazz musician Jon Batiste — as well as the very different Bernard Herrmann-tinged orchestral score for David Fincher’s “Mank” (Netflix).

Also competing with themselves are Terence Blanchard, who could follow up his first nomination for Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” with his second, for either Lee
’s 60s-flashback to Vietnam, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix) or Regina King’s look back at 1964 in “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios), and Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer (“The Lion King”), who could add to his 11 nominations with two films, “Wonder Woman 1984” (Warner Bros.) and “Hillbilly Elegy” (with David Fleming, Netflix).

Also in the running is Emile Mosseri’s CCA-nominated score for Lee Isaac Chung’s ’80s rural Korean-American family drama “Minari” (A24). And another popular Hollywood composer who has never won, Thomas Newman, could finally win the gold statue after fifteen tries, for late-breaking moody LA noir “The Little Things” (Warner Bros.), starring Denzel Washington.

"News of the World"

“News of the World”


Here are our predictions for the shortlist of 15, listed in alphabetical order. No film will be deemed a frontrunner unless I have seen it.

Terence Blanchard (“Da 5 Bloods,” Netflix)
Terence Blanchard (“One Night in Miami,” Amazon Studios)
Alexandre Desplat (“The Midnight Sky,” Netflix)
Elliot Goldenthal (“The Glorias,” Roadside Attractions)
Ludwig Göransson (“Tenet,” Warner Bros.)
Mark Isham, Craig Harris (“Judas and the Black Messiah,” Warner Bros.)
Branford Marsalis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Netflix)
Emile Mosseri (“Minari,” A24)
James Newton Howard (“News of the World,” Universal)
Thomas Newman (“The Little Things,” Warner Bros.)
Daniel Pemberton (“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Netflix)
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (“Mank,” Netflix)
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste (“Soul,” Disney/Pixar)
Howard Shore (“Pieces of a Woman,” Netflix)
Hans Zimmer (“Wonder Woman 1984,” Warner Bros.)

“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”


Kris Bowers (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” Paramount/Hulu)
Bruno Coulais (“Wolfwalkers,” AppleTV+/Gkids)
Michael Danna, Jeff Danna (“Onward,” Disney)
Henry Jackman (“Cherry,” AppleTV+)
Harry Gregson-Williams (“Mulan,” Disney)
Abraham Marder, Nicolas Becker (“Sound of Metal,” Amazon Studios)
Dustin O’Halloran, Volker Bertelmann (“Ammonite,” Neon)
Steven Price (“Over the Moon,” Netflix)
Tamar-kali (“Shirley,” Neon)
Isobel Waller-Bridge, David Schweitzer (“Emma,” Focus Features)
Benjamin Wallfisch (“The Invisible Man,” Universal)
Gabriel Yared (“The Life Ahead,” Netflix)

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