March 9, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

2021 Oscar predictions for song, score and animated feature

The last time an animated feature took the Oscar for original score came 11 years ago when Michael Giacchino’s engaging and, on occasion, emotionally devastating (that married life montage!) music from the Pete Docter-directed “Up” prevailed.

“Soul,” another Docter-directed Pixar Animation classic, could be next in line. It features an edgy, ethereal score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross as well as a number of beautiful original jazz compositions from the great Jon Batiste. Their music has already won a number of awards from critics groups, making it an early favorite for this year’s original score Oscar.

And, of course, “Soul” stands as the odds-on favorite to win the animated feature prize as well. (It should also be nominated for best picture. But you know that.) So let’s group those categories together and take an early look at the original song race as well.

ANIMATED FEATURE

“Soul”
“Wolfwalkers”
“Over the Moon”
“Onward”
“Earwig and the Witch”

Next up: “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon,” “Trolls World Tour,” “The Croods: A New Age,” “Demon Slayer,” “On-Gaku: Our Sound,” “The Willoughbys,” “Bombay Rose”

“Wolfwalkers,” the latest terrific offering from Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon (“The Secret of Kells,” “Song of the Sea”), has won an array of critics prizes, including top honors from the Los Angeles and New York film critics groups. It’s enchanting and engrossing and provides a pretty neat little illumination of the Irish psyche. Plus, if all you know of Druids comes from “This Is Spinal Tap,” you’ll have your mind blown. Streaming on Apple TV+, it gives voters one solid alternative option to “Soul” in a year that’s otherwise full of sequels and lesser-known titles that have yet to catch on with voters.

Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams perform in “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.”

(John Wilson / Netflix)

ORIGINAL SONG

“Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami,” Leslie Odom, Jr. and Sam Ashworth
“Húsavik (My Hometown)” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” Savan Kotecha, Rickard Göransson and Fat Max Gsus
“Io Si (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead,” Diane Warren, Laura Pausini & Niccolò Agliardi
“Wear Your Crown” from “The Prom,” Adam Anders, Peer Astrom, Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin
“Turntables” from “All In: The Fight for Democracy,” Janelle Monáe, Nathaniel Irvin III and George “George 2.0.” Peters II

Next up: “Wuhan Flu” from “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” Sacha Baron Cohen, Erran Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines; “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah,” H.E.R., Dernst Emile II, Tiara Thomas; “Just Sing” from “Trolls World Tour,” Justin Timberlake, Ludwig Göransson, Max Martin and Sarah Aarons; “Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite; “(If Only You Could) Save Me” from “Mank,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; “Free” from “The One and Only Ivan,” Diane Warren; “Loyal Brave True” from “Mulan,” Jamie Hartman, Harry Gregson-Williams, Rosi Golan and Billy Crabtree

Remember when Billie Eilish’s James Bond song dropped on Feb. 13, went straight to No. 1 and everyone was like, “See you in a year at the Oscars, Billie?” Well, maybe we’ll see her in 2022. Who knows? The release date of “No Time to Die” has been moved so many times that it may well have come out by now and I was too busy scrolling through air fryer recipes to notice.

So who might step forward in Eilish’s place?

Sigrit and Lars may have been disqualified from the Eurovision Song Contest, but their contribution, the heartfelt “Húsavik,” won the hearts of the audience in “Eurovision and deserves at least a nomination here. The song hit the Top 10 worldwide because it serves both the film and stands as a pretty great Eurovision-style composition on its own. Putting Will Ferrell and Molly Sandén on the stage to perform this popular song would give the likely virtual ceremony a booming boost.

I’d also like to see “Wuhan Flu” nominated because of the way it brilliantly exposes racism and because I have no idea how it would be performed on the show. How do you perform a prank song when everyone’s in on the joke?

ORIGINAL SCORE

“Soul,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste
“News of the World,” James Newton Howard
“Da 5 Bloods,” Terence Blanchard
“Mank,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
“The Midnight Sky,” Alexandre Desplat

Next up: “Tenet,” Ludwig Göransson; “The Little Things,” Thomas Newman; “Minari,” Emile Mosseri; “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Daniel Pemberton; “The Life Ahead,” Gabriel Yared; “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Branford Marsalis; “Sound of Metal,” Abraham Marder and Nicolas Becker

Music branch voters tend to reward their favorites over and over again, giving vets like Desplat (11 noms, two wins) and Howard (eight nominations, long overdue for a win) an edge over someone like Mosseri, who, between “Minari” and “Kajillionaire,” had quite the year.

Blanchard received his first Oscar nomination two years ago for “BlacKkKlansman” and figures to return with his stirring, complex work on “Da 5 Bloods.” (Blanchard also scored “One Night in Miami,” but his contributions to Regina King’s historical drama doesn’t meet the eligibility requirements for submission.)

Blanchard lost that year to Göransson for “Black Panther,” and I’d definitely return the Swedish composer to the party too, as I loved the way he riffed on the work of Hans Zimmer, filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s usual partner in sound. Also: I can’t stop humming Göransson’s “Mandalorian” theme, and it’s been weeks since the last episode aired. In fact, I’m singing it now. My wife is politely asking me to stop.