That La La Land composer Justin Hurwitz will have to give an acceptance speech on February 26 is a certainty. The only real question is whether he’ll give as many speeches as Kate McKinnon’s hapless starlet Gloria Concave did during the Academy Awards’s first rocky decade, as fictionally depicted last weekend at the Academy luncheon. And even though we, like poor plasma-strapped Gloria, will curse uncontrollably at many of the many trophies handed to team La La Land, we won’t strongly protest its inevitable win in this category. And not even for the lack of legitimate competition here.
We’ve no doubt Mica Levi’s score for Jackie will fly from shelves on Record Store Day, and her cues are nearly as compelling as the ones she contributed to Under the Skin. A few months ago, I argued that the score worked only in opposition to the film’s subject matter (to Jackie’s ultimate detriment). But it’s a brave new world, and if you could communicate musically the feeling that hits us in the pit of our stomachs every day we check in at whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com, it would probably sound exactly like those grim, gravity-shifting glissando sweeps from the string section.
In direct contrast to Levi’s anachronisms, Moonlight composer Nicholas Britell (who oddly enough was a co-producer on Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash) serves his film’s depiction of a near-mute cypher with an almost impenetrable shell almost too well. It’s delicate, understated work in a category whose most frequent nominee is John Williams. Speaking of records, Thomas Newman is now one nod away from Alex North’s record number of score nominations without a win, and it’s attached to a failed blockbuster for the age of post-consent (Passengers), so here’s looking toward his 14th.
Yes, Hurwitz’s score has its detractors, but even those who accuse him of wanly mimicking the likes of Michel Legrand would have to admit that there are worse wells to draw from. Certainly, his florid work hits its mark more consistently than The Artist’s tepid pastiche of the slapdash soundtracks that used to dog silent-film video releases—which, come to think of it, sound a lot like the music that played off Gloria Concave’s acceptance speeches.
Will Win: La La Land
Could Win: Moonlight
Should Win: Moonlight