Yes, those final moments of Sunday’s Oscarcast were bizarre and won’t soon be forgotten. But, that aside, there were a lot of great musical moments in the broadcast and we recount them all here — the wins by the La La Land team for score and song, the performances of all five nominated songs, the beautiful “In Memoriam” performance, and more. Plus a rundown of Saturday’s always-entertaining Society of Composers & Lyricists champagne reception for Oscar music nominees.
My final two Variety stories for this Oscar season not only recap the nominees but look at the races in historical terms. Four of the five nominees in each music category (song and score) are first-timers to the competition. And in the score category, most of the composers didn’t go the traditional route of simply recording live musicians — they added electronics, processed and modified the score, or otherwise used avant-garde recording or post-production techniques. It’s a big change from the old days of Steiner, Korngold and the classic Hollywood sound. And for the song story, I investigated what Academy voters consider when voting. What is a “best song,” anyway?
British experimental-pop musician Mica Levi is only the fourth woman to be nominated for “original score” at the Academy Awards. Her music for Jackie, bold and even startling as applied by director Pablo Larrain, has won attention throughout this awards season. I interviewed her while she was on tour with her band in Europe, and Variety published the Q&A in this week’s Contenders Extra Edition.
Perhaps the most interesting of my post-Oscar-nomination assignments: The editors at Variety posed this question: Will the success of La La Land result in studios — which have been reluctant to green-light musicals without a built-in audience — starting to take risks again on original concepts that happen to include actors breaking into song? I interviewed composers, songwriters, agents and others involved in La La Land, Mary Poppins Returns, and the upcoming Beauty and the Beast, for the story in this week’s Variety Contenders music issue. Many of them were enthusiastic about the future.
Here, in two succinct stories with bullet points, are the basics of all 10 nominees in the Oscar “best song” and “best original score” categories for 2016. Variety annually asks me to discuss each nominee, listing their past Oscar record (and this year, it’s mostly newcomers) plus the general vibe of the music, and a relevant quote or two from each nominee. There is an intro section that talks in general about this year’s music races. Both stories ran in this week’s Extra Edition: Contenders issue specifically devoted to music and animation. Here is the song story; here is the one devoted to scores.
An astonishing number of major pop and rock artists are now contributing songs to documentaries. This year, nearly a fifth of all the songs entered for Oscar consideration came from non-fiction films, and some of those were written and/or performed by among the biggest names in music. For the lead story in this week’s special Variety Contenders issue, I interviewed several of those artists, including Sting (now Oscar-nominated with co-writer J. Ralph for a song in Jim: The James Foley Story), Tori Amos, Common, Trent Reznor and Diane Warren.
Dutch composer Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, has been quietly toiling for the past decade in Hollywood, contributing bits and pieces to films like Catwoman, The Dark Knight Rises and Inception. But in the past three years he’s really broken out, partnering with his friend Hans Zimmer on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and creating powerful original scores like Mad Max: Fury Road. Last year he scored the surprise hit Deadpool and he’s now working on both Justice League and The Dark Tower. For a story in this week’s issue of Variety, I visited Tom’s studio and quizzed him about his past and future in films.