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.
Justin Hurwitz talks about composing the songs and score for La La Land; Dustin O’Halloran discusses the complexities of writing the music for Lion with another composer on the other side of the world; and Nicholas Britell explains how a hip-hop technique informed his piano-and-violin score for Moonlight. SoundWorks Collection offered a rare opportunity to go in-depth with each of these Oscar-nominated composers, talking about the unique challenges of each film and even playing their key themes at the piano. Here is the Hurwitz video, shot in a unique North Hollywood location; here is O’Halloran, in his Los Angeles studio; and here is Britell, talking and performing in L.A.’s legendary Nightbird studio. The series is called “Road to the Oscars,” and I was delighted to be its host.
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.
Each year at this time I rummage through 12 months of CDs to chronicle the best of the year in “classic film music” — that is, the expanded reissues, the newly recorded scores, and in some special cases the first releases of great old scores that always deserved an album but never got one. There are 20 entries, all listed here, but this year there were so many excellent releases that I added an “honorable mention” section at the bottom with more of my favorites that didn’t quite make the main list. Intrada and La-La Land were this year’s top labels (that is, with the most entries) but there are worthy contributions here from Kritzerland, Quartet, Varese Sarabande, Play-Time, Universal France and Dragon’s Domain. Check them out.
While the general public may not be thinking about Oscars this early in the year, the reality is that awards season is already well underway in Hollywood. Screenings of November-December releases are in full swing, awards consultants are emailing and phoning, and Variety has begun its coverage of potential honorees. Here is the backstory of the music of La La Land, certain to be one of the most talked-about late-year releases. I was fascinated by what initially inspired composer Justin Hurwitz and director Damien Chazelle to create this magical movie. Also in the Nov. 1 issue, I explore why so few spring and early-summer films are ever nominated for their music; and offer a detailed look at the unusual South Pacific music of Disney’s upcoming Moana, including an interview with Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda.