Best Original Score:
One of the strangest line-ups this year is the Best Original Score category. Leading up to the nominations, Justin Hurwitz‘s score for Damien Chazelle‘s First Man was widely seen as the clear winner (having already won the Golden Globe), yet Hurwitz did not even receive a nomination. In addition to the Best Picture category, Marvel had another breakthrough this year in Best Original Score with Ludwig Gorasson‘s work in Black Panther. Two other relatively unexpected additions are Alexandre Desplat‘s Isle of Dogs and Marc Shaiman‘s Mary Poppins Returns. Desplat has won twice already for The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2015 and The Shape of Water last year, so while seeing his name for Isle of Dogs may seem strange, it’s not entirely out of the question that he could steal a third win.
Two of the nominations- Terence Blanchard‘s work on BlacKkKlansman and Nicholas Britell‘s on If Beale Street Could Talk– are genuinely excellent scores. The former’s haunting alternative melody is reminiscent of 70s blaxploitation, gradually building in intensity before exploding in profound rage in the film’s stomach-churning conclusion. Beale Street’s score is one of the absolute best of the year, a gentle and melancholy arrangement of strings and brass that seems to swim around its principal characters as gracefully as the ubiquitous cigarette smoke in the air. Britell’s masterful score is as crucial to the film’s setting of 1960s Harlem as its production design, and it will hopefully pull the win for Barry Jenkins‘ criminally underappreciated Baldwin adaptation.
Prediction: If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Original Song:
The Best Original Song category is usually an odd amalgamation of songs- half insignificant additions to their respective films, half featured songs in musicals or other music-centric films. The 2019 Oscar nominations continue such a tradition, recognizing two traditional musical numbers- ‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’ from Mary Poppins Returns and ‘When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings’ from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and two featured songs- ‘All the Stars’ from Black Panther and ‘I’ll Fight’ from RBG. The last is ‘Shallow’ from A Star is Born.
The category is admittedly richer this year, with a first time Academy Award nomination for one of our generation’s most seminal musical artists in Kendrick Lamar, and two genuinely memorable uses of a song in Buster Scruggs and A Star is Born. That being said, the clear and popular winner is Lady Gaga‘s ‘Shallow’, and it would be a startling upset if one of the other nominees managed to close her out of the win.
Best Film Editing:
Undoubtedly one of the most disappointingly abysmal categories this year is Film Editing, and three of the nominations (Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice, and to a lesser extent Green Book) serve as further evidence of the Academy’s painful misunderstanding of what constitutes good- or in some cases even passable- editing. A certain scene from Bohemian Rhapsody has circulated on Twitter, showcasing an embarrassing incident of unnecessarily manic cutting and Vice is simply an inexcusable addition to the category, and has some of the worst editing of this year’s films. Vice‘s lopsidedly misguided approach to Dick Cheney’s legacy is manifested largely through its fundamentally broken editing, cutting across its infamous subject’s life with a frustrating laziness and fake eccentricity, ostensibly confusing nonlinearity with good storytelling.
Both Green Book and The Favourite are more agreeable entries into the category (the latter far more than the former), but BlacKkKlansman is the only film to truly earn its nomination. Spike Lee‘s latest joint features one of the most viscerally impactful sequences of cross-cutting all year in a scene that cuts back and forth from a Ku Klux Klan initiation and a gathering of black students. The moment has a real thoughtfulness compounded to its blunt emotional impact, deepened by the understanding that the editing technique of cross-cutting used by Lee in the scene was first introduced to cinema by D.W. Griffith, an abhorrent racist whose most controversial film (showcased in the scene) led to a resurgence in the KKK. While hope for a BlacKkKlansman win is admittedly low, it is by far the most desirable outcome in this blunder of a category.