Oscars 2023: A Look at the Music Nominees

The Oscars is a widely popular event dedicated to celebrating the best films of the year. But what are movies without music? Let’s take a look at the Oscars music nominees for 2023 and all the ways that composers have worked their movie magic.

Nominees for Best Original Score

All Quiet on the Western Front
Volker Bertelmann

This 2022 German anti-war film directed by Edward Berger is based on the classic 1929 novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. It follows a German soldier’s horrific experiences in WWI and drives home the brutality and destruction of war. Composer Volker Bertelmann wanted the film’s score to reflect that harsh, harrowing, and disturbing nature. 

To accomplish this, Bertelmann relied on the use of a snare drum to produce sharp and unsettling sounds like that of a gunshot. The resulting sound is distinctive and, as Bertelmann told The Wrap, “almost a character in the film.” Along with drums, Bertelmann used his great-grandmother’s old harmonium, creating haunting chords while allowing the mechanical sounds of the instrument to bleed through. “I think that made it very much like a moaning ship,” said Bertelman, “and I loved the sound so much.”

Bertelmann’s score, like the film itself, forces the audience to confront the things we are more comfortable overlooking. It’s a truly fitting match to Berger’s film, and a soundscape that carefully tightens the tension and the terror of the battlefront. 

Justin Hurwitz

Set in 1920s Hollywood during the transition from silent films to “talkies,” Babylon chronicles the rise and fall of key characters played by an all-star cast. True to 1920s zeitgeist, Oscar-winning composer Justin Hurwitz infused the film score with jazz. The rich, lively soundtrack perfectly encapsulates the decadence and extravagance of the era, and immerses the audience deeply for the film’s entire three-hour runtime.

The Banshees of Inisherin
Carter Burwell

The Banshees of Inisherin is a drama and dark comedy set on the moody coasts of an island off Ireland’s west coast. Featuring award-winning actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson and In Bruges director Martin McDonagh, the film follows the abrupt one-sided termination of a lifelong friendship and the dark consequences that come after.

Carter Burwell, who has scored all of McDonagh’s films, delivers a compelling soundtrack for Banshees that is mystical and mysterious, capturing the feel of old fairy tales and their oft-forgotten grim and gruesome origins. Burwell writes:

I began to look at Martin’s story, and the self-mutilation of Brendan Gleeson’s character, as a fairy tale, and that perspective informed a lot of the writing and instrumentation: celesta, harp, flute, marimba and gamelan. Sparkly, dreamy music that matched the beauty of the island but also distanced one from the brutality of the physical action. And it played Colin’s childlike innocence, while pointing up its loss over the course of the story.

Everything Everywhere All at Once
Son Lux 

The mind-bending, heartfelt, and charmingly chaotic multiverse film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, tells the story of Evelyn Wang. Or, more accurately, the stories—her life in a multitude of universes beyond our own. Audiences follow Evelyn as she draws on skills from her other lives to fight a multiverse-ending threat that forces her to confront her own life, love, and family, and the ways in which we affect each other.

 The score, composed by experimental band Son Lux, evokes the fractured quality of the multiverse premise, while drawing from spacey sci-fi ambience and Chinese influences. “Son Lux, who composed the eclectic score,” writes The Hollywood Reporter, “deserve credit for keeping pace with the film’s unstinting commitment to visceral over-stimulation and its shapeshifting approach to genre.”

The Fabelmans
John Williams

John Williams is a legend of film music, composing the iconic soundtracks to hits like Star Wars, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter. Williams works his magic now in The Fabelmans, a coming-of-age story about Sammy Fabelman’s love of cinema, an upending family secret, and the power of film to help us cope with life’s hurt and trauma. Williams’s score is heavily influenced by the character of Mitzi Fabelman, a pianist, resulting in a soundtrack that leans into the beauty and emotionality of the piano, melded with classical excerpts. 


Nominees for Best Original Song

In addition to original music composed for film, the Oscars also celebrates original songs that were written, performed for, and featured in films. This year’s nominees for best original song include a range of pieces from a selection of 2022’s greatest movies. See the list of nominations for the 2023 Oscars below:

  • “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman
    Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
  • “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick
    Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga and BloodPop
  • “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
    Music by Tems, Rihanna, Ryan Coogler and Ludwig Goransson; Lyric by Tems and Ryan Coogler
  • “Naatu Naatu” from RRR
    Music by M.M. Keeravaani; Lyric by Chandrabose
  • “This Is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once
    Music by Ryan Lott, David Byrne and Mitski; Lyric by Ryan Lott and David Byrne

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