March 7, 2023

2023 Academy Awards Nomination Breakdown: Best Original Score & Original Song

The Academy Awards are airing live on March 12, and for the first time, I have set out to break down every nominee in every category in order to assess, as accurately as I can, who and what has the best chance of winning. Today I will be discussing and/or showcasing the nominees for Best Original Score and Best Original Song!

Original Score

All Quiet on the Western Front

The score for All Quiet on the Western Front, much like the rest of the film, is haunting and unexpectedly violent. From the moment that the young protagonists are marching off to war, the unexpectedly harsh sounds of a harmonium are blown in our face, signifying that the characters have a very different idea of where they are going, and we as the audience are well aware of that. Composer Volker Bertelmann has said that his score was influenced by the “head-banging element” of Led Zeppelin, masterfully creating a further contrast between intention and appearance.



Justin Hurwitz’s juxtaposition of hyper swing and smooth jazz is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also beautiful to listen to, even on their own. Musical motifs, especially Manny and Nellie’s theme (various renditions of which are repeated throughout the film) are ever-present, and even harken back to Hurwitz’s themes from La La Land — which is sensible, especially considering the structural thematic parallels that are even stronger.


The Banshees of Inisherin

McDonagh’s regular composer Carter Burwell brings his A-game (as he almost always does) to the tragicomedy The Banshees of Inisherin, combining child-like music (reserved for Colin Farrell’s character) and fiddle compositions (reserved for whenever Brendan Gleeson is on screen). It’s also a fascinating choice to incorporate non-Irish music, despite the setting in 1920s Ireland. It’s folksy, effective and sad, perfectly in-keeping with the film’s themes.


Everything Everywhere All At Once

The score for Everything Everywhere All At Once is the most unique out of this year’s nominees, especially because it is composed by band Son Lux, but features such prominent musicians as Mitski, David Byrne of the Talking Heads, AndrĂ© 3000 of Outkast, Randy Newman, Moses Sumney and yMusic. The score blends a cacophony of musical styles (appropriate for a film that does the same with genres and visuals), ranging from a building calm to spectacular orchestral pieces.


The Fabelmans

John Williams has more than proven his worth as a composer over the years, contributing some of the most recognizable movie scores of all time. And yet, there’s something even more special when he collaborates with Steven Spielberg — just like The Fabelmans is to Spielberg, Williams’ score is imbued with a sense of honesty and love; it’s not just a job for him, he puts his entire heart into it. This is one of Williams’ last film scores before his retirement, and it’s even more proof that his magic isn’t yet gone. We’ll see how long that retirement lasts.


What Will Win: The Fabelmans

What Should Win: Babylon

Original Song

“Applause” (from Tell It Like a Woman)

“Hold My Hand” (from Top Gun: Maverick)

“Life Me Up” (from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever)

Read my review of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever here.

“Naatu Naatu” (from RRR)

“This is a Life” (from Everything Everywhere All At Once)

What Will Win: “Hold My Hand”

What Should Win: “Naatu Naatu”


  1. The Best Original Score category is difficult to predict, especially because there is a feeling that Oscar voters have such eccentric tastes that they border on the ridiculous - I don't know if it's to demonstrate originality or ingenuity -, giving the award in the category to the worst works among the nominees on several occasions (there are the two consecutive awards for Gustavo Santaolalla, which have no presentation).

    The score of "Babylon" is catchy, romantic and bombastic, it's a great work in every sense of the word. But there is no love for the film, contrary to "Everything" which looks like the big favorite of the evening and could prevail here as a sign of strength (the theory I mentioned at the beginning would be fulfilled once again).

    The other question is, how much did the Academy like "All Quiet on the Western Front"? We know the Brits loved it, but is there the same passion on this side of the pond? The haunting and terrifying "three notes" could give Bertelmann the push for the win.

    Another factor to consider is that among the nominees is John Williams, the greatest composer of all time, nearing retirement. He is likely to get a lot of votes, mostly because of the sentimental factor.

    As icing on the cake, the Academy is using "Voodoo Mama" from "Babylon" to promote the broadcast ceremony, so I'll take that as my tiebreaker signal.

  2. In Original Song, "Naatu Naatu" looks like an Oscar favorite: it's catchy, fun and very different from all the other nominees. Plus, the accompanying choreography is out of this world.

    But this is the Academy, an organization that still has a lot of white, old, racist members among its ranks, so I'm a little doubtful that this contingent will vote for an Indian film, so a win for the emotional "Lift Me Up," the popular "This Is a Life" or maybe they'll go for corruption and give Diane Warren her Oscar. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea and she will stop torturing our ears with her mediocre music.