Seldom has music played such a major role at the Academy Awards as it did at the 95th Oscars on Sunday. Besides the music played at the event and the awards in soundtrack categories, Best Original Score and Best Original Song, music was prominent even in the stories of the winning and nominated films.
It’s music that is the star of the controversial “runner-up” for Best Film, Tár — which won nothing against high expectations — a film all about symphonic conductors, orchestra musicians, and even Leonard Bernstein and Gustav Mahler. Another music film is Elvis, about the life of “The King,” Elvis Presley (played by Austin Butler), and his crooked manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks).
What about music for the Oscars? M.O.S. is not only the official DJ for Hollywood’s biggest night but also the DJ at the red carpet (champagne-colored this time) and the official Oscar after-party, the Governors Ball.
Then there is Rickey Minor and his orchestra, providing music to open, close, illustrate, and celebrate the winners ... then play them off the stage. The orchestra must learn all the possible scores it might play, even if it only performs for the winners.
The Academy Award for Best Original Musical is a category that was reestablished in 2000 after the Best Original Musical or Comedy Score category was retired, though not enough films have ever been eligible in a single year for the prize to be awarded.
On award night, there was strong competition for Best Original Music and Best Original Song, the latter of which saw Lady Gaga and Rihanna going head-to-head. The winner was “Naatu Naatu” (from RRR), over “Lift Me Up” (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), “This Is a Life” (Everything Everywhere All at Once), “Applause” (Tell It Like a Woman), and “Hold My Hand” (Top Gun: Maverick).
Best Original Music went to Volker Bertelmann for All Quiet on the Western Front, over Justin Hurwitz (Babylon), Carter Burwell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Son Lux (Everything Everywhere All at Once), and John Williams (The Fabelmans).
At 91, Williams was the oldest composer nominated, with 2023 marking his 53rd nomination (he’s won five times). He has more Academy Award nominations than any other living person and is second all-time only to Walt Disney, who had 59.
Best Sound went to Top Gun: Maverick, over All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Batman, and Elvis.
Most major categories went to Everything Everywhere All at Once. As The New York Times noted Sunday night: “With three acting wins, plus director and picture, Everything Everywhere All at Once has won more above-the-line Oscars than any movie ever in the 95 years they’ve thrown the show.” There must be some bookkeeping sleight of hand to rule out The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Titanic, and Ben-Hur, with 11 Oscars each.
Find the complete list of 2023 winners and nominees on the Oscars’ website.