This month, we’re taking a look at this year’s Oscar nominees and digging into their past work to find hidden gems that you may have overlooked. This year’s Best Original Score nominees span decades of experience and include seasoned pros, newcomers, and Nine Inch Nails members alike. Here’s a showcase of the musical geniuses who’ve captivated you with jazz, 1930’s Hollywood, a family farm in Arkansas, and the wild west, and the lesser known gems from within their career.
Nominated For: Soul
Previous Nominations: None
Hidden Gem: She Ball
Jon Batiste was practically born to be a musician, having been born into a musical family dynasty in the New Orleans metropolitan area. Throughout his career he’s released several albums, worked with stellar musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Mavis Staples. He’s also played in many groups including the band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he also served as a composer and musical director. Before he cemented his presence with his work on Pixar’s Soul with fellow nominees, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, he served as composer for Nick Cannon’s 2020 film She Ball.
Nominated For: Da 5 Bloods
Previous Nominations: BlacKkKlansman
Hidden Gem: Malcolm X
Before the jazz trumpeter and musician was nominated for his work on Da 5 Bloods, blending smooth horns with blaring marches, and before he was nominated for his blaxploitation-inspired work on BlacKkKlansman, Terence Blanchard collaborated with Spike Lee numerous times. His work on films like Crooklyn, Clockers, and 25th Hour certainly were impressive, but it was his work on Lee’s Malcolm X where his now signature style really began to boast.
James Newton Howard
Nominated For: News of the World
Previous Nominations: Defiance, Michael Clayton, The Village, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Fugitive, The Prince of Tides (as well as Junior, One True Friend in Best Original Song)
Hidden Gem: A Hidden Life
The nine-time Oscar nominee has proven himself to be very versatile in his decades-spanning work. From the western style of News of the World to the fantasy elements in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, James Newton Howard has never failed to deliver captivating music to move the film along. Hidden amongst his gargantuan work in King Kong and in the aforementioned films is his score for Terrence Malick’s latest film, A Hidden Life, a score with immense poise and serenity which helps to bring articulateness into the film’s simplicity.
Nominated For: Minari
Previous Nominations: None
Hidden Gem: The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Emile Mosseri stunned moviegoers with his down-to-earth score for Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari. His very distinctive sound and intimate nature of his scores can be heard in series like Homecoming and in films like Kajillionaire, but most vibrantly in The Last Black Man in San Francisco, whose peaceful and comforting score makes you feel like you are home.
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Nominated For: Mank, Soul
Previous Nominations: The Social Network
Hidden Gem: Mid90s
The two Nine Inch Nails mates and Oscar-winners blew audiences away with their score on David Fincher’s beloved film The Social Network, and did so again when they flipped the script on their usual style for the score of Fincher’s latest Oscar-juggernaut, Mank. They may be most well-known for collaborating with Fincher on other films too, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. They have also taken steps in composing films outside of Fincher as well. They are also nominated this year for their work on Pixar’s Soul with Jon Batiste, balancing their signature electronic-inspired style with Batiste’s jazz arrangements. Less known to many however, is their work on certain A24 films like Mid90s and Waves. While their work on Waves was undeniably gripping, their limited work on Jonah Hill’s Mid90s helps to capture the curiosity, angst, and air of invincibility that comes with being a young adolescent.