Which Scores Aren't Eligible For Oscars This Year? 'Sound Of Metal,' 'Judas And The Black Messiah,' 'One Night In Miami,' And More

It's awards season, I guess! Which means it's time to find out what films are eligible for which awards and which will get shut out in the cold. Best Score is always a tricky field for the Oscars (and their British counterpart the BAFTAs) because in order for a musical score to qualify it has to be primarily original. For instance: to be eligible for the BAFTAs, a film needs to have 50% original music, the Oscars require 60%. As a result, several buzzworthy films are going to get left behind this year, including Sound of Metal, Judas and the Black Messiah, and One Night in Miami.

When it comes to music awards at the Oscars, the Academy has the following set of rules in place:

  • The work must be the result of a creative interaction between the filmmaker(s) and the composer(s) and/or songwriter(s) who have been engaged to work directly on the motion picture.
  • A score must be created specifically for the eligible feature-length motion picture and comprise a minimum of 60% of the total music in the film.
  • If a score does not meet the minimum 60%, the composer may submit a letter to the Branch Executive Committee, stating reasons for the score to be accepted for consideration. All letters must be received by the due dates published by the Academy for the current awards cycle.
  • The decision of the Music Branch Executive Committee shall be final.
  • In cases such as sequels and franchises from any media, the score must consist of more than 80% newly composed music which does not contain any pre-existing themes borrowed from previous scores in the franchise.
  • The work must be recorded for use in the motion picture prior to any other usage, including public performance or exploitation through any media whatsoever.
  • Only the principal composer(s) or songwriter(s) responsible for the conception and execution of the work as a whole shall be eligible for an award. Expressly excluded from eligibility are all of the following:
  • partial contributors (i.e., any writer not responsible for the overall design of the work)
  • contributors working on speculation
  • producers and/or arrangers not responsible for the creation of the original song or score
  • music supervisors
  • A score shall not be eligible if:
  • it has been diluted by the use of pre-existing music, or
  • it has been diminished in impact by the predominant use of songs or any music not composed specifically for the film by the submitting composer, or
  • it has been assembled from the music of more than one composer

With all that in mind, Variety has the scoop on which films won't be making the cut this year when it comes to a Best Original Score at the upcoming Academy Awards. One Night in Miami, which has a score from Terence Blanchard, won't be submitted for consideration because it features multiple songs. Blanchard isn't entirely out of the running, though, because he could still nab a nomination for his score for Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods.

Then there's Judas and the Black Messiah, which has a score by Mark Isham and Craig Harris. The film's score as a whole features many other pre-existing tracks besides the work composed by Isham and Harris, and therefore won't qualify. Another title that won't qualify for similar reasons: the upcoming The United States vs. Billie Holiday. Another ineligible film: Sound of Metal. There's still some hope for the film in the sound department, though – there's always a chance it'll land a Best Sound Editing nod, and it really should, because the sound design in that film is extraordinary.

Variety also has a list of additional films that won't be submitted for score consideration: Land (music by Ben Sollee and Time for Three), The Assistant (music by Tamar-kali), The Endless Trench (music by Pascal Gaigne), The Half of It (music by Anton Sanko), Happiest Season (music by Amie Doherty), Herself (music by Natalie Holt), The King of Staten Island (music by Michael Andrews), Locked Down (music by John Powell), Nomadland (music by Ludovico Einaudi), and Palm Springs (music by Matthew Compton).

The Oscar nominations will be announced on March 15, 2021.