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January 14, 2016
88th Annual Academy Award Nominations Announced
The Force Awakens Williams' 50th Oscar nom by Jon Burlingame

John Williams

John Williams

HOLLYWOOD—Composer John Williams made Oscar history on Thursday by scoring his 50th Academy Award nomination for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, one of 10 films honored for their music by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The 83-year-old composer, who won one of his five Oscars for the original Star Wars in 1977, spent most of last year creating the music for J.J. Abrams' blockbuster seventh film in the space-opera series launched by George Lucas. Williams has scored all seven films. He is also the most-nominated living individual at the Oscars.

Joining Williams as nominees in the "original score" category are Thomas Newman, with his 13th nomination, for Steven Spielberg's film Bridge of Spies (the only film among the score nominees to also be nominated as Best Picture); New York-based Carter Burwell, with his first nomination, for Todd Hayes' love story Carol; and Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson, with his second nomination, for the drug-cartel thriller Sicario.

Johannsson was previously nominated for 2014's The Theory of Everything; Burwell often scores films for Joel and Ethan Coen but has never before been nominated. Newman's track record includes such hits as The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty and Finding Nemo.

Ennio Morricone (photo by Christian Muth)

Ennio Morricone
photo by Christian Muth

Revered Italian composer Ennio Morricone, 87, earned his sixth nomination for the music of Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight. He is only the second composer in the history of the Academy to receive an honorary Oscar (in 2006) for his body of work. Morricone's score won the Golden Globe on Sunday.

Overlooked in the original-score category this year were last year's winner, Alexandre Desplat (Grand Budapest Hotel), for The Danish Girl; and previous winner Michael Giacchino (Up), for this year's Pixar hit Inside Out.

The "original song" category is especially wide-ranging this year, including a James Bond song, songs from two documentaries, one from a sexy drama, and one from an award-winning European film.

Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes

Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes

"Writing's on the Wall" (by English singer Sam Smith and his writing partner Jimmy Napes) was written for the 007 film Spectre. It is the fifth Bond song to be Oscar-nominated (after "Live and Let Die," "Nobody Does It Better," "For Your Eyes Only" and "Skyfall," which won the 2012 Oscar for Adele). It won the Golden Globe on Sunday.

One of the documentary songs is "Til It Happens to You" from The Hunting Ground, the film about the epidemic of rape on college campuses. This marks songwriter Diane Warren's eighth time at the Oscars; her co-writer, vocalist Lady Gaga, is also nominated. The other song from a documentary is "Manta Ray," from Racing Extinction, about the mass extinction of species on this planet, written by J. Ralph (his second nomination, after "Chasing Ice" in 2012) and singer Antony (Hegarty, his first).

Rounding out the song nominees are "Simple Song No. 3" from Youth, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang, and "Earned It" from Fifty Shades of Grey by Canadian singer The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) and co-writers Ahmad Balshe, Jason "DeHeala" Quenneville and Stephan Moccio. All are first-time nominees.

The 88th annual Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 28.

©2016 Jon Burlingame
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