Iceland wins Oscar

Iceland wins Oscar


norman lebrecht

February 10, 2020

The Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir last night won Best Original Score at the Oscars for the movie Joker.

She came in ahead of John Williams, Randy Newman, Alexandre Desplat, and Thomas Newman.


No further comment was needed but, within minutes, Hollywood media were shrilling that she is the first woman to win this award. That must have really affected how she composed.

And, by the way, Rachel Portman won the same Oscar in 1996.

Anyone remember the 20th century?


  • Gustavo says:

    Predictable decision to combat Me2.

    Music sounds dreadful.

  • V.Lind says:

    She’s not, really. They have restructured the way music awards are defined. Used to be separated into dramatic and musical or comedy, so Rachel Portman and Anne Dudley won for Emma and The Full Monty respectively. And Marilyn Bergman shared a Best Original Song Score Oscar with her husband Aland and Michel Legrand for their work on Yentl.

    Neither Song Score, Adaptation Score, nor genre specifications have applied to Academy Awards for film scores since 1999.

  • Dr Presume says:

    Except, of course, that she’s not the first woman to win the award…

  • Larry W says:

    A country of only 340,000 people, Iceland has more talent per capita than any other country, including an excellent symphony orchestra.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Good on her. However her music does not change my view that film music ,overall (unless you are Prokofiev), translate well to concert hall if you have not seen and loved the film. Things were different when great composers wrote music for plays which transcended their often less than perfect original context. Those pieces still deserve to be heard in concert halls.

  • Jon says:

    She’s actually the fourth woman to win this award.

  • Simon Montagu says:

    What is Rachel Portman? Chopped liver?

  • Marcangelo says:

    Congrats, Hildur! Your music captured the essence of the “Joker” character. Salute!

    • Gustavo says:

      The music may have captured the essence of that ridiculous character.

      But the music will not survive in concert without the film.

      • SteelyTom says:

        She’s just another lightweight film composer, like Copland, Schnittke, Shostakovich and Takemitsu.

      • Tom says:

        So what if it doesn’t survive in concert? That’s not what she wrote it for. Time to celebrate and move on to the next score.

      • SMH says:

        Gustavo, I assume you are unaware that major orchestras are routinely doing live performances of acclaimed films (Godfather, Star Wars, Coco, etc.) with great success. The Los Angeles Philharmonic routinely sells out the Hollywood Bowl for such concerts.

        • Gustavo says:

          Yes, and BSO becomes Boston Pops each year, with the legendary Film Night.

          But that’s not the point, here.

          I don’t think that the Vienna Phil would ever like to play a symphonic suite from “Joker”.

  • MusicBear88 says:

    Maybe I’m just dense, but why are people being dismissive and saying that (some/most) film music doesn’t translate to the concert platform? That’s not why it was written. It’s like saying that a string quartet doesn’t work well in a subway station.

  • Caruso says:

    Ok Norman, I’ll fix the headline for you:

    “Hildur Guðnadóttir wins an Oscar”

  • Ceasar says:

    More interesting is Claude Bolling’s “Temptation Rag” being used in the film.

    • Hilary says:

      Some fake Baroque music along with an aria from Handel’s “Rodalinda” makes an appearance in an even greater film from 2019:”parasite” – a film which I commend to all readers/contributors to SD