Cate Blanchett in Tr
Cate Blanchett in Tár (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

Music at the Oscars: The Genius of Tár, the Absurdity of Elvis, and David Byrne’s Favorite Film Scores

In this episode of the Pitchfork Review podcast, our critics discuss the biggest music-themed Oscar contenders. Plus, Best Song nominees David Byrne and Son Lux leader Ryan Lott talk about what makes a great movie score.

Co-hosted by Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel and Reviews Director Jeremy D. Larson, our weekly podcast includes in-depth analysis of what’s great (and terrible) in the world of music. This week, Features Editor Jill Mapes, who recently wrote a story on the state of music movies, pops by to discuss two notable contenders vying for gold at this Sunday’s Oscar ceremony: The psychological drama Tár and the shamelessly over-the-top biopic Elvis. Topics include the brilliance of Cate Blanchett’s ruthless conductor Lydia Tár, the goofiness of Tom Hanks’ Col. Tom Parker, and who we’re rooting for in this year’s music categories. 

And stay tuned to the end of the episode, where David Byrne and Son Lux’s Ryan Lott—who are nominated for Best Song for their Everything Everywhere All at Once collaboration with Mitski, “This Is a Life”—talk about some of their favorite film scores.

Listen to this week’s episode below, and follow The Pitchfork Review here. You can also check out an excerpt of the podcast’s transcript below. 

Jeremy D. Larson: Did you leave Elvis more connected to Elvis’ music?

Jill Mapes: I mean, no. But part of what’s really interesting about the boom of biopics in the last few years is that they seem at least partially motivated by catalog and the fact that there are these companies buying up the publishing rights to classic artists and songs. Like the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody is something that felt very motivated by this huge catalog—and it was also done very hackily. So what’s really funny about the Elvis soundtrack is like: Why are all these contemporary people spending their time making Elvis mega mixes? It’s supposed to renew musical interest in Elvis’ catalog, but I can’t imagine it doing that at all. 

Puja Patel: It is interesting that the soundtrack of contemporary music blended in enough into the chaos of this movie, that it’s both seamless and forgettable, but also didn’t stand out in a way that was so jarring that I can remember it. 

Larson: I was distracted by “Hound Dog” going into Doja Cat. That ripped me directly out of this movie. 

Patel: Jill, was there a musical performance on the soundtrack that you liked? 

Mapes: One of the things that was a little bit more classy and in line with the sonics of the original was Kacey Musgraves covering “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which felt pretty faithful to the era.

Patel: So Elvis is up for eight awards. What do we think they’re going to win? 

Mapes: Austin Butler, Best Actor. 

Larson: For sure.

Mapes: I hope that’s all it wins, respectfully. 

Larson: I am nervous it’s going to win Best Picture. I just need you to be prepared for it. 

Patel: I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I worry that it will win Best Editing. 

Mapes: Oh, but it’s so—it gives you a headache.