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Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir picks up Oscar for Best Original Score

By Benjamin Bullard
Joker composer Hildur Guðnadóttir

Joker’s slow-boiling, cello-driven musical backdrop must have left a deep impression on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year. Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, the only woman nominated in the category, walked away from the Academy Awards Sunday with the statue for her evocative musical score framing Arthur Fleck's dark descent into madness.

Guðnadóttir, who’s already picked up honors at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice awards, was visibly moved as she accepted the award. "This is so touching ... I don't know what to say," she confessed. "My fellow nominees, masters of the craft — it's been such an honor to get to know you all. It's been so special." 

With the win, Guðnadóttir edged out some pretty robust competition — including movie-music titan John Williams, who also was nominated this year for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The ninth and final film in the Skywalker saga may mark Williams' last contribution to the Star Wars movie-verse, whose very world he's been so instrumental in shaping. In addition to Williams, Guðnadóttir also went up against iconic musical names like Alexandre Desplat (Little Women), Randy Newman (Marriage Story), and Thomas Newman (1917).

From the awards stage, Guðnadóttir also took an opportunity to encourage other female musicians to trust in their own inspiration. "To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within: Please speak up," she said. "We need to hear your voices.”

The win marked one of Joker’s highlights at this year’s Oscars, with the movie entering the evening with a total of 11 nominations. Todd Phillips' deviation from the Batman movie canon has been in the spotlight throughout this year's awards season — mostly on the strength of star Joaquin Phoenix’s dark portrayal of Athur Fleck.