I’ve always had trouble identifying really good scores in spite of their accepted importance to most movies. For some reason I seem to miss a lot of scores when I see a movie, people will talk about a movie’s score and I will have to admit I didn’t remember much of it. Some scores do stand out for me though, and I’ve made sure to look up stand out scores and give them another listen, after that review the experience of hearing the score in the films usually come back to me. It should probably be noted that I haven’t seen either Sherlock Holmes or Up, and I know those are both well liked scores.
- Avatar: There are some score aficionados have had problems with James Horner’s score to Avatar, saying that parts of it are derivative of other Horner scores. I can’t really speak to this, but what I can say is that this score worked really well for me in the context of the film. The score has a very percussive, tribal aspect to it, but it also has this sort of epic coral side to it as well. I enjoyed it a lot even if it perhaps isn’t the Star Wars score of our time.
- The Brothers Bloom: While the film as a whole was a pretty derivative affair that pandered to hipster sensibilities, I thought the score by Nathan Johnson was pretty remarkable and creative. This is a Eastern European tinged score that incorporates a number of unconventional instrumentations. The main theme feels very playful, but with a more serious and melancholy undercurrent. If the film itself had been able to match this tone we really would have had something here.
- The Informant!: Marvin Hamlisch may not be the most famous composer out there, but his work was really important in the 70s and 80s. This was actually his first score since 1996 and his older aesthetic worked perfectly for the deliberately retro styling’s of Soderbergh’s film. This is basically some old school lounge music, the kind of thing you’d expect to hear in the background of a high class party. It’s very unique when compared to the average score.
- Moon: Clint Mansel is sort of a young turk within the music composer establishment. He represents a new generation of movie music, and has risen to prominence with his scores to movies like Requiem for a Dream, whose theme has become a staple of film trailers. His score to Moon is not his most accessible and is meant to be a rather moody piece that works better in the context of the movie than it does in your memory.
- A Single Man: The score to A Single Man, which features pieces by both Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi, adds a lot to the film’s emotional core. The film is all about a man who can’t express himself in public and the music needs to sort of speak for him. The music is heavy on the strings and makes for a pretty good listen.