Almost every year I start this category out by saying that this is a difficult category for me and that scores usually aren’t the main thing I’m paying attention to when I watch a movie. Not this year. This has been a landmark year for interesting and innovative scores that you can’t help but notice, and not in a bad “this is standing out to much” kind of way. Hollywood really opened itself up to new and interesting talent and it paid back in dividends.
- 127 Hours: I thought it was pretty crazy when Danny Boyle brought back A. R. Rahman to score his follow-up to Slumdog Millionaire, and frankly I’m ashamed at myself for doing so. Rahman more than proves himself to be far more than the “local flavor” that he seemed to be in that last film. Here he provides a really tense guitar driven score that ratchets up the suspense of the situation at the film’s center and perfectly melds with the source music in the film.
- Inception: Baaaaaaoooooo! Baaaaaaoooooo! You know that sound I’m talking about; that loud bass hit at the center of Hans Zimmer’s intense score for Inception. It’s one of the more striking music effects since Brad Fiedel banded his kitchen pot for the score of the Terminator movies. It obviously doesn’t end there, this movie has a driving orchestral assault that builds and builds upon itself at all times. This isn’t a quiet score that accentuates things here and there; it’s big music for a big movie.
- The Social Network: I’ve been a Nine Inch Nails fan for years and I’ll say right now that I think it’s cool as hell that Trent Reznor is in the middle of a highly acclaimed film, but that’s not going to give him a leg up, especially given that this actually sounds kind of different from his work as a rock star. What is going to give him a leg up is that he made one of the most interesting and appropriate scores of the year which completely alters the mood of the film.
- Tron: Legacy: Daft Punk is a group that has reached almost unprecedented levels of success for a hardcore House outfit, they’re the best there is at what they do and their somewhat kitchy robot schtick made them an absolutely awesome choice to do this score. There is a lot of really good toe tapping electronica here, but it is often combined with some really majestic orchestrations. As an album this has charted higher than any score since The Phantom Menace, and I understand why, I’d probably enjoy litening to this in that format than any of the other nominees.
- True Grit: Deep down the Coen brothers are jokesters, dry jokesters, but jokesters just the same. True Grit can be a very funny movie and it can also be an exciting action movie, but it also has serious undercurrents and a beating heart at its center and Carter Burwell’s score is a big part of why that is. The score was disqualified from the Oscar race because it was heavily based on a number of hymns, a fact I can’t personally verify. To my ears though, this is some great music that makes the movie a lot better.