In retrospect, this has been an amazing year for original scores with damn near every movie I saw having a score that was at least worth noting. It’s been so good that I had to make some difficult choices in order to narrow down the options. I had to omit great work by noted composers like Alexandre Desplat, Michael Giacchino, Alberto Iglesias, and Trent Reznor. Hell, I even had to omit not one but two new John Willaims scores.
- The Artist: Given that The Artist is a silent film, it’s only natural that the film’s score is going to be front and center. This poses some interesting challenges for composer Ludovic Bource and one of the more interesting side effects is that the soundtrack is constantly in flux. While most scores find a theme and just do variations on it for much of the film, this score really changes a lot as the film goes on. That many of the different sections are in their own way worth remembering says a lot.
- Contagion: Scores have increasingly incorporated electronic sounds recently and Cliff Martinez’ work on Contagion was an excellent example of how these sounds could be used without sounding out of place at all. Considering that the film is about the spread of an invisible plague, this pulsing music is almost like a manifestation of the disease spreading through the air. It’s great stuff to have stressed out characters in difficult situations do walk and talks to.
- A Dangerous Method: Wager loomed large over cinema this year, playing a major musical role in both Melencholia and A Dangerous Method. The use of Wagner’s music is particularly appropriate in A Dangerous Method given the film’s setting, but that’s not what I’m awarding here. What I’m awarding is the original music by Howard Shore, particularly the film’s main theme, which I suspect will be used in half of the movie trailers that are cut in the next couple of years.
- Hanna: There’s been a recent trend of popular electronica artists making film scores, and this score from The Chemical Brothers is probably the most adventurous one yet. When the action scenes take off the score is impressively percussive and intense, but the music really excels in its depiction of the film’s twisted fairy tale tone. There’s a song on here which sounds like some kind of insane psychedelic amusement park, and that’s enough for a nomination right there.
- Take Shelter: David Wingo has been working as a composer for the last ten years, but hasn’t gotten a lot of recognition for his work. For Take Shelter he needs to bring a very menacing tone to the table, but also make it fit in when played against some seemingly mundane locales. What he’s essentially done is made a horror film’s score, and insert it into film that hues much closer to being a standard drama for much of its running time. The results aren’t necessarily going to be something you are humming when leaving the theater, but within the movie they’re haunting.