Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Best Scores Of The Year . . . So Far

10. The Taking Of Pelham 123 by Harry Gregson-Williams: Harry reunites with longtime director and collaborator Tony Scott for the first time since Deja Vu. This time the score is a little less thematic and more atmospheric. You still have plenty of Harry’s signatures throughout. While it’s not nearly anywhere near his best work it still provided the film with it’s identity and made it a “Tony Scott Film”.

9. Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince by Nicholas Hooper: Nicholas Hooper returns to score his second Potter film. This time the score is more brooding than anything else. It never steps up to be anything great but provides just enough thematic material to squeak into the list of this mid-season check in.

8. Up by Michael Giacchino: The summer of Giacchino was a pleasant one. With three high profile scores to kick off the summer Up was a fresh and heartwarming emotional journey that was uplifting (no pun intended). The score has a wide range even if it isn’t all that thematic and that’s why it’s a notable one.

7. District 9 by Clinton Shorter: I love surprises. I wasn’t expecting anything going into this film, but what accompanies the story was an intense and emotional score that comes out of nowhere from a nobody. Clinton Shorter (who?) has some experience but this is his first high profile work. The score is surprisingly emotional with the use of vocals and simple thematic material that brings to mind Hans Zimmer.

6. Public Enemies by Elliot Goldenthal: Elliot Goldenthal working with Michael Mann again was sort of a huge deal since the last film they did together was Heat. The thing with Michael Mann, which must be challenging for composers is that they compose a score knowing it will be interwoven with songs. Mann is known for handpicking his song selections beforehand and he usually always uses them in the film. Goldenthal does an excellent job of working with the songs to create a sonic landscape. The score is clearly influenced by Zimmer’s The Thin Red Line (Mann even used a track from the score in the film and Hans got special thanks in the credits). Overall there isn’t much score, but what’s there works and works well.

5. The Brothers Bloom by Nathan Johnson: Nathan Johnson is a relatively new composer to the industry. He scored Brick which was directed by his cousin. This time around his cousin had a completely different film at his helm. The score oozes with a jazzy ragtime feel. It bleeds with a unique voice and definitely establishes itself early and keeps itself in the spotlight. This is his only his 3rd score ever so I’m sure we have a lot to look forward to.

4. Star Trek by Michael Giachino: When J.J. Abrams was announced as the director it was also assumed that Giacchino would be the composer. Instead of looking back at what Goldsmith did for the series he went back to what Courage did for the series on the original television show. The score is all Giacchino and brings to mind his scores to the Medal Of Honor game series. His theme is grand and in charge without being campy. It was a great summer score.

3. Angels & Demons by Hans Zimmer: Hans follows up his score to The Da Vinci Code in what can best be described as angelic music mashed with demonic music. He blends electronics to represent the science aspect of the film and religious chants to represent the historic and religious aspects of the film. The score is extremely aggressive. It hits the ground running and stays that way, which is necessary since not a lot is happening on screen. It’s thematic, it’s loud yet surprises you with moments of beauty that call back to The Da Vinci Code. It’s everything a summer Hans score should be.

2. Sin Nombre by Marcelo Zarvos: Here is the first score of the year that I can honestly say should be in the Oscar race. Marcelo Zarvos is an extremely talented composer and hear he shows just how he can carry a story solely through sound. Ethnic themes carry most of the score but just listening to how it plays out from beginning to end one can easily envision the story in their mind. Foreboding tension is placed within the arrangements and it’s what progresses everything forward. This is a high recommendation. Everyone should check this score out.

1. Moon by Clint Mansell: The last time Mansell composed anything for “space” was for The Fountain and I truly feel that score is one of the best composed in the last decade. I wasn’t going in expecting anything close to The Fountain, but what I discovered was a score so radically different yet emotionally fulfilling. A mix mash of electronics with the piano taking precedent over any other instrument. I guess one could call it a minimalist score especially based off the solo listening experience, but the layers it builds are impossible to describe in words even though Mansell strives on simple melodies. It creates the sense of isolation, the sense of living in one dimension, the sense of confusion but most impressively it allows you to feel what it’s like to have a big huge something missing from within and what it feels to have the desire to fill that void. Clint Mansell is an amazing composer and this is one hell of a score for one hell of a movie. You won’t see this score nominated, but it’s most likely gonna stay at the top of the year for me come December 31st when I recount the entire year.

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