With Oscar nominations just around the corner, let’s take a look at one of the categories that, thankfully, never seems to spark the deranged passions of bloggers and columnists, half of which right are now are in the middle of deciding whether to canonize or burn Martin Scorsese.
Nothing helps the mind relax and the emotions flow like a good piece of music and in the case of movie music, which can be thrilling and evocative (Mud) or intrusive and distracting (Gravity), it can also help us define specific viewing experiences. How many of you were rolling your eyes at Hans Zimmer’s redundant score for Captain Phillips only to realize the score had been in fact written by Henry Jackman? And how many of you were flabbergasted at Zimmer’s ability to stop parodying himself and delivering one of the year’s lushest scores in the stunning 12 Years a Slave?
AMPAS’ music branch always works in its own peculiar ways (never discount John Williams who apparently scored The Book Thief in 2013), but we can dream about them nominating ingenious, groundbreaking scores, right? In the service of said wishful thinking here’s our FYC for Best Original Score (apologies to the sweeping work of Zimmer and Christophe Beck of Frozen who were runner-ups).
1. Lele Marchitelli for The Great Beauty
Paolo Sorrentino’s love-song to Rome was already so Felliniesque that to use music similar to Nino Rota’s would’ve been complete overkill, so he went the traditional way and had Lele Marchitelli concoct a score so sweeping and gorgeous that with each new note we feel we are watching something truly divine.
2. Alex Ebert for All Is Lost
As the bandleader of Ima Robot and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Alex Ebert has proved to be one of the most inventive American musicians, but nothing in his work so far could’ve prepared us for the Vangelis-meets-Beethoven glory of the music for All is Lost. In a movie of very few words, his arrangements evoke the film’s endless melancholy as a single character fights hard to survive against the inclement, heartless force of nature.
3. Arcade Fire & Owen Pallett for Her
While the disco beats were orgamsic, Arcade Fire's Reflektor wasn’t their best work this year. Creating the music for Spike Jonze’s lovely Her, the superband found themselves reaching new peaks of inventiveness. With the question of how to voice something who isn’t tangible, they created a soundtrack that evokes love and god, which seen, or rather heard, through their pieces might very well be the same thing.
4. Clint Mansell for Stoker
No working composer has been creating music as “quotable” as Clint Mansell. His work with Darren Aronofsky is impeccable and to date he has only been nominated for a single Golden Globe Award and a Grammy. His layered, mischievous work in Stoker should’ve put him in more people’s ballots, if only because of the way he makes us see Matthew Goode’s character’s wicked smile with a single piano note.
5. Cliff Martinez and Skrillex for Spring Breakers
Martinez had a banner year between this and his brilliant work in the unjustly maligned Only God Forgives. If AMPAS voters were more adventurous, this would go to the very top of their list given it’s perhaps the most zeitgeisty score of the year. Sure in decades to come they’d blush about nominating Skrillex for Oscars, but listening to how he and Martinez are able to sum up euphoria in tracks like “Bikinis and Big Booties Y’all” and “With You, Friends (Long Drive)”, it’s undeniable to say that no other music represented 2013 like theirs did.