Editor’s note: Welcome to the thirteenth of a 32-part series dissecting the 84th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read any other posts regarding this event, please click the tag following the post. Thank you, and enjoy!
First off let’s begin with some notable omissions. They include Cliff Martinez for his moody, electronic-based work on Drive (deemed ineligible by the Academy) and Contagion. Other electronica based scores, like The Chemical Brothers’ techno treatment of Hanna and the brittle, cold music of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by last year’s winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, also missed out. I was a fan of the score for the underrated Last Night which was composed by Clint Mansell, who is often overlooked. In the film Margaret, classical composer Nico Muhly provided a light, nimble theme (with the use of an oboe, harp and piano) which created the perfect backdrop for such an operatic film. There were also some gorgeous moments in Alexandre Desplat’s work for The Tree of Life which was also ineligible, perhaps because it utilized so much classical music. But this year, the Academy has chosen some fine, if somewhat traditional, nominees.
The Adventures of Tin Tin
This is a playful, energetic work from John Williams but one that’s extraordinarily complicated in its construction. The Main Title cut, a highlight, is a myriad of slinky clarinets and harpsichord (akin to his snappy opener to Catch Me If You Can). Overall it proves that Williams is still an amazing composer and Spielberg collaborator with a knack for sweeping scores for adventure pics.
Creating an involving score for a silent pic must have been a challenge but the work of Ludovic Bource certainly rises to the occasion. The brisk and memorable “Main Theme” has a Chaplin-esque quality to match George Valentin’s (Jean Dujardin) physical comedy. Not surprisingly, piano is used throughout as in the elegant melody for “Comme une rosee de larmes.” The use of Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo music is controversial but I thought it blended well. “In the Stairs” is my favorite of the film’s grand and wistful love themes and it reminded me a bit of Ennio Morricone’s work on Cinema Paradiso.
This is a very jolly, Amelie sort of soundtrack (accordions and violins galore!) which doesn’t sound like anything Howard Shore has done before. Usually his music isn’t as a noticeable presence as it is here. “The Chase” is an example of Shore’s ability to create nimble music for driving action sequences. I love the woozy melodies and tempos on “The Clocks.”
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Alberto Iglesias, whose music for The Skin I Live In was another highlight for scores, composes this tricky Cold War throwback. I appreciate the subtlety of the music’s motifs: a languid piano melody with quietly frantic strings in the background. The piano notes seem to emulate Smiley while the strings signal “The Circus.” The cue “George Smiley” is slow jazz, and brushed drums with a lonesome trumpet solo. The strings are muted and placed in dissonance, again with a frantic quality. “One’s Gone” is a kinetic piece, with pulsing percussion and even an electric guitar. Like the plot twists in the film, the melodies often do not resolve in a satisfactory matter: overall the music is classy, complicated and fairly understated.
I felt a bit emotionally cold to the overly fanciful plot of War Horse, but its gorgeous John Williams score is undeniable. That theme is his most beautiful and tuneful in some time. I was brought back to his majestic work on Empire of the Sun.
Will Win: Contrary to what happens in other categories, non-American, younger and never-before-nominated nominees have been faring well here in recent years. I’m sensing a deserving win for The Artist. Not only is it the Best Picture front runner, but it’s the film with the most music.