Looking over the Oscar nominations for best scores this year is a bit underwhelming, but with the event just of couple days away we figured now was the best time to really break down the nominations and take a close look.
Listening through the nominations we see a pretty good mix of film types and score composers and no double nominations for John Williams this year. In fact, we're missing a few of the big leaguers like Danny Elfman and Philip Glass. Thankfully we have Hans Zimmer's score to Sherlock Holmes to make fun of, though, so it's not all a wash.
Nominee: AvatarComposer: James Horner
Avatar is a film we're all supposed to be in love with, but we can't help but feel a little distraught at James Horner's score for trying so goddamn hard to pull at our heartstrings. His score is the definition of manipulative Hollywood tripe, hoping that if the bright 3D colors don't get you, maybe the epic soundtrack will.
Nominee: Fantastic Mr. Fox Composer: Alex andre Desplat
When Fantastic Mr. Fox was initially announced, we were kind of hoping we'd see the return of Mark Mothersbaugh to Wes Anderson's film scoring. That said, Alexandre Desplat does a fantastic job of scoring the adorable film with folksy and bluegrass-esque tunes.
The result is a score that somehow feels both small and large at the same time, almost as if it'd been composed by the little puppets themselves. Anderson does his usual dirty work with a licensed track or two, as well, often to startling and unneeded ends. We can't fault Desplat for that, though, and the score is an excellent companion to the film.
Nominee: The Hurt Locker Composer: Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
Don't feel too bad if you've never heard of the team of Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders. Their score to The Hurt Locker isn't their first collaboration -- that honor goes to the absolutely awful Max Payne movie. Beltrami has also worked on a few great scores, including 3:10 to Yuma and Scream, and he has also worked with Marilyn Manson on the Resident Evil soundtrack.
We're tracing all this history for a reason, though, and that's the fact The Hurt Locker has one of our favorite scores of the year. Oddly, the reason we enjoyed it was because we didn't notice it too much. Where many war films chose to have epic massive orchestrations to yank tears out of your eyes or put you on the edge of your seat, The Hurt Locker relies more on the subdued. It was a nice change of pace and certainly a welcome one.
Nominee: Sherlock Holmes Composer: Hans Zimmer
While we're convinced Hans Zimmer would write up a score for a pebble skipping across a lake if someone paid him enough, we have to give him a little credit for the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack in that it doesn't sound exactly like everything he's done before.
Maybe it's the supposed quirkiness of the film, or the consistent need to have music accompanying shirtless fight scenes, but much to our chagrin Zimmer actually steps it up a notch here (which doesn't actually mean much).
Separated from the film, it has a difficult time standing tall, but inside the weird world of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, the accordions and violins make perfect sense. It's certainly as far away from innovative as you're going to get from these nominees but so was the film.
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Nominee: Up Composer: Michael Giacchino
Michael Giacchino's score to Up is our pick for best soundtrack and not just because it already won the BAFTA, Grammy and Golden Globe Awards for best score, but because it's easily the most well thought out and interesting of the nominations this year.
Giacchino's decision to use a character based score has paid off in spades, as the viewer is treated to different renditions of similar compositions over the course of the film to depict changes in the characters.
It works well in conveying both meaning and emotion. It also adds a distinctly human layer to the computer animated film, adding more depth to character emotion than any tweak to eye movement or facial animation ever could.