By Charlie Brigden
So that’s another year over with. Truth be told, it was excellent – I had to really agonise over this list, and if it was tomorrow it might be different. That’s a good thing; for all the pissing and moaning about how film music has been dead and buried for a number of years, 2014 has yielding some amazing scores.
Of course, plenty of controversy has permeated the film score community, which inevitably balked at the idea that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ Gone Girl should receive any praise, which is pretty much the same thing it did when The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo were released. Mica Levi’s intriguing Under The Skin became a symbol of confusion and distrust that Hans Zimmer could only dream of being, and speaking of Hans, he managed to compose a score that was actually quite well-received by score fans. And he did it all on his lonesome.
But enough yapping. I will say that I didn’t get out to the movies much this year, so my choices will be based on the soundtrack releases alone – hence why some not amazingly reputable films are included, which I guess is kind of the opposite of how the Oscars seem to do it. Oh well.
Before the main course, here’s what nearly got in: Maleficent (James Newton Howard), Birdman (Antonio Sanchez), Automata (Zacarias M. de la Riva), Guardians of the Galaxy (Tyler Bates), How To Train Your Dragon 2 (John Powell), Fury (Stephen Price), Belle (Rachel Portman).
10. THE LEGEND OF HERCULES – Tuomas Kantelinen
I’m an old-fashioned kind of idiot at heart, and while it apparently takes a special kind of idiot to enjoy The Legend of Hercules the film, I have a lot of time for Tuomas Kantelinen’s score, which goes for the full-on old-fashioned route and succeeds spectacularly. Great melodies, a really great theme for the main character, and a lot of fun writing (including a moaning woman cameo), it’s like Dwayne Johnson and his pancakes never existed.
9. GONE GIRL – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Come at me bro. The Reznor/Ross duo have already notched one Oscar under their belt due to the incredible score to The Social Network, and while they’re unlikely to grab another for Gone Girl, they can still be proud of another thoroughly discomforting soundscape they’ve created. It’s a bloody good listen really, and matches Fincher’s penchant for juxtaposing the beautiful with the disturbing. Also it’s not six hours long.
8. NOAH – Clint Mansell
Clint Mansell is Darren Aronofsky’s muse. The pair have worked together frantically since Pi, and their relationship has borne ridiculous fruit, not only the relentless Requiem For A Dream but also the swirlingly mesmerising Black Swan and the majestic The Fountain. Noah is real biblical wrath of god type stuff, absolutely fucking brutal and yet reaching for that sliver of hope to illustrate that man isn’t always a dickhead. Amazing.
7. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – Michael Giacchino
Lots of composers in Hollywood are fighting it out for the heir to John Williams’ crown, and while many have the moxie, no one else has as much talent as Michael Giacchino does. His work for DOTPOTA is incredible, providing an extra layer of emotional turmoil to both Caesar’s apes and the human survivors. The humanistic theme for the Apes is great, but the violent percussion and apocalyptic action is worthy of Jerry Goldsmith himself.
6. THE HOMESMAN – Marco Beltrami
Every now and again you get a revisionist Western of sorts that has a really low-key approach to its music, and The Homesman is no different. However, composer Beltrami took it a bit further by going all method and strapping a special kind of piano to the top of a hill and capturing it live. That gritty and weary feel adds an extra layer to the score, which is just a wonder to listen to, and immediately puts the composer onto a new level.
5. THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES – Howard Shore
Yes, I know the film is six days long. Yes, I know it sucks. No, I haven’t seen it, I’ll take your word for it. Viewers of Peter Jackson’s final Hobbit movie are more obsessed with length than Pinocchio and his nose, but what most of them fail to notice is how intricate and labyrinthine Howard Shore’s score is. The themes all come together (no, the Misty Mountains one isn’t here), and seeds laid in the opening seconds of An Unexpected Journey finally flower. A thing of beauty.
4. UNDER THE SKIN – Mica Levi
Wowsers. No one saw this one coming, but as soon as the first Homo sapiens witnessed Jonathan Glazer’s unsettling flick, they were raving on about the music as soon as the credits ended. And no wonder really – here, Levi has out-Reznored Reznor, creating a nightmarish stew of horror and beauty discombobulated and regurgitated out, forcing you to aurally sew the pieces back together to create a Frankenstein’s monster of undoubted power. Musical sorcery!
3. GODZILLA – Alexandre Desplat#
You have to wonder what it’s like to be the family of Alexandre Desplat, being that he seemingly spends all of his time composing film scores as well as being a classically handsome Gallic devil. This year he’s produced The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Unbroken, The Monuments Men, Suffragette, and my pick, his thundering score for Japan’s favourite export: Godzilla. Desplat’s music is suitably terrifying but also has a sense of respect for the title creature, so when he does come in and save the day, we’re cheering after him. And that final cue, wow!
2. INTERSTELLAR – Hans Zimmer
Elegant proof. Not that we’re not alone and that space has all the answers, but rather that Hans Zimmer writes better when he’s alone. Epic is a word that’s kind of lost its meaning, what with all of the kids on the internet using it to describe their latest bowel movements, but it really is fitting. It feels so massive, so huge, yet so tiny and intimate at the same time. Emotions are precise; at one point you feel like you’re soaring through the heavens, a tiny reminder of how insignificant we are, at others you’re in tears at the sheer human beauty. Oh Hans, we knew you had it in you.
1. INHERENT VICE – Jonny Greenwood
Jonny Greenwood is the alternative Michael Giacchino. While lots of interesting composers are doing fine work, he is scarily high above them. Inherent Vice is another example of this, but not necessarily in a way you’d expect. Here Greenwood shows he knows his history, and his score is full of unease and edge, drawing from the obvious Bernard Herrmann but also the film noir work of Miklos Rozsa, while layering his own fractured personality and style on top. He’s perfectly suited for Paul Thomas Anderson really – both can show that when their peers start to reach their shoes, they can effortlessly pull away in another gear. Frightening, really.