Every year, Hollywood's stars put on their most glamorous dresses and tuxedos and make their way down the red carpet hoping to win the coveted Oscar. For me, though, the Academy Awards isn't just to see which beautiful star wins their award. I look forward to the composers. Since the founding of the awards, now in its 85th year, the academy has recognized the talents and skills of five outstanding composers for their original film scores. This year's list seems par for the course - John Williams, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat, Dario Marianelli... no surprise there. John Williams has been nominated over forty times with five wins. Thomas Newman has been nominated ten times, but no wins. Alexandre Desplat, five times with no wins. Dario Marianelli, a paltry three times, with one win. It's Mychael Danna who I'm surprised and happy to see make the cut. View the winner here!
Marianelli's original score for Anna Karenina sounds wonderfully periodic. It's charismatic, charming, quirky, playful, and at times, thoughtful and deep, largely due to the instruments chosen: accordions, horns, woodwinds, and drums are used for happier and up-tempo tracks, while orchestra and solo strings take on the more soulful and sombre moments. My only complaint is that it doesn't sound "original." I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's like I've heard this score before, or something very similar.
With its middle-eastern flair and flourish, Desplat's score for Argo is deeply profound, and rightly so. The film is based on the "Canadian Caper," a covert operation between the CIA and the Canadian government that rescued six American diplomats held hostage in Iran in 1979. Desplat's original score paints a dark picture using rich orchestrations and dissonant harmonies, while brilliantly remaining hopeful and heartfelt. There are several moments throughout the soundtrack that are sublime and terrifically cathartic.
Opening with an ethereal lullaby, which perfectly sets the theme and style of the score, Canadian composer, Mychael Danna, expertly combines non-western music with western orchestrations and modern electronica. Danna's original score for Life of Pi was also nominated and awarded the 2013 Golden Globe for Best Original Score. After listening to the score in its entirety, it's easy to understand why. Danna's score is enchanting, sincere, dreamlike, and simply captivating.
A great American score about a great American president composed by a great American composer. What could be more fitting? As I mentioned before, with over forty Academy Award nominations, John Williams is no stranger to the Oscars. In fact, it would be uncommon and out of the ordinary for his name not to be on the nominations list. Williams style is what many call neoromanticism, a modern day interpretation of the romantic period of classical music - large, robust orchestrations with wildly lush and emotionally charged thematics. His work for Liconln is nothing short of spectacular.
Thomas Newman's scores like Finding Nemo, American Beauty, and Meet Joe Black, (which are some of my favorites - see my top 10 list of best soundtracks) are deeply introspective, ambient, and almost religious, so it's refreshing to see some new tricks up his sleeve. Newman's Skyfall original score is packed full of punch, surprise, and grit. I would have never guessed the music of Skyfall was composed by the same man who wrote the music for WALL-E. Newman takes the Bond series soundtrack in a new direction while maintaing many of the series' recognizable and quintessential themes.