As you hopefully know by now, this blog is dedicated to movies. And TV. But let’s say primarily movies. As writers and critics, we try to address every aspect of a film, especially those that make a film great. Alas, 700-1200 words isn’t quite enough to address every strength of a really strong movie. Much to my own disappointment, I tend to fail to talk much about one of the key components: the music. Music can make or break a movie, propelling otherwise lackluster movies into fame, or causing otherwise good movies to fail. So, today I’d like to take a look at a few excellent original scores from the last few years, excepting Oscar nominees and winners, and scores by Hans Zimmer and Howard Shore, because I assume everyone is up to speed with them. Instead, here are a few you may have missed:
Stoker – Clint Mansell
Most of you are probably familiar with Clint Mansell in at least some capacity. He composed the music for Moon, The Fountain, Black Swan, most famously Requiem for a Dream, and most recently Noah. Since he works with Darren Aronofsky a lot, his scores are frequently steeped in horror and mystery, which means that he struck the perfect tone for Chan-wook Park’s atmospherically unsettling Stoker.
Mud – Lucero and David Wingo
As I’ve stated many times before, I’m a big fan of Jeff Nichols’ films, and his most recent release, Mud, is no exception. Unlike its soul-crushing predecessors Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, Mud is an incredibly heartfelt coming-of-age story with a superb script, wonderful cinematography, and an all-around smashing cast. Lucero, who also provided the soundtrack for Shotgun Stories, provides a guitar piece that blends so nicely with Wingo’s score, and everything else in the film.
The Grey – Marc Streitenfeld
Streitenfeld spent most of his career working as a music editor for Ridley Scott and Hans Zimmer. He eventually graduated to composer for Scott films like American Gangster, Robin Hood, and Prometheus, but I think his best work was for Joe Carnahan’s Ridley Scott-produced death odyssey The Grey, for which he produces a series of sad laments, building up to this finale.
Editor’s note: This track was actually composed by Jamin Winans for his film Ink. The score for The Grey is dope as heck, though.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Benh Zeitlin and Dan Romer
Both composers were relatively new to the game when they worked on this 2013 Best Picture nominee. Zeitlin, of course, also wrote and directed Beasts of the Southern Wild. He was nominated for both of those categories, but his score was overlooked in the awards circuit. I’m not really sure why that is, because it’s great and it so nicely complements the film’s tone of wonder, sadness, and magical realism.
Brave – Patrick Doyle
Doyle’s done a lot of big movies, getting back-to-back Oscar nominations in ’96 and ’97 for Sense and Sensibility and Hamlet. His score for Pixar’s Scottish adventure film was sadly overlooked in 2013, but his Celtic melodies are nonetheless beloved by this lowly blogger, and are partly responsible for creating Brave’s astounding sense of place, magic, and history.
Never Let Me Go– Rachel Portman
I love Rachel Portman. She won an Oscar for the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma, and has since then produced consistently beautiful scores for films such as Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, The Duchess, One Day, and, of course, the painfully sad Never Let Me Go. Ugh. This movie. Watch it and enjoy how your heart crumbles in time with the music. The score and the movie are both sad on their own, but put them together and everything hurts.
Hanna – The Chemical Brothers
And now for something completely different, the strangely melodic techno/circus score of the Chemical Brothers. Hanna could have so easily been another bland spy thriller, but the music (and the direction) propel it into a weird, dreamlike, wholly memorable film. If you’ve never seen it, just listen to this; it’ll give you a pretty good idea of the movie’s tone.
Pacific Rim – Ramin Djawadi
And now for something completely different. Pacific Rim is a fantastic movie, and it is only improved by its utterly kick-ass score. I hate doing exercise, or really exerting myself in any way, but this music actually makes me want to do something physical. On the rare occasion that I actually go for a run, I listen to this (or The Dark Knight Rises), because running a mile is so much easier if you feel like you’re saving the world in the process. I leave you with this: