Movie Music UK Awards 2010
SCORE OF THE YEAR
- JOHN POWELL for How To Train Your Dragon
- DAFT PUNK for Tron: Legacy
- ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Part I
- ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for The King’s Speech
- JAMES NEWTON HOWARD for The Last Airbender
In the end, there was no decision to make in terms of the overall score of the year. John Powell’s HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON has as much life, energy, creativity, ingenuity, and unadulterated fun as any score in recent memory; not only does it contain at least four standout themes, the way the music complements the film while still remaining a stellar listen on CD is a benchmark for all other scores to follow. The two scores by Alexandre Desplat – HARRY POTTER AND DEATHLY HALLOWS PART I and THE KING’S SPEECH – show vastly different sides to the Frenchman, with Harry Potter proving beyond doubt that he is the right man to conclude the saga with his effortless blend of fantasy drama and intellectual composition, while The King’s Speech shows his restrained, elegant side with a score that combines the regality of English monarchy with a brilliant musical representation of a stutter.
French electronica duo Daft Punk made their film music debus a splashy one with the sci-fi sequel TRON LEGACY, and gave us a score that beautifully blends a vivid orchestral palette with some of the most sophisticated synth programming heard in a score in years. Finally, James Newton Howard’s THE LAST AIRBENDER brought a touch of class to a truly miserable film, with boisterous action themes and a glorious finale.
- ALEXANDRE DESPLAT
- DANNY ELFMAN
- JAMES NEWTON HOWARD
- CHRISTOPHER LENNERTZ
- JOHN POWELL
Not content with writing two of the best scores of the year in HARRY POTTER AND DEATHLY HALLOWS PART I and THE KING’S SPEECH, the mercurial Frenchman Alexandre Desplat tackled political thrills in THE GHOST WRITER, political drama in the TV movie THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP, and romantic comedy in TAMARA DREWE, and proved to be adept across the board; he truly is the best composer working in film music today. Danny Elfman had a great year too, writing a lively and appealing score for Tim Burton’s re-imagining of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, channeling Wojciech Kilar for the ill-fated horror remake THE WOLFMAN, and adding an emotional core to the powerful Russell Crowe action-drama THE NEXT THREE DAYS.
John Powell wrote the best score of the year with HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, but proved adept at writing successful music across multiple genres, with the espionage thriller GREEN ZONE, the Tom Cruise action comedy KNIGHT & DAY, and the political drama FAIR GAME, expanding his already impressive filmography with a quartet of enjoyable scores. James Newton Howard was incredibly busy, and like his fellow nominees showed a great deal of versatility in 2010, writing not only the excellent LAST AIRBENDER, but also the Angelina Jolie techno-thriller SALT, the children’s comedy NANNY McPHEE RETURNS, the Anne Hathaway adult comedy LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS, and coming in as a late, late replacement for Gabriel Yared on the critically maligned THE TOURIST. Finally, the increasingly impressive Christopher Lennertz had a standout year, writing not only the best comedy score of the year for VAMPIRES SUCK, but scoring several box-office hits, including MARMADUKE and CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE.
- NUNO MALÓ
- ÓSCAR ARAUJO
- ARNAU BATALLER
- DAFT PUNK
- PINAR TOPRAK
2010 was a fantastic year for young, new talent, and the cream of the crop for me was the work of Portuguese composer NUNO MALÓ, whose score for the 2008 musical biopic Amália was a standout work: beautifully crafted, intelligently structured, endlessly listenable, and work a respectful reflection of Portuguese folk music. The man has a big future. Continuing the Iberian theme, two Spanish composers – ÓSCAR ARAUJO and ARNAU BATALLER impressed me immensely – for the gargantuan video game score Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and the epic Gothic horror score La Herencia Valdemar. The pair are part of a wonderful resurgence in Spanish film music and, alongside young, talented compatriots such as Marc Vaillo, Fernando Velazquez, Xavier Capellas and Zacarias de la Riva, are flying the flag for great European film music.
Staying in Europe, Turkish composer PINAR TOPRAK looks to be on the verge of great things, following the release of her superb score for the gentle romantic comedy The Lightkeepers. Having toiled away on Sci-Fi channel movies for years, this immensely talented young woman has the potential to go far – and on the evidence of her work here, it’s only a matter of time. Finally, the French pop stars DAFT PUNK – also known as GUY-MANUEL DE HOMEM-CHRISTO and THOMAS BANGALTER – blew me away with their film music debut on Tron Legacy, proving that electronic scores have the potential to be amazing when done properly.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
- NO AWARD
I decided not to present a Best Song award in 2010, mainly due to the utter dearth of great movie songs this year. Danny Elfman’s “Alice” from ALICE IN WONDERLAND was great, and Randy Newman’s We Belong Together” from TOY STORY 3 won the Oscar, but was a middling effort considering his considerable talents. A couple of songs from BURLESQUE, a couple of songs from TANGLED, the Carrie Underwood song from THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER… slim pickings this year. Better luck in 2011.
BEST RE-RELEASE OR RE-RECORDING
- ROBERT TOWNSON (producer) for Alex North’s Spartacus
- JAMES FITZPATRICK (producer) for Maurice Jarre’s Lawrence of Arabia
- JAMES FITZPATRICK (producer) for Basil Poledouris’s Conan the Barbarian
- LUKAS KENDALL (producer) for Ron Jones’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Box Set
- LUKAS KENDALL (producer) for Miklós Rózsa Treasury
There was never going to be any other winner in 2010: Robert Townson’s lavish presentation of the complete score for Alex North’s classic 1960 epic SPARTACUS for his Varese Sarabande label was the 1,000th release of his impressive career as a soundtrack producer, and one of the most important releases of the decade to date. The score itself is outstanding, of course, but the attention to detail, handsome production values, and groundbreaking disc of ‘variations’ on North’s great love theme by dozens of famous film music artists make this a truly amazing release. James Fitzpatrick re-recorded two classic scores with the City of Prague Philharmonic for his Tadlow label, in collaboration with Prometheus records: Maurice Jarre’s Oscar winning masterpiece from 1962, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and the greatest score of the late Basil Poledouris’s career, CONAN THE BARBARIAN from 1982. And then Lukas Kendall poured his heart and soul into two super box sets on the Film Score Monthly label – a gargantuan multi-disc release of every note Ron Jones wrote for the sci-fi TV series STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, and a collection of previously unreleased Miklós Rózsa scores released as the MIKLÓS RÓZSA TREASURY, including Madame Bovary, Quo Vadis, Young Bess, The Asphalt Jungle, and many more besides.
We’re really in a purple patch for classic CD releases, and in addition to the five releases noted above I also have to mention the work of La-La Land Records and their production team, which includes Mike Gerhard, Matt Verboys, Dan Goldwasser, Neil Bulk, Nick Redman and Mike Matessino. Some of the titles they released in expanded form in 2010 – BATMAN, BATMAN RETURNS, INDEPENDENCE DAY, HOME ALONE, DRAGONSLAYER, STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER – are all masterpieces, and they are doing some amazing, amazing work.
BEST DRAMA SCORE
- ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for The King’s Speech
- ARMAND AMAR for Ao, Le Dernier Néandertal
- NUNO MALÓ for Amália
- DARIO MARIANELLI for Eat Pray Love
- PHILIPPE SARDE for La Princesse de Montpensier
As one of the best overall scores of the year, Alexandre Desplat’s beautiful work on THE KING’S SPEECH is obviously the best in its genre, but the Drama category was strong on 2010. Two more talented Frenchmen – Armand Amar and Philippe Sarde – impressed greatly with their work, the former writing a dark, dense, tribal score for the prehistoric drama AO, LE DERNIER NÉANDERTAL, while the latter wrote a wonderfully modernistic pseudo-baroque score for the period drama LA PRINCESSE DE MONTPENSIER. Staying in Europe, Anglo-Italian composer Dario Marianelli mined the musical histories of Italy, India and the Far East with his score for the popular Julia Roberts drama of self-discovery EAT PRAY LOVE, while Portuguese composer Nuno Malo made a splash with his gorgeous score for the biopic AMÁLIA, which has already been discussed.
Other notable drama scores from 2010 include Carter Burwell’s TRUE GRIT, Herbert Grönemeyer’s THE AMERICAN, James Horner’s THE KARATE KID, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek’s GET LOW and LEONIE, Rolfe Kent’s CHARLIE ST. CLOUD, Clint Mansell’s BLACK SWAN, Rachel Portman’s NEVER LET ME GO, Fernando Velazquez’s EL MAL AJENO, Stephen Warbeck’s PRINCESS KAIULANI, and Aaron Zigman’s FOR COLORED GIRLS.
BEST COMEDY SCORE
- CHRISTOPHER LENNERTZ for Vampires Suck
- RANDY EDELMAN for Leap Year
- SCOTT GLASGOW for Lo
- PHILIPPE ROMBI for Potiche
- PINAR TOPRAK for The Lightkeepers
The most ironic thing about Christopher Lennertz’s VAMPIRES SUCK, the best comedy score of 2010, is that despite being written for a comedy spoof of the Twilight franchise, it’s actually better than the real music for the Twilight movies; as all the best parody scores do, Lennertz plays it absolutely straight, and presents a beautiful, sweeping Gothic romance score that would sit comfortably in any serious effort in the genre. Randy Edelman’s LEAP YEAR is a return to form for the 1990s favorite, an Irish-tinged effort with a number of sparkling themes to accompany the amorous adventures of Amy Adams in the Emerald Isle. Scott Glasgow’s score for the surreal comedy-horror LO treads a fine line between emotion and absurdity, and features a number of excellent moments of great inventiveness, and one truly sublime violin piece that acts as the film’s love theme. French composer Philippe Rombi’s upbeat and buoyant score for the farcical POTICHE is about as far removed from his sensitive and sweeping orchestral work as it’s possible to be, but the lively and occasionally madcap dances in this score illustrate another side to his talent. Finally, Pinar Toprak’s gorgeous score for the gentle romantic comedy THE LIGHTKEEPERS is a breah of fresh air, a delightfully old fashioned work filled with tender piano and string writing, and a pleasing classical sentiment.
Other notable comedy scores from 2010 include Roque Baños’s BALADE TRISTE DE TROMPETA, Carter Burwell’s THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, John Debney’s VALENTINE’S DAY, Alexandre Desplat’s TAMARA DREWE, Christopher Lennertz’s CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE, James Newton Howard’s NANNY McPHEE RETURNS, and Joby Talbot’s BURKE AND HARE.
BEST ANIMATION SCORE
- JOHN POWELL for How to Train Your Dragon
- CHRISTOPHER DRAKE for Batman: Under the Red Hood
- ALAN MENKEN for Tangled
- GUY MICHELMORE for Jackboots on Whitehall
- RANDY NEWMAN for Toy Story 3
John Powell and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON were never not going to win this category, being the overall best score of the year, but it would be a shame to overlook some of the other excellent work written for animation. British composer Guy Michelmore’s JACKBOOTS ON WHITEHALL is a superb homage to those classic stiff-upper-lip English war scores by the likes of Ron Goodwin, and leaves an enormously positive impression. Similarly, Christopher Drake’s music for the super hero action film BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD is as good as any action score written this year, and belies its low budget/sampled roots by containing some fiendishly complicated action writing and a great deal of power and panache. Randy Newman goes back to the familiar well in the box office smash TOY STORY 3, but manages to work in a zany western pastiche and some Spanish flamenco music alongside the usual – but always effective – sentimental piano and string writing. Alan Menken’s first score for a Disney animated film in a while, TANGLED, isn’t one of his best, but still captures the old Disney magic with lovely sweeping themes, some surprisingly potent action music, and a number of enjoyable songs penned with lyricist Glenn Slater.
Other notable animation scores from 2010 include Sylvain Chomet’s THE ILLUSIONIST, Harry Gregson-Williams’ SHREK FOREVER AFTER, David Hirschfelder’s LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE, Kenji Kawai’s GEKIJOUBAN FATE/STAY NIGHT UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS, Alain Mayrand’s THE LEGEND OF SILKBOY, Joel McNeely’s TINKER BELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE, Pharrell Williams and Heitor Pereira’s DESPICABLE ME, and Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe’s MEGAMIND.
BEST ACTION/ADVENTURE/THRILLER SCORE
- ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for The Ghost Writer
- JOE HISAISHI for Akunin
- JAMES NEWTON HOWARD for Salt
- CONRAD POPE for In My Sleep
- VICTOR REYES for Buried
Despite being written for an incredibly controversial film, Alexandre Desplat’s THE GHOST WRITER impressed me greatly this year, with its combination of tense and eerie woodwind writing to represent the confusion and isolation of the Ewan McGregor character, and crackerjack action material for one particular scene in which the same character is pursued on a ferry by the bad guys. Joe Hisaishi’s AKUNIN was a departure for the Japanese maestro, writing a smaller-scale but dramatically weighty orchestral score for a rare live-action film about a quiet man who gets embroiled in murder. James Newton Howard’s SALT gave the ridiculously-plotted Angelina Jolie film about an undercover Russian agent a semblance of respectability with a pulsating techno-thriller score that contains a superb sequence in which the lead character is pursued around Washington DC. Conrad Pope’s IN MY SLEEP was an under-the-radar score for a small independent film which contained a great deal of impressionistic and skilful string writing, and proved beyond a doubt that a man as talented as Pope should be writing his own music more and orchestrating other people’s music less. Finally, Spanish composer Victor Reyes had to convey all the tension, drama and dread for BURIED, a film which shows nothing else – literally, nothing else – than Ryan Reynolds in a coffin for 90 minutes, and succeeded admirably as carrying the entire emotional content of the film through some wonderfully evocative string writing
Other notable thriller/action/adventure scores from 2010 include Xavier Capellas’s BRUC, Zacarias de la Riva’s HIERRO, Danny Elfman’s THE NEXT THREE DAYS, Andrew Hewitt’s CUCKOO, Javier Navarrete’s THE WARRIOR’S WAY, Howard Shore’s EDGE OF DARKNESS, Brian Tyler’s THE EXPENDABLES, Fernando Velazquez’s LOS OJOS DE JULIA, and Hans Zimmer’s INCEPTION.
BEST FANTASY/SCIENCE FICTION/HORROR SCORE
- ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
- ARNAU BATALLER for La Herencia Valdemar
- DANNY ELFMAN for Alice in Wonderland
- DAFT PUNK for Tron Legacy
- JAMES NEWTON HOWARD for The Last Airbender
By far the strongest and most difficult of the genre categories s in 2011, Alexandre Desplat’s magical and emotional score for the seventh Harry Potter film, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHY HALLOWS PART I, just has the edge over its fellow Score of the Year nominees, Daft Punk’s epic electro-acoustic score for TRON LEGACY and James Newton Howard’s wonderful THE LAST AIRBENDER. Spanish composer Arnau Bataller’s tremendous score for the gothic horror mystery LA HERENCIA VALDEMAR was one of the 2011’s greatest surprises, and the grandiose orchestral and choral music heard in that work promises big things for him in the future. Rounding out the top five is Danny Elfman’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND, which had an absolutely wonderful main theme that recalls the best Elfman work from the 1980s, superbly magical lyrics, and a great deal of powerful and potent action music in the score itself – it’s just such a shame that the film itself was so wretched.
Other notable fantasy/sci-fi/horror scores from 2010 include Carlos José Alvarez’s DEADLINE, David Arnold’s CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, Danny Elfman’s THE WOLFMAN, Christopher Gordon’s DAYBREAKERS, Henry Jackman’s GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, ands Naoki Sato’s SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SCORE
- MIGUEL D’OLIVEIRA for Battle of Britain
- CHRISTOPHE BECK for Waiting for Superman
- BRUNO COULAIS for Oceans
- JOEL DOUEK for The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest
- PHILIP SHEPPARD for The Tillman Story
Young British-Portuguese composer Miguel d’Oliveira impressed greatly in the documentary category with his score for BATTLE OF BRITAIN, a BBC documentary which looked at the famous World Ward II air conflict with new perspective; d’Oliveira’s music channelled the best of Ron Goodwin-style British heroism and pomp-and-circumstance, but distilled it through modern techniques to great effect. Christophe Beck and Philipe Sheppard brought drama and sensitivity to their scores for WAITING FOR SUPERMAN and THE TILLMAN STORY, the latter working especially in conveying the tragic death of an American football star on the front lines in Iraq. Newcomer Joel Douek captured the grandeur and majesty of the Himalayas in his score for the National Geographic special THE WILDEST DREAM: CONQUEST OF EVEREST – and on a very limited budget! – while French composer Bruno Coulais brough his familiar lyricism and Gallic flair to Oceans, a nature documentary exploring the world within our seas.
Other notable documentary scores from 2010 include Bruno Alexiu’s L’ENFRE DE HENRI-GEORGES CLUZOT, Bruno Coulais’ BABIES, Peter Golub’s COUNTDOWN TO EMERGENCY, Uno Helmersson’s ARMADILLO, Johan Soderqvist’s EARTH MADE OF GLASS, and Paul M. van Brugge’s FAREWELL
BEST TELEVISION SCORE
- MICHAEL GIACCHINO for Lost
- DAVID ARNOLD and MICHAEL PRICE for Sherlock
- MURRAY GOLD for Doctor Who
- BEAR McCREARY for Human Target
- MARC VAILLO for Ull Per Ull
Michael Giacchino provided the final season of LOST with some of the most amazing television music heard in years – filled with emotion, tenderness, action, horror, pathos and closure as the mysteries of The Island and its inhabitants are finally revealed to the world. It’s only fitting that one of the best primetime TV shows in recent memory should also receive my television music award in its last year. Running a close second is the increasingly impressive Murray Gold, whose music for the BBC revival of the classic science fiction series DOCTOR WHO goes from strength to strength, with enormous themes of orchestral and choral majesty and power and potent that belies its small screen roots. Bear McCreary’s HUMAN TARGET was one of the best-scored television series in the United States in 2010, a knowingly and delightfully old fashioned adventure score with a memorable main theme and a load of gleefully unrestrained fully-orchestral action music – so, naturally, he was replaced for Season 2 by Tim Jones and his synthesizers. Such is life. Taking a leaf out of Hans Zimmer’s book, David Arnold and Michael Price imbued the new imagining of SHERLOCK HOLMES from the BBC with ebullient gypsy-flavored dances and a great deal of fun and flair, while from Spain composer Marc Vaillo gave the mini-series ULL PER ULL (AN EYE FOR AN EYE), a bold and dramatic flavor with some great modernistic orchestral writing and a great deal of dramatic weight; he’s yet another Spaniard with a great future ahead of him.
Other notable television scores from 2010 include Marco Beltrami’s V, Bartosz Chajdecki’s CZAS HONORU, Joel Goldsmith’ STARGATE UNIVERSE, Ron Jones’s FAMILY GUY, Daniel Licht’s DEXTER, Joseph LoDuca’s SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND, Bear McCreary’s THE WALKING DEAD, Trevor Morris’s THE TUDORS, Dominik Scherrer’s MARPLE, and Chris Tilton’s FRINGE.
BEST VIDEO GAME SCORE
- ÓSCAR ARAUJO for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
- RUSSELL BROWER, NEAL ACREE, GLEN STAFFORD, DAVID ARKENSTONE and DEREK DUKE for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
- RUSSELL BROWER, NEAL ACREE, GLEN STAFFORD and DEREK DUKE for Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
- JIM DOOLEY for Epic Mickey
- BRIAN TYLER for Lego Universe
2010 was the best year in a long time for original game music, with at least 15 outstanding scores worthy of consideration. Óscar Araujo’s epic CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW was the best of the bunch for me, a rousing and full-throttle action-fantasy score which lays on the orchestral and choral majesty from the first moment of the score and never lets up for its entire length. The inventiveness, intricacy, thematic power and old-fashioned emotional content in Castlevania is staggering, and earmarks Araujo as a composer to watch. Blizzard’s composing team – Russell Brower, Neal Acree, Glen Stafford, David Arkenstone and Derek Duke – wrote two epics for their best-selling MMORPGs, WORLD OF WARCRAFT: CATACLYSM and STARCRAFT II: WINGS OF LIBERTY. Cataclysm is the best WoW soundtrack yet, filled with evocative themes and broad orchestral strokes for the various levels and dungeons, while Starcraft’s ‘roughnecks in space’ attitude mixes old-fashioned Star Wars-style sci-fi scoring with a touch of Wild West grit. Jim Dooley’s score for EPIC MICKEY takes a wonderful approach, by taking classic Disney themes and melodies and warping them into something dark and twisted, accompanying Mickey Mouse after he gets sucked into a parallel-universe Disneyland where old cartoon characters go to die. Finally, Brian Tyler’s improbably enormous score for LEGO UNIVERSE runs the gamut of styles and applications, ranging from full on action music to sweeping romance – lego men have never sounded so good!
Other notable video game scores from 2010 include Panu Aaltio’s APACHE AIR ASSAULT, Mick Gordon’s THE LAST AIRBENDER, Mark Griskey’s STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED II, Knut Avenstroup Haugen’s AGE OF CONAN: RISE OF THE GODSLAYER, Richard Jacques’s JAMES BOND 007 BLOOD STONE, Gerard Marino, Jeff Rona, Ron Fish, Mike Reagan and Cris Velasco’s GOD OF WAR III, Bear McCreary’s DARK VOID, Colin O’Malley’s LARA CROFT AND THE GUARDIAN OF LIGHT, Garry Schyman’s BIOSHOCK 2, Garry Schyman and Paul Gorman’s DANTE’S INFERNO, Cris Velasco and Scott Morton’s DARKSIDERS, and Jack Wall’s MASS EFFECT 2.