Movie Music UK Awards 2013
Film music went from strength to strength again in 2013. In terms of it’s world wide excellence, the breadth of outstanding music coming from all corners of the globe is astonishing – some of the best scores of year emerged not only from mainstream Hollywood productions, but also from Japan, Poland, the Czech Republic, Mexico and Spain, Germany and even Russia. As such, narrowing down my choices for the best of the year has been a very difficult task – one of the most difficult in recent memory. However, I’ve finally been able to put everything into some sort of logical order – so, for your reading and listening pleasure, I present the 2013 Movie Music UK Awards!
SCORE OF THE YEAR
- ROMEO AND JULIET, Abel Korzeniowski
- ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW, Abel Korzeniowski
- EVIL DEAD, Roque Baños
- THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, Howard Shore
- THE WIND RISES, Joe Hisaishi
Of every score released this year, none impressed me more than Romeo and Juliet by Abel Korzeniowski. It’s the ultimate portrayal of romantic love: passionate, longing, and beautiful, and musically-speaking it ticks all the boxes, by being multi-thematic, structurally interesting, and wonderfully performed by a full orchestra. Korzeniowski’s stellar year continued with his lush, sweeping, ironic score for the unusual fantasy Escape from Tomorrow, where his music helped the film satirize the conventions of Disneyland, and convey the hallucinations of a man slowly losing his mind in the theme park.
Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi gave his final collaboration with director Hayao Miyazaki, The Wind Rises, a trio of gorgeous themes, including one rooted in the sunny music of the Mediterranean for the man who designed a fighter plane for the Japanese in World War II. Howard Shore returned to Middle Earth for the second Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug, and further enhanced his reputation with a dark, complicated score featuring a multiplicity of themes, enormous action music, and gorgeous orchestral textures. And speaking of dark, complicated scores, none was darker than Roque Baños’s Evil Dead, a roaring, thunderous musical celebration of horror featuring the year’s standout instrumental choice – the air raid siren!
- ABEL KORZENIOWSKI
- ROQUE BAÑOS
- JOE HISAISHI
- HOWARD SHORE
- BRIAN TYLER
With the two best scores of 2013 under his belt, clearly the composer of the year is Abel Korzeniowski, whose work on Romeo and Juliet and Escape from Tomorrow blew me away with with their beauty and intelligence. Joe Hisaishi not only wrote the best animation score of 2013, but also contributed exceptional music for an environmental drama (Miracle Apples), a TV documentary about undersea life (NHK Special: Giant Deep Sea Creatures), amongst several other efforts. Although none of his scores made my Top Fives, Brian Tyler had an exceptional year in terms of the breadth of the music he wrote, ranging from super heroes in Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World to thrillers in Now You See Me, sentimental dramas in Standing Up, video games with Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and excellent work on television for the hit supernatural show Sleepy Hollow.
Roque Baños has a banner year in 2013, writing one of the best horror scores in years with Evil Dead and continuing his gradual move into the Hollywood mainstream with his score for Spike Lee’s Oldboy, as well as some excellent work in Spain. Finally, Howard Shore made a triumphant fifth trip to Middle Earth in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – another one of the scores of the year – but continued to explore his more personal, independent side with scores like the French drama Jimmy P.
Five other composers who had outstanding years are BARTOSZ CHAJDECKI, ATLI ÖRVARSSON, FERNANDO VELÁZQUEZ, JOHN WILLIAMS, and HANS ZIMMER.
- LAURENT EYQUEM
- RYAN AMON
- PHILIPP F. KÖLMEL
- DOMINIC LEWIS
- STEVEN PRICE
By far the most exciting new composer to emerge into the mainstream in 2013 is the Los Angeles-based French composer Laurent Eyquem, who left many – including me – stunned with his work on the dramas Copperhead and Winnie Mandela, which contained more beautiful, rich orchestral music over their two hours as many others compose in a career. The second biggest new arrival, for me, is Englishman Steven Price who was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for his groundbreaking score for the hit sci-fi drama Gravity, and also found time to contribute a score to Simon Pegg’s sci-fi comedy The World’s End.
Dominic Lewis spent several years working for John Powell and Hans Zimmer, writing additional music on several hit scores, prior to making his solo debut with the Thanksgiving-themed animated movie Free Birds. Ryan Amon had the best story of any new composer in 2013, being plucked from Youtube obscurity and thrust into the $200 million limelight by director Neill Blomkamp for Elysium, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. Finally, German composer Philipp F. Kölmel came out of nowhere and wrote the best action/adventure/thriller score of the year for the German time-travel movie Rubinrot.
Five other composers who had breakthrough years are RAHMAN ALTIN, CESAR BENITO, SARAH CLASS, JÓHANN JÓHANSSON and MAURIZIO MALAGNINI.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
- “Let It Go” from FROZEN, written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, performed by Idina Menzel
- “Alone Yet Not Alone” from ALONE YET NOT ALONE, written by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel, performed by Joni Eareckson Tada
- “Doby” from ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES, written by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, performed by Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy
- “The Courage to Believe” from FREE CHINA – THE COURAGE TO BELIEVE, written by Kean Wong, Michael Perlman and Tony Chen, performed by Q’orianka
- “Ordinary Love” from MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, written by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, performed by U2
Songs often get overlooked by film score fans as taking away from the score of a film, but there are still some gems to be found. The best of 2013 for me was the power ballad “Let It Go” from trhe Disney animated film Frozen, written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and performed by Idina Menzel. It’s a typical Disney showstopper, with a soaring and memorable chorus, and a contemporary Broadway feel that is impossible to ignore. Second – and this year’s likely Oscar winner – is “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, written and performed by U2. A wonderful, humanist celebration of the life and work of the great South African leader, it has everything that is great about the legendary Irish band’s music, as well as a prescient topical appeal. Comedy songs are difficult to pitch correctly, but “Doby” from Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, written by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, and performed in-character by Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, hits the perfect balance between excellent music and hilarious lyrics, as Ferrell’s comic creation sings a love ballad to a shark he adopted.
“Alone Yet Not Alone” from the faith-based drama Alone Yet Not Alone, written by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel and performed by quadriplegic singer Joni Eareckson Tada, got some negative press following its out-of-left-field Oscar nomination and insinuations of underhandedness on the part of former Academy governor Bruce Broughton, but people are overlooking the fact that it’s a genuinely lovely song, with heartfelt lyrics, and a simple, delicate thematic core. My own out-of-left-field choice is “The Courage to Believe” from Free China – The Courage to Believe, written by Kean Wong, Michael Perlman and Tony Chen, and performed by actress Q’orianka (who some might remember as Colin Farrell’s love interest in The New World, or as Princess Kaiulani). The song is a gorgeous ballad with a significant Chinese influence, written for a documentary film about Falun Gong, a new spiritualist religious movement which is being systematically destroyed by the Chinese government.
Five other songs worth noting in this category are: “Try” from HOW SWEET IT IS, written by Matt Dahan, performed by Erich Bergen and Victoria Summer; “Bleed for Love” from WINNIE MANDELA, written by Diane Warren, performed by Jennifer Hudson; “I See Fire” from THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, written and performed by Ed Sheeran; “Here It Comes” from TRANCE, written and performed by Emeli Sande and Rick Smith; and “Oblivion” from OBLIVION, written by Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Trapanese and Susanne Sundfør, performed by M83 feat. Susanne Sundfør.
BEST DRAMA SCORE
- ROMEO AND JULIET, Abel Korzeniowski
- BACZYŃSKI, Bartosz Chajdecki
- THE BOOK THIEF, John Williams
- COLETTE, Atli Örvarsson
- COPPERHEAD, Laurent Eyquem
As the best overall score of the year, Abel Korzeniowski’s beautiful work on Romeo and Juliet is obviously the best in its genre, but the Drama category was strong on 2013. John Williams wrote a delicate, touching score for the WWII drama The Book Thief, and breakout composer Laurent Eyquem wrote an equally beautiful score for the Civil War drama Copperhead, while Icelandic composer Atli Örvarsson also dropped into the world of the Nazis with his stunning concentration camp score Colette. The one below-the-radar work is Baczyński by Polish composer Bartosz Chajdecki, who wrote a gorgeous cello-based score for the film about the life of Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński, one of Poland’s most celebrated poets and war heroes.
Five other scores worth noting in this category are: O TEMPO E O VENTO by Alexandre Guerra, PHILOMENA by Alexandre Desplat, SAVING MR. BANKS by Thomas Newman, STANDING UP by Brian Tyler, and SUMMER IN FEBRUARY by Benjamin Wallfisch.
BEST COMEDY SCORE
- INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED, Carlo Siliotto
- AMBASSADA, Bartosz Chajdecki
- LAS BRUJAS DE ZUGARRAMURDI, Joan Valent
- QUAI D’ORSAY, Philippe Sarde
- THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, Theodore Shapiro
The best comedy scores always treat their subjects seriously, and this year’s best – Instructions Not Included by Carlo Siliotto – does just that, enveloping this Mexican film about a father-and-daughter relationship in a sheen of beauty and sentiment, filled with sweeping themes and high emotion. Philippe Sarde’s Quai d’Orsay is very different, a witty and sly satire set in the highest reaches of the French government, with all the shenanigans and spiky double-crossing that implies. Spanish composer Joan Valent write a huge Gothic horror score for the witchcraft comedy Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi, once again defying the conventions of the genre and underpinning the laughs with a sense of serious dread and oppression. Theodore Shapiro’s pretty score for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty follows Ben Stiller’s globetrotting adventures with a sense of life and joie de vivre, as well as adding some exciting action into the mix. Bartosz Chajdecki is here again too, this time contributing a genre-bending score for the Polish time travel comedy Ambassada, which flits from conteportary jazz to large scale action and sci-fi music with consummate ease.
Five other scores worth noting in this category are: ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES by Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau, HOW TO FIGHT IN SIX INCH HEELS by Christopher Wong, LA GRAN FAMILIA ESPAÑOLA by Josh Rouse, THIS IS THE END by Henry Jackman, and VENUS IN FUR by Alexandre Desplat.
BEST ACTION/ADVENTURE/THRILLER SCORE
- RUBINROT, Philipp F. Kölmel
- GRAND PIANO, Victor Reyes
- THE LONE RANGER, Hans Zimmer
- NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON, Annette Focks
- STALINGRAD, Angelo Badalamenti
German composer Philipp F. Kölmel wrote a spectacular, full-orchestral epic for the children’s adventure film Rubinrot, announcing himself as a new talent to watch in future. His work just beat out the amazing thriller score Grand Piano by Victor Reyes, a brilliant amalgam of Morricone-style suspense blended with a specially-composed new classical piano concerto, performed on-screen by the pianist who will be shot by a sniper if he stops playing. Angelo Badalementi’s Stalingrad is a sweeping full-orchestral epic of the highest order, a fitting tribute to accompany this Russian film about the siege with almost destroyed the city during World War II. German composer Annette Focks brought a touch of class and more than a splash of Portuguese fado passion to the thriller Night Train to Lisbon, and of course Hans Zimmer made the enormous box office flop The Lone Ranger much more palatable with his superb western score, which includes a knockout performance of Rossini’s William Tell Overture arranged by Zimmer and Geoff Zanelli, and which is one of the musical moments of the year.
Five other scores worth noting in this category are: 47 RONIN by Ilan Eshkeri, GÅTEN RAGNAROK by Magnus Beite, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD by Marco Beltrami, IRON MAN 3 by Brian Tyler, and PASSION by Pino Donaggio.
BEST FANTASY/SCIENCE FICTION/HORROR SCORE
- ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW, Abel Korzeniowski
- EVIL DEAD, Roque Baños
- THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, Howard Shore
- LOS ÚLTIMOS DÍAS, Fernando Velázquez
- STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS, Michael Giacchino
The three best fantasy/sci-fi/horror scores of the year are all included as the five Scores of the Year, with Abel Korzeniowski’s lush, sweeping, ironic score for the unusual fantasy Escape from Tomorrow just beating out Howard Shore’s magnificent The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Roque Baños’s relentless and creative horror work Evil Dead. Michael Giacchino returned to Starfleet with Star Trek: Into Darkness, and gave Captain James T. Kirk and his Enterprising crew an excellent, enjoyable sci-fi outing. More elegant is Spanish composer Fernando Velázquez’s score for Los Últimos Días (The Last Days), a horror film about agoraphobia, scored with darkly beautiful string writing and more contemporary, but very effective horror writing.
Five other scores worth noting in this category are: JACK THE GIANT SLAYER by John Ottman, THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES by Atli Örvarsson, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL by Danny Elfman, RIDDLE by Scott Glasgow, and THOR: THE DARK WORLD by Brian Tyler.
BEST ANIMATION SCORE
- THE WIND RISES, Joe Hisaishi
- FREE BIRDS, Dominic Lewis
- FROZEN, Christophe Beck
- METEGOL, Emilio Kauderer
- SOLAN OG LUDVIG: JUL I FLÅKLYPA, Knut Avenstroup Haugen
As one of the best five scores of 2013, Joe Hisaishi’s beautiful score for Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises wins its genre too, but there is still plenty of excellent music to be heard elsewhere in the world of animation. Christophe Beck wrote one of the most expressive and exciting scores of his career for the Disney animation Frozen, mixing a large orchestra with traditional Nordic instruments to capture the film’s wintry flavor. Metegol is an Argentinean animated film about soccer, which boasts a wonderful and unexpectedly sweeping and majestic score from composer Emilio Kauderer, while Free Birds allows former John Powell collaborator Dominic Lewis to score a story about time traveling turkeys with a wide and varied score that crosses multiple genres and styles. Last but not least is Norwegian composer Knut Avenstroup Haugen, still best known for his enormous Conan video game scores, who shows another side to his talent and brings a touch of Christmas cheer and magic to the music of Solan og Ludvig: Jul i Flåklypa.
Five other scores worth noting in this category are: THE CROODS by Alan Silvestri, EPIC by Danny Elfman, JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR by Ilan Eshkeri, MA MAMAN EST EN AMÉRIQUE, ELLE A RENCONTRÉ BUFFALO BILL by Fabrice Aboulker, and PLANES by Mark Mancina.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SCORE
- AFRICA, Sarah Class
- DIE NORDSEE: UNSER MEER, Oliver Heuss
- NHK SPECIAL – GIANT DEEP SEA CREATURES, Joe Hisaishi
- SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA: MISSION OF HOPE, Blake Neely
- TIM’S VERMEER, Conrad Pope
Nature documentaries often elicit great scores, especially those created by the wonderful BBC Natural History Unit, and the best of 2013 is Africa, a BBC Nature score by newcomer Sarah Class; her sweeping, elegant, effortlessly beautiful orchestral music captures the essence of the flora and fauna of the savannah, and marks her as a composer to watch. Conrad Pope’s score for the art documentary Tim’s Vermeer, directed by Teller from Penn & Teller, sees the master orchestrator taking a leaf out of Alexandre Desplat’s book, with gorgeous themes and balletic, waltz-like rhythms. Nature re-appears in two foreign documentaries looking at life under the water: Oliver Heuss’s Die Nordsee – Unser Meer and Joe Hisaishi’s NHK Special – Giant Deep Sea Creatures, which look at marine life under the North and Yellow Seas respectively, while Blake Neely’s score for the PBS documentary Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope takes us on a journey of heroism and sacrifice with America’s doomed astronauts from the last flight of the Columbia. All three scores use large-scale, strong-themed, musically expressive and instrumentally diverse orchestral performances to tell their stories.
Five other scores worth noting in this category are: GALAPAGOS 3D Joel Douek, Elik Álvarez and Freddy Sheinfeld, GUADALQUIVIR by Pablo Martin Caminero, OUR QUEEN by Miguel d’Oliveira, THE RIGHT TO LOVE: AN AMERICAN FAMILY by Edwin Wendler, and WILD ARABIA by Barnaby Taylor.
BEST TELEVISION SCORE
- ISABEL, Federico Jusid
- CZAS HONORU, Bartosz Chajdecki
- EL TIEMPO ENTRE COSTURAS, César Benito
- LEGENDS OF CHIMA, Anthony Lledo
- THE PARADISE, Maurizio Malagnini
Television music is undergoing a renaissance at the moment, with some of the best scores each year being written for TV projects around the world. For the second year in a row, Argentinean composer Federico Jusid knocked my socks off with his score for Season 2 of the Spanish-Catalan series Isabel, about the life of Queen Isabella I of Castile. An enormous and powerful central theme, moments for choir and plainsong, and vividly beautiful instrumental touches anchor the score, which is some of the best TV music I have heard in years. Another Spanish production, El Tiempo Entre Costuras, features music by newcomer César Benito, who provides music of lushness, beauty and emotional power for this series about forbidden love set during the Spanish Civil War. Danish composer Anthony Lledo went all-out with his music for the animated TV series for children, Legends of Chima, scoring the adventures of a group of Lego ninja animals with rich, expressive, fully-orchestral action-adventure music that is astonishingly good, and belies its roots. Italian composer Maurizio Malagnini provided more elegance and emotion to Season 2 of the British TV series The Paradise, about the lives and loves of the people who work, shop and trade, in and around the first English department store. Finally, we return to Poland, and Bartosz Chajdecki, who write the music for the sixth season of the smash hit TV series Czas Honoru (A Time of Honor), which follows the fortunes of a group of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Chajdecki’s music captures the relationships of the protagonists and the dangerous situations in which they find themselves with earnest, beautiful themes and powerful action music.
Five other scores worth noting in this category are: DOCTOR WHO by Murray Gold, GAME OF THRONES by Ramin Djawadi, GRAN RESERVA: EL ORIGEN by Federico Jusid, KUNG FU PANDA: LEGENDS OF AWESOMENESS by Jeremy Zuckerman and Benjamin Wynn, and SLEEPY HOLLOW by Brian Tyler and Robert Lydecker.
BEST VIDEO GAME SCORE
- REMEMBER ME, Olivier Deriviére
- COMPANY OF HEROES 2, Cris Velasco
- DEAD SPACE 3, James Hannigan and Jason Graves
- PUPPETEER, Patrick Doyle
- STAR TREK: THE GAME, Chad Seiter
The world of video games continues to impress with its musical output, and the best this year by far was Olivier Deriviére’s fantastic score for the mind and reality-bending Remember Me, which took a thunderous orchestral action score and weaved it around manipulated and spliced electronic effects in a wholly unique and astonishingly brilliant ways, revolutionizing the sound in a way we haven’t seen since The Matrix. Cris Velasco channeled the late, great Basil Poledouris with his score for the World War II action game Company of Heroes 2, a straightforward but absolutely magnificent action-adventure score full of bold Slavic themes and proud choral outbursts. Dead Space 3, with music by James Hannigan and Jason Graves, takes the darkness and solitude of the deepest reaches of the cosmos, and funnels it through the Alien-style sound palette of Goldsmith, Horner and Goldenthal, resulting in a pulse-pounding work of great depth. Patrick Doyle’s first game score, Puppeteer, is a playful adventure score full of lightness, movement, and endless catchy themes, while Chad Seiter’s epic score for the Star Trek video game takes the genesis of Michael Giacchino’s film score and runs with it in interesting new directions, resulting in a score which many consider to be equal – or better – than it’s big screen cousin.
Five other scores worth noting in this category are: ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES by Kevin Riepl, ASSASSIN’S CREED IV: BLACK FLAG by Brian Tyler, BIOSHOCK INFINITE by Garry Schyman, THE LAST OF US by Gustavo Santaolalla, RAYMAN LEGENDS by Christophe Héral and Billy Martin.