Movie Music UK Awards 2008


  • JOE HISAISHI for Ponyo on the Cliff
  • PAUL CANTELON for The Other Boleyn Girl
  • ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • DANNY ELFMAN for Standard Operating Procedure
  • JOE HISAISHI for I Want To Be a Shellfish

The final summary of 2008’s scores eventually came down to these five works, all by composers from vastly different backgrounds. One is by a Frenchman; ALEXANDRE DESPLAT and his score for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, a beautiful, restrained, delicate work that captures both the joy and tragedy of the life of a man aging backwards through trademark waltzes and crystalline orchestrations which continue to prove that Desplat is one of the most talented young composers working today. One is by an American newcomer; PAUL CANTELON’s score forTHE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL allows the ill-fated romance between King Henry VIII and the two Boleyn sisters, Anne and Mary, to reach beautiful heights of which the late great Georges Delerue would have been proud, including some powerful and emotional choral writing which earmarks Cantelon as a composer to watch in the future.

One is by a Hollywood mainstay; DANNY ELFMAN’s documentary score STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE illustrates perfectly the continued maturation of Elfman as a composer, through his use of Glass-like minimalist techniques and mesmerizing rhythmic writing that underscores the terrible atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison with clarity and dexterity. Two, however, are by a man from Japan: JOE HISAISHI, and his scores for the animated feature PONYO ON THE CLIFF and the wartime drama I WANT TO BE A SHELLFISH. Shellfish is a profound, serious, moving work for a film which required great sensitivity and emotional power from the music in order to tell its story, and which shows that Hisaishi is much more than simply “that Anime composer”. Ironically, however, it is an Anime score which takes top honors: Ponyo is a lush, thematically strong, astoundingly beautiful score which allows listeners to feel both the strength of the film’s core relationship between a young boy and a mermaid princess, as well as the sense of awe and wonder little Ponyo experiences, both in her undersea kingdom, and during her adventures in the real world.




In addition to scoring two of the best scores of 2008 – PONYO ON THE CLIFF and I WANT TO BE A SHELLFISH, Japanese composer JOE HISAISHI also wrote the music for the interpersonal drama DEPARTURES and the French-language children’s adventure SUNNY ET L’ELEPHANT; although none of these films have even been released in the United States at the time of writing, the quality and strength of Hisaishi’s writing across multiple genres clearly shows him to be a composer at the height of his creative powers, and secures his position as Composer of the Year for 2008. DANNY ELFMAN is a close runner-up to Hisaishi, having enjoyed one of the most prolific, varied, and accomplished year of his entire career – in addition to STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE, Elfman wrote a fantastic modern action score for WANTED, a flamboyant fantasy score for HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY, and received an Academy Award nomination for the biographical drama MILK. ALEXANDRE DESPLAT continues to cement his reputation as one of the most creative and talented composers working in film today with three scores: the wonderful THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (a Score of the Year nominee), the French action/thriller LARGO WINCH, and the intimate drama AFTERWARDS, the combined impact of which secures him a place at 2008’s top table.

JAMES HORNER has not been as prolific or consistent as he once was in recent years, but his 2008 output was of outstanding high quality; his score for the WWII drama THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS was an emotional powerhouse and just missed out on a Score of the Year nomination, while both THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES and THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES were equally impressive in different ways – the former for its lavish fantasy stylings, the latter for its subtlety and intricate writing. JOHN POWELL was 2008’s worker bee, having returned six scores during the calendar year: BOLT, HANCOCK, HORTON HEARS A WHO, KUNG FU PANDA (in collaboration with Hans Zimmer), JUMPER and STOP-LOSS; although none of these scores can be counted amongst the overall best of the year, Powell’s strong ethic and continual high standards remain impressive.

Other composers who enjoyed a generally strong year in 2008 and are worthy of recognition include: CARTER BURWELL, JAMES NEWTON HOWARD, MARK ISHAM, ANDREW LOCKINGTON, THOMAS NEWMAN, BRIAN TYLER and HANS ZIMMER.




Although he made his debut in with EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED in 2005, American composer and pianist PAUL CANTELON really made a splash with two scores in 2008: the lush costume drama romance THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, one of the greatest scores of the year, and the equally impressive political bio-pic W., which went under the radar but contained some wonderful musical moments. Running Cantelon a close second is 29-year-old wunderkind NICO MUHLY, whose sophisticated, intellectual, Philip Glass-inflected score for the multiple Awards-winning THE READER earmarks him a serious talent to watch for the future.

The same can be said of Scots-German composer MAX RICHTER, whose idiosyncratic debut score for the Israeli animated documentary WALTZ WITH BASHIR shows him capable of writing music across a diverse range of styles, from electronica to lush classicism. Icelandic composer ATLI ÖRVARSSON showed that he has the potential to escape from the realms of Remote Control with his unexpectedly excellent score for the critically derided sci-fi action movie BABYLON A.D. Lastly, but certainly not least, composer SHARON FARBER showed an elegant touch on the little-seen and little known drama WHEN NITZSCHE WEPT, which adds her name to the ever-increasing roster of talented female composers making their way in the world of film music.



  • JOE HISAISHI and HAYAO MIYAZAKI for “Rondo of the House of Sunflowers” from Ponyo on the Cliff
  • DANNY ELFMAN for “The Little Things” from Wanted
  • JOE HISAISHI, HAYAO MIYAZAKI and KATSUYA KONDO for “Ponyo on the Cliff” from Ponyo on the Cliff
  • A.R. RAHMAN for “Dreams on Fire” from Slumdog Millionaire
  • A.R. RAHMAN and SAMPOORAN “GULZAR” SINGH KALRA for “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire

There were a surprisingly high number of excellent songs from films in 2008, although most of them came from outside the Hollywood studio system. Two of the best – including my personal favorite – came from the ‘Image Album’ for the Japanese anime PONYO ON THE CLIFF, and were written by composer Joe Hisaishi and director/lyricist Hayao Miyazaki. “Rondo of the House of Sunflowers”, performed in Japanese by Hisaishi’s daughter Mai Fuijsawa, is an utterly beautiful ballad with gorgeous soprano vocals and a sense of innocence and wonder that is simply captivating. The sense of child-like enthusiasm carries on to the second nominee from the film, the title song “Ponyo on the Cliff” performed by Fujimaki-Fujioka and child actress Nozomi Ohashi, which is insanely (almost irritatingly) catchy in a Eurovision Song Contest kind of way, but actually is an upbeat setting of the main thematic element from the score.

Two of the other songs are from the massively successful and popular SLUNDOG MILLIONAIRE, and are by composer A.R. Rahman. “Dreams on Fire”, sung in English by Bollywood vocalist Suzanne D’Mello, is a lyrical version of the theme for the film’s female lead, Latika, and has a simple but dream-like musical core which is hugely enjoyable; conversely, the raucously engaging “Jai Ho” plays under the end credits group dance sequence is pure energy, and is likely to win Rahman his first (or second) Oscar. And then there’s Danny Elfman, who shows that he has not lost his rock star instincts with the powerful, memorable “The Little Things” from WANTED, which features a killer guitar riff and clever lyrics.

Special mentions should also go to JEFF BEAL and ED HARRIS for “You’ll Never Leave My Heart” from Appaloosa, JON BRION and CHARLIE KAUFMAN for “Little Person” from Synecdoche New York, MILEY CYRUS and JEFFREY STEELE for “I Thought I Lost You” from Bolt, CLINT EASTWOOD, JAMIE CULLUM, KYLE EASTWOOD and MICHAEL STEVENS for “Gran Torino” from Gran Torino, ANGELA LITTLE for “By the Boab Tree” from Australia, THOMAS NEWMAN and PETER GABRIEL for Down to Earth from Wall*E, REGINA SPEKTOR for “The Call” from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN for “The Wrestler” from The Wrestler.



  • JAMES FITZPATRICK (producer) for Miklòs Ròzsa’s El Cid
  • ANNA BONN, JOHN W. MORGAN and WILLIAM STROMBERG (producers) for Max Steiner’s She
  • DON DAVIS and ROBERT TOWNSON (producers) for Don Davis’s The Matrix
  • DOUGLASS FAKE (producer) for Jerry Goldsmith’s The Boys from Brazil
  • ROBERT TOWNSON (producer) for Bill Conti’s North and South

It’s been another banner year for re-releases and re-recordings, with the holy triumvirate of Film Score Monthly, Intrada and Varèse Sarabande and producers Lukas Kendall, Douglass Fake and Robert Townson leading the way as usual. However, 2008’s crowning glory for collectors was producer James Fitzpatrick’s mammoth re-recording of Miklòs Ròzsa’s 1961 historical epic score EL CID for his Tadlow label with the City of Prague Philharmonic under the baton of Nic Raine. Featuring over 170 minutes of music spread across three discs, this release is one of the most important archival releases in years, and is a towering achievement for everyone involved. Equally important is Anna Bonn, John W. Morgan and William Stromberg’s re-recording of Max Steiner’s 1935 masterpiece SHE for their Tribute Film Classic’s label. With over an hour’s worth of music performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stromberg, this yet another wonderful effort from three artists dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the genre. Varèse Sarabande’s expanded re-release of Don Davis’s score for THE MATRIX rights the wrongs of the original album release, presenting the full version of one of the most important scores of the late 1990s; similarly, Townson’s lavish treatment of Bill Conti’s score for the acclaimed 1985 TV mini-series NORTH AND SOUTH is a must for fans of the composer’s lush, accessible writing, and of classic nostalgic Americana. And, of course, no year would be complete without a new release of one of the late, great Jerry Goldsmith’s classic works: in this case his 1978 score THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, a long-time collectible which Doug Fake and Intrada have finally made available to a wider audience.



Hereafter, presented without additional comment, are my choices for the best scores in each of the genre categories:


  • ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • PAUL CANTELON for The Other Boleyn Girl
  • JOE HISAISHI for I Want To Be a Shellfish
  • JAMES HORNER for The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
  • JAMES NEWTON HOWARD for Defiance

Special mentions should also go to JEFF BEAL for Appaloosa, TERENCE BLANCHARD for Miracle at St. Anna, PAUL CANTELON for W., PINO DONAGGIO for Oorlogswinter, DANNY ELFMAN for Milk, SHARON FARBER for When Nitzsche Wept, DAVID HIRSCHFELDER for Australia, MARK ISHAM The Secret Life of Bees, ADRIAN JOHNSTON for Brideshead Revisited, JAN A.P. KACZMAREK for The Visitor, TUOMAS KANTELINEN for Mongol, MARK KILIAN for Before the Rains, ANGELO MILLI for Seven Pounds, NICO MUHLY for The Reader, RACHEL PORTMAN for The Duchess, JOHN POWELL for Stop-Loss, A.R. RAHMAN for Slumdog Millionaire, HOWARD SHORE for Doubt, CARLO SILIOTTO for Under The Same Moon, CEZARY SKUBISZEWSKI for Death Defying Acts, JEANINE TESORI for Nights on Rodanthe, AARON ZIGMAN for Flash of Genius, and HANS ZIMMER for Frost/Nixon.



  • CHRISTOPHER LENNERTZ for Meet the Spartans
  • GEORGE FENTON for Fool’s Gold
  • PHILIPPE ROMBI for Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis
  • THEODORE SHAPIRO for Tropic Thunder
  • AARON ZIGMAN for Sex and the City

Special mentions should also go to CARTER BURWELL for In Bruges and Burn After Reading, RANDY EDELMAN for 27 Dresses, and GEORGE S. CLINTON for Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.



  • JOE HISAISHI for Ponyo on the Cliff
  • RAMIN DJAWADI for Fly Me to the Moon
  • JOEL McNEELY for Tinkerbell
  • JOHN POWELL for Bolt
  • WILLIAM ROSS for The Tale of Despereaux

Special mentions should also go to PATRICK DOYLE for Igor, THOMAS NEWMAN for Wall*E, JOHN POWELL for Horton Hears A Who, MAX RICHTER for Waltz With Bashir, and HANS ZIMMER and JOHN POWELL for Kung Fu Panda.



  • BRIAN TYLER for Eagle Eye
  • ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for Largo Winch
  • DANNY ELFMAN for Wanted
  • FRÈDÈRIC TALGORN for Astérix Aux Jeux Olympiques
  • JOHN WILLIAMS for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Special mentions should also go to CRAIG ARMSTRONG for The Incredible Hulk, DAVID ARNOLD for Quantum of Solace, PATRICK DOYLE for Nim’s Island, RANDY EDELMAN for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, ANDREW LOCKINGTON for Journey to the Center of the Earth, JOHN POWELL for Hancock, and BRIAN TYLER for Rambo.



  • DANNY ELFMAN for Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  • JAMES HORNER for The Spiderwick Chronicles
  • ANDREW LOCKINGTON for City of Ember
  • JAVIER NAVARRETE for Mirrors
  • JOHAN SÖDERQVIST for Let the Right One In

Special mention should also go to NATHAN BARR for Shutter, MARCO BELTRAMI for The Eye, ATLI ÖRVARSSON for Babylon A.D., and CHRISTOPHER YOUNG for Untraceable.



  • DANNY ELFMAN for Standard Operating Procedure
  • THE CINEMATIC ORCHESTRA for The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos
  • KURT KUENNE for Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
  • LAURENCE ROSENTHAL for Stealing America Vote By Vote

Special mention should also go to HENRY KAISER and DAVID LINDLEY for Encounters at the End of the World, JORGE MAGAZ and EVA GANCEDO for La Mirada de Ouka-Leele, JOSHUA RALPH for Man on Wire, HOWARD SHORE for The Betrayal, and YANN TIERSEN for Tabarly.



  • BEN FOSTER for Torchwood
  • ROBERT LANE for Merlin
  • ENNIO MORRICONE for Pane e Libertá

Special mention should also go to JIM DOOLEY for Pushing Daisies, MURRAY GOLD for Doctor Who, JAN A.P. KACZMAREK for Pinocchio, JOSEPH LO DUCA for The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice, JENNIE MUSKETT for Miss Austen Regrets, and JULIAN NOTT for Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death.



  • JASON GRAVES for Dead Space
  • RUSSELL BROWER and NEAL ACREE for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
  • KNUT AVENSTROUP HAUGEN for Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures
  • WATARU HOKOYAMA for Afrika
  • CHRIS TILTON for Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

Special mention should also go to OLIVIER DERIVIERE for Alone in the Dark, MICHAEL GIACCHINO for Turning Point: Call of Liberty, MARK GRISKEY for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, STEVE JABLONSKY for Gears of War 2, RUSSELL SHAW for Fable II, and CHRIS TILTON for Jumper: Griffin’s Story.



  • BEBE BARRON, 20 April
  • TRISTRAM CARY, 24 April
  • EARLE HAGEN, 26 May
  • ISAAC HAYES, 10 August
  • BILL MELENDEZ, 2 September
  • PIERRE VAN DORMAEL, 3 September
  • MILAN KYMLICKA, 9 October
  • NEAL HEFTI, 11 October
  • IRVING GERTZ, 14 November
  • DEREK WADSWORTH, 3 December
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