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Overture to Oscar: Best Soundtracks/Scores of the Year

February 1, 2011

Sometimes it takes more than brilliant acting, gorgeous cinematography and inspired directing to make a movie all come together.  A fantastic soundtrack can be the buttercream icing on the cake of a well-crafted film.  Here are what I believe are the best scores/soundtracks of the year.

5.) The Fighter –  original music by Michael Brook, select 90s tunes

Thanks to a central theme built around “How You Like Me Now” by UK band The Heavy, as well as some (pun intended) heavy-hitting 90s-era grunge tunes (the film takes place circa 1993), the soundtrack to David O.  Russell’s intense film is much like the action between the main players:  electric, jarring and in-your-face.  It works well with the pseudo-documentary feel of the film, where even the most minor partcipant feels they are the star.

4.) Inception – music by Hans Zimmer

Zimmer’s past credits include the soundtracks for The Dark Knight and Sherlock Holmes.  He’s a master at using unique tones and dissonance to create mood, and it works well with Christopher Nolan’s directing style.  The music for Inception is brass-heavy and thunderous where it most impacts the tense  storyline, lending an air of the grandiose to a world that is taking place entirely within the mind of its participants.  It  ratchets up the tempo as the plot rises to its climax.

3.) The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat

Young French composer Desplat’s repertoire reads like an Oscar-winning director’s dream.  He’s best known for scoring period and fantasy epics, and his scores for The Golden Compass and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. One are masterpieces of subtle complexity.  His understated but “majestic” score for The King’s Speech matches the personalities of the characters involved in the tale.  Since Speech is a movie built around performances rather than action, Desplat’s score is all the more remarkable for how much it wraps itself around the players involved, disappearing into the seamless lives of those on the screen.

2.)The Social Network – music by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor

Although I thought the movie itself a bit too overpraised and overblown, the soundtrack by Atticus Ross and alternative rock god Trent Reznor (of band Nine Inch Nails) was the exact opposite: in-tune, on-target and timely.  Much like the iTunes mix we all have running on our computers while we hack away into the web of useless internet information, The Social Network’s main themes were  like a well-oiled, personalized machine – at times cold and mechanical,  yet always as infinitely interesting as the personality of lead character Mark Zuckerberg himself. 

1.) Tron: Legacy – music by Daft Punk

The movie iself was a gorgeous spectacle of FX wrapped in an utterly incomprehensible screenplay, but the slick and streamlined electronic soundtrack by French DJ duo Daft Punk is by far the best soundtrack of the year.  Mixing traditional orchestral themes with intense computer-generated dance music, it is a juxtaposition of old and new, much as the movie itself is a modernized ode to the cult classic of yesteryear.  I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve been listening to this soundtrack on the ol’ iPod for several months now and it never fails to disappoint.  The highlights of the album include  the dance electronica-based “Derezzed”,  “Tron:Legacy End Credits” and the Amazon MP3  bonus track “Sea of Simulation”.

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