Wednesday, 29 December 2010

...2010 In Review (cont.)

The Best Film Scores of 2010

#1 How to Train Your Dragon (John Powell)

Forget Inception. No other film score in 2010 brimmed with such a magnificent, thrilling sense of adventure as John Powell's How to Train Your Dragon. Boasting as sweeping a main theme as one could hope to find (one that perfectly encapsulates the thrill of flying), plus an array of energetic, dazzling action music typical of this composer, it's arguably Powell's finest score to date. A massively bold, massively exciting score from start to finish.

#2 Alice in Wonderland (Danny Elfman)

Proof of the frequent, bizarre disjunct between fantastic scores and dreadful films, Danny Elfman's latest collaboration with Tim Burton conjures up more magic than the movie in its entirety. Blessed with the composer's most memorable theme in years, thundering along with choir, vocals, timpani and prancing strings, the array of marvellous instrumental textures combined with an overriding sense of whimsy make this one of the best scores of Elfman's entire career.

#3 The Ghost (Alexandre Desplat)

In an outstandingly prolific year for one of Hollywood's most exciting up and coming composers, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I may have stolen the limelight, but for sheer edgy atmosphere, The Ghost takes some beating. Alexandre Desplat conjures up a brilliantly spiky sense of menace for Roman Polanski's thriller, deploying an almost quirky ensemble to represent the blackly comic whirlpool into which Ewan McGregor's eponymous ghost writer sinks.

#4 The Last Airbender (James Newton Howard)

Another fantastic score for a truly awful film! James Newton Howard proves once again that his burgeoning talents in the realm of romantic fantasy are wasted on the inept M. Night Shyamalan. By composing such a breathtaking score for a useless film, Howard proves he has his own sixth sense, resulting in massive orchestral forces that are enormously engaging, moving and spiritual. The finale, Flow Like Water, is likely the most awe-inspiring track of the composer's career to date.

#5 Gulliver's Travels (Henry Jackman)

A marvellous surprise with which to end the year, Henry Jackman's robust, delightful effort for Jack Black's Gulliver's Travels proves there's plenty of life left in the old-fashioned, fully orchestral film score. Conjuring up the spirit of John Williams in its brassy sense of adventure and powerfully rhythmic action sequences, it's a superbly romantic work from start to finish and earmarks Jackman as a talent to watch in future.

#6 Tron: Legacy (Daft Punk)

An example of an electronic/orchestral hybrid score done properly, the spirit of Vangelis is very much alive in Daft Punk's thrilling score for Tron: Legacy. Drawing on their background in live performance, the band base the score around a powerfully noble theme that is put through a series of pulsating synthetic variations, ranging from the action-packed to the serene. Many film scores attempt a likewise fusion but very rarely is it pulled off with as much confidence and flair as it is here.

#7 The Tourist (James Newton Howard)

Entry number two for James Newton Howard finds him in a frothy, exuberant kind of mood - but there are terrific hidden depths here. Howard's score for Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's lambasted comic thriller blends modern electronic rhythms and exciting action sequences with some of the loveliest romantic work of his career, resulting in a score that's at once traditional and contemporary. It may be insubstantial but the composer is rarely as entertaining.

#8 A Single Man (Abel Korzeniowski)

Korzeniowski's stately, moving score for Tom Ford's acclaimed adaptation of A Single Man brims with the same style and tragedy inherent in the visuals, but that description makes the score sound as dull as ditch water. Nothing could be further from the truth; despite being one of the more classically oriented film scores in 2010, this is beautifully wrought music, dripping with emotion and adding further layers of melancholy to Colin Firth's outstanding central performance.

#9 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (David Arnold)

Film score fans have waited a long time for David Arnold to return to the exuberant, lavish style of Independence Day and Stargate. 2010 marked just such a return. Voyage of the Dawn Treader, like Henry Jackman's Gulliver's Travels, restores life to the full-blooded fantasy score, paying lip-service to Harry Gregson Williams' original themes while relying on a bedrock of swashbuckling new material. Both thrilling and, in the end, extremely moving, this is Arnold's best score in years.

#10 Predators (John Debney)

With Predators, John Debney achieved the finest tightrope act of any film composer this year, re-orchestrating Alan Silvestri's classic themes while also bringing the franchise into the modern age courtesy of some truly terrifying, abrasive new material. Debney's greatest achievement resides in that difficult position between homage and original work: this is score aware of its rich heritage but possessed of a thunderous new identity that is thrilling to behold.

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