Dec 15, 2011


1) Moneyball — Mychael Danna
2) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo — Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
3) War Horse — John Williams
4) Shame — Harry Escott
5) Drive — Cliff Martinez
6) Rise of the Planet of the Apes — Patrick Doyle
7) We Bought a Zoo — Jonsi
8) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — Alberto Iglesias
9) Straw Dogs — Larry Groupe
10) Rango — Hans Zimmer
It's not been a great year for film scores (But what does that even mean, as if each individual piece of music were augmented, or diminished, by the company it keeps). What Howard Shore did on Hugo — a thin, constant dribble of mellodiousness, never quite rousing itself to a melody — was as close to muzak as a score gets. Despite Alexandre Desplat's work on no less than six films none of them came close to approaching the startling beauty of his score for Birth — he may be doing too much. And I don't think anyone could figure out what Thomas Newman was doing scoring The Help — least of all Newman. What have pan pipes to do with the American South? John Williams's Tin Tin score was surprisingly riff-free (very un-Indy-like), his score for War Horse much better (the good news: the first world war apparently doesn't merit angelic choirs, maybe because less Americans died?). Cliff Martinez's provided Drive with its electronic heart beat — and Refn's track selection (Kavinsky's Night Call, College's Real Hero) was the year's best bit of pop curatorship, alongside Cameron Crowe's pillaging of Jonsi for We Bought a Zoo. Harry Escott's score for Shame was suitably dire — the best use of Glenn Gould since The Silence of the Lambs (poor Gould: serial killers and sex addicts his cinematic lot). Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross gave us the world's first concept album soundtrack for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, much of it not stuff you would ever listen to again, with the exception of an astonishing cover of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song — all surging grandeur and whistle-clean production. But my winner has to be Mychael Danna's shimmering, minimalist accompaniment to Moneyball. Most film scores are present tense — 'this is happening now', they thump. Danna's is all tingly expectancy — future tense through and through. As Jonah Hill put it in a recent interview, Danna's score "watches the movie with you." Wonderfully put.


  1. First off, thank you for spotlighting some film music.

    Interesting list. I find a few glaring ommissions though: JANE EYRE (Dario Marianelli), STRAW DOGS (Larry Groupe), and W.E [don't let the film itself taint the view on the score] (Abel Korzeniowski)


  2. I must listen to the Jane Eyre again — thanks for the reminder. The other two I look forward to

  3. I've just seen Straw Dogs - you're right, it's a wonderful score — and have amended the list accordingly.