If you’re anything like me, you’re still recovering from the Oscar nominations a few days ago. Well, it’s also that time of the year again folks…time for my annual Awards Circuit tradition of talking about the best that the year had to offer in terms of scores and soundtracks! While I didn’t fall in love with too many this year, I still consider it a very solid year for film, musically. One composer in particular had a massive year, but overall the quality was spread around pretty evenly in 2012. I began compiling this last late last month, so I’m finishing this with the knowledge of what wound up with Academy Award nominations, but this only reflects my personal tastes. Below you’ll find my picks for the 10 best movie scores and 10 best movie soundtracks of 2012. Let’s get started, shall we?
Honorable Mention: The Avengers, The Grey, Paperman, Prometheus, and Skyfall
10. Lincoln– Yes, John Williams has done better work before, but I still really enjoyed his latest score for a Steven Spielberg film. It was never intrusive, which is something many people have taken Williams to task on of late. I may have slightly preferred their work on ‘War Horse’ in terms of the music, but this is still a really good score…and a part of a much better movie too.
9. Ruby Sparks– As with almost every other part of this gem, the score has gone under-appreciated by most. Nick Urata helped to elevate this magnificent film with a composition that completely fit the whimsical mood of the work. As more people discover this movie, I hope they discover Urata’s work as well.
8. Beasts of the Southern Wild– This indie hit underwhelmed me, but I did enjoy the score a great deal. Having the director Benh Zeitlin help to compose the work makes me admire it as well. Pretty much the DIY film of the year, that extended to the music and helped in my appreciation of it.
7. Looper– There’s something different about this work, and I can really dig on that. Nathan Johnson fit distinctive sounds into a distinctive movie. I love the flick and thought the music really helped set the mood, so including Johnson’s score was a no brainer here.
6. Cloud Atlas– I’m very conflicted about this film, but the music did manage to mostly sweep me off my feet. Another score that was partially composed by one of the filmmakers, it’s probably the strongest element of the movie. I don’t love the score quite as much as many do, but it’s definitely one of the year’s best.
5. Argo– Alexandre Desplat has had a hell of a year. While none of his work was bad at all (and I still need to put up the interview I conducted with him last month), this and one other score to be seen later in this list really were the ones that impressed me the most. This movie is a crowning achievement of 2012 in my eyes, and the music was surely a part of that.
4. The Dark Knight Rises– Not all of the elements of this conclusion to the Batman trilogy were superior to the last installment, but I think this score was. Hans Zimmer has made the quintessential Batman compositions in my eyes, so I had to recognize him.
3. Zero Dark Thirty– As much as I enjoy Desplat’s score for Ben Affleck’s movie, I think I’m ever so slightly partial to this one here. It’s in the background a lot, but much of the tension is elevated by masterful use of music. An all around amazing achievement.
2. Life of Pi– I have a number of problems with this flick, but the score was one of the highlights for me. Mychael Danna has long been a composer I’ve enjoyed, but he stepped up his game in a big way here and likely is about to win the Oscar. He certainly deserves it.
1. The Master– Maybe I’m just a sucker for unique scores, but I was sucked in immediately by Jonny Greenwood’s work here. The fact that he still hasn’t gotten an Oscar nomination is a crime. Suffice to say, I’m trying to make up for it here. This is my favorite score of 2012.
Honorable Mention: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and Silver Linings Playbook
10. Lawless– In many ways the soundtrack tells a better story than the movie. Especially with Willie Nelson’s track, there’s songs I’ll find myself listening to just on my own. Credit is also due towards Nick Cave and Warren Ellis for essentially forming a band and creating some surprisingly good songs instead of a traditional score.
9. Pitch Perfect– Since I’m not a fan of the ‘Les Miserables’ songs aside from a handful, and ‘Rock of Ages’ disappointed me, I find myself citing this forgettable comedy. That being said, the singing is the highlight of the film. No one song stands out, but they’re all done with such a sense of fun that I was unable to resist their charms…
8. The Hunger Games– This was a great soundtrack, even if not all of the songs on the release made it into the final cut of the movie. The pair of Taylor Swift songs were tops for me, but that might have something to do with how much I enjoy her work in general. Still, a lot of interesting artists contributed to this release, not just her.
7. Moonrise Kingdom– I never got the fuss over this flick, but the songs in it are very strong indeed. The quirk of the movie bothered a little, but the offbeat nature of the soundtrack wound up working for me. I’m going to revisit this Wes Anderson title soon, and it’s partial due to my fond memories of the music.
6. Celeste and Jesse Forever– Perhaps a bit too indie for some, I dug the choice of music for this dramedy. Lily Allen gets a very strong song in, and while it may not be as memorable as the ‘(500) Days of Summer’ soundtrack, I feel like they were both shooting for similar things and are both quite successful in that regard.
5. Take This Waltz– Few movies used song as well as this one did in 2012. Of course the song that gave the film its title is made impeccable use of, but the way Sarah Polley works in “Video Killed The Radio Star” makes for one of the best scenes of last year. That alone scored this a slot, and the rest of the soundtrack just moved it up and up the list.
4. 10 Years– It’s a shame that Oscar Isaac couldn’t score a nomination for the song “Never Had”, which is the best Original Song of last year to me and a strong reason why this soundtrack is here. The rest of the songs are solid, but it’s a credit to Isaac’s soulful acoustic track that this one places so highly on my list.
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower– I don’t love this film like most others do, but I do love the soundtrack. David Bowie’s “Heroes” is essential to the plot and is a personal favorite song of mine, so between that and “Come On Eileen” the music had won a place in my heart to begin with. Another movie I’m going to give another shot to, and partially due to the soundtrack to boot.
2. This is 40– Judd Apatow always uses music well, but he has a new high point for me with his use of a Ryan Adams song to close out his latest film. “Lucky Now” is an incredible song, and Apatow gets a nice little original track from Fiona Apple to add to the good tidings. Even those who didn’t love the movie should listen to this soundtrack, as it’s something special.
1. Django Unchained– The best soundtrack of the year is this one for me, hands down. John Legend’s work especially is a winner, though Quentin Tarantino again makes fine work of Ennio Morricone and even does something special with Jim Croce. “Who Did That To You?” has been stuck in my head since I first saw the movie, and I suspect it will stay there for quite some time!
There you have it folks, the cinematic music that moved me most last year. I turn it over to you all now though…what scores and soundtracks were your favorites in 2012? Did my list reflect your preferences? Either way, be sure to let me know, as I’m all ears…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!