Saturday, February 03, 2007

Unsung accolades

We watched Little Miss Sunshine tonight (which, for the record, surely ain't the Best Picture of the year although it was plenty fun) and, right before I switched off the DVD, I noticed that, to my surprise, the movie had been scored by one of my favorite composers. I have a thing for film scores -- indeed, at one point I wanted to take a class in the School of Music at Michigan on film scoring -- and they used to make up a sizeable portion of my CD collection. The only thing that I miss about the recent conversion of WETA to an entirely classical music format is Weekend Edition Sunday -- relevant to this posting because right around now they review portions of all the soundtracks nominated for the Oscar.

I was also thinking about the scoring nominations for the Oscar because Ennio Morricone is getting the honorary award this year. Before JJ says something: no, I'm not enough of a score freak to actually own a Morricone soundtrack, which really should be rectified. I have stated elsewhere that I still long for some of the old guard, like Elmer Bernstein. But I do have several favorites that are still around and, hey, might actually get nominated (even win) one day themselves.
  • Mychael Danna -- The inspiration of this post, as his most recent work was featured in Little Miss Sunshine, The Nativity Story and the upcoming Breach. For me, however, it's all the work with Atom Egoyan that speaks most to me. Danna has a penchant for Eastern instruments, often time working with gamelan instruments or a ney, mixing them with some haunting melodies.
  • Carter Burwell -- As with Danna/Egoyan, I tend to associate Burwell with the quirky work of the Coen Brothers. Given the relatively high profile work he's done (Rob Roy, Before Night Falls, the exquisite Gods and Monsters), it's surprising that he hasn't been nominated yet. The rhythms he uses throughout his music tend to function as counterpoint in many ways: again, hear Gods and Monsters, where he uses a waltz almost ironically.
  • Clint Mansell -- If you knew me way back when, you'd realize that I'd have to love this guy because he was a main part of the band Pop Will Eat Itself, which I loved for its beats as much as its electrics; Mansell's scores add string quartets to this for a very trippy composition. Again, this is a composer who can be associated with one primary director: Darren Aronofsky. Indeed, the music for The Fountain is incredible and really contributes to the film's overall power (much like what he did for Requiem for a Dream).
  • Thomas Newman -- OK, so of these five here, Newman actually has been nominated before. (In fact, he's up this year again for The Good German.) That I can tell, however, he's still unlikely to win. I find this fascinating given that his precussive, minimalist scores throughout the 1990s have been some of the most memorable. American Beauty is the most familiar, although my favorite goes back a little further to the more jazzed up atmosphere surrounding Robert Altman's The Player.
  • Craig Armstrong -- This former member of the Brit trip-hop outfit Massive Attack most recent composed for World Trade Center, but I know him best for his work for Moulin Rouge!, which I listen to on road trips (and for which he won the Golden Globe). The funny thing about Armstrong is that his solo albums are fantastic electronica cinemascapes themselves, so that it's not surprising to see some of the tracks off of those albums make it into films as well.


J.J. said...

For me, Burwell means Spike Jonze. The scores for Adaptation and Being John Malkovich are transporting.

The View From Dupont said...

Had to leave a quick not ewith appreciation for Elmer Bernstein. For some strange reason I fell in love with his stuff from the Keeping the Faith score and got hooked from there.