Of every major category at the Oscars, one of the most difficult ones to predict months, possibly even weeks in advance is the Best Original Score. For starters, there are some that will become surprise favorites from rookies with an ear for melody. Others will be from composers who enter relatively late in the game. Other times it is simply because the schedules get moves around so much that it is impossible to know when any one film comes out. However, there is nothing quite like predicting what is going to be the best music of the fall. In this case, I have decided to highlight 10 scores that I am looking forward to based solely on the anticipation of the film and the clout of the composer. To say the least, we're entering a strong period.
The Boxtrolls - Dario Marianelli
For starters, Laika Studios has an impressive track record of films that are top notch animation and overall brilliant pieces of art. This includes the music component. In this case, it seems like they have stepped up their game and have brought in the underrated mastermind of Dario Marianelli. Who is this? For starters, he isn't as prolific as his competitors, but he is one of the best when asked for creating a landscape for period pieces and classic literature adaptations that have included Atonement, Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina (these three have all been nominated for Best Original Score), and Jane Eyre. It is peculiar why he would decide to do a film like The Boxtrolls, but his classical styling will likely bring a classy touch to this film.
Inherent Vice - Jonny Greenwood
For anyone who knows my fascination with Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, this selection will be quite predictable. After doing two great collaborations that have produced some of the most deviant, unfocused and weird yet beautiful music for Anderson's past two films, it is only expected that Greenwood would deliver again. Who knows what direction they are going to go, but knowing Anderson, it will be a journey into the murky and strange, creating a hypnotic beat that gets under your skin. This is going to be a big one for me. Let's just hope that if it is good, the Academy will recognize him this time.
Gone Girl - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Another dependent collaboration is that of David Fincher and his two composers. After winning the Best Original Score Oscar for The Social Network, their work has only pushed the Nine Inch Nails front man into surreal and fascinating places. While at times the music is cold, it is always inquiring interesting rhythms that add a haunting sense of isolation to the music. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo score is an epic on its own that is quite a handful to consume. However, Reznor and Ross have quite a gift for making unnerving beauty that sticks with you and enhances the already unapolgetic style of Fincher.
Unbroken - Alexandre Desplat
Up front, I would like to say that Desplat already released my favorite score so far for 2014 with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Compared to most of his peers, he is one of the most fascinating composers who enhances his material with eccentricities even if they are genre fare like Godzilla or The Monuments Men. I have hope that with this other World War II film Unbroken that he will create a masterwork that is capable of being something greater than what we have seen from him before. He has already been nominated countless times for Best Original Score, but hasn't won. I simply hope that he continues to deliver and possibly bring something special to a film that is already presumed to be a front runner in the Best Picture race.
Interstellar - Hans Zimmer
I will admit that I have a bad relationship with Zimmer in the past few years when he became that loud director. I found his work in 12 Years a Slave pointless, Rush was enjoyable in spurts, and Man of Steel was unmemorable. However, in the hands of Christoper Nolan as he travels through the facets of space, I have some hope that this will force him to try something new, or old. I wonder if he will try to be majestic and bring some awe to the grand visuals that already have graced the beautiful looking trailers. I want this score to succeed because his work on Inception was rather iconic and to team up with Nolan again should hopefully produce equally inspiring work.
Big Hero 6 - Henry Jackman
Simple fact: Captain Phillips is the best Hans Zimmer score of 2013, and it wasn't even done by him. While Jackman may feel overtly like a studio composer with occasional generic tracks, he does know how to capture tension, action, and intrigue. With this animated superhero film, I am expecting that the music is going to be a strong component that influences the tone of the film. Considering that his previous work also includes the enjoyably video game sound of Wreck-It Ralph, I have hopes that this will be a really good score to a film that I otherwise have low anticipation for.
The Imitation Game - Alexandre Desplat
Why does this one rank lower than Unbroken? For starters, this film has always struck me more as an actor's film than a director's one. I feel like if there will be any focus, it will be on Benedict Cumberbatch. I don't necessarily think that the score will matter and will be pushed to the background. This isn't to say that the film can't be good. It is simply that I don't quite believe that this is going to be a great score compared to Unbroken, which at least feels like it will be more prominently featured in the film.
Fury - Steven Price
Steven Price is the Best Original Score winner for Gravity last year. As much as I loved that movie, there was something off about the score. It was bombastic and added tension in context, but it didn't work on its own merits. I had trouble listening to it as its own piece. This is fine, as many scores are used to accent a film, but considering the heights of Gravity, the score felt like a letdown. Then why am I excited to see what he does next? Price is an interesting composer whose work includes the brilliant Attack the Block. Also, with this being his first non-sci-fi score, there's hope that he will be striving for something more authentic and enjoyable.
Foxcatcher - Rob Simonsen
This is only considered a long stretch because I haven't found any of his past work all that exciting. While I loved The Spectacular Now, I cannot recall any of his music. At most, it all felt like incidental tracks. However, I want to believe that he has stepped up his game for Foxcatcher, which has my money for being the current Best Picture front runner. This creepy film from Bennett Miller has been tracking very well and I'd like to believe that the tone is also beneficial to the music. I don't really know what to expect beyond a creepy Steve Carrell performance. Nonetheless, I want this to be my surprise favorite of 2014 without any real proof other than that Foxcatcher looks really good.
Birdman - Antonio Sanchez
Probably the most ambitious film of the fall that may be taking the Gravity route into getting Oscar talk. The entire film is edited to look like it was shot in one take? That's phenomenal! However, the question is how important the score will play into the film because of this. I am sure that there will have to be some major motifs to draw the story along, even though Sanchez hasn't proven himself that much. Of course, the music in the trailer at least hints at something strange and jazzy, which is in Sanchez's background. We'll have to see how this goes.
What score are you most looking forward to?