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Film scores of 2019 - best of / appreciation post

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Good_Will_Harding
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Film scores of 2019 - best of / appreciation post

#1

Post by Good_Will_Harding » February 7th, 2020, 3:04 am

Didn't see a thread I could piggy back this onto in a quasi-related reply, so here's my whole new thread on the matter :P

Anyhow, I'm a pretty big film score buff and like the year for film overall, it seems like we peaked early AND late for getting some quality stuff, but were left to fend for ourselves during a six month chunk in the middle of 2019 leaving very little to offer in the way of anything really interesting or memorable. Luckily within the margins of January - April and October - December, there was enough to make for a whole thread's worth of praise worthy 2019 film music - in my opinion, of course!

As much as I'd hate to be so predictable and obvious with my top pick here, you simply cannot deny such outright talent and (I don't say this lightly) genius when it so rarely gets an opportunity to shine. Therefore, my pick for the best score of 2019 by a pretty comfortable margin is...



Arguably the only living film music composer to still write in the golden age style of Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, etc, John Williams adds to the already extensive glossary of thematic material this series has to offer and puts a bow on the entire franchise (from a musical standpoint anyway) with a wonderful mixture of old favorites and some very memorable new themes created solely for this finale. In an era ever dominated by the synthetic, droning atmosphere of Hans Zimmer and his army of clones, the rich, fully orchestral nature of this franchise and Williams' career overall feel all the more refreshing and singular. Quality of the film itself aside, I'm etremely thankful that Williams was able to exit the franchise on such a high note.

Another top three contender for my favorite scores of the year also falls into the trilogy capping header, albeit this one for a franchise was that started, continued, and wrapped up entirely during the 2010's - featuring many of the same elements I praised about the previous work (diverse thematic material, utilizing the full range of the orchestra, lush & romantic fanfares), but adding some flavorful Celtic elements and marginally more energized, whimsical passages than your average large scaled blockbuster franchise is used to now-a-days.



And rounding out my top three is Robbie Robetson's contributions for The Irishman - which I'm not even sure technically qualifies as a full score, since it's only two standalone tracks that were written and used in the finished movie. But even still, they were written specifically for the film and function the same as any regular "score", so in my book that merits it worth mentioning here! And as much as I loved the previous two scores, even I'll admit that I went into both of them having somewhat of a decent idea what to expect from each, whereas the score for this joint completely caught me off guard. Stylistically unique from anything else I've heard this year, it also does a perfect job reflecting the morose, longing tone found in the films later passages and helps to musically communicate the themes of mortality and regret better than any of the more recognizable tunes used during the film.



Now for some "honorable mentions" and additional scores I found to be worth recommending:

1917 (Thomas Newman) - Given the presentation and style of this film, naturally it would tend to be more reliant on the musical score to carry it along than most other recent war films - and for the most part I found it to be quite effective. Appropriately atmospheric throughout, it also succeeded in being lush and harmonious when it needed to be, as well as at times boasting a very impressive blend of electronics and synthesizers paired with a real live orchestra, which is something I always like to champion in modern film scoring.



A Hidden Life (James Newton Howard)

Not much to say about this one, since it pretty handily speaks for itself. Lovely, simple passages and orchestrations that are effectively paired with Terence Malick's stunning photography to create one of the more lush film experiences of 2019, both from an audio and visual perspective. And you certainly won't hear me complaining about the similarities to JNH's own soundtrack for The Village (probably my favorite standalone film score of the 21st century).



Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Bear McCreaey)

By far the biggest / loudest / dumbest / most Zimmer-esque score you'll see me recommending this year. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't think there were a number of enjoyable and impressive tracks to be found herein. And I'll also give it a lot of credit for finding a way to incorporate some of Akira Ifukube's classic themes for the series into this one and blend them together with the newer material in a way that doesn't seem too precious or out of place. File this under my biggest "guilty pleasure" of 2019.



Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)

Anybody at least somewhat familiar with the music of Alexandre Desplat will very likely know what they're getting out of this before the first notes of the score ever reach their eardrums. However, what this score may lack in surprises it more than makes up for in a revolving door of reliably charming and well written passages, of course heavy on the strings and piano, but beautifully reflecting the optimistic tone in the film, and in many ways helping to heighten and better communicate said tone to the viewer.



Us (Michael Abels)

Full disclosure, the vast majority of my praise for this score begins and ends with the opening title march / anthem. Sure, the score in its entirety is very effective and utilized in the genre appropriate manners expected from current US horror offerings. But that main theme really does propel this whole score to another level. The seemingly endless chorus of voices wisely foreshadows the impending threat of the film's narrative, and it blesses the horror genre with something it's been missing for decades - a memorable title fanfare. It's probably my favorite standalone film music composition of the entire year, and the rest of the score it accompanies is pretty engaging as well.



Other scores worth seeking out & listening to:

Avengers: Endgame (the track "Portals" is outstanding, but the rest of the score fails to live up to it, though is definitely still worth a look)
The Farewell
Game of Thrones: Season Eight
Glass
Joker
(not my first pick to win the Oscar, but definitely a unique soundscape for a comic book adaptation)
The Lighthouse
The Lion King
(mostly just recycles the score from the 94 film, but has enough creative mixes of old themes to merit a listen)
Marriage Story
Motherless Brooklyn
Pain & Glory
Parasite
Uncut Gems

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#2

Post by outdoorcats » February 13th, 2020, 2:45 am

Want some great TV scores?

4 masterful highlights from Watchmen (by Trent Reznor + Atticus Ross)
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
(Speaking of Reznor + Ross, my favorite movie score last year was theirs for Waves)

and 2 epic, over the top highlights from Attack on Titan Season 3.5 by Hiroyuki Sawano:
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow

[a LION eats GOD. Gunshots ring out. MATT turns around]
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#3

Post by blocho » February 13th, 2020, 5:18 am

Was Watchmen good? I read a very positive review from a critic I normally think highly of. Would anyone recommend it to someone who (1) didn't read the original graphic novel and (2) thought the previous film adaptation was OK?

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#4

Post by Good_Will_Harding » February 13th, 2020, 5:16 pm

outdoorcats wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 2:45 am
Want some great TV scores?

4 masterful highlights from Watchmen (by Trent Reznor + Atticus Ross)
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
(Speaking of Reznor + Ross, my favorite movie score last year was theirs for Waves)

and 2 epic, over the top highlights from Attack on Titan Season 3.5 by Hiroyuki Sawano:
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
Of course! All original scores are welcome topics of discussion, be they for film, television, video games, etc. I must admit that I'm extremely out of the loop when it comes to most popular current television, but I've heard great things about Watchmen and it's certainly on my radar. The score excerpts you posted are definitely interesting, and I have seen the film / heard the score for Waves (really liked the film, but don't have any strong opinions on the score, though it certainly complimented the film well, which is ultimately the most important thing).

Also worth noting is recent Oscar winner Hildur Guðnadóttir's soundtrack for another beloved HBO property from 2019 in Chernobyl. Again, I'm not familiar with the show or score apart from the appraisals I've encountered, but it's exciting that a breakout composer was able to achieve notoriety across many different forms of media during a single year.

As for television scores I've found to be the most noteworthy from 2019, the ones that most immediately spring to mind are Lost in Space Season 2, the premiere season of The Mandalorian, and the final season of Game of Thrones. I haven't heard every single cue from all of these shows, but they've all certainly had their fair share of memorable highlights sprinkled throughout.

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#5

Post by cinephage » February 13th, 2020, 5:35 pm

I would also recommend the score of Portrait de la jeune fille en feu, by Celine Sciamma.

The score, by Jean-Baptiste de Laubier & Arthur Simonini, has a very effective song. But the entire score is pretty beautiful.



The score of Midsommar was very interesting too...


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#6

Post by cinephage » February 13th, 2020, 5:40 pm

I also enjoyed the score of Ad Astra, by Max Richter... It's certainly worth listening to...

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#7

Post by cinephage » February 13th, 2020, 5:50 pm

I was looking for the very unusual score of Jallikattu, but couldn't find it. That's certainly the strangest score I heard this year, and it is very interesting. It does play a part in the action.

Another score that's interesting to me was the score of Bacurau.


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#8

Post by cinephage » February 13th, 2020, 5:55 pm

And since Trent Reznot & Atticus Finch have already been named, I will add another title of theirs, Jonah Hill's 90s'


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#9

Post by outdoorcats » February 13th, 2020, 10:23 pm

blocho wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 5:18 am
Was Watchmen good? I read a very positive review from a critic I normally think highly of. Would anyone recommend it to someone who (1) didn't read the original graphic novel and (2) thought the previous film adaptation was OK?
Yes (I would say capital-G Great, and the best live action show of 2019), yes and yes. Granted, if you haven't read the graphic novel, you have to be patient. All the relevant information from it is revealed, but not necessarily right away. And given the tone of the show-within-a-show "American Hero Story," I'd say Lindelof wasn't a fan of Snyder's film either.

@cinephage - I forgot what a great score Bacurau had! It immediately set the tone and made me realize I wasn't in for another Aquarius.
Last edited by outdoorcats on February 13th, 2020, 10:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

[a LION eats GOD. Gunshots ring out. MATT turns around]
MATT: That's the guy I was telling you about.

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#10

Post by outdoorcats » February 13th, 2020, 10:27 pm

Good_Will_Harding wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 5:16 pm
outdoorcats wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 2:45 am
Want some great TV scores?

4 masterful highlights from Watchmen (by Trent Reznor + Atticus Ross)
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
(Speaking of Reznor + Ross, my favorite movie score last year was theirs for Waves)

and 2 epic, over the top highlights from Attack on Titan Season 3.5 by Hiroyuki Sawano:
SpoilerShow
SpoilerShow
Of course! All original scores are welcome topics of discussion, be they for film, television, video games, etc. I must admit that I'm extremely out of the loop when it comes to most popular current television, but I've heard great things about Watchmen and it's certainly on my radar. The score excerpts you posted are definitely interesting, and I have seen the film / heard the score for Waves (really liked the film, but don't have any strong opinions on the score, though it certainly complimented the film well, which is ultimately the most important thing).

Also worth noting is recent Oscar winner Hildur Guðnadóttir's soundtrack for another beloved HBO property from 2019 in Chernobyl. Again, I'm not familiar with the show or score apart from the appraisals I've encountered, but it's exciting that a breakout composer was able to achieve notoriety across many different forms of media during a single year.

As for television scores I've found to be the most noteworthy from 2019, the ones that most immediately spring to mind are Lost in Space Season 2, the premiere season of The Mandalorian, and the final season of Game of Thrones. I haven't heard every single cue from all of these shows, but they've all certainly had their fair share of memorable highlights sprinkled throughout.
I had actually forgotten what a great score the final season of Game of Thrones had, especially "The Long Night." The song that played at the end of "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" was fantastic too.

Also, that Irishman track makes me want to watch all 3+ hours of it again.

[a LION eats GOD. Gunshots ring out. MATT turns around]
MATT: That's the guy I was telling you about.

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#11

Post by Teproc » February 13th, 2020, 10:33 pm

This was not a great year for scores as far as I'm concerned, but my favorite was easily Daniel Pemberton's score for Motherless Brooklyn. It probably helps that I love that particular era of jazz, but still.


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