Familiar names in unfamiliar places defined the best of film music in 2011, the year's
top efforts submitted by well known composers for mainstream projects met with critical disdain or
audience indifference. It's always pleasing to discover great film music from respected, favorite
"underdog" composers of the scoring business, especially in unexpected contexts, and 2011 exhibited
many such artists striving for excellence at the top of their game for obscure titles.
There is no doubt that 2011 was an outstanding year for film music, with a healthy selection of
five-star scores and very competitive four-star alternatives from which to choose for these awards.
In the mainstream, audiences and awards bodies were captivated by newcomer Ludovic Bource's
remarkable resurrection of silent era style for The Artist, though that score's sweep through
the awards season owes much to Bernard Herrmann and the music's obviously prominent role in the
picture. While placing in Filmtracks' top ten for 2011, The Artist was ultimately surpassed by
several more conventional scores, including two from the returning maestro, John Williams.
As in 2010, three composers lead the nomination count with four apiece. Along with the remarkable
return of Williams, Patrick Doyle and Marco Beltrami both enjoyed impressive years of productivity,
and although not with the same quantity of output, Danny Elfman earns three nominations. Collecting
multiple nominations this year are perennial contenders Alexandre Desplat and John Powell, as well
as fan favorites Christopher Young and Mark McKenzie.
The nominees this year were relatively easy to determine, the strength of the
field demanding the sixth nomination slot that Filmtracks reserves for abnormally solid years.
Selecting the winner was extremely challenging, however, only The Greatest Miracle
competing with its peers. To break the tie, all of these films were viewed carefully to account for
the impact of the music in context. After this process was completed, it became clear that Doyle's
La Ligne Droite
and Elfman's Real Steel
had the most substantial impact on their films,
the former slightly edging the latter because of its remarkable efficiency given such a small
All of the composers included in this field have previously received a "Top Film Score" nomination
at Filmtracks, but this is the first win for Doyle. It has been six years since Williams' last
nomination (due to his inactivity from feature films) and sixteen years since the previous
recognition for McKenzie. The others have received top nominations within the last four years.
The field of runner-ups for 2011 include four exceptional scores that easily could have been
nominated in a weaker year. Naoki Sato's Gaku (Peak: The Rescuers)
and James Horner's Black
both barely missed the cut, followed by Williams' War Horse
and Bource's The
rounding out the top ten. Honorable mentions this year include Desplat's Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
, Howard Shore's Hugo
, Doyle's Rise of the Planet of the
, and Abel Korzeniowski's W.E.
Woefully underappreciated by many critics in 2011 was Patrick Doyle, whose
year included four impressive scores that required the composer to range far outside his comfort
zone. For his efforts to expand the scope of his career sound and provide uniquely creative music
with limited budgets and studio interference, he breezes through the competition to win this award.
Beltrami and Desplat both provided several characteristically interesting scores during the year,
each with one stellar highlight. Powell's dominance of the children's genre included two particular
entries in 2011, Kung Fu Panda 2
(co-written with Hans Zimmer) and especially Mars Needs
, that outclassed their peers. Finally, the resurgence of Williams' masterful quality of
writing for two exemplary scores places him as a formidable runner-up for this award.
This category was extremely difficult to resolve for 2011, the generally high
quality of the year as a whole for film music forcing a plethora of difficult choices. After viewing
most of the films represented by these contenders, this award came down to three cues that had a
tremendous impact upon their scenes: "Stadium Memories" from Doyle's La Ligne Droite
Round" from Elfman's Real Steel
, and "Kyuushutsu" ("Rescue") from Sato's Peak: The
. All three are represented by altered edits on their album releases, though "Final
Round" from Real Steel
is arguably superior in its film arrangement, giving it the slight
advantage over the other two. Any one of these three cues could have won this award, and if a
three-way tie were possible, that may have been the best choice.
Both of the nominated cues from Beltrami's Soul Surfer
have a tremendous impact upon the
song-riddled film, and "Safe With Me" from Elfman's Real Steel
is likewise a vital and
beautiful component to its bonding scene. Williams' "Sir Francis and the Unicorn" from The
Adventures of Tintin
and "Statues" from Desplat's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part
are resounding forces to be reckoned with in their scenes. While sadly truncated in its film
edit, "Fanfare for a Resurrected Priestess" from Young's Priest
is among the best "guilty
pleasure" moments from film music this year. Among Powell's most emotionally powerful career
achievements is "Gribble's Loss" from Mars Needs Moms
and "A Wolf Stands Up" from The
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1
is impressive evidence of Carter Burwell's chops in the
Cues just missing the cut this year include "My Fist Hungers for Justice" from Powell and Zimmer's
Kung Fu Panda 2
, "Awaken" from Dario Marianelli's Jane Eyre
, "Thor Kills the Destroyer"
from Doyle's Thor
, "Welcome to New Greenwich" from Craig Armstrong's In Time
"Burgholzli" from Shore's A Dangerous Method