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Filmtracks Awards: 2012
Decorative Nonsense
Similar to the previous year, the best recordings put forth in film music during 2012 were created by names familiar to most collectors in the genre. The adventure and fantasy genres overachieved in this year, brushing aside lesser projects in the drama genre with ease. Even the year's most applauded and awarded score, Mychael Danna's Life of Pi, has a distinct fantasy element to its drama. Those efforts that fell just out of the field for "Top Film Scores," however, do represent the straight drama genre well.

There is no doubt that 2012 was, on the whole, a weaker year for film scores than 2011. Music for franchises, existing or aspiring, took a greater command of the field, and scores by composers outside of the mainstream were marginal in quality by comparison. No significant surprises thus await the learned collector while pondering the choices below, the best of the obscure international works simply not competing well in 2012. Even in the major industry awards, there were few of the controversies that typically dominate discussions involving them.

For the first time in several years, a composer has collected more than three nominations at Filmtracks in a single year. James Horner, having written a pair of strong scores early in the year, leads with an impressive five nominations in 2012, while Andrew Lockington, Thomas Newman, and Naoki Sato all earn three apiece. Collecting multiple nominations this year are the aforementioned Danna, as well as Howard Shore, Michael Giacchino, Danny Elfman, and Alexandre Desplat. Former top award winners John Williams, Patrick Doyle, James Newton Howard, and Philippe Rombi also receive nominations.
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 •The Amazing Spider-Man (James Horner)
 •The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Howard Shore)
 •John Carter (Michael Giacchino)
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Andrew Lockington)
 •Life of Pi (Mychael Danna)

As with 2011, the nominees for this year were clearly defined early in the consideration process, though without the need to nominate a sixth score for the top award. Lockington's Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and Shore's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey stood apart from the rest of the field with ease, the latter falling behind in the end because of the score's massive rearrangement or removal from the finished picture. Few endeavors in the adventure genre feature the overwhelming strengths of the Lockington score, an impressive successor to the already strong previous entry in that franchise. The weakest of the five scores to make the field is Danna's Life of Pi, still an exemplary work.

Of the composers nominated in 2012 for "Top Film Score" at Filmtracks, all had received prior nominations for this award with the exception of Giacchino, whose John Carter includes arguably his best music to this point. Horner and Shore have won the award multiple times previously. Lockington was nominated in 2008 for Journey to the Center of the Earth and Danna received a top nod in 2006 for The Nativity Story. The runner-up for 2012 in this category was Thomas Newman's underrated The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a more engaging effort than his more widely praised music for Skyfall. Honorable mentions this year include John Williams' Lincoln and James Horner's For Greater Glory.
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 •Alexandre Desplat
 •Danny Elfman
James Horner
 •Thomas Newman
 •Naoki Sato

The race for "Top Composer" in 2012 came down to a duel between industry veterans James Horner and Danny Elfman. The former produced two top-notch efforts in the ten best of the year while the latter had a prolific year, rarely writing the best music of 2012 but providing solid results in his six projects. Ultimately, the quality of Horner's output earned him this award, perhaps some bittersweet consolation to the frustration he would experience in 2013. Also nominated are Alexandre Desplat (with multiple strong works as usual), Thomas Newman (whose venture into the James Bond universe overshadowed better work for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), and Naoki Sato, who didn't hit a home run this year but wrote multiple feature scores with alluring highlights.

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 •The Amazing Spider-Man (James Horner)  "Main Title - Young Peter"
 •The Amazing Spider-Man (James Horner)  "Saving New York"
 •Argo (Alexandre Desplat)  "Cleared Iranian Airspace"
 •The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Thomas Newman)  "Assault on the Senses"
 •Brave (Patrick Doyle)  "Merida's Home"
 •For Greater Glory (James Horner)  "Jose's Martyrdom"
 •Frankenweenie (Danny Elfman)  "Re-Animation"
 •The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Howard Shore)  "A Good Omen"
 •In the House (Dans la Maison) (Philippe Rombi)  "Final et Generique de Fin"
 •John Carter (Michael Giacchino)  "John Carter of Mars"
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Andrew Lockington)  "Mysterious Island Main Titles"
 •Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Andrew Lockington)  "Who's Up For an Adventure?"
 •Life of Pi (Mychael Danna)  "Tsimtsum"
 •Lincoln (John Williams)  "The Peterson House and Finale"
 •Rurouni Kenshin (Naoki Sato)  "Flow of Life - New Era"
 •Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Dario Marianelli)  "Happy Ending"
 •Skyfall (Thomas Newman)  "Brave New World"
 •Snow White & the Huntsman (James Newton Howard)  "Sanctuary"
 •The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (Carter Burwell)  "Twilight Overture"
 •Tsunagu (Naoki Sato)  "Those Who Are Left Alive"

Just as the general quality of the complete scores in 2012 was diminished in comparison to the previous year, so was the selection of individual cues. Few truly outstanding, singular moments existed in the film music genre this year, allowing some less spectacular efforts to creep into the field. Only two scores feature multiple "Top Film Cue" nominations, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island providing enough highlights to nearly supply three cues in this category. The Andrew Lockington score's depth of strength ultimately brought this award down to a competition with itself, the overarching "Mysterious Island Main Titles" cue winning somewhat by default. The only other serious competition for this award in 2012 included Michael Giacchino's "John Carter of Mars" from John Carter and the pair of highlights from James Horner's The Amazing Spider-Man. Interestingly, no single cue from Howard Shore's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey stood alongside the very top tier of the year.

Those cues that also figured solidly in this field are "The Peterson House and Finale" from John Williams' Lincoln, "Jose's Martyrdom" from Horner's For Greater Glory, "Tsimtsum" from Mychael Danna's Life of Pi, "Sanctuary" from James Newton Howard's Snow White & the Huntsman, and "Merida's Home" from Patrick Doyle's Brave. Among the lesser known scores with inclusions in 2012 include Naoki Sato's lush Tsunagu and modern Rurouni Kenshin, Philippe Rombi's delicately precise In the House (Dans la Maison), and Dario Marianelli's redemptive fishing theme in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Guilty pleasure moments in 2012 include Carter Burwell's franchise-conscious "Twilight Overture" from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (his prior score in the series was also nominated in this category), Thomas Newman's epic cityscape cue "Brave New World" from Skyfall, and Danny Elfman's wacky "Re-Animation" from Frankenweenie.

Cues that just failed to make the cut in 2012 include a number of those from Shore's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, led by his epic dwarf theme in the bonus cue "Erebor" and, from Newman's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, "The Chimes at Midnight," a great companion to the "Assault on the Senses" cue that did make the nominated group. As mentioned before, several other cues from Journey 2: The Mysterious Island could have appeared in this field, led by "Discovering Atlantis." One last cue that received consideration in this category before being dropped was "The End? (Uncut)" from Elfman's Dark Shadows.

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rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. Page created 12/31/13 and last updated 1/5/14.
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