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Filmtracks Awards: 2014
Decorative Nonsense
After honoring names outside of Hollywood's mainstream in 2013, the top choices for 2014 move back into more familiar territory, though the top nominees include scores for films produced in countries all around the planet. This year witnessed the end of the long saga of Middle Earth music from Howard Shore and an influx of other music from ancient times, often related to biblical and mythological heroes.

Indeed, it was a strong year for historical epics and fairy tales, some of the most mammoth scores of the year proving to be its best. Also unlike 2013 was the balance between four-star scores with five-star moments and the alternative, 2014 opting for more five-star scores of distinguished but not necessarily classic accomplishment throughout their lengths. Thus, while there were plenty of great scores to honor this year, there were fewer truly outstanding singular moments considered for the "Best Cue" category.

There is no doubt anywhere in the film music industry that 2014 was one of immense achievement for French composer Alexandre Desplat, who breezed through major awards ceremonies and most fans' and film music critics' choices with ease. While Desplat may not have received a "Top Film Score" nomination from Filmtracks this year, his win as "Best Composer" is unquestionable, joined by a pair of "Best Cue" nominations. John Powell also received three nominations, followed by David Newman, Howard Shore, Naoki Sato, and Christopher Young with two each. Despite Desplat's domination of the year, however, it is James Newton Howard who wins the total nomination count, with a rare five in one year.
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 •The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Howard Shore)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (John Powell)
 •Maleficent (James Newton Howard)
 •The Monkey King (Christopher Young)
Tarzan (David Newman) ** using U.S./U.K. release year

There had never before been a tie for "Top Film Score" at Filmtracks, but after weeks of deliberation, there was no other solution to the dilemma posed by 2014's top two scores. Powell's intelligently frenetic How to Train Your Dragon 2 was originally slated to win this category, but Newman's surprisingly solid Tarzan could not be discounted. Both barely edged Howard's occasionally beautiful Maleficent, the three making for an excellent trio of orchestral and choral majesty. In the second tier are Shore's still immense The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Young's less known (and initially unreleased) but truly impressive guilty pleasure, The Monkey King.

The composers nominated for this award in 2014 have all been there before, Shore and Howard most frequently. Both are prior winners as well. This is Young's third top nomination is the last six years and Powell's first since the original How to Train Your Dragon. Newman's nomination follows his last for 2001's The Affair of the Necklace. The year represents the first wins for Powell and Newman, though Powell had previously taken home the award for "Best Composer" in 2010. The runner-up in 2014 is Tuomas Kantelinen for The Legend of Hercules, a badly underrated score harmed by its mix and album presentation. The honorable mentions rounding out the year are Desplat's accomplished The Imitation Game, Danny Elfman's deviously clever The Unknown Known, Gustavo Dudamel's impressive film music foray in The Liberator, Alberto Iglesias and others' combined efforts for the epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, and Joel McNeely's humorous parody, A Million Ways to Die in the West.
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 •Marco Beltrami
Alexandre Desplat
 •James Newton Howard
 •Joel McNeely
 •Naoki Sato

Like Brian Tyler in 2013, Desplat managed to combine both quality and quantity over many entries 2014, with the combination of five solid scores yielding no classics but an undeniable plethora of effective work. He has been nominated in this category numerous times before and won the same award in 2007. Coming in second place is James Newton Howard, also no stranger to this category, with a strong pair of blockbuster fantasy efforts. Other nominees this year include Naoki Sato, who produced a wide variety of entertaining scores in 2014, Marco Beltrami, who took the more somber and respectable route to his success this year, and Joel McNeely, who not only returned once again to the affable Tinker Bell franchise but conjured one of the best parody scores in recent times for A Million Ways to Die in the West. Sato and Beltrami had been nominated before in this category.

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 •Big Hero 6 (Henry Jackman)  "First Flight"
 •The Brotherhood (La Hermandad) (Arnau Bataller)  "The Confession"
 •Godzilla (Alexandre Desplat)  "Back to the Ocean"
 •The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Howard Shore)  "Ironfoot (Extended)"
 •How to Train Your Dragon 2 (John Powell)  "Dragon Racing"
 •How to Train Your Dragon 2 (John Powell)  "Hiccup the Chief/Drago's Coming"
 •The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (Howard/Various)  "The Hanging Tree"
 •The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)  "U-Boats"
 •Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Patrick Doyle)  "Ryan, Mr. President"
 •Kundo: Age of the Rampant (Jo Yeung-Wook)  "Cotton Aberration"
 •The Legend of Hercules (Tuomas Kantelinen)  "To War"
 •The Liberator (Gustavo Dudamel)  "Quien Puede Detener la Lluvia?"
 •Maleficent (James Newton Howard)  "Maleficent Flies"
 •Maleficent (James Newton Howard)  "Maleficent Suite"
The Monkey King (Christopher Young)  "Niu Mo Wang, the Buffalo Demon King"
 •The New Girlfriend (Philippe Rombi)  "Sortie d'ecole"
 •Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (Alan Silvestri)  "The Ahkmnerah Expedition"
 •Rurouni Kenshin: Densetsu No Saigo Hen (Naoki Sato)  "Flame Demise"
 •Tarzan (David Newman)  "Growing Up"
 •The Unknown Known (Danny Elfman)  "Two Sides"

This field was easier to select that 2013's, with fewer standout cues competing for inclusion in the standard maximum of twenty nominated cues in the category. Only How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Maleficent placed two cues in the final nominees, with the former almost earning a third placement. Ultimately, the cues best vying for the award were "Ironfoot" from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (the extended version), "Niu Mo Wang, the Buffalo Demon King" from The Monkey King, and the duo of "Dragon Racing" and "Hiccup the Chief/Drago's Coming" from How to Train Your Dragon 2. In the end, it was difficult to argue with the immensity, length, and clash of cultural sounds in Young's "Niu Mo Wang, the Buffalo Demon King" from The Monkey King.

In the second tier of competition in this category for 2014 was the lovely "Quien Puede Detener la Lluvia?" from Dudamel's The Liberator, the awkwardly spliced but still fantastic "To War" from Kantelinen's The Legend of Hercules, the pair of "Maleficent Flies" and Maleficent Suite" from Maleficent, the infectiously optimistic "Growing Up" from Newman's Tarzan, and the precise, characteristically "Elfmanesque" skewering in "Two Sides" from The Unknown Known. Off in its own area due to its combination with song material is Howard and company's "The Hanging Tree" from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1. Cues from other mainstream hits include "First Flight" from Henry Jackman's Big Hero 6, "Back to the Ocean" from Desplat's Godzilla, and "The Ahkmnerah Expedition" from Silvestri's Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

The less heralded cues to make list in 2014 are "The Confession" from Arnau Bataller's The Brotherhood, "U-Boats" from Desplat's The Imitation Game, "Ryan, Mr. President" from Patrick Doyle's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, "Cotton Aberration" from Jo Yeung-Wook's Kundo: Age of the Rampant, "Sortie d'ecole" from Philippe Rombi's The New Girlfriend, and "Flame Demise" from Sato's Rurouni Kenshin: Densetsu No Saigo Hen. That last one represents the second cue nominated from Sato's stylish Rurouni Kenshin franchise music.

Just missing the cut in 2014 are "Moses' Camp" by Alberto Iglesias and Federico Jusid for Exodus: Gods and Kings, Clint Mansell's "Make Thee an Ark" for Noah, Fernando Velazquez's "Arrival at Lord Cotys' City" for Hercules, and three cues from scores with at least one cue already nominated: "Battle of the Bewilderbeast" from Powell's How to Train Your Dragon 2, "The Fall of Argos" from Kantelinen's The Legend of Hercules, and "Detainees" from Elfman's The Unknown Known.

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