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Filmtracks Awards: 2015
Decorative Nonsense
With the tragic death of James Horner and continued quality output from Silver Age darlings John Williams and Ennio Morricone, 2015 was clearly a year for unabashed sentimentality and nostalgia. Several of the year's best and most popular film scores were fanciful resurrections of themes or styles from yesteryear, often in the context of major feature endeavors.

Like 2014, much of the top music this year existed in large-scale science fiction, action, and drama entries. It was a stronger year than recently experienced, all the nominees for the top award at Filmtracks earning five stars and the close runner-ups almost equaling the same level of excellence. Unlike 2014, there was an abundance of outstanding singular moments to consider for the "Best Cue" category, over a dozen worthy runner-ups vying for consideration but failing to make the cut.

While Horner, Williams, and Morricone earned most of the year's headlines, the first half of 2015 was an astounding period of time for Michael Giacchino, who earned an extremely rare pair of "Top Film Score" nominations at Filmtracks in the same year as well as easily capturing the "Best Composer" category. His five overall nominations, quite the feat for any year in Filmtracks' awards, lead the pack, with John Williams, Danny Elfman, and Lorne Balfe each earning three nominations. Also recognized with multiple nominations in 2015 are A.R. Rahman, Joe Kraemer, Morricone, and Horner.
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 •Jupiter Ascending (Michael Giacchino)
 •Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (Joe Kraemer)
 •Muhammad: The Messenger of God (A.R. Rahman)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams)
 •Tomorrowland (Michael Giacchino)

If ever there was a "consensus year" within the film music community in this era, 2015 was such a convergence of opinion. While other years, including 2014, required seemingly endless deliberation to choose a "Top Film Score" at Filmtracks, John Williams made that decision an easy one in 2015. His monumentally exciting and lyrical continuation of the Star Wars saga won not only for its amazing nostalgic appeal but also for its incredible compositional complexity, Williams defying the march of time once again to win his first top Filmtracks award since 2004.

Joining Star Wars: The Force Awakens are Giacchino's lovely and propulsive throwback fantasy score, Tomorrowland, and his immensely proportioned Jupiter Ascending, as well as Rahman's beautiful religious epic from Iran, Muhammad: The Messenger of God, and Kraemer's addictive and intelligently arranged sequel score for Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation. This nomination represents the first such recognition for Kraemer, while Williams has received more than a dozen such nods (along with numerous wins). Giacchino and Rahman had each only been nominated once before in this category.

The runner-up in 2015 is Nigel Westlake's boisterously upbeat Paper Planes from Australia, a highly affable, light-hearted score that received consideration for a top-five placement up to the very end. The honorable mentions rounding out the top ten of the year are Horner's large-scale nature epic, Wolf Totem, Robert Gulya's appropriately simple and pretty Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Andrew Lockington's adventurous, wild ride in San Andreas, and Morricone's widely awarded and challenging The Hateful Eight.
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 •Lorne Balfe
 •Danny Elfman
Michael Giacchino
 •James Horner
 •Ennio Morricone

It became clear halfway through 2015 that Giacchino was the likely winner for this award, exceeding Alexandre Desplat's combined, winning achievements in 2014 within just a few months. This is Giacchino's second nomination in this category (2009) and his first win. The sentimental favorite was Horner, whose year was highlighted by a remarkable drama, Wolf Totem, and a wide range of other works that appropriately summarized his career in his final year. Danny Elfman likewise enjoyed a solid year of production, led by ass-kicking, last-minute salvaging work on Avengers: Age of Ultron. Both Horner and Elfman have been nominated several times in this category before.

The nominations for Morricone (another nostalgic choice) and Lorne Balfe represent each composers' first such recognitions at Filmtracks in this category. Balfe's quietly strong year was a largely unnoticed breakout for the Hans Zimmer associate, led by above-average music for Home, Manny, and American Hero, as well as romanticism and action exceeding expectations in Terminator Genisys.

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 •Avengers: Age of Ultron (Danny Elfman)  "Avengers Unite"
 •Cinderella (Patrick Doyle)  "Pumpkin Pursuit"
 •Fifty Shades of Grey (Danny Elfman)  "Ana and Christian"
 •The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)  "L'Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock - V. Integrale"
 •Home (Lorne Balfe)  "Symphony in Oh"
 •In the Heart of the Sea (Roque Baños)  "Essex Leaving Harbor"
 •Jupiter Ascending (Michael Giacchino)  "The Abrasax Family Tree"
 •Manny (Lorne Balfe)  "Manny"
 •The Martian (Harry Gregson-Williams)  "Crossing Mars"
 •Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (Joe Kraemer)  "Meet the IMF"
Muhammad: The Messenger of God (A.R. Rahman)  "The Sea Miracle"
 •Paper Planes (Nigel Westlake)  "The Competition"
 •San Andreas (Andrew Lockington)  "Skydive"
 •The Seventh Son (Marco Beltrami)  "The Spook's Apprentice"
 •Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams)  "Farewell and the Trip"
 •Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams)  "The Jedi Steps and Finale"
 •Steve Jobs (Daniel Pemberton)  "The Circus of Machines II (Allegro)"
 •Tomorrowland (Michael Giacchino)  "Pin-Ultimate Experience"
 •Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (Robert Gulya)  "Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn"
 •Wolf Totem (James Horner)  "Leaving for the Country"

An untenable overall number of great cues in 2015 made this category almost impossible to winnow down to the maximum of twenty entries. Several truly deserving cues just missed the cut, causing the runner-up list to bloat out to a surprising fifteen in quantity. Only Star Wars: The Force Awakens placed two cues in the list, the music from all the final scenes of the film a necessary inclusion. In the end, the award came down to a battle between the immense "The Sea Miracle" from Rahman's Muhammad: The Messenger of God, Williams' fantastic conclusion and credits suite, "The Jedi Steps and Finale," from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Giacchino's inspiring "Pin-Ultimate Experience" from Tomorrowland, with the Rahman cue ultimately squashing the other two with its massive weight and operatic beauty.

In the second tier of competition in this category for 2015 was Elfman's extremely rowdy fanfare, "Avengers Unite," from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Morricone's hypnotizing and intellectually satisfying "L'Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock - Versione Integrale" from The Hateful Eight, Westlake's lengthy and spirited "The Competition" from Paper Planes, and Horner's heartbreaking "Leaving for the Country" from Wolf Totem. Nearing these entries was the silly but snazzy "Symphony in Oh" by Balfe for Home, the creepy "The Abrasax Family Tree" from Giacchino's Jupiter Ascending, Harry Gregson-Williams' awe-inspiring "Crossing Mars" from The Martian, and Kraemer's revealing crescendo and counterpoint in "Meet the IMF" from Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation.

Rounding out the nominees this year are Patrick Doyle's rambunctious "Pumpkin Pursuit" from the otherwise somewhat overrated Cinderella, Elfman's intoxicatingly cool "Ana and Christian" from every church's favorite movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, Roque Baños' broadly-scoped "Essex Leaving Harbor" from In the Heart of the Sea, Balfe's surprisingly dramatic titular cue from Manny, Lockington's muscular action cue, "Skydive," from San Andreas, Marco Beltrami's lightly deviant "The Spook's Apprentice" from The Seventh Son, Williams' excellent treatment of themes in "Farewell and the Trip" from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Daniel Pemberton's counter-intuitive but lovely "The Circus of Machines II (Allegro)" from Steve Jobs, and Gulya's summarizing suite from Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

As already mentioned, the runner-up list from 2015 was considerable due to the overall strength of the year. Three possible nominees proved to be somewhat redundant to cues nominated above, including Elfman's "New Avengers - Avengers: Age of Ultron" from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Rahman's "Abraha" from Muhammad: The Messenger of God, and Giacchino's "End Credits" from Tomorrowland. Just missing the cut for 2015 are "First Mission" by Christophe Beck for Ant-Man, "Bridge of Spies (End Title)" by Thomas Newman for Bridge of Spies, "If I Fight, You Fight (Training Montage)" by Ludwig Göransson for Creed, "Flying Ship Fight" by John Powell for Pan, "Porsche Pursuit" by Nathaniel Méchaly for Taken 3, and "Fate and Hope" by Balfe for Terminator Genisys.

Eliminated earlier in the process of determining these nominations but still worthy of mentioning are "Celebrations" by Horner for The 33, "Summit" by Dario Marianelli for Everest, "Run With the Herd" by Mychael and Jeff Danna for The Good Dinosaur, "Finale" by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson for Kingsman: The Secret Service, "Farewell" by Gabriel Yared for The Prophet, and "Truth Main Title" by Brian Tyler for Truth. Other cues from Jupiter Ascending and Paper Planes were strongly considered for this category as well.

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