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Filmtracks Awards: 2019
Decorative Nonsense
Film music enthusiasts were treated to an especially strong year on the big screen, a remarkable field of worthy scores and composers competing for the top awards. Behind a handful of consensus choices was a second tier of quality film scores that made 2019 a year of impressive depth across all genres. Like 2018, the year's best music resulted from sequels related to the fantasy genre, redevelopment of proven formulas for success prevailing once again.

As in recent years, John Williams and John Powell eclipse the field with their trademark franchises, the commonly expected finales to their work for Star Wars and How to Train Your Dragon allowing fans one last, masterful achievement in those outstanding bodies of work. Beyond these triumphs, 2019 offered top film scores across the thriller, romance, drama, and documentary genres as well. A younger generation of talented composers figures more frequently, suggesting a changing of the guard.

An unlikely trio of winners splits Filmtracks' 2019 awards, John Williams remaining undeniable as the winner of the top award for another year. He receives two nominations but is overshadowed by the year's surprise composer, Benjamin Wallfisch, who enjoys four nominations representing three scores. With three nominations each are Bear McCreary and Thomas Newman, followed by two apiece for Powell, Geoff Zanelli, Philipp Noll, Alexandre Desplat, and Naoki Sato.
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TOP FILM SCORES
 •Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Bear McCreary)
 •How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (John Powell)
 •Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Geoff Zanelli/Various)
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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)
 •Traumfabrik (Philipp Noll)

Three scores absolutely dominated the field in 2019, Williams' Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Powell's How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and McCreary's Godzilla: King of the Monsters never chased down by the year's later entries. If there was ever a year to feature only three top film score nominees, this was it. The mastery exhibited by all three make them obvious necessities in any film music collection, their distinctly intelligent continuation of franchise themes and exploration of compatible ideas unmatched by lesser talent.

Both Williams and Powell have won this award, separately and together for Solo: A Star Wars Story, in the prior decade. The ascendant McCreary is nominated in this top film score field for the second year in a row, his work impressing with increased regularity each year. The fourth-place finisher in 2019 is Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, an award partly inspired by the strength of the franchise's original music by James Newton Howard but also recognizing Zanelli and his crew for their fantastic extension of that identity. Their efforts yielded perhaps the year's most unexpected pleasure.

From the romance genre, Noll's lovely and humorous score for the German movie Traumfabrik barely surpassed George Kallis' expansive historical epic, Cliffs of Freedom, for the fifth position, though this race was extremely close. The honorable mentions for 2019 include Wallfisch's brazenly effective superhero score, Shazam!, Sato's wild thriller for Masquerade Hotel, Nainita Desai's gorgeous and affable nature music for Untamed Romania, and Desplat's trademark precision for Little Women. Looking in from the outside of the top ten are Diego Baldenweg's solemnly pretty Zwingli and Howard's equally respectful contemplation for A Hidden Life.
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TOP COMPOSERS
 •Alexandre Desplat
 •Bear McCreary
 •Thomas Newman
 •Naoki Sato
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Benjamin Wallfisch

The mainstream spotlight focused brightly on newcomer Hildur Guðnadóttir for her insultingly simplistic but obvious music for Joker, but countless other composers yielded superior soundtracks during 2019. Among them, McCreary had a truly remarkable year, though the majority of his work existed for projects that did not receive a theatrical release, leaving only Godzilla: King of the Monsters and The Professor and the Madman to propel him to a nomination for top composer. Due to the combined strength of Shazam!, It: Chapter Two, Hellboy, and Serenity, Wallfisch steals this award; he had been previously nominated for the same award in 2017.

For his continued command of Japanese film music in Masquerade Hotel and The Great War of Archimedes, Sato earns his first nomination in this category since 2014. Newman's duo of 1917 and Tolkien return him to this field for the first time since 2012. Desplat's presence is more regular, this year's nomination the result of his varied efforts for Little Women, The Secret Life of Pets 2, Adults in the Room, and An Officer and a Spy. Deserving an honorable mention for similarly prolific production is Brian Tyler (Rambo: Last Blood, Charlie's Angels, Ready or Not, and What Men Want).

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TOP FILM CUES
 •1917 (Thomas Newman)  "The Night Window"
 •Cliffs of Freedom (George Kallis)  "Fog of War"
 •Dumbo (Danny Elfman)  "Train's a Comin'"
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From N.Peal With Love (David Arnold)  "From N.Peal With Love"
 •Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Bear McCreary)  "Redemption"
 •Hellboy (Benjamin Wallfisch)  "This Isn't You"
 •A Hidden Life (James Newton Howard)  "A Hidden Life"
 •How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (John Powell)  "Exodus!"
 •It: Chapter Two (Benjamin Wallfisch)  "You're All Grown Up"
 •Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)  "Plumfield"
 •Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Geoff Zanelli/Various)  "What is Going on Here?"
 •Masquerade Hotel (Naoki Sato)  "Masquerade Hotel - Main Title"
 •Rambo: Last Blood (Brian Tyler)  "Preparing For War"
 •Shazam! (Benjamin Wallfisch)  "SHAZAM!"
 •Spider-Man: Far From Home (Michael Giacchino)  "Far From Home Suite Home"
 •Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)  "Farewell"
 •Tolkien (Thomas Newman)  "Fellowship"
 •Traumfabrik (Philipp Noll)  "Milous Traum"
 •Untamed Romania (Nainita Desai)  "Untamed Romania"
 •Zwingli (Diego Baldenweg)  "Prologus"

The "Top Film Cue" category remains restricted to twenty nominees in 2019, but the number of runner-ups is expanded to ten while the honorable mentions expanding to fifteen. This year, no single score achieved two nominations in this field, allowing for a greater variety of works to be represented. The strongest scores did place second or third cues in the runner-up and honorable mention lists, however. The race in this category came down to a handful of incredibly singular cues that easily stood apart from the competition. Fascinatingly, none of these very top cues came from the year's dominant three scores, testimony to how widely the best music of 2019 was spread between many films.

The best single moments of the year came in Wallfisch's incredibly rousing suite, "SHAZAM!," from Shazam!, Newman's immensely impactful "The Night Window" from 1917, Howard's longingly gorgeous "A Hidden Life" from A Hidden Life, and Noll's triumphantly romantic "Milous Traum" from Traumfabrik. But many hearts were stolen by David Arnold's nostalgic love letter to the James Bond franchise in the short campaign film From N.Peal With Love, his one cue for that glorified advertisement reminding the entire world of what the Bond franchise is missing without Arnold's music. Few moments have been so totally gratifying for film music enthusiasts in recent years.

From the best scores of 2019 are highlights that include the pivotal "Farewell" from Williams' Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the rambunctious "Exodus!" from Powell's How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the massively respectful "Redemption" from McCreary's Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and the heartwarming "What is Going on Here?" from Zanelli and crew's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. From the remaining top ten scores come the reverent "Fog of War" from Kallis' Cliffs of Freedom, the opulent "Masquerade Hotel - Main Title" from Sato's Masquerade Hotel, the dramatic "Untamed Romania" from Desai's Untamed Romania, and the cheerful "Plumfield" from Desplat's Little Women.

The remaining nominees often represent the highlights of otherwise solid scores, including the outstanding thematic presentation in "Far From Home Suite Home" from Michael Giacchino's Spider-Man: Far From Home, the evocatively classical "Prologus" from Diego Baldenweg's Zwingli, the hypnotically immersive "Fellowship" from Newman's Tolkien, the painfully victorious "You're All Grown Up" from Wallfisch's It: Chapter Two, and the Jerry Goldsmith-inspired "Preparing For War" from Tyler's Rambo: Last Blood. Representing truly standout highlights from otherwise disappointing scores are the enthusiastically adapted "Train's a Comin'" from Danny Elfman's Dumbo and the agonizing "This Isn't You" from Wallfisch's Hellboy.

The ten runner-ups for this category in 2019 include additional cues from all top five scores, led by the heartbreaking goodbyes in "Once There Were Dragons" from Powell's How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the inspiring "Training Course" from Williams' Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the monstrous "King of the Monsters" from McCreary's Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the resounding "We're Dark Fey" from Zanelli and crew's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and the victoriously closing "Traumfabrik" from Noll's Traumfabrik.

Rounding out the ten runner-ups are five unexpected delights from lesser-known or critically panned films, including the grandiose "Prologue" from Christoph Zirngibl's Finis Terrae, the dramatically relieving "The Train" from Christopher Wong's Mat Biec, the energetic "There's a Mystery in Everything" from Craig Armstrong's Mrs. Lowry and Son, the playful "Air Coconut Chase" from Mathieu Lamboley's Minuscule: Mandibles From Far Away, and the lively "Jellicle Ball" adaptation in "End Credits" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's much maligned Cats.

In contention but eliminated earlier in the selection process were the following cues receiving honorable mentions (listed alphabetically by film title): the strikingly dramatic "Come Back to Us" from Newman's 1917, the nicely adapted "The Dunes" from Alan Menken's Aladdin, the conclusive "Main on End" from Alan Silvestri's Avengers: Endgame, the creative "The New Electricity" from Chad Cannon's CyberWork and the American Dream, the feel-good "A Dog's Journey/A Dog's Purpose" from Mark Isham's A Dog's Journey, the stomping "Rebirth" from McCreary's Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and the subtle lyricism of "Deeper Than It Looks" from Carter Burwell's The Good Liar.

Also contending but eliminated were the humorous "The Dumbest Car Chase of All Time" from Nathan Johnson's Knives Out, the flowing "Jo Writes" from Desplat's Little Women, the affable "Hello, Beastie!" from Zanelli and crew's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the climactic "Turndown" from McCreary's The Professor and the Madman, the ominous "Ready or Not Overture" from Tyler's Ready or Not, the frenetic "Lance Saves Walter" from Theodore Shapiro's Spies in Disguise, the beautiful "Don't Go" from Nathaniel Mechaly's Swoon, and the weighty "Peanut's Next Wondrous Invention" from Steven Price's Wonder Park.

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