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Filmtracks Awards: 2020
Decorative Nonsense
The pandemic of 2020 caused significant disruptions in the release of major studio films during the year, with many entries pushed off until theatres could reopen. Some collectors maintain that the year was relatively poor as a whole for film music as a result, and while the breadth of solid soundtracks may have diminished to a degree, the year still produced a few outstanding entries worthy of these awards. At the least, it opened the doors for the music from more obscure international projects to shine.

Another byproduct of the pandemic is the acceleration of a migration of film scoring talent to studios affiliated with streaming services. In prior years, Filmtracks had not substantially considered scores for streaming films in its awards, but 2020 necessitated the inclusion of these works. With the long-term future of theatre sustainability in doubt, it is becoming more likely that an increasing portion of the best film music of the year will never experience the big sound systems of theatres as they did before.

Along with a more eclectic field of selections in 2020 comes a momentary shift away from dominant sequel scores for blockbuster concepts, only one such peripheral entry figuring in Filmtracks' awards. The top scores of the year stray from the usual fantasy mould to include lighter dramas, historical comedies, and a children's documentary. Still, John Powell continues his prominence in these awards, swapping places with John Williams in recent years as the creator of the most reliably fantastic music of this era.

The diverse field of 2020 is headlined by the ever-popular and controversial Hans Zimmer, however, who returns after a long absence from Filmtracks' awards for five nominations. Zimmer last received a solo nomination from the site in 2006. Closely behind him this year is Argentinian Federico Jusid with four nominations and an ascendant Ramin Djawadi with three. Powell, Craig Armstrong, and Daniel Pemberton each receive two nominations. A total of eighteen composers are recognized, almost half of them for the first time at Filmtracks.
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TOP FILM SCORES
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The Call of the Wild (John Powell)
 •Elephant (Ramin Djawadi)
 •The One and Only Ivan (Craig Armstrong)
 •El Verano Que Vivimos (Federico Jusid)
 •Wonder Woman 1984 (Hans Zimmer)

Anthropomorphized animals figured strongly in 2020's best music, an oddball collection of dogs, elephants, and gorillas inspiring fantasy, drama, and comedy music that topped the year in soundtracks. The trio of Powell's The Call of the Wild, Djawadi's Elephant, and Armstrong's The One and Only Ivan offer symphonic redemption of intimate, exciting, and exotic passion, their melodies pulling on the heart strings and their intelligence in construct impressing on an intellectual level.

The race for the top award was particularly challenging in 2020, The Call of the Wild and Elephant long battling for the award and tempting a rare tie. But while Djawadi's work contains more glorious highlights worthy of the "Top Film Cue" award, Powell's score exhibits technical mastery and a consistently superior thematic cohesion that, while abrasive in its instrumentation for some listeners, is a remarkably unique listening experience. Falling a few steps behind is the lovely and often pensive The One and Only Ivan.

Zimmer's Wonder Woman 1984 represents a fantastic pivot by the veteran composer to a broader superhero sound, and Jusid's El Verano Que Vivimos is an elegant romance work with several heartbreaking passages. Rachel Portman's nostalgically affectionate Godmothered is the year's runner-up. The honorable mentions for 2020 include Pemberton's infectiously bright Enola Holmes, Taro Iwashiro's solemnly respectful Fukushima 50, George Kallis' dramatically diverse Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper, and Christopher Willis' classically ambitious The Personal History of David Copperfield. Just outside the top ten are Alan Silvestri's spirited The Witches and Philip Klein's momentous The Last Full Measure.
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TOP COMPOSERS
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Federico Jusid
 •George Kallis
 •Daniel Pemberton
 •Hans Zimmer

While the fraudulent mainstream awarding bodies fawned over the contributions of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross in 2020, their work paled in comparison to that of a variety of composers who actually delivered strong music for multiple projects during the year. Jusid's duo of El Verano Que Vivimos and Origenes Secretos conveys the depth of his talents and offers some of the year's most mesmerizing single cues, fueling hopes that the composer can break through with the major studio assignments he merits.

Also nominated for this award are Zimmer, whose comeback for Wonder Woman 1984 is joined by an engaging, co-written score for Hillbilly Elegy. Kallis returns to this award for his overachieving production for Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper and Sadan Hanim, and Pemberton gained significant respect during the year with the quality and maturation of Enola Holmes and The Trial of the Chicago 7. No composer earns an honorable mention this year, in part because there was less opportunity for individuals to excel on multiple films given the pandemic's havoc on release schedules.

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TOP FILM CUES
 •The Call of the Wild (John Powell)  "Buck Takes the Lead"
 •Elephant (Ramin Djawadi)  "Elephant Prologue"
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Elephant (Ramin Djawadi)  "An Unforgettable Journey"
 •Enola Holmes (Daniel Pemberton)  "Enola Holmes (The Future is Up to Us)"
 •Fearless (Anne Kathrin Dern)  "Lightspeed"
 •Fukushima 50 (Taro Iwashiro)  "Symphonic Suite F - 1st Chapter: All Life"
 •Godmothered (Rachel Portman)  "Who's Your True Love?"
 •Hillbilly Elegy (Hans Zimmer/David Fleming)  "Rust"
 •The Invisible Man (Benjamin Wallfisch)  "Denouement"
 •The Last Full Measure (Philip Klein)  "The Last Full Measure"
 •Love and Monsters (Marco Beltrami/Marcus Trumpp)  "End Credits"
 •News of the World (James Newton Howard)  "End Titles (From News of the World)"
 •The One and Only Ivan (Craig Armstrong)  "Ivan is Set Free"
 •Origenes Secretos (Federico Jusid)  "Overture/Hero's Journey"
 •The Personal History of David Copperfield (Christopher Willis)  "David's Writings"
 •El Verano Que Vivimos (Federico Jusid)  "Carreras en la Playa"
 •The Witches (Alan Silvestri)  "Witches Are Real"
 •Wonder Woman 1984 (Hans Zimmer)  "1984"
 •Wonder Woman 1984 (Hans Zimmer)  "Themyscira"

The "Top Film Cue" category is restricted to twenty nominees, with the number of runner-ups and honorable mentions remaining the same as 2019 with ten and fifteen, respectively. While the year's top scores placed a significant number of cues in this list of nominees, many of the most competitive entries came from unexpected works not otherwise recognized. The year's top scores tended to be lifted by their overall quality from start to finish rather than immense highlights in just a few cues, allowing a large number of generally lesser scores to put forth singular cues of high quality for these awards.

The year's best cues are led by Iwashiro's remarkably pretty "Symphonic Suite F - 1st Chapter: All Life" from Fukushima 50, Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp's outrageously campy "End Credits" from Love and Monsters, James Newton Howard's summary of highlights in "End Titles (From News of the World)" from News of the World, Jusid's awesome fantasy scope in "Overture/Hero's Journey" from Origenes Secretos, and Zimmer's vivaciously bold "Themyscira" from Wonder Woman 1984. These entries could not overcome the opening and closing cues from Djawadi's Elephant, though, both "Elephant Prologue" and "An Unforgettable Journey" offering the score's African vocals and main theme with grandiose passion. Either cue could have easily prevailed.

In the second tier of nominees are Powell's frenetically driving "Buck Takes the Lead" from The Call of the Wild, Klein's immensely respectful "The Last Full Measure" from The Last Full Measure, Anne Kathrin Dern's adventurous bravado in "Lightspeed" from Fearless, Benjamin Wallfisch's eerily gripping tribute to Bernard Herrmann in "Denouement" from The Invisible Man, Armstrong's stupendously redeeming "Ivan is Set Free" from The One and Only Ivan , and Jusid's playful and frolicking "Carreras en la Playa" from El Verano Que Vivimos.

The final nominees to make the cut include Willis' beautifully culminating "David's Writings" from The Personal History of David Copperfield, Pemberton's shamelessly optimistic "Enola Holmes (The Future is Up to Us)" from Enola Holmes, Portman's whimsical magic in "Who's Your True Love?" from Godmothered, Zimmer and David Fleming's yearningly thoughtful "Rust" from Hillbilly Elegy, Alan Silvestri's enticingly devious "Witches Are Real" from The Witches, and Zimmer's other fantastic highlight of the year, the buoyant "1984" from Wonder Woman 1984.

The ten runner-ups for this category in 2020 include perhaps the most diverse grouping, aside from Powell's powerfully closing "The Call of the Wild" from The Call of the Wild and Djawadi and Brandon Campbell's brief but delightful "Palm Island" from Elephant. The remaining runner-ups include Michael Giacchino's extremely amusing "Pickles, Suite or Sour" from An American Pickle, Danny Elfman's wildly entertaining "Betsy Chase" from Dolittle, Kallis' reverent "Alone by the Goalpost" from Lev Yashin: The Dream Goalkeeper, Amelia Warner's lyrical "Welcome to Ireland" from Wild Mountain Thyme , Terence Blanchard's broad "Finding the Gold" from Da 5 Bloods, Thomas Clay's sincere "Fanny Lye Deliver'd" from Fanny Lye Deliver'd, Andrew Lockington's flowingly romantic "Solace" from The Kindness of Strangers, and Mark Mothersbaugh's manic yodeling in "Chase/Rainbow Zeppelin" from The Willoughbys.

In contention but eliminated earlier in the selection process were the following cues receiving honorable mentions (listed alphabetically by film title): Patrick Doyle's determined "Bring Him Back" from Artemis Fowl, Powell's exuberant "Buck & Thornton's Big Adventure" and charming "We Carry Love" from The Call of the Wild, Steven Price's expansive "We Must Rewild the World" from David Attenborough: A Life on Our Plant, Djawadi's exotic "Leaving the Delta" from Elephant, Pemberton's gorgeous "An Old Friend" from Enola Holmes, Blake Neely's dramatic "But At What Cost?" from Greyhound, and Ralf Wengenmayr's soaring "Emma Fliegt" from Jim Knopf und die Wilde 13.

Also contending but eliminated were Wallfisch's astonishingly creepy "The Suit" from The Invisible Man, Reznor and Ross' golden "All This Time (Happily Ever After)" from Mank, Harry Gregson-Williams' alluring "The Lesson of the Phoenix" from Mulan, Armstrong's inspiring "Ivan Orchestral Suite" from The One and Only Ivan, Willis' summarizing "These Pages Must Show (End Credits)" from The Personal History of David Copperfield, Kallis' introspective "Sadan Hanim" from Sadan Hanim, and Zimmer's surprisingly refined villain's identity in "Black Gold" from Wonder Woman 1984.

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