Midway through my A-Levels, I discovered that listening to the Lord of the Rings music helped me revise; three years later, I have a 200-track playlist, and I can tell you, there’s nothing like listening to the Pirates of the Caribbean theme to make your essay feel like it’s actually important. Following the Oscars last week, I had a look back through some of my favourite films and composers who have been put up for the ‘Best Original Score’ category over the years.
‘Up’ – Michael Giacchino
When it comes to picking the best film scores, Disney and Pixar ones are always a safe bet. From Finding Nemo to Ice Age 2 (just trust me on this one), they will carry you right back to your childhood and you’ll be crying over Nemo’s mum and Ellie the mammoth’s tragic backstory in no time. But the Academy Award-winning Up stands out as being almost visual. Giacchino uses lots of woodwind instruments to give the impression of flying and the main theme is filtered across different genres throughout the film. In every incarnation it is equally beautiful and equally reminiscent of the theme of childhood explored in the movie.
‘Cinema Paradiso’ – Ennio Morricone
While being a bit repetitive compared to other scores of his (such as the Oscar-winning The Hateful Eight) there is something incredibly special about Cinema Paradiso. It is a love story following its protagonist from childhood through to his mid-40s, and you can feel what age Toto is with every track. The earlier tracks are optimistic, with lilting waltzes; the ‘Love Theme’, which recurs fairly often, becomes slower and sadder as time passes, and for the final track, ‘For Elena’, a separate violin part has been added underneath the main love theme, reflecting the complications in their relationship. As the film is in Italian, at points it feels as if the music tells the story on its own.
‘Harry Potter’ –
John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper, Alexandre Desplat
I’m cheating here by putting this under a blanket term as each film has a completely different soundtrack, but whether it’s the iconic John Williams themes that we all know and love or the intricacies of Patrick Doyle’s beautiful Goblet of Fire score, you can’t go wrong. There’s a reason Williams has been nominated for over fifty Oscars and for those who grew up with the Harry Potter stories every track will bring your mind to a specific moment within them. Pro Tip: it’s perfect for staring out of train windows pretending you’re on the Hogwarts Express.
The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat
Alexandre Desplat is one of my favourite film composers of all time and credits such as The King’s Speech and The Danish Girl speak for themselves. But his score for The Imitation Game, which dramatises the life of Alan Turing, the genius who cracked the enigma code, is particularly clever. The quick, repetitive piano phrases mimic the workings of Turing’s mathematical mind, giving way to soaring strings to hint at his emotional side. It didn’t get the Oscar in 2014, but Desplat can’t have been too heartbroken since it lost to another of his own scores, The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Like Crazy – Dustin O’Halloran
Dustin O’Halloran, Oscar-nominated this year for Lion, is a composer I discovered four years ago and have been mildly obsessed with ever since. His piano-driven tracks are extremely soothing and romantic, perfect for Like Crazy, which is entirely based on a long-distance relationship. It has an improvised script, aiming to be as realistic and intimate as possible. The music is used sparingly, and so when it is his wistful tunes have an even greater emotional hit. His pieces are most often heard in scenes without speech, giving the feeling that the music is talking for them, and making for a very personal score.