Art credit Berrek Thompson

Bring The House Lights Down: The Year in Film Music

by Lauren Curtright & Justin Price

We love movies. Long story short. Lauren Curtright and Justin Price analyze 7 notable film scores and soundtracks for the year 2010.


Justin: Hans Zimmer has been central to popular film for some time now. Personally, I feel like he’s found his greatest collaborator in Christopher Nolan. The score for Inception is subtly innovative, using electric guitar flourishes (courtesy of Johnny Marr) to ground the bombastic swells of the orchestra, while incorporating Edith Piaf’s vocals as plot device that was also well suited to the music.

Lauren: I agree. The fact that Nolan not only allowed but enabled him to transplant Edith Piaf into an action film where technology is central, was incredible. Not only that, but the entire score is dissections of Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.

Justin: And with the length of the movie being on the long side, I thought the score was never dull or redundant. Specifically, the cue “Old Souls” lent the corresponding visuals just the right atmosphere, and how the score worked within the editing of the climatic “heist” sequence for the last 3rd of movie was quite impressive. It also upped the emotional stakes of the final scene with the emotionally affective piece “Time”.

Toy Story 3

A random chat a few days ago:

Lauren: Oh, Toy Story 3. Almost all of you is Randy Newman.

Justin: Apparently you don’t like prison escape movies because this score is pitch perfect.

Lauren: Not having seen the movie, I have a hard time giving you this one.


Lauren: NO

Justin: asdfghjkl……

Justin: ……

Justin: Okay. Okay.

Lauren: It was the one that got away!

The Social Network

Justin: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross hit this one out of the park in my opinion. David Fincher’s visuals and Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue are always so precise, so having that sterile, electronic pulse proved to be a perfect counterpart to all the endless talk of algorithms, code, etc. Also, “Hand Covers Bruise” might be the most perfect stand alone piece of film music this year.

Lauren: I love that Trent Reznor has finally taken all that industrial angst and done something grown up with it. And by grown up I mean collaborating on the score for a film about the success and betrayals incidental to youth. In all seriousness, though, it was nice to hear an entirely appropriate, sophisticated electronic-based soundtrack.

Tron Legacy

Justin: A lot has been said about this score already, but no amount of praise will ever be “overkill”. This score was a force of nature when I saw this film on IMAX. The bass shook the floor and kicked you in the chest, the electronic undercurrent pulsed while the orchestra blasted swooping, complex movements suited for any epic film. And the “The End of Line Club” section of the film score, is just plain incredible.

Lauren: Why wouldn’t you give a French electronic music duo an 85 piece orchestra and two years to create the perfect score for a film with a HUGE cult following, that takes place in a DIGITAL world, no less? If you can’t see why you need to listen to Daft Punk’s score for Tron, it’s really no use.

True Grit

Justin: It’s amazing how much Westerns have changed over the last 40 years (For a blast from the past, check out the opening of Toy Story 3. That’s STRAIGHT out of Red River). Nowadays, we prefer an understated, contemplative score for our understated, contemplative meditation of violence and retribution. This Western is more classic than revisionist, but it does retain a more modern, moody approach to the music. One fantastic inclusion is the reoccurring use of “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms”, which is famously used in the brilliant Charles Laughton film ‘Night of the Hunter’.

Lauren: First, if anyone would like to go with me to see True Grit, I’d be much obliged. Otherwise you will find me sitting alone at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema with my small popcorn and sour patch kids. HOWEVER, in the act of punishing myself, I have listened to the soundtrack. My childhood dream of growing up to be a cowgirl didn’t come rushing back, and I wasn’t overwhelmed with nostalgic memories of watching the John Wayne original over and over on my aunt’s couch or anything. But it did renew my pension for whiskey and Old Testament justice (think the Johnny Cash cover of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down“). On that note, I will be naming my firstborn Rooster.

How to Train Your Dragon

Justin: Man, this movie totally blindsided me. It’s a wonderful, emotive, and beautiful (which you should have known once you say Roger Deakins as a visual consultant) piece of filmmaking, with an absolute stunner of a score to boot. John Powell took the Celtic influence to a propulsive level with bagpipes, penny whistles and the brass section blaring into the red zone while the marital drums recreate the exhilaration of flight. Spread an excellent Jonsi jam as icing over the end credits, and you have nothing short of a winner. If you see this movie beating out Daft Punk and Trent Reznor at the Oscars this year I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s all chest-beating, fire-breathing, string-swelling BIGNESS, all the while being deliciously old-school.

Lauren: There really is something special about the scoring on animated films, and I admit it’s a shortcoming of mine that I don’t pay attention to them more often. John Powell is fortunate to have soundtracked some of the greatest adventures on film. The music for How to Train Your Dragon is yet another deliciously fun narrative that that appeases the dreamer in everyone. If you think I’m being sappy, just go with it. That’s what it’s all about. Wait, did we both use deliciously??

Justin: Yes, to describe a movie about dragons.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Original Soundtrack and Score)

Justin: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is my favorite film of 2010. I have nothing to say on the matter over than 1) If you haven’t seen this movie, you should be ashamed of yourself, and 2) refer to point #1. The original songs written for this movie absolutely bowled me over. Influenced by the likes of Guitar Wolf, Times New Viking, DRI (!)and Napalm Death (!!) and written by Beck, Broken Social Scene, Metric, and Cornelius. Add perfect soundtrack selections from Frank Black, Plumtree, T. Rex, The Rolling Stones, Beachwood Sparks, The Bluetones, Blood Red Shoes, The Black Lips, and so many more it’s hard to count. If Sex Bo-Bomb were a real band, I would be absolutely smitten with them. And I’m not even talking about the score yet. Nigel Godrich, the high chancellor of alternative music, composed the original score with help from the aforementioned BSS, Dan the Automator, is absolute 8-bit perfection. Even the opening Universal logo was transformed into a piece of bravura film scoring. Edgar Wright’s goal is always fast paced perfection, and this is an absolutely exceptional work this (or any) year.

Lauren: I’m not even going to say anything because that was beautiful and I want it to be the last thing people read.

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