Oscar Scores

The Oscars aired last Sunday and although I’ve never been big on super televised events, I used to religiously watch the Oscars. The glamour, the dresses, the movies…how can you resist? So, this year, per usual I eagerly checked the nominations and found that not one but TWO scores by one of my favorite composers, Alexandre Desplat, were nominated! Huzzah! I had a slight suspicion that “Grand Budapest Hotel” would win in the end…it’s just so unique and marvelous, not to mention PERFECT for the film it accompanies. So, to honor the occasion, below you’ll find a list of the nominated scores with my notes on each of them. Enjoy!

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat (Winner)

Where to even begin with this one? So brilliantly done with rich, vibrant textures that perfectly mirror the whimsy we’ve come to love from Wes Anderson’s films. Even better? A plethora of dulcimers and traditional instruments to give this score an exotic flare that fit its Eastern European tale.

For lovers of: matryoshka dolls, hot chocolate, pastels, L’Air de Panache, general frippery and Ticket to Ride.

When to listen: ski trips, games of Ticket to Ride, drives through the mountains, and quiet moments that you want to be more magical.

The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat

Within the first five minutes of the film, I knew I had to have this score…it’s that unbelievably beautiful. It reminds me of the ones that first got me into film music, filled with really haunting melodies and sweeping strings that totally arrest my imagination. And it perfectly matched the simmering drama of The Imitation Game…beautifully balanced and deeply moving.

For lovers of: Ludovico Einaudi, long walks in the park, A Beautiful Mind, windy days, European cities, & fountain pens.

When to listen: when you’re finally writing that novel, melancholy walks, and moments in transit.

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

This score marked a real departure from the Hans Zimmer we have come to know and love. Though I’m not usually his biggest fan (and groaned a bit when I saw his name AGAIN on the nominee list) I LOVED this score. It has a very new age, Brian Eno-vibe to it (complete with recordings of ocean waves), and reminds me of how I used to imagine space odysseys to the tunes of David Arkenstone when I was younger. A more abstract and almost vintage-y take on a space soundtrack.

For lovers of: Brian Eno, synthesizer, organ, ambient noises, opera houses, science fiction, astronomy and dark matter.

When to listen: when you’re composing that breakthrough scientific hypothesis, when you’re imagining a completely new world, looking through a telescope or microscope, stargazing, and during night owl work-a-thons.

Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon

This is an interesting one. It feels much more modern than some of the others and is full of slide-y whine-y minor chords. Yershon is loving the woodwinds more here than you usually see in film score composition, and while it takes some getting used to, it’s also extremely impressive (I particularly love the rocking strings evoking the ocean and the 19th century). I quite like an experimental score to accompany a film about a revolutionary painter.

For lovers of: the oboe, the sea on a cloudy day, Moby Dick, images of shipwrecks, and all things with an eerie or haunting edge.

When to listen: when you’re trying to solve a mystery, exploring coves by the ocean, or working in a dimly lit room.

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Ah, the British romantic drama score. I know and love thee well. It doesn’t seem to matter how many iterations of richly textured, string-y, harp-y, bell-y goodness are produced, I’m always a total sucker for them. As with the film, this score features a wide array of lighter romantic ditties mixed with more melancholic and pensive pieces. Predictably, I love them all.

For lovers of: arpeggio exercises, Jane Austen novels, verdant gardens, the rain, every young(ish) British actor, and BBC.

When to listen: when you’re daydreaming about that really beautiful person you just met and know you want to spend the rest of your life with, when you’re dreaming of that British actor you’ll never meet but know you should spend the rest of your life with, also lazy Sunday mornings and trips to the countryside.