Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Encore Awards (2012 in Review): The Sound and the Music

More year-end (after the year’s end, but bear with me) “best of” citations. Because I pride myself on being thorough in the finest of ways I ensure I have a full ballot of nominees in all the “Oscar-y” categories as well as made-up of ones of my own.

So, four Oscar categories, and an extraneous one below. All of them audio awards

Clicking on images take you to reviews where available.



Not only is brave an animated film (ant those tend to typically have good sound work) it's also an adventure tail with some nice nods as movie magic. Call me easy but from the bear machinations to the animal noises and my personal favourite the magic lair of that sketchy witch I love the created sounds in this one.

Gwendolyn Yates Whittle


Even before the arrival of those dastardly sea monkeys (!) the sound effects team is already having fun with the weird and creepy noises abounding in the film. And even before the creepy noises, the opening of the film reel is already a nice key sound effects moment.

Oliver Tarney,

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

It's way large in scope and manages to acquit itself fine form. It's already immediately engrossing from the magical prologue all the way through meetings with trolls, and weird animals and Orcs until that final Goblin showdown. A feast for the eyes, most agree, but also for the ears.

 Brent Burge, Chris Ward

The Impossible

It features some of the most strangely overlooked sound work for the year. Sure, the visual drive is accountable for a great deal of the film's success but those immediately eerie sounds are a big part of the Bayona's flirtation with horror. It doesn't even manage to lose its potency in the face of a sound mixing team that's a bit too in love with that occasionally treacly score.

Oriol Tarragó

Life of Pi

More than worthy of all the accolades coming its way, like The Hobbit above and even The Impossible its using its sound effects to beautifully endorse the effects of the visual effects to the point that the mere sound bits alone manage to lure you into the enchantment the film promises. Also, ace flying fish noises.

Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

FINALISTS: Anna Karenina for less prounouced but still significant work for me, ladies' fans, dancers heels scraping floors, rustling of dresses; Looper for like the rest of its technical creating sounds that futuristic but not obviously so; The Turin Horse for howling winds that are almost lifelike in their intensity, Zero Dark Thirty for ace battle and war sounds

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Avengers; Cloud AtlasThe Dark Knight Rises; Django Unchained; Prometheus; Skyfall


Anna Karenina

It has my favourite sound-cue of the year leading from Anna's frantic fanning of herself (she's getting heated) leading into Vronsky's horse, then the pounding hooves of that horse race and the silence and the piercing cry of Alexei!!! But, there's ace mixing all around. It's almost a musical in its use of Marianelli's score and the blend of score with dancing sounds and then dialogues and rustling of clothes is excellently rendered. Key points for Anna's final descent.

Paul Carter

Killing Them Softly

It moves between deadly silence and loud violent bursts of momentum and is goes for the same menacing exaggerated vibe of the entire film. It wins extra points for being as slick and cool as Pitt's protagonist, but the highlight is easily the opening which is one fine mixture of tension and mood. It adds to the ominous mood with the specific breaks in audio creating a jarring soundscape of equal parts noise and silence.

Kirk Francis, Leslie Shatz

Les Misérables

Unfortunately, getting that bad rap of being a default nominee and winner just because it's a musical, and perhaps a bit more just because its entire ad campaign has been built around its sound. But, hey, it sounds good. Battle sounds, musical score and the singing all coalesce to form a pleasing, at least to me. The soundscape has depth and subtle nuances I can really get behind. Also, niceties like the simple pitter patter of raindrop.

Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin

The Turin Horse
The only option I could have entertained for the top prize here. Even if the actual film sometimes becomes much too frustrating for me to completely love its use of sound is one of my favourite technical aspects in film this entire year. It's flawless mixture of nervy silences, howling winds and creepy distant sound-cues is revelatory and praiseworthy in its execution. In the way that The Impossible uses its created sounds the entire soundscape here zeroes in on the film's weird, horrific centre.

Gábor ifj. Erdélyi

Zero Dark Thirty

It makes use of this key pulsating beats to create tension and evoke mood and it's all done while being very cool and very slick but not seeming overproduced. Those key placements of bombs are subtly blended into the entire sound-scape and that entire final raid is as  much about direction and photography as it is about sound. And, sometimes I'm just prone to stylishly noisy sound set-pieces.

Paul N. J. Ottosson

FINALISTS: Django Unchained; Frankenweenie; The Hobbit; Life of Pi; Looper

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Brave; Cosmopolis; The Deep Blue Sea; Skyfall


“Ancora Qui” from Django Unchained
More than just my token non-English Language citation here this song is such a fine battle cry for the film. Subtler and mysterious when Tarantino’s narrative is unable to go that route and the lone original song of the film that realises the need for pathos in amidst the bravura. Also, in a film in love with its anachronisms, I love how this feels both modern and period right in its tone. Also, guitar strings.

HIGHLIGHT (Translated): The repeated ♪ You will come back / And I will come back ♪ is beautifully melancholic in its plea.

music and lyrics: Ennio Morricone

“Who Did That to You?” from Django Unchained
It’s the slickest of the five cited songs here and it’s so irresistibly smooth in its delivery it’s a striking encapsulation of all the audacity and effortlessness which must emanate from Django. More than its use in the film (on-point to the extent of being on the nose, but it works) the song alone is so nicely evocative of the film’s main romantic thrust.

HIGHLIGHT: ♪ Now if he made you cry, oh, I gotta know / If he’s not ready to die, he best prepare for it. / My judgement’s divine, I'll tell you who you can call / You can call….

music and lyrics: John Legend

“Strange Love” from Frankenweenie
Easily (and this is significant considering the playing field) the most joyous original musical collaboration of the year. It makes you want to pick up all the discordant instruments you can to mirror it’s weird, fun and – well – strange tonal shifts and then it slays you with the sweetness of its message.

HIGHLIGHT: The refrained ♪ Love, oh love is strange, oh-oh-ohWhen there’s beauty on the inside, The outside there’s nothing to ch-ch-ch-change ♪ followed by the creepy but beguiling howling is just a thrill.

music and lyrics: Karen O.

“Song of the Lonely Mountain” from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
It’s a lesson in mood setting music and manages to be rousing (in its way) battle cry while still retaining the languorous mood of the film. It’s not incidental that it’s the first Middle Earth tale which closes with a male singer; this tale is particularly rough and rustic in its machinations. Not inherently for better or worse, but different.

HIGHLIGHT: ♪ Some folk we never forget / Some kind we never forgive / Haven't seen the back of us yet / We'll fight as long as we live. ♪

music and lyrics by Neil Finn, David Donaldson, David Long, Steve Roche, Janet Roddick

“Cosmonaut” from Lawless
Debated whether its use in the film (a romantic scene somewhat incongruous with the violence) made it less impressive but then incongruous or not the song itself is such a beautiful, plaintive melody and if it feels more at home in something like the tentative romance of Ada Munroe and Inman Hillcoat earns its placement in a brief moment of young love and fidelity. And the lyrical specificity is just astounding.

Key Moment: ♪ If you were a cosmonaut I’d jump on your rocket. / But you ain’t got nothing but that hole in your pocket. / And a beat up Ford and a jug of wine / In this beautiful night. ♪

music and lyrics: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

FINALISTS: “Learn Me Right” and “Touch the Sky” from Brave are so sweet both in lyrics and music with some nice takes on the typical “I want” songs of former heroines, and also nice regional touches; “The Sambola! International Dance Craze” from Damsels in Distress is just an all round smorgasbord of joyous silliness which I adored; “Who Were We” from Holy Motors is haunting and mournful in its call to recall the times of yesteryear.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: “Suddenly” from Les Misérables; “Skyfall” from Skyfall

Go below the jump for more musically inclined nominations...
...nominations for Original Score and Use of Music


Anna Karenina (Dario Marianelli)
!!!!!!! I can go on with the exclamations marks because that’s the best way to explain how in love with this ambitious piece of music I am. Marianelli’s propensity to use moments in the film’s sound design to enhance his music (or Wright’s propensity to do the reverse?) is greatly appreciated and the film is essentially a musical with no lyrics and from that trumpeting opening full of pomp and importance it signals the arrival of a brilliant piece of music. !!!!!!!!

HIGHLIGHT: My favourite piece is the glorious “Dance With Me” but I especially love the use of the score during Anna’s mutinous walk to deliver a birthday present for her son.

Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil)
It benefits from being the subject of the story it’s in, but it’s also putting that more pressure on it to be good. How to carve a score that feels monumental enough to not underwhelm the film but not too overbearing to overwhelm the film? The three find the balance and it’s a lovely creation. It’s charming and mesmeric enough to warrant our attention and like all aspects of the film – at its best – thrills and impresses with its grandeur and ambition. Also, nice classical riffs.

HIGHLIGHT: It’s better used in various places, but I just love that moment where Halle’s Luisa hears it for the first time. “I’ve heard this before…”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Howard Shore)
I kept moving back and forth on whether or not to include this one and then realised how bizarre it was to feel pressured into downplaying your affection. It builds on the original theme from the previous trilogy in some delightful ways and then moves on to become its own joyful and exuberant creation. Not as foreboding as its predecessor but winsome in its obvious love for the delightful parts of life.

HIGHLIGHT: That moment where lovely Cate turns up halfway through the film made me gasp in delight and the score is as beholden to her Highness when the score rises to something of a song of praise. Good stuff.

The Master (Jonny Greenwood)
Moodier, evocative and satisfying more than I find the film it endorses the idea of Freddie as the film’s focus since the discordant tones and temperamental beats seem to pour out unimpeded from his disorderly mind. And, maybe, a part of me is just inclined to overwhelmingly jarring musical tones that make me want to throw myself in front of a bus. But, in a good way.

HIGHLIGHT: It’s used beautifully throughout but I love the winding weirdness of it while Freddie makes his concoction on that farm. Also, fine use when he makes his run away from it – it’s all unsettling while being ineffably beguiling. Like Freddie.

Moonrise Kingdom (Alexandre Desplat)
If it suffers from anything it’s from being too short but that and all feels like something too curmudgeonly to say. It zips along at such a goddamn infectious pace and it mixes so many of the weirdest attributes of the film – childlike and sprite, but multifaceted and deep, but now it’s military like and ordered but then it’s spontaneous and unpredictable. There’s so much going on and it’s only 17 minutes!

HIGHLIGHT: I don’t even want to pick. The storm, perhaps? It’s so brief, every moment it’s used is a delight.

FINALISTS: Beasts of the Southern Wild for its frenetic and joyous lilts; Cosmopolis for its eerie and steely calmness; Damsels in Distress for nice suggestions of its idyllic world.




The Deep Blue Sea
Even if Davies was not already going above and beyond with his direction his well placed musical cues endorse the fits and bursts of the film (and Hester’s occasional volatility) so well. He uses borrowed music so well to augment the pain of its heroine and the trauma of its period issues. Also, I just like when films have good taste in songs.

HIGHLIGHT: “Molly Malone” has deservedly received an excess of accolades but no musical moment of the film gets me in my gut more than melancholy but soooo beautiful montage set to “You Belong to Me”. It captures the period mood of the film and also touches on that inexplicable pang of nostalgia Hester’s tragedy evokes. We’re not part of her world, but her situation feels so personal…so familiar.

Les Misérables
Not just a token “it’s a musical so it must be here” citation, along with the screenplay’s deft decision to make key changes I’m quite impressed with how songs feed into each other and situations here. I can’t quite vouch for “On My Own” but “I Dreamed a Dreamed” and “Stars” work so well in their new spots and even though it’s offensively pared down I love the movement from “Turning” to Marius’ final cry for his fallen friends.

Highlight: A tough decision for this category’s rules but one moment I did not expect (I don’t know who deserves credit). Midway through Valjean in the church hears the choir praying to the tune of the “The Bishop’s” song. A nice touch which becomes an excellent one as Hugh begins to sing against the choir in counterpoint and it bleeds into the opening of “Stars”.

Moonrise Kingdom
It’s not cheating because it benefits as much from its original score as the borrowed items. It reminds me of the ace use of new and old music in Howards End although this owes much more to the borrowed pieces. The amalgamation of different pieces zeroes in on the film’s best asset – blending pieces that you might not expect to be harmonious and then turning it into this beautiful orchestral creation. Which is just what Benjamin Britten was teaching us all along.

HIGHLIGHT: The use and rendition of Britten’s “Cuckoo” got me more emotional than I’d like to readily admit but it’s tough to choose between that and the perfect opening scene as young Mr Salmon makes his way to his radio.

The Paperboy
Sometimes it suffers from being too much. Maybe too often. But when it hits that stride of being silly, over-the-top, eclectic and insane like the film itself it moves from being just fun to being essential to the film’s pulpy tone. And when it’s at its best, it’s so brilliantly in touch with its era it seems essential to the film’s fabric. The mark of a good soundtrack.

HIGHLIGHT: Exaggerated in the best of ways but the introduction to that bar with “That man is dangerous” is such a ridiculously campy moment where Daniels is astutely telegraphing key things. And, that girl trio is giving the performance of their lives.

Take This Waltz
It blends musical styles, covers and throwbacks with great aplomb each of them in key moments either propelling the plot forward or just being fun, easy tunes to be laidback to. The importance of the latter can’t be overstressed in a film that loves it moments of languor like this one.

HIGHLIGHT: I know “The Scrambler” scene is the one which gets the most notices and it’s a great moment. But, I’m still entranced by the pithy wonderfulness of the montage set to the eponymous “Take This Waltz” number. Amir fantastically suggests the fantasy elements of the film making this moment so much greater in its importance for me.

FINALISTS: Damsels in Distress for its use of those “golden oldies”; Django Unchained for avoiding Tarantino’s tendency to kill the metaphor with the music sometimes and deliver in key spots; Killing Them Softly mostly for the music during a fateful assassination; Tabu for reuse of a single song to frenetic and enjoyable result

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Pitch Perfect; Perks of Being a Wallflower

Whew. That's a lot of awards. People tend to forget sound categories, but any favourites? How about music,  were you rooting for my ballot of non-Oscar nominated songs? Marianelli for score? Greenwood? Make your picks.


Nick Prigge said...

I love that you break down the categories. I really do. And not just from an Oscar perspective but your own personal faves. You make me want to try that much harder to pay attention to it.

And I guess I do pay attention in a way. I'm aware of interesting things being done with sound but it's such an intimate part of the whole finished product even if it's really in your face that I guess I just don't give it the appreciation it deserves.

Long way of saying, good job.

Nick Prigge said...

That first sentence should have said *sound* categories. I was too excited.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

nick you have no idea how excited *I* am that you're excited about this. my unwavering neuroses makes me feel i have to be thorough, so i'm genuinely glad others are getting something out of it.