5. Jane Eyre
For a film based on a novel from the 1800s, classic orchestration is pretty much a given. But composer Dario Marianelli did something more here, creating a classical score that was also heavy with emotion and melancholy, making the film a truly immersive journey into Jane’s (Mia Wasikowska) world. You felt the sting of heartbreak with each violin string and renewed hope with every piano refrain. And any film starring one of 2011’s breakout stars (heyy Michael Fassbender) and still has me noticing and paying attention to the music is doing something right.
I got a chance to hear the score for Contagion prior to seeing the film and the score alone grabbed my attention and had me running to the theater to hear it in action. While I was less impressed with the film itself, the music still stood out and proved that Cliff Martinez is a composer to watch as he utilized electronic elements to reinforce the panic throughout the film while also having more classic elements like piano dissolve into electronic stings and pluses, creating a sound that is distinctly Contagion.
My favorite moment in an action film is when the music gets turned up right as the action flies into high gear and plays almost like a long form music video with each punch and kick hitting each beat of the score. Hanna delivered this with The Chemical Brothers taking their British electronica to the big screen to not only create a distinctive (and at times incredibly haunting and off-putting) score, but make Hanna’s action scenes all the more exciting and electrifying.
2. Attack The Block
Electronic artists taking on the role of film composers seemed to be the trend this year and I for one was all for it. Basement Jaxx created an electric score for Attack The Block that was equal parts hip-hop, alien sounding and action packed (much like the film itself). Along with Basement Jaxx we also got slightly off-putting pieces from composer Steven Price and full-on hip-hop tracks from KRS-One (“Sound of Da Police”) and Mikis Michaelides (“Get That Snitch”). The music never let you fully ease back into your seat, but always kept your foot tapping to the catchy beat creating a fun and fresh sounding score that perfectly fit the mood of the film.
Aside from Ryan Gosling’s unforgettable performance (and never being able to look at a hammer the same way again), Drive was also known for its music, and for good reason. Cliff Martinez was the composer behind this score as well and he blended his pieces with the distinctive and addictive tracks from Kavinsky and Lovefoxxx (“Nightcall”), Desiree (“Under Your Spell”), College (“A Real Hero”) and The Chromatics (“Tick of the Clock”) to create an overall soundtrack that was just as sexy, unsettling and intense as the film itself. Although Drive was also my number one film choice of the year, I had to give its soundtrack separate just due as it not only works in the film, it stands well on its own and has been on rotation in my car since first hearing it back in June and I have yet to tire (har har) of it.
Honorable mentions: Conrad Pope’s score for My Week With Marilyn; the indie populated soundtrack (The Postal Service, The Boxer Rebellion and Pavement) for The Art Of Getting By (terrible movie, great music); Garrett Hedlund’s impressive country singing chops on the soundtrack for Country Strong; Elton John’s songs (both new and old) in Gnomeo & Juliet and Trent Reznor and Karen O’s “Immigrant Song” for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (a fantastic song, even if the rest of Reznor’s score left me cold).
For more of the best and worst of the year that was, check out our 2011 Year in Review.