9 Favorite Film Music Moments of 2012

For this month’s “9 on the 9th” post, I wanted to focus on the smaller moments from this past year, those momentary thrills that can only be experienced by hearing film music in context of the film. While we all enjoy listening to film music on its own, I believe you have to hear it in its original context to truly understand the intent behind the music.

This list does not necessarily represent the “best” scores of the year—I’ll give my take on that in a few weeks—and the scores below are arranged in alphabetical order. I haven’t seen or heard everything yet this year (though I’m pushing nearly 100 films from 2012…oy!), but I submit nine film music moments that gave me goosebumps, smiles and tears in the only way possible—from the combination of music and images on a screen.



For the ballroom scene in Joe Wright and Tom Stoppard’s theatrical adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic, Dario Marianelli crafted a haunting waltz that captures Russian folk music and the desperate qualities of forbidden passion. As the cue continues to dance around itself, the camera swirls, the horrified partygoers fade away and Anna and Vronsky are left alone on the dance floor, caught in a whirling eddy that can only lead to the inevitable tragic conclusion.



There are innumerable moments where the audacious visuals and music by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinheil Heil combine to create something far more profound than it has any right to be. But perhaps the most haunting moments come at the end of the film when the various storylines thread together one last time, the characters meet their inevitable ends—both good and bad—and the composers pull together the musical strands of the score into a heartbreaking finale.



The story of the Cristiada certainly got the Hollywood treatment in this troubling epic. At least it’s noteworthy for Peter O’Toole’s final, moving (if brief) screen performance. Among James Horner’s expected use of Spanish vocals, signature harmonic changes and Mexican flavor, is one of Horner’s better efforts lately. But if I hadn’t been in a basically empty critic’s screening of this movie, I probably would have laughed out loud at his ridiculously excessive use of the danger motif. Over and over and over…I get the point. As it was, I just turned to my friend, pointed at the screen and smiled.



Unjustly maligned by the critics and ignored by audiences, hopefully this film will enjoy a second life as we get farther removed from the overhyped expectations of fanboys. Featuring some of the most glorious film music moments in any movie this year, few surpass the 18 seconds of crescendo and statement of Carter’s theme (2:16) as he saves the life of the Princess. Probably my favorite 18 seconds of
film music of 2012.



Alexandre Desplat’s brief score takes a back seat to the Benjamin Britten pieces and other source cues. But by devoting the entire end credits to Desplat’s music arranged in the style of the film’s bookending device of Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” we film music fans leave the film on an even greater high than the movie already supplied.



Poor Marc Streitenfeld. It must have felt like crap to have the primary topic of conversation about your score written by someone else. Harry Gregson-Williams’s primary theme, with its memorable French horn solo, apparently provided the seeds of “life” that were necessary for the dawn of man.



Though its being sold (and not too successfully, I might add) as a holiday film (it actually has very little to do with Christmas), the combination of beautiful animation and a top-notch score by Alexandre Desplat shouldn’t be missed. The character of North—i.e., Santa—shouts expletives of “Shostakovich!” and “Rimsky-Korsakov!” that give Desplat the chance to channel the Russian masters, in particular during the rousing and hair-raising sleigh launch.



We writers know what it’s like to be confronted by the horror of the blank page (or screen). And, rumors to the contrary, we writers are only human. Writers, in particular, will identify with much of what this film has to say about relationships and the creation process. And indeed those moments when life—even heartbreak—creates art. But Zoe Kazan’s wise screenplay and Nick Urata’s score for the book reading scene, with Adam Peters’s beautiful cello solo, should hit home for anyone who has ever endured a breakup. In other words, all of us.



Personally, I didn’t give a shit if Kristen Stewart escaped from the tower or not. Off with her head, I say, and spare us all any more open-mouthed, somnambulistic “acting” choices in the future. James Newton Howard’s music is about the only thing good about this movie. And this particular cue got me worked up enough to have me air conduct discreetly in my seat in the theater.

What are your favorite film music moments of 2012?


1 comment

  1. I’m praying the membership remembers how much they love Giacchino when they get their ballots. Best score of the year bar none.

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