Babel, (Paramount and Paramount Vantage), Gustavo Santaolalla
The soundtrack to Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu's film 'Babel' is an international mix of original score cuts by the venerable Gustavo Santaolalla with other material including beautiful folk songs by Chavela Vargas, ambient cuts by David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto, original compositions by the great oud master Hamza el Din, urban/soul/funk byEarth, Wind & Fire, house music by Fatboy Slim, Japanese pop bySusumu Yokata and Mexican popular music by Los Tucanes de Tijuana, El Chapo, Nortec Collective and others. Gustavo Santaolalla again pairs with the Mexican director, although this time around he shoots for a much more globally ethnocentric musicality than on the previous two films (21 Grams and Amores perros) he scored for Inarritu. The problem that most film score critics and collectors have with Santaolalla is that he is more of an improvisor rather than a traditional composer. He often arranges his music extemporaneously based on the primordial emotions of a scene instead of standing back from a project and creating a more complex series of connections. As a result, what Santaolalla wrote for 'Babel' is nothing more than source music and sound effects. The film, in this case, is the life-jacket floating the score.
The Good German, (Warner Bros.), Thomas Newman
'The Good German' works completely as a glorious valentine to the days of film scoring yore. With moody pieces that reflect
German's deliberate film-noir aesthetics, Newman's orchestral work effectively helps transport the audience back to the war-ravaged '40s. Thomas Newman's score is dripping with classic Hollywood symphonic grandiosity. Certainly worthy of its Oscar nomination and the attention of any serious film score fan.
Notes on a Scandal, (Fox Searchlight), Philip Glass
The soundtrack to 'Notes on a Scandal', a psychological thriller based on Zoe Heller's award winning novel, is an original score by award-winning composer, Philip Glass. One of the more notable nominations, Philip Glass' score plays an aggressive role in the picture. The thematic and rhythmic ideas in 'Notes on a Scandal', from a technical standpoint, aren't any more complex than the ones heard with great effectiveness in Glass' 'The Illusionist' from earlier in the same year. To some, 'Notes on a Scandal' will sound like a somewhat bleak extension of the score from 'The Illusionist' ; the instruments and tempos are about the same. But the attitude is far different, making 'Notes on a Scandal' a far more powerful score despite its more difficult stature on album. The tone of Glass' score melds perfectly with the images as they are compliment each other so well. Sure, there are faint similarities between this score and much of Glass' seminal work of the past but 'Notes on a Scandal' will satisfy Glass' collectors that seek the dark side of the composer.Pan's Labyrinth, (Picturehouse), Javier Navarrete
Javier Navarrete has been an integral part of Del Toro's flights of fantasy first with 'Espinazo del Diablo' and now with 'El Laberinto del Fauno'. A mixture of haunting voices and minimalistic orchestrated accompaniment creates a joyfully melancholy mood that sets the stage for what is to come. Navarrete's score is rich with conflicting emotions, capturing the ever shifting landscape of dreams and nightmares and causing them to collide with musical themes of reality. Like many fantasy composers, Navarrete sometimes resorts to hokey clichés, such as the atonal buildup to an immense brass, string, and piano clusters. Still, this is a small reservation. Navarrete has created a score with a consistent aesthetic that draws you in and reveals deeper connections with each subsequent listening that fantasy genre fans will enjoy.
"The Queen, (Miramax, Pathe and Granada), Alexandre Desplat
French composer Alexandre Desplat, who seems to be on a roll at the moment, was only given a couple of weeks to compose and record a replacement score for Stephen Frear's praised 'The Queen', after the original score by another composer was rejected. Desplat’s work on 'The Queen' is mesmerising and enchanting. The rhythmic quality of the score keeps the album moving at a flowing pace, the sparkling orchestrations are defiantly English but never clichéd, and his effortlessly light touch with the quieter sections of the orchestra more than demonstrates his mastery of the craft. 'The Queen' is not perhaps one of Desplat's more striking compositions, but the composer once again demonstrates that there is a place for highly - considered orchestrated music in modern films.