Best Scores of 2014

The 15 best film scores of 2014

Ranking the sounds that matched the year's sights.

A great film score complements without burrowing too far into the ideas, wrestles with genre without locking the picture into a fixed identity, amplifies actors and actress’ choices without spilling the beans. A composer’s job is a balancing act. More and more, movie music finds itself backing off too far, devolving into incidental muzac, or going too far, where full-blast orchestral sounds pummel us like the Transformers’ energon punches. There’s a sweet spot, and the best film scores of the year ride it for an entire runtime.

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Off the Carpet: 'Unbroken,' 'Selma,' 'Sniper' in the headlines as Oscar voting begins

Off the Carpet: 'Unbroken,' 'Selma,' 'Sniper' in the headlines as Oscar voting begins

Also: Memo to the Academy

And we're truly off. Ballots are in hands. Academy voters, who hopefully spent as much time soaking up the year's offerings through screeners and screenings over the holiday break as they did hitting the slopes, will be putting pencil to paper, finger to keyboard beginning Monday with an 11-day voting window closing on Jan. 8. Let's see what's happening in the lead-up to that stretch…

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Paul Thomas Anderson thought that 'There Will Be Blood' Oscar DQ was B.S., too

Paul Thomas Anderson thought that 'There Will Be Blood' Oscar DQ was B.S., too

You remember the one...

The latest dust-up regarding the Academy's music branch, in case you've missed the recent news, is that Antonio Sanchez's original drum score for "Birdman" has been deemed ineligible in the Oscar race and that an appeal to the branch has been denied. Reading about the ins and outs of that lunacy in our exclusive interview with Sanchez, you'd be forgiven for being reminded of a similar unfortunate episode a few years back.

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Tell us what you thought of 'Into the Woods'

Tell us what you thought of 'Into the Woods'

Rob Marshall is back at the movie musical game

The other big wide prestige release on Christmas Day this year was Rob Marshall's adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim classic "Into the Woods." Streep and costumes and sets and songs, oh my. This…isn't my thing. Nails on a chalkboard, really. But I did get a kick out of Emily Blunt and Chris Pine, and Streep was pretty great. Top notch design for the most part (though I would assume Colleen Atwood will happily defer to Johnny Depp on that wolf costume…).

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Tell us what you thought of 'Unbroken'

Tell us what you thought of 'Unbroken'

Angelina Jolie brings Louis Zamperini's story to screens this holiday

I had a feeling Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" would be more or less critic-proof. Based on a beloved best-seller, very little in the way of wide release adult drama competition, etc. Sure enough, it's skipping right along at the box office without missing a beat. That will do a lot for the awards push as we head into 2015, certainly. But now that this heavy has finally arrived, it's time to find out what the readership thinks.

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Roger Deakins got the biggest compliment of his career for 'The Shawshank Redemption'

Roger Deakins got the biggest compliment of his career for 'The Shawshank Redemption'

Frank Darabont's film celebrates its 20th anniversary this year

It seemed this year that if any artist was due for the retrospective treatment, it was "Unbroken" cinematographer Roger Deakins. While I of course did not address all of the 50-plus films he has shot throughout his illustrious career during a recent extended interview, I settled on a few in particular that I think represent a nice cross-section of his work. Each of them — "Nineteen Eighty-Four," "Sid and Nancy," "Barton Fink," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Kundun," "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "The Village" — will get their own space in the next few days.

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How Weta Digital pushed the FX envelope over the 13-year Middle Earth saga

How Weta Digital pushed the FX envelope over the 13-year Middle Earth saga

'Hobbit' VFX supervisors Joe Letteri and Eric Saindon reflect on an evolution

For the past three years, the wizards of Weta Digital have returned audiences to Middle Earth after first enthralling viewers with its wonders a decade ago. "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" is the last of Peter Jackson's six films in the saga, and, accordingly, the last chance to honor the series in the category of Best Visual Effects – the only category where all five films to date have picked up an Oscar nod.

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Roger Deakins looks back on 1997's 'Kundun,' his only Scorsese collaboration to date

Roger Deakins looks back on 1997's 'Kundun,' his only Scorsese collaboration to date

A bit of a Deakins staple shot pops up in this one

It seemed this year that if any artist was due for the retrospective treatment, it was "Unbroken" cinematographer Roger Deakins. While I of course did not address all of the 50-plus films he has shot throughout his illustrious career during a recent extended interview, I settled on a few in particular that I think represent a nice cross-section of his work. Each of them — "Nineteen Eighty-Four," "Sid and Nancy," "Barton Fink," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Kundun," "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "The Village" — will get their own space in the next few days.

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Tell us what you thought of 'The Interview'

Tell us what you thought of 'The Interview'

It wasn't released, it escaped...

Here's hoping all our credit cards don't get hacked. But seriously, though… Sony Pictures has, after initially cancelling all release plans, allowed theater chains willing to release "The Interview" to do so, but in advance of tomorrow's release date, the studio has made the film available via video-on-demand services like YouTube Movies, Google Play, Xbox and a dedicated website: SeeTheInterview.com. I just watched it from my couch while eating a breakfast burrito in my TMNT pajama pants. America, fuck yeah, I guess.

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Roger Deakins remembers making it up as he went along on Alex Cox's 'Sid and Nancy'

Roger Deakins remembers making it up as he went along on Alex Cox's 'Sid and Nancy'

Also: Getting drunk in San Francisco with an in-character Gary Oldman

It seemed this year that if any artist was due for the retrospective treatment, it was "Unbroken" cinematographer Roger Deakins. While I of course did not address all of the 50-plus films he has shot throughout his illustrious career during a recent extended interview, I settled on a few in particular that I think represent a nice cross-section of his work. Each of them — "Nineteen Eighty-Four," "Sid and Nancy," "Barton Fink," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Kundun," "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "The Village" — will get their own space in the next few days.

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