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Academy Awards Playlist

February 20, 2014

Although the Hollywood movie industry relies more than ever on huge budget action movies, the movies nominated for best score of 2013 have a much less adrenaline-pumping, ear-splitting character. Together they draw a picture of film music that focuses much more on underscoring, letting the movie make its points while remaining in the background. There are a lot of quiet moments in these scores, which make a nice contrast with a couple of songs nominated for “Best Song.”


1. “Mrs. P.L. Travers” by Thomas Newman, from Saving Mr. Banks.
A refreshing piece that characterizes the author of Mary Poppins in an unexpected way. Maybe this is Thomas Newman’s year, after 12 nominations and no wins.

2. “Morning Talk/Supersymmetry” by Owen Pallett and Arcade Fire, from Her.
The Canadian indie-rock band Arcade Fire collaborated on the score for Spike Jonze’s Sci-Fi romance and made it the most anticipated and celebrated film music of the year.

3. “Ordinary Love” by U2, from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
A song with a thesis. U2 may be an ‘80s supergroup, but they’re still the go-to band for anthems on social/ religious themes. They’re a natural match for this movie.

4. “Ginty My Love” by Thomas Newman, from Saving Mr. Banks.
And as long as we’re on the topic of love, here’s another cue from a tender scene.

5. “Gravity” by Steven Price, from Gravity.
This Sci-Fi thriller has an eerily quiet score. You’ll have to strain your hears for the first 50 seconds of this cue, which grows gradually.

6. “Discovering Michael” by Alexandre Desplat, from Philomena.
Alexandre Desplat, takes his sixth Oscar nomination with this score. A soft, beautiful clarinet melody is counterpointed by a broken chord accompaniment suggests both the excitement of the chase and the sadness of the whole search for a lost child.

7. “The Book Thief” by John Williams, from The Book Thief.
It’s not a year in movie music without another nomination for John Williams, who is now the most nominated musician in Academy Award history. This title cue contains yet another wonderful Williams theme.

8. “Let It Go” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, from Frozen
An upbeat, girlpower anthem, with a lot of references to snow and ice, as you’d expect from the movie’s title. We need a little assertiveness after all that understatement.

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.