My favourite film music of the year included albums by Trent Reznor, Hans Zimmer and Daft Punk, whilst tracks by various artists including Zack Hemsey and Grizzly Bear also stood out.
Tron Legacy (EMI): The sequel to Tron was a mixed bag (great visuals, mediocre script) but the score by Daft Punk was unbeliveably epic, fusing their trademark electronica with an orchestra. [Amazon / YouTube]
Inception (Reprise): Hans Zimmer’s score for Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi blockbuster mixed electronic elements, strings and the guitar of Johnny Marr to brilliant effect. [Amazon / YouTube]
The Kids Are Alright (Lakeshore Records): A traditional, but shrewdly assembled collection of traditional and modern songs (featuring the likes of MGMT and David Bowie) which fitted the themes of Lisa Colodenko’s film perfectly. [Amazon / YouTube / The Playlist]
Greenberg (Parlophone): A solid collection of songs from James Murphy alongside tracks by The Steve Miller Band, Duran Duran, Nite Jewel and Galaxie 500. [Amazon / YouTube]
127 Hours (Polydor): Danny Boyle films usually have a memorable soundtrack and this is no exception, featuring music from A.R. Rahman and tracks by various artists including Free Blood, Bill Withers and Sigur Ros. [Amazon / YouTube]
Black Swan (Sony): For Darren Aronofsky’s reworking of Swan Lake, Clint Mansell reworked elements of Tchaikovsky’s original music to spectacular effect. [Amazon / YouTube]
N.B. The soundtracks for Somewhere and Blue Valentine would have easily made the list if they were available to purchase in the UK.
The following tracks are not all directly from soundtracks, but may also have featured on trailers and TV spots for various films.
You can download most of these tracks as a Spotify playlist here or just click on the relevant links to listen to them.
Tron: Legacy (Walt Disney): The original Tron was about a brilliant software engineer, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who enters into a virtual world whilst this sequel picks up many years later as his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) tries to solve the disappearance of his father.
Responding to a mysterious message he finds himself pulled into the world where Kevin has been trapped. Aided by a female warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde), father and son have to escape the new digital universe and the clutches of those who now rule it.
Disney’s decision to reboot Tron for a new generation, seems to be an attempt to engage audiences who remember it and to adapt the technology driven story for the current digital age, utilising cutting edge 3D and digital effects.
Visually, it looks amazing with director Joseph Kosinski upgrading the look of the first film and making good use of 3D cameras.
The dark, neon lit landscape is a dazzling upgrade from the original and the stylised costumes, light cycles, discs and various vehicles all provide a feast for the eyes in both the action sequences and calmer moments.
However, the script by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis is much more problematic and feels clunky and episodic, playing out like levels on a computer game that are just there to be completed.
This leads to an inherent lack of drama and consequence to the material, despite the visual pyrotechnics that make it so captivating to look at. It also means the performances suffer, as the characters are often just cogs in a wheel.
Disney will be nervous as the film cost a lot of money (reportedly $200 million) and early reports suggest that audience awareness isn’t what it could be, which along with mixed reviews could dent its box office potential over the Christmas period. [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / PG]
Burlesque (Sony Pictures): A drama about a small-town girl (Christina Aguilera) who ventures to Los Angeles and finds her place in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer (Cher).
Directed by Steven Antin, it co-stars Cam Gigandet, Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming, Kristen Bell and Eric Dane. The script was originally written by Diablo Cody and later revised by Susannah Grant. This appears to be a tamer version of Showgirls and the critical reaction is likely to be mixed. [Nationwide / 12A]
Animals United (Entertainment): An animated film with an eco-message about a group of animals, including a meerkat and a lion, who team up to protest at the UN about climate change. Directed by Reinhard Klooss and Holger Tappe, it features the voices of Ralf Schmitz, Thomas Fritsch, Christoph Maria Herbst and Vanessa Redgrave. [Nationwide / U]
Catfish (Momentum Pictures): One of the most talked about films of the year is this intriguing documentary about a group of New York filmmakers who go on a road trip to find out more about a woman one of them has befriended online.
Even though there has been much controversy about the ‘truth’ depicted in the film, it is a gripping experience that has been put together with considerable taste and skill. (Warning: you should know as little as possible before seeing it). [Curzon Soho, Screen on the Green / Various VOD outlets including Lovefilm and iTunes / 12A]
Boudu Saved From Drowning (Park Circus): A re-issue of Jean Renoir’s 1932 comedy about a Parisian bookseller (Charles Granval) who rescues a drowning tramp named Boudu (Michel Simon), which leads to considerable complications when he invites him to stay at his home. [Curzon Renoir, Curzon Richmond & Key Cities / PG]
Cuckoo (Verve Pictures): British thriller starring about an academic (Richard E Grant) and his troubled research student (Laura Fraser). [Apollo Piccadilly Circus, Clapham Picturehouse & Key Cities]
Fred: The Movie (Lionsgate UK): The feature film version of a YouTube phenomenon about a teenager named Fred with a speeded-up voice. [West End Vue & Key Cities / 12A]
Loose Cannons (Peccadillo Pictures): Italian romantic comedy about what happens when two scions of a family are reluctant to take over a pasta business. [Apollo Piccadilly Circus, Cine Lumiere, Odeon Covent Garden, Shepherds Bush Vue & Key Cities]
…games currently gross between $8 billion and $9 billion a year, compared with about $3 billion a year for all the movies shown in theaters.
Last year, in fact, the most popular video game, Pac-Man, grossed about $1.2 billion – three times as much as ”Star Wars,” history’s most popular movie, has earned in the five years since its initial release.
Think about that for a second: Pac-Man out grossed the first Star Wars film.
This was more than DVD and music sales combined, and over four times what films made at cinemas.
However, the original Tron was a relative commercial disappointment, even though it became an influential cult film that spawned the current sequel.
But the 1982 article brings up interesting parallels with the present day.
It talks of the visual effects revolution ushered in by Star Wars:
When ”Star Wars,” with its futuristic setting, androids and computerized space warfare, became the first film in history to make $100 million in 1977 (it has now grossed four times that), Hollywood decided that what the public wanted was more and better special effects. In the next five years, armed with huge budgets and increasingly sophisticated technology, filmmakers rewrote the book on creating illusions of reality.
But let’s go back to 1982 and the films that were then pushing at the limits of technology:
Special-effects pictures now dominate the nation’s screens. The first month of summer witnessed the release not only of ”E.T.” but ”Poltergeist,” ”Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” ”Blade Runner,” ”Firefox,” and ”The Thing.”
There is no doubt that visual effects have come a long way since these films, with landmarks being Terminator 2 (1991), Jurassic Park (1993), Titanic (1997) and The Lord of The Rings trilogy (2001-03).
But with the advent of digital camera systems and 3D are we at a similar point of change?
“…television has eroded the audience’s patience with exposition and the groundwork that narrative requires, so that now you have movies and television shows where there’s no plot at all, just stunts or star turns.
Mr. Lisberger is among those who believe that computer-generated imagery will eventually replace all forms of optical effects – but he concedes that ”it’s still very expensive to lay all the information describing a setting into the computer.”
”there will be a day …when it will be possible to create an entire civilization at the cost of two days’ shooting.”
Films such as Lord of the Rings and Avatar seem to have proved his general point right, although the cost of effects has risen in line with their quality.
The existence of the new film also speaks volumes about the current studio obsession with Comic-Con, the annual geekfest in San Diego where films are announced or unveiled to expectant crowds.
When Disney were pondering whether to make Tron: Legacy, director Joseph Kosinski made a short test film featuring Jeff Bridges that demonstrated what the sequel would look like and the crowd went predictably nuts:
Disney will be banking that the Comic-Con demographic, who grew up watching the original on video, will help make the sequel a success.
But going back to the 1982 article, perhaps the most fascinating part is when it mentions a young animator named John Lasseter:
Disney is taking the next step in computer technology. Two young animators, John Lasseter and Glenn Keane, are planning a 30-second scene from Maurice Sendak’s modern children’s classic, ”Where the Wild Things Are,” in which the little boy called Max chases his dog out of his room and through the upstairs hall and down the stairs.
Max and his dog are being animated conventionally, like the characters in all the other cartoons made by Disney – or by Mr. Bluth. But Max is being colored by computer, eliminating the need for those who now paint each individual animation cel. Even more revolutionary, Max’s room, the hallway and the stairway are being planned to be executed by MAGI as Computer Generated Environments.
Sean Bailey, Disney’s president of production said:
“Tron is very much Joe Kosinski’s vision, a vision which is thrilling to me and I hope is thrilling to the fans. What I give Joe and the filmmaking team immense credit for, is this was all born out of how do we give the fans the best movie we can. We were very fortunate that Pixar wanted to play a part in it.”
Let’s go back to the final paragraph of the New York Times article:
In the final analysis, however, it isn’t the special effects techniques that make an ”E.T.” or ”Bambi” endure. The creature made of rubber and steel, the deer made of pencil marks on paper, all participate in narratives that compel belief. As Walt Disney never tired of saying, ”First get the story right.”
If Tron: Legacy doesn’t live up to expectations, will Walt’s old saying come back to haunt the current studio?