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Alexandre Desplat’s Prolific Year

Four time Oscar nominee and French film composer Alexandre Desplat isn’t one to take it easy and have some rest. Some of his more masterful compositions reside in films such as The Tree Of Life, The Fantastic Mr Fox and The Queen. In 2012, Desplat is on a roll, composing for close to seven feature films (same number of scores he composed in 2011). Contenders such as Argo, Moonrise Kingdom, Rise Of The Guardians, Rust & Bone and Zero Dark Thirty will be stamped by Desplat’s incredibly nuanced and visionary musical head.

What would Mr.Desplat be doing if he hadn’t made it big in Hollywood you ask? “I’d look at the blue sky, eat cheese, tomatoes and figs, and at the end of the day, walk down for a swim in the sea. And then, I’d sleep,” the composer was quoted as saying to the Wall Street Journal. Not far off to the sombre,sometimes melancholic mood Desplat creates with his compositions. Although as we speak his schedule will be much lighter in 2013 as he is due to compose only one film so far (Zulu).

It is then no surprise, given the amount of work and the reputation he has established over the course of just a decade, that Desplat is now a prime Oscar Contender in the Original Score category this year. In fact, the man can make Oscar History by getting nominated 3 times in the same category. An unprecedented feat that has the capable chance of happening if all the cards get played right.

His score to Ben Affleck’s Argo brings you back to a time and place when the middle east was just starting to self destruct, his precariously whimsical notes in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom got critics and audiences all giddy with a tremendous high this summer and his upcoming score for Kathryn Bigelow’s much anticipated Zero Dark Thirty promises to be just as good as the latter films if not better. Bigelow’s highly anticpated film on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden is her followup to her Hurt Locker triumph in 2009.

The category will be loaded with contenders this year. With the already mentioned Desplat films vying for the big prize, Danny Elfman scored three films this year (Silver Linings Playbook, Frankenweenie, Hitchcock), John Williams -an Oscar favorite- is an almost certain nominee for Lincoln and Mychal Danna’s exhilirating score for Life Of Pi looks like a top 3 contender.

Be warned, the best score of the year doesn’t always get nominated. Trent Reznor’s incendiary work in last year’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” did not get nominated. It was the best and most profusely thrilling score of the year yet got snubbed for lighter fare.

22 Comments on this Post

  1. “the best score of the year doesn’t always get nominated”

    Desplat’s score for Ghost Writer – should’ve won and didn’t get nominated. Can’t wait to see how he meets the challenge scoring Zulu.

    Outgrew Elfman and moved on from Williams long ago, so Desplat and Reznor have been tops for some time. VERY curious about Danna’s score for Life of Pi.

  2. One of the best composers of the past decade. I’m really glad he’s getting job after job. A very talented guy that soon is going to have an Oscar for his own.

  3. Adam Lewis

    Love Desplat.

    My third favourite composer after John Williams and John Barry.

    Fantastic Mr Fox is still his best work (and The Ghost Writer right behind).

    His score to Moonrise Kingdom is only brief but it’s wonderful – I’d vote for it this year as the best.

  4. He should have been nominated last year for his score in HArry POtter. just my opinion.

  5. I really don’t want to come off as mean but this article sounds pretty amateurish.

    “…and his upcoming score for Kathryn Bigelow’s much anticipated Zero Dark Thirty promises to be just as good as the latter films if not better.”

    Why?

    “Danny Elfman scored three films this year (Silver Linings Playbook, Frankenweenie, Hitchcock)”

    What about Dark Shadowes, Men in Black 3 and Promised Land?

    “The category will be loaded with contenders this year.”

    It’s loaded with contenders every year.

    Again, not trying to be mean or picky because this is an otherwise well written article. Just work on your style a little bit more.

  6. He was robbed last year. He had Harry Potter, Extremely Loud (the score is one of the greatest things about the film), The Ides of March and Tree of Life. I think he should have even gotten a double nomination for the first two.

  7. “What would Mr.Desplat be doing if he hadn’t made it big in Hollywood you ask?”

    Well, carry-on being a celebrated and very busy music composer in Europe and his home-country. He has been making scores since the 80s and was acclaimed way before Hollywood discovered it. Just listen to his score for Audiart’s Un Heros Tres Discret (or for all first Audiart’s films for that matter), he has been great for a long long while. We didn’t wait for Americans to know that, thank you very much.

  8. @Pokernatic

    oh please.. Reznor’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Score wasn’t the best of 2011. That’s for sure..

  9. Several out of the last few years he could have been nominated three times. I wouldn’t have complained.

    I can see him being nominated for Moonrise Kingdom this year. His last Wes Anderson score earned him a nomination. I think he does lovely work for Wes. And he could easily make it for Zero Dark Thirty too – The Hurt Locker was nominated for Original Score despite having very little buzz in that category and two composers rather less well-known than Desplat.

  10. Don’t forget his incredible work in
    SYRIANA
    BIRTH- my favorite of his
    LUST CAUTION
    THE GHOST WRITER
    GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING- BEST OF THAT YEAR!!

  11. ^Beautiful! Thanks for the link, Jeremie.

    He’s the best in the business, right now.

  12. Tero Heikkinen

    He works too much. How many film themes of his can you actually hum? Maybe if Academy gives him an Oscar now, he starts concentrating in ONE film more. No-one should compose more than two a year.

    I take – quality over quantity – ANY DAY.

  13. “How many film themes of his can you actually hum?”

    You sound like the guy behind me at a Mahler concert a couple of years ago, Tero.

    “No-one should compose more than two a year.”

    Yes, please see link:
    http://www.mozartforum.com/Mini_Kochel.htm

    He died at age 35.

    Not trying to be rude, but if you listen closely (and stop humming), you’ll hear some incredible things in Desplat’s work.

  14. Tero Heikkinen

    You were not comparing him to Mozart. Good. And I knew this – just to quantity.

    I have listened closely, film score is the thing I pay attention the MOST in the film (actors etc come second). My favourite Desplat so far has been Carnage.

  15. @ tero… “I take – quality over quantity – ANY DAY.”

    i’m half-way with you. i think there is a happy medium for most. does Desplat have bad film scores? i’m not asking rhetorically- i honestly don’t know. i hate that every other woody allen movie for the last 15 years has been bad- maybe he “works too much”. but there is a happy medium like i said. don’t you wish PT Anderson’s next film was in 2014? sadly i bet its more like 2017. I want quality, too. But i want the best (actors, directors, writers, dp’s, and composers of musical scores) to be prolific.

  16. Tero Heikkinen

    And Steve50: Mahler is very much “hummable”, so that guy was wrong. When I do the dishes, I compose my own music by humming. I have 2-3 albums in my head. My friend (who is a lazy fuck) actually said that I am always welcome to compose to his place :)

    I do believe that masterpieces can be written in a matter of hours, but Desplat is not THAT master. I found awesome things from The Ghost Writer, but still it feels like it’s something that many people could do. If he gave more time to one film, I’m sure the quality would be higher – and the Oscar would be his, naturally. He does all these adventure stuff, too – and they often require multiple main themes. Look for Williams, Morricone, Goldsmith and Horner to see how it’s done. A film like Carnage doesn’t need any music – but Desplat nailed that one.

    Scores are a funny thing. I could not watch Star Wars prequels if I listened to the dialogue, but I can watch them for the music and close my ears (and eyes in this case) from the events that take place in the film.

    My favourite band, Mew, releases an album every four years when other bands have released two in between that time period. I can wait if I know the goodies are there.

  17. Tero Heikkinen

    Film score – like any element can elevate the film. There are tons of terrible films that are watchable (or listenable in this case) for their scores.

    A couple examples of bad films with Oscar-worthy main themes:

    Sleeping with the Enemy (Jerry Goldsmith): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97RZEiTxsEI

    Indecent Proposal (John Barry): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFOCqZxRDU0

    1941 (John Williams): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouCyHrFVhgg

  18. Randy Edelman is a perfect example of someone who can provide a great score to a mediocre movie, for example, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was a dog of a film, but Edelman’s score is classic.

    I see your point, Tero, but just to a point. The big orchestral scores of Barry, Williams, Goldsmith, etc, are brilliant for their time, worked well for their films, and are perfectly listenable on their own.

    Right now, I’m preferring the likes of Desplat, Santaolalla, Yared, and Iglesias – their work doesn’t rely on the old formula set by those others, just as Goldsmith, Williams, et al, broke with the standard set by Korngold, Steiner and Hermann.

    I probably should not have used Mozart, but, instead, let’s go with Morricone, arguably the best and most prolific in the field. Over 500 soundtracks in 50 years averages to about 10 per year – a lot of them shit, but many of them classics. I don’t think quantity impacts quality at all – call it experimentation and practice.

    The more Desplat and Santaolalla, the better.

  19. Desplat’s score for a little seen film called “Cheri” is one of his best. Check it out sometime.

    Someone else said it earlier on this post, but I feel he should have won the Oscar for scoring the last “Harry Potter” film.

  20. It was embarrasing how he wasn’t nominated last year, with all the scores he did. Also, even with all his proyects, Desplat puts effort on them. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was written in just three weeks, and it was one of his best.

    About his themes, he writes great ones. Recent examples are the main themes of Argo, Moonrise Kingdom and Rise Of The Guardians.

  21. “The best score of the year doesn’t always get nominated.”

    Another example?

    Rachel Portman was robbed of a nomination (and the Oscar win) for her score to “The Duchess”.

    I find it astonishing in some years when unmemorable, rehashed music scores get rewarded with nominations.

    Of all the AMPAS branches, the music branch seems to always fuck up somehow in any given year. It makes you wonder who pulls the strings sometimes.

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