Surprise! I'm adding a category to my list of superlatives this year.
But first, a confession: Even though many voices on the Oscar-web (with sharper ears then mine) have long called for the Academy to reinstate this defunct category, I can honestly understand why they haven't. I myself would struggle to find enough applicable soundtracks in one year that add so much to their films as to merit awards attention. This year, however, was something of a banner year for this oft overlooked microcosm of film music, and so I figure I may as well recognize the best of them.
Throughout the 70s and 80s, the Academy kept renaming and finagling with this category, but they usually only nominated three at a time, so here are my top three Adapted Scores of the year:
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Bjorn Eriksson)
I, for one, was not too smitten with this melodrama (although it is a serious threat to win Best Foreign Language Film), but it does come to life whenever the Greek chorus of bluegrass
musicians periodically pipe in, adding much needed jolts of flavour
to this otherwise paint-by-numbers exercise.
Inside Llewyn Davis (T-Bone Burnett)
Several traditional folk songs are masterfully curated and re-purposed
to breathe truth and illumination
into the character who sings them. The arrangements are beautifully articulate and a joy to listen to. I must've played "Fare Thee Well" on my ipod more than any other movie song this year.
Nebraska (Mark Orton)
I was all prepared to give this a nomination for Best Original Score until I learned that all the music from the film was pre-existing. Still, these elegiac country dirges deftly capture the tone and setting of the film, and make for perfect
scene transitions on the soundtrack.
20 Feet from Stardom (Michael Andrews)
American Hustle (Suzy Jacobs)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Robbie Robertson)