2010 Calvin Awards: Best Use of Music

February 9, 2010

I walk on the street all the time and have never once seen people burst into song and dance.

While Oscar and other awards organizations honor theatrical scores and individual songs, we here at BOP like to take a different approach to looking at music as it fits into the overall creation of a film. Although certain composers will be the reason that a movie might win in this category, a good soundtrack can be just as impacting to the cohesiveness and flow of a film. Therefore, BOP looks a the use of music on the whole rather than segmenting down to the more specific categories.

For this year's Calvin awards, our winner in the Best Use of Music category is (500) Days of Summer. It's possible we might have given this movie the prize just for the adorable dance number performed to Hall and Oates' "You Make My Dreams," but the truth of the matter is that our two leads, Tom and Summer, might not even have a relationship if not for a shared affinity for The Smiths on the elevator. And just as the movie itself is a bit offbeat, so are the artists whose songs populate the film, from Regina Spektor to The Temper Trap ("Sweet Disposition" has really caught on thanks to its presence in the film). There's even a tune from She & Him, Zooey Deschanel's own group, and in an homage to The Graduate, a Simon & Garfunkel song. The soundtrack is well thought out, with all of the songs serving the story.

(500) Days of Summer won this category rather handily, but that doesn't mean that Inglourious Basterds didn't also have some ingenious incorporation of music. This is pretty much a trademark of all Quentin Tarantino films, with Pulp Fiction being absolutely mind-blowing in terms of soundtrack, and the Kill Bill films doing a bang-up job of incorporating genre music along with popular songs. Inglourious Basterds does a really nice job of melding spaghetti western sounds from Ennio Morricone with some R&B from the likes of Billy Preston and modern rock in the form of David Bowie's "Cat People". There are some tense moments in the film that the music helps to drive with a purpose.

Third place goes to Up and its glorious score from Michael Giacchino. With themes dedicated to particular characters, he does a masterful job of switching moods and enhancing the action with amazing musical accompaniment. Of particular note is the way he swaps out Muntz's triumphant theme at the beginning of the film to something more dissonant as the man becomes a dark shadow of himself, consumed by his obsession.


We find another animated film in fourth place; this time it's Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox. Combining a marvelous score from Alexandre Desplat with contemporary tunes from the likes of The Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and Burl Ives, the music in the film definitely contributes a great deal to its singular presentation. It's a shame that Jarvis Cocker's original song "Petey's Song" didn't get a Best Song nod from the Academy, because it's clever, hilarious and tells a story economically in its own right.

Rounding out the top five is Watchmen, which means that we were able to reconcile our discomfort with the inappropriateness of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" during a big sex scene with the greatness of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" during the opening credits. There's also a hilarious moment during an Ozymandias scene where a Muzak version of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" plays. It's a solid soundtrack that combines some classic tunes along with some great alternative stuff from the likes of Muse and My Chemical Romance.

Sixth and seventh go to Adventureland and Coraline. Set in the '80s as it is, Adventureland makes great use of "Satellite of Love" by Lou Reed, which is actually a bit of a plot point, along with tunes from Bowie, Big Star, The Cure, The Replacements and many more. Also, Falco's Rock Me Amadeus is featured pretty unforgettably. As for Coraline, its fine score from Bruno Coulais perfectly accompanies the dark children's tale, and the "Other Father Song" from They Might Be Giants is particularly striking.

Filling the final spots in our top ten are Away We Go, Bandslam and The Princess and the Frog. A quirky film like Away We Go calls for an equally idiosyncratic soundtrack, and Alexi Murdoch certainly delivers. And although High Fidelity set the standard for the use of The Velvet Underground's "Oh Sweet Nuthin'" in film, the Sam Mendes movie does interject it at a perfect time as well. Bandslam has a lot of original tunes and remakes from actors/performers in the film, and we can promise you'll be tapping your feet and humming Vanessa Hudgens' rendition of Everything I Own for several days after you see the film. And The Princess and the Frog takes advantage of its New Orleans setting to be chock-full of outstanding jazz, blues and R&B songs. Randy Newman delivers once again.

A few movies just missed making the top ten, and they include Avatar and its score from James Horner, The Hangover (thanks mostly to "In the Air Tonight" and "Stu's Song" performed by Ed Helms, though that Danzig tune at the beginning is pretty kickass) and Crazy Heart, with songs produced by T Bone Burnett. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Best Breakthrough Performance
Best Cast
Best Director
Best DVD
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Videogame
Worst Performance
Worst Picture

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