2012 Calvin Awards: Best Use of Music

February 14, 2012

He's going off the rails on a crazy train!

In movies, music can be a character unto itself. That’s certainly true of last year’s winner in this category, The Social Network, and it is surely true for every single film that finds itself in our top ten.

Our winner of Best Use of Music is The Muppets, which does a wonderful job of incorporating old, new and adapted tunes into the mix for the 21st century update for the franchise. “Life’s a Happy Song” kicks things off on exactly the right note, while other original tunes written just for this movie include “Pictures in My Head,” “Me Party,” “Let’s Talk About Me,” and of course “Man or Muppet.” The latter song really defines what the film is about, and is deservedly receiving attention as the best of a great bunch. Some adapted tunes strike just the right note, too, most particularly Cee Lo’s “Fuck You,” which is clucked by a bunch of chickens. And of course, some old Muppet favorites are brought back, such as the theme to The Muppet Show, “Mahna Mahna” and “The Rainbow Connection” (a moment in the film that actually brought tears to my eyes, embarrassingly enough). What a joyous movie musical this was.

Our runner up for Best Use of Music was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which effectively means that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross just missed owning this category for two years in a row. No one who has seen this film will ever forget the opening credits, set to the pounding, relentless rhythm of “Immigrant Song,” remade by Reznor and Ross with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O singing the lead. The rest of the soundtrack is every bit as atmospheric, with a relentlessly dark sound that accentuates the events of the film as perfectly as can be imagined.

Speaking of atmospheric, the third place film, Drive, uses music in such a way that it practically defines the word. The sound is definitely ‘80s retro, with electronic synthesizers coming to the forefront. Cliff Martinez is responsible for the bulk of the soundtrack, which is abstract in a way that it allows the viewer to draw their own interpretation as to what is occurring onscreen rather than forcing them through musical cues to easily deduce the answers.

The Artist provides a perfect example of how music is not simply critical to a film, it is in fact absolutely necessary. Even if you have yet to see the film, you know by now that The Artist is a silent film. Thus, the music gives the viewer plenty of cues that might otherwise come from dialogue or great sound mixing and editing. The soundtrack to this film is an ideal accompaniment to a (mostly) light and heartfelt story, and composed Ludovic Bource has to be credited for his sublime attention to detail. Those who are attentive movie music fans will have noticed his tribute to the Vertigo score that appears as a musical theme throughout the film – and appropriately so, I might add.


Our fifth place film is Rango, which relies on a Greek chorus of mariachi owls to narrate a portion of the story, and they do so magnificently through song. Voiced (and instrumented - is instrumented a word?) by Los Lobos, as they foretell things that are to come, they consistently reiterate that our hero, Rango, will die (I'm not giving anything away to tell you this - they do it within the first minute of the movie). The music is perfection, highlighting a movie that is already highly unique and unafraid to take chances. Bravo, Rango!

Hanna takes the sixth place spot for its soundtrack composed by the Chemical Brothers. Energetic and surprisingly stripped back for the duo, the electronica is an ideal accompaniment for a film that leaves the viewer unsettled and disconcerted.

Midnight in Paris and Moneyball are tied for seventh place. Some of the music in Midnight in Paris is very Woody Allen - and if you're a fan of his films, you know what I mean - but it expands further than that as Gil goes back to 1920s Paris. Time-appropriate tunes from the likes of Cole Porter, Django Reinhardt, Josephine Baker and many more emphasize the wonder and excitement of Gil's travels back in history. Moneyball could be allowed a spot just for the adorable Kerris Dorsey's in-film performance of "The Show," but Mychael Danna's low-key score was also well-used to highlight both the big moments and the more low-key elements of the film.

The final two slots in the top ten go to Sucker Punch and The Mechanic. We're not going to sit around here and claim that Sucker Punch was a great movie, but if it has one redeeming characteristic, the soundtrack is it. Director Zack Snyder intended the music to be the segue to the dream world of the characters, and it plays that part very effectively. Emily Browning, who stars in the film, performs a couple of the tracks (including a nice cover of "Sweet Dreams"), and there's a "White Rabbit" cover that kills as well. The score for The Mechanic was composed by Mark Isham, and serves the film with a mix of subtlety and nuance. The combination of orchestral work from the Czech National Orchestra with electric guitars, keyboards and drum machines makes for a singular sound to match the action onscreen.

Just missing the cut this year were Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Contagion and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

The Calvins: An Introduction
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Album
Best Cast
Best Character
Best Director
Best Overlooked Film
Best Picture
Best Scene
Best Screenplay
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Videogame
Breakthrough Performance
Worst Performance
Worst Picture

Top 10
Position Film Total Points
1 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo 71
2 The Muppets 69
3 Drive 63
4 The Artist 48
5 Hanna 40
6 Rango 37
7 Moneyball 28
8 The Mechanic 27
9 Midnight in Paris 26
10 Sucker Punch 24



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