2016 Calvin Awards: Best Use of Music

By Kim Hollis

February 23, 2016

The last days of disco...

The Oscars honor music by awarding Best Song and Best Score. Other groups provide prizes for Best Soundtrack. At Box Office Prophets, we take a different approach. We recognize that music is vital in film, but sometimes it’s not easy just to shoehorn it to a narrow category. Thus, we established the Calvin Award for Best Use of Music, which has included such winners as Whiplash, The Social Network, Slumdog Millionaire, Once, Hustle & Flow, Garden State, and Moulin Rouge! We look for those films that were strongly impacted by the musical selection and how it influences the action.

This year, our Calvin Award goes to a movie that won by a single point. This year, it was truly a case where every vote mattered! And thanks to one astronaut’s penchant for disco music (and another one’s abhorrence of it), The Martian is that victor. When Mark Watney, stranded alone on Mars, raids the music and video of his crewmates for entertainment, he discovers that his mission commander left behind nothing but disco. Thus, his “soundtrack” for his stay on the red planet is comprised of stuff like “Turn the Beat Around,” “Hot Stuff,” “Rock the Boat,” “Waterloo” and “I Will Survive.” And of course, we also have the nearly perfect usage of the late David Bowie’s “Starman.” The music encapsulates the humor in a story that is in reality fraught with peril.


With the top spot decided, that leaves The Hateful Eight to just barely miss out on the win. Quentin Tarantino is known for his use of music in film - Pulp Fiction’s soundtrack is legendary; Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a previous winner in this category. The Hateful Eight was a first for the director, though. Rather than using popular music as the “soundtrack” of the film, he commissioned a complete score. The creator of this atmospheric music was the legendary Ennio Morricone, who has composed more than 500 scores for film and television, including all of Sergio Leone’s movies and The Untouchables. Using influence from Italian giallo films, he crafted the perfect accompaniment to a film about unsavory characters who work for and against each other in a sort of pseudo mystery.

Quick, name the top international grossing movie of 2015. Nope, it’s not Star Wars (although it may eventually gain that spot). It’s not Jurassic World, either. Instead, the movie that made the most money internationally in 2015 - and the third highest amount all-time - is Furious 7. Its success in these overseas venues can be attributed to the fact that it has appeal to a wide-ranging demographic, and its musical soundtrack is reflective of that multi-cultural flavor. The tunes range from hip-hop, electronic dance music and Latin pop - and then somehow manages some songs that fuse those genres together. The film’s capstone is “See You Again,” which was written by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth in honor of the late Paul Walker. It charted at #1 in 14 different countries, including the United States.

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