Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty
Oh, Best Sound. You unknowable beast. Part of me feels like I'm falling for a scam in complimenting the ostentatious mutings of Cosmopolis, but that airless silence, while used to pretty obvious effect by Cronenberg, is still effective on a primal level. Speaking of primal, the mixing in Looper put an edge of futuristic unfamiliarity on things while keeping them from flying too far into Jetsons-land. Water effects can be showy and easy paths to awards, but the aquatic environs in Life of Pi made the ocean so very dreamy, while the nightmarish flooding in The Impossible was an assault of precisely arranged chaos. Precision was also the name of the game with the whispered intel and order-from-chaos SEAL-team communications in Zero Dark Thirty.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Dario Marianelli - Anna Karenina
Benh Zeitlin, Dan Romer - Beasts of the Southern Wild
Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil - Cloud Atlas
Jon Brion - ParaNorman
Thomas Newman - Skyfall
If the trailer didn't give you enough of an indication, I fell head-over-heels in love with the scores for both Beasts and Cloud Atlas this year. Two unabashedly emotional place settings for their films' fantastic voyages. Marianelli is once again at Joe Wright's service with an appropriately lush and theatrical score. Thomas Newman's score, like the rest of Skyfall, took the best of Bond and made it into a wholly 2012 enterprise. Finally, Jon Brion's sweet little score for ParaNorman snuck up on me, eventually becoming my most lasting impression of that film. I dearly wish Brion would score more films.
BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC
Damsels in Distress
Take This Waltz
As always, this category is a catch-all for original songs plus the skillful deployment of non-original music. This year, the former is represented by Adele's transcendent Bond pastiche, "Skyfall," and the preppy "Things Are Looking Up" and catchy dance craze "The Sambola" in Damsels in Distress. The latter is represented by Sarah Polley redefining "Video Killed the Radio Star" in a blur of carnival lights in Take This Waltz, and Bachelorette summing up its leads via Edwyn Collins, backing up Adam Scott with The Proclaimers, and nailing the best Heart-based punchline of all time. As for Les Mis, I'm not saying everything worked. Russell Crowe was overmatched, and Hugh Jackman was too sometimes (more than that Oscar nomination would suggest), and beyond the songs everyone had heard of, things can get a bit dreary. But the live singing gave the film what vitality it had, Samantha Barks nailed both of her songs, and while I'm ambivalent about Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream," it certainly was memorable.