[Article - The Best of 2002]

Well, it's that time of year again, and it's been a rather tricky one. I apologize for the tardiness of this article, but it's been a few weeks in the works.... So, without further fanfare or pomp-and-circumstance, I give you my picks for the Best of 2002.

Top 10 Soundtracks of 2002

Signs (James Newton Howard)
This tense and engaging score allowed James Newton Howard a chance to combine thrilling rhythmic moments, and emotional passages.  The "Main Titles" alone make this a keeper, and one of the best soundtracks of the year.

Spider-Man (Danny Elfman)
Who said there were no themes in this score?  Plenty of action, drama, romance, and even a few whimsical moments, Elfman delivers the goods. 

Minority Report (John Williams)
It's a rather gray look at the future, but Williams' score gives this noir thriller an edge, and the haunting use of a female soloist is worth a note.  No electric guitars here, but there are a few motifs that seem to have grown from Episode II.

Frida (Elliot Goldenthal)
Goldenthal's Golden Globe winning south-of-the-border soundtrack combines plenty of guitar-heavy tracks, and a few traditional songs, to make it a delightfully varied and enjoyable listen.  The last song is in particular my favorite, and one of the best of the year. (See below.)

Spirited Away (Joe Hisaishi)
This melancholy piano-heavy score is a terrific listen, covering nearly every emotional corner you can think of.  It might be a tad dark, and the obligatory pop song at the end feels tacked on, but this is definitely one you shouldn't hesitate about picking up.

Black Hawk Down (Hans Zimmer)
Technically a 2001 film, but generally released everywhere in 2002, Hans Zimmer's score combines ethnic percussive rhythms and tense underscore, with a dash of Lisa Gerrard and other source cues.

The Hours (Philip Glass)
Yes, it's Philip Glass - so you know what you're getting - but it's good Philip Glass.  No headaches here, the score is rather emotional and stirring.

Far From Heaven (Elmer Bernstein)
Elmer is back in full-form, and at least this time his score actually stayed on the film! It's dramatic and thematic, and definitely worth getting your hands on.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Howard Shore)
In the second part of this trilogy, we pick up where Fellowship of the Ring left off, and get a few new themes along the way.  Epic in scope and power, this Enya-free soundtrack also features a killer song at the end (see below).

Road to Perdition (Thomas Newman)
With the dramatic edges that he did so well in The Shawshank Redemption, Newman's score evokes a wet blanket feeling that perfectly matches the film's imagery.  A couple of source cues round out the album, including a nice duet played by Paul Newman and Tom Hanks.

Top 5 Songs of 2002

"If We Could Remember" - The Sum of All Fears
After many years, Jerry Goldsmith finally writes a song for a film based on his score.  It's tender, moving, and (in the main titles) truly operatic.  Sung by Yolanda Adams, it's a memorable tune, and while the Golden Globes completely overlooked it, let's hope the Academy doesn't let this one slip through the cracks.

"Burn it Blue" - Frida
This melancholy song integrates themes from Goldenthal's award-winning score, and with lyrics by director Julie Taymor, it's a winning combination.  Sung by Caetano Veloso and Lila Downs, this duet is as catchy as it is touching.

"Sitting on Top of the World" - Evelyn
Van Morrison's "Sitting on Top of the World" is a jazzy tune, and while it might seem rather simplistic, it does a great job evoking feelings of optimism and joy - I challenge you to listen to this one when you're down, and tell me it didn't give you a "pick-me-up".

"I Move On" - Chicago
Who ever heard of a musical with no eligible songs?  (Oh wait - Moulin Rouge.  I digress.)  Not content to be put in the same position, Kander & Ebb came up with a new song for the film, a snazzy duet about heartbreak and getting over it, sung by Catherine Zeta-Jones and award-winning actress Rene Zellweger.  It fits in perfectly with the surrounding material, and you'll be humming this one long after you hear it.

"Gollum's Song" - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Take a James Bond song, slow it down, make it depressingly sad, and you end up with the melancholy "Gollum's Song".  Sung by Emiliana Torrini, who sounds a lot like Bjork, it's haunting and moving, and given how the film ends, entirely appropriate for the sad, tragic character of Gollum.

Top 10 Special Releases / Re-Recordings of 2002

Treasure of Sierra Madre (Max Steiner)
Rhino Handmade's limited release of this classic Steiner western seemed to have slipped in under the radar, and while the sound quality is certainly not on par with the Marco Polo re-recording, it's still a noteworthy addition to any film music library.

Rebecca (Franz Waxman)
Joel McNeely and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra have done it again - and this time they do it with a beautiful score to one of Hitchcock's most acclaimed works.  Lush and romantic, emotional and stirring, this album is a great listen.

The Fury (John Williams)
Not only do we finally get the original film version of this score, but we also get the highly enjoyable re-recording album.  With two discs full of solid Williams music, written at the height of his work during the 1970s, you might be surprised with what you hear.  For those bemoaning the cost, honestly, the price isn't that bad, considering other retail stores.

King of Kings (Miklos Rozsa)
This lush biblical score has all of the classic things you'd expect: a large chorus, strong themes, and with two full CDs, and a thick booklet, all the background info you can desire.  While some Rozsa biblical epic might all sound the same after a while, this one is by far one of the best - and the discs are well worth the cost.

Joe vs. The Volcano (Georges Delerue)
While a good portion of his score was tossed in lieu of source songs, most of it is presented here, and the sound quality is superb.  Strong themes help make this album a very solid listen, helping prove that Delerue was a master of his craft.

Miracle on 34th Street (Bruce Broughton)
This delightful holiday score is rousing, triumphant, and ultimately a blast to listen to.  You can't help but smile when you pop it in, and Intrada has done a stand-up job representing it on CD.

Silver Streak (Henry Mancini)
This comedy score has a train-like rhythm, and highlights Mancini's uncanny knack for super-memorable themes and song-like score cues.  Presented in mono, with a bonus of available stereo mixes, this disc feels a little longer than it really is, but nonetheless is a welcome release.

Logan's Run (Jerry Goldsmith)
This somewhat challenging score ranges from sparse synthesized patterns to full orchestral passages.  Almost twice as long as the previous issue, the newly unreleased tracks make this one definitely worth picking up, and early Goldsmith fans can appreciate the efforts that Film Score Monthly has been doing for a lot of Silver Age classics.

The Changeling (Rick Wilkins, Ken Wannberg and Howard Blake)
This creepy suspenseful score to a film that inspired The Others slipped in under the radar, but definitely deserves to be noticed.  Over 70-minutes long, this haunting score also comes with informative liner notes and is sure to satisfy even the most critical of listeners.

Romeo & Juliet (Nino Rota) / The Lion in Winter (John Barry)
These two re-recordings are just exceptionally well done, capturing in nearly perfect detail (and wonderful sound) the original recordings for two great films.  Rota's score is practically a masterpiece, and Barry's use of chorus is truly classic.  The 14-minute long Mary Queen of Scots suite is also worth picking this album up for.