Oppenheimer Soundtrack (Ludwig Göransson) - CD cover

 TheOscar ceremony wrapped an average year overall for film music, with Ludwig Goransson taking the academy award for best score for 2023.
Undoubtedly, his score for Chris Nolan’s OPPENHEIMER was a well-crafted score albeit based on a not so original idea, the use of ascending-descending tonic scales in order to musically introduce a complex character and a brilliant mind like Robert Oppenheimer’s.

The scores we here in “ITSCOREZ” believe are the crowning achievements in film music for the year 2023, were Daniel Pemberton’s score for SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE and Fabio Massimo Capogrosso’s score for Marco Belocchio’s RAPITO that were flawless both as a movie support and listening experience on the album.
Pemberton’s score, a blend of various musical styles from the contemporary to the classical, was a breath of fresh air for the genre of super hero fantasy. The utilization of tribal jungle and techno rhythms in a breathtaking conjunction with conventional orchestral instrumentation and harmonies not only worked perfectly with the movie’s pace and editing but also was the element that brought a sheer realism to the animated movie and the almost surreal fantasy world of its heroes.

Rapito Soundtrack (Fabio Massimo Capogrosso) - CD cover

 On the other hand, Capogrosso’s purely orchestral score for the excellent RAPITO, was a delight as a support to the movie. Marco Belocchio’s movie is a thrilling depiction of the real story behind a Jewish boy’s kidnapping by the Papal administration in Bologna during the mid 19th Century. The great Italian director decided to score his film with a loud but really powerful and emotional orchestral score, that worked so well with the splendidly photographed sequences that we’d dare to compare it with an ancient Greek tragedy chorus. The music highlights the outstanding cast’s performances, especially in scenes with no dialogue, with its overwhelming full orchestra power.

All the scores we have listened this year were evaluated both as autonomous listening experiences and also for their impact in the movie, which means that we have tried to see as many movies as possible.
We couldn’t close this prologue without mentioning one of the best scores of the year that is still unreleased on album, and we are talking of course about IN THE LAND OF SAINTS AND SINNERS. Directed by Robert Lorenz in his third directorial attempt (actually he is a very successful three-time Oscar nominated movie producer) the film is benefited from an excellent score by the Waldenbeg siblings. Diego, Nora and Lionel Waldenbeg provided an orchestral score full of inspired moments, rhythm and melodies for a revenge story, set during the mid 70s in a small Southern Ireland village. See the movie and enjoy how the Waldenbegs create the proper mood from the exciting opening first minutes.
To conclude, the year 2023 had a new Indiana Jones score by the great John Williams, had a new Joe Hisaishi score for an Oscar winning Hayao Miyazaki movie, had a controversial Hildur Gunardottir new score for a Hollywood blockbuster, a few blockbuster and many under the radar movie scores that are worth mentioning and listening. We will present an overview of the most interesting scores of the year (both surprises and disappointments) very soon.
Before that, we are delighted to present the view of a bunch of very respectful film music fans and cinephiles that honored us with their best score of the year selections and opinions. Including ITSCOREZ view, you will notice that three scores are highlighted this year in our little company’s view, Ludwig Goransson's OPPENHEIMER, Daniel Pemberton’s SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE and Diego Ramos Rodriguez’ THE UNIVERSAL THEORY (DIE THEORIE VON ALLEM).
We certainly hope that this unofficial “Company of Film Music Enthusiasts” will continue to present their best selections for the years to come.

The Universal Theory Soundtrack (Diego Ramos Rodriguez, David Schweighart) - CD cover KONSTANTINOS ZACHAROPOULOS
The best score of 2023 is for me THE UNIVERSAL THEORY by Diego Ramos Rodriguez. I admit I have not seen the film, and I don’t know how it plays to picture, but here we have an old-fashioned film score for large orchestra that is not a “musical rug”, but plays almost like classical music, a self-contained music that is, that doesn’t need the picture to exist. The music balances between extremely sophisticated atonal parts and eloquent traditional or extended-harmony passages. The composer shows a great mastery of his art and knowledge of the classical masters of the past. The score is in essence a monothematic score, with a theme - somehow reminding me of Bernard Herrmann’s VERTIGO - based on a circular motif that reappears in its default form or disguised, usually in the woodwinds (the strings adopt it in the masterful epilogue). There is also a well-crafted jazz cue (track 5) for a small ensemble, that I assume is a source cue, by David Schweighart & Viola Hammer. All in all, we have here a masterpiece that was awarded the Prize of the German Critics Association and surely deserves your attention.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Soundtrack (Daniel Pemberton) - CD cover  KOSTAS CHRYSANTHAKOPOULOS
 OPPENHEIMER Because the modern techniques of composition and texture captured the greatness but also the inner conflicts of man, with the two and a half hour long score giving the necessary sense of flow and interest to a three-hour dialogue film, accompanying the viewer in the personal history, the strong but also the creator's anxiety about the possible horrible future of his creation, without escaping from the deeply political and less scientific orientation of the film. As a separate listening experience, the producers stripped the music of the repetitions and re-uses of themes and tracks, creating a complete 94-minute listen that completely covers the arc of the filmic experience (the man-his creation-the aftermath) without taking away from the music and the listening quality…
 One of the few times we get to enjoy the entire score on contemporary film CD, and that's because the composition and creation is so imaginative and high-level that even the slightest omission detracts from the listening experience. The motifs, the themes, the richness in ethnic and musical stylistic variations, but also the special conception of the score that starts from the first film of the series with the mix of orchestra, hip hop and record scratching, conveys the multi-universe premise of the film with originality, taste and above all, youthful breath and freshness while simultaneously leaving room for the necessary emotion and traditional heroism in a Spider-man film.

Leave the World Behind Soundtrack (Mac Quayle) - CD coverRegarding the rest of the scores of the year, I singled out the following: LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND, for the technique of composition, strangely beautiful themes and rendering of the conspiratorial climate and the anxiety of the film and the characters, with the whole composition flowing mysteriously charming and disturbingly resonant. Unfortunately, NO CD... POOR THINGS, for its originality and surreal illustration of Bella's mental universe, providing a partial contrast to the spectacularly decadent experience and aesthetic of the film, without the themes or melodies, though, particularly standing out... THE CREATOR, because after the musical fiasco of DUNE (despite the great promotion of the music, which did not reach half the rock mystagogical melodies and epic grandeur of TOTO), we have a score that, full of modern melody and emotion, reminds of the good old Zimmer, without reaching, though, the greatness of WW84, Last Samurai etc. And here, unfortunately, NO CD... The rest of the popular scores of 2023 (Killers Of The Flower Moon, Past Lives, Barbie, A Haunting In Venice, The Killer, Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny, The boy and the heron, and some others), although sounding good in places, interesting and functional within the film, did not generate anything fresh or interesting enough, to my ears at least, to intrigue my almost 35 years of listening experience...

The truth is,i didn't hear many scores in 2023. Among the big names, Desplat returned with two scores but, while he is clearly good, he does not reach the great moments of the past. The same with Giacchino, with SOCIETY OF THE SNOW, although the track "Found" is one of the best in his career. It is still very similar to his music for the series LOST.  John Williams with Indiana, just being Williams. This man can't make a bad score. Zimmer got more points with THE CREATOR, with the tracks "A Place in the Sky", "Standbye" and "True Love" being his best in a long time. Pemberton did a really good job on SPIDER-MAN but it's a certain kind of score. At FERRARI he was indifferent. Apart from them, i noticed the work of Lukasz Rostkowski in THE PEASANTS a bucolic delirium. Robbie Robertson at KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON was perfectly timed, while Anthony Willis at the end of SALTBURN, delivers a masterful job. I was very impressed by Fabio Massimo Capogrosso's RAPITO, which is perfectly in harmony with the film, Pascal Bideau's LA THEOREME DU MARGUERITE,with the opening track telling you what you are about to see in a perfect way. Also Joan Vila's horror score for Y TODOS ARDERAN and of course the old fashioned LOVE & GELATO of our own Kostas Christides are awesome.
The score of the year for me is OPPENHEIMER and it's not only Ludwig Goransson who should get the credit but more the director Chirstopher Nolan who is responsible for the whole movie. It is now clear that Nolan first decides the form he will give his film and then writes the script based on this form. This labyrinthine montage was very difficult to be supported by the music, and yet Nolan decided to have the music play throughout the film without stopping and he was right. Goransson responded perfectly and everyone bowed. Goransson's 2nd Oscar is well deserved.

I was very pleased this year for hearing so many nice efforts of scoring with effective melodies and natural instruments and voices, instead of these dull sound-design scores. Especially European composers lead the way back to the beautiful heartfelt movie scores. Hopefully it will spread...and soon we might experience the unique feeling of shivering through a tremendous orchestral action score, or a heartfelt love theme.
For 2023 i vote as best main title theme, the theme from DOCTOR JEKYLL...no need to explain..just listen! Fragments of NEEDFUL THINGS & a lot of Jerry Goldsmith in it. The perfect solid new action themes of THE LITTLE MERMAID 2023 that really blew my mind, make me vote it Best live action score for a comedy movie.
As for best Dramatic score, i vote the music Bartosz Chajdecki’s score for ROZYCZKA 2. The Polish composer keep the score quality very high, and THIS IS A MASTERPIECE! Let’s hope for more scores like them in 2024!

The Peasants Soundtrack (Lukasz Rostkowski) - CD coverGEORGE KATSOULAS
It is a fact. When I choose the best film score for the year, I always come up with two. One that works perfectly within the film and another that stands as an independent listen, like a symphonic poem. This is why I always end up with two of my favorite scores as the best for each year. To give a few examples, the best scores of 1960 inside the film were PSYCHO and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and as a stand-alone listen the score for SPARTACUS. In 1968 the best score inside the film was ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and as a stand-alone listen THE LION IN WINTER. In 1976 ROCKY was the best score but THE OMEN was the best soundtrack album. In 1978 the best score inside the film was PROVA D’ORCHESTRA and as a stand-alone listen SUPERMAN.  In 1992 THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS was the best score but DRACULA was the best album. In 1995 UNDERGROUND was the best score inside the film and FIRST KNIGHT as a stand-alone listen… Last year BABYLON was my favorite score but the number one soundtrack listen was FILUMENA MARTURANO by Paolo Vivaldi. 
During 2023 we had great scores that worked excellent inside the film like INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY, THE FLASH, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - DEAD RECKONING Part One, THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE but they were very bad scores as a stand-alone listen.
My favorite score for 2023 in terms of its function within the film is THE PEASANTS by Lukasz Rostkowski. It’s a sweeping soundtrack that is immediately perceived by the viewer in a way that the film cannot work with other music. As in the case of Bregović-Kusturica collaboration, where you can't imagine the film with any other music, here the score is a primary factor and not a musical undertone.
Strangely the album of THE PEASANTS doesn't make it not only in the best 10 scores of the year but also in my top 50 soundtrack albums of the year, and the reason is that my cup of tea in music is not the Folk ethnic colors but the symphonic sound.
As a stand-alone listening experience, the choice this year was difficult. There was not a clear favorite in my opinion, like 2021 with COPPELIA. There were four albums that blew me away and I will present them in brief below.

Magdalina Soundtrack (Victor Osadchev) - CD coverMy first choice is from a 2018 film which had a soundtrack released in 2023, so I consider this as a 2023 score. I am writing about 
the Russian film MAGDALINA with music by Viktor Osadchev. The album is a masterpiece that has all those magical elements of religious music. Uplifting, choral - but also more inwardly - rich dramatic symphonic line with wonderful writing for strings, piano and woodwinds with a texture that stretches from romantic, dramatic and dark to lyrical and doxastic, this fantastic score contains also two themes of classical structure with a high degree of difficulty. Especially, the end titles theme in a powerful piece for piano, chorus and full symphonic orchestra.

 The second choice is from the 2022 film ELVIS but since the album was released in 2023, it enters my selection. I consider this as one of the best drama scores of all times. Elliott Wheeler's music focuses in the King’s life behind the lights of stardom, describes the hero's loneliness, loss and mourning and interacts wonderfully with the King's songs. The marvelous  love theme “Elvis Meets Priscilla” which is born from the “Falling in love” ballad, the song “Are You Lonesome Tonight” emerging from the drama cues  “The Colonel Sues/We Are Two Odd Lonely Children”, as well as  the songs “How Do You Think I Feel”, “Always On My Mind” and “Suspicious Minds” which acquired an ominous and dark texture are just some of the  magnificent cues  which capture in an absolutely wonderful way Elvis’ dialectical relationship with darkness and tragedy and bringing  light on such a complex psyche in one of the greatest superstars of all time.
 As regards the 2023 movies, the best score is by far for the German Film THE UNIVERSAL THEORY by Diego Ramos Rodriguez, David Schweighart & Viola Hammer. This is an absolutely breathtaking masterpiece with very complex music. The score is based on a love theme that seems to be the offspring of the love theme from vertigo and the suspense theme from psycho which is heard in all its majesty in the 9-minute-long epilogue track which is also the top theme of the year. At first glance, the score seems bland and descriptive, but with a closer look one finds a wealth of ideas which are well hidden and demand a more concentrated listening from the viewer. The truth is that film music is essentially simple. A theme for the good, a theme for the bad, a love  theme for the woman and the action cues in which the themes are entangled with each other. Here we have only one clear theme which is presented in some tracks of the score mixed with other ideas but beyond that there is no purity and clarity in the melodic lines as we have learned. And here is the originality of the score and its sophisticated philosophy, which is not fancy but has depth and substance. In essence, we are talking about an impressionistic symphonic poem in the style of Berlioz and Debussy. Music full of colors and emotions, refined orchestration, passion and power. A classic golden age score.

L'Attaque des dechets Soundtrack (Stephane W. Lopez) - CD cover 
As my number one soundtrack album released in 2023  I chose the score for the 2022 telefilm L’ ATTAQUE DES DECHETS composed by Stéphane W. Lopez. This is a stunning action score with memorable themes and complex orchestrations in John Williams' style without copying him. Love themes action cues Waltz overtures and Leitmotifs.  Just as Williams was influenced by the golden generation of Hollywood composers, Lopez was influenced by him without imitating him. So you will hear references from Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and E.T. The most characteristic theme from the score is the suite, an amazing composition based on Williams's love theme from E.T. but the proportion and the right doses between the melodic lines are as much as to characterize an original composition.

Film music nowadays has a tremendous problem in action-epic genre. Most of the scores are written on autopilot, they have resorted to electronics for the sake of convenience, their action cues are dull and colorless, while the scores that resort to the symphony orchestra are overloaded without clear lines, without melody or very easy melodies and describe the hero's adventures externally and clatteringly. We had a lot of mediocre action scores like GODZILLA MINUS ONE, FAST X, THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE, the Marvel movies, Hunger Games even the symphonic CREATION OF THE GODS by Gordy Haab had very easy melodies. For all of us lovers of the old era with the classic symphonic sound, the delicate orchestration and the emphasis on the melody, the album of L’ ATTAQUE DES DECHETS is a divine delight.
We are dealing with an epic action score that also has the highest degree of difficulty. For that reason I think it’s the top soundtrack of the 2023 as a stand alone listen.