Christopher Nolan’s story about the World War II evacuation of troops from certain death on the shores of Dunkirk, France, is chillingly taut in execution. Told from the points of view of service members and rescuers on land, sea and air, the film plays with an expansive camera frame and with sound to make the viewer feel claustrophobic — trapped, hemmed in, and desperate.
As he has with Nolan’s films in the past, Hans Zimmer supplies a riveting tension. Operating with a string quartet, his rather avant-garde approach to an epic war film rejects the possibility of heroic or romantic music. Instead, tied to the rhythms of a ticking clock, the music reinforces the peril of its characters, and extends the suspense through the innovative use of “Shepard Tones” — an unsettling means to musically imply ascending chords that go on forever.
Composer Johnny Greenwood, guitarist for the group Radiohead, had previously contributed a stunning score for director Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 film ‘There Will Be Blood.” The music was disqualified for an Oscar (Greenwood had debuted a chunk of it, “Popcorn Superhet Receiver,” prior to the film’s production), but thankfully Greenwood has been recognized for his sumptuous work here.
The film, set in Britain in the 1950s, creates the world of fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock through strings and piano (at one point using 60 string players), with musical inspirations ranging from Bach and Vivaldi to 20th century masters like Messiaen and Penderecki, as well as jazz and pop figures like Bill Evans and Nelson Riddle.
A nine-time Oscar nominee (and an Academy Award-winner for 2014’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Alexandre Desplat created a lushly romantic score for Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy of a mute woman who falls in love with a veritable Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Though the film has the DNA of a sci-fi/horror film, the music hews closely to romantic fantasy, with a dream-like quality for its opening underwater scene.
John Williams holds the record for Oscar nominations by a living nominee (51), and five of them have been for “Star Wars” films. (He won for the 1977 original.)
The saga has been composed as a Wagnerian space opera, using leit-motivs for characters and concepts, those themes developing and melding over time as the saga progressed. For the latest entry, “The Last Jedi,” Luke Skywalker has forgone his Jedi Master past and retreated to life as a hermit on Ahch-To Island, where he is found by a young wanna-be apprentice:Find out who’s replacing him and who else is joining the previous winners in presenting an award. Here’s the full list…