2016 HOAM Awards

HEARTBEAT OF A MOVIE proudly presents the first-ever winners for the 2016 HOAM Awards. Before we start, here is some general information first:

Each year, HEARTBEAT OF A MOVIE will present the so-called “HOAM Awards” whose aim is to give recognition to the composers who have written the best scores of the last year. As such, it does also represent a retroperspective of what has happened in the film music scene in the past twelve months by looking back at the greatest achievements and most memorable moments one could have experienced in cinemas and while listening to the latest soundtrack releases.

In total, there are thirteen different categories in which a score or a film composer can be nominated, each category comprising nominations up to a maximum of five nominations (except “Best Cue of the Year” – 10 nominations).


2016 has been kind of a mixed bag for film music enthusiasts, especially given the enormous burden to follow up an incredibly strong year which was 2015. Looking back at what we got, it is safe to say that the overall output has been fairly inconsistent, a lot of blockbuster productions being huge disappointments. However, it would be false to judge 2016 too harshly as a major misstep – you really have to look below the surface, beyond the Mainstream, and if you do so, you will surely find yourself graced with some outstanding compositions for smaller, lesser-known movies from all around the world; particularly Alexander Cimini’s operatic “Dark Waves: Bellerofonte” – for which he even received a “Best Score of the Year” nominee – and Christopher Young’s enormously entertaining, theme-filled “The Monkey King 2” easily come to mind.

Still, some of the “classic” Hollywood veterans provided some wonderful scores with James Newton Howard writing another brilliant entry in the fantasy genre with the Harry Potter spin-off “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, and therefore taking the crown for the immense magnitude of enjoyable themes and a variety of different musical styles that he masterfully integrated within his score. Other remarkable nominees are Craig Armstrong writing a hauntingly beautiful romance score for the tragic “Me Before You”, Marco Beltrami having outdone himself on the symphonic “Gods of Egypt”, Alexandre Desplat continuing his serious-drama-subscription and, last but not least, Michael Giacchino, who followed up his successful 2015 with an even more successful 2016.

Please let me present you this year’s winners:

Best Original Score of the Year:


  • GODS OF EGYPT, Marco Beltrami
  • DARK WAVES: BELLEROFONTE, Alexander Cimini
  • THE JUNGLE BOOK, John Debney
  • THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, Alexandre Desplat

DRUMROLL…and the prestigious title “Best Original Score of the Year” goes to James Newton Howard’s masterful “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”. The composer one again excels at writing an ambitious fantasy adventure score, perfectly enhancing the visuals on screen and providing a very strong musical narrative build upon a multitude of different thematic ideas that are not always as deeply explored as they could have been, but still make up for a highly entertaining listening experience heightened by magical orchestrations, masterful orchestral handling and the intelligent interplay of themes and motifs.

Other candidates with good prospects for the award include Marco Beltrami whose symphonic “Gods of Egypt”, anchored by a gorgeous love theme, and showing the composer’s incredible knowledge of writing for an orchestra, was one of last year’s great winners. While newcomer Alexander Cimini’s almost operatic “Dark Waves: Bellerofonte” featured some darkly romantic string writing, led by a Morricone-like female soprano, John Debney’s rousing “The Jungle Book” was a stylistical throwback to the 1990s, the romantic adventure writing recalling mannerisms of John Barry, Jerry Goldsmith and James Newton Howard during that era while simultaneously integrating incredibly intelligent interpolations of the 1976 version throughout his highly entertaining original material. Last but not least, we have the critics’ favourite Alexandre Desplat whose compositional intelligence and sophisticated orchestral writing completely shines in the period drama “The Light Between Oceans”.

Best Drama Score:

Writing a decent drama score always marks a great opportunity for each composer to finally get accepted by film music fans as a “serious” composer. Looking at this year’s output, my nominations will surely contain some surprising nominations for lesser-known movies outside of Hollywood, each of them of high quality, this development directly mirroring the overall impression of the film scoring year that was 2016. However, veteran composer Alexandre Desplat provided one of last year’s best scores with the music he has written for the period drama “The Light Between Oceans”, a distallation of all his incredible talents, and true “Desplatsterpiece” (courtesy of James Southall!).

Apart from that, I was lucky to see Roque Baños finally regaining his earlier compositional strength in “Los Ultimos de Filipinas”, an outstanding effort build around a noble brass theme, longing string textures as well as some aggressive percussion and woodwind writing similiar to what James Horner had achieved in his legendary (watch out, pun ahead) “Legends of the Fall”. Argentinian composer Federico Jusid pulls out another high quality composition with his score for “La Corona Partida” which features heavenly choir passages and fantastic string work, but remains unreleased at the time I am writing this. Fernando Vélazquez’s subtle yet powerful “A Monster Calls”, resurrecting the emotional force that has driven the composer’s own “The Impossible”, and Jo Yeong-Wook’s surprisingly elegic, string-heavy score for the erotic drama “The Handmaiden” round out the nominations.

Best Fantasy/Science-Fiction Score:

  • GODS OF EGYPT, Marco Beltrami
  • ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, Michael Giacchino
  • THE MONKEY KING 2, Christopher Young

The fantasy genre always seems to bring out the best of film composers, and 2016 continues to be just a further proof of that. Anchored by James Newton Howard’s outstanding “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, the here-presented nominations offer dense orchestral writing very much in the tradition of one would expect of a solid genre score, including intelligent development of leitmotifs and grand orchestral textures.

Christopher Young returns with another powerhouse of score with his “Monkey King” sequel score, which is, depite being inferior to its predecessor, still a wonderful listening experience. And although everyone seemed to be Kind of desperate after Alexandre Desplat’s depart from “Rogue One”, the ever-working Michael Giacchino managed to pull out a rousing sci-fi score in just four and a half weeks that is unsurprisingly nowhere as good as some would have expected from a Williams Star Wars score, but a great score on its very own, and containing some of the most entertaining music Gia has ever written. Same can be said about Marco Beltrami’s “Gods of Egypt”, written for an incredible weak movie that silmontaneously features a brilliant score (hello, Mr. Goldsmith…). Anchored by an elegic love theme and wonderful use of choir, it marks the composer’s most memorable score in quite some time. Finally, we have Panu Aaltio’s “Rölli and the Secret of All Time”. Although remaining officially unreleased until the moment this article has been written, you can listen to some excerpts on the composer’s website, the comparatively short score featuring a rousing main theme and some playful, colorful orchestrations being a very “classic” fantasy score in the best sense of what one could expect from that.

Best Adventure/Action Score:

  • THE JUNGLE BOOK, John Debney
  • PETE’S DRAGON, Daniel Hart
  • NOW YOU SEE ME 2, Brian Tyler
  • ZIPI Y ZAPE Y LA ISLA DEL CAPITÀN, Fernando Velázquez

Following up the outstanding fantasy genre are 2016’s adventure scores, each of them being a wonderful score on their own terms as well. Veteran composer John Debney, breaking out of his usual territory being hired to score silly comedies, recieves the HOAM Award for writing an incredibly powerful, beautifully orchestrated score for Disney’s live action adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s beloved “The Jungle Book” which could very well fit in the 1990s, at least stylistically, the lyrical orchestral writing recalling the music Goldsmith and Horner had written during that period.

Further nominees contain Ilan Eshkeri’s sweeping “Swallows and Amazons”, Newcomer Daniel Hart’s lovely “Pete’s Dragon” which made me almost forget that Howard Shore was originally set to compose the music, Brian Tyler returning to score “Now You See Me 2”, the composer providing yet another kick-ass action score, reprising the material from its predecessor and taking the heist score to an even more entertaining Level, and, last but not least, Fernando Vélazquez’s “Zipi y Zape y la Isla del Capitán”, a classic orchestral adventure score in the very best sense of the word: a heroic main theme, playful action and intelligent character scoring, a lovely secondary theme – so what else are could you been wishing for?

Best Animation Score:

  • BALLERINA, Klaus Badelt
  • SAUSAGE PARTY, Christopher Lennertz & Alan Menken
  • LA TORTUE ROUGE, Laurent Perez del Mar
  • KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, Dario Marianelli
  • KUNG FU PANDA 3, Hans Zimmer & Lorne Balfe

The animation genre is one that offers endless possibilities of thematic, dense orchestral writing leading into an ultimate fun score: Klaus Badelt – I am still waiting to hear him tackling another high profile picture – provided a underappreciated colorful, dynamic score for the largely ignored “Ballerina” while Christopher Lennertz and the one and only Alan Menken, who has also written the film’s hilarious title song, have written and enormously massive parody score for Seth Rogen’s “Sausage Party”, the thematic writing and the masterful orchestral handling being no less than outstanding. Dario Marianelli showed everyone that he got over his replacement on 2015’s “Pan” and contributed an Asian-influenced score for “Kubo and the Two Strings” while maintaining true to his own musical voice: It is a wonderful score that will please every lover of intelligent orchestral writing. And even without the exhilarating power of John Powell, Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe managed to pull out another superb third entry in the “Kung Fu Panda” series, their dynamic orchestra-and-choir-writing continuing the path they bothhad bestablished before.

Written for a film that is entirely dialogue-free and heavily relies on its score’s strength, “La Tortue Rouge” marked a very special opportunity for French composer Laurent Perez del Mar to really shine and provide an astonishingly beautiful, heartfelt score that ranks among the greatest and most welcome surprises of the last year.

Best Comedy Score:

  • HAIL CAESAR, Carter Burwell
  • LA LA LAND, Justin Hurwitz
  • SAUSAGE PARTY, Christopher Lennertz & Alan Menken
  • EDDIE THE EAGLE, Matthew Margeson
  • SWISS ARMY MAN, Andy Hull & Robert McDowell

There are many different ways to score a comedy and the range of what composers had in mind for 2016 movies was quite diverse: By ignoring the silly comedy elements and treating the films’ story itself very seriously, Carter Burwell with “Hail Caesar”, and “Sausage Party”, an exceptional fun score written by Christopher Lennertz and Alan Menken, both were extremely satisfying listening experiences. “Swiss Army Man”, scored by Andy Hull & Robert McDowell, only consisting of creative a capella writing, a quite unusual but very fitting approach, went into more unique territory while providing one of the most original scores of the year. RCP composer Matthew Margeson started off a very successful 2016, later he would be given the chance to work on the new Tim Burton movie, with the highly enjoyable “Eddie The Eagle”, a wonderfully entertaining retro score brillinatly capturing the spirit of the 1980s by incorporating synths and electronica. However, Justin Hurwitz’s jazz-heavy “La La Land” is the clear winner here, the young composer providing a nice narrative that is further enhanced by the wonderful songs and the beautiful thematic writing.

Best Horror/Thriller Score:

  • DARK WAVES: BELLEROFONTE, Alexander Cimini
  • THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, Danny Elfman
  • 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, Bear McCreary
  • The 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX, Patrick Watson

Alexander Cimini’s operatic “Dark Waves” was a huge surprise for me, especially given the fact that I was not familiar with the composer before. Evoking memories of what Ennio Morricone would have done, the composer makes intesive use of a soprano voice and a heavy string Sound, leading in an exceptional performance of his beautiful score. Veteran composer Danny Elfman proved with his electronica-driven score for “The Girl on the Train” that it is actually possible to write an intelligent thriller score by abandoning an orchestral approach, a fact that only rarely gets appreciated and that is even more rarely executed this way. Following Scott Glasgow’s entertaining “The Curse of Sleeping Beauty” and Patrick Watson’s somber “The 9th Life of Louis Drax”, Bear McCreary proved that he is one of the most talented composers being around, who should finally get the opportunity to score more high-profile pictures by providing an outstanding orchestral score for “10 Cloverfield Lane”, a score that will surely end up on many people’s top ten lists.

Best Documentary Score:

  • TALE  OF A LAKE, Panu Aaltiu
  • YELLOWSTONE, Edmund Butt
  • PAPER LANTERNS, Chad Cannon
  • MAGNUS, Uno Heimersson
  • SPAIN IN A DAY, Alberto Iglesias

Following to what had begun with “Tale of A Forest” a few years ago, Panu Aaltio, one of the most talented new voices in the film music business, provided a sensationally entertaining, full-orchestral effort including beautiful writing for female soprano for last year’s documentary “Tale of A Lake” which rightfully earns him the award for “Best Documentary Score”.

While Edmund Butt’s “Yellowstone” is quite similiar in terms of scope and orchestration, Chad Cannon’s elegic “Paper Lanterns” elevates a feeling of religioso beauty; still, there are Uno Heimersson’s “Magnus”, heavily relying on piano and string writing, trying to Keep the score as simple as possible in order to letting the instruentation mirror the character’s development from child prodigy to chess champion, as well as Alberto Iglesias’s “Spain In A Day”, a beautiful score that will surely please any lover of the composer’s output.

Best Score for a Television Series/Movie:

  • GAME OF THRONES: SEASON 6, Ramin Djawadi
  • PENNY DREADFUL: SEASON 3, Abel Korzeniowski
  • OUTLANDER: SEASON 2, Bear McCreary
  • PLANET EARTH II, Hans Zimmer, Jacob Shea, Jasha Klebe

I am sure many of you would agree that we are currently living in the “Golden Age of Television Scoring”. With many of Hollywood’s most successful composers also getting the chance to tackle a series or a television movie, and most of the executives being willing to give the composers a certain amount of creative freedom, scores in that area are constantly improving. In fact, some of the best film music nowadays is written for Television, just take a moment and think of Federico Jusid’s “Isabel” or “Carlos, Rey Emperor” – or the seemingly never-sleeping Bear McCreary who is righfully presented here with his “Outlander: Season 2” score, a wonderful mix of european baroque music and celtic sounds as the series returns to its original setting. And while RCP, namely Hans Zimmer, credited for contributing the kick-ass main theme, and his assistants Jacob Shea and Jasha Klebe have written a colorful, highly engaging score for the documentary series “Planet Earth II”, Ramin Djawadi returns with a nomination for the ever-popular HBO series “Game of Thrones: Season 6”, his score undoubtedly featuring his most consistent and dynamic writing to date; he is clearly growing as a composer, and I really appreciate that positive development. Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski provides another lush, darkly romantic score for “Penny Dreadful”‘s third season, ending the series sensationally, at least in musical terms.

However, the biggest surprise, at least for me, was Naoki Sato’s “Guardian of the Spirit”, a Japanese television miniseries. The composer’s incredible mastery of the orchestra, his rousing action writing and the astonishingly beautiful orchestrations truly justify the decision to give the award to him – just listen to his score, you will not regret it…

Best Video Game Score:

  • THE LAST GUARDIAN, Takeshi Furukuwa
  • UNRAVEL, Frida Johansson & Henrik Oja
  • WILDSTAR, Jeff Kurtenacker
  • ABZU, Austin Wintory

2017 has been an outstanding year for game scores; each of the here-presented nominees provided a highly entertaining score whose style varies a lot from the other nominations. Geoff Knorr’s “Civilization IV” covered quite a lot of different musical arrangements, anchored by an outstanding main theme by composer Christopher Tin, while “Unravel” was set in a more restrained yet powerful soundscape. Jeff Kurtenacker’s “Wildstar” and Furukuwa’s outstanding “The Last Guardian” heavily relied on a more orchestra approach , the latter of them almost taking the crown with some outstanding orchestra-and-choir-writing.

However, there is still one score to go, Austin Wintory’s “Abzu”, released by Varése Sarabande due to the high demand. The composer’s virtuoso choir writing combined with the lush string writing is truly haunting and the compositional intelligence with which Wintory executes his musical intentions makes up for the, at least in my opinion, best video game score of 2016.

Best Original Music Composition of the Year:

  • “ME BEFORE YOU ORCHESTRAL” from “ME BEFORE YOU”, Craig Armstrong
  • “BEK AND ZAYA’S THEME” from “GODS OF EGYPT”, Marco Beltrami
  • “NIGHT ON THE YORKTOWN” from STAR TREK: BEYOND, Michael Giacchino
  • “EPILOGUE” from “LA LA LAND”, Justin Hurwitz
  • “GO TO HER” from MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, Mike Higham & Matthew Margeson

This is probably the most difficult category to chose from, at least apart from “Best Original Score of the Year”, cause there were so many wonderful cues on so many scores that it is almost impossible to get all of them the recognition they deserve. From the incredible lovely set Piece “Me Before You Orchestral” presenting Armstrong’s main ideas for the film’s tragic love story, Marco Beltrami’s gorgeous woodwind-led love theme in “Bek and Zaya’s Theme”, John Debney’s majestic “Elephant Waterfall” in which he brilliantly mixes Mowgli’s theme with the Elephant motif, Michael Giacchino finally capturing the Goldsmithian romantic Star Trek spirit in the choir-heavy “Night on the Yorktown”, his “Jyn Erso and Hope Suite” featuring some exquisite violin/cello writing and being an adequate addition to the musical Star Wars canon, James Newton Howard going full fantasy mode in the exceptional 9-minute “Inside the Case” in which he weaves in and out some of the score’s most important themes, introduces new motifs and still manages to make it a coherent, beautiful listening experience to the jazz-heavy “Epilogue” from Justin Hurwitz’s “La La Land” score, the melancholic “Go To Her”, a truly wonderful variation on the score’s main theme, Fernando Velazquez’s “Gracias por Cuirdanos”, a nice send-off to a wonderful adventure score and Christopher Young’s superb “Bailongma, The White Dragon Horse”, featuring some outstanding brass writing in the cue’s second half, make up for a spectacular list of 2016’s best film score cues.

Composer of the Year:

Michael Giacchino


  • JOHN DEBNEY (The Young Messiah, The Jungle Book, Ice Age: Collision Curse, League of Gods)
  • ALEXANDRE DESPLAT (Florence Foster Jenkins, Marseille, Alone in Berlin, The Secret Life of Pets, L’Odyssee, The Light Between Oceans, American Pastoral)
  • MICHAEL GIACCHINO (Zootopia, Star Trek Beyond, Doctor Strange, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)
  • JAMES NEWTON HOWARD (The Huntsman: Winter’s War, All the Way, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them)
  • FERNANDO VELAZQUEZ (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Zipi y Zape y la Isla del Capitán, Gernika, A Monster Calls, Ozzy)

Having scored four high-grossing movies in 2016 and presenting three of them with absolutely wonderful scores, Michael Giacchino takes the crown as 2016’s composer of the year: Not only did he finally bring the romantic Goldsmith spirit to the modern Star Trek franchise, he further enhanced the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his unusual “Doctor Strange” score while simultaneously providing an extremely memorable kick-ass main theme, and still found the time to successfully pull out an intelligent Star Wars score in the tradition of John Williams that probably cannot compete with what the maestro would have written, but still counts as one of the best scores written in 2016.

Apart from that, veteran composer Alexandre Desplat had quite a decent year, writing scores with a wide thematic range in multiple genres. And who knows: If he would have stayed on board with “Rogue One”, maybe he could have been named “Composer of the Year” as well, but that is just some random speculation. John Debney finally got the chance to step out of the shadow and replaced his usual lazy-comedy-assignments with some highly anticipated blockbuster scores, his soaring “The Jungle Book” score being one of the most entertaining efforts he has ever pulled off. Still, we have Workaholic James Newton Howard who, apart from the somber “All the Way”, once again proved why is one of Hollywood’s most respected and well-regarded composers by unleashing two wonderful fantasy scores, one of them being the score of the year. Spanish composer Fernando Vélazquez rounds out the nominees, the comparatively young composer writing six superb scores and covering a wide range of genres from horror to adventure and drama.

Best Archival Release of an Existing Score:

Intrada’s 6-disc re-release of Elmer Bernstein’s classic “The Ten Commandments”.


  • IS PARIS BURNING? (Maurice Jarre), James Fitzpatrick, Nic Raine for Prometheus Records & Tadlow Music.
  • THE JOHN WILLIAMS JURASSIC PARK COLLECTION (John Williams), Mike Matessino, Jim Titus, MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys for La-La Land Records.
  • THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (Thomas Newman), Constantine Nasr, Dan Goldwasser, Mike Matessino, Jeff James, Didier C. Deutsch, MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys for La-La Land Records.
  • THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (Miklós Rózsa), James Fitzpatrick, Luc Van De Ven, Nic Raine for Prometheus Records & Tadlow Music.
  • THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (Elmer Bernstein), Joe Sikoryak, Frank K. DeWald, Chris Malone, Douglass Fake, Roger Feigelson.

The endless “rivalry” between Intrada and La-La Land Records continues…while the former put out the 6-disc masterpiece that is Elmer Bernstein’s “The Ten Commandments”, a release to be treasured very well, the latter presented us with a wonderful re-release of John Williams’s expanded “Jurassic Park” scores, the newly released material adding even more depth to the already strong narrative, and Thomas Newman’s outstanding “The Shawshank Redemption”, one of the composer’s few examples of using the full orchestral palette, enhancing the movie with a wonderfully intimate, emotional score. Tadlow one again cemented their status as one of the most influential quality labels by releasing re-recordings of Maurice Jarre’s “Is Paris Burning?” and, bringing the year to an epic conclusion, Miklós Rózsa’s “The Thief of Bagdad”, one of my personal holy grails, for which I cannot thank Fitzpatrick and Raine enough. However, the enormous effort and work put into the enormous release of Bernstein’s biblical masterpiece more than justifies for the decision to name it the “Best Archival Release of an Existing Score” in 2016.

Best Original Song:

  • “ANOTHER DAY OF SUN” from “LA LA LAND”, Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul.
  • “SOMEONE IN THE CROWD” from “LA LA LAND”, Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasel, Justin Paul.
  • “THE GREAT BEYOND” from “SAUSAGE PARTY”, Alan Menken and Glenn Slater with Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, and Ariel Shaffir.
  • “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING” from “TROLLS”, Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, Shellback.
  • “HOW FAR I’LL GO” from “MOANA”, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Does this category even need an introduction? I decided to reduce the number of songs for which one film could be nominated to 2 nominations; otherwise you would have only seen “La La Land”…

The lovely, unbelievably energetic “Another Day of Sun”, accompanying the opening of Damien Chazelles’s critically acclaimed movie, is the clear frontrunner in this category, and ist victory in here should not come as a big surprise. Also noteworthy are the resembling “Someone in the Crowd”, nominated as well, the melancholic “City of Stars” and the emotional pinnacle that comes with “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. Apart from that, one should take note of the hilarious “The Great Beyond” from Seth Rogen’s R-rated “Sausage Party” – the devilish funny lyrics are accompanied by a heavenly melody by the one and only Alan Menken -, Justin Timerlake’s pop earworm “Can’t Stop The Feeling” and the upbeat “How Far I’ll Go” from Disney’s “Moana” which is, despite not being on the level of “Let It Go”, still a nice song on its own.

Congratulations to all winners and many thanks for reading – here’s looking to what 2017 will bring…



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