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The 13th Annual JWFan Awards - The Best Scores and Films of 2020!

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It was filmed in 2019 and they finished all post-production just before the pandemic started, but it aired from Feb-April of this year

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I also listened to somewhere between 6 and 700 scores this year - although if I'm being honest, it's closer to 6.

2020 bad.  RuPaul's Drag Race good. 

Ah yes, The Fannies.  A wonderful time of year!

I'll list some of my favorite films from 2020, but how exactly do you determine the year? There are always ambiguities here, as some may consider the year of first screening (which is usually a limited festival premiere) as the release year, while others take the year of wide release, when it first becomes available to a broad audience, as the release year. This is why, for example, films such as High Life often appear in the lists for 2019, rather than 2018, even though it was first screened in 2018.

Anyway, here are three of my recommendations:


I am quite disappointed with the direction that mainstream animation studios are currently taking, and I just can't stand the stuff produced by Disney/Pixar in the last decade. So, when I want to watch an animated film, I typically look into Japanese studios, who innovate much more, and value stronger, non-formulaic narratives. Another alternative are small, independent productions, but it's hard to keep track of those, and their quality can vary widely, so animation festivals are always a hit-or-miss thing for me. That said, there has been a very pleasant surprise this year in the latter category.

Wolfwalkers is an absolutely gorgeous film, produced internationally by Irish and French studios. The film is set in medieval Ireland, and the plot has a lot of Celtic mythology in it. If you are familiar with Studio Ghibli films, Wolfwalkers follows a sort of similar narrative form, but, of course, it's totally Irish, with a very cool traditional animation style. There are plenty of moments of sheer visual beauty, and the film should appeal to a wide audience, with a social commentary and critique presented through fantastical allegories. The soundtrack is also amazing, influenced by folk music, with several artists from different countries contributing.


2. TRUE MOTHERS (朝が来る)

Naomi Kawase is a quite well-known director, and is continuously praised in all sorts of film festivals, such as Cannes. I hadn't yet seen any of her work, so True Mothers was a first for me. The film is an adaptation of a Japanese novel, but it almost feels like the director is telling her own story, because the whole experience is just so damn sensitive, personal and emotional. It's a family drama on one hand, but on the other hand it's also a social commentary on the way adoptions work in Japan, and what adopted kids and their mothers go through. All of this is told in a very poetic way. Naomi just loves playing with the cinematography in every shot. There's sunlight and nature all over the place.


3. THE YEAR OF THE DISCOVERY (El año del descubrimiento)

For the documentary lovers, I'd recommend The Year of the Discovery. Luis López Carrasco is still not a very well known director, despite producing some really experimental documentary features. This latest work by him is no exception, as here he presents it in a split-screen format. It's weird at first, but eventually you get used to it.

The documenatary is a deep dive into the modern Spanish society, and a look at how post-Franco politics have affected the working class of the 1990s and onwards. You basically take the position of a spectator, listening to countless monologues and dialogues, where normal people simply talk about their day-to-day lives, and reminisce about the 1990s. It gets emotional at times, and with its harsh critique of privatization and the corporate politics of the European Union, it's targeted towards leftist audiences.


That's my main highlights of 2020. Again, depending on the definitions used, I could have included some films that are technically from 2019, but I'm not sure, so I'll wait with that.

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1 hour ago, Jay said:

Season 5 of Better Call Saul was a huge bounce back to greatness after the disappointing season 4

They made a big mistake by not getting to the Saul Goodman story sooner😒

18 hours ago, Jay said:



Watching CHISEVEN tonite.

I'm actually something of an EXPERT on that trial!😁


My favorite expanded release this year was INTERSTELLAR.

Not just for the music, but the $!




Biggest disappointment:

No CD for WESTWORLD season three😰

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30 minutes ago, bruce marshall said:

They made a big mistake by not getting to the Saul Goodman story sooner😒


Season 5 is all Saul, all the time, plus an amazing Kim storyline, plus a way better storyline for Mike, plus interesting developments for Nacho and Lalo.  And if you remember Northern Exposure, Barry Corbin shows up as a memorable new character

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49 minutes ago, Jay said:


Season 5 is all Saul, all the time, plus an amazing Kim storyline, plus a way better storyline for Mike, plus interesting developments for Nacho and Lalo.  And if you remember Northern Exposure, Barry Corbin shows up as a memorable new character

Barry Corbin is still around?!

I'm watching him NOW in LONESOME DOVE!

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13 hours ago, Arpy said:

The films that were released were duds, the scores ranged from 'meh' to 'bleh' and the highlights for me were scores from decades ago getting a proper expanded release.


Pretty much my opinion. 

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I switched that one off rather quickly. That's the thing with me lately, when I start watching something, I need to instantly like it or I no longer have the patience for it. Isn't that weird?

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  • 3 weeks later...

It appears that my editors at the film site I work for have too busy a slate, so I won't be able to post my favourite films for a couple of weeks yet (untill the lists are online). But I can at the very least share my film music favourites!


I've already alerted you to my (English) podcast episode about my top 10 scores of 2020, but I can just as well post it here again, since I doubt anyone reads my Celluloid Tunes thread:




For those of you who are not interested in hearing the episode, or my reasoning for choosing these particular titles, I'm putting the list here for your convenience (the episode only talks about the top 10, and mentions the runner-ups). I've listened to somewhere between 6-700 scores in 2020:


TOP 10:


1. Blood Machines (Carpenter Brut)

2. She Dies Tomorrow (Mondo Boys)

3. The Rise of the Synths (OGRE Sound)

4. Last and First Men (Jóhann Jóhannsson)

5. The Racer (Hannes de Maeyer)

6. Da 5 Bloods (Terence Blanchard)

7. The Craft: Legacy (Heather Christian)

8. Bad Education (Michael Abels)

9. Fukushima 50 (Taro Iwashiro)

10. Let Them All Talk (Thomas Newman)




Adoring (Nicolas Errera)

The Glorias (Elliot Goldenthal)

Wild Mountain Thyme (Amelia Warner)

Kyojo (Naoki Sato)

Une Belle Histoire (Guillaume Loiseau)

The Shade Shepherd (Jonny Mendez)

Guns Akimbo (Enis Rotthof)

Unbelievable!!!! (Gerald Fried)




Wonder Woman 1984 (Hans Zimmer)

News of the World (James Newton Howard)

Hope Gap (Alex Heffes)

Wolfwalkers (Bruno Coulais)

Come Away (John Debney)

Rebuilding Paradise (Hans Zimmer & Lorne Balfe)

37 Seconds (Aska Matsumiya)

The Last Vermeer (Johan Söderqvist)

Harbor from the Holocaust (Chad Cannon)

The Life Ahead (Gabriel Yared)

The Personal History of David Copperfield (Christopher Wills)

Sadan Hanim (George Kallis)

Filles de Joie (Vincent Cahay)

La Nuit Venue (Rone)

Adieu les cons (Christophe Julien)

Volevo nascondermi (Marco Biscarini & Daniele Furlati)

Picciridda (Pericle Odierna)

The Windermere Children (Alex Baranowski)

A Christmas Carol (Alex Baronowski)

Big Time Adolescence (Zachary Dawes & Nick Sena)

Infamous (Bill Brown)

Summerland (Volker Bertelmann)

Spontaneous (Joseph Trapanese)

Black Beauty (Guillaume Roussel)

Il Regno (Umberto Smerilli)




Soul (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross & Jon Batiste)

Mank (Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross)

Villeta con ospiti (Francesco Cerasi)

Let Them All Talk (Thomas Newman)

Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom (Branford Marsalis)




Dolittle (Danny Elfman)

The Witches (Alan Silvestri)

Mulan (Harry Gregson-Williams)

Call of the Wild (John Powell)

The Midnight Sky (Alexandre Desplat)

Tenet (Ludwig Göransson)




Betty (Aska Matsumiya)

Succession – season 2 (Nicholas Brittell)

His Dark Materials – season 2 (Lorne Balfe)

White Lines (Tom Holkenborg)

The Singapore Grip (Anne Dudley)

Dime Quien Soy (Lucas Vidal)

High Score (Power Glove)

Raised by Wolves (Ben Frost & Mark Streitenfeld)

La Révolution (Saycet)

The Unlisted (Diego Baldenweg, Nora Baldenweg & Lionel Baldenweg)

Devs (Ben Salisbury, Geoff Barrow & The Insects)




Ghostrunner (Daniel Deluxe)

Hyperbrawl (Steve Levine)

Bleeding Edge (David Garcia Diaz and Jamie Molloy)

Crest of Flames (Rozen)

Necrobarista (Kevin Penkin and Jeremy Lim)

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36 minutes ago, Fabulin said:


 have you encountered any tuneful, large orchestral scores this year? Something for a JWFan?


It's not what attracts me the most these days, but sure -- there are some of those on the list above: FUKUSHIMA 50 (Iwashiro), COME AWAY (Debney), ADORING (Errera), WILD MOUNTAIN THYME (Warner), UNBELIEVABLE (Fried), THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD (Willis), BLACK BEAUTY (Rousell), to mention some.

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Yeah, but it's against the gospel of JWFan to say that there are good scores being written recently.


It's the Seventh Comandment of the JWFanner: "Thou shalt not worship any score released after 1999"

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16 hours ago, Edmilson said:

Yeah, but it's against the gospel of JWFan to say that there are good scores being written recently.


It's the Seventh Comandment of the JWFanner: "Thou shalt not worship any score released after 1999"

I think this is neither a question of old and new nor of good or bad, it is rather a matter of style and taste. If you have a music taste for film scores that is more oriented to classical music of the romantic aera and you have a crush for John Williams and Bernard Herrmann you will not get happy with the 95% spheric or minimalistic or electronic or postmodern patchwork sampling style of modern scores. It would be like telling a fan of Led Zeppelin, if you like that you also love Rammstein, because it's also rock music.

And there might be still great bands today making music like Led Zeppelin. If you find them, good. But still you might not like 95% of modern Rock music. And this is not a matter of dogmatism but of taste.

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I forgot to add the 'archival' category earlier.


Top 5 archival releases (no, you won't find any expansions here, for obvious reasons):


1. MARPLE, Dominik Scherrer (Moviescore Media)

2. ENDLESS NIGHT, Bernard Herrmann cond. Fernando Velazquez (Quartet)

3. ANGELICA, Zbigniew Preisner (Caldera)

4. MAN AT THE TOP, Roy Budd (Caldera)

5. AGATHA [UNUSED SCORE], Howard Blake (Dragon's Domain)


Top 5 archival compilations:



2. JOHN WILLIAMS IN VIENNA, John Williams (Deutsche Grammophon)


4. FRANZ WAXMAN: THE DOCUMENTARIES, Franz Waxman (Dragon's Domain)

5. MORRICONE SEGRETO, Ennio Morricone (Decca)

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Updated my list, since we're still posting here and I watched and listened to 6-7 more 2020 things this month.




1.       The One and Only Ivan (Armstrong)

2.  Over the Moon (Price, songs by Curtis/Duffield/Park)

3.  The Mandalorian Season 2 (Ludwig Goransson)

4.       The Witches (Alan Silvestri)

5.       Dolittle (Danny Elf Man)

6. Soul (Batiste/Reznor/Ross)

7.       Onward (Mychael Danna)

8.       The Platform (Aranzazu Calleja)

9.       The Clone Wars Season 7 (Kiner)

10.       Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge (Gordy Haab)

11.       The Willoughbys (Mark Mothersbaugh)

12.       Star Wars: Squadrons (Gordy Haab)

13.   Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Stephen Barton)

14. Love and Monsters (Beltrami/Trumpp)

15.   The Hunt (Nathan Barr)

16. Scoob! (Junkie XL)

17. Songbird (Balfe)







1.       The Invisible Man

2.       Birds of Prey, or the Fabtabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn

3.       The Hunt

4.       Underwater

5.       Soul

6. Over the Moon

7. Scare Me

8. The One and Only Ivan

9.       Onward

10. Love and Monsters

11.  The Platform

12.       Trolls World Tour

13.       The Willoughbys

14.       The Witches

15.   DieRy

16. Scoob!

17. Songbird

18.   Gretel and Hansel

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Ooh, how was the One and Only Ivan (the film I mean)?  I was curious about that one - thanks for reminding me that it exists!  The cast is stacked...

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It was decent - it’s very much a kids’ movie (that stacked cast is mostly animal voice actors) but it’s pretty restrained in its zaniness, the performances are across the board good, including a few very nice moments from human character Cranston, and it has a gentle animal rights message - the kind in a kids movie that one could go either way on whether or not they feel it is too preachy. Armstrong’s pretty score floated right to the top of my (admittedly weak) 2020 crop.

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