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Yes, I know, when this column first appeared, it was titled simply "The 2013 Top Forty Composer Countdown, Part One." But once I realized that there was no way I'd finish all ten or so installments of the this column by the end of the year, and that it was equally unlikely that I'd get around to continuing the series by the end of 2014...oh, you get the point.


2011 RANKING: Not ranked
AGE: 45
  The Social Network
ONGOING FILMMAKER RELATIONSHIPS:  David Fincher, The Hughes Brothers
BACKGROUND:  Music programmer and producer, collaborator with Nine Inch Nails, TV composer
FAN FAVORITES: The Social Network
TYPECAST IN:  Thrillers
1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--102 (U.S. gross in millions)
2. The Social Network--96 
3. The Book of Eli--94
4.  Broken City--19  

Atticus Ross and his frequent film music partner Trent Reznor followed up their Oscar-winning score for The Social Network with another high-profile film from director David Fincher, the stylish English-language remake of the Swedish hit The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The film was a reasonable success in U.S. theaters though probably didn’t gross high enough to inaugurate the desired franchise, and while Ross and Reznor were not among the film’s several Oscar nominees, the duo did manage to snag a Grammy for their soundtrack (the score’s commercial release was actually a three-disc set that favored their original approach to the score instead of the final film versions of the cues).  The multi-story drama Days of Grace featured contributions from several composers, including Ross and his frequent collaborators Leopold Ross and Claudia Sarne (as well as Shigeru Umebayashi and Nick Cave & Warren Ellis) but never received a wide release, though the score is available on CD.  Ross was at one point the composer assigned to the period martial arts fantasy 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves, but that troubled production (filmed in 2011) is finally due to reach theaters this Christmas with an Ilan Eshkeri score. Ross’s one feature released this year (co-composed with Sarne & Ross) was the political noir Broken City, but despite the presence of A-listers Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe the film made little impression at the box-office. It is not known yet if Ross and Reznor will be scoring Fincher’s highly anticipated film of the bestseller Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Tyler Perry(!).


2011 RANKING:  Not ranked
AGE: Unavailable
BIRTHPLACE:  Salvador Bahia, Brazil
REP: Unavailable
BACKGROUND:  South American cinema
TYPECAST IN:  Gritty drama
1. Snitch--42  
2. The Host--26
3. Lord of War--24 
4. Perfect Stranger--23
5. City of God--7
6. Central Station--5
7. Love in the Time of Cholera--4
8. Senna--1 

Pinto has been scoring feature films only intermittently in the last few years, with some major projects not receiving a U.S. theatrical release.  Whale Rider’s director Niki Caro and Oscar-nominated young star Keisha-Castle Hughes reunited for the period romance A Heavenly Vintage (aka The Vintner’s Luck), but the 2009 production has yet to appear in the United States. Mel Gibson returned to Payack turf as producer-star-story-writer with the south-of-the-Border caper thriller Get the Gringo (aka How I Spent My Summer Vacation), but the film went directly to DVD in the U.S.  Pinto scored the critically acclaimed racing documentary Senna, and this year he had two fiction films in major release -- the fact-based action drama Snitch, starring Dwayne Johnson, and the film version of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling sci-fi romance The Host, which reunited him with Lord of War writer-director Andrew Niccoll. Next up is a documentary called JR.



AGE: 49
BIRTHPLACE: San Diego, California
REP: Kraft-Engel
RELATIONSHIPS: Bryan Singer, Joel Silver,
BACKGROUND: USC, film editor
FAN FAVORITE: The Usual Suspects
TYPECAST IN: Superheroes, horror
1. X2--214
2. Superman Returns--200
3. Fantastic Four--154
4. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer--131
5. Valkyrie--82
6. Jack the Giant Slayer--65
7. Unknown--63
8. The Cable Guy--60
9. Gothika--59
10. Halloween H20--55

Director Bryan Singer and producer Joel Silver continue to be the crucial filmmaking collaborators of Ottman’s career, employing him with impressive regularity. He had a modest success in 2011 with the Silver production Unknown, a twisty thriller starring Liam Neeson (Ottman shared the scoring credit with Alexander Rudd) but the thriller The Resident, a production from the newly reformed Hammer Films starring two-time Best Actress winner Hillary Swank, went straight to DVD in the U.S.  Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer was a charming homage to the great Harryhausen age of fantasy cinema, but did a disappointing $65 million in U.S. theaters ($17 million less than the last Singer/Ottman collaboration, Valkyrie). Next year Ottman has two plausible hits lined up  -- another Liam Neeson/Joel Silver thriller, Non-Stop (for those who’ve felt it’s been too long since Red Eye and Flightplan), and the first film to merge the two sets of X-Men casts, Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which will make Ottman the first composer to score two entries in that hit superhero franchise.

WHAT'S NEXT: Non-Stop, X-Men: Days of Future Past


2011 RANKING: Not ranked
AGE: 43
BIRTHPLACE: Akureyi, Iceland
REP: First Artists
RELATIONSHIPS: Olatunde Osunsanmi
BACKGROUND: Berklee College of Music, North Carolina School of the Arts, Icelandic pop/rock group “Salin hans Jons mins,” TV composer, Media Ventures/Remote Control
FAN FAVORITES: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
TYPECAST IN: Supernatural thrillers
1. Vantage Point--72 
2. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters--55 
3. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones--31  
4. The Fourth Kind--25 
5. Season of the Witch--24
6. Babylon A.D.--22
7. The Eagle--19

Atli Orvarsson has been working regularly in television for the last few years, scoring the all-star, short-lived Law & Order: LA as well as the current hunky-firemen drama Chicago Fire, but he’s recently had a resurgence big screen projects.  The revisionist horror fantasy Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters waited a long time on the shelf before hitting theaters, but the film did surprisingly good business, enough to inspire an in-development sequel. Orvarsson was originally announced to score director Harald Zwart’s hit remake of The Karate Kid but the assignment ultimately went to James Horner. When Zwart’s latest film, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, lost its first composer, Gabriel Yared, Orvarsson won the assignment, whose romantic horror fantasy mixture proved an ideal musical canvas for the composer. Two other recent films, the thrillers Evidence and A Single Shot, had only limited releases, with the latter appearing on video on demand before it hit theaters.


2011 RANKING:13
AGE: 49
BIRTHPLACE: San Diego, California
REP: Gorfaine/Schwartz
BACKGROUND: Concert composer, music producer
RELATIONSHIPS: Nick Cassavetes, Tyler Perry
TYPECAST IN: Romantic comedy, African-American comedy, tearjerkers
1. The Proposal--163 
2. Sex and the City--152
3. Sex and the City 2--95
4. Madea Goes to Jail--90
5. The Ugly Truth--88
6. Bridge to Terabithia--82
7. The Notebook--81
8. John Q.--71
9. Madea’s Witness Protection-- 65
10. Step Up--65

Zigman has been as prolific as ever, but hasn’t had a true box-office smash since The Proposal in 2009. His most famous collaborator, actor-writer-producer-director Tyler Perry, is as prolific as ever, making up to two films every year, but some of the box-office shine has worn off the Madea brand, and Perry’s biggest attempt to stray from the brand he created, For Colored Girls, was not the award winner its makers had hoped for.  Along with the Madea films, and Perry’s dramas including Good Deeds and Temptation, Zigman scored the charming comedy Peeples, advertised as Tyler Perry Presents Peeples. Writer-director David Talbert is considered to be Tyler Perry’s forerunner, so it only makes sense that Zigman should score Talbert’s recent romantic comedy Baggage Claim, giving the enjoyable but indefensible formula film more musical charm than it probably deserved. He apparently did not score director NIck Cassavetes’ largely unreleased Yellow, but he is reuniting with the director for The Other Woman, starring Cameron Diaz. He returned to the Step Up franchise (after skipping chapter 3) with the visually striking, 3D Step Up: Revolution, and other recent projects in the last few years include the failed film version of I Don’t Know How She Does It (on which he replaced Rachel Portman) and the amusing romantic comedy What’s Your Number. His biggest recent hit was the animated Escape from Planet Earth ($57 million), and along with the new Cassavetes, he’s reuniting with Perry for his seventh Madea movies, a film I’m sure everyone who reads these columns will rush out and see. [UPDATE: I've just read in Film Music Reporter that it will be Christopher Young, NOT Aaron Zigman, composing the score to Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas.]

WHAT’S NEXT: The Other Woman


2011 RANKING:  Not ranked
AGE: 56
BIRTHPLACE:  San Jose, California
REP:  First Artists
RELATIONSHIPS:  Judd Apatow, Nicholas Stoller
BACKGROUND:  Rock-jazz guitarist (with Bourgeois Tagg, Jellyfish), studio and session musician, documentary and TV composer
1. Superbad--121
2. The 40 Year Old Virgin--109
3. Yes Man--97
4. Forgetting Sarah Marshall--62
5. Get Him to the Greek--60
6. American Reunion--56
7. 21 and Over--25  
8. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone--22  
9. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard--15
10. Win Win--10

After scoring a film only every year or two, Workman unexpectedly had three films in theaters during the first months of 2013, and though none was a hit on the caliber of Superbad or The 40 Year Old Virgin, they reinforced his status as a go-to guy for comedy. Short Circuit co-star Fisher Stevens directed three Oscar winners, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in the mobster comedy Stand Up Guys, and the project proved worthy of none of their talents, but Workman’s music was well regarded enough that it received its own score CD separate from the song CD. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was a surprising flop at the boxoffice despite a cast of top comic actors (including Steve Carell and Jim Carrey) but it gave Workman the chance to expand his range, while the amusing college farce 21 and Over featured a more song-dominated musical approach, typical of the genre. His biggest critical hit of late has been writer-director Tom McCarthy’s comedy-drama Win Win, which shows he can work comfortably with less broad subject matter.


2011 RANKING:  Not ranked
AGE: Unavailable
REP:  Kraft-Engel
RELATIONSHIPS:  Lasse Hallstrom, Joe Nussbaum
BACKGROUND:  USC, rock arranger-producer, short films composer (George Lucas in Love), stage musical arranger
TYPECAST IN:  Films about women and teenagers
1. Dear John--80  
2. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never--73
3. Safe Haven--71  
4. Footloose--51
5. 9--31
6. One for the Money--26 
7. Katy Perry: Part of Me--25
8. Sydney White--11 
9. Prom--10 
10. Sleepover--9 

Fourteen years after the film version of Message in a Bottle was released, Hollywood is still bringing Nicholas Sparks’ bestselling romantic tearjerkers to the screen, and quite unexpectedly, Lasse Hallstrom’s 2010 film version of Dear John (pairing Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum) was by far the best one yet. For its score, Hallstrom brought on Deborah Lurie, who had written the replacement score for his Robert Redford/Jennifer Lopez drama, An Unfinished Life. Lurie’s Dear John score (only released as a composer promo) was refreshingly restrained, and she teamed up with the director for another Sparks adaptation, Safe Haven, but though box-office was comparable, this rehash of Sleeping with the Enemy (with a Shyamalan twist) was no Dear John. While adapting Danny Elfman’s themes for the striking animated feature 9 was a nice change in genre for the composer, the comedy mystery One for the Money (with Katherine Heigl as Janet Evanovich’s fictional bounty hunter Stephanie Plum) was something less than a franchise starter. She seems to be cornering the market in films geared toward teenage girls -- she’s not only scored comedies like Fun Size, Prom, Sleepover and the underrated remake of Footloose, but composed the incidental music for the Justin Bieber and Katy Perry concert documentaries. She also provided additional scoring for Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator and produced Joss Whedon’s original score for his critically acclaimed Much Ado About Nothing


2011 RANKING:Not ranked
AGE: 45
REP:  First Artists
RELATIONSHIPS:  Jay & Mark Duplass, Paul Feig, Jake Kasdan
BACKGROUND:  Rock songwriter-performer (Elgin Park, Metric, Greyboy Allstars), TV composer (Freaks and Geeks)
FAN FAVORITE:  Donnie Darko
TYPECAST IN:  R-rated comedy
1. Bridesmaids--169
2. The Heat--159 (as of 10/27/13)
3. Bad Teacher--100 
4. Funny People--51
5. Orange County--41
6. She’s Out of My League--31
7. The Five-Year Engagement--28 
8. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story--18
9. Unaccompanied Minors--16
10. Out Cold--13

While Andrews has been scoring features for over a decade, in the last few years he suddenly broke out with three hundred-million-dollar hit comedies. His longterm collaboration with director Jake Kasdan, beginning with scoring Kasdan’s debut film, Zero Effect, as part of the group Greyboy Allstars, had its first true box-office smash with the 2011 comedy Bad Teacher, with Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake. His working relationship with writer-director Paul Feig goes back to TV’s cult classic Freaks and Geeks, and in the last three years the team has collaborated on two box-office smashes, both featuring Melissa McCarthy -- the Oscar-nominated Bridesmaids, and this summer’s morally indefensible but very funny female buddy cop comedy The Heat. He maintains his indie credibility by working with the Duplass brothers on offbeat comedies like Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home, and he showed he can work outside of comedy with Mira Nira’s recent political thriller, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Next up is another low comedy -- Neighbors, pitting young parents Jason Segel and Rose Byrne against a frat house led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco.

WHAT’S NEXT: Neighbors


2011 RANKING: 24
AGE: 64
BIRTHPLACE: New Rochelle, New York
REP: Kraft-Engel
BACKGROUND: New York University, off-Broadway and Broadway songwriter
Beauty and the Beast
FAN FAVORITES: Beauty and the Beast, Enchanted
TYPECAST IN: animated musicals
1. Aladdin--217
2. Tangled--200  
3. Beauty and the Beast--192
4. Pocahontas--141
5. Enchanted--127
6. The Little Mermaid--111
7. The Hunchback of Notre Dame--100
8. Hercules--99
9. Mirror Mirror--64 
10. The Shaggy Dog—60

There was a time in the 1990s where it seemed as if every animated film had to be a musical or quasi-musical -- even Toy Story had extraneous songs woven into its Randy Newman score -- but these days the animated musical is an increasing rarity, and even Newman’s score for the hit Monsters University lacked the expected, surefire Oscar nomination song. 2010's Tangled was the first animated musical scored by Menken since Home on the Range in 2004, and was a deserved smash with yet another Oscar-nominated Menken song, “I See the Light.” He scored a rare live action feature, Mirror Mirror, the revisionist comedy version of Snow White, but the film was only a modest hit. His next animated musical was supposed to be a Disney version of The Snow Queen, but that long-in-development project is finally reaching the screen this fall as Frozen, with songs by the husband and wife team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and score by Christophe Beck. Like Marc Shaiman, Menken may have decided that his talents are better suited to the stage, as he’s been busy in the last few years with stage musicals such as adaptations of the films Sister Act, Leap of Faith, and the Broadway smash version of Newsies.


2011 RANKING: 40
AGE: 53
REP: Kraft-Engel
BACKGROUND: Studied guitar and composition at conservatory; solo recording artist; session musician; collaborator with Hans Zimmer
FAN FAVORITES: Despicable Me
TYPECAST IN: Kids movies
1. Despicable Me 2--364 (10/27/13)
2. Despicable Me--251
3. The Smurfs--142
4. Spy Kids--116
5. It's Complicated--112 
6. Beverly Hills Chihuahua--94
7. The Smurfs 2--70 (10/27/13)
8. Curious George--58
9. Riding in Cars with Boys--30
10. Dirty Dancing: Havana Night--14

Heitor Pereira has probably never received quite the credit he deserved for his score to the animated hit Despicable Me, as singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams received first billing and is the kind of music world star name that gets all the attention from critics, but with luck that has changed with the release of Despicable Me 2. The sequel had made over a hundred million more than the original at the U.S. box-office, making it only the second film this year to cross the $300 million mark, while Pereira received credit for the score while Williams is credited with “songs and themes.” This year he followed the hit The Smurfs with the less successful The Smurfs 2, and he is expected to score the upcoming Despicable Me spinoff Minions.

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Comments (9):Log in or register to post your own comments
Woohoo!! One of my favorite series is back! Thanks for your work on this, Scott. :-)

Heck yeah! Love this series too, although it reminds me of another series you started a looooong time ago that you never finished - "My 100 Favorite Scores" or something like that - that I still to this day am waiting on you to wrap up. So what about it Scott? I have been enduring patiently for years for the last 25 or so of those scores. At least when I remember that you didn't finish it. Like I did today. :)

I just read on Film Music Reporter that it is Christopher Young, not Aaron Zigman, who is scoring the new Madea film, so I'll correct that immediately.

I just read on Film Music Reporter that it is Christopher Young, not Aaron Zigman, who is scoring the new Madea film, so I'll correct that immediately.

Be sure to include that in your #1 entry.

Heck yeah! Love this series too, although it reminds me of another series you started a looooong time ago that you never finished - "My 100 Favorite Scores" or something like that - that I still to this day am waiting on you to wrap up. So what about it Scott? I have been enduring patiently for years for the last 25 or so of those scores. At least when I remember that you didn't finish it. Like I did today. :)

Thank you for the reminder. I am going to attempt to wrap up this year's Top Forty Countdown (a ten-part series this time) by the end of 2013 (wish me luck!), especially since I suspect I won't get around to doing one a year from now, so once that's done I'll make finishing One Hundred Favorite Scores a priority (sadly, the last few years of scores have been so weak that I don't have to worry about the list changing -- though I did get to see an early screening of The Book Thief and the Williams score is truly lovely, by far the best of 2013).

Great to see these again! Subjective as they are, and as depressing as it will be to see Remote Control in first place, they are always a good and well-researched read.

Incidentally, I noticed the unintentional doubling of a word in the Atticus Ross's entry: "inaugurate the desired franchise franchise."

Great to see these again! Subjective as they are, and as depressing as it will be to see Remote Control in first place, they are always a good and well-researched read.

Incidentally, I noticed the unintentional doubling of a word in the Atticus Ross's entry: "inaugurate the desired franchise franchise."

Thanks for the franchise catch -- I'll try to fix that.

And don't be so sure about Remote Control being in first place. After all, there's this French dude that everyone seems to want to work with these days.

UPDATED: Just fixed the mistake. Though I suppose if someone made multiple sequels to the comedy Good Burger, that would be a franchise franchise.

Based on Jack the Giant Slayer, I expected Ottman to be lower than this!

Based on Jack the Giant Slayer, I expected Ottman to be lower than this!

He's still working with Bryan Singer, and that means he has at least one X-Men film coming up, possibly two.

By the way, I am working on parts two through ten(!) of this year's series, so don't assume I forgot about it just because it's been over a month since part one (though that would indeed be a plausible assumption).

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