2013 wasn't really a great year for cinema was it? There were a few late-blooming releases near the year's end and towards the beginning of 2014, but as a whole, 2013 was a pretty terrible year for movies. It's no surprise then that the Best Original Music category for the 2014 BAFTA awards left something to be desired.

Out of all the films nominated, only two soundtracks spring to mind that I fondly remember. Hans Zimmer gave his most Hans Zimmeriest performance for 12 Years a Slave, and while not bad, it felt like the composer had fallen into a shtick that he couldn't quite escape from. Equally unable to break into greatness was the nail-biting tension of the Captain Phillips score, that, while effective, proved to leave us with nothing particularly memorable. And that's really the 2014 BAFTAS in a nutshell: a lot of good nominees, but very few great ones. Thankfully, the award for this year's best Original Music category has a selection of films whose scores achieved something genuinely exciting and memorable during 2014 cinema.

Interstellar, The Theory of Everything, Under the Skin, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman make up the nominees for this year's BAFTA Best Original Music Category, and unlike last time, each one feels like they did something special enough to deserve their spot. Well, most of them, anyway.


Interstellar [Hans Zimmer]

Like I mentioned previously, Hans Zimmer's output in recent years has left me in a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, I can't really fault anything he works on; it's all very intense, harrowing, and occasionally, beautiful. Yet, there's nothing particularly new being brought to the table with each subsequent movie score. 12 Years a Slave featured some really great tracks, but if you mixed them into The Dark Knight's playlist I probably wouldn't have noticed. Hans Zimmer's scores have become a really good cake that you've eaten too many times. Thankfully, with Interstellar, Zimmer has smashed his fists into the cake he's been perfecting for the past few years, smeared it all over his face, laughed maniacally and ran away. That's to say, Zimmer's work on Interstellar features some of his most inspired work in years. Hauntingly beautiful, the composer mixes the classic Zimmer tropes with new fantastical inspirations that solidifies Interstellar's score as one of his most consistently thrilling pieces of work to date. Interstellar throws away the sci-fi rulebook saying "Bwaaaaaams" are out, and tubular bells are in.

Best Tracks: 'No Time for Caution', 'Stay'


The Theory of Everything [Jóhann Jóhannsson]

The Theory of Everything proved to be quite a charming film, but its appearance on the numerous awards shortlists so far has done nothing but perplex me. It's a damn fine film, but it's an inconsistent one. Sadly, the same can be said for its soundtrack. While it features some particularly great pieces here and there, a lot of its compositions veer a little too far into the indulgent side of over-the-top whimsy for my taste. While it will no doubt strike a chord for many of you, it really depends on how much you enjoy your classic film scores and your grandiose orchestras. At times it just feels like the the arrangement tries too hard to reflect the emotional core of a scene. It hits you over the head with a wall of sound that screams "Look! Look! Look at how sad this is!", or "wasn't that charming?!" Still, I'd rather something be trying too hard than not trying at all. There isn't a bad track, and a lot of it is kind of beautiful, but after a while it indulges so much in heavy sentiment that it starts to feel a bit... false. While it's not without its subtleties, mileage for this is definitely going to depend on whether you enjoy this type of composition. If you dig it, you'll love it. If everything I've just said has put you off, The Theory of Everything soundtrack isn't going to do much to change your mind.

Best Tracks: 'The Theory of Everything', 'Cambridge 1963'


Under The Skin [Mica Levi]

It's a damn shame that Under The Skin hasn't gotten much award recognition. The evocative and hauntingly chilling art house film was one of the most intriguing and memorable things to come out of 2014. Like everything on this list, Under the Skin owes a lot of its atmosphere to its music. However, unlike most of this list, Under The Skin doesn't want to create music that you'd show your mates. Instead, Under The Skin wants you to go home, sit in the dark, put on some headphones and think about every terrible thing in the world while it infectiously mesmerises you. It might sound like I'm making this out to be a bad thing but I'm not: Under the Skin's soundtrack is probably the best of the year. Eerie and alien yet captivating and iconic, Under The Skin's music is the best original thing to come out of 2014. On its own it's scarier than most modern horror films; I'd rather pay admission price to listen to this for 50 minutes than to see Ouija. Its nightmarish stylings and pitch perfect sense of escalation means there's no track that doesn't hit home. If you're going through an existential crisis and you've got 50 minutes to spare, Under The Skin's soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment for it.

Best Tracks: 'Lips to Void', 'Lonely Void'


The Grand Budapest [Alexandre Desplat]

The direct antitheses of Under The Skin's grungy paranoia, The Grand Budapest's soundtrack is anything but scary. Childish and archaic, the original music in Wes Anderson's newest feature perfectly captures the colourful, capricious tone found within the walls of The Grand Budapest Hotel. More importantly, the soundtrack is just fun, it doesn't take itself too seriously like The Theory of Everything, and as a result it creates tracks that are playful and catchy in a way that doesn't lose any emotional focus. If you've heard a Wes Anderson style score before you know what you're getting yourself into. A tightly captured sound with exotic musical sensibilities, The Grand Budapest Hotel revels in madcap humour and striking colourful aesthetics that its soundtrack manages to perfectly complement. It's not my favourite of the nominees, but man will it put you in a good mood.

Best Tracks: 'Moonshine', 'Kamarinskaya'


Birdman [Antonio Sanchez]

And then we have Birdman, a rather late entry to the awards season (for us unlucky enough to be in the UK, anyway) has come out swinging with its memorable, yet purposefully low-key, random array of art-house drum beats. The lo-fi sensibilities and focus on irregular tonalities make this easily the weirdest entry on the list. Unlike Under The Skin's eccentricities that make it clear from the first second that it just wants to scare the shit out of you as much as possible, it takes a bit of dedication and patience with the Birdman score before it becomes clear just how engrossing its music can be. I don't quite understand how its small, repetitious vignettes of instrumentals manage to make for engrossing listening, but they sure as hell do.

Best Tracks: 'Internal War', 'The Anxious Battle for Sanity'