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Filmtracks Awards: 2006
Decorative Nonsense
A year of international intrigue in the genre of film music is dominated by an overwhelming favorite for a monumental flop, proving that even the worst of films can potentially contain the best of music. Few such scores earn as much widespread praise as Lady in the Water managed to receive in 2006, leading a field of obscure favorites that includes more than the usual quantity of top notch music from the Far East. It is definitely a year of unlikely discoveries, with superior music coming from the composers and genres that many probably least expected.

It is no doubt a breakthrough year for James Newton Howard, whose duo of strong scores in 2006 earn him five Filmtracks nominations and two wins. With three nominations apiece are Philip Glass, Shigeru Umebayashi, and Klaus Badelt, with Glass' accomplishments best spread across multiple scores of note. Finishing with two nominations each are Mychael Danna, John Ottman, and John Powell.
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TOP FILM SCORES
 •Curse of the Golden Flower (Shigeru Umebayashi)
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Lady in the Water (James Newton Howard)
 •The Nativity Story (Mychael Danna)
 •The Promise (Klaus Badelt)
 •Superman Returns (John Ottman)

Despite the outstanding quality of both Klaus Badelt's The Promise and Mychael Danna's The Nativity Story, two scores necessary in any substantial film music collection, there was little doubt that Howard's Lady in the Water would ultimately prevail. Such subtle beauty, nurtured delicately throughout the length of the score until its gorgeously immense finale, is rarely developed in Hollywood scores nowadays. For his superior adaptation of John Williams' source material into a franchise continuation (firmly falling into the "if you can't beat it, join it" philosophy), John Ottman's Superman Returns marches its way into the fifth position.

The runner-up in 2006 is the incredibly surprising The Shaggy Dog from Alan Menken, an affable fantasy score not only uncharacteristic for the composer, but vastly overachieving for the assignment. Honorable mentions for the year go to Howard's ethnically stylish Blood Diamond, David Arnold's extremely intelligent "pre-Bond" sound (and totally Bond payoff) for Casino Royale, Ennio Morricone's solemnly lovely Fateless, and the rhythmic scores by Philip Glass for The Illusionist and Dario Marianelli for V for Vendetta, the latter a late contender for a top-five or runner-up position.
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TOP COMPOSERS
 •Philip Glass
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James Newton Howard
 •John Powell
 •Shigeru Umebayashi

As mentioned before, James Newton Howard cleans house in 2006 with his fantastic duo of Lady in the Water and Blood Diamond. Still impressive but not as palatable is the output of Philip Glass this year, whose The Illusionist and Notes on a Scandal made waves in the mainstream and are solid representations of the composer's usual style. Shigeru Umebayashi and John Powell both had standout years, with Powell's output combining quantity with quality.
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TOP FILM CUES
 •The Black Dahlia (Mark Isham)  "Men Who Feed on Others"
 •Blood Diamond (James Newton Howard)  "London"
 •Blood Diamond (James Newton Howard)  "Solomon Vandy"
 •Casino Royale (David Arnold)  "Blunt Instrument"
 •Charlotte's Web (Danny Elfman)  "The Plan Begins"
 •Curse of the Golden Flower (Shigeru Umebayashi)  "Ending Title"
 •The Da Vinci Code (Hans Zimmer)  "CheValiers de Sangreal"
 •Eragon (Patrick Doyle)  "Together"
 •Fateless (Ennio Morricone)  "Return to Life"
 •The Illusionist (Philip Glass)  "The Illusionist"
 •Lady in the Water (James Newton Howard)  "The Great Eatlon"
 •The Nativity Story (Mychael Danna)  "A Star Shall Come Forth"
 •Notes on a Scandal (Philip Glass)  "Betrayal"
 •Pan's Labyrinth (Javier Navarrete)  "A Princess"
 •The Promise (Klaus Badelt)  "Freedom of the Wa"
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The Promise (Klaus Badelt)  "Come Back"
 •The Shaggy Dog (Alan Menken)  "Breaking Through"
 •Superman Returns (John Ottman)  "Reprise/Fly Away"
 •V for Vendetta (Dario Marianelli)  "The Dominoes Fall"
 •X-Men: The Last Stand (John Powell)  "Whirlpool of Love"

It was initially a foregone conclusion that "The Great Eatlon" from Lady in the Water would win this award, making it a clean sweep for Howard in 2006. But Klaus Badelt's heartbreaking love theme for The Promise in several beautiful variations in the cue "Come Back" prevails against the odds. The Badelt score features several standout cues, with the uniquely styled "Freedom of the Wa" also nominated. Howard's Blood Diamond similarly contains several ethnically memorable cues, and two of them are nominated here as well.

This wide range of cues includes several that feature dynamic solo or ensemble vocals, including "Together" from Eragon, "A Princess" from Pan's Labyrinth, and "Return to Life" from Fateless, among several others. The selections from Eragon, V for Vendetta, and X-Men: The Last Stand are not consensus choices, though "CheValiers de Sangreal" from Hans Zimmer's The Da Vinci Code is a crowd favorite.

The strength of some of this year's better works caused a handful of additional cues from those scores to originally make the cut but eventually be dropped to better allow a wider distribution of nominees. The cues ultimately struck include "City of Lovers" from Casino Royale, "Charades" from Lady in the Water, and "In Rosa Vernat Lilium" from The Nativity Story.
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