Much of this past year was spent talking about the visual aspect of movies, what with the whole 3-D revolution (or plague, depending on your perspective) and the increased sophistication of CGI effects. But let's not forget the other half of the audio/visual equation.
There were plenty of musical moments to celebrate at the theater in 2010, and fans of film soundtracks had plenty to hang their hats on.
Here are our picks for the best of the bunch, and whether your tastes run to hip-hop, rock, or just a big, ol' "BONNNNNG" sound, there's something here for your ears.
9. 'Grown Ups'
There wasn't much to celebrate about the latest Happy Madison production (unless you were one of the film's stars and got to hang out with your comedian buddies for a couple months on the company dime), but if there's one thing every Adam Sandler movie knows, it's how to channel cheesy classic rock. The "Grown Ups" soundtrack does that in (David) spades, blowing up the nostalgia meter for the late 30s/early 40s crowd with 16 songs that would not sound out of place blasting from the windows of a van with Thor airbrushed on its side. We're talking Cheap Trick, Journey, Eddie Money and, yes, the one and only REO Speedwagon, chiming in with lost classic "Time For Me to Fly." It's enough to make us want to feather our hair. Again.
8. 'Jackass 3-D'
Anyone who's ever watched "Jackass" can instantly recognize the first three notes of the Minutemen's "Corona," which plays over the show's opening credits. That song gets another remix treatment on the soundtrack to the third film featuring Johnny Knoxville and his crew of demented pranksters, but it's not the only highlight on the 13-track, ramshackle collection. We also get a new version of "Memories" by Weezer, and a surprisingly touching rendition of the tune that best sums up the "Jackass" philosophy, "If You're Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough," sung by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And then, of course, there's Twisted Sister, because, seriously, this is a movie about watching people hurt themselves; we don't want to get too sentimental.
7. 'Step Up 3-D'
If you're going to make the ultimate dance movie, you'd better have some booty-shaking music to back it up. The folks behind "Step Up 3-D" tried with mixed results for the first part, but pretty much nailed the second, providing a 16-song dance bomb that deserves to be detonated at clubs and house parties around the world. The roster is downright deadly, featuring hip-hop luminaries like T-Pain, Trey Songz, Chromeo, Estelle and Busta Rhymes, and Flo Rida even chimes in with a brand new (and eminently danceable) single, "Club Can't Handle Me." Unfortunately, simply listening to this record won't automatically make you dance as well as the kids in "Step Up 3-D," but it'll get you closer than, say, the score from "The King's Speech."
Opinions on Christina Aguilera's acting chops may vary wildly, but there's no denying that the girl can sing like a siren; among the pop diva pantheon from which she sprang, she's definitely the one with the talent (sorry, Britney). So it shouldn't be surprising to hear her do quality work on the soundtrack to her I'm-gonna-make-it-after-all flick, "Burlesque." What is surprising is the quality of the tunes, a collection of mostly torch jazz numbers by the likes of Linda Perry and Sia that really play to Aguilera's strengths as a performer. And, lest we forget that she exists, Aguilera's "Burlesque" co-star, Cher, even chimes in with a couple of songs. It probably won't convert the indie rocker in your life to a pop lover, but if you were into the likes of "Moulin Rouge" and "Chicago," this one should be right up your alley.
5. 'TRON: Legacy'
Seldom has there been a better match between soundtrack artist and movie than this. The two electronica masterminds that make up Daft Punk are ostensibly French, but we're pretty sure they actually warped into our reality from some sort of robot dimension, so matching them with the digital delight of Disney's "TRON" sequel seems like a no-brainer. What's surprising is how conventionally orchestral a lot of this record is; those hoping for a full-length Daft Punk record here will be disappointed for at least half of it, until they get to the awesome electronic goodness of "Derezzed," the 8-bit blast of "End of Line," and the synthy "Solar Sailer." Let's face it: When the first thing most reviewers mention in the "positives" section of their critique of your film is the soundtrack, you know you've done something right in that regard.
This list is primarily focused on soundtracks with actual songs, not scores, but we'd be remiss if we didn't include the one piece of movie music that was on everyone's mind in 2010. The trippy, atmospheric score from Christopher Nolan's surprise summer blockbuster made almost a big a splash as the film, and the distinctive "BONNNNNG" tone was so zeitgeist-y that someone even made a button for it. Plus, there's no beating the meme-inspiring revelation that composer Hans Zimmer had come up with some of the score's elements by slowing down Edith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" to a glacial crawl, creating what sounded like entirely new music and tapping into the movie's themes of time distortion. Consider our minds blown.
3. 'Get Him to the Greek'
Fans of Infant Sorrow, rejoice! At last, the Britpop band's greatest hits collection is here. What's that you say? Infant Sorrow is the "fake" band fronted by comedian Russell Brand in his Aldous Snow persona and featured heavily in this year's "comedy" film "Get Him to the Greek?" Are you trying to say that movies are capable of lying to us? What's next, no Santa Claus? All kidding aside, this soundtrack's conceit of featuring Brand's made-up band is pretty darn brilliant, and it works so well because the songs kick ass in their own right, selling the illusion while also being downright ludicrous ("The Clap" being a perfect example). Rose Byrne also chimes in with a couple of pop parodies that work surprisingly well as straight-up pop songs. Big ups to the makers of "Get Him to the Greek" for this creative approach.
2. 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse'
Everybody likes to make fun of "Twilight" - adults, children, house pets - but the producers of the films threw a monkey wrench in the gears of the irony machine by stuffing the soundtrack to their latest effort full of awesome songs from ultra-cool indie bands. "Eclipse" is a who's who of moody indie rock, featuring a lineup that would make Pitchfork's brains explode: Beck, Bat For Lashes, Metric, Vampire Weekend, Muse, the Black Keys…the list goes on and on. Perhaps this all shouldn't be surprising given that music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas made a name for herself turning television's "The O.C." into an avenue for indie rock exposure, but it's still a very pleasant surprise to see the music from a "Twilight" film become the "Singles" soundtrack of the aughts.
1. 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World'
Set your hip meter to hyperspeed, kids, because one of the year's coolest movies has what is absolutely the year's coolest soundtrack. Director Edgar Wright and producer Nigel Godrich would have a hit on their hands if you based your judgment solely on the included pre-existing tracks from indie superduperstars like Broken Social Scene, Beachwood Sparks (contributing a kick-ass cover of Sade's "By Your Side"), and Frank Black, but toss in the original songs written for the flick (Hipster hero Beck penned all the tunes for the title character's band, Sex Bob-Omb), and you have 2010's best conjunction of movie and music. See if you can make it through Metric's sexy "Black Sheep" (performed on-screen by the sexy Brie Larson as the sexy Envy Adams) without swooning.