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Oscar-Nominated Scores: 'Labyrinth, 'German'

One of the Oscar nominees for best score comes from a long line of well-known composers. Another is a relative newcomer to American audiences. NPR's movie-film expert Andy Trudeau takes Liane Hansen through two of this year's five nominees for Best Score: Thomas Newman for The Good German and Javier Navarette for Pan's Labyrinth.

Newman is no stranger to the Oscar lineup. The son of Alfred Newman, one of Hollywood's most celebrated film composers, his previous works include American Beauty and Road to Perdition. Both soundtracks were recognized for their popular currents and quirky orchestrations.

But Steven Soderbergh's The Good German is a period film and Newman has created a 1940s soundtrack — filled with grand gestures of golden age — to go along with it. It's a darkly-colored score featuring a sweet, solo violin rising over the orchestra and distinctively plotted marches.

Pan's Labyrinth is a dark fantasy with music by Javier Navarette. This story of innocence and evil, set in 1930s Spain at the end of that nation's civil war, comes through in a moody, textured soundtrack. Navarette responded to the innocence and drama of the story, centered on a little girl's fantastic daydreams, by making a lullaby at the heart of the score. The theme emerges throughout the film and gets richer and more impassioned in expression as the story progresses.

Navarette has been composing in Spain for 20 years, and until now, most of his work has been for release in Europe. Pan's Labyrinth is steeped in Spanish culture, yet the musical references are very subtle.

Last week, Trudeau offered his comments on two other nominees for best score: Gustavo Santaolalla for Babel and Alexandre Desplat for The Queen. Next week, he'll take a look at the fifth nominee, Philip Glass for Notes on a Scandal.

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