Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bad Scores

I love film music. I own many, many soundtracks, some of which are to movies I've never seen and have no intention of seeing, but I own them because I'm familiar with the composer and can bet that it's going to be good music.

Some of my favorite film composers:

Elmer Bernstein (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Age of Innocence)
Alexandre Desplat (The Painted Veil, The Ghost Writer, The Queen)
Patrick Doyle (Sense and Sensibility, Much Ado About Nothing, Gosford Park)
James Newton Howard (All of M. Night Shyamalan's movies, King Kong, The Dark Knight)

In fact, if you ever want to do something nice for me, buy me a good soundtrack for my collection :)

It's amazing what a good score can do for a movie. And what makes a score "good" (for me) is music that was clearly recorded with a live orchestra (that's the only way James Newton Howard does it) and it tells a story along with the writing. It doesn't intrude on or distract from the scene, but it enhances it. If the score is good, it's something you'll want to listen to over and over again, independent of the movie it was written for.

You know how some movies are re-released with additional scenes or they're digitally remastered or a studio recolored an old black and white film? People pay money to go back to the theatre and see these movies again with their "upgrades." What I'm wondering is if people would go back and see a movie if it was re-scored. Because I'm telling you, there are some good movies out there that did not budget for an original score -- at least a good one.

Let me give you some examples of a couple movies I love that deserve better music:

1) The Princess Bride (by Mark Knopfler)

Some if it's OK and suited to the Fairy Tale aspect of the story, but the synthesizer drives me nuts, especially toward the end of the movie.

2) A Few Good Men (by Mark Shaiman)

First of all, I looked it up and the CD only has 10 tracks, so Shaiman didn't write a whole lot for this movie. And the music seems really dated. I don't know if it's the composer's fault or 1992's fault. There's this one scene in particular where the music makes me roll my eyes. It's where Tom Cruise goes after Demi Moore who stormed out and started walking in the rain. He tries to convince her to get in the car and then this stupid music comes out of nowhere. It's forced and it's ridiculous.

I'm not sure how expensive it would be, or if it would be worth it to re-release movies with better music, but I would buy a ticket.

Here are some examples of some of my favorite film scores:

(FYI, my favorite track from The Village is this one)

I love that Patrick Doyle wrote a piano piece for this movie. And he uses it as an actual piano piece but it also adds to the mood and the story.

Last but not least, the music that accompanies the opening credits to my favorite movie. Not only is the music beautiful, everything about this movie is beautiful. I wish I could find the actual opening credits, but I can't.

Anyone else have favorite film scores you'd recommend (I have about 25)? Or movies with terrible ones that you'd like to see re-scored?

Oh, and if you want a CD of selections from all my favorite movie soundtracks, I have a playlist I can burn for you.


joN. said...

i was hoping you'd embed the scene from a few good men that you were talking about.

often i really like the "datedness" of some movie scores. i was just talking with someone last week that when a movie is "dated" in general i actually like it because it transports me back to the other time -- especially a time when the soundtrack was done differently. obviously something can be said for "timelessness," but it depends on my attitude at the time i suppose.

an interesting soundtrack that came to mind as i read your post is the 1980s version of the movie 'metropolis.' metropolis was a silent german film from the 30s, but for some reason it was given a sort of 'modernization' in the 80s with the score provided by giorgio moroder several artists of the time (freddie mercury, billy squier, pat benatar, adam ant, etc.). obviously the sountrack hasn't dated well, but i love it. it's actually the first way i watched the movie and i can't separate the sounds from the images. most of it is individual songs rather than score though.

SRA said...

I remember one of my friends at PSU playing part of the "Apollo 13" soundtrack while reading 3Nephi 11. It was actually rather beautiful and appropriate. Thought I'd throw that one out there.

Jergs Family said...

Okay, you may call me trite on this one, but I absolutely love "The Lord of the Rings" movies, books and soundtracks. In fact, John is playing the main "Frodo" theme on the piano right now. Howard Shore is the composer if you were wondering.

Lisa Marie Trent said...

I love how you are openly offering to pirate music soundtracks for people. I'll take them ALL.

Field of Dreams is one of my favorites.

I still love the Beetlejuice Soundtrack.

Kell's Belles said...

I'm with Lisa--I also really enjoy Danny Elfman soundtracks!

Fun Fact: One of the first exchanges I had with Carter was about movie soundtracks . . . he showed up on my porch a day later with the Schindler's List CD in hand to lend to me. And was a back a couple days later to get it back!

And I'd LOVE to get my hands on your playlist!

Saule Cogneur said...

One of our first real conversations was about how much you liked The Village soundtrack. Do you remember? It was when I put a gaping crater in your wall in attempt to insert a sheetrock screw.

I may be revealing just how low brow my music sensibilities are, but that's ok. I'm very partial to the Gladiator and Last of the Mohicans soundtracks. I like Braveheart too.

I think pretty much every video the Church has ever produced should be re-scored as should just about everything made before 1960.

Nasher said...

The people who mentioned Lord of The Rings by Howard Shore are completely correct. Gladiator and Braveheart are also both fantastic. I also enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean, Jurassic Park, Apollo 13, and Stargate. And actually Hans Zimmer was the composer on Dark Knight (James Newton Howard was credited for being on the music department). I would listen to anything by Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer, and John Williams. But that's me.

Carter said...

What a great post, Laura. Loved reading it.

Ennio Morricone is glaringly absent from any comments -- Cinema Paradiso is such an amazing score -- three or four themes that could support a film on their own. And "The Mission" is worth it alone for "Gabriel's Oboe".

Danny Elfman's stuff for Tim Burton is great. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure tops the list for me there.

I like James Horner when he isn't plagiarizing himself -- I love Braveheart and Glory.

The new Pride & Prejudice score is awesome.

John Williams is the best. E.T. is my all-time favorite score, although I don't know how much of it has to do with the feelings, memories, and emotions that it conjures up. But it really is an outstanding score. What other person has given us such instantly-recognized tunes (maybe Mozart?!) such as those from Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, E.T. Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, even Home Alone.

My two favorite John Williams musical moments, however, are ironically not the major themes of their respective films. The last scene from Minority Report, spilling into the credits, has just gorgeous, gorgeous music:

And then I LOVE the track from Jurassic Park, "My friend the Brachiosaurus". It's a hidden gem in such an epic, sweeping soundtrack. It's just beautiful:

Be sure you listen to at least the 1:30 mark. :55 to 1:25 is the best.

Thanks Laura!

Thomas said...

Some cogent comments from my offspring and others. But Saule, let's just pause a moment before we rescore everything before 1960.

That would eliminate MAX STEINER, the granddaddy of them all with 3 Academy Awards and 24 nominations--KING KONG (1933), CASABLANCA, and GONE WITH THE WIND are just a slice of his considerable output. Today's greatest film composers practically worship at his feet. (Note: BYU houses the Max Steiner Archive in the HBLL's Special Collections.)

And let's keep Bernard Hermann around too--one of the first to treat film music as real art music. Does anyone think CITIZEN KANE and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL can be improved with a modern score? If so, then let's go for the full Monty and colorize them as well.

Leonard Bernstein? There's some pretty good stuff even before WEST SIDE STORY.

Too many more to mention.

Laura Lee said...

Thanks for your comments everyone.

I noticed no one mentioned Thomas Newman who is also one of my favorites. He wrote for Little Women, Meet Joe Black and Fried Green Tomatoes. I have those as well.

Lisa, good note on Field of Dreams. I adore that soundtrack. And the movie.

Kelly, I made Carter a playlist of some of my favorite film music. I think I made it for him after he dominated at “Name that tune” at my 30th birthday party. So I wanted to challenge him more. But I will get you an updated one.

Mike, the first time I read your comment I thought you were talking about my metaphorical wall -- I was impressed with your imagery. But then I remember you put an actual crater in my literal wall. And then I laughed.

Carter, thanks for the Minority Report link. Just listened to it. Ennio Morricone is great. I actually don’t own anything of his, I just have a track here and there...but I do love playing his music on the piano. Agreed about James Horner. I love E.T. too. I have that one. And I’m glad you mentioned that track from Jurassic Park. I love that one! I remember I bought that CD when I first started playing the violin. I wanted to be in John Williams’ orchestra.

Dad? I am unfamiliar with the music from most of those movies I should go back and watch them. I can’t listen to West Side Story enough. And I would be interested in whatever earlier stuff of his you would recommend.

Fun fact about James Newton Howard: Peter Jackson originally had Howard Shore do the score for the 2005 King Kong but he rejected it. He hired Howard and gave him about 3 weeks to complete a full film score. He did an unbelievable job. Makes me wonder what Shore's music was like...

Here’s my favorite track:

Saule Cogneur said...

Laura: I assume that means you believe I'm just that pretentious about my place in your life.

THAT makes me laugh. I'm simultaneously flattered and worried.

Saule Cogneur said...

Thomas: Naturally, I wouldn't dare challenge the worth of the classics, but you must admit that they represent only a small cross-section of the first ~40 years of non-silent film.

Carter said...

I am definitely a Bernard Hermann fan, and Bernstein of course. Psycho (Hermann) is basically defined by its score to an extent that maybe no other film (Jaws?) ever has. And I own the On the Waterfront (Bernstein) score, which is fantastic. It's 1952 though, so I hope it escapes Saule's pre-1960 re-scoring mandate!

And I disagree about church films as well...naturally they contain a lot of schlock, but one that I own and listen to all the time - The Lamb of God - is great. Kurt Bestor has done some really great stuff, in my non-expert opinion.

Eric said...

i'd like to get a copy of this. and if any of what i have isn't on you're radar, you're welcome to it!

ricke said...

Funny how individual tastes are! I love the score to Princess Bride. Thanks for your other suggestions.