Top 5 Original Movie Scores

Posted on September 16, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Way back when this blog was just a baby I wrote a post about the importance of movie music and how I thought we should hold the film composers up against the classical masters.

Continuing on that idea I thought I’d write a post about my 5 all time  favourite pieces of movie music.  I’m restricting myself to individual movements rather than whole scores, all of these being instrumental pieces that I think are simply fantastic.  Narrowing down to just five was very tricky, so I’ve tried to pick a variety of music and composers.  I doubt any of my choices will shock you, but I’m interested to read your comments and find out which bits of movie music do it for you.

The best way I could think of to get the music onto the blog was to provide links to the Spotify tracks, since that shouldn’t upset any copyright laws as the music is freely available.  So hit the links to have the music playing while you read.

**I’m trying not to put spoilers in this, but it’s hard, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know then maybe skip that section.**

5. Father Kolbe’s Preaching-Burkhard Dallwitz-The Truman Show

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I’ll forgive you for not having heard of this guy, ‘cos even I hadn’t.  This particular piece of music plays right at the end of the film and is a perfect fit to what is happening on screen.  The simple piano and strings are tragic but at the same time seem to have a kind of optimism and the slow processing rhythm is a great match for the semi-biblical dialogue going on between Truman and Kolbe.

4. Star Wars theme-John Williams-Star Wars

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This man is the God of movie music.  I have no idea how he does it. Everything he writes is an iconic masterpiece, but I think if I had to pick just one track to sum up the genius that is John Williams it would have to be the Star Wars theme.  Every time that first brass note leaps from the screen I jump, even though I’ve seen Star Wars more times than I can count.  It’s such a triumphant march, giving way to the more fluid strings of Han and Leia’s theme, which take on a fantastically ethereal quality as the flutes echo the main theme in the background.  There are so many layers in that one piece of music it’s incredible.  And I dare you to find me a single person on the planet who can’t hum it.

3. He’s a Pirate-Klaus Badelt-Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

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I’ve never wanted to stand up and cheer at the end of a movie more, (in fact, me and my friends did the second time) and a big part of that is this awesome piece of music.  It just has pirate stamped all over it.  It works better when played through from the previous piece (One Last Shot) as the sudden drums and pace are an impressive contrast to the sweeping strings from before.  It’s a great example of a piece of music being custom-made to fit a scene.  In my head, the music always starts with the words, “Drink up me hearties Yo HO!”

2. Freedom/The Execution/Bannockburn-James Horner-Braveheart

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I know I’ve been on about this piece of music a lot recently but it really is magical.  The deep drum beat is symbolistic of death, and the strings are quintessentially tragic, but interweaved with the celtic pipes (I think it’s a chanter, it’s definitely not full bagpipes) we have a score which is both moving and able to transport you to a time and place in order to make the film seem more real.  The fact that one movement takes us through three key moments in the films finale shows how each event influenced the next, and the tone of the music adapts accordingly.  I particularly love the solo flute towards the end, and how it dissolves into what is essentially a roaring cheer in instrumental form.

One of only two pieces of music that will make me stop what I’m doing and just listen if it happens to come up on shuffle.  The other is my next choice.

1. The Breaking of The Fellowship-Howard Shore-The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Infuriatingly the real version of this isn’t on Spotify so I’m forced to use a YouTube link.

I know nobody is shocked by this choice but this was the moment I fell in love with LOTR.  I absolutely love this score.  Howard Shore has this amazing ability to tell a story with music, which in a film like this is so important.  You can listen to the score and know what’s going on without needing to see the images that go with.

For me, this is the perfect orchestral capturing of Hope.  James Galway’s flute (I am a sucker for those things) is gorgeous and the understated horns are a great backdrop for the sadness after the loss of Boromir, but at the same time support the dialogue between the remaining Fellowhip members as they promise to stay true to eachother.

The piece moves from an achingly beautiful solo string to the dramatic revival of the Fellowship theme and then back to the restrained strings and flute as we watch the two hobbits picking their way across Emyn Muil.  Ben Del Maestro’s vocal kicks in just as the credits begin to roll, using lyrics from Tolkien’s own hand.  It’s both an ending and a beginning as we know that there is a whole lot more to come for the characters we have just been introduced to.

Honorable Mentions:

Here are some of the pieces that didn’t quite make it to the top 5, but I strongly suggest you check out.

Craig Armstrong: Love Actually

Alan Silvestri: Forrest Gump

Hans Zimmer: Gladiator

Gustavo Santaolalla: Brokeback Mountain

Stephen Warbeck: Shakespeare in Love

OK, I’m done with being artsy now. Your turn.

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Good Bad Movies

Posted on June 7, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

One of the problems with the way I’ve structured this blog is it’s a bit black and white. There are films out there which fit in the grey area between genius and disaster.
So, here’s a list of good bad films, they’re not exactly brilliant, but they’re good in their own rubbish LXGway. They’re the inbetweeners that don’t fit on the must-see list but don’t belong on the steer-clear list either.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s not exactly a great film; the plot is thin and the adaptations from the novels are just plain wrong, but I still love it to bits. It’s harmless fun, it makes me laugh and on a dull night in it definitely passes the time.

Die Hard 2.  Yes we all know it’s nowhere near as good as the original, or even the third, but its John McClane running around shooting things and saying Yipee Ki-Ay. It’s all I need.

Bruce Almighty. I know that its wrong to love Jim Carrey but I can’t help it.  This film borders on preachy but just gets round it, and it really does make me laugh.  We’re all alllowThe Matrixed some guilty pleasures…

Home Alone.  I know. But hear me out.  It’s Christmas and that brilliant John Williams score starts up…it just works.

The two Matrix Sequels.  Compared to the original they aren’t fit to call themselves The Matrix, but if you let that go, there’s some awesome fight choreography which make it worthwile as long as you don’t try and understand the plot.  The multicar pile up in Reloaded is the best I’ve ever seen, I’d watch it just for that.The Lost Boys

Fantastic Four.  Defintely the weakest of the Marvel adaptations, the characters just aren’t as interesting, but it’s still a fun watch.  I’m never going to quite buy Ioan Gruffudd as an action hero, but the film doesn’t take itself seriously enough for it to matter.

The Lost Boys.  Possible the most 80s film ever made.  The special effects are “special” for all the wrong reasons and the vampire plot was tired even then, but somehow it still manages to be brilliant.  Maybe it’s Keifer Sutherland with peroxide hair that does it…

So, they’re not exactly run out and see them now recommendations, but don’t turn them down.  Give ’em a go.  Don’t expect Oscar winners, just slightly fluffy but fun film making.

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Mozart, Beethoven, Bach…Williams?

Posted on April 3, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings, Trivia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

OK, first, right click here, open in a new tab, press play, and then read while you listen. I wanted to add the track myself but it was the wrong file type and I’m not clever enough to convert it.  Hopefully they’ll appreciate the hits.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll probably have noticed that music is something of a big deal to me.  When it comes to film scores, I’m becoming more and more convinced that composers like John Williams, Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer are the new classical masters.  Modern classical music (oxymoron?)  tends to be the more contemporary Maxwell-Davies style, which is definitely not to everyones taste, while the great sweeping scores seem to be left more or less to the movie composers.

Movie scores are quite often beautiful and I would argue comparable to the greatest symphonies.  (Before you start, I’m expecting to get shot down in flames for that, and I am fully aware that my classical knowledge is limited at best, but I do have some idea what I’m talking about).

Take Howard Shore for example.  I’m a firm believer that a huge amount of the success of Lord of the Rings is owed to his breathtaking score.  The orchestration mirrors the plot so perfectly that you could almost remove the dialogue and still understand what’s going on.  Of course, it helps that he’s also got the stunning New Zealand backdrop to set it off.  Shore’s The Breaking of the Fellowship the final “movement” of the Fellowship of the Ring (to which you are currently listening, I hope) is quite simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard, and I know that it forms a big part of why I love that film.

In the case of someone more prolific, John Williams has penned some of the most famous themes in history.  Not every man on the street will be able to hum Beethoven’s 9th or Mozart’s Requiem, but ask him to sing Star Wars or Indiana Jones and he’ll definitely know what you’re talking about.

*Random trivial aside* The Indiana Jones theme is actually part of the Star Wars theme played backwards, an in joke by Lucas and Williams, go ahead, try it.

Williams is responsible for most of my library of movie scores, from Jaws, Jurassic Park, and even Home Alone to Harry Potter (which I hate but still love the score of).  He’s the most famous movie composer of all time, and deserves the respect he has.  In fact, I think he deserves more. Why shouldn’t he sit with Beethoven as a modern classical master?

Other composers I urge you to look out for are Hans Zimmer, the man behind Gladiator and Pirates of the Caribbean (along with Klaus Badelt) who has a particular theme he re-uses in all of his movies as a kind of signature (once you’ve heard it you can’t miss it, its even in Rain Man!) and James Horner, the genius creator of the heart breakingly beautiful score to Braveheart.  Coming second only to LOTR in my favourite scores of all time, he magically combines traditional Scottish themes (and pipes) with sweeping orchestration which undoubtedly plays a major role in the effect that film has on me (read: unecessary floods of tears)

And it’s not just the original scores that can transform a movie.  As Watchmen showed, the re-use of modern or even classical music  can be just as evocative.  The moment in Equilibrium when Christian Bale hears the first movement of Beethoven’s 9th is a perfect example.  Layer Cake also springs to mind, with a soundtrack that brilliantly reflects the action, especially the Ordinary World scene.  Billy Elliot is also one of my favourite films for soundtrack, with songs like Town Called Malice and London Calling perfect reflections of the rioting and conflict on screen, not to mention the iconic opening to Apocalypse Now (This is the End), or the perfect settings of Philadelphia, Good Morning Vietnam, Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate

I could carry on like this for hours. Believe me.  I guess the point of this post is to make you listen as well as look.  I remember once remarking on the beautiful strings in the final scene of Pirates while watching it with a friend, and she was surprised I payed that close attention to the music.  So this is me asking you to open your ears.  The underscore of your favourite film will have already had a big effect on why you love it, you just might not have realised it yet.

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