Sunday, December 16, 2012

20 Years of Cinema-Watching: Part 1: Favorite Scores

So, I'm 20 now. The year is coming to an end and I want to make a capsule to myself, an overview of how my taste in film has changed throughout these 20 years, so I'm going to start slow with an overview of certain aspects of cinema and then end it with a list of my 100 favorite movies (at the time, since let's be honest, our favorites are always changing along with us). Simple enough? Well, yea, there will only be one other time I intend to do this... when I inevitably intend to end this blog. So, yea, let's get started on this little checkpoint of my favorite things in film.

The music of a movie is almost the biggest thing to me. A catchy song, a song that'd attract me in a movie, no matter what, would be one of the first things I'd look up after I finish said movie. The best scores they say don't stand out. They subtly move your emotions into the picture. I'd have to agree, but my favorite scores are the ones that I'd put on my ITunes next to my Foo Fighters and Led Zeppelin and all. Sure, they'll sway my heart out to the characters trying to save the day, but they'll do with style, with rhythm, with catch.
They'll get in my face and tell me, see that? I made that scene, not the cinematography, not the acting. I MADE THAT SCENE! Got it?
This list only applies strictly to original scores (if I make a mistake, please feel free to comment on my error, I'm just a man as Faith No More says). No soundtracks, yet. The score needs to be credited to the composer and it needs to have made up a significant portion of the film's musical cues.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - Ennio Morricone. Oh come now, how can you not expect something by Morricone, above all his most well-known work? It's a classic. When you hear it, no matter what, you're going to think back to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. And you're definitely going to enjoy that thought. Because it engulfs into the world of the Western through the eyes of the outsiders.

Van Helsing - Alan Silvestri. Say what you will about this movie... I'll agree with you. It was my favorite movie at one point in my childhood but now it's a chore to finish the film with all the flaws I couldn't see before. But damn, if that isn't one mighty sound, the sound of the damned en chase throughout Europe. The sound of the afterlife that awaits everyone surrounding Van Helsing, the one that he'll never be granted.
It's a bad movie, but I think the music blinded my younger self into thinking it was incredible. And I'll still watch it just for the score. Ooooo, dat 5/4. Dat acoustic guitar.

Note: After posting this link, I've played this song over and over 
obstructing my completion of this article. I'm a doofus.

Back to the Future - Alan Silvestri. 'Course Alan Silvestri has better, namely the absolutely recognizable adventure tracks and sublime mix of 50s and 80s rock a hoo ha in what's probably one of the best movies ever made.

Star Wars - John Williams. John Williams is the most recognizable name in cinema. He pretty much earned those stripes though. His music is irreversibly sealed to key scenes in film history that we recognize his fingerprint in almost any piece he composes from here on forth. Yet they are still distinguishable to avoid such a critique as 'heard one, you heard them all.' Star Wars is the epitome of his genius. Every single piece is a memorable one and it's a bitch and a half to pick just one, trust me.
Course it's somewhat made easier that Duel of the Fates is technically Star Wars Episode I.

Raiders of the Lost Ark - John Williams. Now this is a tricky one. It's not exactly Western, but it's not entirely adventure. It's like a ditty that looks at you and goes 'Trust Me', before showing exactly why you shouldn't be trusting said person as go down a dangerous slide.
But everything turns out fine in the end. The hero is always on top and knows somewhat he's doing. Maybe.

Fight Club - The Chemical Brothers. Just as large a trip as the movie itself was. Words can't describe it, it changes too much to let us.

Jurassic Park - John Williams. It's a movie score for children. This is the specific kind of score that Williams probably thought, y'know what? I want the kids to have the nostalgia factor with this one. And it does. Still fits with the film perfectly, what with the trembling bass and the little sounds of the winds lifting our spirits almost like the sounds of the woods themselves.
But it's a children's score. And I love it for that.

Jaws - John Williams. This is the big one. The one everybody's heard even if they haven't seen the movie. No two notes will ever provide as much cinematic dread as the keys in this movie's theme (closest that came to it was the Joker theme in The Dark Knight). But we forget about the other great things about this score. How familiar it sounds, how friendly it is when we're exploring Amity Island and finding out all about the people there.
Y'know, get to know them better before the shark fucks 'em up

Serenity - David Newman. This is just the right blend of Western jangle and futuristic anti-civilization. Newman put out all the stops and used probably a plethora of toys around him to make the sounds this score elicited.

Mulholland Dr. - Angelo Badalamenti. Brooding, haunting, mysterious. Everything a David Lynch film should be this particular movie's score is in spades. The Twin Peaks score may be the more well-known of Lynch and Badalamenti's collaboration, but Mulholland Dr.'s excellent in defining exactly what emotions and atmospheric elements that collaboration was made up of and producing.

Psycho - Bernard Herrmann. Alfred Hitchcock later said 33 percent of Psycho's effect was the music. He was so right. It goes without saying.

Taxi Driver - Bernard Herrmann. It may or may not be harder to empathize with Travis Bickle if it weren't for Herrmann's final score. It's a soothing jazz lullaby trying to help us sleep through the grime and muck of the city. It doesn't work, but the thought is pretty nice.

Brick - Nathan Johnson. Very interesting score, very expansive. Very out there. When one hires a family member for his film, some would think favoritism, but Rian Johnson knew what he was doing bringing his cousin into the mix with pieces made from drawers and coke bottles and all.

Kill Bill - The RZA. Come on, son. Wu-Tang Forever, y'all sucka MC punks know dat shit. Pulp Fiction may be the best soundtrack of all time, but Kill Bill's is so blatantly who Tarantino is, it's not even funny. It calls back to all the things that made his movies fantastic and blasts them into this beat-beating masterpiece. And the RZA really brought up his game since the also-fantastic Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.

Batman - Danny Elfman: The absolute classic superhero score, accept no substitutes. It sweeps, it leaps, it soars alongside the Dark Knight and the camera with its introduction to the gothic city of Gotham City.

Spider-Man - Danny Elfman: This is my definitive superhero score, though. It was soft and poignant when it needed to be, but pumping and suspenseful when the opportunity rose of course. It was inspiring with its choral backgrounds and crescendos and descendos that seemed rapid at the moment. The tribal esque Goblin theme probably drove the audience nearly to the same madness as Osborn did himself, I know it had that effect on 10 year old STinG.
Most of all, that cue just as Goblin states 'We're gonna have a hhhhhheeeellll of a time!' and Spidey rises back into the fight. I want 'awww yea, shit's going down!' when I saw that.

Yojimbo - Masaru Sato. Just as much an animal as the titular character himself, rolling and a tumbling along with his steps like a jazz band that got lubricated a bit too much and can't exactly speak the same language as each other so they can't. Ladies and gentlemen, John Zorn's kind of samurai music.

Blade Runner - Vangelis. Neo as all hell and absolutely beautiful as a little saxophone opera translated into the synthesizer. It's the feeling one gets when the rain starts to digitalize all around us.

Oldboy - Choi Seung-hyun, Lee Ji-Soo and Shim Hyun-Jung. Oh man, the mixture of classic and driven cues makes this quite a underrated gem of a score. The music is so modern but it calls back to the German composers and then gives it that Kafka-esque twist of content that makes it fit perfectly as the final piece to why this movie is so fantastic.

Phantasm - Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave: I generally have a wish of wanting to cover film cues that I usually find myself attracted to in a very rocker way. Phantasm's title theme just beeeeeegggs for this.

Suspiria - Goblin. I just love it when horror themes are so fun like Goblin makes them. It's really part of what makes me a horror buff.
Requiem for a Dream - Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet. This has to somewhat give you shivers. Somewhere in the album, there is one piece that does so.
Inception - Hans Zimmer. Interesting usage of Piaf. Worth noting.
The Mummy (1999) - Jerry Goldsmith. The poor man's Raiders of the Lost Ark, except more exoticized.
Bad Boys II - Trevor Rabin and Harry Gregson-Williams. Pumped me up nearly everytime that little bass and violins came dropping while Mike and Marcus would be creeping around. That shootout in the Haitians' home was intense as it was, but the razorblade esque music during the scene pushed it towards the edge more.
Finding Nemo - Thomas Newman. I can't put my finger on it, but I liked the style that made it feel comfortable and homey.
Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahman. When I say scores I want in my IPod, this is absolute number one in my book.

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