On Monsters and Music: The Music for Shin Godzilla

By Michael W. Harris

shin_godzilla_posterLet me just get this out of the way: Shin Godzilla is great. It is a worthy successor to the Godzilla mantle in every way, and most importantly makes Godzilla relevant again for modern Japan. If you read any number of reviews or essays, you’ll inevitably see people compare the events of the film to Japan’s response to the triple disasters of March 11, 2011, when Japan was rocked by an earthquake, the resultant tsunami, and then the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant caused by the coinciding of both. The government’s slow response, conflicting reports, and the general chaos that followed was certainly touched upon in the 2014 US helmed Godzilla film, but in this newest, entirely Japanese produced film, it takes center stage. Continue reading “On Monsters and Music: The Music for Shin Godzilla”

Star Trek (2009): The First Sixty Seconds

By Brooke McCorkle

Note: This post is part of The Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central and comes to the The Temp Track courtesy of guest blogger Brooke McCorkle.

Star Trek (2009) Movie Poster
Star Trek (2009) Movie Poster

With Star Trek (2009), director J.J. Abrams faced a challenging task. First he had to guide the reboot of a series that has long been branded nerdy, weird, and too cerebral for mainstream audiences (as opposed to George Lucas’s Star Wars universe). Second, Star Trek hadn’t done so well in the preceding decade. The television show Enterprise (2001-5) received harsh criticism and low viewer ratings (see here for a graph visualizing this drop). Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), the last Star Trek film before 2009, remains the lowest-grossing entry into the franchise.1Box Office Mojo Data Finally, the characters appearing in the Abrams film are popular culture icons strongly associated with the original actors, most notably William Shatner as James Tiberius Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. How would Abrams, along with writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, reinvigorate Gene Roddenberry’s world and attract audiences? Continue reading “Star Trek (2009): The First Sixty Seconds”

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Only Kirk Could Go To Qo’noS: Cold War Allegory and the Title Theme for Star Trek VI

By Michael W. Harris

Note: This post is part of The Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central.

Star Trek VI movie poster

Coming off the critical and commercial failure of The Final Frontier, the future of another big screen adventure for Kirk and Crew was in doubt. Sure, The Next Generation was setting ratings records in first-run syndication, but would anyone go to see another big screen adventure of the Original Series crew? Indeed, the first idea batted around for a Trek VI was something that is much more like what became the 2009 reboot: a younger version of crew set during their days at Starfleet Academy. But with the 25th anniversary of the franchise looming, along with negative fan reaction to this early pitch, the decision was made to give Shatner, Nimoy, et al, the big screen send-off they deserved. Continue reading “Only Kirk Could Go To Qo’noS: Cold War Allegory and the Title Theme for Star Trek VI”

Scoring the Final Frontier: Celebrating 50 Years of Trek Tracks

By Jessica Getman, Michael W. Harris, and Brooke McCorkle

Welcome to The Temp Track’s celebration of Star Trek music, being held as part of Film Music Central’s Star Trek Blogathon. Seeing how The Temp Track will be hosting three entries for this blogathon, Temp Track editor-in-chief/owner/dark-overlord Michael W. Harris thought it would be useful to write this intro giving new readers some introduction, context, and also have some fun with getting a bunch of Trek nerds to listen to all thirteen film scores and compile a ranking-to-end-all-rankings of Trek film music…at least until a new film comes out and we all rewatch and relisten to all the previous films, and in the process completely change our minds. Except for Wrath of Khan. That film and music will forever reign supreme over all of Trek. Continue reading “Scoring the Final Frontier: Celebrating 50 Years of Trek Tracks”

From Kurosawa to Evangelion: Ma –or– Leaving Space for Thought

By Michael W. Harris

Author’s Note: This is probably, by far, the longest post I have written for this blog. There is a lot to discuss so please, just stick with me. It will be worth it, I promise! For those who make it through, there is a special treat waiting for you at the end. Also, see the end of the post for a disclaimer about the videos (or lack thereof in one case) in this post

Part I: By Way of Beginnings

It has been a while since I turned my critical lens on Japanese cinema and culture in this humble blog space, so let’s dive back into the realm that constituted so much of my dissertation research.

At the recent 2016 edition of Music and the Moving Image, I was chatting with a good friend about future projects we might collaborate on. As is want to happen when two Japanese film music scholars talk, the subject of Kurosawa’s use of sound bubbled to the surface and I remembered two scenes from his early post-war films (No Regrets for our Youth and One Wonderful Sunday) that had always intrigued me. While these films are not all that highly regarded in the Kurosawa oeuvre, I do find many aspects of their treatment of music and sound (both on- and off-screen) interesting, and I mentioned these two specific scenes to my friend as ones that she might want to take a look at.

Fast forward a few days and a notion pops into my head: not only is Kurosawa probably playing with the Japanese aesthetic principle of ma (literally meaning “space” or “the space between”), but also by looking at these Kurosawa scenes through the lens of ma we might give ourselves a new way of looking at two rather infamous scenes from the 1995-96 anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. Scenes that are infamous for their lack of movement and are usually pointed to as examples of the production’s rather constrained animation budget.

So with that in mind, let’s dissect the concept of ma, watch some Kurosawa, and then talk some Evangelion. Continue reading “From Kurosawa to Evangelion: Ma –or– Leaving Space for Thought”

Pacific Rim and the Art of Life

By Michael Harris

So last Friday, with the words from my overly long post on modern music still ringing in my ears, I went and saw Pacific Rim with a good friend, Andy Lee, whose recordings of lesser known minimalist composers you should really check out.  Anyway, I started to think, while watching giant robots fight giant monsters, how I might discuss this film in context of what I had just written.  Would this film be an example of recycled Hollywood schlock, opiate for the masses, art of death?  (Which on the surface it would seem to be.)  Or is it life affirming, truly creative, and something that helps to contribute to the on-going dialogue amongst creators; the art of life?  For me, it is quite assuredly in the latter category, and I’ll explain why shortly.  First, though, a brief review. Continue reading “Pacific Rim and the Art of Life”

First Impressions: Pacific Rim by Ramin Djawadi

By Michael Harris

One of my most anticipated movies of the summer, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, is set to drop in a week and you better believe I will be there opening weekend.  Late last week I bought the score off iTunes and began listening to it. Continue reading “First Impressions: Pacific Rim by Ramin Djawadi”

Much Ado About Scoring: Joss Whedon’s Score to Much Ado About Nothing

By Michael Harris

In my previous post (here) I detailed some of the creation behind Joss Whedon’s new film, Much Ado About Nothing and also why he decided to score it himself—namely that everything about this film was done on the cheap, so Joss decided to tackle the music himself.  The question of if he was successful I was leaving open until I saw the film.[1]  I have now viewed Whedon’s masterful Shakespeare adaptation, and am pleased to say that the score is a total success. Continue reading “Much Ado About Scoring: Joss Whedon’s Score to Much Ado About Nothing”