Film Score Friday NOT Top 5: Summer Score Round-Up Spectacular!

Okay, I know this more than just a day late coming, but better late than never, right?  So what follows is a list of most of the films I saw this summer (in theatres) and some thoughts on their scores.  Plus, I’m also including a few major soundtrack releases from the summer, and as an added bonus to you, loyal reader, an extra special discussion prompt!

 Note: These are roughly in the order in which I saw them.

 Star Trek – Michael Giacchino:  I’ve already written on this in an earlier post, so I won’t say much else here except that this was one of the best scores I heard this summer.  To me, only two other scores can really compete with this.

 Terminator Salvation – Danny Elfman:  A good score from Elfman, not great, though.  The opening cue is very good, and he does a good job integrating the original Terminator thematic ideas in it.  The guitar based cues humanize the music and make us identify with the resistance soldiers, but overall the score, like the film, is just lacking that something special.

 Up – Michael Giacchino: The second of three in the 2009 summer of Giacchino (the third, Land of the Lost I have yet to hear or see).  Giacchino does another great job of knowing just how to score a Pixar film: sentimental and bumping right up against cliché without going over.  Here, he uses a sound that is meant to evoke that of the ‘20s and ‘30s, almost like a silent film orchestra, for those scenes dealing with the old man’s past; evoking the nostalgia that leads to his quest.  It’s wistful and wonderful, and also heartbreaking when it needs to be.  All three of his Pixar scores (The Incredibles and Ratatouille prior to this) are among the best of recent years.  They have that playful quality that reminds us that movies can be fun without being rude, violent, or sexy, much like Pixar films themselves.

 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Steve Jablonsky:  I really don’t have much to say about this one.  The film was mixed in such a way that the music was hard to hear most of the time, and I never did pick up the CD release.  For more discussion, I direct you to the post on Herr Vogler’s blog.

 Moon – Clint Mansell: The score that surprised me the most this summer, and if I had to pick a ‘best’ score I heard this summer (of just what I heard, there are a lot I didn’t, so don’t get mad), it would most likely be this…or maybe Up.  It’s just a deceptively simple score and has two main ideas: a piano ostinato that you hear almost throughout in some form, and a lyric melody used in two cues on the CD release.  There are many cues that are more atonal and electronic in nature (reminding me of the middle section of “Echoes” by Pink Floyd), but the main idea is the piano ostinato, which drives home the solitude and repetitive nature of the main character’s life.

 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Nicholas Hooper:  I’ve already said a bit on this.  The score was definitely a step up for Hooper from Order of the Phoenix, but it’s also no Prisoner of Azkaban.  I’ll direct you to my comments elsewhere on this blog.

 District 9 – Clinton Shorter: I really want to like this score because there is a lot to like about it, but for me it really smacks of the Zimmer/Howard score for The Dark Knight…and there are just too many similarities to ignore.  There are times when a cue is structured a lot like a cue for the CD release of Knight, which means that most likely that Knight cue had been temped in so Shorter was sort of locked into how that cue was edited to picture.  This was Shorter’s first “major” motion picture (according to IMDB he had done a lot of TV work prior).  That said, I look forward to hearing what he does in the future.

 Inglourious Basterds – Ennio Morricone, et al.:  Supposedly  Tarentino wanted Morricone to score the film, but scheduling wouldn’t allow for it, so he did the next best thing: he used music Morricone (and a few others) had already written, and I must say that it worked.  Luckily Tarentino didn’t use the most iconic of Morricone’s cues (the ones from the Leone westerns), which would have proved too distracting.  But the ones he did choose worked very well and the end result was one of the best films of the summer. 

Other Releases: 

Battlestar Galactica Season 4 – Bear McCreary:  Yes, more Galactica music.  I know I sound like a broken record, but McCreary really outdid himself in season 4.  I mentioned a few cues in my Top 5 list a month or so back, but the entire album really deserves a listen by all.  I don’t know why McCreary hasn’t done a major studio film release, but it’s hard to imagine that he won’t be getting the call soon.  I’ve heard the sound he created for BSG cropping up in so many other scores recently that it’s getting somewhat annoying. 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Complete Score – James Horner:  The most exciting score to be (re)released this summer.  Long out of print on CD and then only in a shorten form, Horner’s first major work in Hollywood, and, in my opinion, one of his finest scores.  Maybe it’s all my nostalgic memories of watching the movie, but there is a quality about the music that fits so well with them film.  And as many people have commented around the Internets, how can you not help but scream “Khan!” during the “Buried Alive” cue. 

Discussion Question: 

It’s recently been announced or rumored (who knows which with the Web rumors) that Ridley Scott will be getting to work on an Alien prequel film soon.  Should this actually happen, who do you think should write the score?  Just as the franchise has a quite a pedigree of directors (Scott, James Cameron, and David Fincher…I’m ignoring Alien Resurrection on all counts), the composers who have worked on it have been equally talented (Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, and Elliot Goldenthal).  Given that Mr. Goldsmith has passed on, who should take his place to work with Scott?  Looking at recent collaborations, Marc Streitenfeld seems to be a likely candidate, or could he go back to working with Hans Zimmer?  Or maybe Harry Gregson-Williams, whom he worked with on Kingdom of Heaven?  But my question to you is, if you had your druthers (yes, I did just use that word), and barring the discovery of a lost Goldsmith score for a film not yet made, who would you pick to score the film?  I’m not sure who I’d choose, some of the recent sci-fi scores might point the way, maybe Bear McCreary?  Or maybe Clint Mansell, whom I mentioned earlier in this post, he is a fellow Brit after all, and a more electronic based score could really add a unique sound to the film.  

Well, that’s it for now.  I am trying to update as often as possible, but as I said before, this is a tough semester.  As always, I’ve extended an open invitation to you, the reader, to contact me with any entries you might want to write, including ones in the ever popular “Film Score Friday Top 5” series.  Good night, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

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