Film Score Friday Top 5: Michael Giacchino Film Score Albums

Well, another Friday is upon us, the end of the work week and the beginning of my much overdue summer vacation – but do not be fearful, I shall update from the road.  It’s been quite the week here high atop Temp Track Plaza for it seems that my two posts from the weekend – one on Inception and other about the trailer for The Social Network – struck a chord with Google searches the world over and every record this humble blog had for daily, weekly, and monthly views have tumbled like the Berlin Wall c. 1989.

But never one to rest on my internet laurels, I have been hard at work this week in preparation for today’s edition of Film Score Friday Top 5.  And this week we are tackling film score albums by Temp Track favorite Michael Giacchino.  Mr. Giacchino has had quite a run of success lately, as chronicled elsewhere in this internet space.  He released four film scores last year along with continuing work on Lost and Fringe.  Oh, and he won a duffle-bag full of awards for his score to Up.  So, it seems that now would be a good time to look back at his still young career and give you a list of five Giacchino scores you should not be without, along with some thoughts on the rest.

In all, Giacchino has scored 17 films (that is including the end credit music for Cloverfield, the only score in the film), and ten of those can easily be had from your local iTunes store – with the exception of the deluxe edition of Star Trek.  (A list of his credits can be seen here.)  Of the remaining seven, the CD for Sky High doesn’t really have much of his music, and The Muppet Wizard of Oz has other music on the release, not to mention the disc is out of print, and the rest I can find no trace of.  Thusly, the scores under consideration here are as follows: The Incredibles, The Family Stone, Mission: Impossible III, Ratatouille, Cloverfield, Speed Racer, Star Trek (both the original and deluxe release), Up, Land of the Lost, and Earth Days.

So, here in no real order, and the five Giacchino scores you should have in your collection.

The Pixar Films: This kinda goes without saying, but I’ve gona and said it anyway.  The Incredibles was Giacchino’s first major studio work and really brought him to the attention of the rest of Hollywood.  That was back in 2004, and was released just as a little show called Lost was in its early days.  Of course, J.J. Abrams knew him from Alias, but Incredibles, with its wonderful ’60s jazz/James Bond score made many people sit up and take notice.  Prior to this, he had only four other films scores, none really notable, a number of video games credits, and his work with Abrams to his name.  Also, think that with the long development process of animated films, Giacchino was most likely brought on board as even more of a real unknown.  Ratatouille (2007) brought Giacchino his first Oscar nomination and features the composers signature wit and style.  That style and his ability to adapt to fit any genre and do so in a charming manner has helped make his a stable of the Pixar word.  This was further demonstrated with Up (2009), for which composed a score that is nostalgic and wistful, a signature of his work.  Even Incredibles can be seen in this manner, a throw back ’60s style score.  But what he captures in the scores is what can be described as the Pixar magic.  That thing that makes these films not only enjoyable for kids, but for adults also.  More importantly, though, each one of these score albums are well done and gives one a great sense of the film and scope of Giacchino’s music.  As a bonus, the purchase of Up from iTunes includes a short video interview with the composer about scoring the film.

Speed Racer (2008) – This film, directed by the Wachowski Brothers (they of The Matrix fame), was a much overlooked, CGI-in-overdrive live action film that was in and out of theatres faster than you could say, “Go, Speed Racer, go!”  I’ve mentioned the film before, and I’ll state once again that I believe it is vastly underrated because people were viewing it in the wrong way.  Go in with an open mind and some Dramamine and you might actually find yourself enjoying it.  As for Giacchino’s score, it pays its respects to the themes and sounds of the original anime series, but also features much of the Giacchino flare.  It revels in the impossibility of it all, from the fighting and flying cars to the evil corporations ruining sports…okay maybe not all of it is so impossible.  Best of all, every cue feels fresh and different from much of his other work.  Where sometimes, after listening to many of his scores, you’ll hear elements of some of his other work (mostly Lost), Speed Racer stays true to its world and is a great ride from beginning to end.  Since I first picked up this score over a year ago, it has rarely left my iPod’s rotation, and I can think of no better compliment given my Nano’s 8GB capacity.  And speaking of paying homage…

Star Trek: The Deluxe Edition (2009): I recently reviewed this, so I’ll just summarize my thoughts here.  First, do yourself a favor and if you haven’t bought either the Deluxe version just released or the original,  just splurge for the deluxe.  As an album, it holds together much better and gives you a much better feel for the breadth of Giacchino’s music for the film.  It also gives a listener familiar with all the Trek scores a sense that Giacchino is calling back to not just the music of the original series, but music from all of the franchise’s history.  It is a great score, and a great set.  In my opinion, some of the composer’s best film work.

The Best of the Rest:  Should you have some extra credits lying around, I would also recommend pick up “Roar!” from Cloverfield.  It is a twelve-minute long shout out to Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla scores that is featured during the film’s end credits (as the film proper has no score), and at 99 cents, you have no excuse.  You might also consider checking out Land of the Lost, if only to hear Giacchino references to Jerry Goldsmith’s classic Planet of the Apes score.  It has some nice moments in it, though a few times towards the end it veers a bit too close to some of his slow Lost cues.

Now, as a special bonus for those who have made it this far, I offer you a list of my top five favorite Giacchino cue titles.  I know some people don’t like his humorous titles, but I for one enjoy them.  And away we go…

5. “World’s Worst Last 4 Minutes to Live” from Mission: Impossible III

4. “Galaxy’s Worst Sushi Bar” from Star Trek: The Deluxe Edition

3. “52 Chachki Pickup” from Up

2. “End Credits Can Suck It!” from Land of the Lost

and coming it at number 1…”Matter? I Barely Know Her!” from Star Trek: The Deluxe Edition

Well, that’s it for this week folks.  I hope you tune in next week for my countdown of the Batman feature film scores (all eight of them…”Eight?” you ask, you’ll have to come back next Friday to find out).  This weekend is the yearly San Diego ComicCon and hopefully there’ll be some news on the next Bat film slated for a July 2012 release – like a title, casting…please? – so no better time than now to look back on the franchise.  So come back next week…same Bat-time, same Bat-station.

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