Sunday, November 23, 2014



Here is the  feature on this blog that is akin to the You Tube Film Music Cue of the Day, in that it deals, once again, with one of the great passions of my life:  FILM MUSIC.
I have a huge document called My Top Scores List in which I have picked the Top 5 Film Scores for each year since 1980 along with some commentary on my choices.
You can imagine that by now the list is fairly long and contains a lot of info that I think is blog-worthy so I'm going to start publishing excerpts from the list right here on my blog.
without further ado
Here is Film Music Musings
What a year 2004 was!!!
Not only was there great film music that year but it also featured three movies that were IMO the best of the decade in The Passion of the Christ, The Phantom of the Opera, and Alexander.
I also greatly enjoyed National Treasure that year as it was kind of an American Da Vinci Code and I also thought Troy was a good movie that year.
All in all a very good year for movies and movie music.
The Passion of the Christ – John Debney
Troy – James Horner
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow – Edward Shearmur
National Treasure – Trevor Rabin
Alexander – Vangelis


2004. What a year for scores! This will go down as one of the best years for film scores of all time. It is certainly the greatest year so far this decade. However, it was basically a year of two films, one at the beginning of the year and one at the end. The year began with the powerhouse of a film from Mel Gibson called The Passion of the Christ with music by John Debney. What? Wait a minute, John Debney? The guy that wrote Bruce Almighty last year? Yes, that John Debney. Debney comes out of nowhere with the score of his life for the movie event of the year. This score is majestic with just the right touch of authenticity that mixes into the grand whole to make a satisfying and enriching musical listening experience. It enhances the film and supports the film exactly the way good film music is supposed to do. This one will go on the best of the decade list. The only word I can give it is awesome. The next score on the list is by one of the big three (although this year saw the sad passing of one of the big three, Jerry Goldsmith). James Horner steps in to save a movie and composes a great score in just two weeks. The score to Troy replaced Gabriel Yared’s hopelessly inadequate score (that strangely enough, many people have hailed as a masterpiece, not me) and replaced it with one of Horner’s best efforts and his first score to appear in the Top Five since 2001. This score features lots of themes and big orchestration. It is just the kind of score that I love to hear for this kind of epic sword and sandal movie. The next score is by Edward Shearmur who is quickly becoming one of Hollywood’s best composers even if the movies he serves aren’t all that great. A case in point is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This is a wonderfully big orchestral score (I nearly jumped up and cheered after the opening orchestral introductory main titles) with a touch of Golden Age sympathy. Now the movie was a complete mess but the score seemed to overshadow its failures and was the best thing about it. Likewise the same can be said of Oliver Stone’s Alexander score by Vangelis. Vangelis’ score is definitely the best thing about the movie and it seemed that Vangelis really loved this movie because he scored it with some of the biggest and inspiring moments of the year in film music. For a scene of young Alexander riding a horse Vangelis scores an inspiring cue that is rapturous. He loved this movie and in turn I love the score that he gave the movie. Now we come to the most surprising and perhaps troublesome score on the list and that is Trevor Rabin’s score for National Treasure. I loved this movie!! It was one of my favorite movies of the year and the score is all Media Ventures. So, how can I put it on the list? Perhaps my love of the movie is overwhelming my better judgement but I think this is a fine score that actually has cohesion (which a lot of modern electronic/orchestral/Media Ventures scores seem to lack). To me, this is what Indiana Jones would sound like if it wasn’t a period movie. And this score has led me on an appreciation tour of the Media Ventures world, that I have up to this time ignored, which is a good thing to broaden my horizons. This score featured a moving melody for the treasure and the Gates family and some good electronic inspired action music. (I compare it to The Rock which also starred Nicolas Cage but was a mismash of crashing sounds and thematic emptiness) What a year!!! The best of the decade, so great that I had to come up with a Next Ten List just to encompass the year. But the other movie that rounded out this year was the film adaption of:

The Phantom of the Opera – Andrew Lloyd Webber

What can I say about this movie? It was absolutely brilliant in it conception and outstanding in its execution. The music of this musical is enchantingly rich and magically seductive as is the title character. Joel Schumacher has redeemed himself in my eyes with this everlasting movie. It is the best movie of the year and I hope it goes on to win the Academy Award because it richly deserves it. I love the “take” on the Phantom and Christine is absolutely divine in this movie. It simply hits all the right notes and elevates the play into the realm of great cinematic art. I can’t say enough about it, the best movie of the year! 

The Next Ten
King Arthur – Hans Zimmer
SpiderMan 2 – Danny Elfman
Van Helsing – Alan Silvestri
Hidalgo – James Newton Howard
The Punisher – Carlo Siliotto
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – John Williams
The Alamo – Carter Burwell
Alien vs. Predator – Harold Kloser
The Village – James Newton Howard
Hero – Tan Dun

This year was such an incredible year that for much of it I thought I would do a Top Fifteen list instead of just a Top Five. Instead I decided to do a Next Ten list featuring all the scores that I thought were worthy but not quite Top Five material. First the big composers each contributed a score that was great: Zimmer, Williams, Elfman, Silvestri and Newton Howard gave us two. All these scores above were either on the list at one time or were early favorites to be on the list. However I would like to talk of some of the newer composers that wrote compelling scores this year. Starting with an Italian newcomer Carlo Siliotto who wrote a haunting score for Marvel’s action movie The Punisher with a main theme that is as memorable as it is moving. Moving on to Carter Burwell, a journeyman composer who came up with his finest work for the disastrous (literally) movie version of The Alamo. Harold Kloser contributed his Alien vs. Predator score for the best action movie of the year which had an impossible legacy to uphold but did it in its own way. And finally a score for the most beautifully shot movie I’ve ever seen, Hero from Zhang Zimou which featured a score by Tan Dun who took the best parts of his Academy Award winning Crouching Tiger score and gave us a score of equal power and sophistication. All these scores have something special in them and contributed to the greatest year of film music in recent memory.

Award Season Note:
The Award winners this year were, once again, a disappointment to me. The Golden Globe winner was Howard Shore’s score for Martin Scorcese’s The Aviator about the aviation, film and women exploits of Howard Hughes. The score is actually not half bad. It is a modern contrapuntal affair with a lot of dissonance and artistry. But, it is Martin Scorcese who can’t score a picture to save his life. He took Shore’s score and bastardized it in the film, merging it with period pieces and desecrating the work that Shore had accomplished. Scorcese is a disaster as a film-maker and his worst sin is in the scoring of his pictures. Terrible.
The Academy Award winner turned out to be Jan AP Kascmarik Finding Neverland score. This year the Academy disqualified many scores that could have ruined the category such as Shore’s Aviator and Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (the eventual Best Picture Winner). It was a horse-race between Debney’s Passion of the Christ and Kascmarik’s score and the Academy went with the score tied to the Best Picture nominee Finding Neverland. Disappointing . Neverland is a nice little score but it is far too undistinguished and bland. (I picked twenty great scores this year and Neverland didn’t even make that cut, that should tell you something). Neverland is fairly bland in my opinion and when you consider James Newton Howard’s adventuresome score last year for the live action Peter Pan it is a shame that the Academy chose this score.
So, the awards are once again a disappointment. I watch them every year hoping that they will get it right but they only really do every once or twice a decade or so. So, this year is a wash but hope springs eternal for next year…

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