Sunday, September 8, 2013

Top 10 Movie Scores Part 2

Before I begin this post, I need to make a correction from the first half of my list.  I mistakenly credited Steve Jablonsky as the composer for the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie--he is not, and the mistake has been corrected.

Welcome back to The Casual Geek--I hope you're all chilling on the sofa, playing Star Trek on your tv, and enjoying a beverage of your choice, (mine today is orange, peach, mango juice.  Mmmm).

Last post I talked about music, and listed the first 5 of my personal favorite Top 10 geeky movie scores. Well today I finish counting down to the...*drumroll* NUMBER ONE FAVORITE SCORE!!! (So exciting!  You know it is, because I used capital letters! Yeah, I'm not scared to bust out the caps! Or the exclamation points!!)

So let's get to it!  Remember, these are just my personal favorite scores from geeky movies--there are many, many movies with FANTASTIC scores that you won't see on the list, like Finding Neverland, because they don't qualify as a sci-fi/fantasy/geeky movie.  And again, I'd love to hear from you about your favorites in the comments. :)

Here it is, the Top 5 Personal Favorite Geeky Movies Scores, starting with...

#5: Sherlock Holmes
Composer: Hans Zimmer

Now, many Sherlock Holmes fans didn't like the Robert Downey Jr. version of the character, but I actually enjoyed the movie a lot.  Part of that was of course due to RDJ, another part was due that I liked seeing an alternate interpretation of the character that departed from more traditional portrayals, and another large part was due to the genius of Hans Zimmer's score.

This score is so quirky and fun--much like the movie itself.  It keeps you guessing, startles you, makes you smile, but can also be dramatic and full of tension.  Zimmer uses an unusual array of instruments, including a banjo, an accordion, and a trombone. Instead of smooth, flowing violins, instead Zimmer gives us quick, crackling music, that sounds organic and full of life, especially when paired up with some lighthearted percussion.  In my version of the soundtrack I include Luke Kelly's version of "The Rocky Road to Dublin" which is played during the boxing scene.   It fits in perfectly with the rest of the score.  I wish they had released it officially on the soundtrack.  If you had not had the pleasure of listening to this soundtrack I definitely recommend it.  Favorite tracks include "Discombobulate," "I Never Woke Up In Handcuffs Before," "Ah, Putrefaction," and "Not in Blood, But in Bond."

#4: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Composer: Klaus Badelt

This score and the next one I had a hard time deciding what order to put them in, because they are both so excellent, but ultimately I decided that POTC needed to come in at this spot.  This score is just fantastic--so memorable and fun.   This was another soundtrack that I went home after seeing the movie and bought right away.  It's thrilling, heroic, quirky, sometimes dark and a bit spooky, and romantic, and that's all already apparent in just the first two tracks. I read a review of this soundtrack that tore it apart, and called it awful, but to me, it's fun, upbeat, and definitely entertaining.  With 15 tracks, coming in on average around 2-3 minutes each, it's easy to listen to, and its lightheartedness is enough to brighten anyone's mood.

Favorite tracks include: "He's a Pirate," "Fog Bound," "Moonlight Serenade," and "Underwater March."

#3: Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams

I LOVE this score.  The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is the film I'm most familiar with, but all three movies have an excellent soundtrack.  Gregson-Williams has composed such a soaring, gorgeous, noble, beautiful score for this movie--he really is able to capture strong emotion in his music.  The soundtrack opens on a dark note, with "The Blitz, 1940," but it quickly segues into gorgeous strings and a lovely solo voice in "Evacuating London." From there it continues to capture the wonder and magic of a place like Narnia, growing and growing until by the end of the movie we are treated to simply amazing tracks like "The Battle." Even if you don't listen to the rest of the score, you should listen to "The Battle."  It's one of my favorite pieces of music period.  Even though it's just over 7 minutes long, every second of it is full to the brim with emotion.

The use of horns, strings, with the choir, and the steady beat of the percussion--this is really one of the standout tracks on this score.  For me, the best part of the track starts at 4:11.  The strings there never fail to make my heart ache.  Just listen to it already, okay? :)

Favorite tracks besides "The Battle," include: "To Aslan's Camp," "Only the Beginning of the Adventure," "The Wardrobe" and "Can't Take It In."

#2: Star Wars
Composer: John Williams

This is easily John Williams's most famous score, and is in fact perhaps one of the most famous movie scores ever.  The American Film Institute ranks it number 1 in the "Greatest Film Scores of All Time."  What can I say about Star Wars that hasn't already been said?  There's a reason why it's so beloved, and that's because it is just undeniably awesome.  Williams gets you right with the bombastic horns of the Main Theme and "The Imperial March" is perhaps the most widely recognized villain theme in all movies.  I dare you to find someone over the age of 7 who isn't familiar with this music.

This music is iconic. And as much crap as the prequels get, I think their music is pretty damn good too.  "Across the Stars" is a great love theme, and I have a ringtone for "Duel of the Fates."  I get chills when "The Imperial March" plays in Attack of the Clones, as generally awful as that movie was.

Do I even need to list favorite tracks?  "Main Theme," "Imperial March," "Luke and Leia," "The Cantina Band," "Duel of the Fates."

And Finally...*drumroll*... #1...Lord of the Rings
Composer: Howard Shore

I don't even know where to start with these--I listen to these soundtracks over and over.  My friends all know that I am a HUGE Lord of the Rings fan, to the point that I saw Fellowship of the Ring 13 times in the theater (of course, I worked at the movie theater in high school so got to see most of those showings for free. Yay me!).

These scores are pretty much the definition of epic.  Howard Shore took a year of his life and composed such complex and amazing music that he won two Oscars.   The scores are brilliant, awesome, gorgeous, and run the complete emotional spectrum from innocence and joy, to wonder and majesty, to dark and frightening, to high epic adventure.  On top of that, Shore composed different sounds for the different cultures of Middle Earth--for example, Rohan is represented by a stunning violin theme.

There is so much rich music here to enjoy and explore.  There are the tracks that highlight main themes, but I find that as I re-listen, I appreciate other tracks just as much.  For example, "Shelob's Lair" is truly frightening, and I love the part starting in at around 1:02 where the strings just hover anxiously, and then especially at 1:27 where they just start screaming in earnest.  The emotion in that music, the fear is so palpable.

Again with "Samwise the Brave"--it is just beautiful, and heartwrenching when you think of everything these two characters have endured, that they still have hope in the face of darkness.  This music is so uplifting--and a smaller track, but still wonderful nonetheless.

Then we come to the big epic themes that actively made the movies that much more awesome.  The best musical moment for me in Fellowship of the Ring was when they are fleeing from the Balrog in the Mines of Moria.  As they run, the music builds tension with a chanting male choir, and as they overcome a great chasm in the movie the music resolves with them-releasing the tension with the heroic theme sounding triumphantly. This was the moment when everyone in the audience cheered.  And then Shore effortlessly switches from triumphant to absolutely heartbreaking, with (Spoilers!) the 'death' of Gandalf.  The soloists on this soundtrack are just amazingly talented.

And then there is the magnificent Gondor Theme--which Howard Shore foreshadows early on during the Council of Elrond in Fellowship.  In Return of the King it well, returns (Bad pun!  Baaaad pun.  Couldn't help myself.) in a major way, fleshed out in one of the highlights of the third movie.

All this is only scratching the surface of what these soundtracks have to offer.  I haven't even mentioned the vocalists--the credit songs are just as gorgeous as the rest of the score.  I guarantee that if you're a fan of film scores, Lord of the Rings is hours of absolutely the best that cinema has to offer.

Favorite tracks, all the ones highlighted above, plus all the credit songs, and: "Concerning Hobbits," "The Breaking of the Fellowship," "The Ring Goes South," "The Great River," "The Steward of Gondor" (Featuring Billy Boyd), "Hope and Memory," "Forth Eorlingas," "Isengard Unleashed," and "The End of All Things."  Seriously, check out this soundtrack if you haven't before.

So there you have it!  My top 10 personal favorites movie scores from geeky movies.  I have two honorable mentions, one is a score that I listen to a lot, and one is a score I actually discovered while compiling this list. :)

Honorable Mention #1: Serenity
Composer: David Newman

This is a great score.  I like the contrast of Western styles of music with unexpected instruments.  It features a lovely cello and is definitely worth a listen.  Favorite tracks include: "Jane & Zoe/Final Battle," "Love," "Serenity," and "End Credits."

Honorable Mention #2: Treasure Planet
Composer: James Newton Howard

As I was compiling my list, I was, of course, listening to many different soundtracks, and stumbled across Treasure Planet in my iTunes library.  I randomly clicked on it, and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was, so I want to give it a shoutout here.  James Newton Howard is really very talented, and this score is adventures and fun.  Favorite tracks include: "12 Years Later," "To The Spaceport," and "Silver."

As always, I end with a fun fact: Howard Shore used the music of Richard Wagner as his primary influence for Lord of the Rings musical scores. Very cool.

TTFN! Ta Ta For now!

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