Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The film music of 2015.

This was quite a year for film music; a number of impressive scores and a staggering amount of specialty releases being put out faster than I could keep track. Little wonder that this post is butting up against the beginning of February.

My favorite scores of 2015:

(Christophe Beck - Hollywood)
Engaging score for the Marvel smash is one of Beck's finest.
Best tracks: "Theme from 'Ant-Man', "San Francisco, 1987", "A Center for Ants!"

(Thomas Newman - Hollywood)
Newman's first collaboration with Steven Spielberg (!) makes for a nicely moody affair.
Best tracks: "Sunlit Silence", "The Article", "Bridge of Spies (End Title)"

(Patrick Doyle - Disney)
Sprightly, tuneful...just what a fairy tale should sound like.
Best tracks: "A Golden Childhood", "Who is She?", "Shattered Dreams"

(Fernando Velazquez - Quartet)
Velazquez provided an appealingly lush score for the ghost story.
Best tracks: "Return to Your Ghost", "Allerdale Hall", "Lucille & Showdown"

(Alexandre Desplat - Decca)
Desplat provided a score that is sensitive and heartbreaking.
Best tracks: "Lili's Dream", "The Mirror", "Schizophrenia"

(Mychael and Jeff Danna - Disney)
The brothers Danna bring the story to life through odd orchestrations and a Western vibe.
Best tracks: "Homestead", "Swimming Lessons", "Goodbye Spot"

(Ennio Morricone - Verve)
One more chance to hear the Maestro stretch his legs on a Western.
Best tracks: "L'Ultima Diligenza di Red Rock" (long version), "L'Inferno Bianco", "Sangue e Neve"

(Michael Giacchino - Disney)
The Pixar film is perfectly matched by Giacchino's richly varied score.
Best tracks: "Bundle of Joy", "Rainbow Flyer", "Joy Turns to Sadness/A Growing Personality"

(Michael Giacchino - WaterTower/Varese Sarabande)
Exciting, inventive, enjoyable...pretty much everything the film isn't.
Best tracks: "Jupiter Ascending - 1st Movement", "The Abrasax Family Tree", "It's a Hellava Chase"

(Douglas Pipes - La La Land/Backlot)
In spite of the composer's typecasting, another marvelous holiday horror score.
Best tracks: "Bells, Bones and Chains", "Elegy", "End Credits"

(Joe Kraemer - La La Land)
Wonderfully intense music, with a particularly droll employment of Schifrin's "The Plot".
Best tracks: "The A400", "A Foggy Night in London", "Finale and Curtain Call"

(Marco Beltrami - Varese Sarabande)
Beltrami's rousing score greatly energized the guilty pleasure fantasy.
Best tracks: "Prologue", "Master Sergei", "Battle of Pendle Mountain"

(Thomas Newman - Decca)
A bit sedate at times, but another effective Bond score from Newman.
Best tracks: "Donna Lucia", "Madeleine", "Detonation"

(Theodore Shapiro - Milan)
As good an imitation of Arnold's Bond scores as one could ask for.
Best tracks: "Agent Bradley Fine", "To Rome", "Vespa Chase"

(John Williams - Disney)
Williams returns to the series with great style.
Best tracks: "Rey's Theme", "Maz's Counsel", "March of the Resistance"

(James Horner - WaterTower)
One of Horner's last scores is rich in Spanish flavor.
Best tracks: "The Collapse", "We are all well in the refuge, The 33", "Celebrations"

(Michael Giacchino - Disney)
Yep, this guy again; a wondrous score for the flawed but entertaining fantasy.
Best tracks: "You've Piqued My Pin-trist", "Pin-Ultimate Experience", "Pins of a Feather"

(Craig Armstrong - La La Land)
Armstrong's forceful score is, by far, the revisionist tale's strongest aspect.
Best tracks: "Dark Red Theme 2", "Basement Raid", "Prometheus Ascending"

More good scores:

Concussion (James Newton Howard), DragonHeart 3: the Sorcerer's Curse (Mark McKenzie), Fifty Shades of Grey (Danny Elfman), Goosebumps (Danny Elfman), Jurassic World (Michael Giacchino), The Lady in the Van (George Fenton), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Daniel Pemberton), Mortdecai (Geoff Zanelli and Mark Ronson), Mr. Holmes (Carter Burwell), My All-American (John Paesano), The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (John Debney), The Walk (Alan Silvestri) and Wolf Totem (James Horner)

Some great unreleased scores:

Hotel Transylvania 2 - Mark Mothersbaugh

Yeah, pretty skimpy. Much to my surprise, the other scores that were on this list at varying points of the year (American Ultra, Crimson Peak, 5 Flights Up, Paper Towns, Seventh Son) all received some sort of release. Kind of bunk that Mothersbaugh gets the short end of the stick, but I thought this three years ago when his fantastic scores for Safe and 21 Jump Street were languishing without releases, so, perhaps this is just a waiting game. I can wait.

My favorite new CDs of 2015:

Candleshoe (Ron Goodwin - Intrada) - Goodwin's score for the Disney comedy is engaging, highlighted by an effervescent main theme.

Going Ape! (Elmer Bernstein - Intrada) - Bernstein's music for the orangutan comedy is just delightful, from the laid-back main theme to the circus motif to those silly songs.

The House on Sorority Row (Richard Band - La La Land) - Band's finest score has it all: drama, emotion and exciting horror music.

Jaws/Jaws 2 (John Williams - Intrada) - A thrilling, career-making pair of Williams scores that demonstrated how unsafe it was to go into the water.

Obsession (Bernard Herrmann - Tadlow/Music Box) - The score so nice, they released it twice; while I'm sure the original tracks are smashing, the re-recording is beyond reproach.

Outbreak (James Newton Howard - Varese Club) - Howard wrote a terrific score for the underrated not-Ebola chiller, with rousing passages and effective percussion.

The Return of a Man Called Horse/Inherit the Wind (Laurence Rosenthal - Intrada) - The headlining score is truly sweeping, paired with a minor but still stirring effort.

The River Wild (Jerry Goldsmith/Maurice Jarre - Intrada) - This may be a minority opinion, but Goldsmith's perfectly competent replacement is no match for Jarre's lively (and rejected) work.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (Georges Delerue - Intrada) - Delerue's rejected score for the Disney fantasy is likely one of his darkest and, certainly, one of his best.

Warlock (Jerry Goldsmith - Intrada) - Even with the added electronics, this atypical Goldsmith score deserves more respect, buoyed by a pair of fantastic melodies.

So much money, so few CDs...strike that, reverse it:

Adventures in Babysitting (Michael Kamen - Intrada)
Agent Cody Banks (John Powell - Intrada)
A.I. - Artificial Intelligence (John Williams - La La Land)
Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (Bernard Herrmann - Kritzerland)
Bride of Re-Animator (Richard Band - Dragon's Domain)
Chain Reaction (Jerry Goldsmith - Varese Club)
(The) Ghost and the Darkness (Jerry Goldsmith - Intrada)
Hangover Square/5 Fingers (Bernard Herrmann - Kritzerland)
Indecent Proposal (John Barry - Intrada)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Carmen Dragon - La La Land)
Kiss the Girls (Mark Isham/Carter Burwell - Quartet)
(The) Last Boy Scout (Michael Kamen - La La Land)
North and South (Bill Conti - Varese Club)
Puppet Master X: Axis Rising/(The) Evil Clergyman (Richard Band - La La Land)
Reindeer Games (Alan Silvestri - Music Box)
Spies Like Us (Elmer Bernstein - Varese Club)
3:10 to Yuma (Marco Beltrami - La La Land)
Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue (Joel McNeely - Intrada)
Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure (Joel McNeely - Intrada)
White Witch Doctor (Bernard Herrmann - Kritzerland)

A few spare notes:

- Intrada released The Secret of N.I.M.H. this year. It is one of my favorite scores and I greatly cherish the Varese Sarabande release of it...all the more so considering that the new release was expanded by one score track. If the Varese album didn't flow so beautifully, I'd be way more upset about this.

- Philip Glass's "Prelude" from Fantastic Four may well be my favorite cue of the year. One can't help but wish he scored the whole movie. (Put this against the listenable-but-generic work that Marco Beltrami did for most of the score and you're sure to feel the same; much like how Glass's work on Secret Window outshined the overbearing supplemental cues by Geoff Zanelli.)

- And speaking of tag-team feature scores, which the past year saw quite a few of, they ranged from decent (Fantastic Four) to decent-if-noisy (Avengers: Age of Ultron) to 'what is this shit?' (The Boy Next Door). It's telling that The Good Dinosaur is the best of the bunch, if only for the novelty that its composers actually wrote this music together.

- 'What about Texas Rising?', you might be asking. I said 'feature scores', earlier. Texas Rising was produced for television. It is marvelous, sparkling with the Bruce Broughton sound of old and with hints of John Debney's 90s work. Who could ask for anything more?

- Much as I liked Giacchino's Inside Out, I could've done without the initial 'wah-wah' tuba treatment of the motif for Sadness. It struck me as heavy-handed, an adjective one would never dare to associate with Pixar or the composer, yet here we are. (In fairness, the theme gets better as it's passed to other instruments; cf. "Overcoming Sadness".)

- I beamed at hearing the Ondes martenot in Jonny Greenwood's Inherent Vice last year, so you can imagine my glee at hearing it in The Revenant. It wasn't enough to get it into the upper tier of the year's scores, though, but still, what a joy to hear this instrument on the comeback trail.

- Run All Night was the first of three major releases (all from Warner Bros.) to be scored by Tom Holkenborg (the artist formerly known as Junkie XL). Surprisingly, it wasn't always this way. The Liam Neeson thriller was set to be scored by Alan Silvestri. Based on a viewing of the trailer, I was sure that this score would've called for one of his G.I. Joe/A-Team/RED 2 electro-orchestral hybrids that pale in comparison to Silvestri's fully orchestral writing. Much to my surprise, a fully orchestral score is just what Silvestri why is it rotting away in a studio vault instead of being listened to by fans around the world?! Fuckin' Hollyweird, man...



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