Category Score Review and Analysis
John Williams and Steven Spielberg know what dreams are made of. The duo that for almost half a century brought us dozens of eternal classics, have teamed up once again to add their charm to Roald Dahl’s story. The magic of films like Close Encounters, E.T., and Hook, is present in The BFG, a film about a friendly giant who catches dreams to keep us (humans) dreaming. The film captures the innocence, excitement and love of Roald Dahl’s story with the help of one of my favorite John Williams’ soundtracks in recent years. What is it that makes the score sound this way? My analysis below.
Big Friendly Giant
The BFG tells us the story of Sophie (played by a remarkably talented newcomer called Ruby Barnhill), an orphan girl who lives in an orphanage in London...Read More
What an exciting time! Michael Giacchino, one of my favorite composers, gets to score a new Star Wars film. Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but this marks the first time someone other than John Williams scores a live action, feature-length Star Wars film. And given that the Star Wars saga will likely outlive (all of us, including) John Williams, it is great to hear other composers take a shot at scoring a Star Wars film.
Ever since Rogue One was announced, I had been wondering who would score it. Michael Giacchino was my first guess, but I was happy to hear that Alexandre Desplat had been announced given a. the high quality of his work and b. the fact that he had already scored some of the Harry Potter films (which is also a pre-existing saga previously scored by John Willia...Read More
SPOILER ALERT: As much as I try to keep my posts free from spoilers, I believed I couldn’t analyze this score without describing some of the film’s major plot points. If you haven’t watched Arrival and are planning to watch it, you should probably watch it first and then come back to the article, as it contains major spoilers. You’ve been warned…
I had very high expectations for this one. Not only is Jóhann Jóhansson a terrific composer, but also I am a huge fan of the sci-fi genre. Moreover, while I am not a linguist, I clearly have a passion for languages being fluent in Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese and French. Linguist or not, you do pick up basic knowledge of linguistics when you study (and teach) different languages.
The film starts with a wonderful...Read More
At last! More Star Wars!!
I had waited for that moment for so long. Like most Star Wars fans who watched the original trilogy during childhood – well, in my case, the Special Editions – I always wondered what would happen after the destruction of the Death Star and the death of the emperor. Sure, good times celebrating with the Ewoks sounded fair enough for a child, but as I grew older (and hopefully wiser) I couldn’t help but to wonder how the galaxy would reorganize – outside, you know, the uninteresting stuff that Coruscant’s C-Span would cover…
By the time The Phantom Menace was released, Industrial Light and Magic was allegedly still working on special effects good enough to make it seem like representatives showed up to congress sessions at least in a galaxy far away…
There w...Read More
[Note: As this article was being prepared to be published, we tragically lost one of our greatest composers, James Horner, to a fatal plane crash. You may expect a post from me about Mr. Horner soon, and you may find out more about the content and frequency of my blog posts here.]
When faced with limited resources, most composers will either reject a project or take on monumental tasks that, due to the unavailability of such resources (read: time and money) will end up in trouble for parties involved…
But don’t worry! There are alternatives.
I would like to start by making clear that, according to the director of The Living, Jack Bryan, the reasons why he chose to have a shorter soundtrack with fewer instruments were purely ae...Read More
Last year I had the privilege of being taught by the renowned composer and producer David Hentschel – yeah, the David Hentschel – when in one of his quizzes I answered that a music composer could in fact alter the pace of a film. Not to my surprise, my answer was marked to be incorrect, stating that while the director, film editor, and music editor – all of whom I had included in my answer – have this ability, the music composer does not. Most if not all technical literature reaffirms this, and the expected answer makes sense: The film composer can nurture the film with different emotions, but the pace is ultimately already there, as set by the director and editors.
Embarrassed that I had “missed” such a simple question, I decided to quickly put together a video to send Mr...Read More
If you have not seen The Grand Budapest Hotel, go see it now. It is incredibly clever, gorgeous, quirky, and in my opinion Wes Anderson’s best film to date. It is also in my opinion Alexander Desplat’s best score to date, which brings us to our usual question: What makes the score so good? First we will take a look at the setting and the film’s basic premises, and then we will discuss how Desplat reacted to them. Read on…
Welcome to Zubrowka
Since first impressions are always the most powerful ones, let’s take a look at the film’s very beginning. A slide reads:
“On the farthest eastern boundary of the European continent:
The former Republic of
Once the seat of an Empire”
Kind of like the good old “Once upon a time in a land far, far away,” right? Only that “a land far, far aw...Read More
From the first measures accompanying the film’s titles, Alexander Desplat makes a strong statement about the score and film to come. Machines and men, numbers and human emotion, they all coexist beautifully in The Imitation Game’s excellent score. But how does he do it, and why does it work so well? We’ll dive into that all that soon, all with musical samples that I will play for you. We will talk about leitmotifs to help you understand what I will talk about – similarly to the way in which I explained minimalism when analyzing Interstellar – and then we will look at and listen to some of the themes in The Imitation Game.
Few things are as attractive for a composer as mind and emotion...Read More
While Interstellar heavily draws inspiration from films like 2001: A Space Odyssey in most departments, its soundtrack takes a much different approach. The grandiose adapted score featured in Stanley Kubrick’s classic space opera – inspiring the sound of Star Wars, the film attributed with bringing the post-romantic orchestra back to its place in film music supremacy – is here replaced by a minimalist approach, one much closer to Phillip Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi than to Kubrick’s masterpiece. The majestic yet often heavy-handed brass chords, virtuosic woodwind slurs, and the heart-pounding timpani, all of which are often associated with space sci-fi films thanks to 2001 and Star Wars, are nowhere to be heard...Read More
The world of film sound is a tricky one for non-sound people: Your brain will process everything that you hear, but you may not know why it is good or bad. And to a lesser extent, this also true with film scores…
I am here to help you out, and since it is that time of the year again, let’s start with films nominated for the Academy Awards. During the next two weeks, I will be writing reviews/analysis on four of the five films nominated:
- Interstellar (Hans Zimmer)
- The Imitation Game (Alexandre Desplat)
- The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat)
- The Theory of Everything (Jóhann Jóhannsson) [EDIT: Being that the Academy Awards are over and this soundtrack did not get as much attention as the other ones nominated, I decided to leave it alone for the time being...