KING KONG (1976) – Maybe My Luck Has Changed[audio:kingkong.mp3]
Though it was a monster of a critical flop in its day, Dino de Laurentiis’ KING KONG proved that the big ape still had muscle at the box office, coming in at number three for the year behind ROCKY and Barbra Streisand’s crap remake of A STAR IS BORN. The only redeeming elements of the film are Rick Baker’s makeup, the deservedly Oscar-winning special effects, and John Barry‘s music. The finest moments in Barry’s lugubrious score focuse on the relationship between the monkey and his beautiful bait (Jessica Lange). The theme for Lange is another Barry winner, with its soaring strings, chirping woodwind accompaniment, and brief French horn countermelody. It would take Lange years (and an Oscar for TOOTSIE) to begin to live down the embarrassment of her performance in the film.
IN LOVE AND WAR (1996) – Agnes’ Theme[audio:inloveandwar.mp3]
The true life love story between a wounded Ernest Hemingway and a nurse in Northern Italy during World War I should make for an interesting film. Having Richard Attenborough’s typically ponderous direction, Sandra Bullock and Chris O’Donnell as Hemingway made it less so. The film opened during the 1996 holiday season in the hopes of garnering some Oscar attention. With its pathetic $14 million box office take, the film ended up at #105 for the year. But the film inspired one of George Fenton‘s finest scores. This track presents the beautiful theme for Bullock’s Agnes. Set in a gentle three-quarter meter, the theme slowly dances around the growing relationship between Hemingway and Agnes. Even though the film was a massive flop, Fenton deserved an Oscar nomination over the classical-heavy SHINE and Williams’ snore of a score for SLEEPERS.
BRADDOCK: MISSING IN ACTION III (1988) – Father/Son; Braddock Crawls To Border[audio:braddock.mp3]
I’ve never seen a Chuck Norris film and I think I can safely say I will never see a Chuck Norris film. And that includes this third installment in the MISSING IN ACTION series. Shoot-em-up Vietnam POW’s are not my thing (see RAMBO), but my film snobbery denied me the pleasure of hearing Jay Chattaway‘s excellent score. After Brian May was brought on board for the middle installment, Chattaway completed the series he had started in 1984. Since I’ve never seen the film, I can’t explain what happens in the scene(s) associated with this track, but the first half of the cue showcases the beautiful pan flute melody that Chattaway associates with Braddock’s family in Vietnam. The cue closes with pulsating, ominous chords in the low strings nearly overwhelming the French horm melody above it. I’d never listened to this score prior to today and I confess that I was pleasantly surprised. Even though he doesn’t score many films that I would normally see, I will definitely check out more of Chattaway’s work in the future.
ADORATION (2008) – Promise[audio:adoration.mp3]
Mychael Danna continues his collaboration with director Atom Egoyan with this tale of a French high school student who weaves his family history in a news story involving terrorism, and goes on to invite an Internet audience in on the resulting controversy. “Promise” is the opening track and it sets the stage for the film with a slightly ethnic feel to the cello duet. The plaintive violin solo sighs and cries and the track proceeds with nary a wind instrument in sight. This film came and went here in NYC and considering I found Egoyan’s THE SWEET HEREAFTER to be an overrated, pretentious bore, I probably wouldn’t have seen ADORATION anyway. But Danna’s score is haunting and I’ll definitely check out the DVD when it comes out in October. It will be interesting to hear what Danna does with the highly anticipated THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE later this month.
A LITTLE ROMANCE (1979) – Farewell…For Now[audio:littleromance.mp3]
If it weren’t for Georges Delerue‘s Oscar win, A LITTLE ROMANCE would probably be remembered as a sweet, slight film. Diane Lane (in her film debut) and Theonius Bernard star as an American girl and French boy caught in the throes of adolescent love. They befriend a dottering old pickpocket (Laurence Olivier), who helps them run away to Venice to seal their love forever. Delerue’s delicate score captures the heartbreak of first love and perfectly complements the unpretentiousness performances of the two young leads. But the music that most people remember (and what probably won Delerue the Oscar) isn’t Delerue’s at all, but Vivaldi’s. The tender theme used for the two lovers comes from the Largo movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto for Lute, Violins, and Basso Continuo in D Major. The music may put Delerue’s eligibility for “original” score into question, but it is memorable. But I don’t think anyone would care about the Oscar win if the score hadn’t been up against Jerry Goldsmith’s STAR TREK – THE MOTION PICTURE. I agree that Goldsmith should have won, but it is difficult to deny Delerue an Oscar somewhere along the way.