This week’s “Lost in the Shuffle” features cues from five legendary film composers. Five distinctive voices and a couple of extraordinary tracks.
E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) – Far From Home/E.T. Alone[audio:farfromhome.mp3]
Steven Spielberg wisely chose to film the opening scenes of E.T. with nothing more than visuals, sound effects, and John Williams‘s now-classic score. From the opening, lonely piccolo theme through the chirping forest woodwinds to the frightening triplet-oriented action cue, Williams’s score starts off with a bang. This is one film and score that never was and never will be “lost in the shuffle,” nor should it be. Some friends of mine complain about Williams’s score, especially the ending. I relish every tender, majestic, bombastic note of it.
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955) – Plato’s Death/Finale[audio:platosdeath.mp3]
Leonard Rosenman role as James Dean’s roommate and piano teacher got him the scoring gigs for EAST OF EDEN and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. The latter film’s teen angst was shocking in 1955 and helped make Dean the voice of a generation and a cultural icon. Rosenman’s atonal approach to film music went against the grain of mid-1950’s scoring sensibilities. In addition to his trademark flinty harmonies, this track hints at jazz and interpolates the beautiful love theme. This cue is taken from the excellent 1997 recording on Nonesuch with John Adams conducting the London Sinfonietta, pairing suites from EDEN and REBEL.
IRON EAGLE (1986) – Chappy Gets It/Chappy Crashes/Chappy Talks
IRON EAGLE couldn’t have picked a worse time to be released. Comparisons to the year’s #1 film, TOP GUN, were inevitable, and Jason Gedrick was no Tom Cruise. I never saw the film and I was surprised by Basil Poledouris‘s score. I expected something synth-heavy, a la Harold Faltermeyer’s TOP GUN famous sound. Instead, Poledouris judiciously uses his synths as color. This track goes through three distinctly different moods–from the militaristic pulsating rhythm at the beginning through the Asian-flavored harp and percussion underscoring the main string melody, ending with a percussion-heavy accompaniment to the low strings. I still won’t watch the movie, but it shows once again what I’ve been missing with Poledouris’s music all these years.
TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009) – No Plan[audio:noplan.mp3]
Fans of the original TERMINATOR films miss Brad Fiedel’s electronic world in the music. I prefer Danny Elfman‘s pulsating score for this latest entry in the franchise. The muscular brass and percussion may take a backseat to the sound effects in the film, but it’s always nice to hear Elfman’s unique musical voice, even if there’s nothing particular new here.
A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001) – Closing Credits[audio:closingcredits.mp3]
Ron Howard’s Oscar-winner was not the Best Picture of 2001. That honor should have gone to FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, or IN THE BEDROOM, GOSFORD PARK, or MOULIN ROUGE, the other four nominees. But Howard is a Hollywood darling and he makes slick entertainment for the masses. His biopic of John Nash Jr., a Nobel Laureate in Economics and paranoid schizophrenic, glossed over and fictionalized aspects of Nash’s life but provided a great role for Russell Crowe, who probably would have won the Oscar had he not just won for GLADIATOR. James Horner‘s score is much like Howard’s film–slick and pretty but without a whole lot of substance. The harps and piano tinkle underneath the undulating melody, the wordless chorus, and the eerie sound of Charlotte Church’s soprano. There’s nothing new in Horner’s score. In fact, didn’t he basically write the same score, and much better, for SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISHER?