Movie Music

today’s random thoughts:kevin costner is a hack. wait…not a hack-overwrought. the man needs to cease and desist with the sentimentality. it was acceptable in ‘dances with wolves,’ but it should have ended there. excepting that one, his best acting occurs in ‘the big chill.’ ……..bet you didn’t know he was in the big chill, right? yep. he is. he plays the dead friend that brings everyone together. that’s right…a corpse. no joke. but seriously, costner picked up where michael landon left off…the man is the kenny G of movies. so, cut a christmas album and call it a day.

actually, i’m exaggerating. the man has made a few decent movies…all involving baseball. well…actually…i can only personally vouch for one being good: ‘bull durham.’ but i credit susan sarandon and tim robbins for making that movie what it was. (we’ll forgive them for their political activism. just think of it: it all began with a baseball movie.)

so, back to costner…so i happen to catch a minute or two of ‘message in a bottle’ this morning. yikes. even paul newman and robin wright penn couldn’t save that one. don’t get me wrong, i remember crying the first time i saw it…but that is not saying much. i cried in ‘honey, i shrunk the kids’ when the ant died. seriously. i’m ridiculous. so i’m watching this movie, and all i can think of is the score. it’s gorgeous. and it sounds familiar. sounds like something else i’ve heard…then it comes to me: ‘city of angels.’ turns out gabriel yared wrote both scores.

now, sidenote here: i have one useless skill. i am not afraid to boast about this: i have an uncanny ability to identify the composers of movie scores. i am almost never wrong. give me 5 minutes of a movie with an original score written by somebody whose music i’ve heard before…and i will be able to guess it. i might not even know who wrote it, but i will be able to tell you what other movies were written by that composer. seriously. try challenging me sometime. in fact, this can annoy people when they watch movies with me. because i usually obsess about the score until i figure it out. i realized it was a strange (and pointless) gift when i was sitting in the movie theatre watching ‘the green mile.’ and i think…wow, this sounds like ‘up close and personal’ and ‘shawshank redemption’ and ‘american beauty’ and ‘corrina corrina.’ i had never thought to look it up before. and as it turns out, all written by thomas newman. god love him. what a talent. now, mind you, thomas newman isn’t difficult to identify….he’s like james horner. very characteristic sound. except horner is more generic. no offense…some of his work is excellent. my favorites include: an american tale (yes, i love the score), swing kids, legends of the fall, and willow. now, i only own some of these scores…the rest just stick with me. like willow, for instance. i could hum the whole main title…and i haven’t heard it in…well…probably 15 years.that’s the thing with me and music….i almost never forget something once i hear it. this doesn’t necessarily apply to lyrics or the like, nor does it mean that i could sit down and play it immediately…but melodic lines. chord progressions. characteristic licks or rhythmic patterns…like, for instance, james horner’s horn rips. or thomas newman’s lonely piano solos…he’s always got that 3 and 5 chord motive. ….wanna know what i’m talking about? in a cool mix? check out the album ‘ultra chilled’ (one of those electronica compilation CDs) disc 2, track 2 (titled ‘american dream’). it is snippets of thomas newman’s score from ‘american beauty’ mixed by jakatta. very nice.

anyways…this musical score thing is something i inherited from my father. my dad has an amazing ear. astounding, actually. so, in middle school, i go to a jam session with some of my music pals. i’m on the keyboard. we have some brass involved….we are trying to put together some jazz stuff…inspired by a sting b-side ‘i miss you, kate’ from his ‘ten summoner’s tales’ days. (in fact, the bridge of ‘i miss you, kate’ also appears in the middle section of ‘st. augustine in hell.’) anyways, so i have a cassette of ‘i miss you, kate’ and throw it on in the car…he listens to it and immediately says “that’s ‘spartacus.’ ” and mom and i are looking at each other like he’s crazy. but he insists. and starts humming along to the song…a song i’m sure he has never heard before. so, we go home and he rummages through the shelf of old LPs…most of which hadn’t been touched by anyone but me for the last 15 years. and it takes him all of perhaps 5 minutes to find the section in the love theme of ‘spartacus’ that utilizes the exact same progression as ‘i miss you, kate.’ crazy. sting totally ripped off alex north. totally.

how often do we rip people off without even knowing it? and how often are we ripping ourselves off? i mean, of course that is why i can recognize film composers…they aren’t always very original. reinvention can be highly uncommecial. take, for instance, gabriel yared. so, i am curious, and i read up on him and his career. he apparently wrote the first score to ‘troy’…and it was rejected approximately a month out from the world-wide release of the movie. a month out! so, good ol’ horner churned out a new score in about a month. a score with…yeah, you guessed it, OODLES of his characteristic horn rips. go figure. the thing is, yared’s score was supposed to be his best work EVER, but it was accused of being too old-fashioned. fancy that. a score to a movie about the greeks being too old-fashioned. and i am dying to hear it. but the thing is, he doesn’t own it. and until the studio decides to release it, it will never be heard. criminal. just criminal.

speaking of ripping off…i just watched ‘annie hall’ for the first time with henning the other day. the last silly movie in which i cried. no surprise. and man…i had NO IDEA how much nora ephron ripped off woody allen! watch ‘annie hall’…then watch ‘when harry met sally.’ basically, ‘when harry met sally’ is ‘annie hall’ with a happier ending. who knew.

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~ by ladamesansregrets on November 27, 2006.

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