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Thread: 'The tail wagging the dog': Film scores > the Film- Examples

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    Default 'The tail wagging the dog': Film scores > the Film- Examples

    This topic has been nagging at me for the last little while, so here goes...

    As the title suggests, what are some good examples of films scores you thought were greater than the film? Any films you enjoy particularly for the original music, or merely as a vehicle for the music alone? Or, perhaps, any films you haven't seen yet (or probably never will) with a score you know note for note?

    1) Cutthroat Island (John Debney), GREAT score. I own the magnificent 2 disc set and I can't listen to it enough. Unfortunately, the film is mediocre at best.

    2) The Quick and the Dead (Alan Silvestri), pretty dull film, full of cliches. Very neat soundtrack.

    3) Black Beauty (Danny Elfman) Great music, I would venture to say one of Elfman's 5 best scores. However, I couldn't sit though the movie for more than half an hour.

    4) To Die For (Elfman) Pretty strange movie, the music fits well but has a slighter edge in my opinion. (In all fairness, I'll stick to only 2 Elfman examples in this list.)

    5) Far and Away (John Williams), not as bad as the other 4 films, but, as previously, the score has it.
    Op. 109

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    I'll try to avoid repeating the similar thread. (However, Mario Nascimbene's One Million Years BC fits the bill perfectly. His score MAKES the atmosphere of that movie).

    Back in the 1960's a corny TV show, The Time Tunnel, had the opening theme music composed by somebody named Johnny Williams. It's 2 minutes of complex syncopated rhythmic bliss.

    The movie Brainstorm is entertaining, but I thought it could have done SO much more with the concept of recording experiences directly from the brain than it does. James Horner's score is phenomenal though, especially the heart attack sequence. It almost gave me one.

    Almost any Ennio Morricone score is better than the movie, and he wrote -- how many? Something like a hundred? The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is especially chilling music, though I found the movie a little pedestrian.

    One interesting score that stands out in my mind is Maurice Jarre's The Witness (1985, starring Harrison Ford). The movie is top notch, but I don't remember it much. The music was one of the earliest movie "orchestral" scores realized on electronics and samplers -- at least on the soundtrack record. I never knew if Jarre planned this or if they just ran out of budget for an orchestra, but it was amazing to think of someone of Jarre's stature embracing electronics like that. Oh - and it's a good score too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Weston View Post
    I'll try to avoid repeating the similar thread.
    If you're referring to the "Favorite Scores" thread, yes. Just think of this (as you already have) as a subset of that.
    Op. 109

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    Two pretty terrific scores that DEFINITELY turned out better than the movies they were written for:

    George Anthiel: THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION (if you close your eyes and just listen, it's like Manuel deFalla on Steroids. Terrific score.)
    Franz Waxman: TARAS BULBA (exciting, colorful and right 'in-your-face'. Now if the movie had been the same---sigh----)

    Tom

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    Senior Member Falstaft's Avatar
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    I give a lot of listening time to great scores for movies of questionable quality. But I don't think of them as guilty pleasures... more like little flowers that somehow managed to bloom despite being cultivated in dung.


    Goldenthal's score for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a remarkable piece of work for a movie a lot of us would like to forget. Similar feelings towards Goldsmith's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which I think is his masterpiece (and I don't think the movie is as bad as people say it is, but oh well).

    Yared's (unused) Troy is a revelation if you ever get a chance to hear it.

    I prefer Williams' Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World to the original, but certainly not the film. And, heck, I'll take Home Alone 2 over it's predecessor as well.

    Strongly agree with these two Rondo:
    Quote Originally Posted by Rondo View Post

    3) Black Beauty (Danny Elfman) Great music, I would venture to say one of Elfman's 5 best scores. However, I couldn't sit though the movie for more than half an hour.
    5) Far and Away (John Williams), not as bad as the other 4 films, but, as previously, the score has it.

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Falstaft View Post
    Similar feelings towards Goldsmith's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which I think is his masterpiece (and I don't think the movie is as bad as people say it is, but oh well).
    I agree on the Star Trek movie. The score is great and I especially love the sound effect / music created to represent the V-ger thingy. I once saw a TV magazine which featured the fellow who created the "Cosmic Beam," a long girder strung with piano wire and electric guitar pickups which he would strike with various objects and bend the strings to get the twangy bass effects heard when V-ger is present. I don't think he was on the album unless that was James Horner himself, but that was back in vinyl days so it's been a very long time since I heard it.

    People complained of the movie being too slow. I thought it was beautiful - the camera making love to the universe it was creating.

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    Senior Member Il Seraglio's Avatar
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    Jerry Goldsmith seemed to have a habit of writing great scores for mediocre movies. (except Alien, which is a classic in every respect).

    The most notable example would have to be Ridley Scott's Legend, which was about as tedious and difficult to watch as a campy high fantasy movie can possibly get.

    The score to Papillon is quite possibly Goldsmith's finest work, but I thought the actual film suffered from its sentimental, over-earnest presentation of a true story, disjointed narrative and episodic structure which killed any sense of plot or pace.

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    Here are a couple more "glowing" scores for dull movies:

    "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (Edward Shearmur)

    "Lost in Space" (Bruce Broughton)
    Op. 109

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    Some films scored by Philip Glass seem to fit the bill of this thread. The Hours and the Qatsi trilogy are decent films but the main reason I watched them was for the music.

    Quote Originally Posted by Weston View Post
    One interesting score that stands out in my mind is Maurice Jarre's The Witness (1985, starring Harrison Ford). The music is top notch, but I don't remember it much. The music was one of the earliest movie "orchestral" scores realized on electronics and samplers -- at least on the soundtrack record. I never knew if Jarre planned this or if they just ran out of budget for an orchestra, but it was amazing to think of someone of Jarre's stature embracing electronics like that. Oh - and it's a good score too.
    Edited to reflect my opinion. The music works great in the movie but doesn't work on it's own for me. I find the film very memorable even though it's quite a simple plot.

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    Almost anything by Jerry Goldsmith. One of the greatest composer of the 20th century, unfortunately most of his work was done for bad movies.

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    It's not a classical soundtrack, but the most notable case I can think of is Gummo. The movie? Hipster poverty voyeurism, not nearly as deep as it thinks it is. The soundtrack? A ton of great, obscure (at the time) death metal and ambient that gives it a legitimately morbid atmosphere.
    People who hide are afraid!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hector View Post
    Almost anything by Jerry Goldsmith. One of the greatest composer of the 20th century, unfortunately most of his work was done for bad movies.
    Goldsmith is quite frankly a mixed bag. On the one hand you have great films like Patton, LA Confidential, Chinatown, and Total Recall. Buuuuut, there's also crap like The 13th Warrior, The Haunting, Timeline (though I woudn't equate that particular score with greatness), Air Force One, and Basic Instinct.
    Op. 109

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    Thomas Newman - Scent of a Woman, The Shawshank Redemption, Meet Joe Black, American Beauty, Cinderella Man, The Good German, Revolutionary Road, The Iron Lady.

    Ten Academy Award nominations, and zero wins. That could end with The Iron Lady.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaneyes View Post
    Thomas Newman - Scent of a Woman, The Shawshank Redemption, Meet Joe Black, American Beauty, Cinderella Man, The Good German, Revolutionary Road, The Iron Lady.
    Great composer. However, I'd say most of those "dogs" have full control of their "tail."
    Op. 109

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rondo View Post
    Great composer. However, I'd say most of those "dogs" have full control of their "tail."
    Sometimes it's a combo slobber, shake, and wag.

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