Thursday, January 30, 2014

Doug Asks Patrick Questions About Movies

Patrick knows a lot about movies. Doug has seen The Incredible Burt Wonderstone dozens of times. In an effort to expand Doug's cinematic horizons, he'll be asking Patrick questions about movies in a column we're calling "Doug Asks Patrick Questions About Movies."

Let's talk about MUSIC in MOVIES. Years ago, we published this awesome piece about soundtracks and scores. It's awesome. Let's revisit it, shall we?

Are you still IN LOVE with Michael Giacchino?

I do still think he's great, yes. Don't trivialize our love with your bullying and sarcasm. It gets better, Doug. It gets better.

As I'm thinking about movie scores and composers in response to some of these questions, I'm realizing that when you start stacking enough of someone's scores against the others, a kind of sameness starts to creep in -- a lot of Danny Elfman or Hans Zimmer starts to sound the same as the rest. Maybe it's just because Giacchino hasn't done a ton of stuff yet, but I haven't heard much repetition in a lot of his work. There are definitely stylistic similarities (he's clearly a fan of bouncy '60s spy adventure stuff, as evidenced by a couple of his Pixar scores) and I still feel like I can always tell one of his scores, but I have yet to feel like "Oh, there's another one. Giacchino gotta Giacchino."

I still like him enough that his scores are often the best things about movies I don't love, including Cars 2 and last summer's Star Trek Into Darkness. I'm anxious for him to start working with companies other than Pixar and Bad Robot (even though his work for both has been great) if only because I suspect it will push him in different directions and give us something we don't expect.

But yes, to answer your question, I'm still in love with Michael Giacchino. Are you still in love with YOUR MOM??

Ya burnt.

I recently watched (suffered through?) Oz the Great and Powerful. It is so bad in so many ways. While Danny Elfman's score isn't the worst thing about the movie, I found it boring, lifeless and forgettable. No earworms, is what I'm saying. My question is this: should Danny Elfman be considered one of the premier composers of our time, or is he a one-trick pony better suited to Tim Burton movies from the '80s? I find myself more and more in the latter camp, but I'm curious to hear if you think his work has merit/will hold up in the future.

I think Danny Elfman will always be considered a major force in movie scores even if I think his best days are behind him. Like I referenced above with the Michael Giacchino question, Elfman suffers from problems of sameness -- his scores all begin to sound too similar, compounded by the fact that he collaborates too often with Tim Burton, who brings out the worst in the composer.

But that's probably not fair, because Elfman has done music for a ton of movies that aren't Tim Burton and don't have his usual "dark carnival" sound. It's just that those scores don't always stick in our memories. I'm sure his work on The Next Three Days doesn't sound anything like the theme to Beetlejuice, but it's only the latter that I remember at all. I remember really liking his score for Midnight Run, which has way more blues and honky tonk than anything else he's done, but that one's probably still in my head only because I used to listen to his Music for a Darkened Theater compilation a lot as a kid.

Elfman gets kind of a bad rap now because he's associated with Tim Burton laziness, but the guy has some truly great and iconic scores to his credit. The Batman march is still sweet. Beetlejuice might have created the template for the "oom-pa oom-pa" number he's been doing variations on for years, but it's a great piece of movie music. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure? Awesome. One of my favorites is still Darkman, a score that doesn't get enough credit.

John Williams is still awesome, though, right?

Well, well, well...look who's not so cocky now, huh? Look who's starting to doubt his own opinions? It's real easy to come at me with your snark, isn't it? But when your PRECIOUS JOHN WILLIAMS comes up, it's a totally different story.

(Note: Doug and I have never really talked about John Williams, and I have no idea if he loves him any more than we ALL love John Williams.)

I don't know if John Williams is STILL awesome, because I couldn't really tell you anything he's done lately. He continues to work mostly on Spielberg projects and it's very possible that those scores are great -- it's just that none of them are sticking out at me right now. But I think what you're asking is that I still think John Williams is awesome, and I do. He is responsible for more iconic movie music that anyone in history. He'll be remembered forever based on Star Wars alone, but add in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Superman and he's written three of the most famous film scores of all time. It's not just those three, either; he also wrote the music for E.T. and the first couple Harry Potter films (the themes of which would continue to be used even in the movies for which he didn't write the scores) and Jurassic Park and Home Alone and FUCKING JAWS and countless others. I know he takes a lot of shit for being too on-the-nose (it might not help that some of his most famous scores are for Steven Spielberg, who tends to like on-the-nose), but very few composers have ever been as good with marrying a visual with the exact music not just to tell us how we SHOULD feel, but tells us what we already WANT to feel.

Rank the following composers: James Horner, Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann. Show your work. Then I'll tell you why your wrong.

I'm not familiar enough with anyone's entire body of work enough to rank them with any confidence, so instead I'll just name a couple of my favorite scores from each. I hope that's ok with you YOUR MAJESTY.

James Horner: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (still one of my favorite scores of all time; the main theme makes me cry); Aliens; Cocoon
Howard Shore: Ed Wood and everything he did for Lord of the Rings is what really jumps out at me right now, but he was a favorite composer of both David Cronenberg and Martin Scorsese, so you know he's got a great body of work
Hans Zimmer: Backdraft, True Romance, Drop Zone, The Thin Red Line, The Dark Knight, Inception (even though it ruined movie music for everyone, especially in trailers) and I actually really liked his score for Man of Steel, even though he's now dangerously close to becoming a parody of himself.
Ennio Morricone: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (duh), Once Upon a Time in the West (duh), Navajo Joe, The Thing, Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables
Bernard Herrmann: Vertigo, Cape Fear, Psycho, Sisters, Taxi Driver

Not a ton of surprising or original answers there, but some shit is classic for a reason.

Do you have a favorite rock (or modern "pop") song specifically written for a movie? That's a silly question. I KNOW YOU DO. What is it? Or, if you can't limit it to just one, what are they?

To name just a few:
"That Thing You Do" by Adam Schlesinger, That Thing You Do!
"The Hell of It" by Paul Williams, Phantom of the Paradise
"Process Me, Process You" by Taylor Swift, The Master
"Save Me" by Aimee Mann, Magnolia
"Porpoise Song" by The Monkees, Head
"Miss Misery" by Elliott Smith, Good Will Hunting
"I Choose You (Not You)" by Juice Newton, Sophie's Choice
"Don't You Forget About Me" by Simple Minds, The Breakfast Club
"The Rainbow Connection" by Paul Williams, The Muppet Movie
"Tonight is What is Means to be Young" by Jim Steinman, Streets of Fire
"Our Tribe is Now" by LL Cool J, Krippendorf's Tribe


  1. We need to get you two in couples therapy - a lot sarcasm and passive-aggresiveness has entered your relationship - I bet your sex life isn't what it used to be either.

    John Williams (or J-Bills as I call him) will always be The Man when it comes to movie music for me, but thanks for making me realize that I'm a pretty big Michael Giacchino (or Mikey G as I call him since I became aware of him 5 mins ago) fan as well - he's done so much I like - e.g. that damn Super 8 music gets me every time.

    Thanks for letting us in on your little convo Master P and Easy-D - always fun!

    1. Sol, they used to get along so well, it's just years of anger built up... I just can't help but wonder what will happen to the kids.

    2. I picture 2 scared blue avatar children sitting on a staircase eavsdropping on Doug and Patrick.

  2. At least baby George Kuffs and baby Haverick have each other.

    1. I fear baby Babadook will come between them.

  3. ok first off no love for Eye of the Tiger in Rocky III- or Your the Best Around from Karate Kid, tsk tsk

    Also John Williams will always be the MAN (despite his recent ho hum score for The Book Thief) and I'd like to give special mention to Alan Silvestri for his work over the years especially with Back to the Future and Predator to name a couple off the top of my head.

    1. Alan Silvestri's score for The Abyss is one of the best things about that film. The cue when Lindsey sees the "Manta" NTI gives me goosebumps every time. And the theme for the "Ark" ship personifies epic.