Feature: What are the Ten Best Film Scores released this year? - Part 1
|25-10-2012, 10:55 AM||#1|
What are the Ten Best Film Scores released this year? - Part 1
AVForums movie reviewer Chris McEneany gives us his top ten film scores but, of course, since this is Chris, it's an epic two-parter!
There can be no denying that 2012 has been an incredible year for all the trappings of Tinseltown, with some amazing new movies arriving at the flicks, and a nigh-on unstoppable procession of great releases both of recent hits and gloriously restored classics on Blu-ray. And this veritable feast of creativity has extended towards score-fans too, with a whole slew of tremendous soundtracks finding their way to disc and download.
So here are my Top Ten Score-releases of The Year 2012. It is a blend of the old and the much more recent, and it is in no particular order.
King Kong (1976 version) - FSM
John Barry’s King Kong has long been cherished by fans and aficionados alike. The sumptuous melancholy style that crept into his Bond themes, starting with OHMSS and gracing things like Moonraker and Octopussy, also progressed through a variety of genres, with astonishing work for the barnacled thriller of The Deep, the SF adventures of Starcrash and The Black Hole and the Western re-evaluation of Dances With Wolves assuming this unique vein of lushly doomed romance. Even the explosive Stallone/Sharon Stone vehicle, The Specialist, was awarded the doomed, sentimental qualities of this tragedian composer. But such a distinctive voice was surely exemplified with his passionate, exciting and profoundly moving music for John Guillermin’s loved-and-hated 1976 remake of the iconic Great Ape’s tragic tale for Dino De Laurentiis.
Originally released on vinyl with a truncated arrangement of cues, and then released a couple of times on CD in a similar fashion over the years, Barry’s heart-rending score now, at long last, receives its definitive unveiling. FSM, who had previously released the shortened album, now provide us with a luxurious 2-Disc platter which comprises the complete score (minus the sound-effects that embellished prior incarnations), along with some unused elements, on one disc, and the familiar album, albeit with a generous selection of never-before-heard alternate cues and variations, on the other. For many, me included, this is a dream come true, and another Holy Grail to cross off the list. The audio quality is utterly superb and a definite upgrade over all that has gone before, and the extra tracks give yet more character, beauty and aching pathos to a score that was always envisioned as being both spellbinding and heart-breaking.
Standout cues abound, but my own personal favourites are Night Wall Parts 1 & 2 in which Jessica Lange’s Dwan is sacrificed to the King of Skull Island amidst a primal, frenzied ritual; the sweet, incandescent beauty of Waterfall, with its echoing piano and plaintiff star-crossed lament, in which Kong bathes his blonde plaything; and Chase/Trap which provides an incredibly exhilarating and pulse-pounding tribal pursuit as Jeff Bridges rescues the girl and makes it back to the Wall with Kong thundering after them and bellowing in furry fury.
Possibly my most cherished release this year, Barry’s King Kong is outstanding in every way.
The Dark Knight Rises– Sony Classical
Comic-book heroes were all the rage this year. The Avengers finally assembled to the accompaniment of a blistering score from Alan Silvestri, and the Big Apple’s favourite webslinger was reborn in The Amazing Spider-Man, which was blessed with superb music from James Horner. But the most memorable super-soundtrack came from out the genre’s darkest shadows. Thus, after two barnstorming depictions of Christopher Nolan’s Batman tackling the crime-sodden evil of Gotham City, Hans Zimmer returned for the final act of the gritty and psychological trilogy of urban vigilantism and the damage that its escalation causes, with The Dark Knight Rises. No longer collaborating with the softer, more lyrical essence of James Newton Howard on the music, Zimmer was now much more unrestrained and relentless in his approach. As such, he delivered the most bombastic and driving roller-coaster score of the series.
Familiar themes from the first two films return, colliding with the sinuously delicate yet dark new motif for Anne Hathaway’s slinky Cat Woman and the irresistibly rage-hard and devoutly primal beat and mob-chanting for Tom Hardy’s Bat-breaking beast, Bane. Action cues jostle and charge all over the show, but the emphasis is on finality and personal sacrifice, the score climaxing with some of the most noble, euphoric and tear-inducing material that Zimmer has ever created. But it remains Bane’s ferociously punishing clarion-call, as heard in Gotham’s Reckoning, that totally embodies this outing’s go-for-broke nature and sense of extreme physicality.
Fans will already know that several versions of this score exist. With extra tracks appearing in a variety of downloadable editions, it is both irritating and rewarding having to root them all out to create to the fullest possible compilation. It isn’t the best way to market the score to any film, let alone one as hugely popular as Christian Bale’s last swirl of the cape, but this remains one of the most potent and thunderous soundtracks of the year.
Wolfen The Unused Score - Intrada
I have waxed lyrical over Michael Wadleigh’s splendid lupine 1981 chiller, Wolfen, many times for AVForums, and especially how gorgeous, haunting and downright frightening James Horner’s score turned out to be. Ominous, dark and sombre yet shot through with an emotional resonance and lyrical pathos that captured both the plight of the scapegoat Native Indians and the titular pack of creatures that have been preying on the derelicts of an uncaring society, this was a horror score from an up-and-coming maestro who would go on to win Oscars and become one of the most sought-after and prolific of screen composers.
But the real treat this year was the release of the original score that had been composed for the film and then rejected … and that came from Craig Safan. Icy and dark, disturbing and insidious, Safan’s music is experimental and bleak, full of torment and terror. He, too, suffused his music with a reflective treatise for the Native Indian theme of the story, but he ladled on the glacial suspense with wicked élan. It is fascinating to hear both the similarities and the differences between the two scores. Although there is no main theme, and no recognisable connective thread – something that Horner specialised in - Safan delves deep into a wounded world of angular tones, queasy phrases and gleaming metallic percussion. He creates a scratchy and disturbing environment that sounds minimal, yet incorporates a large orchestra. His endeavours are unusual and unsettling, yet highly engrossing.
Rosemary’s Baby – La La Land Records
Back in 1969, the Summer of Love was turning into something else – an entire generation of distrust, resentment and anger. Vietnam, and a hatred for a corrupt and lying government, gave rise to far more volatile and dangerous counter-culture trends than Flower Power. Some found their solution in Diabolism and the Occult, and with Ira Levin’s best-selling novel about the Devil impregnating a young New York wife, who is then coveted by a brownstone brimming with his disciples, including her own husband, a new horror sub-genre was born.
The filmed version of Rosemary’s Baby came courtesy of the controversial genius Roman Polanski, making a star and a fashion-icon out of the pixie-like Mia Farrow, and paving the way for such hellish milestones as The Exorcist and The Omen. He turned to his friend Christopher Komeda to create the bizarre musical world that poor Rosemary encountered in the satanic trap of the apartment block, and this led to a dazzling construction of esoteric lullabies and demonic fury.
La-La Land’s release of the score delivers this persuasively evil milieu with lyrical clarity and superb dynamics, ensuring that the experience is wildly chilling and damningly captivating. Turning to the dark side has never been breathtakingly fiendish or so intoxicating. The devilish stuff is soul-numbing, but kudos must go to the deliriously woozy cues depicting Rosemary falling into the foul clutches of a horny Devil, Komeda perfectly finding a voice for the desires of the Pit. There is beauty, horror and elegance at play here.*The Devil is very charming and manipulative. Komeda translates for him with uncanny ease.
Dredd – Fontana Distribution
The long-awaited and faithful live-action portrayal of 2000 AD’s unforgiving post-apocalyptic lawman Judge Dredd reached the screens in a blistering salvo of high-velocity bloodshed and hyper-kinetic 3D action in Pete Travis’ awesome Dredd.
To go alongside this future-shock blitzkrieg assault on the senses, Paul Leonard-Morgan unleashed a pulsating, industrial-grind-cum-techno-ram-raid of a score that drove relentlessly through a ballistic storm-cloud of adrenalised chaos like a renegade Transformer on super-steroids. With furiously catchy electronic rhythms that paid homage to the synth noodlings of John Carpenter, he also heightened the senses with blissfully euphoric trance-tracks denoting the deadly beauty of the film’s society-blighting drug, Slo-Mo. This combination of the relentless rush of pulverising musical violence, replete with thrashing electric guitars, smothering bass, and lush mindwarping, soul-caressing hypno-candy makes for one of the most elegantly bludgeoning tapestries of cathartic overkill. Fitting the film’s adult style like a studded-glove, this is one drokking cool score that moves like an armour-plated serpent through a mire of blood and napalm.
There are plenty of great cues – with The Rise of Ma-Ma, It’s All A Deep End and Judge, Jury and Executioner being amongst the best – but once you have clicked into the groove, the whole score becomes a sizzlingly visceral trip with a mean razor’s edge to tease out a little pain along the way. Grungy, throbbing and blissfully brutal, this is Mega-City One’s anthem of aggression.
Last edited by Steve Withers; 26-10-2012 at 3:21 PM.
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|26-10-2012, 8:02 PM||#2|
|27-10-2012, 2:50 PM||#3|
Nice so far, but where are the other 5 soundtracks in the top ten? There's only 5 unless I've suddenly become allergic to mathematics!
|27-10-2012, 3:23 PM||#4|
|28-10-2012, 6:56 PM||#5|
Hans Zimmer's score for The Dark Knight Rises works fine in the film but, as a standalone listen, it's one-star stuff. Zimmer has, in my opinion, really gone downhill in recent years and this is the epitome of that slide. Without James Newton Howard, this one suffers even more than previous efforts in the series. It is just a shell of a soundtrack - no real thematic development, no interesting complexities, just the basic overriding mood of a scene transferred into a vaguely musical noise.
James Horner's score for The Amazing Spider-Man is a million times better. As is Alan Silvestri's soundtrack for The Avengers. Some would call them a 'throwback' to 90s super-hero scores but give me that any day over the incessant ear-bashing of Zimmer's output.
|29-10-2012, 2:07 PM||#6|