Tag Archives: soundtracks

A Chorus So Sublime: Summer 2012 Movie Soundtracks

Summer is upon us, and one of the best parts of summer, in my opinion, is getting to spend a hot afternoon in an air-conditioned theater watching a summer movie. What always makes those movies even better are the killer soundtracks. I spent last weekend catching up on my summer flicks, and I have to say, already we have some excellent music to fill our ears with thanks to the current crop of blockbusters at the cinema.

For instance, Snow White and the Huntsman, which was nowhere near as good as I had hoped it would be, still proved to have some merit once the credits rolled.  (It had such promise at the beginning thanks to Charlize Theron’s awesomely evil Queen performance, then it just devolved into Chris Hemsworth’s strange muddled accent with Kristen Stewart flitting around the woods as some sort of fairy Jesus.) Despite being fairly bored and disappointed with the film as a whole, Florence + The Machine’s dramatic closing song, “Breath of Life,” was almost good enough to make me not feel cheated out of a movie ticket.

Luckily other movies have far exceeded my expectations, such as Pixar’s Scottish fairy tale Brave. The film was funny, moving, and incredibly lush, and what made it even better was the sweeping score by Patrick Doyle. The bagpipes, strings, and drums do a fitting service to both the story as well as Scotland, and “Touch the Sky” by Julie Fowlis is genuinely grand and uplifting. You can almost feel the highland winds in your face when you listen to this ebullient tune. It’s a fitting theme for a modern yet timeless heroine such as Merida.

Of course, what summer could be complete without a vampire movie? Some are good, some are bad, others are terrible, but luckily Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was every ounce as epic as I had hoped. (What do you get when you take one of the most awesome American presidents and add vampires to the mix? One hour and forty-five minutes of solid badass entertainment, that’s what.) The Linkin Park song “Powerless,” which is played over the credits, is decent, but lately I’m obsessing over Henry Jackman’s score, especially the tune “The Rampant Hunter.” If this music doesn’t put you in the mood to take up an axe and right the wrongs of the world yourself (or at the very least walk in slow motion while looking cool) then I don’t know what will.

It’s hard to believe that June is nearly over, but luckily July’s fresh crop of summer films is just around the corner. Let’s hope that Batman and Spider-Man prove good musical company by adding to the worthy summer soundtracks of 2012.

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The Lovers, The Dreamers, And Me

Due to NaNoWriMo I got behind on my trips to the cinema, but last weekend I finally made it out to see my first film of 2012, The Muppets. I was so glad that I took the time to see it in the theatre, because it brought back so many great memories of being young and loving Kermit, Gonzo, and Miss Piggy. Yet thanks to the numerous star cameos and song numbers, it was the same Muppets that we all know and love, but updated for a modern 2012 audience. They even included a fresh version of the classic Kermit ballad “The Rainbow Connection,” which was originally from the first Muppet film, The Muppet Movie.

I’d forgotten how poignant and amazing this song is until I saw it performed again in the movie. It was nominated for an Academy Award in 1979, which was also the year that I was born, so I have literally had the Muppets in my life throughout my entire life. The most recent Muppet movie made me think yet again about how much I miss Jim Henson. His creative, innovative, and distinctive work plays a role in every film and television show that was wonderful from my childhood.

From Sesame Street to The Muppet Show to two movies that remain in my top ten films of all time, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, his stories and creatures remind me of everything awe-inspiring that I, as an adult writer, try to recreate in my work today. I try to write stories that are inclusive of everyone, and magical, and innocent, and full of wonder. Tall order, I know, but that’s what Jim did, and if I can manage to impart to the world even a fourth of what Henson instilled in my own life, I’ll consider myself a blazing success. Listening to “The Rainbow Connection” is the same feeling I get when I pet my cats, or hang out with my dad, or visit Disney World with my family: those hopeful, joyous times.

Anime gives me some of that magic, as do many of the musical artists that I’ve found over the years. But I’ll always come back to Jim Henson whenever I need to remember what it is that I’m doing and what message I’m trying to share with the world. Jim Henson read my heart, and the best way that I know how to honor his visionary art is to share my heart with the world.

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Gritty Goth-Tinged Rock Gives True Blood: Volume Three Its Bite

Yesterday True Blood: Volume Three was released, aka the soundtrack to season four. Though I may have entered the game late, I am now a 100% dedicated Trubie, so I bought the album as soon as it was available. I’m quite liking it, though not as much as Volume Two. Then again, I’ve been listening to that one for many months, and this album is new, so it might need some time to marinate. I didn’t immediately love the last one, to be honest, but now I do. As for the latest offering, there are some gems that stick out immediately on this new collection of tunes for the southern supernaturals among us.

Nick Cave and Neko Case do a sultry-yet-peppy lil’ cover of The Zombies’ “She’s Not There.” (Quentin Tarantino fans might recognize pieces of the song since Malcolm McLaren did a melancholy take on it for the Kill Bill Vol.2 soundtrack.) Then there’s the Karen Elson/Donovan version of “Season of the Witch,” how very appropriate for this particular season of True Blood. And of course, you can never go wrong with Siouxsie and the Banshees, so I was pleased as punch to hear “Spellbound” during the closing credits of episode eight. However, my current fav track on this album is “Me And The Devil” by recently deceased poet Gil Scott-Heron.

This song has just the right mixture of menace and groove that I come to expect from a gritty southern show about blood and creatures that roam the night. I think that it gives a good overall taste of what season four is about. Speaking of which, I keep reading rave reviews about the current season, but what do you think? Do the witches add or detract from the lives of Sookie, Bill, Eric, and all of our other fav True Blood characters? Which has been your favourite season thus far?

I’m not loving season four as much as season three, but who knows, maybe next week’s season ender will knock my socks off. At any rate, as far as the soundtrack goes, it’s a worthy purchase, in this Trubie’s opinion. The rockin’ cover of “Burning Down The House” by The Used isn’t included, so be sure to find that one separately. True Blood: Volume Three will certainly give you musical food for thought while biding your time until the finale this Sunday, because as every fan knows, waiting sucks.

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Oscar Special Part II: Holy Crap, Mr. Self Destruct Won An Oscar

Remember the guy who gave high school kids everywhere cause to shout, “I wanna f*** you like an animal?” Remember that he used to scream into a microphone from a cage while covered in dirt? That goth guy that you thought was super hot but made your mom wince whenever you watched MTV? That guy just won an Oscar.

 

"How many f-bombs can I sneak into 'The Social Network?'"

 

Not to say that this is the first time that the glitz and glamor of Hollywood has transformed a rock star into a “score composer.” Danny Elfman was once the eccentric lead singer of Oingo Boingo who sang about weird science, tender lumplings, and dead men’s parties. Now he’s “Oscar nominated composer Danny Elfman,” thanks in no small part to Tim Burton recognizing his genius early on, plucking him out of eighties new wave obscurity, and handing him a set of keys to his creepily fantastical film empire. These days Elfman is so prolific that you’d be hard pressed not to hear his work in at least one or two films every year, no matter what movie genres you prefer. And yet, even with numerous other awards and four nominations under his belt, that precious Oscar has eluded him.

Not so with Trent Reznor, aka the bleeding heart and blackened soul of the industrial band Nine Inch Nails. As of last night he has one of those precious golden statues to adorn his bathroom, and it all happened so (seemingly) quickly! True, he has flirted with the film industry in the past, having produced the soundtracks for both Natural Born Killers and Lost Highway as well as providing Nine Inch Nails songs for both albums in the nineties. Then in 2004 he was credited as a musical consultant for the film Man On Fire. Otherwise, he seems to be relatively disconnected to Hollywood, and certainly to the world of film scores. In 2001 he was asked to score the icky Robin Williams movie One Hour Photo, but the music didn’t work with the film and ended up instead on the limited edition Nine Inch Nails album Still. Fast forward to 2010: Trent Reznor collaborates with Brit buddy Atticus Ross (who has been listed as a producer and/or programmer on the four most recent NIN albums) on the score to The Social Network, and they strike Oscar pay dirt.

 

One of these guys wrote "March of the Pigs," can you guess which one?

 

It was pretty inspiring, in my opinion, and more than a little poetic. Trent Reznor has been a strong supporter of connecting to his fans online and using the internet to distribute music, and he continues to explore the best ways to utilize the medium (as opposed to those artists who have balked at the idea or even gone so far as to try to halt the natural evolution of music *cough*Metallica*cough*). Then he wins praise and distinguished awards for making music for a film about the internet and social networking. That’s kind of brilliant. Sure, I wish he’d worn something slightly more badass to the Academy Awards than the usual black and white tuxedo. I mean, when Coraline was up for an Oscar, Neil Gaiman commissioned Kambriel to design a cool gothy tux to wear to the ceremony, complete with Coraline-esque buttons on the jacket. Classy and spooky are not mutually exclusive terms!

 

More like this, please. Me-ow!

 

Even so, I’m proud of the ol’ boy. He accepted his award with eloquence and humble dignity. In years past he has seemed less than impressed with all things Hollywood-related (see his video for “StarF**kers Inc.” and note that he even steals the “Courtney Love” figure’s Oscar) but I hope that Trent has no inner conflict within himself. If anything he has proven that we all have the potential to do vastly different yet equally extraordinary things with our lives. And so, for old time’s sake, here’s Trent in concert circa ’94 as part of Nine Inch Nails, doing what we first loved him for doing:

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Oscar Special Part I: Tron Was Robbed

Yes, you heard me. I think that Disney’s recent retro flick, Tron: Legacy was robbed of some Oscar nominations. Why, Oscar? Since when did it become a crime for a film to be, gasp, enjoyable?!? I kept meaning to go see Black Swan, because I find Darren Aronofsky’s movies intriguing, I love ballet, and in general I enjoy Natalie Portman’s work (current onslaught of taste-questionable comedies aside). But I never made it to the cinema. Why? Because I could never get myself in the mood to go see what is, by all accounts, a dark, disturbing downer of a film. Life has enough crappy moments, thank you. I like to escape all of that for a couple of hours when I go to the movies. Not to say that I only watch bouncy-fun-sunshine flicks where a happy ending is guaranteed in the previews. I love films that make me think, make me feel, make me cry, mixed in with yes, a bit of sunshine here and there. All I’m asking for is balance. Is that so wrong? Honor the blockbusters and the indies, recognize that just because something is popular that doesn’t automatically mean that it lacks in merit.

So T:L is nominated for sound editing, well done. But no special effects? There was an amazing bike race in 3D that made viewers’ heads spin. No costume nomination? No offense to True Grit, The King’s Speech, or I Am Love, because yes, well executed period pieces should be honored for that, but T:L had to create costumes completely from scratch, from the imagination, because no one knows what people who live inside of a computer would actually look like or wear. I suppose that I’m a bit biased, as I’m a fantasy film lover from birth, so I want to see the out there and extraordinary when it comes to costumes and special effects. But I also loathe snobbery in all forms, especially when it comes to the arts and people’s enjoyment of them. Yes, it is a shame when a glorious work of art does not receive mass recognition. But it is an equal shame when a popular work is dismissed as worthless on the grounds of its popularity.

Like the Oscar, that identity disc is just out of reach...

 

[On that note, I think that it is a CROCK OF POO that the Harry Potter films have been thus far mostly ignored by the Academy. Some say that they’ll pull a Lord of the Rings and give heavy nominations to the final film in the series. I have problems with this not only because there were some really phenomenal adaptations produced early on (re: Prisoner of Azkaban) but also because it seems to be saying that heaping praise at the end of an epic series provides enough recognition. It does not. And also, though I can’t imagine it, what if the last film just kind of sucks?]

What does this have to do with music, you might ask. Well, I was also highly disappointed that my favourite soundtrack from the last year wasn’t nominated either. And that is, you guessed it, Daft Punk’s Tron:Legacy. Sure, some parts of it sound like bits of any number of Batman scores. But to me, that just gives it classic film appeal. And the parts that don’t sound like a traditional “movie score” sound like REAL MUSIC! You know, as in the music that people actually listen to on the radio, or dance to in clubs, or purchase of their own free will. Note that I say this in part to be funny, as I am a HUGE movie score fan. I have over 65 albums that are purely movie scores, and Danny Elfman, John Williams, Wojciech Kilar, Graeme Revell, Hans Zimmer, Mychael Danna, and Alexandre Desplat are all brilliant in my book. (Hmm, that’s quite the sausage-fest. Where are all the lady composers? This needs to be explored further.) But it takes a certain something to be an album that can be played on many occasions, not just at Oscar parties or as background while doing the dishes. Though I enjoy the work of all of this year’s score nominees, the only album that even comes close to Daft Punk in terms of interesting (re: outside the norm) sounds and textures is the score for The Social Network (which, quite frankly, I hope wins the award, as I would love to see Trent Reznor onstage accepting an Oscar).

Maybe it’s not so much about film snobbery as it is about other things. Maybe there are just so many films being made today that picking out the ones to honor has become too daunting for the Academy, so they always revert to their old standby of going for the indie street cred. Maybe it’s high time that they create a category to honor the best use of 3D in films, since the medium has become so prevalent. Maybe it’s about issues that I’m not even aware of as I don’t work in the film industry. All I have is my opinion, and it is just that, an opinion. I believe that Tron:Legacy was a good film, and I believe that it deserved more critical recognition than it received, and that’s that.

And now, in order to justify this post on my music blog, I give you Daft Punk’s Derezzed. Happy Oscar watching!

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