Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Concert Series - Lights! Camera! Music?

Collaboration is a beautiful thing – one person’s talents merging with someone else’s skills to create that which would have been impossible apart – like a waltz, or a friendship.

I think the movie business is the quintessential example of collaboration.

I’ve visited back lots (no, not Disney Land’s “Behind the Scenes” tram tour or Universal Studios’ sneak peek ride – real, active, bustling back lots) and seen the carpentry shop, the prop house, the painters’ shop, the closet of rows and rows and rows of costumes, and much more. My eyes were opened to how many people and their specific talents and skills go into the final product – the film we see in the theatre.

We usually squirm through or skip the credits rolling at the end (it used to be at the beginning, where I think it still should be), but those people made the movie what it is. Sure, the director and cinematographer and the actors are all important, but they could not have pulled it off on their own.


Of course, I’ve always been partial to the writers, hoping and pulling for more perks for them since, in my humble opinion, there wouldn’t even been a starting point without the writers. (Although I did see a credit scroll across the screen in a movie once that said, “Based on an idea by…” and I thought… now why couldn’t I have that job? The Idea Girl. Beside the fact, aren’t all stories based on an idea? Anyway…)

The close second (to the writers) on my list of give credit where credit is due list are the composers and musicians that contribute to a film.

In the early days, in films like Casablanca or Sunset Boulevard, the tenor of a scene’s music was a dead-give-a-way for what was coming next, a foreshadowing of good or bad or a joke or a bombshell.

Some soundtracks reflect more the era a film was made rather than the era the story in the film portrays, i.e. the 70’s electric guitar plunkings distorting the gorgeous (and one of my favorites) medieval times movie, Ladyhawke.

So many soundtracks, though, tell the story so perfectly, you almost don’t need the images to go with it. Gladiator is one of the best movies ever (not just b/c my main man Russell Crowe stars in it), and the soundtrack is so spectacular that when I listen to it, I can see the movie play in my mind’s eye. Others that, for me, paint the images with melodies and harmonies – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Kamen), Finding Neverland (Kaczmarek), Pirates of the Caribbean (Zimmer), Pride and Prejudice (Marianelli), Swing Kids (Horner), Glory (Horner), The Last of the Mohicans (Jones/Edleman), The Prince of Egypt (Zimmer)…

I also love how the absence of music can affect a scene in a movie. Sometimes you don’t even notice, but the impact remains. Other times, the effect is obvious, such as several instances in Star Trek ’09 – Michael Giacchino (most likely collaborating with sound editors and the director, JJ Abrams) produced huge sounds that cut off into complete silence a couple of times. That gave me chills (the good kind!).

How about the soundtracks that everyone recognizes and are synonymous with the film they represent – Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Superman, E.T. – those are all John Williams’ masterpieces, but he’s the not the only one who’s accomplished such a feat. Saturday Night Fever (Gibbs), The Godfather (Rota), Rocky (Conti) – they all have musical themes that immediately conjure up images of their movies, no matter who you are.

And then there are the soundtracks that employ popular music, much of it including lyrics, that marry themselves to their films, assisting in telling the film’s story with stories of their own. Some great love songs have been written specifically for movies, Bryan Adams being my favorite there contributing to great romantic films such as Robin Hood POT, The Mirror Has Two Faces, and Hope Floats.

Movies without music… now that would be criminal. Even the “silent” pictures of the early days were shown to audiences accompanied by music.

When you watch movies, do you hear it? That undercurrent of collaboration that makes the story you’re seeing come to life, have a heartbeat, meld into your soul? Do you have favorites? I’d love to hear what they are.

Far too many favorites/classics exist in this genre of cinematic music for me to have an easy time choosing something to share here, but I felt that it would remiss of me not to include something… so, here you go… a snippet from a movie I like on this exact subject. Despite how you may feel about the featured actor in this clip (Jack Black), his character in The Holiday highlights a few more classic soundtracks in the following scene. Enjoy!

Thanks for joining me on Dry Ground for Spring Concert Series! See you Wednesday, when I will confess to liking… okay loving … a genre I’ve made fun of all my life.


KM Wilsher said...

Oh, I adore this movie. Bought it. It sits on my shelf. . .the music was great too. I agree :0)

KM Wilsher said...

And I love Jack Black. He has some bombs, but School of Rock? King Kong? Schwew. And Holiday did him justice too.

lynnrush said...

I LOVE this part of The Holiday! He's hysterical.

Music is sooooo important in a movie.

On the scary movies, if I turn the music off, I can totally watch them much better....LOL