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Greatest Score for a Bad Movie?
Last post Thu, Dec 10 2009 by PaulR, 71 replies.
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Posted on Tue, Nov 10 2009 02:16
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

I was just thinking today about the score to "Ten Commandments." 

This is a truly nauseating film by Cecil B. Demille featuring Charleton Heston in a perm and Yul Brynner as an ancient Egyptian (no further comment needed), and yet it has an absolutely beautiful score by Elmer Bernstein.  The music is powerful, expressive, hugely varied in emotion, and expertly orchestrated.  Also, the original - recorded in the 1950s - was done in stereo sound by a fantastic studio orchestra.  it is disturbing to have such great music stuck to a bad movie. And yet it is shackled to an overblown, horrifically tacky potboiler of an "epic" that makes one want to puke.  

What are some other great pieces of music stuck onto crappy films?  One other I immediately think of is Bernard Herrmann's "Obsession."  This is music of genius as great as "Vertigo" but is stuck with a total ripoff of Hitchcock by Brian "I'll Screw Anything For Money" De Palma.

All this indicates that every film composer must become a filmmaker and MAKE HIS OWN FILMS!  Otherwise, no matter how brilliant a composer he is, he is in trouble...

Posted on Tue, Nov 10 2009 17:00
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1582

Oddly enough, I think my all time favorite score is from a pretty lame film.  I don't know what the hell Ridley Scott was thinking when he made 1492 Conquest of Paradise.  However, the film's score, by Vangelis, was just beautiful.  An innovative mix of electronics, orchestra, choir, and world instruments.  I make it a point to listen to that score at least once a week.


"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it."
- W.C. Fields
Posted on Tue, Nov 10 2009 17:33
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1115

It's hard to say what is a really bad film to a beautiful score (although William here came up with an almost unequivocal winner), myself I spontaneously came up a little while ago with an example list of memorable soundtracks from comparatively unmemorable films; but for this post, let's see what we can do:

"Airplane" and "Top Secret" (as a young boy and teenager - respectively, I laughed heartily) Zucker slapsticks - Maurice Jarre

"Bitter Moon" (it wouldn't fail that much if it wasn't trying that hard to be artsy - each to their own I suppose) - one of Vangelis' best

A host of Mel Brooks films (not all) - John Morris (wonderful, widely underestimated composer)

"Gremlins", "The Legend", "The Final Conflict" (one of his very best!) - Jerry Goldsmith (most Oscars for Best Music for Bad Films)

"On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (not even Savalas could save it, or for that matter) - John Barry

+ many many others BUT by far and away, for the cornerstone of qualitative disparity between film and its music for me (I know most of you will disagree as vehemently as I purport it)...

...And the winner is....

"E.T." (I hated it as a young teenager then, I hate it even more now. The quintessential exercise in kitsch, banality, and forced tear-jerking... Maybe if I were American I could relate more to it although other Europeans did. For me, had it been any other composer scoring it....) - John Williams.

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Tue, Nov 10 2009 18:41
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1582
Errikos wrote:

"Gremlins", "The Legend", "The Final Conflict" (one of his very best!) - Jerry Goldsmith (most Oscars for Best Music for Bad Films)

Ya know I had thought of listing, The Final Conflict, but I really didn't think it was that bad of a film.  I agree, however, the score is more entertaining than the film. 

As for E.T. I almost feel the oppisite you do.  Although I thought it was a crafty and clever film I also felt that it was way over rated.  I had a professor in college who would go on and on over that film.  Students would purposely ask questions that they knew would set this guy off on E.T. because they thought it was fun to watch him go into an E.T. tirad.  So annoying.  And no disrespect to Mr. Williams but I thought the score was kind of boring.  I can never remember how that score goes because it never really left an impression on me.

Speaking of John Williams,  another one of my favorite scores to an almost forgotten film, is "The 1941 March" from Steven Spielberg's first bomb 1941.  I liked this march more than I liked "The Indiana Jones March."  I think it's still my favorite John Williams piece.  It's so over done and bloated but, because of that, it crystalizes the hysteria the film portrays so eloquently.      


"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it."
- W.C. Fields
Posted on Tue, Nov 10 2009 19:04
by Tom23
Joined on Mon, Feb 26 2007, Miller, Posts 119

Speaking of the Charlton Heston "Ten Commandments," I believe there was another Ten Commandments, with a score by Randy Edelman.  Never saw the film, but thought the score was a good example of orchestra and electronic instruments.  ET?  Sure it was manipulative, but the production values and novelty made it a little more tolerable.  Same thing with Titanic.  Bad dialog, but made up for, in my opinion, by the great production, editing, etc.  As for the score... hmm...  I liked it.  Along with Legends of the Fall and Braveheart, a good James Horner score, at least to my untrained ear.  I'm not that keen on what he does now.

Cheers,     Tom 

Posted on Tue, Nov 10 2009 22:44
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1115
jasensmith wrote:
Errikos wrote:

"Gremlins", "The Legend", "The Final Conflict" (one of his very best!) - Jerry Goldsmith (most Oscars for Best Music for Bad Films)

Ya know I had thought of listing, The Final Conflict, but I really didn't think it was that bad of a film.  I agree, however, the score is more entertaining than the film. 

etc.

Well, of course it's all personal preference. I also think "The Final Conflict" is not the worst film ever made, and better than the second "Omen". Still, the narrative and most of the characters, were mono-dimensional, and the necessarily implied ecumenical scope of the film was non existent. If you don't have the budget, don't reach for the stars, or get better writers. The music of that film however brings to it dimensions of apocalypse, anticipation, darkness and triumph that the script and direction did not approach. For example consider the final scene, almost theatrical in its simplicity, Sam Neil kneeling on his own in front of just a source of - "divine" - light, mumbling and then dying in front of it. Then it's the mother running around some gothic structures... Nothing really, the Lord never appears other than for a split second glimpse and the camera leaves the light. It is Goldsmith who brings about the Aristotelian pathos and awe, and sings to the glory of God magnificently! Then there is the scherzo of the "Hunt Scene", etc., etc.

As far as "The Raiders", I feel that in its "Temple of Doom" incarnation, it is simply Williams at his finest as far as marches go (his trademark). Maybe because I can hear some Goldsmith in it, who knows...

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Wed, Nov 11 2009 17:41
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371

Fahrenheit 451

Posted on Fri, Nov 13 2009 13:01
by mosso
Joined on Thu, Jun 23 2005, London, England, Posts 376

Great question William - had fun trying to think of some. 'Somewhere In Time' must surely be up there - it's a sublime theme and score and the movie is just....

M

Martin Thornton
<a href="http://www.mosso.co.uk/" target="_blank">www.mosso.co.uk</a>
Posted on Fri, Nov 13 2009 17:26
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

Errikos wrote:
Goldsmith who brings about the Aristotelian pathos and awe, and sings to the glory of God magnificently! Then there is the scherzo of the "Hunt Scene", etc., etc.
 

This is what disturbs me about film music.  Someone creates great music and it is forever shackled to a tacky piece of garbage.  What happens to the artistry of Goldsmith?  It is dragged through the mud. 

So every film composer has to just hope that the film will be o.k.?  And not destroy his work by association?  It is no way to work.

Posted on Fri, Nov 13 2009 18:09
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1115

That is not the least of it in this case. If I remember correctly, and to add insult to injury, the producers did not release the wonderful soundtrack for about six(!) years after the theatrical release... Not to mention that Ridley Scott thought Goldsmith's "Legend" soundtrack so inappropriate to his masterpiece that he replaced it with a Tangerine Dream score...

To be fair, there are a lot of great films with bad music in them - perhaps there should be a list of those here as well.

Whatever the case, I believe that the lesson for all aspiring composers to be learned here, is to get off their - deceptively high - horse, and fathom the fact that the masters of film music always maintain the high standard of their work regardless of that of their collaborators, because they know that in the end, no matter how good or bad the finished film is, it is their name that will be splashed across the big screen for the music credit, no one else's...

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Fri, Nov 13 2009 18:18
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371

There are a lot of great films with non existent scores in them.

For example - Rear Window (1954)

Posted on Fri, Nov 13 2009 19:36
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1582
PaulR wrote:

There are a lot of great films with non existent scores in them.

 

 

I hesitate to mention this but Apocalypse Now comes to mind.  I know many would disagree and apparently the Golden Globe Award Committee did because they gave both Carmine and Francis Golden Globes.  I thought it was a innovative idea to use electronic elements to sonically represent "the horror!" of Col. Kurtz but the Moog collages just weren't working for me I guess.  As Errikos pointed out it's "all personal preference."  For the record, I think Carmine Coppola was a underrated composer.

 

Does anybody know if Goodfellas had an original score?  All I remember is a montage of period music.  In fact, I read that they spent almost as much money on licensing fees and royalties than they did on the actual production. 

 

I'm sure I'll think of more after I press the "Post" button.

 

Congratulations William for starting yet another thought provoking thread.  


"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it."
- W.C. Fields
Posted on Sun, Nov 15 2009 02:05
by Dominic Laprise
Joined on Thu, Jan 23 2003, QC, Canada, Posts 135

Basic Instinct !

Mathieu Laprise
Windows 10 Pro 64 bits - Dual Xeon X5650 @ 2.67GHz - 24 cores - 72 Gb RAM - NVIDIA geforce GTS 450 - RME 9652

Studio Sonomax inc. (www.studiosonomax.com)
Posted on Mon, Nov 16 2009 04:59
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

Errikos wrote:
I believe that the lesson for all aspiring composers to be learned here, is to get off their - deceptively high - horse, and fathom the fact that the masters of film music always maintain the high standard of their work regardless of that of their collaborators, because they know that in the end, no matter how good or bad the finished film is, it is their name that will be splashed across the big screen for the music credit, no one else's...
 

This is supposed to be words of wisdom, but it is words of doom. 

The doom of the film composer, who is condemned to writing music for crap. Except for once in a while, when after years of labor  he claws and struggles his way upward to the highest goal conceivable within the art form - to write music for SOMETHING A LITTLE BETTER THAN CRAP!   Even Jerry Goldsmith, at the height of his powers.  As correctly pointed out - Basic Instinct.  A piece of rotting garbage, offered up to a brilliant genius for his music that will forever be sullied by the garbage.

My adivce is - don't get off your high horse.  Get on one.   You will be extremely original at the very least, because absolutely nobody else today even tries.

Posted on Mon, Nov 16 2009 11:24
by PaulR
Joined on Mon, Dec 22 2003, England, Posts 2371

A lot of films over the last few years are such utter crap with exceptions every now and again. Very few good films are made these days because time and again they have to make money,  unless it's some sort of artistic thing like Glegarry Glenross or working for Robert Altman doing things like Gosford Park etc etc. You have to pander to the lowest common denominators in just about anything these days otherwise you kiss goodbye to 95% of any type of consumer - that's why there's no taste anymore. You can't make money with good taste.  Just look at the way people dress - for Christ Sake - do you think that someone who can't dress themselves properly are going to understand what constitutes a 'good film'?.

When you have these type of conversations you really need to split it into two sections - making money versus good taste that can only be brought about by a previously good education. Anyone can make money if that's their primary goal in life and lets nothing like good taste get in the way. The reason many overly intelligent people don't  make any money is because of just that - they let their intelligence and ergo, conscience get in the way. And that's why Hollywood in particular has no compunction in turning out crap most of the time. Let's face it - we've have 70 years of  f***k***war movies alone. So film music is really so unimportant nowadays because it's generic and sounds the same - that the answer really is in the question posed a the start of this thread.

On a positive note - I like the Swedish original of Wallander for tv (the English version is shit). Not especially original but somehow very relaxing. And the score (I have no idea who did it) is not in anyway overblown and works perfectly.

Posted on Thu, Nov 19 2009 20:28
by Tom23
Joined on Mon, Feb 26 2007, Miller, Posts 119

One ambitious film with no music at all is "Breaking the Waves" by Lars Van Trier.  The film was set up with chapters and titles, and pop songs were played only during the brief showing of the title pages.  It worked.  All in all, I'd rather have no music than the "Various Artists" compilations.

As for crap versus quality, the first run movie palace stuff, most of it is aimed at teenagers.  I just hope people keep supporting the small art house theaters.  

        Tom

Posted on Fri, Nov 20 2009 16:20
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5726

I agree about the various artists approach.  I don't care whether or not it works - I dislike the use of pop songs in films. It is  crude and simplistic to slap a song underneath a scene.  Any moron can do that.   It also reduces film music to absolutely the lowest conceivable level artistically.      

Audiences will support the art house films because there will always be a market for truly good films, despite what the MBAs from Harvard who now control the film industry think. 

Some other films that had absolutely no music were the later Bunuel films, Phantom of Liberty and Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie.  Those are brilliant films, and they did not suffer at all from no music.  If anything they were better because they had an irony and  starkness that any commentary from music would have ruined.  Also, Tarkovsky - who is now considered maybe the greatest of all filmmakers in history - had almost no music in his films.  Stalker had a little, but mostly he avoided it. 

The whole problem with film music is that it is always SAYING SOMETHING.  A scene should simple be allowed to exist for its own reality, without a composer telling you what to think or feel about it. 

Posted on Fri, Nov 20 2009 17:12
by Tom23
Joined on Mon, Feb 26 2007, Miller, Posts 119

Good point, William, but I'd add that a soundtrack's subtlety and sparing use go a long way in adding to the emotional experience of the viewer.  Some pretty good scores wore thin simply because they kept clattering about and overstayed their welcome.  And certainly most film scenes are so carefully contrived that their having "their own reality" is illusory, as it should be.  My biggest peeve, mentioned in another thread, is television's use of droning folky songs, lyrics too low to be understood, which imply they're revealing something wise about the "drama" in the scene.  It was a cheap trick at the get go, and now it's insufferable.  When my girlfriend watches her medical and family drama shows, I sit whining about the lame song soundtracks, so now she's perfectly happy if I don't watch them at all.  Hmm.  Who wins there...

Posted on Fri, Nov 20 2009 19:39
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1115

You win, big! Do you know how many men - non musicians - envy you that good excuse you use to avoid those cretinous series (slow death of the soul). They instead have to "bond" with their mates on the couch during that absolute crap aimed 80% at women, when they almost never choose to sit through say a boxing match, a baseball game, etc. even though they are not on every single week-night for hours on end...

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Tue, Nov 24 2009 11:20
by bluejay
Joined on Fri, Jul 07 2006, UK, Posts 49

 How about Krull?

I know Horner gets a bad rep around here but at least that's him at his most fun and exciting (and with the LSO!) and Krull is about as bad a movie as could be made.

James
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