Hey there, dear readers!
How are you doing this fabulous Tuesday? We all know how much a movie’s score can add to its experience. I have brought it up in several of my reviews and so have many other movie reviewers and critics. My fellow movie blogger Emma, over at Emmakwall (explains it all), is one such person. Emma loves movie soundtracks, probably even more than I do! She is a huge movie music fan and regularly looks at and analyzes movie soundtracks, even devoting an entire section of her site to soundtracks. Being the movie music fans that we are, we decided to have a chat about our common interest. Let’s get to it!
Me: Hey, Emma, I’ll start with a simple question: Why do you think a good score is important in a film?
Emma: Well it highlights and accentuates what’s going on in the movie scene. Even if the person watching doesn’t always realise! Whatever the emotions are being played out on screen, they can be heightened even further by the background music, giving the viewer an even better experience.
Me: I agree. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been watching a film and all of a sudden emotions build inside me, simply because of the music.
Emma: Can you think of any scores that made an impression on you when you were younger?
Me: There were two scores that really impacted me when I was younger: Jurassic Park and the Star Wars original trilogy. Both of which happened to be written by the great John Williams, who is my favorite film composer. When John Hammond says “Welcome to Jurassic Park” and the Jurassic Park theme begins playing, I get so excited, even today after several dozen viewings. Same with when the music starts when the opening crawl begins in any Star Wars movie. Although, you can’t beat the Imperial March! I’m pretty sure I listened to that on repeat all day once at work.
Emma: That’s brilliant! I love that Drew, I’m the same. Sometimes I listen to my favourite scores just to build up that feeling of emotion again. You chose two brilliant scores there I must say, I’ve always really loved the music in Jurassic Park. Doesn’t John Williams score every Spielberg movie?
Me: Williams has done a good chunk of Spielberg’s movies but he hasn’t scored all of them.
Emma: Ah I see, I stand corrected said the man in the orthopedic shoes! I better educate myself on which Spielberg films Williams didn’t end up scoring. Sounds marginally interesting, there must be a reason behind it? I love “Somewhere in My Memory”, the cute music he wrote for Home Alone. That’s an awesome story about listening to the Imperial March on repeat at work. I might try that when I’m next walking into the boss’s office!
Me: It was a ton of fun! I was just sitting there coding and I felt like a boss. Any score by John Williams is gold. Who are some of your favorite composers?
Emma: I really love dramatic scores, one of my favourite composers is Ennio Morricone and that’s largely down to his Spaghetti Western stuff (which is fairly dramatic in places!). If I hear something like the “Ecstasy of Gold,” I feel pretty much invincible. I also really like John Murphy. He wrote “In the House, In a Heartbeat” for 28 Days Later and the “Adagio in D Minor” for Sunshine (both Danny Boyle films!). “Adagio in D Minor” is pretty much my favourite score, like ever. I wasn’t even enjoying Sunshine that much the first time I saw it (in the cinema) then this incredible, amazing music started and I was transfixed. I now love the movie as well and I guess I have the score to thank for that!
Me: I’ve only heard of Ennio Morricone from several of Quentin Tarantino’s films, I’ll have to look up some of his stuff some time. I remember watching Sunshine a while ago and not really liking it. But since then I’ve heard a lot of people saying they think it is an awesome sci-fi movie. So between that and you really liking the score. I think I’ll have to give it another shot.
Emma: Are there any scores that have made a real difference to you, when watching a movie? Made you like it more, or even dislike it more?
Me: I don’t think the score has ever been a make-or-break factor in a film for me. If I liked it or didn’t like it, it was usually because of something else about the film. I can’t really think of a time when I’ve watched a movie and thought “Man, this music is terrible” and it took me out of it. I imagine that would be more of a factor in horror movies where atmosphere is a huge part of it, than in something like action or sci-fi films. However, there have been plenty of times when I hear the music and think “this is making it so much better.” Star Wars, like I said before, Pirates of the Caribbean always comes to mind, too, or more recently, Sicario.
Emma: I totally agree with you that scores (or indeed just regular soundtracks of songs) can’t make or break a film but when I look at my favourite movies most of them do have a pretty rocking soundtrack. The most recent movie I watched that made my “top 10” was The Guest and its subsequent soundtrack reeeeally made an impression on me. I only have three playlists on Spotify and ‘The Guest OST’ is one of them! Would I have loved the movie as much without the music? I’m not sure. The music was the movie. I wrote a review around the time and said something along the lines about how it relied somewhat on the music to emphasise its scenes and atmosphere. And look at something like Guardians of the Galaxy, that mix tape of pop songs made it so much more fun and memorable. Though a great soundtrack can’t make a great movie, perhaps it can make an average movie that bit better?
Me: I think personally, I tend to notice a good score or soundtrack more than a bad score or soundtrack. So I agree that a great score can make an average movie better. It sounds like a score has made you like a film where you didn’t enjoy the rest of it. Have you ever had a score ruin a movie for you?
Emma: Yes, I have had a film ruined by a rotten soundtrack! There’s a low rent horror (my kinda movie) called The Woman and its soundtrack was so awful, so offensive, so abysmal and so bloody loud – I almost turned it off. Investigation on IMDB later showed many viewers had thought the same thing as well! The music was stupidly loud for starters but the worst thing was it was SO awful! A cross between “I’m an angsty teenager” and a dripping tap.
Me: That sounds terrible! At least you aren’t alone in your thinking. Guardians of the Galaxy is a great example to bring up for a fun soundtrack. I saw that with my mom and she doesn’t normally like the big superhero movies but she loved Guardians for its soundtrack, among other things.
Emma: Aww I love that about your mum! I must say Guardians of the Galaxy was certainly an above average film anyway, I loved it! But the mix tape just added that extra sparkle and genius. I’m excited for the sequel just to see what the song selection is! When that early scene with Chris Pratt started, where he was dancing around and shooting things (I think?) I was thinking yes, I’m gonna love this!!
Can you think of any awful music experiences in film? And don’t say High School Musical!
Me: Haha OK. Rock of Ages. That movie sounded like it was going to be really good. I listen to classic rock music the most so I was looking forward to seeing a movie based around many of my favorite tunes. And then it was just one of the worst movie experiences I’ve had. I’ve been really reluctant to go back and watch it again.
Emma: I’ve never seen Rock of Ages… I’m kind of glad I haven’t after that! But I will go look it up in a minute out of interest. Must have sucked though, being so disappointing especially when you were looking forward to it. You’ve got me thinking about movies based around music now, I’ve barely seen any! Ooh and I wanted to ask will anything will ever beat the Imperial March for you?
Me: Probably not. The Imperial March is embedded in my head. It’ll be awfully hard to beat it!
Emma: I did love Magneto’s Theme in X-Men: First Class and thought that was a good contender for baddie music! Shame they didn’t use the same music in Days of Future Past, it was kick arse!
Me: I’ll have to listen to Magneto’s theme again because I don’t remember it right now. Do you prefer a big, bold score? Or something a little more subtle and intimate?
Emma: Excellent question and I know my answer immediately – big and bold! Something that consumes me and makes me feel something – whether that ‘something’ is being scared or triumphant or sad. I like subtle stuff too, I love the Warm Bodies score for example and that’s very delicate and cute. Maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive anyway? I mean something could start off subtle, only to lead into a bold crescendo?
Me: The great thing about music is that it is dynamic. It can start off small and grow big. So I would say that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Two examples would be John William’s Indiana Jones scores and Alan Silvestri’s Captain America: The First Avenger score. They both have songs that start softer and get more dynamic as the song progresses.
Emma: A lot of Morricone stuff can start soft but end big. Actually thinking about it, I think those kind of scores are my favourite! I also now have Peter Griffin’s rendition of the Indiana Jones score going through my head!
There’s a really clever track on the Kill Bill: Volume 1 soundtrack, it played when Elle Driver was dressed as a nurse, about to finish off The Bride. It starts off so cute and sweet, like you’re walking next to a pretty little river with loads of flowers. But it subtly (so subtly!) changes so that by the end of the track it’s actually very sinister and scary sounding. It’s awesome!
Me: That’s awesome that you bring up the Kill Bill movies. We were talking earlier about how a soundtrack can make a movie for someone. The Kill Bill duology are my favorite Tarantino movies and a huge part of that is because of the soundtrack (mainly in Volume 1). It’s so energetic and up-tempo. It somehow fits perfectly with all the violence going on screen.
Emma: That’s brilliant Drew, I love that! I must say Quentin Tarantino soundtracks are among my favourite anyway, they’re always so good and just as exciting for me, as the movie. I did a post a while ago trying to put his soundtracks into order of ‘brilliance’ and Kill Bill: Volume 1 featured in the no.3 slot, I’ve always loved it too. Pulp Fiction has always been my favourite soundtrack, ever and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. I just find it so… listenable!
Do you listen to any soundtracks as though they were ‘regular’ albums? I mean, as great as movie scores can be, they’re not always listenable on a daily basis (unless it’s the Imperial March!). The Pulp Fiction soundtrack I can listen to like I would a pop album – singing along etc. Ditto with the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy. But with some scored soundtracks often I’ll have my favourite tracks and pick them out as and when I want to listen to them, rather than listening to it as a complete record.
Me: I listen to soundtracks all the time! I have a film score and a Disney music stations on Pandora radio that I often listen to at work. I also have several soundtracks on my home computer, including most of the Disney Renaissance films, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Frozen, and Into the Woods. Like you, I also have specific songs from other movies as well. A catchy song is a catchy song, no matter where it comes from.
Emma: That’s so cool Drew! Do you sing along? Which Disney soundtrack is your favourite? Whenever I’m at a party with my girlfriends I swear we always end up listening to Disney songs by the end of the night! My favourite is The Little Mermaid and I’ve owned no less than three copies of it. True love!
Me: Pssh, do I sing along? Of course I sing along! I think my favorite overall Disney soundtrack is Mulan. The Little Mermaid is good too, and so is Beauty and the Beast, but every song on the Mulan soundtrack is great, not just most songs like the others mentioned. Some of my favorite individual songs not from Mulan are “Friend Like Me,” “Be Our Guest,” “Under the Sea,” “Bear Necessities,” and “Let it Go.”
Emma: I’m not really familiar with Mulan which is really, really annoying! Rest assured I will be looking up the soundtrack on Spotify. There is something unique to the Disney soundtracks, or at least the older ones. I love your favourite songs! All good ones to belt out whilst on your own in the car! Some of my favourites include ‘Under the Sea’, ‘Part of Your World’ and ‘A Whole New World’ (how predictable).
Me: How do you feel about musicals? Do you like movies that use songs heavily? Or do you prefer music to be used to enhance the film and not be centered around it?
Emma: I’m not a fan of musicals generally… I love Grease, Chicago and Bugsy Malone but that’s about it. It’s not the music I don’t like, it’s more the ‘stage school’ style of singing and I find them a bit [over the top].
So generally I prefer music that just enhances the movie but there are exceptions. I love the TV shows Glee and Flight of the Conchords. And of course, Disney songs! And one of my favourite movies is a British gangster film called Love, Honour & Obey. There are segments throughout where each character sings a fluffy pop song in a karaoke style. It’s quite bizarre but quite brilliant! Are you a fan of musicals?
Me: Before today, I would have said “No, with Disney being the exception.” But after thinking about it, I think I like them more than I thought I did. I like watching non-Disney musicals like Footloose, Grease, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods. It’s not a genre I actively look for but guess I have liked more of them than I haven’t liked.
Kind of a side-bar, but did/do you play any instruments?
Emma: I don’t play any instruments but I’ve always wanted to play the piano! I did teach myself the first bit of “A Whole New World” on my tiny Casio keyboard when I was a kid! And you know the song they do on the giant keyboard in Big? I taught myself that too. Haha Tragically I had no-one to play both parts with so just took it turn to play them both myself!
Me: Haha Oh, no! That’s no fun playing it by yourself. At least you have a start for learning piano. Maybe in the future you can teach yourself some more and put on a show!
I ask because I played alto saxophone and I think that gave me an appreciation for the work that goes into a writing and playing a musical score. I think that note is a good one to wrap up on. Thank you so much for the chat Emma! I’ve had a ton of fun talking movies with you.
Emma: Thanks so much for having me Drew it’s been a lot of fun and you’ve certainly given me some new things to think about!
We want you to join in on the discussion. What are some of your favorite movie scores? Who are some of your favorite film composers? What makes a good soundtrack?
Big thanks to Emma for taking the time to talk movies with me. I always enjoy discussing the different aspects of films so this was simply a blast!