Friday, March 05, 2010

That Special Something (or: Why Doth The Pikey Hate Us So?)

So anyway, a long time ago in some blog posts far, far away, we set about listing our top 10 (or so) favorite scores and favorite score cues. It was horrible, it was obscene, it was blasphemous, it was downright indecent…and a rather smashing good time I must say. At the time I had an idea for a follow-up, and life...being life and all, just sort of got in the way, and the idea went on a rather extended hibernation. Well, it’s back, and I’ve got some time to kill so I’m going to throw it out for one and all to chime in on. This one’s gonna require some serious thought, and a fair amount of research kids, so buckle up ‘cuz here’s what I’ve got in mind.

List, if you’d be so kind, your top ten (or so…again) favorite moments from your vast knowledge of film-score-dom. That is to say, think of your favorite 5 to 30-ish seconds (maybe a minute) from various cues that just really do it for ya! These are little moments, perhaps contained within your favorite cues – perhaps not, that really get the old stick at attention. OK, so that’s not entirely accurate – these don’t have to all be ginormous boner-fied musical moments. But rather, they’re snippets that have had an extreme emotional resonance with you and stuck with you over all others. Any kind of excess emotional response will do, be it extreme joy, sadness or anything in between. This connection can stem from just simply extraordinary composition or a combination of that aural element and its perfect marriage to the scene from whence it came. It’s your call, although more than likely the music as it aids the film will be a deciding factor…so hop to it. And, since it’s my idea and I’ll likely be branded some kind of wretched, evil, Nazi, sadist fuck bastard for even thinking of it…I’ll go first.

In no particular order:

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King –
Howard Shore – from “The Fellowship Reunited” (6:30 – 7:03 on The Complete Recordings): This scene is, for me, the high point of the entire trilogy, and it all culminates at one beautiful and spectacular moment. Sauron is no more, Aragorn has been crowned King of, well…everything, and as he walks out and greets his subjects, he comes upon his four Hobbit friends. You know the moment – the whole world knows the moment. He sees them, they start to bow, he stops them and says, “My friends…you bow to no one.” And at that moment, what is arguably the most stirring moment in the series (courtesy of the Shire theme as it comes sailing in) happens as the King and everyone within a half-kilometer radius bows down before these four little men. I’ve probably seen it 20 times and I still get misty.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – John Williams – from “Sail Barge Assault” (5:25 to End on ’97 Special Ed. Release): Jabba the Hutt is toast, Han’s been rescued, the droids have been sucked out of the sand, and everyone’s ready to get the hell outta this godforsaken sand pit. Cue what is, for me, one of the most awesomely balls-out moments in the entire saga. It climaxes with a triumphant shot of the Millennium Falcon and Luke’s X-Wing breaking orbit and sailing off into the cosmos accompanied by an absolutely boner-inducing brass fanfare. Goddammit I love this part!!!

The Iron Giant – Michael Kamen – from “The Last Giant Piece” (Final :30 on OST): OK, so…the whole cue’s just over a minute anyway. But the last half is just so stupendously glorious! The film has just cut to the Arctic where we start following all the various bits of the Giant as they make they’re way to the beacon on his head. The last chord swells triumphantly as he opens his eyes revealing he’s alive and all will soon be well and a final stinger hits in the orchestra…”THE END”. The whole score was to my ears a (if not the) high point of Kamen’s output, and that last thirty seconds or so is some of the best writing he, or anyone else, has ever put in front of an orchestra.

Signs – James Newton Howard – from “The Hand of Fate, Pt I” (Final :50 of Track, OST): I firmly believe that this score, overall, is about as close to perfect as one could ever hope to achieve. The film climaxes with this scene and it all comes together with this particular moment. Gibson gets the boy outside, and Phoenix has been laying the smack down on the alien guy. He finally gets it over on its back and, from a point-of-view shot, a glass of water topples over on its face, killing it. All to the tune of one of the greatest orchestral climaxes ever put to film.

Stargate – David Arnold – from “The Other Side” (appx. Final :30 of Track, Special Ed.): I still say Stargate is Arnold’s best work. Here, one of my favorite pieces ever comes after the team arrives on the alien world. Daniel Jackson and Col. O’Neil are out in the sand, they turn around and…BLAM! It’s an Egyptian pyramid…on an alien world…accompanied by some of the most glorious, nutsack-rattling orchestra and chorus ever.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – Jerry Goldsmith – from “A Busy Man” (3:32 – 3:52, OST): OK, so I’m sure you’re thinking, “Of all the damned Trek films…you pick this one?! REALLY?!?!” Yes, really! There’s this great little moment towards the end of the cue/scene, you have all this heavenly music swirling, Kirk and Co. are on the planet trying to find “God”, everyone on the Enterprise is awestruck (save the ever-vigilant Scotty, who’s trying his damnedest to get shit fixed). Then you cut to a monitoring screen, to which nobody notices that the scanners have picked up a Bird of Prey on an intercept course and cloaking. And behind it, perfectly matched to the rest of the underscore, Jerry’s “Klingon Theme” has the most subtle and wonderful entrance. It’s a rather inspired moment in what is otherwise a giant, coughed-up, hairball of sci-fi.

Braveheart – James Horner – from “Bannockburn” (6:05 – 6:21, OST) – Wallace is dead, the Scottish army is on the field at Bannockburn to accept an English truce…then, they basically just say, “Fuck this shit!” Hamish (Brendan Gleeson) throws down the proverbial gauntlet (by way of chucking Wallace’s sword into the battlefield), and then there’s this tremendous orchestral swell climaxing in one of the most well-placed cymbal crashes ever as Robert the Bruce draws his sword. And there’s that look! He has that awesome look on his face that just says, “I’m gonna stick this thing so far up your ass, your brain will feel the tip!!!” It’s spectacular!

Jurassic ParkJohn Williams – from “Journey to the Island” (5:05 – 6:15, OST): This is one of those great movie-going moments that I’ll likely remember for the rest of my life. And it’s because of one specific spot. Spielberg did at that moment what no other filmmaker had achieved and that was to make us, the audience, believe that that goddamned computerized dinosaur was real! It worked…that brachiosaur stepped onto screen, and we were all just as awestruck as the people in the film. And it was done, in no small part, thanks to the sweeping majesty of Williams’ Main Theme entering at that precise moment.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – Elliot Goldenthal – from “Adagio and Transfiguration (2:33 – 3:33, OST): I love this score. How can anyone not love this score. The fact that Goldenthal doesn’t have an Oscar for this score is a crime worthy of the Nuremburg trials. You might have noticed a pattern that my favorite bits tend to be from sections that really grab you by the nuts and squeeze…and this is no exception. The final moments of the cue as Alec Baldwin’s “spirit” is carried off into the…wherever…and all is made right with the world are accompanied by this window rattling orchestral swell. And it’s marvelous. And then, we cut to the “spirit” thingy shooting off into the cosmos with this perfect, somber solo trumpet that hits every note perfectly (no pun intended).

Star Trek: First Contact – Jerry Goldsmith – from “First Contact” (3:01 – 3:37, OST): What kind of half-assed, no account Star Wars fan am I that I only have one SW cue on here but two from Star Trek. Eh…whatever. This one actually breaks down into two separate moments for me. The first being that grand statement of the Main Theme as Cochrane let’s go of Lily’s hand so he can go greet their new guests. It’s quite awe inspiring and wondermous. It’s followed shortly thereafter by that amazing climax up to the cymbal crash as the alien throws off his hood, then low and behold…VULCANS!!! FUCKING AWESOME BABY!!! Two teary-eyed, inspirational moments within a minute of each other on the same cue!

Honorable Mentions

Raiders of the Lost Ark
John Williams – from “The Maproom”: That BIG crescendo as the sun comes up behind Indy and then the talisman fires off into the model…glorious…abso-fuckin-lutely breathtaking moment.

Con Air – Mark Mancina/Trevor Rabin – from “Battle in the Boneyard” (3:34 – 3:56, OST): I love a good, over-zealous, heroic fanfare accompanied by a wailing electric guitar! And this one, as Poe jumps into the thick of the shit, is just fucking spectacular!

The Prince of EgyptHans Zimmer – from “Red Sea”: Such a powerful moment, both on film and musically, as the waters of the Red Sea go soaring into the air. You had to know that any composer scoring this scene would’ve pulled out all the stops for this moment, and ol’ Hans did it quite inspirationally.

Feel free to start sending the hate mail and death threats now.


Herr Vogler said...

You bitch. I just finished therapy or the last list!!!

Reed said...

Wallace DIES?!?!

I didn't see a spoiler warning.

Nice list. Makes me realize I don't have a lot of scores still... damn.

the warrior bard said...

Holy ballsac, I missed this awesome post until just now. All right, I'll have to put some thought into this and come back to it, but what's amazing is that right off the top of my head--before I read your picks--I also thought of most of the same ones.

"My friends... you bow to no one." Gets me every time. Goosebumps that tingle my face. Probably my top favorite "moment" ever.

Another honorable mention, though... (and I'll come back to all of this in my own list later)

On the complete recordings for The Phantom Menace, the cue "The Racer Roars To Life."

Anakin yells "It's working!" And the engine revs up, igniting hope that their crazy scheme just might work after all. To be fair, the reason I love that cue is less about the context of the scene in the film than the context of the TV spot for the film. They released a slew of "tone poems" with narrations by different characters for TV spots, and the "Destiny" spot had my favorite quote from Qui-Gon Jinn, which is still on my Facebook profile:

"It will be a hard life. One without reward, without remorse, without regret. A path will be placed before you. The choice is yours alone. Do what you think you cannot do. It will be a hard life, but you will find out who you are."

Anyway, that fleeting yet overwhelming variation on Anakin's theme is set against the latter part of this voice-over, and totally got me stoked for the film. One of my other favorite cues, the Special Edition version of the final scene of Return of the Jedi, was a deliberate precursor to this theme, which made this moment all the more potent for me.

Okay, I'll have to think about the other 8 favorites and come up with a list...

the warrior bard said...

This wouldn't make the final cut for Top Ten, but it's definitely an honorable mention:

"Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father."
"He told me enough. He told me you killed him."
"No. I am your father."

And Vader's theme drives the point home with that dark revelation, not like the Imperial march tempo but a much more ominous, slower statement, as though the theme itself has lost momentum from the shock of that line. It's far from the best iteration of Vader's theme, but every time I hear that part, the floor drops away and my blood runs cold.

"No. That's not true! That's IMPOSSIBLE!"

And the galaxy is turned upside down. Harrowing.

the warrior bard said...

To me, a particularly exhilarating musical moment is in Independence Day, when all the Eagles are out of missiles and the day is nearly lost...

"Doesn't anyone have any missiles left?!
"Sorry I'm late, Mr. President!"

And the theme kicks in, and morale skyrockets. That is probably in my top ten.

the warrior bard said...

Okay, this blog post is dead. I even trafficked people here from my blog, and there's zero participation. DOUBLE fail.

They boned us, pikey.

Mikey the Pikey said...

Well, in all fairness, a response to the post requires a fair amount of research. So I'll give everybody the benefit of the doubt and assume (ahem) that everyone's compiling their responses.