Tag Archives: Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi (2012) – Mychael Danna

20130221-151935.jpg

Mychael Danna sort of came out of nowhere for me. The first of his film scores that I’d ever heard of was his score for the 2011 film Moneyball, a score that was minimal but effective. A brief look at his Wikipedia filmography reveals other such scores as (500) Days of Summer, Capote, and Little Miss Sunshine, none of which are films that I’ve seen, let alone heard music from. Despite my unfamiliarity with Danna’s work, though, his score for Life of Pi is enjoyable and fits in nicely with the film.

The soundtrack opens with the track “Pi’s Lullaby,” which is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Though I don’t think it’ll win, its soothing vocals and relaxed accompaniment are nice to listen to. Bits of this track are heard throughout the score in different forms, building onto the character of Pi Patel with each occurrence. The sitar, a guitar-like instrument traditional in Indian music, is featured prominently in many tracks, emphasizing the heritage of our main character, but the Indian-inspired music fades with Pi’s family’s move to Winnipeg, Canada. In fact, in the track “Leaving India,” there is a moment when we hear bits of “Pi’s Lullaby” played by (what I think to be) the ney, a wind instrument that is often heard in Middle Eastern music, but this is taken over by a similar Western instrument, the flute.

Danna does an excellent job with incorporating vocals into the score to evoke emotion. For example, in the track “First Night, First Day,” we hear a low male vocal drone with a solo soprano line sung over it. Eventually, other female chorus members join in, giving the whole track an air of both remorse and mystery, alluding to Pi’s recent tragedy with the loss of his family and to his unknown future while stranded alone at sea. Another instance of good choral work is toward the end of “Back to the World,” in which we can sense Pi’s mixed senses of relief in returning to civilization and disappointment in the loss of Richard Parker.

Not all of this score is so depressing, though. “Piscine Molitor Patel,” which serves as the backdrop to Pi’s explanation of his name, features some schmaltzy accordions that fit in the with the bits of the story involving Paris and French (his first and middle names are derived from the name of a well-known public pool in France). As I mentioned in my review for Alexandre Desplat’s score for Argo, there is also a beatboxing segment in this track, a trait shared by both scores…unusual, but it doesn’t seem inappropriate for either film. Another “fun” track is “Flying Fish,” which comprises of a string melody that starts off light and bouncy and grows a little weightier as the track comes to a close.

While I do enjoy all of the music presented here, the reason that I don’t place it as high as Desplat’s score for Argo or Williams’ score for Lincoln (my review here) is because much of it is so repetitive. The same themes are presented over and over again from track to track, and, though this could be interpreted as a conscious decision on Danna’s part to emulate Pi’s increasingly mundane day-to-day routine in his music, I think that it is unnecessary. There are complex emotions and ideas presented in the film, and I think that the score could have done a better job of highlighting all of these.

That’s not to say that it’s not still a pretty great score, though. Danna has composed a score that generally fits the film well, and it’s certainly pleasant to listen to. The score for Life of Pi walked away with the Golden Globe, but I don’t think that it’ll get the Academy Award for Best Original Score. Who knows, though? I’ve been wrong before. It’s entirely possible that my view is skewed since I’m partial to Williams’ scores.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1. “Pi’s Lullaby” 3:42
2. “Piscine Molitor Patel” 3:39
3. “Pondicherry” 1:12
4. “Meeting Krishna” 1:51
5. “Christ in the Mountains” 1:13
6. “Thank You Vishna for Introducing Me to Christ” 0:55
7. “Richard Parker” 0:54
8. “Appa’s Lesson” 1:06
9. “Anandi” 0:55
10. “Leaving India” 1:20
11. “The Deepest Spot on Earth” 0:48
12. “Tsimtsum” 2:49
13. “Death of the Zebra” 0:33
14. “First Night, First Day” 3:45
15. “Set Your House in Order” 2:10
16. “Skinny Vegetarian Boy” 2:16
17. “Pi and Richard Parker” 2:14
18. “The Whale” 2:02
19. “Flying Fish” 0:49
20. “Tiger Training” 1:22
21. “Orphans” 1:36
22. “Tiger Vision” 4:31
23. “God Storm” 3:42
24. “I’m Ready Now” 3:21
25. “The Island” 1:59
26. “Back to the World” 8:20
27. “The Second Story” 4:02
28. “Which Story Do You Prefer?” 2:05
Total Length: app. 66 min.
iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Argo (2012) – Alexandre Desplat

Alexandre Desplat is a composer who I haven’t been familiar with for long, but it’s no secret that I really enjoy his film scores especially those of the past couple of years (see my reviews of his scores to The King’s Speech and Rise of the Guardians). His score for last year’s Ben Affleck film, Argo, is no exception…it’s nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score.

Desplat’s music has always been characterized by a beauty unparalleled by his contemporaries. This beauty is apparent from the very first track, “Argo,” which opens with a lovely solo on the ney (a flute-like instrument known for its use in Middle Eastern music), backed by soft, harmonious strings and an ominous drone on the tonic, leading to a faster-paced melody on an oud (a guitar-like instrument that also features in Middle Eastern music), with a sort of anxious undertone. This background anxiety is present throughout most of the score, which is fitting due to the fact that anxiety is a large part of the action in the film. Anxiety is not the only emotion expressed in this score, though; we also hear longing (such as in the track “Missing Home”), despair (“Sweatshop”), and relief (“Cleared Iranian Airspace”)…Desplat’s talent for emulating emotion through his music is evident.

One of my favorite parts of this score is that Desplat composes differently depending on the setting of the action on screen. For example, throughout most of the soundtrack we are treated to a style of music that brings to mind the Middle Eastern culture, which makes sense because most of the story takes place in Iran…this is why such instruments as the previously mentioned ney and oud are used so prominently. However, in “The Mission,” we hear a completely different style more reminiscent of traditional American film scores, with a sweeping string orchestra and quite typical harmonies. This theme is later heard in the track “Cleared Iranian Airspace,” but the genius of it all is that neither of these tracks are completely “American”…”The Mission” ends with the return of the ney, hinting at the journey that the main character will soon be taking, and “Cleared Iranian Airspace” starts with dissonance, representing the tension of the situation, eventually clearing out into the American-style theme mentioned before.

Parts of Argo sound similar to some of Desplat’s previous compositions, though not in a way that is frustrating (I’m looking at you two, Zimmer and Elfman!). The main instance of similarity (that I heard) is in the track “Held Up by Guards,” which sounds faintly like a theme from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, heard here in “Showdown.” Like I said, they don’t sound exactly alike, but definitely noticeable (to me, at least). Also worth noting is the fact that both the scores to Argo and Life of Pi (composed by Mychael Danna), which is also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score, feature beatboxing (Argo – “Hotel Messages”Life of Pi – “Piscine Molitor Patel”), which isn’t typical of usual film scores. However, it works well in both cases.

Alexandre Desplat is one of the best composers of our day, a fact supported by his fantastic score for an equally fantastic film, Argo…it certainly deserves its nomination for Best Original Score at this year’s Academy Awards. Will it win? I’m not sure, but with his top-notch emulations of emotion and beauty and his appropriate usage of Middle Eastern music to reflect the setting of the film, Desplat’s score for Argo is one of the best of 2012.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

1. “Argo”     3:38

2. “A Spy In Tehran”     4:18

3. “Scent of Death”     3:26

4. “The Mission”     2:08

5. “Hotel Messages”     2:04

6. “Held Up By Guards”     5:32

7. “The Business Card”     2:56

8. “Breaking Through the Gates”     3:51

9. “Tony Grills the Six”     3:30

10. “The Six Are Missing”     3:22

11. “Sweatshop”     1:32

12. “Drive to the Airport”     3:45

13. “Missing Home”     3:00

14. “Istanbul (The Blue Mosque)”     2:18

15. “Bazaar”     3:46

16. “Cleared Iranian Airspace”     6:02

17. “Hace Tuto Guagua” (performed by Familion)     3:40

Total Length: app. 59 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. Read my review of this film here!


Rise of the Guardians (2012)

I first read the plot summary of Rise of the Guardians somewhere in the beginning months of 2012, and I thought that it was one of the most ridiculous plot summaries that I had ever read. However, that all changed when I saw the trailer for the first time a few months later; the animation was beautiful and the idea of putting twists on all of these supernatural beings that we grew up believing in seemed like a lot of fun, and I suddenly became extremely excited to see this movie. Unfortunately, when I was finally able to see the film a couple of days before Christmas, I was highly disappointed.

The failure of the film isn’t in its re-imagining of beloved childhood heroes, which I thought was done rather well (Alec Baldwin’s Russian-inspired Santa Claus was particularly amusing), but rather in its inability to tell the story implied by its title. Instead of being treated to a story of how the Guardians – Santa, Easter Bunny, Sandman, and Tooth Fairy – came into existence, or at least how they joined together to protect the children of the world, we’re introduced to Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine, who can’t be seen by people because they don’t believe in him. Throughout the movie, Jack is searching for his past, which he can’t remember, and it’s his search for answers that becomes the focus of the film. The actual Guardians take a backseat to this quest, and it often seems forced, especially in the film’s relatively short run time of an hour and a half.

Regrettably, even if you take Jack Frost out of the picture and focus solely on the Guardians and on the antagonist, Pitch (i.e. The Boogeyman), there are plenty of problems. The Guardians rely on children believing in them to fuel their powers, so when Pitch interferes with the Guardians’ duties and causes children to stop believing in them, they start to lose their power. This is all fine and dandy and makes sense, but the problem I have is that the film implies that disbelief in one Guardian results in disbelief in the others…which doesn’t even make sense. For example, Pitch prevents the Tooth Fairy from collecting teeth and leaving coins, so the children not only stop believing in the Tooth Fairy (as if every child in the world was waiting for their teeth to be taken anyway), but also in the other Guardians. Personally, I don’t think that disbelief in the Tooth Fairy or in the Sandman would affect my belief in a being like Santa, who plays such a huge part in our popular culture. Aside from that problem, which particularly bothered me, Santa’s helpers, which comprise of elves and yetis, seem to be just cheap imitations of the Minions from Universal’s Despicable Me.

I had high hopes for this film, perhaps too high, which made my disappointment all the more upsetting. The film boasts an all-star cast, wonderful animation, and a beautiful score by composer Alexandre Desplat, but none of that is enough to save itself from a plot that is far less inspired than what was promised by both the trailers and the title. I wish that things had turned out differently, but, as much as it pains me to say it, Rise of the Guardians failed to captivate me like I had hoped, but, to a less critical person, it may be decent enough to entertain.

-Chad

Rating: 2 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG – for thematic elements and some mildly scary action

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Alexandre Desplat, here!


Rise of the Guardians (2012) – Alexandre Desplat

I had never listened to an Alexandre Desplat score before 2010’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, and I’ve been hooked ever since. His scores for The King’s Speech was simple and wonderful, and I’m still astounded by the fact that his score to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2, was not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score, as it is one of the most beautiful, emotional scores I’ve ever listened to. That being said, when I saw that his score for Rise of the Guardians, a film that I’ve been excited for for quite some time now, was available, I purchased it without hesitation.

*possible spoilers due to track titles; I haven’t seen the film*

The score starts out with a very Harry Potter-esque track titled “Calling the Guardians;” in particular, the first few seconds remind me of the track “Snape to Malfoy Manor” from the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, soundtrack, mixed with a little of Danny Elfman’s theme to the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film. It’s quite an exciting entrance which quickly transitions into something more typical of Desplat’s music – a sweeping string melody accompanied by a charming piano countermelody. The brass eventually come in with a triumphant fanfare fitting of the track title, suggesting a different kind of superhero than we are accustomed to…which certainly seems to be the case with this film.

Throughout the score, we are treated to quiet, tender tracks such as “Alone in the World” and “Jamie Believes,” the latter of which contains what I would consider to be the main theme of the film, taken from the track “Still Dream,” composed by Desplat with lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and sung by Renée Fleming. We also hear fast-paced, raucous tracks such as “Tooth Collection” and “Pitch At North Pole,” as well as tracks that seem to emanate hope and magic, including “Sandman Returns” and “Oath of the Guardians.”

When I think of Desplat’s music, I think of beauty; his score to Rise of the Guardians only helps to reinforce this association. Every bit as colorful as the album artwork, Desplat’s music soars and never bores. His rich strings and powerful brass will leave you refreshed and wishing for more – it makes me even more excited for the film!

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

1.

“Still Dream” (performed by Renée Fleming)

3:12

2.

“Calling the Guardians”

2:06

3.

“Alone in the World”

2:04

4.

“Fanfare of the Elves”

0:53

5.

“Wind Take Me Home!”

1:28

6.

“Dreamsand”

2:03

7.

“Pitch on the Globe”

0:57

8.

“The Moon”

1:32

9.

“Snowballs”

1:31

10.

“Busy Workshop”

1:33

11.

“Sleigh Launch”

1:45

12.

“Nightmares Attack”

7:17

13.

“Tooth Collection”

2:22

14.

“Jamie’s Bedroom”

2:31

15.

“Jack & Sandman”

4:18

16.

“Memorial”

1:21

17.

“Guardians Regroup”

0:58

18.

“Easter”

3:39

19.

“Jack Betrays”

3:20

20.

“Kids Stop Believing”

2:35

21.

“Jack’s Memories”

2:24

22.

“Pitch at North Pole”

2:00

23.

“Jamie Believes”

3:01

24.

“Jack’s Center”

4:52

25.

“Sandman Returns”

2:36

26.

“Dreamsand Miracles”

2:18

27.

“Oath of the Guardians”

3:11

Total Length: app. 69 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


The King’s Speech (2010)

The King’s Speech is another of those films that I never saw in theaters, which I regret because of how much I enjoyed it.

Featuring an all-star cast, with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter in the lead roles, The King’s Speech succeeds in its simplicity. The film’s score by Alexandre Desplat is light and simple, there are no explosions or CGI special effects, or any action scenes/car chases, but it still manages to be completely enthralling. Colin Firth’s performance as the stuttering King George VI is what makes the film so fantastic, but it’s not just his flawlessly consistent stutter that makes him so good; it’s everything outside of the stutter that he brings to the table that makes his performance so memorable. We see the common human troubles that this monarch fights with, from everything to bullying, food deprivation, to disappointment from his father, but Firth doesn’t just tell us all of these things – we’re able to see it in how he moves, how he behaves, and how he talks.

Though Firth is the one who carries the movie, Rush as Lionel Logue is great as well, but, then again, when isn’t Geoffrey Rush great? Through his performance, we see a man who believes in other people’s potential to the fullest, and in Carter’s performance as George VI’s husband we see one hundred percent emotional support, but, again, these aren’t things that we have to be told to understand – all of this is clearly displayed in the way the actors present their characters. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s obvious when you watch the movie yourself.

A movie definitely worthy of its Academy Award for Best Picture, The King’s Speech is more than I expected from a subject matter that seems bland at first glance (and, to be honest, it is), with Colin Firth’s outstanding performance carries the film above and beyond what it might have been without him. It’s fun at times, it’s incredibly dramatic at times, and there are even moments that could break your heart, but it never stops being entertaining and a pleasure to watch.

Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for some language

Note – This movie is rated “R” for language by the MPAA, but it is a ridiculous rating. The only bad language found in this film is limited to two separate scenes in which it is used quite extensively but in a completely non-offensive way. Feel free to be your own judge, but I say that this is a film perfectly suitable for teenagers.

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by Alexandre Desplat, here!


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) – John Williams

This soundtrack is near and dear to my heart for multiple reasons. For starters, it’s the first film soundtrack I ever owned. Also, Harry Potter played a very large part in my childhood and shaping me to be the person I am today, so John Williams’ score to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone occasionally leaves me emotional.

John Williams is phenomenal. He has composed the most iconic film themes of all time, including (but not limited to) JawsSupermanStar Wars, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. His score to this film is not an exception: “Hedwig’s Theme” is the maintheme that everyone associates with Harry Potter, forcing the three composers who followed Williams in scoring the Harry Potter films to utilize it in their own scores.

The best way I can possibly describe this score is “magical”…I’m sorry, but it just is.It’s one of the few scores that I can sit down and listen to from start to finish and be able to play through the film in my head, from “The Arrival of Baby Harry” all the way to “Leaving Hogwarts”. This is especially easy to do since much of the score is timed with specific key moments in the film itself. A prime example of this is the track “The Quidditch Match”, in which you are able to hear the exact moment when the quaffle is tossed into the air to start the game, or when Quirrell starts cursing Harry’s broom, or when Harry nearly swallows the golden snitch. Williams is a master of this.

I have zero criticism for this score, possibly because I’m biased, but that’s okay with me. “Entry Into the Great Hall and The Banquet” will always present a magical moment to me, “The Face of Voldemort” will always bring a chill down my spine, and “Leaving Hogwarts” still brings tears to my eyes…especially when it was used in the closing moments of the final film of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Pt. 2 (Williams’ score for this first movie was sampled throughout the final one…a nice touch by composer Alexandre Desplat).

Overall, this score is the best and I love John Williams.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

1. “Prologue”  2:12

2. “Harry’s Wondrous World”  5:21

3. “The Arrival of Baby Harry”  4:25

4. “Visit to the Zoo and Letters from Hogwarts”  3:23

5. “Diagon Alley and the Gringotts Vault”  4:06

6. “Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters and the Journey to Hogwarts”  3 3:14

7. “Entry into the Great Hall and the Banquet”  3:42

8. “Mr. Longbottom Flies”  3:35

9.” Hogwarts Forever! and the Moving Stairs”  3:47

10. “The Norwegian Ridgeback and a Change of Season”  2:47

11. “The Quidditch Match”  8:29

12. “Christmas at Hogwarts”  2:56

13. “The Invisibility Cloak and the Library Scene”  3:16

14. “Fluffy’s Harp”  2:39

15. “In the Devil’s Snare and the Flying Keys”  2:21

16. “The Chess Game”  3:49

17. “The Face of Voldemort”  6:10

18. “Leaving Hogwarts”  2:14

19. “Hedwig’s Theme”  5:11

Total Length: app. 74 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


The Social Network (2010) – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

The hype for director David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network was strong and, in my opinion, deservingly so; I seem to like it more and more every time I watch it. However, I didn’t expect to like the soundtrack, composed by Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) and Atticus Ross. Being a big fan of Alexandre Desplat’s score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, I was rooting for (and expecting) his score for The King’s Speech to win. At the time, though, I hadn’t heard the scores to either The Social Network or The King’s Speech, so, when The Social Network took the Academy Award for Best Original Score at the 83rd Academy Awards, I decided to buy both and decide for myself which I liked more, expecting the Desplat to win.

To my surprise, I liked The Social Network’s score more.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score to this movie is, to say the least, unconventional. Most of the time you hear an orchestra in the background of a film, not a bunch of electronics and guitar, but that’s exactly what you get in The Social Network…and it’s delightful.

From the haunting piano melody of “Hand Covers Bruise” (which acts as the theme for the film) to the underlying excitement of “Intriguing Possibilities” to a sort of experimental electronic rock in “Eventually We Find Our Way”, Reznor/Ross’ score delivers in every way I can think of: excitement, atmosphere, tension, emotion, etc.

My favorite tracks are “In Motion”, “Intriguing Possibilities”, “Pieces Form the Whole”, and “Carbon Prevails”, and the arrangement of the classic “In the Hall of the Mountain King” is reminiscent of the work of composer Wendy Carlos (TRONThe Shining).

The score for The Social Network has something in it for everyone, whether you are a fan of the film or not. Check it out!

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

1.”Hand Covers Bruise”  4:18

2.”In Motion”4:56

3.”A Familiar Taste”  3:35

4.”It Catches Up with You”  1:39

5.”Intriguing Possibilities”  4:24

6.”Painted Sun in Abstract”  3:29

7.”3:14 Every Night”  4:03

8.”Pieces Form the Whole”  4:16

9.”Carbon Prevails”  3:53

10.”Eventually We Find Our Way”  4:17

11.”Penetration”  1:14

12.”In the Hall of the Mountain King” (Edvard Grieg)  2:21

13.”On We March”  4:14

14.”Magnetic”  2:10

15.”Almost Home”  3:33

16.”Hand Covers Bruise, Reprise”  1:52

17.”Complication with Optimistic Outcome”  3:19

18.”The Gentle Hum of Anxiety”  3:53

19.”Soft Trees Break the Fall”  4:44

Total length: app. 67 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad