Tag Archives: The King’s Speech

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!

Advertisements

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!


The King’s Speech (2010) – Alexandre Desplat

I’ve told this story on here before on my review of Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ score to The Social Network, but I don’t mind repeating it. I bought the scores to both The King’s Speech and The Social Network because, after expecting The King’s Speech to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score and watching The Social Network win, I wanted to decide for myself which one was better. To my surprise, I enjoyed The Social Network‘s score more, but Desplat’s music here is still fantastic.

The beauty of this score is found in its simplicity. It doesn’t strive to wow the audience with loud brass or soaring strings but opts instead for quiet, peaceful melodies played on piano and strings. In fact, the whole album is like a piano solo with string accompaniment, which is different and refreshing for a film soundtrack.

The main theme, “The King’s Speech”, is light and bouncy, though not “bouncy” in the same sense as Thomas Newman’s Wall-E score; it’s a bouncy that feels authentic to the time period without feeling overly dated. In other words, it’s not a burden to listen to. At the end of the track, we lose the bouncy quality to a painful strain of music, representing “Bertie’s” shame regarding his speech disorder.

I’ve always said that Alexandre Desplat is the king of emotion in film scores; it’s certainly apparent in The King’s Speech. Tracks like “The King is Dead” and “Memories of Childhood” easily convey sadness and grief, while “The Threat of War” dispenses the same anxiety as does Colin Firth’s character in the film. While not composed by Desplat, the choice of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 – Mvmt. II for “Speaking Unto Nations” deftly exemplifies the building confidence that Firth’s character experiences while reading his speech.

Overall, while it may not be the revolutionary wild ride that Reznor/Ross’ score to The Social Network may be, the score to The King’s Speech is evidence enough to show why Desplat is one of the best composers in the business. His ability to match the tone and period of the film in his music and to convey even the most complex of emotions sets the standard for his peers.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. “Lionel and Bertie”  2:11
  2. “The King’s Speech”  3:55
  3. “My Kingdom, My Rules”  2:51
  4. “The King is Dead”  2:06
  5. “Memories of Childhood”  3:37
  6. “King George VI”  3:06
  7. “The Royal Household” 1:44
  8. “Queen Elizabeth”  3:35
  9. “Fear and Suspicion”  3:24
  10. “The Rehearsal”  1:43
  11. “The Threat of War” 3:56
  12. “Speaking Unto Nations (Beethoven Symphony No. 7 – II)”  5:03
  13. “Epilogue (Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” – II)”  3:56

Total Length: app. 42 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

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


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