Monday, March 12, 2018

Top 10 Scores Turning 30 in 2018

Back to our musical score time machine!  For this edition, we're looking at 1988!  Here's a look back at the scores of 1988 with my list of the 10 Best Scores Turning 30!

Let's start the ranking!

10. Big (Howard Shore)
Shore nicely handled the comedy and drama of this now classic film. The score relies on a few lyrical themes typically on piano and strings.  He portrays the world of the characters with a wide-eyed innocence that makes this music a sentimental favorite.  This isn't the type of film or music Shore is typically attached to, but here it works so well.  His incorporation of Heart and Soul to his main theme is a great touch.

9. Scrooged (Danny Elfman)
Elfman lets his full identity show - this time with a Christmas twist that would appear several times later in his career.  This score elevates this Christmas film as it shifts around various tones and proved that Elfman could handle larger films.  It took until 2011 for a score release.       

8. The Accidental Tourist (John Williams)
The score is one of the most intimate of Williams and less known among his biggest admirers.  He primarily uses a single lyrical theme to follow the character, which he manipulates through orchestration to change the mood.  The often piano-led theme is primarily melancholic with a sweet romantic side.  

7. Rain Man (Hans Zimmer)
Taking a chance on a relatively new solo composer, director Barry Levinson allowed Zimmer to create a score that is a character just as much as the actors.  His mix of electronic keyboard effects and pan pipes melody is clearly the foundation of many future scores.  The impact of the score is still felt, with Zimmer performing the main theme at his live shows in 2016.   

6. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Michael Kamen)
Matching the grand absurd fantasy of Terry Gilliam's film, Michael Kamen brought wild action and Baroque instrument styles.  The orchestral writing is complex, comedic and melodic, showing some more sides to Kamen's versatility.  The album is currently out of print and the film is somewhat forgotten, but it's a delight.

5. Die Hard (Michel Kamen) 
Even as he's known for big action blockbusters, Kamen's score isn't as completely memorable as the film itself.  There are some nice character motifs among the action, and also maintain a portion of the film's suspense.  Most of the standouts of the score showcase Kamen's arrangements of holiday tunes and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.  A score album was never released (took until 2002!), but these expanded releases give you a sense of the score as originally intended, before editing and incorporation of other film music.  

4. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Alan Silvestri)
Continuing their strong collaboration, Silvestri and Zemeckis combined the detective noir with the animated world.  The score matches the film's nature perfectly, and so well that the music almost doesn't work as well without the film.  Silvestri incorporated a Carl Stalling-esque approach to the animated world and a jazzy noir approach for our live-action hero - it works well considering the juxtaposition.  The recently expanded release soundtrack lets more of his original vision shine.   

3. The Land Before Time (James Horner)
Horner continued his foray into animation (after An American Tail a few years prior).  With this score, it's of the most mature for an animated film.  Horner dug deep into classical masterpieces for inspiration (and perhaps more depending on who you ask) and created symphonic-like sections for the film.  The sentimental theme moments with choir is a particular standout of the finale.  This continues onto the very rare album, with long but fulfilling tracks.    

2. Willo(James Horner)
One of his most melodically rich scores, it also is an exciting fantasy and adventure score.  Staying atop lists of favorite Horner scores, it still has a few detractions with the borrowed action theme, overuse of both the shakuhachi and danger motif.  Even within the expertly scored swashbuckling action, Horner was able to find some emotional magic for our main characters.  It's a score I find myself returning to over and over again.

1. Beetlejuice (Danny Elfman)
It is impossible to detach Elfman's score from the film.  This is a perfect example of composer and director being exactly in sync.  His zany stylistic choices still give work even with the film switching from offbeat horror to comedy.  The instrumentation and thematic material are still identified with Elfman today.  This score demonstrates that Elfman can summarize the style of the film within the first minute, making his main titles some of the most enjoyable around.    

Honorable Mentions:
Dangerous Liaisons (George Fenton), Grave of the Fireflies (Michio Mamiya), Gorillas in the Mist (Maurice Jarre), The Last Temptation of Christ (Peter Gabriel), Midnight Run (Danny Elfman), Rambo III (Jerry Goldsmith)

Any personal favorites of yours from 1988 that I didn't include?