Should have been a Bond theme

With Adele’s Skyfall out tomorrow [edit 5/10today], rather than looking back on Bond numbers of the past, I thought it would be a good moment for a personal top ten(ish) songs that would have made great James Bond themes. (Hat tip to @PaleDavid.) Continue reading

All the good tunes

Unscientific thoughts on the strange demise of the iconic movie theme.

I’ve spent the last few days at a science conference for my day job, so I should know better than to cherry pick data to make a point. But all the same, here’s a shaky hypothesis to throw some objections at.

Film soundtrack composition has arguably never been stronger, more varied or imaginative.  Alexander Desplat, Dario Marianelli, John Powell, Hans Zimmer, Max Richter, David Arnold – just a few favourites at the top of their game. And although minimalist and moody sometimes tops melody – think The Hours or Inception –there’s still life in the hummable tune, from The Artist to the X-Men. (Sorry, couldn’t think of a recent film starting with Z.) But, and this is my proposition, after a golden age lasting from the 1950s to the late 1980s, the last couple of decades have seen the demise, or at least the significant diminishing, of the iconic theme tune. Continue reading

The rise (and fall?) of the Wilhelm Scream

Recently I came across this very thorough compilation of Wilhelm Screams. If you don’t know it, the Wilhelm Scream is a stock sound effect dating from 1951 that’s become a bit of an in-joke amongst movie makers. (There’s a good summary on Wikipedia and a nice little essay here.)

The compilation seemed to point, unsurprisingly, to an increase in use after the late 1970s when legendary sound designer Ben Burtt rediscovered it and used it in Star Wars (about 2 minutes into the above). Burtt also gave it its name after the original screaming character.

Idly I wished there was a graph that showed its use over time, but couldn’t find one. Realising that time doesn’t waste itself, with the help of and IMDB I put one together. Continue reading

The Artist gives me Vertigo

So Kim Novak wants to report a rape. All because Michel Hazanavicius used Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo theme in the marvellous The Artist. Kim, where to start with the whole explaining about things that are not like rape? Here, someone says it better than me. Quite apart from her staggeringly tin ear, it’s hard to tell if she even gets the Artistic irony of shouting “I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN SPEAK NOW” in block capitals on her advert. And I don’t remember her making this sort of fuss about the brilliantly metafictional use of Vertigo in Twelve Monkeys

Novak also seems to think she is speaking on behalf of Hitchcock, and it can’t exactly be said that the director had the most enlightened views about non-consensual sex. The Marnie issue springs to mind. And given that Vertigo is as close as mainstream Hollywood has come to depicting necrophilia… Not actual necrophilia, but necrophilia of the… oh never mind. Continue reading

Tinker Tailor Soldier Trailer

I almost fell over myself with excitement a couple of months ago when I saw the trailer for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. One of the things that I knew was going to get me through the door the day it opened was the music. It so perfectly captured the tension and mood, hitting each beat of the trailer, underpinning each throaty utterance of the kind of actorly line-up that casting directors fantasise about.

Except when I went to see the film recently, the music was nowhere to be found. Tinker Tailor is, for my money, the standout film of 2011 so far, that appears to to have found an actual wormhole back to 1973. The score by Alberto Iglesias is nicely atmospheric, unobtrusive, gets the job done, no complaints.

But… but I just couldn’t help but feel a bit shortchanged, robbed of what I thought was going to be an integral part of the cinema experience of Tinker Tailor. Even if I had got a burst of the trailer music over the end credits I would have been happy. I didn’t of course and scrambled for the internet as soon as I was back to find out what I’d missed. Unexpectedly, it was Danny Elfman’s score for The Wolfman. Needless to say I was straight over to Amazon for the music. I’ve given that film a miss so far and I think I can live without it. Mind you I might have felt differently if they had used Elfman’s music in the trailer for The Wolfman rather than this bland semi-rock. Continue reading