Monday, November 25, 2013

Film Score Lovers Anonymous: My Healthy Obsession

I would be a much happier (read: saner) person if I could just live in the movies. All. The. Time.

I do this thing where I find a film that resonates for whatever reason -- no matter what the reviews or critics are saying -- and I obsess over it. I watch it again and again, sometimes twice on the same weekend night. In the last year, it's been Pride and Prejudice, The Hobbit, Welcome to the Punch. Past years, Shakespeare in Love, Gladiator, all the Lord of the Rings films. I recognize this is not a healthy habit. But I'm not a drinker or user of substances other than dangerous quantities of sugar, so if movies are my drug, bring on the popcorn.

It bears repeating: our family likes the movies. Pretty Princess blogs (Truly Luminary) and starts journalism school in January toward her dreams in  entertainment coverage. The Other Half of my heart works in the film biz. He's worked on a lot of awesome flicks in the last 25.5 years, including but not limited to The Fugitive, Army of Darkness (for you cult fans out there), Titanic, lots of X-Men films, Tron, Seventh Son, Percy Jackson, et cetera, et cetera. Most recently he did some time on George Clooney's next supersecret project before hopping onto the epic build for a flick based on a VERY popular video game.  When he comes home covered in foam and silicone, it's because he's recreating a world that only exists in our imaginations. Glamorous, huh? Tell that to my washing machine.

In 2012 he worked on Man of Steel. Sculpted the saddle Jor El rides on his winged horse/dragon hybrid (H'raka); built the mushroomy pool where the Codex Skull is kept, the bed/chair structure newborn Kal El lies in when his parents are infusing his cells with the bits and bobs from the Codex. 

Built the EPIC sets we can barely see in the council chambers when Jor El says YOU GUYS THIS IS MADNESS WE'RE DOOMED and naughty Zod storms in and shoots his guns and yells loudly (Michael Shannon, you are the best kind of villain). 

And then there's that awesome spaceship buried in the permafrost where soon-to-be-Superman goes all manly and says to an injured Lois Lane, "I can do things other people can't ... This is going to hurt." All of these incredible sets come from the hands of REAL people. #proudWyfey 

Lately, the object of my obsession has been Man of Steel. I don't even know why. I tear up when Kal El's parents say goodbye and again when -- oh, wait -- no spoilers, in case you haven't seen it. Despite mixed reviews and haters galore, I love this film.

Maybe it's because so much of Husband's sweat went into it. It's special to us.

Ironically, though, I try not to think too much about the reality behind the film. I usually leave the room when the family scoots around to watch behind-the-scenes stuff because I LOVE THE FANTASY of it. When Lord of the Rings was in its prime, and now with The Hobbit and the MUCH-ANTICIPATED Desolation of Smaug, I want to believe that Middle Earth is a REAL place and not just pretty New Zealand, that if I overcome my fear of huntsman spiders, I will go to Mata Mata and see Hobbiton and while there, Frodo and Gandalf and Aragorn (*swoon*) and Thorin (*double swoon*) will appear and we will have wine with fruity bouquets and eat wheels of cheese and sing songs with our pipes puff-puff-puffing away.

Shit, that was a long sentence. Hadley, I'm so sorry.

I want to believe that hunky Kal El is a real guy, that the sonic booms that ring over our neighborhood are him blasting through the atmosphere, that if an oil rig falls on my house, he will -- shirtless and beautifully muscled -- be there to catch it.

Hello, Kal El. Thank you for saving my house from that collapsing oil rig.

I'm not a purist. Hell, I'm not even a FAN of Superman. Never read the comics, didn't swoon over the earlier movies with the late Christopher Reeve. Didn't care a sniff. Not until Zack Snyder gave us Henry Cavill and Russell Crowe in tights.

Seriously. You GUYS.

THIS is why I'm a writer. I was not beautiful/thin/talented/smart/brave enough to make it in Hollywood, though I dreamed those dreams so hard, I would cry myself to sleep after working at one of three jobs to save the money to move to LA. (I tend toward the dramatic. And I really did work at three jobs at one point to save money to move to LA. Then I moved to LA and had to get another suffocating job to pay the rent. I'm not great with planning, I know this.)

Along with these movies, though, is THE MUSIC. Let me set the scene:


Banner made of dot-matrix printer paper hangs haphazardly from wall. In crayon, reads "FILM SCORE LOVERS ANONYMOUS." Chairs set around a table holding docked iPod. Side table with silver coffee carafe; plate overflows with frosted cookies shaped as musical notes.

JENN walks in. Chooses a cold chair.

Today I'd like to welcome our newest member, Jenn.

Yes. Hi. (waves) I'm Jenn, and I'm a film score lover.

(in unison)
(many in costume; looks like ComicCon in here)
Hiiiiii, Jenn ...

And so on and so forth.

Thanks to the demigod we mortals call Hans Zimmer, Man of Steel has a FANTASTIC score. Oh, people, honestly ... if you're not listening to Zimmer, I'm not sure if we can continue this thing we call friendship. The Dark Knight/Rises? Gladiator? Inception? Pirates of the Caribbean? Sherlock Holmes? The DaVinci Code?


It feeds my obsession. The music is the meaty leg warm with pumping blood; I am the leech. I am insatiable. 

And so it has gone for the last months, my thirst unquenchable, as I've labored over yet another draft of Sleight. I quietly turned it in yesterday. No, I do not know what this means. Other than I LOVE it. Other than we wait. This freight train is not under my control.

But the music is. Because when I write, I imagine the actors playing the parts I have breathed life into. I dream about the book being made into a film (we all do) and who we'd get to do the film score. (I have my short list.) Because of this weird obsession, you can see why the movies and music and words are all on one plate for me. Like the bacon with the lettuce and tomato. I cannot have one without the other.

Recently a friend made the mistake of asking for recommendations for music to write by. As a proud film score lover, I answered accordingly:

~ ANYTHING by Alexander Desplat (though Tree of Life is a little odd for my taste); the Twilight Saga's New Moon is arguably one of my top five faves. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is beautiful. Oh, and Zero Dark Thirty. Awesome.

~ EVERYTHING by Hans Zimmer, as mentioned -- but especially Man of Steel

~ Harry Escott's Welcome to the Punch. (I may have peed when Harry Escott followed me back on Twitter. I'm afraid to check if he's still following me. I don't think I can handle any more rejection.) This score narrates brilliant action sequences, stitched seamlessly alongside haunting emotional overtones. (OMG, I love it when the boys cry.)

Now for crying-boy montage:
Mark Strong (my sweetie). Crying because he is a bad good man. (Low Winter Sun)

Cries over dead son. (Welcome to the Punch)
Russell Crowe (Jor El, Man of Steel) almost crying over sending son away to a foreign planet.

Definitely crying here. It's okay, Kal El. C'mere. Let's hug it out.
DAAAAAAAAAAD! More crying. *swoony sigh* If you don't tear up in this scene, you're soulless.
 Something is wrong with me if I like it when pretty boys cry.

~ The score for the film Oblivion (M83 and Anthony Gonzales) is great, as is the score for Disconnect (Max Richter).

Here's a list of brilliant composers to make it simple:
  • Danny Elfman (Oz the Great and Powerful, Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, 9, Silver Linings Playbook, tons more -- he's Tim Burton's go-to composer)
  • Clint Mansell (The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream are my faves)
  • James Newton Howard (most recently Hunger Games: Catching Fire releases 11/29; also Snow White and the Huntsman and a zillion others)
  • James Horner (Avatar, Titanic, Legends of the Fall, Aliens)
  • John Williams -- ICONIC -- Harry Potter, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, et cetera. You know his music.
  • John Debney (Passion of the Christ is beautiful; Elf, Iron Man 2)
  • John Powell (Shrek, Bourne franchise, PS I Love You, How to Train Your Dragon)
  • Andrew Lockington (Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters)
  • Henry Jackman (X-Men First Class, Wreck-It Ralph, Captain Phillips, Kick-Ass 2)
  • Marc Streitenfeld (Robin Hood, Prometheus, Body of Lies)
  • Michael Giacchino (Star Trek / ST Into Darkness, Up, The Incredibles, Super 8)
  • Howard Shore (all the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit films, Twilight Saga: Eclipse)
  • Thomas Wander (Anonymous)
  • Marco Beltrami (The Wolverine, World War Z, I, Robot)
  • Carter Burwell (Twilight fans rejoice!)
  • Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones!!!)
  • Bryan Tyler (Thor, Iron Man 3)
  • John Ottman (Jack the Giant Slayer, X-Men 2)
  • Craig Armstrong (A gorgeous orchestral score for DiCaprio/Luhrmann's Gatsby)
  • Steve Jablonsky (Ender's Game, Transformers)
  • Johann Johannsson (Prisoners)
  • Steven Price (Gravity)
  • Olafur Arnalds (short but powerful score for the BBC's Broadchurch)
Not to be overlooked: video game scores. Assassin's Creed Revelations is awesome. And it's a TON of music for an incredible price. Halo is solid too.

If you're a film score lover like I am, and you think you might need an intervention, we meet twice a week in the church basement on the corner of Angst Avenue and Brokenheart Blvd. Bring your appetite for cookies and inspired tears.

Before we go:

This blog post is a rambling mess. I'm sorry. But today I'm sort of a rambling mess. Turning in a beloved manuscript after yet another round of painful rewrites causes this. Some people cheer when they write the end. I never write those two words because they make me too sad. I've spent most of the day fluctuating between joy and desolation. Giggles and tears. Sunshine and darkness. I did, however, stop feeling sorry for myself long enough to shower and apply makeup. You know, in case that oil rig thing happens and Superman shows up on my porch.

One more for the road:

Hey, Superman ...
Au revoir, mes amoureux ...

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