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« Beauty Vs Beast: The Two Jakes | Main | Halfway Pt. 2: Visual Cinematic Achievements of 2014 »
Monday
Jul072014

Halfway Pt. 3: Sound, Songs, Score. What Did You Enjoy Listening To?

Having covered the most astounding visuals from the first half of 2014 let's move on to Sound. This is when I suddenly become shy, mutable, and tongue-tied as a critic. You may read this post at any decibel level but please know that I'm whispering it. A truth: sound is the aspect of filmmaking for which I feel least qualified to judge. I try to absorb what's happening in underscoring and with the mix and editing. I'm definitely more attuned that I once was. But the fact remains that my ears are neither as well trained nor as aggressive in consumption as my eyes. I love to hear other people talk sound and scoring (I recommend the book The Conversations by Walter Murch which is on film editing but it touches on sound as well) so please do share your favorites in the comments. I'll probably learn something if you do. At the very least I'll have more to consider. 

If I had to vote right now...

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Henry Jackman); Godzilla (Alexandre Desplat); The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat); Noah (Clint Mansell); Snowpiercer (Marco Beltrami)... though I'd be hard-pressed to tell you why in all five cases other than that I responded to the music and thought it a fine match for the material tonally

BEST SOUND MIXING & EDITING: In these categories I'd undoubtedly go with some mix of the otherwordly bestial movies like Godzilla, Noah and How To Train Your Dragon 2 and I'd most definitely opt for Under the Skin and not just because my BFF and I leaned toward each other and whispered Yaz's "I Before E Except After C" lyrics during the enormously creepy vocalizations in the first minute of the film. But other than that I'm open to suggestions...

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: And now we can raise our voices again after the jump because I have five I LOVE already and we're only half finished with 2014. Guess what they are...

All five of these songs are beauties in their movies, and do exactly the kind of thing that justifies the much maligned category in the first place:

a) they are all prominently featured in their movies
b) they are not merely decorative but narratively / thematically crucial

"Lost Stars" - Begin Again. This song and, far more uniquely, its different arrangements, are hugely important in defining the irreconciliable differences of the troubled romance in the movie

"Like a Fool" -Begin Again. One of the best scenes in the movie, when Greta (Keira Knightley) and her friend Steve (scene-stealing James Corden) record a voice message to Greta's ex boyfriend 

"A Step You Can't Take Back" - Begin Again. This is the film's opening number but we loop back to it in an important POV shift from Keira Knightley to Mark Ruffalo which is inarguably corny but works anyway.

"For the Dancing and the Dreaming" - How To Train Your Dragon 2... a romantic duet between Hiccup's parents... though weirdly Cate Blanchett doesn't do her own singing despite it being more of a character folk song than a singing showcase. Pity about the gender politics and the entire third act of this movie because the second act that's focused on Valka (Cate Blanchett) sure is a spiritual beauty.

"Everything is Awesome" - The Lego Movie

I APOLOGIZE. I KNOW THAT JULY IS THE FIRST MONTH THAT THIS SONG HAS FINALLY STOPPED PLAYING LIKE AN EARWORM IN YOUR BRAIN. AND NOW IT'S BACK BWAAAAHAHAHA. 

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Reader Comments (12)

I think the highest compliment I can give the "Like a Fool" scene is that it's the movie's most Traditional Musical moment, but I never questioned its plausibility. The song is simple enough that it could be an impromptu rough draft, but you also know the character well enough to know that of course it isn't, she's probably been walking around with pieces of this for a while and is only now getting up the nerve to put it together and follow through. Really smartly handled.

July 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave

I'm surprised you didn't mention Mica Levi's score for Under the Skin! Is it too experimental/ugly for your taste?

July 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterConrado

Hooray for original song! They finally have options. I co sign everything you have said. Would also add the sound editing/mixing for only lovers left alive as it really hinges on its sound design. The score for under the skin is great as well! So many contenders so quickly. Hopefully some will be remembered at the end of the year. Also was impressed by the sound work in captain America and Lego movie

July 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris James

I have not seen Begin Again but will be seeing it Friday and the version of Lost Stars I prefer is the Knightley Version. I love Everything is Awesome and the HTTYD2 song because in that movie there were two moments that made me tear up and this musical number was one of those moments. Another song I liked was from Rio 2 and while most people do not like Chenoweth I felt her song was fun and in Muppers the interogation song was best for me. In score Under the Skin is by far the best score of the year and Budapest Hotel is also another great score.The other scores that fill out my top 5 are HTTYD2, The Double and Noah. I actually have some care for the sound categories this year and while they might be some strange options Nymphomaniac and Under the Skin were some great films of sound. Godzilla also has some great sound design especially his roar. Dragon is also another great film with sound and of the films this year is really overall the best film of sound in music and designs.

July 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

Definitely jumping the gun a bit here but if Begin Again wins for Original Song we might be in for an interesting speech! A sample lyric from lead songwriter Gregg Alexander's otherwise innocuous/amazing 1998 one-hit wonder "You Get What You Give" performed by his old band New Radicals:

Health insurance rip off lying FDA big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they're multiplying
Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson
Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson
You're all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We'll kick your ass in

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRuth

There's no chance in hell of this happening, but I really liked the score to Obvious Child. Unfortunately, the film is too small and the music too subtle to get any traction for awards at all.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

This has already been a great year for scores. My favorites so far:

--VIsitors - another beautiful minimalist Phillip Glass score
--Grand Budapest Hotel - Desplat, in his third attempt, finds the perfect aural counterpoint to Anderson's dollhouse aesthetic
--Godzilla - Desplat again, showing his versatility by channeling early Danny Elfman for a perfect blockbuster score
--Enemy - haunting and discordant, adding shades of existential terror to an already creepy film
--Maleficent - it's just James Newton Howard doing what he always does, but this is a lovely score that helps bridge this movie's schizzy halves together

Honorable mention: Snowpiercer, Noah, Under the Skin

Best score that I'm technically counting as last year's: The Wind Rises, which I can listen to all day. Beautiful, spare, melancholy.

Worst score of the year so far: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a vulgar, dub step infused disaster. Zimmer has been on a roll the past few years and I guess props to him for experimenting with different types of sound, but this is a hideous piece of work, fully in suiting with the piece of shit to which it is attached.

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Ruth -- wow. all the more reason to hope this happens :)

Roark & everyone -- thanks for sharing your favorites. it definitely has me thinking about things I didn't fully process like Enemy & Under the Skin's scores (i noticed their use of sound but the music not as much)

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

Nat, go on Spotify and listen to the Under the Skin score. It is terrifying.

And, yeah, weird that this year has been so good for original songs so far. I'd actually be really hard-pressed to reduce my ballot to five and its only 6 months in.

I've loved "Everything is Awesome", The LEGO Movie
"Something So Right", "We're Doing a Sequel" and "I'll Give You What You Want" from Muppets Most Wanted
"Beautiful Creatures" from Rio 2
"Don't Find Another Love" from Endless Love
and a few of the tracks from Begin Again, although "Lost Stars" is not one of them (Adam Levine is horrible). Keira's appraisal of his album version was spot on. :)

July 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Glenn -- it's weird that i totally spaced on Muppets while doing this despite having my entire screening log at the ready the whole time. I would probably have to dump one of the Begin Again songs to include "I'll Give You What You Want" which made me LOL so much.

July 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm happy that there's some love in the comments section for a few Muppets Most Wanted songs. Although the movie fell disappointingly flat for me, Bret McKenzie's songs breathed live into an otherwise lukewarm film.

"I'll Give You What You Want" is probably my favorite scene I've seen in a movie this year. Like Glenn mentioned, though, kudos also to "Something So Right" (which I'd love to see performed onstage live with all the Muppets and Celine Dion belting it out) and "We're Doing a Sequel."

I was on a Muppets kick the past couple days and listening to the Muppets Most Wanted songs almost makes me want to watch the flick again...but I know it'll just disappoint me after the genius that was "The Muppets" a few years ago.

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

My list is exactly the same with the exception of 'Something So Right' replacing 'For Dancing And Dreaming'

July 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterConMan

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