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Do Composers Know When They're Scoring A Bad Film?


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I've pondered this question several times. Does a composer know that the film they are scoring is bad? If so, do they try their best to make it better with their music, or do they just scribble something down?

Goldsmith comes to mind with all the terrible films he has composed music for.

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Problem is Goldsmith actually thought alot of those were good.

I would imagine a composer would notice, Williams bailed on Inchon. To be honest a majority of movies on paper sounds good. So when a composer hears the pitch, he/she may get the wrong idea because the problems begin once it gets filmed.

I'm sure there are some composers who may take the approach that this film sucks and nothing I can do will help it or I can't find any motivation.

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I've pondered this question several times. Does a composer know that the film they are scoring is bad?

Gee, I wonder. Do composers have thoughts and feelings like us normal people? Are they able to form opinions?

It's a legitimate question. You don't have to be a douche about it.

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I see a composer in that situation would be much like a cinematographer or an editor. At that point they just do the job they were hired for and try to make the best of it knowing the director or the writer just handed them crap.

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I see a composer in that situation would be much like a cinematographer or an editor. At that point they just do the job they were hired for and try to make the best of it knowing the director or the writer just handed them crap.

A bad movie doesn't necessarily have to be bad from a composer's point of view. Many of bad movies still function as frameworks for great scores. So regardless of whether a composer realises that a movie is bad or not (or needs "saving" or not), he might just be perfectly inspired by it.

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Whenever I scored something "bad" I still had to get into it as much as possible to compose. I think Goldsmith did that, as his agent said, every film he worked on he liked at the time he was making the score, even Mom and Dad Save the World (thought it was the funniest movie ever).

Bad film can be very inspiring as long as the director is a good one. The worst is scoring a bad film for a director who admittedly doesn't like any of the functions of film music, and is nervous whenever you deliver a note. Student directors as well as indie directors all told me "I always thought film music was manipulative and never wanted to use score in my films."

On the other hand, I score games I would never play in my own time. I just love writing for a program, and finding the right INTENDED feel.

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I see a composer in that situation would be much like a cinematographer or an editor. At that point they just do the job they were hired for and try to make the best of it knowing the director or the writer just handed them crap.

A bad movie doesn't necessarily have to be bad from a composer's point of view. Many of bad movies still function as frameworks for great scores. So regardless of whether a composer realises that a movie is bad or not (or needs "saving" or not), he might just be perfectly inspired by it.

Well said.

I think in that long interview Horner did with that online film music radio station (the really long candid one that stirred up a lot of controversy), he mentioned it isn't any help to him if the film isn't any good... so I suppose that's one composer for whom it's apparent when a film he's working on isn't that good.

ASW

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I see a composer in that situation would be much like a cinematographer or an editor. At that point they just do the job they were hired for and try to make the best of it knowing the director or the writer just handed them crap.

Absolutely. It's very rare you find a composer who can afford to turn down a paycheck on the grounds of artistic integrity. I'm sure each composer has a pretty shrewd idea of the quality of the product they are hired to contribute to.

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Whenever I scored something "bad" I still had to get into it as much as possible to compose. I think Goldsmith did that, as his agent said, every film he worked on he liked at the time he was making the score, even Mom and Dad Save the World (thought it was the funniest movie ever)

That statement makes me doubt Jerry's taste in movies, especially if he could actually enjoy the King Solomon's Mines

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Directors don't go shopping for composers at the very last minute: they hire them long before the movie is finished.

Some composers like to work from a script, others prefer waiting for a cut, but the thing is, the final product usually is inevitably different than what they imagined, and when it is a disappointment, they cannot just afford to walk away.

Serious composers do the best job possible for every single movie; they may like a movie or not, "get it" or not, find it good or bad, but it does not matter.

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It's entirely possible to shut out your brain for the odd 10 weeks when you're working on some filmic horse manure and try to handle the current assignment as the best ever.

To imply that a seasoned veteran like Goldsmith wasn't able to see 'Mom and Dad save the World' for what it was is just an insult to his intellectual capacities. Whatever Richard Kraft may have said certainly was meant more along the lines that there was an understanding not to make life harder than it is by actually bemoaning the badness of an assignment on a daily basis, so Goldsmith maybe trained himself into a state of mind where he could watch those films with a more innocous children's eye.

Neither Goldsmith nor WIlliams, or Horner for that matter, would have reached their status if it weren't for the fact that they took the films they've worked on very seriously.

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That statement makes me doubt Jerry's taste in movies, especially if he could actually enjoy the King Solomon's Mines
I like King Solomon's Mines. It's not a brilliant film, but it's really funny. Probably BECAUSE it is bad. But Jerry Goldsmith's music really makes it worthwhile for me. That score is good fun. Whatever Jerry Goldsmith's opinion on the film, he sure did his best to come up with a good score for that one.
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Often they're only scoring it due to relationships with the composer. I think the only reason JW scored 1941 was because he had already done Close Encounters, Jaws, and Sugarland Express with Spielberg.

and in doing so he composed a terrific score for a film that isn't bad just mediocre.

Well, it's not like Clones was a very artistically inspiring movie.

sssshhhhh, there are a few "clones" here who think it was a great movie.

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Also, I think, it is not unimaginable to me to find something one connects to, even in an inferior film, particularly if one understands where the creator of the film is coming from (as a result of an on-going collaboration).

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Often they're only scoring it due to relationships with the composer. I think the only reason JW scored 1941 was because he had already done Close Encounters, Jaws, and Sugarland Express with Spielberg.

and in doing so he composed a terrific score for a film that isn't bad just mediocre.

The score is magnificent. The film is the essence of crap.

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Often they're only scoring it due to relationships with the composer. I think the only reason JW scored 1941 was because he had already done Close Encounters, Jaws, and Sugarland Express with Spielberg.

and in doing so he composed a terrific score for a film that isn't bad just mediocre.

The score is magnificent. The film is the essence of crap.

coming from someone who idolizes Zimmer I would almost let you get away with that stupid comment, but obviously you cannot see the film for what does work in it, and there are many joys to be found in the film.

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Often they're only scoring it due to relationships with the composer. I think the only reason JW scored 1941 was because he had already done Close Encounters, Jaws, and Sugarland Express with Spielberg.

and in doing so he composed a terrific score for a film that isn't bad just mediocre.

The score is magnificent. The film is the essence of crap.

coming from someone who idolizes Zimmer I would almost let you get away with that stupid comment, but obviously you cannot see the film for what does work in it, and there are many joys to be found in the film.

The Jaws parody, the running trees (which wasn't even included in the theatrical version), the scores, and the SFX are the only good things IMO. Mind you, Spielberg is my favorite director, but I think he really screwed up this time. And he agrees with me.

And it is twenty times worse than AotC, IMO.

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the dancing was terrific, Eddie Diezen was hysterical, several site gags were awesome, its a mess of a film but its not a bad film. He made worse, Always, Hook, AI, Terminal, all were just as messy if not worse.

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the dancing was terrific, Eddie Diezen was hysterical, several site gags were awesome, its a mess of a film but its not a bad film. He made worse, Always, Hook, AI, Terminal, all were just as messy if not worse.

I would pick The Terminal, AI, or Hook anyday over 1941 (I haven't seen Always yet). 1941 was just things blowing up and people having sex or getting in fights. It's hard to believe that the man who created the brilliant story of Back to the Future could think up something like 1941.

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The Terminal was not a mess. It was good film with some really badly written elements (Zeta-Jones' character, the whole ending). AI was not a mess. Hook was not a mess....so much as a misconception. Although it does seem like a mess, since Hoffman, Hoskins and the score are so much better than everything else in there. 1941 is a mess, though with some fantastic elements. The dance sequence is notably one of them. Seeing Toshiro Mifune and Christopher Lee together is another. Adding Slim Pickes to that duo is another. the score is another.

The film should have been directed by Zemeckis. It has the spark of his wonderfully perverse humor of the two Bobs' Used Cars.

Morlock- who can't stand Eddie Diezen.

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Zemeckis originally had a much darker satirical version in mind for 1941 but you know how things change once the studio gets involved.

The Ned Beatty sequences with the gun are hilarious. And I agree, watching Toshiro Mifune and Christopher Lee chew up the scenes are great.

What makes the Deezen scenes work is Murray Hamilton playing the straight man.

And of course you cannot forget Robert Stack, who sure looked like he enjoyed himself on the film. The Dumbo sequences are great.

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1941 is (at the most) an enjoyable mess. Always and Hook are Spielberg's most underrated, and The Terminal was just plain good.

Always is the only Spielberg film I've only seen once, and the only one I have no desire to ever see again.

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The Dumbo sequences are great.

Little bit of trivia: Much to Robert Stack's surprise, Spielberg only shot one take of the Dumbo sequences. After that first take, he sentenced he already got what he needed and moved on. Stack was shocked by such a bold move from such a young director.

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Hook[is] Spielberg's most underrated, and The Terminal was just plain good.

I agree. The Terminal was not bad at all, though I don't have any strong desire to see it again. Hook has some excellent elemtents to it, mainly the music, the acting, and the theatrics (costumes, makeup, etc.). And even the story isn't that bad.

The Dumbo sequences are great.

Little bit of trivia: Much to Robert Stack's surprise, Spielberg only shot one take of the Dumbo sequences. After that first take, he sentenced he already got what he needed and moved on. Stack was shocked by such a bold move from such a young director.

That's odd, considering the fact that it took Spielberg 247 days to shoot the film.

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