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Believe it. George Lucas himself said that, years ago: "A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing." (Ironic that he should follow up that statement with a trilogy of films that emphasized storyless SPFX.)

Now, don't misinterpret what I'm saying: special effects can be great, have been great, in some of the great movies of our time. But they're the decoration. They're not the foundation. They're not even, in a real sense, the building itself. A walk-in bedroom mock-up in a department store may look nice . . . but no one wants to live in one.

- Scott

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Believe it. George Lucas himself said that, years ago: "A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing." (Ironic that he should follow up that statement with a trilogy of films that emphasized storyless SPFX.)

Yes, look at the Star Wars movies, the story is their most boring aspect. Story is a foundation. It gives a necessary structure to a movie. A good foundation is important but it doesn't guarantee a great movie. More important than story is storytelling. HOW do we tell a story? In books, the writer's tools are words. If he uses the right words and the right writing style, the story might come alive. In film, the filmmaker uses the means the film medium provides to him, which are visuals and sound. It's how he communicates to us. Lucas screwed up with most of the Star Wars sequels because he forgot that he is a visual narrator (see THX 1138, Star Wars, American Graffiti). With the Prequels, he emphasized too much on story, explaining how everything in Star Wars universe came about, making it needlessly complex and story-centered. The best scene from The Phantom Menace is where Lucas makes silent cinema, when film speaks to us with visuals (the scene with the closing energy doors). The first Star Wars had a simple story and a strong emphasis on visuals (not the CGI overkill we know from the prequels) and visual narrative, which created a palpable atmosphere and convincing new worlds (before he added new elements to it, of course). One can perfectly follow A New Hope by purely watching the movie with the sound put on 'off'.

Now, don't misinterpret what I'm saying: special effects can be great, have been great, in some of the great movies of our time. But they're the decoration. They're not the foundation. They're not even, in a real sense, the building itself. A walk-in bedroom mock-up in a department store may look nice . . . but no one wants to live in one.

But this is science fiction and in science fiction it's more than "decoration" because the "visuals" (you said visuals and by visuals I understand everything we see on screen, not just the FX) have to convincingly take us to another world. I can't think of another genre where the visuals are more important than in science fiction. Science fiction has always seduced and evoked the viewer with its imagery. Films like 2001, Star Wars, Alien and Blade Runner don't stand out for their literary abilities, they stand out for their visuals. It's their fantastic vision that turned the scripts into the cinematic greatness. And you won't find that vision in the scripts, it's up there on the screen.

No it isn't. The film's goal is to be the next step in cinema.

Yes, through 3D, which is a visual mean of communication.

Whether 3D is enough to change the art of cinema remains to be seen. It might dumb it down even further.

Alex

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Salma Hayek....again. "And the Oscar goes to.......James Horner."

James Horner: "Oh thank you so very much. You know I'm always superstitious about these things and I don't write speeches. I've been nominated several times before and I've never actually won...oh wait I have 2 of these guys already."

(Camera pans to motionless audience and cue Bill Conti conducting Horner's 4 note danger motif as the Academy's strict 20 second speech for each winner approaches)

Marc Shaiman is conducting this year's Oscar telecast.

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I think some folks are confusing what they think is bad cgi with something which is just simply unknown to them. Basically, I know it isn't real therefore it has to be CG. It is merely a negative side effect of the technology, something which will likely become a thing of the past, pretty soon. At the moment (the tech is still in its infancy) certain people simply reject what they're seeing - they cannot accept it - that is at least until the images are given a good, solid and believable context.

Some people struggle with it, while I personally do not.

Avatar may or may not provide that all important context, but one thing's certain: It's success absolutely depends upon it.

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Yes, look at the Star Wars movies, the story is their most boring aspect. Story is a foundation. It gives a necessary structure to a movie. A good foundation is important but it doesn't guarantee a great movie. More important than story is storytelling. HOW do we tell a story?

We are in complete agreement here. How a story is told is the key to the entire piece--both in terms of the unfurling of the plot and in terms of the tools used to do it (in this case, special effects).

In books, the writer's tools are words. If he uses the right words and the right writing style, the story might come alive. In film, the filmmaker uses the means the film medium provides to him, which are visuals and sound. It's how he communicates to us. Lucas screwed up with most of the Star Wars sequels because he forgot that he is a visual narrator (see THX 1138, Star Wars, American Graffiti).

Yes, although there is some overlap between movies and books here. The filmmaker has to use words as well, in the form of intelligent dialogue, to effectively tell his story. That's actually where Lucas screwed up the prequels. He's a dreamer, a visionary, but he can't write his way out of a paper bag, nor can he direct actors into creating believable characters (certainly not with the words he puts in their mouths). Story, and storytelling, are from beginning to end about character. We follow a story to learn what will happen to the people in it. If the characters aren't believable, if their motives are too transparent or intangible, if they don't speak or act the way real people would given the situations they're in, then it doesn't matter what the film looks like; it will fail on story alone.

So I disagree with your last statement there. Lucas didn't forget he was a visual narrator; quite the opposite. He became so obsessed with his visuals that he only spared half a thought for his script and his actors. He was so busy building Coruscant that he neglected to populate it with characters we actually cared about enough to want to follow them to the end of the story.

With the Prequels, he emphasized too much on story, explaining how everything in Star Wars universe came about, making it needlessly complex and story-centered.

No. He didn't emphasize story in the least. The "story" was little more than a flimsy excuse to show us what he pictured in his head. It wasn't story-centered at all. Again, story is about character, and the characters took a back seat to the CGI. And the story itself wasn't complex; it was exceedingly simple at its core, only convoluted in the telling. He twisted it back on itself in as many different ways as he could imagine in order to make it look like it he'd developed a truly serpentine plot. The result was so full of yawning gaps and ridiculously illogical developments that it actually did somewhat to accomplish Lucas' purpose: we were left to sit back and watch the visuals unfold before our eyes, since there was nothing better to do at the time.

The first Star Wars had a simple story and a strong emphasis on visuals (not the CGI overkill we know from the prequels) and visual narrative, which created a palpable atmosphere and convincing new worlds (before he added new elements to it, of course). One can perfectly follow A New Hope by purely watching the movie with the sound put on 'off'.

The first Star Wars told a classically straightforward tale with some nice subtext to give it a good mythological texture. It followed a paradigm that's worked for centuries. The prequels should've stuck to the same model, but instead opted for political intrigue, and wound up failing on both counts.

But this is science fiction and in science fiction it's more than "decoration" because the "visuals" (you said visuals and by visuals I understand everything we see on screen, not just the FX) have to convincingly take us to another world. I can't think of another genre where the visuals are more important than in science fiction. Science fiction has always seduced and evoked the viewer with its imagery. Films like 2001, Star Wars, Alien and Blade Runner don't stand out for their literary abilities, they stand out for their visuals. It's their fantastic vision that turned the scripts into the cinematic greatness. And you won't find that vision in the scripts, it's up there on the screen.

While I can agree to a limited extent, I can't completely endorse what you're saying here. Visuals are certainly important to many science fiction films, no question. And I love sci-fi for having the limitless capacity for new worlds, new creatures, new visions. I'm grateful for what I've gotten to see on the big screen in my lifetime because of SF. But the heart of the genre is concept, the big "what-if?" questions. Take Blade Runner for example. It had a pretty standard 40's-hard-boiled-detective-potboiler tone to it, but it was the philosophical question that drove the story: What defines consciousness? Does self-awareness imply life on some level? Are artificially created beings due some measure of rights if they demonstrate these qualities? That's what made it a sci-fi tale. That the visuals were breathtaking adds a lot to the package, but they're not what absolutely defined it as a science fiction story.

Same with shows like Star Trek: TNG. It had some nice effects occasionally, but the budget wasn't high enough to produce the sort of thing we're able to see in a big-screen epic. Didn't matter. We watched and loved it because, a) we were fond of the characters and wanted to see them grow, and b) because the sci-fi element allowed them to tell stories with the sort of wild and mind-stretching scenarios that only good SF allows for.

So, stubborn cuss that I am, I'm sticking by my argument: visual effects are a tool used for telling a science fiction story. A vital tool, yes, necessary for effectively telling the story, but never so important that they can excusably supervene the story. And that's the biggest problem with too many SF movies these days: because they're able to do so much more than ever before, they think it's enough just to pop our eyes out of our heads. They don't feel they're required to bother with anchoring what we see to solid characters in a strong storyline.

- Scott

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One thing that puzzles me is the claims that say that they have created a whole new world, like it is a first in cinema.

what have they done differently from other space sagas, fantasy trilogies, sci fi series and the likes?

why don't you wait till the movie arrives, watch it and then if you still can, ask the question again.

Seriously. Perhaps spend that time trying to increase the world's population.

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I have the same reaction to the clips from the score as I have for the clips/trailers/etc of the movie itself.

Meh. Pass.

Yea, the clips seem uneventful. The overhype itself will surely result in an underwhelming initial response to the project. The score from these samples seems typically Hornerish. Maybe there is something amazing hidden in the album itself.....

Although I won't get my hopes up.

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I think initial box office response will be really strong, not Dark Knight/Crap Moon records or anything. But then a HUGE dropoff in business after the first weekend (maybe even after the first day). This one is not gonna have legs. Cameron hit the jackpot with Titanic by doing a film with a popular historical subject for an older demographic, a huge rising young male star and a romance for the every-important girls and women demographics, cutting edge special effects (and Kate Winslet) for the geeks, etc. Avatar... well, it has the special effects. And the James Cameron name along with the whole "his first film in 12 years, since Titanic!" that we're gonna keep hearing as this gets closer.

Sorry to vent, this film just turns me off. But the rest of you are more than welcome to enjoy it, and I promise I won't demean or make fun of you for liking it. :blink:

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Don't know if any of you guys saw this, here are some samples from the Avatar score. May be some spoilers, if you haven't seen the track names yet.

http://www.exlibris.ch/musik/OSTVARIOUS/Avatarthe_Score/PHO/8505-7567895761.aspx

They're too short to make an accurate judgement. However, it seems to be something very much into the ethnic/symphonic meld very much in vogue in contemporary Hollywood film music. A few things reminded me of James Newton Howard's Atlantis and especially Dinosaur, not in terms of similarity, just in style.

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I saw a clip from the movie online, and it has awful dialogue. It'll probably be bad, but pretty to look at.

What? Cameron writes amazing dialogue. T2, Titanic, The Abyss, anyone...

I'll see for myself rather than take some stupid punkass kids thoughts from a blog.

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Well now that sounds like a Horner score and no mistake!

Even has a usual sappy Horner song at the end of the album.

Theme from Glory and danger motif are the two things I spotted in those clips. Climbing Up Iknimaya has the theme from Glory only this time closer to the Ivan the Terrible theme rip-off it is. Ah Horner's back!

I reserve further bashing until I have heard the entire score.

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I saw a clip from the movie online, and it has awful dialogue. It'll probably be bad, but pretty to look at.

What? Cameron writes amazing dialogue. T2, Titanic, The Abyss, anyone...

I'll see for myself rather than take some stupid punkass kids thoughts from a blog.

This isn't a blog, and Koray isn't the first to point out there has been some terrible dialogue in clips.

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Well now that sounds like a Horner score and no mistake!

Even has a usual sappy Horner song at the end of the album.

Theme from Glory and danger motif are the two things I spotted in those clips. Climbing Up Iknimaya has the theme from Glory only this time closer to the Ivan the Terrible theme rip-off it is. Ah Horner's back!

I reserve further bashing until I have heard the entire score.

One of the cues felt like Charging Fort Wagner too.

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Track 4 - very Titanic-ish

Track 5 - A Beautiful Mind wailing

Still I'm delighted Jimbo is back in action but to spend a year labouring over this score when he could have it done in 4 days!!! Gabriel Yared is praying for its rejection.

I heard the sound clips... and its a Horner meets zimmer in some points.

sometimes it sounds even synthy.

Heh, they created a 'whole new world' but the music just sounds like an earthly modern film score...

That's an insult to have Horner and Zimmer in the same sentence. Horner's been using synths for a long time and crystal meth.

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Well he does tend to repeat himself a taaaadddd bit more than the others do.

Horner tends to repeat simpler and easily recognizable elements, to his own detriment. I think that's why it seems like he repeats himself more often than his comrades. Danger motif...piano crashes, the pulsating strings of tension (from Wrath of Khan to Titanic) that sort of thing tend to be very easily recognizable.

But the others rehash I would say just as much. Jerry Goldsmith reused an action motif in the 90s how many times until he got it right in Insurrection? And our John Williams himself has more than often times reused a lot of elements of his own music...I was listening to Jango's Escape on shuffle yesterday, and something hit me...how many times before have we heard something very similar, if not exactly like 1:37-1:50 of that track from Williams? I'm pretty sure there's something exactly like it in Quidditch Match off the top of my head.

Williams and Goldsmith and others tend to use deceptively less easy to recall elements, but as a whole they're probably just as guilty.

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It's not so much the reuse of "elements" and such that I find so annoying. It's the blatant reuse of frickin' melodies that irritates me. Avatar using the Glory melody is just one recent example. IMHO it's a big difference between using, for example, a specific flavor of percussion hit/motif/whatever versus using pretty much the exact same melody in a completely different film.

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And that Glory theme came from Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible in the first place, who later did the same thing as Horner did and re-used for his Opera War and Peace.

Not really, only the first part of the phrase and harmony, the second part is Horner putting his own spin on it, then it goes into something that sounds like a Bach harmony cycle.

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Well he does tend to repeat himself a taaaadddd bit more than the others do.

Horner tends to repeat simpler and easily recognizable elements, to his own detriment. I think that's why it seems like he repeats himself more often than his comrades. Danger motif...piano crashes, the pulsating strings of tension (from Wrath of Khan to Titanic) that sort of thing tend to be very easily recognizable.

But the others rehash I would say just as much. . . . Williams and Goldsmith and others tend to use deceptively less easy to recall elements, but as a whole they're probably just as guilty.

This is an interesting take, one I have to agree with. I think that really is the key to Horner's redundancies--he simply doesn't disguise them as well. I once compiled a whole list of repeated elements from Horner's different scores. I actually had names for the different riffs, though I don't remember what they were now. (This was years ago.) But how many times have we heard a primary melody line finished off with a deep-bass fugue? Or the three-note villain motif? Or the trilling trumpets to close out an end credits overture? Or his worst offense, more than a full minute of music Cocoon copied note-for-note from Star Trek II, syncopated xylophones and all?

Funny thing is, this has never really bothered me all that much. As I once posted on another board, at least he's copying decent music. If he were plagiarizing Tangerine Dream, then we'd have a problem. . . .

- Scott

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Horner can plagiarise as much has he wants, so long as he doesn't use that bloody Braveheart theme again. I don't mind his danger motif and the clanging metal, I just don't like his blatant in your face laziness, as in during this melancholy sequence you will recognise the theme from Braveheart. That just pisses me off.

I happen to like all of his reoccuring techniques, I'm happy for him to dip into his back catalogue now and then, if it suits the scene and it doesn't take the piss. JW does indeed do it on occasion and Goldsmith made a happy habit of it as well.

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This is an interesting take, one I have to agree with. I think that really is the key to Horner's redundancies--he simply doesn't disguise them as well. I once compiled a whole list of repeated elements from Horner's different scores. I actually had names for the different riffs, though I don't remember what they were now. (This was years ago.) But how many times have we heard a primary melody line finished off with a deep-bass fugue? Or the three-note villain motif? Or the trilling trumpets to close out an end credits overture? Or his worst offense, more than a full minute of music Cocoon copied note-for-note from Star Trek II, syncopated xylophones and all?

Funny thing is, this has never really bothered me all that much. As I once posted on another board, at least he's copying decent music. If he were plagiarizing Tangerine Dream, then we'd have a problem. . . .

- Scott

I had a friend who took a cue from A Beautifil Mind, Sneakers and Bicentennial Man and layed all three on top of one another. You would have thought they were one cue, it was a bit sloppy at times but I called it the Horner Symphony as it was full of Hornerisms.

All composers borrow from themselves, the problem is Horner doesn't stray at all from his style and that has gotten dull and predictable as the years have gone by. It's almost like he has an outline for how he scores films and he sticks to it for every film without attempting anything different.

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I had a friend who took a cue from A Beautifil Mind, Sneakers and Bicentennial Man and layed all three on top of one another. You would have thought they were one cue, it was a bit sloppy at times but I called it the Horner Symphony as it was full of Hornerisms.

I loved it when you sent me that. :)

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All composers borrow from themselves, the problem is Horner doesn't stray at all from his style and that has gotten dull and predictable as the years have gone by. It's almost like he has an outline for how he scores films and he sticks to it for every film without attempting anything different.

Honestly, I can't really argue with that too much. Back in the 80's and early 90's, he was still establishing himself, and could manage some new quirks every now and then. But it's been a while since we've really heard anything new from him. Take Titanic, for instance, a perfectly serviceable score to a great movie. It works for the subject matter--but there isn't anything in it we hadn't heard from him before.

As for that compilation bit . . . the same thing's happened to me with John Barry scores. I once put a recorded cassette into my car's tape player. One side had King Kong, the other had Moonraker. It was dark, I was driving, so I couldn't see which side was which. I figured I could tell by listening. Nope. I switched the sides back and forth, and for the life of me I could never have distinguished one score from the other. Now that's a guy whose sound never really changed at all. . . .

- Scott

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It makes me wonder why Horner would use that exact same melodic hook and harmony for this song that he used in My Heart Will Go On. The first phrase.

That James Cameron sure can be a bully, and an ironically two-faced one at that, since he didn't even want a song in Titanic.

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