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Goldsmith and Powell’s legacy: Fantastic scores for horrible films


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I was just thinking about this. There’s the old quote about Goldsmith writing the score “ for the film the studio thought they were making...” He certainly scored his share of clunkers. Powell also seems to really commit to his scores even if the films don’t deserve them. Can’t think of a score of his where he “phoned it in”. 


Goldsmith and Powell don’t really sound alike. But they both have terrific  melding of orchestra and electronics. 
 

 

Do you think John Powell has assumed Goldsmiths mantle of “fantastic scores for bombed movies”? 
 

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Oh man, that is such a good description of what makes Jerry's music so extraordinary!

Chicken Run called and said you're wrong.

The first part is clearly true.  

I don't really think Powell has scored as many out-and-out turkeys to the degree that Jerry did.  He's done a lot of mediocre fluff, though.  And a few of those enter into guilty pleasure/better than they have any right to be territory.  Evolution and The Italian Job spring to mind.

 

Then again he did score both Pluto Nash and Gigli, two of the most infamous turkeys of the 2000s.

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Not so sure about Powell. Sure, he has done a lot of crap (like Lorax), but he also did some good-to-great movies that at least were well received by critics:

 

HTTYD trilogy (all three movies nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture)

 

Solo (decent reviews and one Oscar nomination)

 

Call of the Wild (decent reviews)

 

Ferdinand (also nominated for Best Animated Picture)

 

And this is just the more recent movies. He also has on his resumee other good movies, whether they're animated (Antz, Chicken Run, Shrek) or not (Bourne trilogy).

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I mean, Goldsmith scored plenty of good movies too.  There was just a lot of very bad movies sprinkled in.  Just my personal taste here but I don't think Powell has ever scored a truly great movie like Jerry did with Patton, Alien, and a couple others.  I really enjoy the original Bourne trilogy, but Great Movies, they are not IMO.  Pretty much any Powell movie you can name I'd say his score is better than the movie.  Sorry, I was too old to be in the "Shrek is great, actually" generation.

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46 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

I mean, Goldsmith scored plenty of good movies too.  There was just a lot of very bad movies sprinkled in.

 

Yes, I still feel the view of Goldsmith as the king of bad scores doesn't do him justice. Goldsmith was a workaholic, and just for that he seemed happy to do films that could hardly be expected to be particularly good in the best of cases, and were often much worse. It's true that he almost always scored "the film that could have been" - for all I know he might even have picked some films not for the expected end product but because they contained ideas that afforded him the opportunity to write great music, regardless of whether the films would be able to live up their promise or not. Intentionally or not, he certainly scored a lot of bad film that were good vehicles for great music if nothing else.

 

But in between these, he always had his share of good and high profile films, even true classics. Without counting, I'd guess he had a larger number of successful and respected "serious" films than Williams, and wrote some of his best scores for many of them.

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Goldsmith is an interesting paradox: he scored some of the best movies ever made (Alien, Planet of the Apes, Patton, Chinatown), but also a lot of pure crap, specially on the later years of his career. 

 

Powell did all kinds of stuff: good movies, average movies, horrible movies... But I don't think his career can be sumarized as either a composer of good movies or bad movies. 

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Powell overall seems to be more selective about his projects than Goldsmith was. But only time can tell.

 

Perhaps Brian Tyler might be a more apt comparison? ;) Guy does TONS of work. Lots of schlock. But I cant say he’s written anything of classic status yet. But lots of guilty pleasure scores.

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People here obviously don't have a very realistic view of JW's filmography. He scored plenty of crap.

 

Goldsmith scored crappy movies because he was more workmanlike and didn't really care about the quality of the film. He was a blue collar composer.

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True. But I think Williams started becoming more selective-ish during the 80s onward. 

 

 Ennio Morricone. Now THAT guy seemed to score almost anything that fell on his desk. From pornos to prestige films and everything in between (prestige pornos(?). He didn’t mind. Just a chance to write more music.

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Eh, a gig's a gig. Most composers don't care about the quality of a film.

11 minutes ago, WampaRat said:

True. But I think Williams started becoming more selective-ish during the 80s onward. 

 

 Ennio Morricone. Now THAT guy seemed to score almost anything that fell on his desk. From pornos to prestige films and everything in between (prestige pornos(?). He didn’t mind. Just a chance to write more music.

Which porno films? For research purposes, of course.

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1 hour ago, WampaRat said:

True. But I think Williams started becoming more selective-ish during the 80s onward. 

 

 Ennio Morricone. Now THAT guy seemed to score almost anything that fell on his desk. From pornos to prestige films and everything in between (prestige pornos(?). He didn’t mind. Just a chance to write more music.

He had very expensive taste in art ( his own words).

He sold THE MISSION to a coffee commercial frevinnsakes!😒

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When I began collecting film music CDs, I always watched the movie before listening to the CD.

 

Then, I always read the liner notes before listening to the CD.

 

Now I encode each CD in FLAC and put the CDs in my shelves without even listening to them.

 

😄

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5 hours ago, Edmilson said:

HTTYD trilogy (all three movies nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture)

 

Solo (decent reviews and one Oscar nomination)

 

Call of the Wild (decent reviews)

 

Ferdinand (also nominated for Best Animated Picture)

 

Expensive kiddie flicks. Dennis The Menace is no better or worse.

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@Naïve Old FartI realize how subjective those words are now lol. I guess you can take them as you will. 
 

I guess in the broadest term I would define “horrible” as an overall financial,critical, and popular failure. But even that opens up a whole can of worms. Some box office failures become critical and popular darlings decades later (i.e. “The Shawshank Redemption”) Some box office smashes will be forgotten the next year ( most transformers movies;) 

 

haha. We live in an upside-down world. So feel free to use your own definition here 😉

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13 minutes ago, bollemanneke said:

I haven't heard that many Goldsmith scores, but Powell seems to be much more creative than Goldsmith, in my opinion. Powell goes out of his way to create interesting soundscapes, while Goldsmith is usually just standard orchestral stuff and/or loud timpani/percussion hits.

 

 

OyEz4hg.gif

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40 minutes ago, bollemanneke said:

I haven't heard that many Goldsmith scores, but Powell seems to be much more creative than Goldsmith, in my opinion. Powell goes out of his way to create interesting soundscapes, while Goldsmith is usually just standard orchestral stuff and/or loud timpani/percussion hits.


A Play in One Scene ;)

 

Jerry Goldsmith is pretty universally recognized as literally the greatest creative musical innovator ever in Hollywood, even by those who aren't big fans. It may be his greatest claim to fame, ever since 1968's Planet of the Apes at least (though he was experimenting with weird sounds well before then!) If we're talking the entire world, Ennio Morricone would probably compete for top honors. But I'm guessing you mainly know a few 90s Goldsmith scores (I'd be curious which ones)? I can give you a list of Goldsmith's most musically-innovative scores, if you are ready to explore.

 

17 hours ago, WampaRat said:

Goldsmith and Powell don’t really sound alike. But they both have terrific melding of orchestra and electronics. 

 

Powell is probably the living composer I get most excited about with each new work (yes...probably more than Williams even at this point). While he clearly has his own strong and unique style and he never tries to sound like anyone else really (as opposed to say the talented Joel McNeely who has managed to write convincingly in both a Williams style and a Goldsmith style on occasion) I think he shares a number of things in common with Goldsmith:


1) the creative use of weird instruments and musical elements to create interesting soundscapes, as bollemanneke pointed out. This connection first struck me in the early 2000s when I heard Powell's amazing (and as yet unreleased) score to The Adventures of Pluto Nash. It's chock full of weird random things, from record scratch noises, to sudden hard rock e-guitar riffs, to strange vocals that out-weird some of Morricone's weirdest. And I freakin' love it. Then the following year Jerry Goldsmith wrote his final work for film, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which maybe doesn't have anything quite *that* weird, but is chock full of fresh Powell-like zany energy (just somehow coming from the pen of an old man dying of cancer), full of quick turns and changes in mood, little instrument gags, etc. That was the first time I thought to myself, "Hmmm...maybe Powell is the new Goldsmith."

 

2) the expert melding of orchestra and electronics, as you pointed out (Goldsmith of course being perhaps the foremost pioneer of doing so in 1970s Hollywood)

 

3) incredible, fresh rhythmic vitality, particularly in energetic action music

 

4) interesting and distinctive harmonies which differ from the norm and are immediately identifiable as his own

 

5) "He scored the film the filmmakers wished they made." Every film no matter how poor is a new musical opportunity to take advantage of, not just a paycheck (pun stumbled upon).
 

Yavar

 

P.S. Powell has scored at least one great movie -- Chicken Run. I would also nominate the consistently wonderful How to Train Your Dragon series.

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I can’t take credit for that observation but I confess I don’t know who made it first. :) There was also a sixth thing I remembered thinking Goldsmith and Powell had in common, but by the time I got back to my computer to write the post, I’d forgotten it...

 

Yavar

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16 minutes ago, Yavar Moradi said:


A Play in One Scene ;)

 

Jerry Goldsmith is pretty universally recognized as literally the greatest creative musical innovator ever in Hollywood, even by those who aren't big fans. It may be his greatest claim to fame, ever since 1968's Planet of the Apes at least (though he was experimenting with weird sounds well before then!) If we're talking the entire world, Ennio Morricone would probably compete for top honors. But I'm guessing you mainly know a few 90s Goldsmith scores (I'd be curious which ones)? I can give you a list of Goldsmith's most musically-innovative scores, if you are ready to explore.

 

 

Powell is probably the living composer I get most excited about with each new work (yes...probably more than Williams even at this point). While he clearly has his own strong and unique style and he never tries to sound like anyone else really (as opposed to say the talented Joel McNeely who has managed to write convincingly in both a Williams style and a Goldsmith style on occasion) I think he shares a number of things in common with Goldsmith:


1) the creative use of weird instruments and musical elements to create interesting soundscapes, as bollemanneke pointed out. This connection first struck me in the early 2000s when I heard Powell's amazing (and as yet unreleased) score to The Adventures of Pluto Nash. It's chock full of weird random things, from record scratch noises, to sudden hard rock e-guitar riffs, to strange vocals that out-weird some of Morricone's weirdest. And I freakin' love it. Then the following year Jerry Goldsmith wrote his final work for film, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which maybe doesn't have anything quite *that* weird, but is chock full of fresh Powell-like zany energy (just somehow coming from the pen of an old man dying of cancer), full of quick turns and changes in mood, little instrument gags, etc. That was the first time I thought to myself, "Hmmm...maybe Powell is the new Goldsmith."

 

2) the expert melding of orchestra and electronics, as you pointed out (Goldsmith of course being perhaps the foremost pioneer of doing so in 1970s Hollywood)

 

3) incredible, fresh rhythmic vitality, particularly in energetic action music

 

4) interesting and distinctive harmonies which differ from the norm and are immediately identifiable as his own

 

5) "He scored the film the filmmakers wished they made." Every film no matter how poor is a new musical opportunity to take advantage of, not just a paycheck (pun stumbled upon).
 

Yavar

 

P.S. Powell has scored at least one great movie -- Chicken Run. I would also nominate the consistently wonderful How to Train Your Dragon series.

Well, I only listen to scores after having watched their films and am not going to make an effort to watch movies because of a certain composer. So far, I have seen:

Basic Instinct

Chain Reaction

Star Trek 1, 5 and First Contact

 

They were all just fine, but nothing blew me away. I guess my generation is automatically going to be exposed more to Powell.

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Just now, Holko said:

It's OK but in the same league as Alien? Hell no!!

 

It's better, but of course not as creepy. ;)

 

28 minutes ago, Yavar Moradi said:

2) the expert melding of orchestra and electronics

 

Ehem... you forgot all the times the electronics didn't blend well with the orchestra.

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1 hour ago, Yavar Moradi said:

"He scored the film the filmmakers wished they made." Every film no matter how poor is a new musical opportunity to take advantage of, not just a paycheck (pun stumbled upon).

 

I watched some of The Call Of The Wild the other week, and from my view, Powell scored a version of the film I wished they'd made. (hence why I saw some of it).

 

I frequently wonder whether composer A actually enjoyed scoring film B. You always hear of composers gushing over how fun or inspiring it was to do a film, but of course, they're going to say that for PR purposes even when it bored the crap out of them.

 

Having said that, maybe composers enjoy taking on a dull film and attempting to elevate it with music. In other words, just because a film sucks, doesn't necessarily mean the composer resorted to treating it as just another job.

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I think, it makes no sense to compare Goldsmith to Powel.

They might have strength in melody and harmony and a sense for weird sounds in common.

But, to be honest, Powel has style but nothing he does I would call innovative.

 

If he had a more active career I would have probably from creative perspective rather compared Don Davis to Goldsmith.

 

The pure amount of output Goldsmith might have in common with Michael Giacchino.

 

Anyway, I said it before, I think, film music currently is rather again in a state like in the 60s where motion picture scores were more oriented on Pop music than on classical music. Powell is part of that generation. Nostalgia for the great old scores, but from the bottom of their hearts they are all pop musicians.

 

Maybe after that there will be a renaissance of classical film music and rather classical musicians will write scores again, because there is going to be another Star Wars, I don't mean in the sense of space fantasy, but in the sense of cinematic phenomenon, that creates new taste and fashion for classical motion picture scores. Maybe in 20 years from now or so.

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3 hours ago, Yavar Moradi said:


A Play in One Scene ;)

 

Jerry Goldsmith is pretty universally recognized as literally the greatest creative musical innovator ever in Hollywood, even by those who aren't big fans. It may be his greatest claim to fame, ever since 1968's Planet of the Apes at least (though he was experimenting with weird sounds well before then!) If we're talking the entire world, Ennio Morricone would probably compete for top honors. But I'm guessing you mainly know a few 90s Goldsmith scores (I'd be curious which ones)? I can give you a list of Goldsmith's most musically-innovative scores, if you are ready to explore.

 

 

Powell is probably the living composer I get most excited about with each new work (yes...probably more than Williams even at this point). While he clearly has his own strong and unique style and he never tries to sound like anyone else really (as opposed to say the talented Joel McNeely who has managed to write convincingly in both a Williams style and a Goldsmith style on occasion) I think he shares a number of things in common with Goldsmith:


1) the creative use of weird instruments and musical elements to create interesting soundscapes, as bollemanneke pointed out. This connection first struck me in the early 2000s when I heard Powell's amazing (and as yet unreleased) score to The Adventures of Pluto Nash. It's chock full of weird random things, from record scratch noises, to sudden hard rock e-guitar riffs, to strange vocals that out-weird some of Morricone's weirdest. And I freakin' love it. Then the following year Jerry Goldsmith wrote his final work for film, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which maybe doesn't have anything quite *that* weird, but is chock full of fresh Powell-like zany energy (just somehow coming from the pen of an old man dying of cancer), full of quick turns and changes in mood, little instrument gags, etc. That was the first time I thought to myself, "Hmmm...maybe Powell is the new Goldsmith."

 

2) the expert melding of orchestra and electronics, as you pointed out (Goldsmith of course being perhaps the foremost pioneer of doing so in 1970s Hollywood)

 

3) incredible, fresh rhythmic vitality, particularly in energetic action music

 

4) interesting and distinctive harmonies which differ from the norm and are immediately identifiable as his own

 

5) "He scored the film the filmmakers wished they made." Every film no matter how poor is a new musical opportunity to take advantage of, not just a paycheck (pun stumbled upon).
 

Yavar

 

P.S. Powell has scored at least one great movie -- Chicken Run. I would also nominate the consistently wonderful How to Train Your Dragon series.


This is terrific! 
 

And I might have to agree with you that a new Powell score miiiight outweigh my anticipation of a new Williams score. 
 

I think we’re in an era of “Peak Powell” for sure. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

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Whether or not the film’s any good is not what matters, at least hypothetically. It’s more about if the film offers any opportunity for good music. 

There’s plenty of good movies out there with bland scoring.

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I believe that, in terms of composers scoring shitty movies, JNH should've been at least mentioned.

 

I mean, I love the guy but look at all the horrible shit on his resumee: Crimes of Grindelwald, The Last Airbender, The Postman, The Happening, After Earth... His scores for these crappy movies are often the best thing about them.

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18 hours ago, Edmilson said:

I believe that, in terms of composers scoring shitty movies, JNH should've been at least mentioned.

 

I mean, I love the guy but look at all the horrible shit on his resumee: Crimes of Grindelwald, The Last Airbender, The Postman, The Happening, After Earth... His scores for these crappy movies are often the best thing about them.


Very good point. And JNH even sounded a bit like Goldsmith in his earlier works!

 

Those movies you listed are indeed atrocious. Their scores are so magnificent and generally well loved in the film score community that we almost forgot the awful films they came from. Almost ;)

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4 minutes ago, WampaRat said:

Those movies you listed are indeed atrocious. Their scores are so magnificent and generally well loved in the film score community that we almost forgot the awful films they came from. Almost ;)

 

I really don't know how JNH manages to write great scores for all of these horrible movies. Generally, the only good things about them are the scores. 

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