Sunday, June 11, 2017

Composing Greatness: #6. John Williams - "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972)

Welcome to Composing Greatness: a column dedicated to exploring the work of film composers. This will specifically focus on the films that earned them Oscar nominations while exploring what makes it so special. This will be broken down into a look at the overall style, interesting moments within the composition, and what made the score worth nominating in the first place. This will also include various subcategories where I will rank the themes of each film along with any time that the composer actually wins. This is a column meant to explore a side of film that doesn't get enough credit while hopefully introducing audiences to an enriched view of more prolific composers' work. This will only cover scores/songs that are compiled in an easily accessible format (so no extended scores will be considered). Join me every Sunday as I cover these talents that if you don't know by name, you recognize by sound.

Series Composer: John Williams
Entry: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Collaborators (If Available): Renee Armand (Singer, "The Morning After")
Nomination: Best Music, Original Dramatic Score
Did He Win: No

Other Nominees:
-Limelight (Charles Chaplin, Raymond Rash, Larry Russell) *winner
-Napoleon and Samantha (Buddy Baker)
-Images (John Williams)
-Sleuth (John Addison)

Additional Information

This is to help provide perspective of where each composer is in their Oscar-nominated life as it related to the current entry.

Oscar Nomination: 6
Oscar Wins: 1

Track List

1. "Opening Titles"
2. "Rogo and Linda"
3. "To Love (Source)"
4. "The Morning After"
5. "The Big Wave"
6. "Raising the Christmas Tree"
7. "Death's Door"
8. "Search for the Engine Room"
9. "The Barber Shop"
10. "Death of Belle"
11. "Hold Your Breath"
12. "The Red Wheel"
13. "End and Closing Titles"

*Note: Listen to the score here.

Exploring the Music
The area of the column where I will explore the music in as much detail as I see fit for each entry.

Theme Exploration:
"Opening Titles"

There is a lot that's particularly fascinating about early John Williams, or at least pre-Spielberg. Even at his best, he rarely feels like the formed talent that he would become. For instance, this is a great booming score that builds and swells with emotion. You get the feeling that you're going to go on a haunting and riveting adventure. The music is ethereal and makes you curious to know what happens next. The one thing that seems odd by today's standards is that it lacks a complex melody that connect the listener with jingle-like precision. The notes are more drawn out and capture more of an uneasiness. It works for the score, but I still have trouble differentiating Williams from somebody who is more known for this style, like Jerry Goldsmith or James Horner.

Interesting Standout:
"Death's Door"

The score is full of noteworthy moments that capture the balance between calm and alarm. I feel like this captures it the best. While there are tracks that sound out of place compared to the latter half ("To Love"), I feel like they at least build into each other. With "Death's Door," you get the unnerving sense that something bad is on the way. It rattles the listener's ears as it lingers on haunting moments, waiting for chances to make a weird harpsichord interlude or a loud and unpleasant bang. It may be tit for tat with the back half of the score, but it never manages to be as exciting as it is here.

Best Moment:
 "The Barber Shop"

Part of this track's charm is that it incorporates the melody from "The Morning After" into the score. It's beautiful and elegant. It also adds a nice pause from the chaos that surrounds it. It's peaceful and evidence of the John Williams to come. Beyond that, it is incredible how jarring it is when the chaos does pop back in and throws the listener into uneasiness. It's what makes the next few tracks particularly genius. Everything about it balances the music of this film beautifully and shows just how delicate and difficult it is to make something like this work.

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

While I wasn't a big fan of Images, I can at least understand the appeal of The Poseidon Adventure. I still don't know that it is vintage John Williams, but it definitely is a very well made piece of music. The way that it incorporates elegance and alarm is a thing of beauty. This is an epic score for a film of unthinkable horrors. Even if I don't think that it has that memorable moment on par with Williams' best, it at least is a well constructed listen that challenges the listener along with the characters on screen. You'll likely feel just as scared with Williams' strange jump scare technique. I don't love this score, but it's still evidence of how great a composer Williams actually is. 

Up Next: Cinderella Liberty (1973) for Best Original Song; Best Music, Original Dramatic Score

Best Theme

A ranking of all themes composed by John Williams.

1. "Prologue/Tradition" - Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
2. "Main Title/First Introduction/The Winton Flyer" - The Reivers (1969)
3. "Where Did My Childhood Go?" - Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
4. "Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls'"/"Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls' - Reprise" - Valley of the Dolls (1967)
5. "Opening Titles" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
6. "In Search of Unicorns" - Images (1972)

Best Winner

A ranking of all winners composed by John Williams.

1. Fiddler on the Roof (1971) for Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score

No comments:

Post a Comment