Sunday, September 17, 2017

Composing Greatness: #19. John Williams - "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984)

Scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
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: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Collaborators (If Available): London Symphony Orchestra
Nomination: Best Music, Original Score
Did He Win: No

Other Nominees:
-A Passage to India (Maurice Jarre) *winner
-The Natural (Randy Newman)
-The River (John Williams)
-Under the Volcano (Alex North)

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: 20
Oscar Wins: 4

Track List

1. "Finale and End Credits" (LINK)

*NOTE: Once again, the availability of John Williams' score for Indiana Jones has made this difficult to complete in any thorough manner. I apologize and hope that this won't be an issue with the next Indiana Jones score (though it's likely to remain an issue). Still, if you know of a place where I can legally listen to the score for free and make it accessible to readers, please let me know and I will redo this entry in a timely fashion.

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:
"Finale and End Credits"

What is there to really say about the Indiana Jones theme at this point? It's the song that makes you want to get out and explore the world. It's an exciting number that perfectly builds a sense of wonder, creating a vision of what excitement can be. Even if this is the closing credits version of the same theme, it still packs a punch, making you realize the magic of what John Williams has done with Steven Spielberg. It's so perfectly done that it's impossible to raise too many gripes about. It's more evidence that Williams has ascended to the status of iconic composer that escapes merely making one or two great movie scores. He's made dozens, even in reinventing the ones that he was already famous for.

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

As I've said twice before for the Star Wars scores, I do think that the issue in this decision comes not from John Williams' work itself, but in the concept of the category. In order to qualify, a film should be an "Original" composition, meaning that it doesn't borrow from preexisting music. This may be an odd gripe, but simply remember that composers continue to be overlooked because of this. Nino Rota's score for The Godfather is a prime example of this, as well as later works such as There Will Be Blood by Jonny Greenwood. While Williams is a composer who pretty much does exceptional work every time out, I don't know that he's hurting for nominations and wins that he needs this. I mean, he's won FOUR Oscars at this point, and this isn't his only nomination for 1984. He's great, but I think that he's not good enough to be above breaking the rules of being an "Original" score.

Up Next: The River (1984) for Best Music, Original Score

Best Theme

A ranking of all themes composed by John Williams.

1. "Flying"- E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) 
2. "The Raiders March" - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
3. "Main Theme (Theme From 'Jaws')" - Jaws (1975)
4. "Theme From 'Superman'" - Jaws (1978) 
5. "Prologue/Tradition" - Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
6. "Main Title and Mountain Visions" - Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
7. "Main Title/The Ice Planet/Hoth" - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
8. "Main Title" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
9. "Main Title/Rebel Blockade/Runner Medley" - Star Wars (1977)
10. "Wednesday Special (Main Theme)" - Cinderella Liberty (1973)
11. "Main Title/First Introduction/The Winton Flyer" - The Reivers (1969)
12. "Finale and End Credits"- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
13. "River Song"- Tom Sawyer (1973)
14. "Where Did My Childhood Go?" - Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
15. "Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls'"/"Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls' - Reprise" - Valley of the Dolls (1967)
16. "Main Title (The Story Continues)" - Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi  (1983)
17. "Opening Titles" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
18. "In Search of Unicorns" - Images (1972)

Best Song

A ranking of all Oscar-nominated songs composed by John Williams.

1. "Nice to Be Around" - Cinderella Liberty (1973)
2. "If We Were in Love" - Yes, Giorgio (1983)

Best Winner

A ranking of all winners composed by John Williams.

1. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) for Best Music, Original Score
2. Jaws (1975) for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score
3. Fiddler on the Roof (1971) for Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score
4. Star Wars (1977) for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score

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