Sunday, November 5, 2017

Composing Greatness: #23. John Williams - "The Accidental Tourist" (1988)

Scene from The Accidental Tourist
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 Accidental Tourist (1988)
Collaborators (If Available): N/A
Nomination: Best Music, Original Score
Did He Win: No

Other Nominees:
-The Milagro Beanfield War (Dave Grusin) *winner
-Dangerous Liasons (George Fenton)
-Gorillas in the Mist (Maruice Jarre)
-Rain Man (Hans Zimmer)

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: 24
Oscar Wins: 4

Track List

1. "Main Title"
2. "Macone Alone"
3. "Trip to London"
4. "The Healing Process"
5. "Fixing the Plumbing On a Rainy Afternoon"
6. "Wedding Scene"
7. "Back With Sara"
8. "Bedroom Conversation"
9. "Rose and Julian"
10. "A New Beginning"
11. "A Second Chance/End"
12. "Love Theme"
13. "The Accidental Tourist"
14. "Reprise"

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:
"Main Title"

Considering the bombast of what came before, this is an oddly nuanced turn for John Williams. Gone are the trumpeting cries of a blockbuster score. Instead, he has a soundtrack that is largely lead by a piano melody that is simple and sweet. As a motif, it is decent. However, I still consider this to be among his least interesting work as a composer, and the short opening track quickly loses its appeal. In fact, most of this soundtrack is lacking something more exciting and rich from a composer who is known for taking chances in compelling fashions. This is fine, but it's so much filler that it's hard to even recognize the Williams nature of it all.

Interesting Standout
"A Second Chance/End Titles"

This is a tough soundtrack to really judge the good and bad from, in large part because there is only one tempo for all of the music. It all plays at the familiar dinner party level where nothing is out of place. It's so meticulous that the monotony becomes boring. However, the choice to add more of a pomp and production to the entire thing results in some of the few memorable moments from this score, which is lacking many memorable tracks that usually come with John Williams territory. This is fine, but it's more of an extension of the main theme to the point that it almost shouldn't count. It's fine, but there's nothing exciting about this score to compare it to.

Best Moment
"A New Beginning"

As mentioned before, this score's biggest issue is that there isn't much to judge it against. Most of the music is so formulated that it blends as one long piano piece. There's nothing wrong with this, and I'm sure it works within context of the film. However, I wished that there was music more like this that actually tried to take the existing themes of the music and make something exciting with them. This isn't the greatest track in John Williams' bag, but it does have enough going for it that it creates emotion and melody that makes the listener feel engaged instead of fa passive disinterest in what he's doing here.

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

In a rare case, I am not wild about an entirely original John Williams score. It's a shocker, but I was loathing the music when I couldn't tell the first seven tracks apart. All that I could tell was that the main motif was enjoyable but wasn't enough to sustain a great score. There's a semblance of a good song in this soundtrack, but as a whole it is lacking anything that would warrant Williams yet another nomination. He's great enough to have earned the couple dozen that he had, but this is one of the few that I feel was almost a pity filler nomination meant to make him look more impressive. In fairness, he probably could've gotten 50 nominations even if this one was dropped from the list. There's still time to find out.

Up Next: Born on the Fourth of July (1989) 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. "The Dances of Witches" - The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
8. "Track 01" - The River (1984)
9. "Main Title/The Ice Planet/Hoth" - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
10. "Main Title" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
11. "Main Title/Rebel Blockade/Runner Medley" - Star Wars (1977)
12. "Wednesday Special (Main Theme)" - Cinderella Liberty (1973)
13. "Suo Gan" - Empire of the Sun (1987)
14. "Main Title/First Introduction/The Winton Flyer" - The Reivers (1969)
15. "Finale and End Credits"- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
16. "River Song"- Tom Sawyer (1973)
17. "Where Did My Childhood Go?" - Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
18. "Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls'"/"Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls' - Reprise" - Valley of the Dolls (1967)
19. "Main Title (The Story Continues)" - Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi  (1983)
20. "Opening Titles" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
21. "Main Theme" - The Accidental Tourist (1988)
22. "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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