Sunday, January 14, 2018

Composing Greatness: #30. John Williams - "Sabrina" (1995)

Scene from Sabrina
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: Sabrina (1995)
Collaborators (If Available): Sting (Singer, "Moonlight")
Nomination: Best Original Musical or Comedy Score, Best Original Song
Did He Win: No

Other Nominees:
Best Original Musical or Comedy Score
-Pocahontas (Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz) *winner
-The American President (Marc Shaiman)
-Toy Story (Randy Newman)
-Unstrung Heroes (Thomas Newman)

Best Original Song
-"Colors of the Wind" (Pocahontas) *winner
-"Dead Man Walkin'" (Dead Man Walking)
-"Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman (Don Juan DeMarco)
-"You've Got a Friend in Me" (Toy Story)

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: 33
Oscar Wins: 5

Track List

1. "Track 01"
2. "Track 02"
3. "Track 03"
4. "Track 04"
5. "Track 05"
6. "Track 06"
7. "Track 07"
8. "Track 08"
9. "Track 09"
10. "Track 10"
11. "Track 11"
12. "Track 12"
13. "Track 13"

Note: Listen to 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:
"Track 01"

I will admit that John Williams is a great composer, but rarely is at his best in a slowed down environment. Following The Accidental Tourist, it's tough to say that this nominee is as boring as that one. However, it's a very quiet and innocent score that's largely driven by piano. The one advantage is that it's got an excellent blend of harmonies that play throughout the music. It's beautiful and captures a sense of romance that works effectively in capturing the awe that is necessary for a film like this. I don't love it, but Williams manages to make a tepid score with a lot of passion that is halfway decent. 

Interesting Standout:
"Track 09"

One of the oddest details about John Williams' score is that it incorporates motifs from other songs, including "Call Me Irresponsible." While I cannot attest as to how it fits within the film, I do think it creates an interesting 10-minute medley midway through the score. It's not the most interesting tracks in terms of orchestration, but it does provide an interesting chance for Williams to explore various adaptations of other compositions into his specific and jazzy style of score. It may drag on a little long, but it all manages to feel like it's part of a piece. While the back half of the score isn't as interesting as the first, it still manages to produce this little composition. 

Best Moment:
"Track 04"

While this is a secondary score from John Williams, the early tracks are rather delightful. This track in particular manages to recall E.T.'s more whimsical piano melodies and various string harmonies he would create on the Harry Potter soundtracks. Here, it all comes together in a track that recalls everything that's best about Williams as a composer. It may be a slow and romantic score, but it has a chance to be jaunty and full of personality. If the score needs to get slow, it's tracks like this that help to balance out the weaker spots nicely.

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

It's a tough call, as I think that the Sting song in particular is a snoozefest. It's a boring track that captures a certain self-indulgence that got me worried about the rest of the score. On the bright side, John Williams' does a better job, and this score averages a pretty enjoyable experience. All things considered it's a step up from his other slow score The Accidental Tourist, and I do think Williams does an excellent job of incorporating "Moonlight" into the recurring motif. It's a nice little score, but it's at times too tepid and uninteresting to be anything greater. It's good, but maybe it's just because Williams isn't capable of being totally bad. 

Up Next: Nixon (1995) for Best Original Score (Drama)

Best Theme

A ranking of all themes composed by John Williams.

1. "Flying"- E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
2. "Theme from Schindler's List" (1993) 
3. "The Raiders March" - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
4. "Main Theme (Theme From 'Jaws')" - Jaws (1975)
5. "Theme From 'Superman'" - Jaws (1978) 
6. "Prologue/Tradition" - Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
7. "Theme from JFK" - JFK (1991)
8. "Main Title and Mountain Visions" - Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
9. "Theme From Born on the Fourth of July" - Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
10. "The Dances of Witches" - The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
11. "Track 01" - The River (1984)
12. "Main Title/The Ice Planet/Hoth" - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
13. "Main Title" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
14. "Main Title/Rebel Blockade/Runner Medley" - Star Wars (1977)
15. "Wednesday Special (Main Theme)" - Cinderella Liberty (1973)
16. "Suo Gan" - Empire of the Sun (1987)
17. "Main Title/First Introduction/The Winton Flyer" - The Reivers (1969)
18. "Finale and End Credits"- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
19. "River Song"- Tom Sawyer (1973)
20. "Where Did My Childhood Go?" - Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
21. "Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls'"/"Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls' - Reprise" - Valley of the Dolls (1967)
22. "End Credits (Raiders March)" - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
23. "Home Alone Theme" - Home Alone (1990)
24. "Main Title (The Story Continues)" - Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi  (1983)
25. "Opening Titles" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
26. "Main Theme" - The Accidental Tourist (1988)
27. "In Search of Unicorns" - Images (1972)

Best Song

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

1. "Somewhere in My Memory" - Home Alone (1990)
2. "Nice to Be Around" - Cinderella Liberty (1973)
3. "When You're Alone" - Hook (1991)
4. "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. Schindler's List (1993) for Best Music, Original Score
3. Jaws (1975) for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score
4. Fiddler on the Roof (1971) for Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score
5. Star Wars (1977) for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score

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