Sunday, February 4, 2018

Composing Greatness: #32. "Sleepers" (1996)

Scene from Sleepers
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: Sleepers (1996)
Collaborators (If Available): N/A
Nomination: Best Original Dramatic Score
Did He Win: No

Other Nominees:
-The English Patient (Gabriel Yared)*winner
-Hamlet (Patrick Doyle)
-Michael Collins (Elliot Goldenthal)
-Shine (David Hirschfelder)

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: 35
Oscar Wins: 5

Track List

1. "Sleepers at Wilkinson"
2. "Hell's Kitchen"
3. "Football Game"
4. "Saying the Rosary"
5. "The Trip to Wilkinson"
6. "Time in Solitary"
7. "Revenge"
8. "Michael's Witness"
9. "Learning the Hard Way"
10. "Last Night at Wilkinson"
11. "Father Bobby's Decision"
12. "Reliving the Past"
13. "Reunion and Finale"

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:
"Sleepers at Wilkinson"

This is an interesting companion to John Williams' previous score for Nixon. Both are very adult in tone and atmosphere, capturing his penchant melodic structure in more ambient, James Horner-esque compositions that require your dedication. While I felt that Nixon was a bit of a let down, Sleepers is an incredible entry in this form by capturing the ambient atmosphere while layering techniques that are both resonant of what he has done before, and also elements that he seems to be trying for the first time this decade. It's a powerful piece of music, and one that shows his growth as a composer. It's a theme that may sound like it's all over the place, but it takes a true mater to center it all into a beautiful composition.

Interesting Standout:
"The Football Game"

For the most part, the score follows a familiar pattern. They build the atmospheres that bury the melodies deep underneath the soaring grace of the fog. But here, he does that with a bit of an odd twist, even by John Williams standards. It's a tune that has all of those elements wrapped around a rocking guitar line, making it almost sound like a Top 40 rock song momentarily instead of traditional score. It's not necessarily the best that this album has to offer, but it's strange to hear a man who is largely associated with the classical to be doing something so modern while also doing it rather effectively.

Best Moment:
"Hell's Kitchen"

Maybe I am just a sucker for the layered songs of John Williams. To me, it's always incredible to hear him play melodies that are at odds against each other in a way that finds a new and inspired beauty. There may be more direct songs on here, but this captures a brilliant mixture of styles coming together to make something emotional as well as intense and exciting. You're left getting a sense of the chaos of this world, all through the middle half of the tune. It's powerful stuff, and works to give this score its singular tone. In some ways, its overreaching quality is a nice welcomed adrenaline shot after the humdrum that was Nixon.

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

I am starting to think that the 90's are John Williams' most exciting period, and not just because he produced Jurassic Park AND Schindler's List in one year. It's actually that it shows just how versatile his influence is on pop culture while also showing him growing as a composer wishing to be more than the pop melody guy. Sleepers isn't quite his defining work, but it's an incredible look into just how versatile his work was. It may be slow in some parts, but he's definitely a composer that can try almost any style and do it as well as his contemporaries. It's not an insult that this reminded me of James Horner or James Newton Howard, in part because Williams is able to hold his own against them. This may be less formed, but it makes the results all the more compelling.

Up Next: Amistad (1997) 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. "Sleepers at Wilkinson" - Sleepers (1996)
11. "The Dances of Witches" - The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
12. "Track 01" - The River (1984)
13. "Main Title/The Ice Planet/Hoth" - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
14. "Main Title" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
15. "Main Title/Rebel Blockade/Runner Medley" - Star Wars (1977)
16. "Wednesday Special (Main Theme)" - Cinderella Liberty (1973)
17. "Suo Gan" - Empire of the Sun (1987)
18. "Main Title/First Introduction/The Winton Flyer" - The Reivers (1969)
19. "Finale and End Credits"- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
20. "River Song"- Tom Sawyer (1973)
21. "Where Did My Childhood Go?" - Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
22. "Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls'"/"Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls' - Reprise" - Valley of the Dolls (1967)
23. "End Credits (Raiders March)" - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
24. "Home Alone Theme" - Home Alone (1990)
25. "Main Title (The Story Continues)" - Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi  (1983)
26. "Main Title... The White House Gate" - Nixon (1995)
27. "Opening Titles" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
28. "Main Theme" - The Accidental Tourist (1988)
29. "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

No comments:

Post a Comment