Sunday, May 27, 2018

Composing Greatness: #42. John Williams - "Munich" (2005)

Scene from Munich
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: Munich (2005)
Collaborators (If Available): N/A
Nomination: Best Original Score
Did He Win: No

Other Nominees:
-Brokeback Mountain (Gustavo Santaolalla)*winner
-The Constant Gardener (Alberto Iglesias)
-Memoirs of a Geisha (John Williams)
-Pride & Prejudice (Dario Marianelli)

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: 45
Oscar Wins: 5

Track List

1. "Munich, 1972"
2. "The Attack At Olympic Village"
3. "Hatikvah (The Hope)"
4. "Remembering Munich"
5. "Letter Bombs"
6. "A Prayer for Peace"
7. "Bearing the Burden"
8. "Avner and Daphna"
9. "The Tarmac at Munich"
10. "Avner's Theme"
11. "Stalking Carl"
12. "Bonding"
13. "Encounters in London and Bomb Malfunctions"
14. "Discovering Hans"
15. "The Raid in Tarifa"
16. "Thoughts of Home"
17. "Hiding the Family"
18. "End Credits"

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:
"Munich, 1972"

Here we are once again with John Williams teaming up with Steven Spielberg, this time on a powerful drama that captures a deeper and more nuanced collaboration. True, it's at times in the wake of Schindler's List flawless beauty, but it's still something that is ambient and builds through one of the strongest orchestral compositions that he has ever made. It helps that the singing is so somber and beautiful while the orchestration underneath creates something tender and loving, self-reflecting on a terrible situation. I think that while Williams will be remembered for what he brought to the world of themes, he definitely deserves more points for what he brings to the general role of composition in his work. This is a powerful piece of sonic energy. 

Interesting Standout:
"Avner's Theme"

The score is predominantly classical in a way that's to be expected. It moves slowly through the melody like a somber wave, looking for optimism and only finding despair. John Williams is at his best there. However, there's an odd recurring theme that plays towards the latter half in which things drop out and focus more heavily on acoustic guitar. It's beautiful and intimate in a different way, capturing a purity that is reminiscent of earlier Williams, the type that you don't often see in his scores. Here it works predominantly as a way to pull us away from the quietness of orchestral strings to find something beautiful in a guitar, something organic and singular that stands out no matter what is thrown on top of it.

Best Moment:
"A Prayer for Peace"

Here comes John Williams yet again with another incredible piece of music. While most of the score works incredibly well at capturing layered orchestrations, this is where it elevates itself into pure art. It's beautiful and sweet, capturing the struggle of the strings against the percussion and finding a somber heart that is in need of repair. This is just a great piece of music that captures why Williams is often considered one of the best composers of all time. It's sentimental without being too saccharine. It's also sad without having to tell the listener to feel that way. It's never manipulative, and instead it manages to pack a punch by sticking to the form in a way that's to be expected, but wouldn't work any other way.

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

It's one of those rare years where John Williams got a double nomination, and it's also one where his work for both are incredible. While I think that Memoirs of a Geisha edges out as my favorite of the two, I definitely think that the more mature Williams style has become all its own in the past few entries and it proves why he's much more versatile than we probably give him credit for. As long as he continues to produce music with a bravura this strong, he's likely to coast by on excellence until he dies. One can hope he's still got scores that are this powerful stuck in his back pocket, because nobody does them as well as he can. Though speaking of Williams, Spielberg, and double nominations, the next two on this list fit that bill perfectly. Up first, his first animated movie (and one of his arguably most underrated scores of the 21st century).

Up Next: The Adventures of Tintin (2011) for Best Original Score

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" - 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'" - Superman (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. "Prologue" - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
10. "Sayuri's Theme" - Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
11. "Theme From Born on the Fourth of July" - Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
12. "Hymns of the Fallen" - Saving Private Ryan (1998)
13. "Cybertronics" - A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
14. "Munich, 1972" - Munich (2005)
15. "Sleepers at Wilkinson" - Sleepers (1996)
16. "The Dances of Witches" - The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
17. "Dry your Tears, Afrika" - Amistad (1997)
18. "Track 01" - The River (1984)
19. "Theme from Angela's Ashes" - Angela's Ashes (1999)
20. "Main Title/The Ice Planet/Hoth" - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
21. "Catch Me If You Can" - Catch Me If You Can (2002)
22. "Main Title" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
23. "Main Title/Rebel Blockade/Runner Medley" - Star Wars (1977)
24. "Wednesday Special (Main Theme)" - Cinderella Liberty (1973)
25. "Lumos!" - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003)
26. "Suo Gan" - Empire of the Sun (1987)
27. "Main Title/First Introduction/The Winton Flyer" - The Reivers (1969)
28. "Finale and End Credits"- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
29. "River Song"- Tom Sawyer (1973)
30. "The Patriot" - The Patriot (2000)
31. "Where Did My Childhood Go?" - Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
32. "Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls'"/"Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls' - Reprise" - Valley of the Dolls (1967)
33. "End Credits (Raiders March)" - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
34. "Home Alone Theme" - Home Alone (1990)
35. "Main Title (The Story Continues)" - Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi  (1983)
36. "Main Title... The White House Gate" - Nixon (1995)
37. "Opening Titles" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
38. "Main Theme" - The Accidental Tourist (1988)
39. "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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