Sunday, June 24, 2018

Composing Greatness: #44. John Williams - "War Horse" (2011)

Scene from War Horse
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: War Horse (2011)
Collaborators (If Available): N/A
Nomination: Best Original Score
Did He Win: No

Other Nominees:
-The Artist (Ludovic Bource)*winner
-Hugo (Howard Shore)
-Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alberto Iglesias)
-The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)

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: 47
Oscar Wins: 5

Track List

1. "Dartmoor, 1912"
2. "The Auction"
3. "Bringing Joey Home and Bonding"
4. "Learning the Call"
5. "Seeding and Horse vs. Car"
6. "Plowing"
7. "Ruined Crop and Going to War"
8. "The Charge"
9. "The Desertion"
10. "Joey's New Friends"
11. "Pulling the Cannon"
12. "The Death of Topthorn"
13. "No Man's Land"
14. "The Reunion"
15. "Remembering Emilie and Finale"
16. "The Homecoming"

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:
"Dartmoor 1912"

If one was just to just John Williams of the output from 2011, then one would guess that he still has a lot of charisma when he works with Steven Spielberg. The one catch is that neither of these two scores are wholly as satisfying of their work post-A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, but it still manages to capture the bravura and epic scope of what the film will be. Yes, it's a goofy World War I movie about a horse, but it's also rich with emotion, action, and everything that Williams has been great at in the past. As an introduction into the music of the film, it's got all sorts of powerful moments that may be secondary in quality, but work in capturing something unique.

Interesting Standout:
"No Man's Land"

In the film, this is arguably the selling point where the horse runs across the battle field into the titular no man's land. It should be a moment that stands out as a result, capturing a sense of daring adventure as the horse jumps through hoops. For a soundtrack that's largely staid in the condition of tame and easy flowing tunes, this is a moment where everything ratchets up and finds a way to capture an energy that the film otherwise lacks. It may not be nearly as catchy in a melodic sense, but it definitely has plenty going for it that makes the moment work.

Best Moment:

In terms of overall quality, the early run of the soundtrack has the best melodies. All things considered, it's where John Williams manages to build up his energy and create some of his finer moments of the score, finding a way to make it feel grandiose and full of an energy that is necessary. It's emotional and memorable, meeting all of the criteria for quality Williams. While this isn't the first time that the motif plays, it definitely works here because of how the orchestration forces everything to a fulfilling conclusion. 

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

Between the two 2011 nominations, it's tough to say which John Williams score is better. While The Adventures of Tintin has better motifs, the overall quality of War Horse hits more classical notes for a sentimentalist. Either way, neither are the best that Spielberg and Williams have done together, though both reflect a hunger for creativity that Williams seemed to be lacking in the nominations leading up to 2011. Here, he's trying once again to produce something of power and importance, and he gets pretty close to making something that reminds everyone why they love him. It's close, but not quite flawless in execution.

Up Next: Lincoln (2012) 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. "The Adventures of Tintin" - The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
18. "Dry your Tears, Afrika" - Amistad (1997)
19. "Track 01" - The River (1984)
20. "Theme from Angela's Ashes" - Angela's Ashes (1999)
21. "Main Title/The Ice Planet/Hoth" - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
22. "Catch Me If You Can" - Catch Me If You Can (2002)
23. "Main Title" - The Towering Inferno (1974)
24. "Main Title/Rebel Blockade/Runner Medley" - Star Wars (1977)
25. "Wednesday Special (Main Theme)" - Cinderella Liberty (1973)
26. "Lumos!" - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003)
27. "Dartmoor 1912" - War Horse (2011)
28. "Suo Gan" - Empire of the Sun (1987)
29. "Main Title/First Introduction/The Winton Flyer" - The Reivers (1969)
30. "Finale and End Credits"- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
31. "River Song"- Tom Sawyer (1973)
32. "The Patriot" - The Patriot (2000)
33. "Where Did My Childhood Go?" - Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
34. "Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls'"/"Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls' - Reprise" - Valley of the Dolls (1967)
35. "End Credits (Raiders March)" - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
36. "Home Alone Theme" - Home Alone (1990)
37. "Main Title (The Story Continues)" - Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi  (1983)
38. "Main Title... The White House Gate" - Nixon (1995)
39. "Opening Titles" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
40. "Main Theme" - The Accidental Tourist (1988)
41. "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