Sunday, July 1, 2018

Composing Greatness: #45. John Williams - "Lincoln" (2012)

Scene from Lincoln
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: Lincoln (2012)
Collaborators (If Available): N/A
Nomination: Best Original Score
Did He Win: No

Other Nominees:
-Life of Pi (Mychael Danna)*winner
-Anna Karenina (Dario Marianelli)
-Argo (Alexandre Desplat)
-Skyfall (Thomas Newman)

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: 48
Oscar Wins: 5

Track List

1. "The People's House"
2. "The Purpose of the Amendment"
3. "Getting Out the Vote"
4. "The American Process"
5. "The Blue and the Grey"
6. "With Malice Toward None"
7. "Call to Muster and Battle Cry of Freedom"
8. "The Southern Delegation and the Dream"
9. "Father and Son"
10. "Equality, Under the Law"
11. "Freedom's Call"
12. "Elegy"
13. "Remembering Willie"
14. "Appomattox April 9, 1865"
15. "The Peterson House and Finale"
16. "With Malice Toward None (Piano Solo)"

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:
"The People's House"

After returning to the world of film scores in 2011, John Williams teams once again with Steven Spielberg for what is one of their most acclaimed recent collaborations. It's definitely a lofty goal to reinvent Abraham Lincoln into a more secluded, nuanced fellow, and there's no better way of doing it than creating a soundscape that is powerfully built on Americana. It's immediately nostalgic, patriotic, and captures a certain joy that comes with being American. Lincoln is no doubt an important figure and the film highlights it beautifully. Williams does his best to create something that's both new and old at the same time in a way that captivates and captures what it feels like to watch photographs come to life of the 19th century, when this was all new. It's beautiful and mesmerizing.

Interesting Standout:
"Getting Out the Vote"

The majority of the score is based around more traditional sounding John Williams. It's got a grandiose scale to it that is matched by his ability to mix sentiments and motifs in the best ways possible. It's a beautiful score, but this early track is clearly more bumpkin than the others, finding a way to capture a more grassroots sound where there's violins and local color mixed in for good measure. It's a particularly fun track amid an album that's almost entirely somber and longing for something greater. It's still good, but it definitely feels like it was a tangent than a cohesive piece of music.

Best Moment:
"With Malice Towards None"

Right as there's concern as to whether modern John Williams can hold his own against modern composers, it's this track that captures a sense of purpose. Suddenly he finds a way to bring the somber, melancholic underlying of Lincoln and creates a melody that may as well be among his better work. It may not have the immediacy of his iconic films, but it is powerful in ways that the mature side of Williams tends to be. It's got a waving melody that is nostalgic while also creating an emotional response in the listener. It may in fact be his finest moment in several, several years. While Williams has never been a bad composer, it's been awhile since he's released something that has that familiar and authentic charm to it. If Lincoln was a more commercial movie, this would probably be up there with Jaws, E.T., or Schindler's List in terms of memorable melodies. 

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

The recent run of John Williams may not always be on par with his vintage work, but what is immediately apparent is that he still knows how to create music that matters. This may be one of the few examples of a score where he finds that gift again and creates something beautiful, nostalgic, and sentimental. This may not be his greatest work, but it captures the feel of Lincoln so well and there's not a wrong note played among the many compositions here. It's as if the mature Williams finally realized his full potential and made something everlasting. This is tough to deny as one of his better recent works, and it more than likely will set the template for how contemporary Americana is looked at. 

Up Next: The Book Thief (2013) 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. "The People's House" - Lincoln (2012)
25. "Main Title/Rebel Blockade/Runner Medley" - Star Wars (1977)
26. "Wednesday Special (Main Theme)" - Cinderella Liberty (1973)
27. "Lumos!" - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2003)
28. "Dartmoor 1912" - War Horse (2011)
29. "Suo Gan" - Empire of the Sun (1987)
30. "Main Title/First Introduction/The Winton Flyer" - The Reivers (1969)
31. "Finale and End Credits"- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
32. "River Song"- Tom Sawyer (1973)
33. "The Patriot" - The Patriot (2000)
34. "Where Did My Childhood Go?" - Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
35. "Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls'"/"Theme from 'Valley of the Dolls' - Reprise" - Valley of the Dolls (1967)
36. "End Credits (Raiders March)" - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
37. "Home Alone Theme" - Home Alone (1990)
38. "Main Title (The Story Continues)" - Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi  (1983)
39. "Main Title... The White House Gate" - Nixon (1995)
40. "Opening Titles" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
41. "Main Theme" - The Accidental Tourist (1988)
42. "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