Sunday, July 15, 2018

Composing Greatness: #46. John Williams - "The Book Thief" (2013)

Scene from The Book Thief
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: The Book Thief (2013)
Collaborators (If Available): N/A
Nomination: Best Original Score
Did He Win: No

Other Nominees:
-Gravity (Steven Price)*winner
-Her (Will Butler & Owen Pallett)
-Philomena (Alexandre Desplat)
-Saving Mr. Banks (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: 49
Oscar Wins: 5

Track List

1. "One Small Fact"
2. "The Journey to Himmel Street"
3. "New Parents and a New Home"
4."Ilsa's Library"
5. "The Snow Fight"
6. "Learning to Read"
7. "Book Burning"
8. "I Hate Hitler"
9. "Max and Liesel"
10. "The Train Station"
11. "Revealing the Secret"
12. "Foot Race"
13. "The Visitor at Himmel Street"
14. "Learning to Write"
15. "The Departure of Max"
16. "Jellyfish"
17. "Rescuing the Book"
18. "Writing to Mama"
19. "Max Lives"
20. "Rudy is Taken"
21. "Finale"
22. "The Book Thief"

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:
"One Small Fact"

After a solid job on Lincoln, it's interesting to see John Williams' first post-hiatus score without Steven Spielberg to be nominated for an Oscar. However, there's something off about this particular score. For starters, the running time of the individual tracks are a bit disappointing and never allow the melodies to properly form. Instead, they feel like interstitial material that maybe Carter Burwell or Howard Shore would compose, though by no means any of these three's best. The opening track in particular starts off beautifully and captures an awe that could've developed into something greater. Instead, it's just fine as something that doesn't have it all there. It's Williams at his generic best, but not necessarily anything greater than that. 

Interesting Standout:
"The Snow Fight"

Amid a score of somber and bittersweet melodies comes this track that fits in a bevvy of fun as John Williams gets into a literal fight with the instruments, creating the sensation of snowballs flying through the air. It's a brief moment but one that is jarring for the listener who is wanting to get into the flow of the other music. If anything, this is a perfect example of how much the score feels disjointed. It is fine, but this feels more like a compilation of music used in the film instead of one tonal piece. The music rarely builds upon itself until the final half, but by then the score could've used something on par with this track to liven up the overall flow of the album.

Best Moment:
"The Book Thief"

It's easy to see why the final suite is arguably the best track on the album. It's essentially a greatest hits collection of melodies throughout the rest of the score. It's only here that the entire soundtrack feels realized as something greater. Before this, the melodies exist fleetingly and don't have much else going on. It does the job, but here John Williams kicks into high gear with a powerful, orchestral rendition that captures the heart and soul of what his career tends to be associated with. For a score that's largely lacking many memorable moments, it manages to work in a larger context when allowed to appear alongside the other melodies that he's composed for this album.

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

In terms of 21st century nominations, this may be John Williams' most disappointing score so far. It's not that it's bad, but it has so much emptiness and brevity attached to it that there's no chance for the joy and heart to be established within the music. It does the trick as interstitial, but it sounds more like reject tracks by someone like Howard Shore or Carter Burwell, not the greatest film composer now of two different centuries. This feels like a cynical nomination meant entirely to acknowledge that John Williams is great and that John Williams will continue to be recognized. It's fine, but he didn't really need to have another nomination after having close to 50. 

Up Next: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) 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. "One Small Fact" - The Book Thief (2013)
37. "End Credits (Raiders March)" - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
38. "Home Alone Theme" - Home Alone (1990)
39. "Main Title (The Story Continues)" - Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi  (1983)
40. "Main Title... The White House Gate" - Nixon (1995)
41. "Opening Titles" - The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
42. "Main Theme" - The Accidental Tourist (1988)
43. "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