This past Sunday night, I hiked my way up to one of the best things about living in Los Angeles — the Hollywood Bowl — for a concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of Paramount Pictures. The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, led by conductor (and film composer) David Newman (Ice Age, Serenity), played symphonic selections from 15 Paramount features for a chronological journey through movie music history, including a 10-minute battle scene from 1927’s silent WWI aerial combat film Wings (the first movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture), the bell tower sequence from the Alfred Hitchcock classic Vertigo, the classic conductor scene from the Jerry Lewis comedy The Bellboy, and the iceberg impact sequence from Titanic.
It was a treat for any movie fan, but the event only left me wanting more. Fifteen scores just doesn’t seem nearly enough to cover a century’s worth of movie music. While I was certainly happy to revisit the iconic scores from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Godfather, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I yearned to hear the aching opening theme from Chinatown by Jerry Goldsmith, or Miklós Rózsa’s darkly relentless music for the film noir touchstone Double Indemnity. The concert featured Michael Giacchino’s fabulous score for the 2009 Star Trek, but why not match it with Goldsmith’s rousing theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, or James Horner’s operatic cues for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? And I don’t think we really needed to revisit the anonymous bombast from Transformers: Dark of the Moon. (Does anyone come out of those movies talking about the score?!)
See, I’m the kind of guy who’s listened to movie scores for fun since I was in middle school. I can’t remember whether the first movie score I purchased on my own was for Glory or Jurassic Park, but I do know that the top 50 most played tracks on my iTunes are dominated by movie music, including cues from American Beauty, Batman Begins, Braveheart, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Thin Red Line (as well as several tracks from Thomas Newman’s score for the HBO miniseries Angels in America, which pretty much counts). Whenever I’m late and stuck in L.A. traffic, I invariably pop in the score from either The Dark Knight or TRON: Legacy to help recalibrate my brain to expertly (and safely) weave through the congestion. I’ve typed out tens of thousands of words while grooving to the scores from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or Shine, or Run Lola Run, or Out of Africa, or Superman, or The Fountain, or Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or Brokeback Mountain — in fact, if this post seems to have any sort of smoky, lurid edge to it, that could be because I wrote it to the aforementioned score of Chinatown.
So when I attend a centennial celebration of cinema music, I expect a feast, not a polite meal, is all I’m saying.
I can’t be the only one, either. So, tell me, what instrumental-based movie soundtracks have dominated the soundtrack to your life? What was the first score that captured your imagination? Who is your favorite movie composer? Do tell!