We just read this morning that we lost one of the greatest film composers of our generation, James Horner. While not so wildly thought of in film score conversations, especially lately, I have quite a few soundtracks in my collection that he scored. And while he wasn’t my favorite like John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith, Horner was great enough for me to notice his style and he scored a lot of great flicks in the 80s and 90s.
I have a lot of issues with film scoring today. Brian and I never really agree on the status of what makes a great score anymore. My main problem is there’s such a lack of themes like there use to be. As nice a composer Michael Giacchino is I barely even care abut his scores. I cannot for the life of me give two shits about his musical accompaniment. I don’t hate his work but I will never say I like him either. I can easily hum most scores of John Williams, Danny Elfman, Alan Silvestri, Howard Shore and even Ennio Morricone. Today I can’t even recognize most scores of most blockbusters. Even The Avengers I can’t recall in my head. I haven’t owned a film soundtrack since The Dark Knight I think. With all these superhero movies coming out you’d think at least one of them would have an awesome theme/score or march like we got with William’s Superman and Elfman’s Batman. Today’s composers are just kind of weak is all. Even Elfman, who I used to love immensely, has been on such a losing streak for me. But maybe it’s just me, I’m sure all you fine readers will call me crazy and list off a ton of great scores that I should care for but I’m sorry I just think the scores of films has been very lackluster lately.
James Horner had the chops though back in the day. His scores for Wrath of Khan, Commando, Aliens, Krull, The Rocketeer, Cocoon, Apollo 13 and Braveheart are fantastic. My personal favorites of his is Willow. While not a easily revered fantasy movie, the score propels it to a higher state and makes it fun.
When looking up what he’s done recently, it seems the mediocre bug has bit him too. I didn’t even realize he scored The Amazing Spider-Man because everything about that movie reeked like weeks old wet gym shorts. And a big prize goes out to the reader who can hum a few bars of Avatar’s score. (When was the last time anyone actually watched Avatar anyway?)
But he will most likely always be remembered for the little indie, underground B-movie, Titanic. The only score that won him a slew of awards and accolades. Truth be told, I don’t hate Titanic at all. I actually love it and can still watch it over and over. I worked at a movie theatre as a projectionist/manager the year Titanic stayed at #1 for months and I was forced to watch the last third for at least 3 dozen viewings. Because the film was viewed so many times and got so old, the acetate of the film would stick together and would occasionally get jammed in the projector and when that happens the film could break and burn. Then the showing would be halted and I’d have to fix the film which could take up to 10 minutes or so. So I had to stay in the booth and monitor the actual film for Titanic and had to watch the ship hit the iceberg and the subsequent chaos and drama dozens of times. And yet, I still can watch it today. I even like the soundtrack and I can’t seem to hate the Celine Dion song either! Maybe all those viewings brainwashed my mind, essentially making it numb to the movie and its music. But seriously, I do like Horner’s score a lot and do think it’s his crowning career achievement. What other film composter can say that he had a MASSIVE billboard hit record as well as all the awards that Celine Dion song received. He wrote the music for it so co-credit has to go to him! Williams can’t really say the same for himself—”Can You Read My Mind?” from Superman didn’t quite burn up the charts in 1978.
Love it or hate it, that song is a monumental musical achievement to a film that was an enormous monumental achievement and no one can deny that. It’s also a fitting tribute to a great composer whose oeuvre in the medium of film should never be forgotten nor overlooked.