Why is it so hard to make a good soundtrack album?

The third CD that I ever bought was a film soundtrack (the first two were Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” and Garth Brooks’ “Greatest Hits”).  It was the soundtrack to Independence Day, and I actually bought it in the hopes of it having R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” which for some reason I really wanted on CD.  I was disappointed when the song was missing from the soundtrack album, but after listening to the CD I realized how much I enjoyed the score, composed by David Arnold.  Thus began my obsession with film scores, and my collection of albums showcasing them.

I’ve been listening to the Jurassic Park soundtrack for the past week or so on my commute to work, and I’ve realized that there are several very big problems with the film score album as a whole in the industry.  I don’t know why it’s so damn hard to put together a decent album from a film score, but I’ve come up with a list of several of the problems: Continue reading

Analysis: Argo and Filmmakers’ Responsibility

Even before Argo won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Hollywood’s top honor, it was already being plagued by controversy.  (Nevermind the fact that every other nominee was controversial in some way: Lincoln got easy facts wrong, Silver Linings Playbook mishandled mental illness, Beasts of the Southern Wild romanticized poverty, Zero Dark Thirty lied about torture’s effectiveness, Django Unchained was racist and used the n-word too much, Russell Crowe’s singing was horrible in Les Miserables, Life of Pi misrepresented Indians and religion, and Amour advocates assisted suicide and wasn’t even in English!)  It’s nothing unusual for films to encounter controversy, or even to court it, but the debates this year about facts and politics in film have raised questions (none of them new) about the responsibility of filmmakers to the audience.
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2013 Oscars Recap

Another Academy Awards ceremony has come and gone, and overall it was an enjoyable evening.  There were few surprises among the award winners, though I only correctly predicted 16/24 winners correctly (equaling my score from last year, at least I’m consistent).  In addition to there being no real surprises there are also no winners that I feel were not deserving to win; even if I disagree with the outcomes, the awards went to quality films/performances which makes it hard to complain too loudly.  The show itself was enjoyable, if not spectacular, with some wonderful moments and some bits that fell flat, and I was surprised with how much I enjoyed Seth MacFarlane.  Read on to see my thoughts in a bit more detail.
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Review: Les Miserables

Adapting a stage musical into a film has proven to been a dicey proposition in the years since Chicago burst onto the scene in 2002.  Unlike original musicals (such as Moulin Rouge!, Enchanted, or even The Muppets), adaptations bring with them a lot of baggage and expectations.  The especially long-running and popular shows have legions of devoted fans, who need to be pleased in order to help spread the word, however their expectations must be balanced with making the film appeal to the general populace (which, unfortunately, now seems to take pleasure in disliking musicals by default).  It’s possible for a film to be too faithful (The Producers) and alienate Broadway purists, or go so far the other way as to lose all sense of their source (Rock of Ages).  Equally important to the faithfulness of the adaptation is how well the film captures the spirit of the source; a film can be incredibly faithful but still miss the mark (The Phantom of the Opera) or can play things loose with the source and still manage to capture the spark (the brilliant, Mamma Mia!).  Then there’s the issue of running time and the filmmakers who assume that audiences no longer have the patience to sit through 3 hours of singing, so the entire film feels rushed (Hairspray).  And even if you do everything right, or at least as right as possible, there’s still no guarantee that your film will find an audience (Rent). Continue reading