AFI - 100 Years of Film Scores

So the next AFI list of the top 25 scores (from American films, natch) is slated to come out next month, presented with a live concert at the Hollywood Bowl (though not a TV special, alas).

So, the question is, limiting yourself to the official ballot

(1) What would be the 25 scores you’d vote for, if you could? (Note the voting criteria: Creative Impact, Historical Significance, and Legacy?
(2) What 25 films do you predict will be on the final list–based on your expectations of how the AFI votes (based on previous lists)?
(3) What 5 scores constitute the most egregious omission from the ballot?

I’ll be back with my own lists in a little bit…

Wow, that list is way too big to shop from, so I’ll just throw in a few.

Planet of the Apes (1968)
North by Northwest
Twilight Zone: The Movie

Star Wars will be in the top 5, maybe even number 1. John Williams himself will probably be on the list five times.

Right off the top of my head I thought, “Anatomy of a Murder,” “Chinatown,” “Patton,” “The Magnificient Seven,” “The Pink Panther,” “The Third Man.” Glad to see they’re all on the ballot!

Off the top of my head – using as a criteria, that if you can even think of a score for a movie that is 30, 50, 65 years old, it must be worthy of something:

Gone with the Wind
Lawrence of Arabia
Doctor Zhivago

and everything by John Williams.

Now, Voyager (Max Steiner).

Some that I was glad to see on the list:

Planet of the Apes
Adventures of Robin Hood
The Day the Earth Stood Still
American Beauty
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Ten Commandments

Personally I find it a travesty that Jurassic Park isn’t listed. That may be my favorite score of all times. I can listen to the music and hear the size and majesty of the dinosaurs, the fear of the victims, the cruelty of the raptors. It’s perfect…and sadly neglected by AFI.

Oh and for what AFI will choose. I guaran-damn-tee you’ll see Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, and Casablanca because God forbid there should be an AFI list without those three somewhere in the top 10.

Call me a fuddy duddy, but I don’t think that John Williams deserves to make the cut. His scores are so safe and so generic. OK, maybe Star Wars. Maybe. But I always felt he was overrated.

And I used to study film scoring, so consider this an argument from authority.

They must be limiting the ballot to music written specifically for the film, and not those that used popular or period music. Otherwise The Sting, 2001: A Space Odyssey and American Graffiti would have to be there. (Maybe they don’t count 2001 as american. but the other two?)

Well what are ya gonna do, give an award to Strauss? :dubious:

Yes, these are for original film scores.

My Votes: (in chronological order)
King Kong – Steiner
Bride of Frankenstein – Waxman
The Adventures of Robin Hood – Korngold
Of Mice and Men – Copland
Laura – Raksin
Spellbound – Rozsa
The Best Years of Our Lives – Friedhofer
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir – Herrmann
The Day the Earth Stood Still – Herrmann
A Streetcar Named Desire – North
Rebel without a Cause – Rosenman
Sweet Smell of Success – Bernstein
The Big Country – Moross
Anatomy of a Murder – Ellington
Psycho – Herrmann
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Mancini
Lawrence of Arabia – Jarre
To Kill a Mockingbird – Bernstein
Cool Hand Luke – Schifrin
The Lion in Winter – Barry
Planet of the Apes – Goldsmith
Once Upon a Time in the West – Morricone
Chinatown – Goldsmith
Jaws – Williams
Conan the Barbarian – Poledouris
My Predictions:
King Kong – Steiner
The Adventures of Robin Hood – Korngold
Gone With the Wind – Steiner
The Wizard of Oz – Stothart
The Third Man – Karas
A Streetcar Named Desire – North
Vertigo – Herrmann
Anatomy of a Murder – Ellington
Ben-Hur – Rozsa
North by Northwest – Herrmann
The Magnificent Seven – Bernstein
Psycho – Herrmann
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Mancini
Lawrence of Arabia – Jarre
To Kill a Mockingbird – Bernstein
How the West Was Won – Waxman
Goldfinger – Barry
Once Upon a Time in the West – Morricone
Patton – Goldsmith
The Godfather – Rota
Jaws – Williams
Star Wars – Williams
E.T. : The Extra-Terrestrial – Williams
Schindler’s List – Williams
American Beauty – Newman
Disney films have typically unfairly monopolized movie music lists and awards for the last several decades, so it was a relief to discover only a handful of Disney films on the ballot. But to exclude Leigh Harline’s brilliant work for Pinocchio is just wrong. The MIA On Dangerous Ground is quite possibly the greatest score by America’s greatest film composer, Bernard Herrmann. David Shire managed a few inclusions on the ballot (including the terrific Taking of Pelham One Two Three), but his masterful work on The Conversation wasn’t one of them. And finally, my votes for the three best scores of the 80s are The Empire Strikes Back (though there is a ton of Williams already), Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (still Danny Elfman’s best score), and the magnificent Under Fire by Jerry Goldsmith.

Unless I’m greatly mistaken, I didn’t see any animated films on the list. I was specifically looking for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Toy Story.

Bambi’s there, but that’s about it.

I was thinking of Joplin.

The music in those movies I cited did a brilliant job of setting the mood, goes perfectly with the film and is memorable in its own right. When I think of movies with the best use of music, those three are on the list; so what if it wasn’t written just for the film.

The award is for best original score. While there is certainly a skill in choosing a non-original piece that fits well, writing to the film is a whole different ball game.

What you’re talking about is like praising me for being a brilliant painter because I hung a print of a Monet in my living room.

Having just re-watched Requiem for a Dream, I was disappointed (but not surprised) that it wasn’t listed.

I like Fargo’s score. I’m no music expert but I think it does it’s job well.

I’m no music expert though…

I hate it when people say that. Yes, his Wagnerian shtick is usually there on his scores, but they’re very well done. “safe and so generic”? There was a 10 year (or so) gap in film music where orchestras simply disappeared from major motion pictures. It took Williams, Spielberg, and Lucas to bring the sound back with Jaws and Star Wars. What Williams did, as you no doubt know, was take it from where North left off and has composed nothing but quality music.

If you want “safe and so generic” you should probably hear Hans Zimmer’s latest output and the fabric that is Media Ventures. Theirs is a standard sound, it’s simple, and it’s repeated over and over (same music). Williams’ music is at least good music, better than most in the business. However, if you want examples of Williams not playing it safe or being generic, you could check out the following:

The Fury
War of the Worlds

Also, it annoys me that because what everyone remembers from certain scores (as in the soprano melodies in A.I.) they believe that is all he composed or that the rest of score is the same. “maybe Star Wars”? I dare anyone listen to the tracks “The Battle of Hoth” and “The Asteroid Field” in their entirety and call them generic. “Melodies” doesn’t equal “generic” to me. Having your own style being an extension of a famous work or composer is not generic, either. By that token, Herrmann would be a rip-off artist of Shostakovich’s Symphony for Strings. It’s when the quality of the work decreases and it becomes redundant with each score (as in “James Horner/MV redundant”) that it’s generic and safe.

PC discalimer (i.e. Me playing it safe and being generic :smiley: ): This post is not directed at you entirely. My thoughts usually run when I’m addressing a specific issue. I can’t help it. It’s just that by the descriptions I usually see from the Williams detractors (again, not saying you’re one of them) it seems almost certain that Williams would fail composition class. That irks me somehow.

Well yeah, there’s that. And his score for Schindler’s List was brilliant. It’s just that often when he’s teamed up with Spielberg, his best known works sound a little twee to me. But I recently had a chance to hear his theme from Star Wars done as a concert piece, and I have to admit, it hangs together as a pretty solid work.