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R.I.P. Memorable Movie Themes (1 Viewer)

Dick

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Growing up, main title themes from major film releases stuck in our heads (mine, at least). So many classics: LAURA, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, EXODUS, THE GREAT ESCAPE, A SUMMER PLACE, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA....the list goes on and on. Where is such memorable music now? Most contemporary films are (over-)scored from the opening title card all the way through to the end credits, but how many of their themes or scores are hum-able from the moment you leave the theater? How many set the mood?

I lament their loss. I am not saying there isn't fine film music out there now, it's just that there doesn't seem to be an instant connect between film scores and our memories after the show is over. Playing back a CD soundtrack of, say, the latest STAR WARS epic does not necessarily produce corresponding images of the viewing experience. But remember, in 1977, how the main STAR WARS theme was instantly embedded into our subconscious? As was the main title for JAWS. And RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

It just seems like composers have lately stopped trying to come up with the grand themes or yore, and I, for one, miss those wonderful title sequences ahead of the movie that so beautifully set up the mood of the forthcoming film for us with music from the likes of Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, James Horner, Miklos Rozsa, etc. Now, it's unlikely a "title" sequence lasts much more than a few cards, leaving the rest of the credits for the end (which many audience members do not bother to sit through).

Give me back those beautiful 2-3-minute titles with those amazing themes, such as CHINATOWN, ROSEMARY'S BABY THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, and hundreds more. We may not have the old movie palaces to help with the atmosphere anymore, but a good title sequence with music that prepares us for what is coming will always be welcome.
 

RobertR

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I pretty much agree with you. Since the turn of the century, the only movies with memorable music that I can think of are for the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I also like the music from The Mask of Zorro from 1998.
 

TravisR

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But remember, in 1977, how the main STAR WARS theme was instantly embedded into our subconscious? As was the main title for JAWS. And RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.
It's just not today. 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of all movie scores of any era aren't as memorable as those three.

Time is the real test in these situations. I have no great love for the Marvel movies but the music from those movies is something that fans will hear in 20 or 30 years and they'll be as beloved and remembered as fondly as John Williams or Bernard Herrmann or Jerry Goldsmith, etc.
 

Mysto

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It's just not today. 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of all movie scores of any era aren't as memorable as those three.

Time is the real test in these situations. I have no great love for the Marvel movies but the music from those movies is something that fans will hear in 20 or 30 years and they'll be as beloved and remembered as fondly as John Williams or Bernard Herrmann or Jerry Goldsmith, etc.
I'm an agreeable guy but somehow I doubt that much of the Marvel music will remain in the public's consciousness. They don't have strong themes and they don't get airplay. Songs like Laura, most Bond Themes or Magnificent Seven are still played on vintage or beautiful music stations as songs - not just movie themes.

Part of the lack of great themes may be the rush of movies with pop music (Dirty Dancing - Top Gun) using existing music. But I think a major element is just air play. In the early days of Bond a strong theme meant a hit song being played on the radio and that meant better box office. Now with the music business being what it is, I don't think the formula works well anymore.
 

TravisR

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I'm an agreeable guy but somehow I doubt that much of the Marvel music will remain in the public's consciousness. They don't have strong themes and they don't get airplay.
Like I said, the fans are the ones that will remember and love that music. The general public won't but outside of truly iconic cues (Psycho, Star Wars, Jaws), the general public doesn't remember much orchestrated music at all. And just because the general public doesn't care that doesn't mean that the music itself isn't good.
 

RobertR

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Like I said, the fans are the ones that will remember and love that music. The general public won't but outside of truly iconic cues (Psycho, Star Wars, Jaws)

I think that's the point, though. There are no more truly memorable film scores.
 

TravisR

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I think that's the point, though. There are no more truly memorable film scores.
I suppose that's true but if, say, half a dozen of the hundreds (?) of thousands of movie scores, are truly iconic and recognizable to people the world over then, to me, that's as good as saying that virtually no movie themes have ever been memorable.
 

RobertR

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I suppose that's true but if, say, half a dozen of the hundreds (?) of thousands of movie scores, are truly iconic and recognizable to people the world over then, to me, that's as good as saying that virtually no movie themes have ever been memorable.

Actually, it's simply an illustration of Sturgeon's Law. The only great film composer left IMO is John Williams, and he's phasing out.
 

Dick

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It's just not today. 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of all movie scores of any era aren't as memorable as those three.

Hey, man...you left off four 9's. I counted. ;)
 

Blimpoy06

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I think the thematic music will return at some point. Late 60's and early 70's films were heavy on current pop trends and light on themes too. Some directors will want to be different and bring them back. If it's a popular film, as in Jaws, everyone will begin to do so.
 

MielR

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It just seems like composers have lately stopped trying to come up with the grand themes or yore,
I think they would, if they could. They just can't! But, that seems to be the case with music in general, these days.

I heard an old Stray Cats song the other day, and I started thinking about how it was an 80's song, done in a 1950's rockabilly-style, and how it was so good and creative. It made me think of how I don't hear anything nearly that creative anymore. I think the beginning of the end started sometime in the 1990s.

We're living in bland times, people.
 
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Dick

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There was a decade during which orchestral scores were few and far between (late 60's-mid-70's), when traditional film composers were replaced by popular songs of their day so that studios could sell a kazillion record albums. Then STAR WARS brought back better-quality music for many years, but during the past ten or twenty years, composers are either compelled or encouraged to give us wall-to-wall music with very little silence (one reason why I really admire A QUIET PLACE...what a breath of fresh air!). The first time I really noticed this trend in other than animated features was with James Horner's often excellent but obnoxiously overlong score for A PERFECT STORM.

It's pretty standard these days to have this absurd reliance on music every damn second, instead of using silence as a tool in and of itself, like negative space on a painting...it's there for a reason! Another thing that contributed to the loss of memorable film music was the once-rare but now pervasive move to drop any substantial main title sequence in lieu of a minute of company logos, maybe a "Film By..." credit, and the film's title. Period. Hardly enough time for a composer to get us in the mood before the movie proper begins. Many main title sequences from way back not only sported orchestral cues you would leave the theater humming or whistling, but also clever onscreen graphics, often animated, which were essentially mini movies, sometimes better than the film that followed.

Like the bulk of feature films in these bland and unimaginative times, their lead-ins are mostly bereft of mood-setting music themes and interesting visuals. There are exceptions even now, but in general I'm not impressed.
 

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