Friday, June 22, 2018

Film Score Review: Danny Elfman's "Dolores Claiborne" (1995)

Here is a partial list of the films Danny Elfman had scored by the time he accepted the job on Dolores Claiborne:
  
  • Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
  • Beetlejuice (1988)
  • Midnight Run (1988)
  • Scrooged (1988)
  • Batman (1989)
  • Nightbreed (1990)
  • Dick Tracy (1990)
  • Darkman (1990)
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  • Batman Returns (1992)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What you've mostly got there is a list of colorful/moody fantasy films of one type or another.  Most of what's left is comedy; some are both.  I would argue that a minimum of five are stone-cold classics of film scoring. 

I'm not sure you'd be able to argue that a filmography like what Elfman had at the time would make one an inherently good choice for a film like Dolores Claiborne, which is neither a comedy (and how) nor a colorful fantasy film.  It's a psychological drama with expressive elements; and that's not true of, say, Dick Tracy.

However, Elfman had been working up to make a transition of this nature.  He'd scored the underrated Jodie Foster / Richard Gere drama Sommersby in 1993, and had done a good job of putting himself in supporting mode; many of his previous scores had (and this is in no way a sleight of his phenomenal work) been much more front-and-center.  That sort of approach can work for dramas -- Taxi Driver, anyone? (I'd answer "yes" if I were you) -- but most directors opt not to go quite that expressive with the music.

Case in point: Dolores Claiborne, which has virtually nothing in the way of hummable themes.  One thing you could NOT accuse Elfman of is being deficient in the hummable-themes department in the course of scoring those films listed above.

Of course, this in no way implies that Dolores Claiborne lacks impact or is deficient.  It's impactful and really rather terrific; just not in the way Beetlejuice is, you know?  And I think it's worth going on a bit of a deep dive here, and closely examining the role the music plays in the movie.  So what I'm going to do is this: I'm going to rewatch the movie, and take notes on each and every scene in which Elfman's score appears, and then pass my thoughts about it along to you.  After I'm finished, I'd then like to compare that to the soundtrack album (which, like most score albums, contains only some of the music Elfman wrote and recorded).

But first...

I might be about to test the patience of some of my readers, but I think it might be a useful experience for me personally to go on a brief tour of Elfman's career as I understood it around the time of Dolores Claiborne's release.  There's no better way of doing that than going track by track through the contents of this album:




This is Music For A Darkened Theatre: Film & Television Music Volume One, which for my money is one of the great film-composer compilations of all.  It might well also be one of the most-played CDs in my library; I got this sucker when it came out in 1990, and it got featured heavily in my rotation.  (Technically, my first copy was on cassette, but let's not be pedantic, shall we?)

The tracks are listed as being "excerpts from" the films for which they are titled, and while that sounds good, I think it's worth pointing out that most of them are actually mini-suites comprised of a small handful of the score's most expressive cues.  So you might get a main-title theme followed by music from two or three different scenes.  It's all edited together very nicely, and is really quite a strong way to represent these scores in succinct form.

We begin with the film that truly kicked Elfman's film-score career off.  (He'd been a notable rock star as a member of Oingo Boingo, so he was doing alright even before becoming one of the most in-demand film composers.)
  
#1 -- Pee Wee's Big Adventure:  Quirk, thou are made aural in the form of Danny Elfman.  Good lord, this movie; this score, man!  And this excerpt, for that matter!  It's just wonderful.  I defy you not to have the nine-note central theme stuck in your mind when you're finished listening to it.  The best part may be the insane waltz music that represents Pee Wee's clown-doctors nightmare.  This was Elfman's first of a great many scores for Tim Burton; theirs is handily one of the greatest director/composer collaborations in all of cinema, worthy of being mentioned alongside Spielberg/Williams, Hitchcock/Herrmann, Fellini/Rota, and pretty much whoever else you think belongs on that list.
  
#2 -- Batman:  I don't really need to say much about this one, do I?  This, of course, is one of the most exciting main themes of its era.  It's a powerfully atmospheric piece that, in retrospect, is quite possibly the single most successful thing in the entire movie.  It's both dark AND fun, which is not an easy combination to achieve.  It's on full display in this movie's score, though, which is intense but never overwhelming.  I can remember seeing the film on opening night in an auditorium that was jam fucking packed with people, and the excitement the music generated was palpable.
  
#3 -- Dick Tracy:  Unsurprisingly, Elfman's music for Dick Tracy is in much the same vein as the score for Batman.  In 1990, if you hired Elfman to score a movie based on a comic book/strip, this is what you wanted to hear.  His Dick Tracy music isn't as good as his Batman music, but that's no insult.  This is good stuff, kind of vaguely reminiscent of what it might have sounded like if George Gershwin had scored an adventure film.  (Wouldn't that be cool?)  It's bright, expressive, and memorable.
  
#4 -- Beetlejuice:  Elfman's second film for Tim Burton was every bit as wonderful a success as the first.  The main theme is a bouncy thing that I remember somebody (was it podcaster Bobby Roberts? might've been) describing as "gnome-hop" music.  Works for me, both as a description and as music.  It's an utterly memorable theme, and it is invaluable to the movie, which it helps turn into an exciting comedy that people embrace.  With a different score, it might have run the risk of being a bit too weird or a bit too grim.  And for some audiences it probably still is, but I think Elfman's music helps everyone understand just what kind of movie they are watching.
  
#5 -- Nightbreed:  This has always been one of my favorite tracks on this album, and yet, I've never once seen the movie.  In case you weren't aware, it's a horror fantasy written and directed by Clive Barker.  Gotta dive into that guy's work more one of these days.  Anyways, I can't speak to the movie, but this music is wonderful.  It's dark, percussive, exciting stuff in places; and it's light, ethereal, charming stuff in other places.  But there's -- and apologies for not being able to explain this -- a sort of energy running through this 7:01 mini-suite that helps it all hang together in a cohesive whole.  I especially love a four-note descending phrase for (children's [I think]) choir that appears about halfway through.  But the whole piece is great.  I've been mildly disappointed by Elfman's work during most of this millennium thus far, but any time that happens, I think back to this album and remind myself that he was on such fire for the first decade or so of his career that it'd be no wonder if he had flamed out altogether.  He certainly didn't do that.  Regardless, this bit of Nightbreed is top notch.
  
#6 -- Darkman:  The main theme of this one is also a descending four-note phrase, although some of its statements both rise and fall.  It's otherwise not particularly similar to Nightbreed; it's darker (makes sense, given the title), more ominous, kind of like a slightly more intense Batman.  That's not a terrible way to describe the movie itself, an excellent Sam Raimi flick that stars Liam Neeson in a role that, by all rights, ought to have spawned its own series of films.  (Good ones, I mean, not the direct-to-video messes that actually did follow it.)  This excerpt meanders a bit compared to the tracks on this album which preceded it; the music is no means bad, but it seems to represent something a bit more focused on psychological emotion than on thrills and yuks.  In this sense, I'd argue that the second half of the track is more of a precursor to Dolores Claiborne than anything else on this album.  Certainly more than the next track...
  
#7 -- Back to School:  This brief (1:28) piece is actually just a single cue from the score.  Titled "Study Montage," it is a pure delight.  It's actually rather reminiscent of the theme to The Simpsons, which we shall get to in a bit.  It's clearly playing around with classical-music conventions of some sort; I lack the vocabulary to explain it, but Elfman puts it to great use.
  
#8 -- Midnight Run:  Dog Star Omnibus is a big fan of this movie, and I am a big fan of this track on this album.  I love the movie, too, or did the last time I saw it.  The main titles music is jazzy, funky rapture.  It's very different from much of the rest of the material on Music For A Darkened Theatre, but it is linked to most of it if only in one way: by a high degree of excellence.  Very memorable, very fun; just wonderful, really.  (Sidebar: listening to this stuff is really making me want to buy a shitload of Danny Elfman music; I own only a few of these full scores.)
  
#9 -- Wisdom:  This 1986 film was the first movie directed by Emilio Estevez, and it's about something.  I assume.  This excerpt of the score is probably my least favorite track on the album, but it's fine.  And actually, hearing it now with fresh ears, I probably like it more than I've ever liked it before.  It's not much like the Elfman of Batman or Dick Tracy or even Midnight Run; this is fusion-style synth music, not unlike early Thomas Newman.  But it's got a lot of personality.
  
#10 -- Hot to Trot:  With harmonica and (I think) accordion and guitar, this is not dissimilar to Midnight Run.  In case you didn't know, it's from an absolutely awful Bobcat Goldthwait movie that for years was one of the titles that floated to my mind any time I tried to ascertain what the worst movie I'd ever seen was.  This music is fine; nothing special, but that proves only that even Peak Danny Elfman couldn't completely polish a turd.
  
#11 -- Big Top Pee Wee:  Tim Burton did not return for the second Pee Wee Herman movie; Danny Elfman did, and while this sequel's score is maybe not in the same league as the original, it's still awfully good.  Elfman leans into the circus setting, with calliope music and march-inspired stuff.  The middle section turns into wonderful (and oddly exciting) music that seems to be a hybrid of bluegrass and French accordion.  What the fuck.  I mean, I love it to freakin' death; but what the fuck.  The excerpt ends in a sweet love theme that might be too good to have wasted on a goddamn Pee Wee Herman movie.
  
#12 -- The Simpsons:  Terrific; ignore the fact that you've heard it a gajillion times and pretend it's the first.  Wonderful in every way.
  
#13 -- Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Jar:  In the anthology-series boom of the mid eighties, there was a single season revamp of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Elfman scored the episode "The Jar."  It's a wonderful little score, if this excerpt is anything to judge by.  It's creepy, but (apologies for sounding like a broken record) fun, and Elfman's pop-music background comes through even though this sounds nothing like pop music.  Can I prove that?  I cannot.  I also detect maybe just a wee bit of Bernard Herrmann influence (specifically Vertigo), which seems appropriate.
  
#14 -- Tales from the Crypt:  It's not as celebrated as the theme for The Simpsons, but this is every bit as good.  Actually, it's better; like, twice as good.  This is no knock against The Simpsons: the Tales From the Crypt theme is one of my favorite tracks on this album.  Elfman was obviously a bit of a master when it came to tv-show themes.  (See also The Flash.)
  
#15 -- Face Like A Frog:  Deeply weird, and deeply excellent.  It's music from a 1988 animated short film, and while I have no idea how or why Elfman ended up working on such an obscure project, I sure am glad he did.  Gnome-hop all over this mahfah.  (Here's a link to the entire film.)
  
#16 -- Forbidden Zone:  Elfman's brother Richard was the auteur behind this 1980 cult film, which I have never seen.  This is how Danny got into film scoring, though, so I will forever love it.  The score is represented here only by a brief love theme, which is fine but is my actual least favorite track on the album (forget what I said earlier about that being Wisdom).
  
#17 -- Scrooged:  Christmasy gnome hop kicks this one off.  It's the longest track on the album, and while it is at times very much in the vein of Batman and Darkman, it also has its own identity.  There's a lot of creepy childlike chanting, and some discordant string work, and some ominous passages which hint at the potential fate Bill Murray might be in for.  This reminds me: it's been far too long since I saw the movie.  I loved it when it came out, though nobody else seemed to; I think it's more or less considered ... well, if not a classic then an above-average Christmas comedy.  And it's here that this album draws to a close.
  
That, my friends, is a hell of an album.

It came out in October of 1990, only a few weeks before the release of Edward Scissorhands, his third film with Tim Burton.  His score for it is a masterpiece of melancholy fairy-tale music; by any standard I'd care to use, it's one of the best film scores of the nineties, and maybe of all time.

After that, he took a hiatus until 1992, and something seems to have happened to him during that break.  His first score back was for Article 99, a now-obscure medical drama starring Ray Liotta and Kiefer Sutherland.  Elfman's score is pretty good, if this clip on YouTube is any indication; but I'm honestly not sure that I'd peg that music as having come from Danny Elfman if I didn't know it was him.  I certainly wouldn't have in 1992; I was still looking for gnome-hop and melancholy-Christmas from the guy.

Whether there was any sort of precipitating cause for the shift in his style or whether it was instead merely the result of an artist's natural growth (and/or the availability of new types of movies he'd never worked on before), I think it's fair to say that from this point forward, Elfman's career would bounce back and forth between this sort of thing (Article 99, 1993's Sommersby, 1995's Dolores Claiborne) and the sort of thing for which he'd become famous.

For example, 1992 also witnessed his return for the second Dark Knight film, Batman Returns.  It's probably not AS great a score as the first, but it's pretty great; I don't know how one would enjoy Elfman in general and not be a big fan of this one.  The next year, he put forth what may well be his finest overall work: the songs and score for the Tim Burton-produced classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Man, that one has it all.

Dolores Claiborne, which came about a year and a half later (with only the gorgeous Black Beauty between them on Elfman's filmography), decidedly does not have it all.  It's a very restrained work in many ways; nary a gnome hops its way through this one, and there's no melancholy Christmas music (despite the fact that a very melancholy Christmas briefly factors into the story).  I can't say I was disappointed by the score when the movie came out; it would have had to have made an impression upon me in order for it to have disappointed me.

It made none.  I did not buy the score, despite being a big Elfman fan, a big King fan, a big Dolores Claiborne fan, and a big fan of film-music in general.

I did, however, buy this when it came out in December of 1996:




No, we're not going to cover it track by track.  It's a mix of tracks -- full cues, rather than edited-together mini-suites -- from both before and slightly after Dolores Claiborne.  It is spread across two discs, the first of which kicks off with about sixteen minutes' worth of Edward Scissorhands.

After that, we get twelve minutes of Dolores Claiborne.  About it, Elfman says this in the liner notes: "Sweet to heavy, heavy to sweet.  I got really deep into this one with its long dark passages.  Even with a hundred plus minutes of score, I never tired of it."

Between that and its prime placement on the set, it seems like Elfman was much more positive on the score circa 1996 than I myself was.

Elfman was right to be.  It's a very good score, and if I hadn't been so busy mentally expecting the man to only make music that sounded like Darkman, I might could have come to that conclusion then, rather than have it take twenty-plus years.  But it did take me that time, and so while I liked the five cues from the film as presented on this disc well enough, they didn't really float my boat in any way.  (By the way, just so they've been mentioned, the other represented works on Darkened Theatre Vol. 2 include To Die For, Black Beauty, Batman Returns, the excellent Mission: Impossible, Sommersby, Dead Presidents, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Freeway, and some odds and ends such as the awesome theme music for The Flash.)
 
Now, let's move on to a scene-by-scene examination of the music as it appears within the film itself. 




Cue #1: the film opens with twenty seconds of black screen, accompanied only by spare and haunted Danny Elfman music.  ("Main Titles" on the soundtrack album.)  This functions almost as a mini-overture, and is a sign of respect for Elfman's score on Hackford's part, I think.  The score continues throughout the opening scene, but at the moment we cut to Dolores in the kitchen, looking frantically for a "murder" weapon, there seems to be an edit away from the main titles cue to a new piece of music.  It is Herrmannesque, full of plucked strings and agitation.  It is not reminiscent of Herrmann's Psycho score in any obvious way; in fact, if anything it is reminiscent of Elfman's own To Die For.  And yet, I can't help but think of Psycho and of another killer named Bates.  The score continues until about the 0:03:45 mark, and plays over the transition from Vera's house to New York and into the office where Selena works.  The music serves to tell us that there is a relationship of some sort between the two scenes.




Cue #2: around 0:05:15, as Selena is looking at the fax from Detective Mackey, the score resumes.  We cut from this to the remainder of the opening credits, which are laid over shots of Selena arriving at Little Tall Island on the ferry.  The impact of the score here is to mirror Selena's state of mind: the music begins as she presumably begins contemplating returning to her home, and then continues as she actually does so.  The music -- which is the second half of "Main Titles," I believe -- continues until about 0:08:08.




Cue #3:  "There's a little more to this than what you may have read in the paper," Mackey tells Selena around 0:10:45.  A piano-led cue begins, played very softly; it's pretty well buried in the mix, which makes sense given the dialogue-heavy scene between Dolores and Selena that follows.  The music emphasizes the tentative nature of this reunion; it is hopeful, but very uncertain.  It runs until about 0:12:33, when we cut to outside the Town Hall.  Interestingly, the upcoming scene of the car ride to Dolores's house is mostly unscored; this lack of music perhaps indicates a growing chilliness on Selena's part.




Cue #4:  Notice I said mostly unscored a moment ago.  The music resumes around 0:14:50, when Selena says that she has to be in Phoenix soon, and Dolores says, "I didn't kill her."  The cue for this scene begins in a mode somewhat reminiscent of the previous cue (tentative), but as the conversation becomes more contentious, the music becomes more troubled.  As they pull up at the house, pizzicato strings become prominent, and there is a wonderful, though brief, piano flourish accenting the moment when Selena steps out of her car and properly lays eyes on her childhood home for the first time in over a decade.  The score fades out around 0:16:04, as Dolores begins assessing the damage to the window.

Cue #5:  The score-less bit only lasts until about 0:16:17, and music returns as Selena slams her rental car's trunk closed.  This plays through the first flashback scene, and is dominated by the main title theme.  A very Elfman-esque bit -- is that a wee bit of choir, or is it all strings? -- comes in at the moment when "young" Dolores turns to see "old" Selena.  This is haunting music for a haunted moment of the movie, and it's impossible for me not to think of Hackford's description of this as a house haunted by memory.  The score continues until about 0:17:55, playing through Selena's wide-eyed look around the interior of the house.  It and the music are both interrupted by Dolores coming inside.




Cue #6:  The score resumes around 0:19:24, as Dolores begins unpacking Selena's bags.  Piano leads the way, but an interesting string figure shows up as well.  When Dolores discovers the numerous bottles of pills, a sort of ... uh, sorry for the lack of vocabulary here ... a sort of descending phrase appears, perhaps representing Dolores's increasing worry for her estranged daughter.  The music continues, intensifying, through the moment of Dolores "seeing" a much younger version of herself playing hide and seek with Selena.  The cue ends as the broken downstairs window is boarded up, around 0:22:05.




Cue #7:  Around 0:22:40, when Dolores tells Selena to go upstairs and get freshened up, the music returns.  A restrained, but highly wistful, theme underlies this cue.  It briefly strengthens and takes over as a transitional moment of the red sky outside appears and bumps us forward in time to the dinnertable scene.  The cue fades out around 0:23:25 as Dolores watches Selena pour herself a big glass of whiskey.

Cue #8:  Around 0:25:05, after Selena has asked Dolores why she killed Joe, the music resumes.  It's the by-now-standard mix of piano and violin, and it runs through the appearance of the "ghost" of Joe, which gives way to an extended flashback sequence.  The score cuts out around 0:26:25.




Cue #9:  After several minutes of score-free material, Elfman strikes back with a vengeance at 0:29:11.  This comes at the precise moment Joe assaults Dolores with the piece of firewood.  The music strikes like a cobra, coming out of nowhere; Elfman's music (in my opinion) emphasizes Dolores's pain.  Percussion beats, strings play high and distressed notes, and as the scene continues the music becomes plaintive, but not entirely broken.  The cue ends around 0:31:26, as Dolores, in massive physical distress, drops a dirty cup.

Cue #10:  At about 0:32:10, when Dolores clocks Joe upside the head with the pitcher of cream, Elfman's music strikes right alongside her.  This is, obviously, similar in tone and instrumentation to the previous scene of violence.  This time, though, the emphasis seems to be a little different; the music is scoring Dolores's rage and determination, not her fear and anguish.  There's an interesting figure for chimes (?) that accompanies the innocent Selena hurrying down the stairs to see what's going on.  The cue ends around 0:33:55, when we transition back to the present, and see Selena sitting at the table in tears.

Cue #11:  At about 0:34:15, the music resumes as Dolores watches Selena angrily leave the room.  The piano is all over this brief cue, which fades out at about 0:34:55.




Cue #12:  Around 0:35:45, as Selena notices the rough condition her mother's hands are in, the score returns.  We go into another flashback, this one detailing Dolores going to work for Vera.  This is another brief cue, and it ends at about 0:36:40.

Cue #13:  A montage begins at about 0:37:27.  It shows Vera's exactitude when it comes to the cleanliness of her house, and Elfman's music accompanies it.  There is a hint of jauntiness in the presence of pizzicato strings and vaguely devilish violin music.  This is a fairly lengthy cue, running to about 0:41:20.  It covers the entirety of Dolores's story to Selena, and fades away only once we are back in the present.




Cue #14:  The following scene, in which Mackey obtains a hair sample from Dolores, is unscored.  "You're gonna tell me you don't remember him?" Dolores asks an exasperated Selena.  The score jumps back into the film at 0:44:36, as Selena looks at Mackey driving away and begins to, indeed, remember her former association with the detective.  The music's return is via a gentle but insistent piano flourish, but the music loses its insistence and becomes gradually more tentative as the flashback of Mackey questioning Selena progresses.  (I begin to wonder if the piano in the score primarily represents Selena and the strings/violin represents Dolores.  Probably not; it's a nice idea, but I don't think it bears actual scrutiny.)  At about 0:46:18, when Dolores objects to Mackey's pushiness, the score fades out, which suggests to me that her doing that alters Selena's emotional state.

Cue #15:  At about 0:46:48, as Mackey says, "Alright, let's split 'em up" in an attempt to get alone in a room with Selena, the score returns; this suggests that Selena's fragile state of mind has lost whatever temporary bulwark it gained when Dolores spoke up for her.  This cue extends slightly back into the transition to the present, but fades out at about 0:47:18.

Cue #16:  A brief cue accompanies Dolores smashing the window; it runs only about ten seconds, from around 0:47:44-54.  And I'm not 100% certain this is Danny Elfman music.  It's a simple (seemingly synthesized) bit of soundscape that is intended to emphasize the effect of slowing the film down to capture the broken shards as they fall.




Cue #17:  At about 0:48:40, when Selena is informed that the big story in Phoenix has been given to another reporter, some affectless strings appear, playing a sort of flat line.  This almost suggests to me that Selena, who is acting very upset by this development, is in fact not particularly upset at all; which arguably makes it a little more interesting that this is -- or is it? -- some of the least effective acting Jennifer Jason Leigh does.  We cut to her sitting down at the bar, and low strings signal the arrival of Mackey to talk to her.  The cue ends around 0:49:35.  You may have noticed that the number of cues of roughly a minute in length are beginning to stack up.  This is nothing unusual, but it's worth noting that when it comes time to put cues like that on a soundtrack album, oftentimes you kind of just don't.  This is fine; after all, a score's primary purpose is to bolster the emotional impact of the film, not to make for a good solo listening experience.  But in case you're ever wondering why so many cues are omitted from soundtrack albums, issues like this are a big part of the reason why.

Cue #18:  At about 0:50:54, Mackey says, "I underestimated your mother; won't happen again," and Elfman brings in an ominous phrase that has some low piano notes backing it up to give it some menace.  Frantic strings accompany a transition back to Dolores's home, and the cue fades out around 0:51:45; so there goes another one-minuter.




Cue #19:  At about 0:53:23, as the local hoodlums in the truck are pulling away and hollering insults at Dolores, the music comes back in.  It represents Selena's increasingly fragile state of mind, and follows through into Dolores seeing her take some pills.  We flash back briefly to a miserable scene of Selena hurting herself at Christmas, and then back to the present, where Selena talks about having had a nervous breakdown and then tries to drive away angrily.  She runs the car into a depression in the yard, though, and is stranded.  The score trails off at about the 0:57:00 mark, as we cut to the next day and the visit to Vera's house.

Cue #20:  Score resumes around 0:57:38 as Dolores sees all the evidence bags inside Vera's home.  The music fades away around 0:58:35 as we cut to Mackey logging some cash he has found.

Cue #21:  Around 0:59:12, Mackey makes a crack about Jean Harris almost having gotten away with murder.  Elfman's music comes in following this jape, and fades out again at 0:59:56, when Dolores goes to pick up the bedpan.




Cue #22:  At about 1:01:20, when Mackey informs Dolores of Vera's will, the score resumes.  It's rather bland Thomas Newman-esque plinkety-plinkety stuff, and this is one of the few bits where I feel Elfman missed the mark.  What is this music conveying?  It's honestly just there, and it feels to me as if the revelation about Dolores being Vera's beneficiary deserved something more, or perhaps might have been better served by being unscored.  Anyways, Elfman gets his mojo back pretty quickly: as Dolores, aghast at this development, begins striding off, the score turns dark and rumbling, emphasizing her anger at Vera for doing such a thing.  As Dolores begins reconciling herself to this new reality, the music's edge begins to slip away, becoming more placid again.  The cue ends at about 1:04:26, as Vera (in a flashback) rings the bell to summon Dolores.

Cue #23:  From about 1:07:50 to 1:08:38, a source-music version of "Happy Days Are Here Again" plays from Vera's china pig.  I have no idea if Elfman was involved with this in any way, so we're not counting this officially.  The end of this source music actually overlaps a new Elfman cue that plays over Vera's suicidal dash for the staircase.  It's got plucked strings and dark strings and some violent stings, and is probably one of the most nakedly Elfman-esque cues of the score, in terms of what contemporary audiences might have thought of it.  The cue stretches through the rest of the scene, and drastically shifts moods when we get a reprise of Dolores searching the kitchen for something to kill Vera with.  Cut back to the present, as Selena tells Dolores to worry less about whether she believes her and more about whether the world will.  The cue ends at around 1:12:46, as Dolores grabs the bottle of whiskey and goes to pour herself a glassful.




Cue #24:  Beginning at 1:14:10 as Dolores starts talking about the abuse Selena has repressed, the music turns dark when there is a transition into the past.  It lightens again somewhat as the younger versions of Dolores and Selena begin their ferry ride.  The cue fades out at about 1:17:10.

Cue #25:  Elfman brings in a compelling phrase beginning at about 1:18:27, when Dolores notices that Selena is wearing a piece of jewelry Joe has given her.  The music almost turns into action scoring for a bit as Dolores visits the mainland and the bank.  The cue ends at about 1:19:28.




Cue #26:  At 1:21:15, as Mr. Pease reflects on Dolores accusing him of treating her differently than he would have treated Joe, the score returns.  It continues through that scene, and then when there is a transition to Dolores being dour and breaking down in front of Vera, the cue shifts into what might well be another cue altogether.  I think it's a transition within a single cue, but I could be wrong.  The new bit is a sort of reprise of the music that scored Vera's exactitude earlier.  The cue fades away at about 1:23:05, when Dolores begins weeping.




Cue #27:  The score sits out the next couple of scenes, and it's kind of interesting that it does.  Dolores telling Vera about Joe's abuse of Selena, and then the flashback-within-a-flashback of Selena denying it, AND the present-day scene of Selena continuing deny it; all unscored.  Elfman's music has primarily been employed to represent the emotional state(s) of Dolores and Selena, and so it's a little surprising for these highly emotional scenes to lack musical accompaniment.  Perhaps Hackford and/or Elfman thought it was best to leave the music out so as to suggest that these moments are so wretched that even music can't convey it.  Elfman comes back in at 1:25:40, after Dolores pleads with Selena to believe her and her daughter refuses.  The cue continues as we flash back to Dolores chasing Selena, and the music foreshadows the upcoming eclipse scene a bit as she finds the old well.  We continue through Selena leaving the house to go back to her job, and listening to the recorded message her mother has left for her.  The cue ends abruptly around 1:31:00 as we jump backwards in time and Vera asks Dolores how far Joe has gone.

Cue #28:  At 1:32:55, when Vera tells Dolores that husbands die every day, Elfman rejoins the fray with a discordant violin passage that turns into determined strings representing, I presume, Dolores beginning to consider murdering Joe.  This ends at about 1:33:26, and is overlapped by some source music from Vera's party.  This, I believe, is called "Night in the Afternoon," which the credits, uh, credit as having been written by someone with the unlikely name of Hendrik Meurkens.  Meurkens is, evidently, a real person, however; a vibraphonist who wrote this piece for the film, and even has a cameo in the movie:




Cue #29:  At 1:34:39, with "Night in the Afternoon" still playing in the background, Elfman returns as Vera tells Dolores she is sending her home.  Rewatching this scene, it seems fairly definitive that Vera knows Dolores is planning to kill Joe, and that Dolores knows she knows it.  I still wish the film had done a better job of clarifying how these lines of understanding are working, though.  Anyways, that ain't Danny Elfman's problem; except, well yeah, I guess it kind of is, isn't it?  Initially, he scores the scene tenderly, almost as if to express a sort of bond between these two women; he soon intensifies the music, however, as Vera's own demeanor becomes suddenly intense.  At some point, "Night in the Afternoon" had faded out of the mix, but about a minute into the cue, as the intensity of Vera's mood and Elfman's music recedes, the mix dials Meurkens back in in the background, while still keeping Elfman present as well.  It's an interesting sound-mix moment; cool stuff.  Elfman takes over solo as the scene shifts to the St. George house and, somewhere around 1:36:15, the cue fades away beneath the sound of Joe's failing engine.

Cue #30:  At 1:37:18, Elfman comes back as Joe takes the bait and grabs the bottle of whiskey from Dolores.  The music continues, gradually becoming more ominous as the eclipse gets closer.  This cue continues for quite a bit, and is handily the score's standout piece.  I should probably have more to say about it, but for the moment, I do not.  The bit when the eclipse reaches its fullness (right after Joe's final descent) is wonderful, and Elfman brings in just a teensy-tiny bit of Edward Scissorhands-esque choral music.  The cue continues back into the present day, where we hear the end of Dolores's recorded message to Selena as she rides the ferry so as to return to civilization.  It ends at about 1:48:01, and whatever you think of all the minute-long cues strewn throughout the score, this one has clocked in at an impressive near-eleven minutes.

Cue #31:  Elfman doesn't stay gone for long; at about 1:48:17, as Selena sees a "ghost" of her father, the score comes back again.  This cue reminds me just a bit of some of the more ominous passages from John Williams' Close Encounters of the Third Kind score, but only sort of at the edges; understand that in no way am I accusing Elfman of aping Williams.  I'm almost surprised that the film's lone scene of sexual abuse was scored at all; I wonder if perhaps the filmmakers felt that without music, the scene was just too real.  This is another of the score's standout cues, and it continues as Selena's reminiscence ends, running through the bizarre moment at the mirror, as well.  The music in that moment shifts into some of the most Elfmanesque sounds of the entire score.  It begins fading away, briefly crossing over into the inquest scene before cutting all the way out around 1:52:07.  I could be wrong, but I don't believe this cue is on the soundtrack album; we'll find out for sure in a bit, but if not, that's a shame.

Cue #32:  We next go seven-plus minutes without score; that's the bulk of the inquest scene, and it's the longest stretch of unscored material in the film.  Theoretically, this ought to mean everyone was saving up to deliver a musical wallop in the film's waning moments.  Instead, when Elfman comes back in at around 1:59:25, it's in very restrained mode, and doesn't sound particularly different than the rest of the score.  He cuts back in after Mackey admits that he was unable to get a prior conviction of Dolores, which seemingly marks a bit of a turning point in the inquest.  I have to ask: why turn on this moment?  What are the emotional advantages of doing that?  I see them as being fairly negligible.  My guess is that this was a decision made by director Taylor Hackford, but it's also possible Elfman could have determined the spotting.  Either way, I think it was a misstep to stick with the chilly emotional palette the music has possessed for much of its runtime, especially when the present-day Selena is involved.  Does it ruin the movie?  No.  Does it keep it grounded when I think it ought perhaps to have considered trying to take flight?  I'd argue yes.  The score does take flight a wee bit as Dolores and Selena look at each other from shore to ferry  Regardless, this cue carries us through to the end of the film.  Probably the end credits should be counted as their own cue, but since they begin seamlessly, I'm only counting this all as one big chunk of score, which runs a bit more than twelve minutes.  It's good stuff, but still a bit more restrained than the material might have called for.

*****

Alrighty, then; we've run through the entire movie, and what's the verdict of the score?

I think it's mostly a very good score indeed.  That said, I do think the chilliness and the remove at which Elfman keeps us ends up doing the movie no favors.  So in some ways, I'm surprising myself by coming to the conclusion that the score might well be said to be harmful to the film in some ways.

In order to know better how to feel about this, I think I'd probably want to hear either Elfman or Hackford speak at length about their combined approach to the scoring process.  Was it Hackford's intent to have the bulk of the score be emotionally distant?  Or was it Elfman's idea to do that?  If it was Elfman's, then that could have been a mistake, perhaps one exacerbated by a desire to carve out new film-scoring paths for himself by reaching into prestige work that was less showy than, say, Dick Tracy.  But it may just as possibly have been Hackford directing Elfman in that direction, and if so, what was the reason?  This is a thing I do not entirely understand, and lacking that understanding, I'm just not sure I know how to feel about the aspects of the score (and, indeed, the movie) that don't quite fully work for me.

That said, as with the movie itself, I think the score mostly works, and that it works big-big in a few places.

So as to say we have examined all possible corners of this particular room, let's shift our focus now to a track by track look at the soundtrack album from Varèse Sarabande.
 
  


 
 
(1)  "Main Titles" (2:45) -- One thing I'd say about this Main Title theme is that it is distinct from most other main themes Elfman had written at the time by virtue of being somewhat tuneless.  I lack the musical vocabulary to say much about it beyond that.  It's good; it's functional; I'm not sure it is memorable in any way, though.  I can remember hearing it on Music For A Darkened Theatre Vol. 2 and being disappointed by it.  I had seen the movie but did not buy the soundtrack, so when I bought this second Elfman compilation I was hoping the Dolores Claiborne music would surprise me somehow and be more tuneful than I'd remembered, but no.  And from a 1995-Elfman-fan perspective, that disappointment makes sense.
 
(2)  "Vera's World" (3:43) -- Unless I am mistaken, this is primarily the music that plays during the scene where Dolores verbally relates what it was like to work for Vera.  It can be hard to say these things with certainty if all of you've got is the movie to go on.  That sounds silly, I know, but bearing in mind how often a film's sound mix can obscure portions of a cue, and how often alternate recordings are used for the soundtrack albums, it's not that silly.  Welcome to the world of film music! 
 
(3)  "Flashback" (1:53) -- I believe this is the music for when Dolores is on the porch and imagines she is seeing the search party and young Selena in the yard.  It is a more ... classical sound (for lack of a better phrase) than we were used to from Elfman in those days.  I think what I mean by that is that the orchestra is more spare than usual: we're getting strings, and piano, and ... whuzzat, harp?  Celesta of some kind?  Not much in the way of heavier instruments; it's not quite ethereal music, but it does sort of exist in the same thematic realm as the notion that this is a ghost story in which the ghosts are memory.
 
(4)  "Getting Even" (1:49) -- This is the music from Dolores's attack on Joe with the pitcher of cream; the music for when Joe attacks Dolores is not on the album, which seems a pity.
 
(5)  "Ferry Ride" (0:55) -- Which ferry ride IS it?!?  Pretty sure this is the music from the moment in which Selena sees the back of her own head in the mirror.  [Edit: no, in fact, I think this is from when Dolores finds that Selena is wearing the piece of jewelry Joe gave her.]
 
(6)  "Sad Room" (0:53) -- This music is from the scene in which Dolores looks around the room and "sees the ghosts" of herself and an elderly Vera.  A brief cue, but, as the previous one also shows, a brief cue can be impactful.
 
(7)  "Eclipse" (7:15) -- Referring back to my notes on the score as presented in the film, I notice that this track is something like three minutes shorter than the cue as it exists in the movie.  What parts of it are missing?  I do not immediately know.  I could probably figure it out by playing the movie and comparing it to the album, but I don't have that level of devotion to this project.  Plus, the album version could be precisely that: a version edited (or even recorded) expressly for the album.
 
(8)  "Finale" (5:35) -- This is the music for the inquest and the final quasi-reconciliation between mother and daughter.  Listening to it now, on its own, I kind of hear the reconciliation trying to happen; but Elfman seems to be (as is the case with most of the score) keeping us purposefully at arm's-length.  Listening to the story as the score itself is telling it, I believe Elfman's assertion is that reconciliation is not possible for Selena and Dolores.  There is simply too much negative history there; too much water under the bridge.  But at about 4:43, there is a swell that hints at it maybe not being completely out of reach.  In the end, though, that's what most of this score is: hints and unfulfilled possibilities.
 
(9)  "End Credits" (5:16) -- This track begins with choral work that would be like a breath of fresh air to the Elfman fan in 1995.  It's the closest the score gets to providing a proper melody, and even here it's more of a hint than anything else.  We then segue into frantic music that (I think) is a reprise of the eclipse material.  We get just a hint of Christmasy gnome-hop, too!
 
Oh, and before I forget it, the tracks that are also included on Music For A Darkened Theatre Vol. 2 are: "Main Titles," "Vera's World," "Flashback," "Sad Room," and "End Titles."
 
To sum up my thoughts on the soundtrack album, I'd say this: boy, it sure is short.  Scarcely half an hour.  Remember, I quoted Elfman earlier as saying the score was about a hundred minutes, so this album covers less than a third of it.  You might fairly wonder whether that missing seventy minutes would be worth hearing; after all, this is distant and chilly music, not exactly the sort of thing one wishes to listen to when driving or jogging or whatever.
 
But while I've sounded negative about the album, I want to be clear that I do enjoy it.  Whether you do is another issue altogether, but I'd definitely like to hear those other seventy minutes.
 
And guess what?  I kind of can, at least some of them.
 
At some point, Elfman himself issues a promotional CD-R called the Dolores Claiborne "Composer's Personal Edition," which contained nearly seventy minutes' worth of the score in all; so not quite the entire thing, but well over twice what the Varèse Sarabande edition contained.
 
Here's what it looks like:
 
 

 
 
Or so the internet claims, at least.  I'm not sure that's actually the CD-R at all; I don't believe this IS the "complete motion picture score," for example, so my guess is this is actually just a fan-created mockup, and that Elfman's promotional disc might not have had artwork.
 
In any case, I, uh, "found" this copy online at some point years ago, so why not let's have a look at it, as well?
 
(1)  "Main Titles" (3:03) -- Cover says 2:45.  My media player, which ought to know, since it's playing the thing, says 3:03.  Who you gonna trust?
 
(2)  "Introduction" (3:52) -- This is the music that runs from the opening of the film through the prologue to Selena's introduction.  It plays pretty well when presented in isolation like this, and why this was left off the original album is a head-scratcher.
 
(3)  "Vera's World" (4:16) -- Seemingly a slightly expanded version of the album track.
 
(4)  "1st Flashback" (2:08) -- Ditto.
 
(5)  "Better Times" (2:55) -- Unless I am mistaken, this is the music for the scene in which Dolores "sees" herself playing hide and seek with a young Selena.  One of the better cues of the score, I might say.
 
(6)  "Ouch!!" (2:08) -- Ah, here it is: the music that score Joe's attack with the firewood.  This track ends quite abruptly, seemingly because it is more or less concluded by:
 
(7)  "Getting Even" (2:04) -- Basically the same as the album version, so far as I can tell.
 
(8)  "All Fucked Up" (3:38) -- Is this the music for the scene in which they talk about Selena having had "a bad patch" (i.e., a nervous breakdown)?  I think so, but I'm not immediately certain.  Pretty good, though.
 
(9)  "Nag, Nag, Nag" (1:15) -- I don't know what scene this comes from; it's mostly pizzicato strings with a bit of violin, but without scanning my way back through the movie, I just don't know.  I like the cue, though.
 
(10)  "The Will" (3:35) -- This begins with the boring plinkety-plinkety Thomas Newman-esque music I complained about during the revelation-of-the-will scene.  I like it even less here than I do in the film.  Hey, was this the moment when film scores stopped being primarily melodic and started being a bit toneless?  Do we have Thomas Newman to blame for that?  Probably not.  The second part of this cue is better, though, as Dolores runs away from this new information.
 
(11)  "Vera's Death" (3:25) -- I hear a bit of the theme that is sung by choir during the end credits here, which is interesting.  This cue comes from the mid-movie flashback to Vera's death, and is a standout.
 
(12)  "The Ferry Ride" (1:16) -- A slightly expanded (and slightly retitled) version of the album track.
 
(13)  "The Old Well" (5:11) -- Dolores discovers the old well while chasing Selena.  I think?  Pretty sure that's what this cue represents.  It's not one of the more exciting cues in the score, nor one of the more emotional.  It's okay, but in this case, I can certainly see why it was left off the soundtrack album.
 
(14)  " 'They Die' " (2:28) -- They do; they die every day.  I assume this cue comes from the scene in which Vera hints to Dolores that she could just, y'know, kill Joe.
 
(15)  "Bad Dad!" (4:16) -- Okay, well, wait a minute, now.  THIS is clearly the vaguely Close Encounters-sounding music from Selena's remembrance of the ferry ride, so what is that music from the track titled "The Ferry Ride"?  Is that from when Dolores finds that Selena is wearing the piece of jewelry Joe has given her?  Seems like a strong possibility.  (Apologies for the slapdash nature of all of this.  Not an expert in this stuff, sadly!)
 
(16)  "The Eclipse" (10:10) -- Alrighty, then!  This is seemingly the full cue, rather than the seven-minute abbreviation that was included on the soundtrack album.
 
(17)  "The Inquest/Finale" (6:50) -- Whoever ripped the CD that my version of this was downloaded from did so at a really poor bitrate, or something like that; there are weird sound issues on some of the tracks of the type that I associate with shitty rips.  But hey, it's better than nothing, so I am not complaining; I merely note it for posterity. 
 
(18)  "End Credits" (5:15) -- Exactly the same as the album version, so far as I can tell.
 
So, final thoughts on this expanded promotional version: vastly better than the abbreviated soundtrack album.  One can hope that one of the specialty soundtrack labels will eventually do a two-disc version of the full score, and it'll be irrelevant at that time.  I can't imagine there's a huge demand for the full 100-minute score to Dolores Claiborne, even if it WAS scored by Danny Elfman; so it might be necessary to prepare for the eventuality of it never happening.
 
*****
 
And with that, a (rather lacklustre, if I do say so myself) contemplation of the score to Dolores Claiborne comes to an end.  It's good work; it matches the movie for which it is an element.
 
Next up for The Truth Inside The Lie: we will conclude our revisit of Gerald's Game and Dolores Claiborne with a deep-dive into the Mike Flanagan film based on the former. 
 
There is some other stuff I want to get to this summer, as well; for example, the long-threatened review of the movie version of The Dark Tower.  I also never got around to reading Lee Gambin's book about the making of the movie Cujo, so I'd like to do that and review it.  So many things, so little time.
 
And time is very much on my mind these days.  You may remember that last year, I posted a brief thing linking to a Go Fund Me page benefiting my friend (and friend of the blog) Trey Sterling in his battle with cancer.  Well, I'm sad to say that that battle has been lost.  Trey has not yet died, but he is in a hospice on his deathbed, and the end may have already come by the time you read this.  Trey had a lot of plans for his own blog, which is a silly thing to say given that Trey had a lot of plans for life in general.  Not sure why I phrased it that way, except that ... well, this thing I do, it's awfully important to me.  And it was awfully important to Trey as well, moreso in theory than in practice, but that doesn't make it any less meaningful; and that meaning shall never, now, be fulfilled.
 
Whose is?
 
You can expect more thoughts along those lines before summer's end, I'd imagine.  It might not seem immediately like a fitting topic for a blog that is (mostly) about Stephen King, but since Trey and I bonded initially as a result of the Dark Tower books as much as anything else, I think it's well within the scope of what The Truth Inside The Lie is.
 
So that's on the way, but it will probably be a while before I feel like going there.  Gerald's Game first, then, and maybe a hearty excoriation of that Elba/McConaughey movie, too.
 
See you then!

12 comments:

  1. For the benefit of any of you who were wondering, Trey did indeed pass away this afternoon. Good dude; sorry he ever got sick in the first place, but glad his suffering is finished.

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  2. (1) Godspeed, Trey - I "look forward" to crying my way through the post-to-come. Tough to segue out of this one and I lack the energy to even try, so let's just pretend there's a good modulating bridge from this point into:

    (2) I was so jazzed from hearing that snippet from PEE WEE'S that I had to show Evelyn and Lauren the Breakfast Machine scene because they kept asking me what I was singing. Or humming, or whatever. Which I did - had to restrain myself from showing them the whole movie, although they got a huge kick out of the breakfast machine scene. I'm a big fan of Edvard Grieg and whenever I hear this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ6LBvOHX0c) I wonder if it's what inspired Elfman with that song. Elfman's melodies/structure sound like an inversion/ development of Grieg's piece. This is by no means a rare (or uncelebrated) thing in the orchestral music world.

    (3) Re: Elfman's BATMAN "It's a powerfully atmospheric piece that, in retrospect, is quite possibly the single most successful thing in the entire movie." Absolutely. I'm glad it became the theme for the Animated Series so it has some better Batman to hang its hat on.

    (4) That BEETLEJUICE soundtrack was on the top-25 version of my That Ten Albums Thing blog. I listened to that cassette all the time. Beyond the fun Bellafonte tunes and the awesome-awesome-awesome main titles theme, there are so many other wonderful bits of music throughout. Still one of my faves - great, great soundtrack.

    (5) Couldn't agree more on both the SIMPSONS theme and the TALES FROM THE CRYPT theme; both are just perfection-in-arrangement and such exciting, wonderful music.

    (6) FORBIDDEN ZONE is a damn weird film. Definitely don't watch that one while you're tripping on LSD. (Uhh, not that I'd know or anything! But it's good advice. Trust me.) I've got "Pico and Sepulveda" on a couple of mixes/ playlists, though.

    (7) Excellent and comprehensive as always breakdown on how the soundtrack complements the film. I can't wait to do a rewatch of DOLORES soon. (And, really, how DO you score a sexual abuse scene? That has got to be damn tricky.)

    (8) Quite like that "End Credits" music.

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    Replies
    1. (1) It's not much, however, here to pay respects are misters Crosby, Stills...and Gilmour:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv_RRg51bJI

      (2) "I defy you not to have the nine-note central theme stuck in your mind when you're finished listening to it".

      It's weird, cause that's one of the Elfman scores that still sticks easily in the mind, and I can only recall the tune coming down to just eight riffs, instead of nine. Technically, it comes closer to twelve if you include the closing notes to the soundtrack. It happens right at the close at the Drive-In.

      I could be wrong of course.

      (3) The more I think about it, the more the Burton/89 version of the Dark Knight seems like just the better film from all the others. It just seems more fun and knows when not to take itself to seriously.

      (4) I think the "Beetlejuice" theme is a composition that seems to have grown beyond the bounds of its origins. I can't remember where, yet I'll swear I've heard it sampled in commercials, and even other films.

      (7) I could remember Elfman's t=music for Selena arriving on the island. However, nothing much else stands out in my mind. Going back to listen to the soundtrack in isolation, I have to say it's more Elfman in a minor key, rather than his A-list game.

      Still, the doesn't detract from either the film or Elfman's other work.

      (9). The "Nightmare before Christmas" is another soundtrack that seems to have outgrown its own film. Here's an example of the score being utilized for another property:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ayULcBzbkM

      ChrisC.

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    2. @ McMolo:

      (1) It's been a weird day. Every now and then I'll remember and I'll be all like, "Wait, so there's REALLY no more Trey Sterling?!? For real?" And yeah, unfortunately for real.

      (2) I don't think I've heard that Grieg piece before, but it surely does sound like the sort of thing that Elfman might have used as a model. Or -- and here's part of the fascination of film music -- it might have been Tim Burton or his editor who used that piece on a temp track, thereby accidentally setting Elfman on the path he'd tread for the next five years or so (at least). Fascinating stuff!

      "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" is an insane masterpiece of a movie. Just one quotable/memorable bit after another. (I'm not sure where I'd begin in trying to compile a list of my ten favorites things in that movie; that'd be a challenge.) Glad the girls enjoyed the bit you showed them!

      (3) I really need to watch the animated series one of these days. Basically all I've seen of it is the movie "Mask of the Phantasm" (which is excellent).

      (4) I mean, if you wanted to do a Ten Favorite Film Scores post, I know at least one dude who'd read that keenly...

      "Beetlejuice" is certainly a highly honorable choice for such a list.

      (5) I like thinking about stuff like this. Some producer hired Elfman to do those, right? So if you're that producer, imagine what it must be like when you get the call from Elfman saying the theme is ready, come on down to the studio and hear it, and then you do and you sit down and THAT shit plays. Do you freak out with glee? Do you sit in stunned silence? Are you even capable of recognizing right off the bat just HOW good it is? Very cool to think about that.

      (6) I just watched this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_YPFvC-C_E) and just don't know what to think. Seems like the kind of movie I ought to see at some point; I have to admit, the only thing I know even of the music is that Love Theme on the "Darkened Theatre" album.

      (7) I always feel like I'm just bullshitting my way through writing any kind of musical analysis. There's a reason for that: I 100% AM bullshitting. But I enjoy doing it, and typically the process results in one or two things that seem like genuine revelations, if only to me.

      (8) Yep, it's a winner.

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    3. @ Chris:

      (1) I know that song, but I've never heard that performance. Top notch! And I appreciate the sentiment.

      (2) Derp...! You're right, it's definitely eight. See? This is why I cannot be trusted when trying to talk about music in any technical sense.

      (3) I go back and forth on that movie. I loved it when it came out (and will always love remembering the furor over it that summer), but every now and then I watch and it and think it's crap. I'd love to know what kids who have grown up on the modern DC (and Marvel) movies think of it when they watch it (IF they watch it).

      (4) I'm pretty sure you're right, but I've got no specific info on it.

      (7) I'd love to read/hear a good interview with Elfman about this score. It just feels to me like he was in the midst of a self-conscious attempt to break new stylistic ground for himself, and if so, I'd love to hear him speak to how he feels he succeeded (or not) with this score. Based on his brief remarks in "Darkened Theatre 2," it seems like he thought it succeeded. I don't disagree, but I feel like I lack some crucial bit of context that would put my opinion of it over the top somehow.

      (9) I only saw it the once, but I remember kind of liking "Casper." It ain't no "Nightmare Before christmas," but few films are.

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    4. (3) It genuinely saddens me that there would be anyone out there who thinks the '89 BATMAN is a) fun, or b) anything akin to a reasonable take on Batman!! I shall stop before I go too far. But I have strong feelings on the subject. I tried to hate-watch the original 4 BATMAN movies for the blog, but after making an attempt at the 1st Burton one it just seemed like a bad use of my time. I'd love to do it, though, and blow off decades worth of steam.

      Not that I didn't love it in 1989, of course.

      I also don't care to think about what the kids who grew up on modern Batman/DC/Marvel think of it, come to think of it. Unless their love of that led them to the old stuff, mirroring my own journey. If it did not (and I am amazed at the number of comics fans who have no interest or knowledge of comics before their own time) they remind me of Nu-Metal fans or something: how the hell can I take you seriously if you don't ahve any Iron Maiden, FFS!

      Old Man Moments, pt. ongoing.

      Both the Batman Animated Series and the Superman Animated Series are part of my "Saturday Morning Cartoons" indoctrination with the girls. I don't push it, just bring it up/ put it on/ have made it available each and every Saturday. (As well as Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, and even the old JLA and Batman cartoons I have on disc, but they have to be in the mood for those.)

      I'll happily switch this over to Looney Toons when they're ready. Outside of a couple of shorts, they've yet to really embrace Bugs and the gang.

      Anyway! Bruce Timm rocks. Altho I tried but was not into his Green Lantern animated series.

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    5. Harsh words for Batman '89! I can see where you're coming from; I'm not enough of a Batman expert to summon any real animosity toward it myself, but I'm not enough of a fan that it bugs me for someone else to do it.

      "Old Man Moments, pt. ongoing." -- lol

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    6. My apologies, Chris! re: '89 Batman.

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    7. Bryan M,

      What was it Dean Martin said?

      "To each his own".

      Also something interesting. For years now, I've gone through life believing it was Elfman who wrote the score for the film version of the board game "Clue" (yes kids, this was a thing even before Robin and Williams and Jack Black).

      It turns out however it was by someone else. Bit of a come down, as it sounds so much like something Elfman would compose. On the place side, I think I placed that sound I heard when I imagine the kind of opening titles a "Regulators" adaptation would have.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVQPX_KWoy4

      Seriously, tell me you don't hear Elfman with that sound.

      ChrisC.

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    8. Oh, I 100% hear it. That score was composed by John Morris, who did a lot of Mel Brooks's films. I've never seen "Clue" nor heard the score apart from this snippet, but it sounds cool!

      "The Regulators" directed by Sam Raimi with a score by Danny Elfman. MAKE IT HAPPEN.

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  3. You should probably update your best to worst movies list. Since you last updated it, we've had 1922, It, Gerald's Game and the Idris Elba one that you don't like to mention.

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    1. I will likely do that very thing this fall.

      Spoiler alert: three of those are going to do very well. The other, not so much.

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