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Anyone running a sweepstake on how long into the 100% Official Movie Wave Film Music Review of 2013 it would be before I mentioned Man of Steel now knows the result.  2013 was a bit of an odd year in that it featured what was quite possibly a new low-point in Hollywood film music (those running a sweepstake on how many of the first two sentences would feature references to Man of Steel now know the result) but also what felt like considerably more high-quality new music than we’ve had in any other year for quite a while.

Much of the very best of it came, as has been the case quite frequently in recent years, from away from Hollywood blockbusters, but I have to say we didn’t fare too badly in those either this year.  Some were awful (those running a sweepstake… perhaps that joke’s run its course) but it was great that the Marvel series really took off from a musical perspective this year thanks to Brian Tyler; Michael Giacchino was back on board the Enterprise; Randy Newman did what he always does for Pixar one more time; and a new voice emerged on the year’s most surprising smash hit.

Will it make my list of favourite scores?  Scroll down to find out...

Will it make my list of favourites?

Away from Hollywood movies, there was great work done overseas – Ennio Morricone had three brand new scores released and they were all really good; there was sad news from Poland with the death of the great Wojciech Kilar but excitement at the emergence of Bartosz Chajdecki; in America, some smaller movies received some great music from the likes of Scott Glasgow, Conrad Pope, Laurent Eyquem and Bear McCreary; and in the world of video games, it was undoubtedly the year of Olivier Derivière.

So… my favourite scores of the year…

1: Remember Me – Olivier Derivière

For the second year in a row, my favourite new music of the year came from a video game.  Remember Me is everything a great modern action score can be (but rarely is, in movies) – creative, imaginative, exhilarating.  It’s not everybody’s cup of tea – I thought the electronic manipulation of the orchestra was done tremendously well, and most importantly it was done in the most musical of ways – but I understand others may be turned off by it.  But really, there’s nothing here I don’t like; if it was on vinyl I’d have worn it out by now.  And Deriviere also wrote another great score for a video game (the Assassin’s Creed IV spinoff Freedom Cry).

2: Stalingrad – Angelo Badalamenti

Badalamenti’s most famous works are generally his quirkier scores which fit so well into the films of David Lynch, but he’s shown many times over the years that he really knows his way around an orchestra.  This may be the finest music I’ve ever heard come from him – stirring and emotional, at times breathlessly exciting, stunningly constructed.  I haven’t seen the film but on album at least, Stalingrad is something special.  At the time of writing the album is about to be released by MovieScore Media and Kronos Records and if there’s any justice, it will be a massive success for them.

3: Gravity – Steven Price

Talk about making an entrance.  This wasn’t Price’s first score but it will have been the first time most people (including me) have seen his name.  Music is so important to the film and the composer dealt with that challenge so well, writing something that isn’t just the film’s score, at times it’s its entire aural world; and it translates remarkably well to album.  This is music that goes on a great journey and always seems to have a purpose and if he can find the right projects and the right people to work with, Steven Price could become a real force.

4: The Best Offer – Ennio Morricone

Giuseppe Tornatore’s latest film has passed by almost unnoticed, it seems, and the same can be said of its score, which was released right at the start of 2013 but has been barely mentioned by anyone other than me.  Morricone is a very old man and so it is no surprise that much of his recent music (like that of John Williams) has been somewhat “comfortable”; this score showed that while the bones may be old, the mind is still full of life, with some remarkably creative and at times different writing from a composer who’s pretty much done it all.

5: Africa – Sarah Class

The fact that Sarah Class is not George Fenton made me instantly suspicious of her music for the BBC’s wildlife documentary Africa.  Why would you hire someone other than George Fenton?  Well, Class provided the answer with her beautiful score – it may not quite be Planet Earth or the others, but on its own term it’s still so impressive, painted on such a broad canvas, full of such grandeur and beauty and charm.  A really nice surprise and a really impressive album.

6: Monsters University – Randy Newman

I don’t think Randy Newman has been given nearly the credit he deserves for the remarkable work he has done over the years for Pixar.  Is there another body of work in all of film music history which is full of such uncynical, never-ending joy?  The fact that Newman delivers it with music of such extraordinary orchestral prowess makes it all the more remarkable.  He’s 70 now and I wonder whether we’ll hear a new film score from him again; even if not, then his body of work will go down as one which makes up for in quality what it lacks in quantity.

7: The Book Thief – John Williams

This is most certainly not an “appearance by default” score just because it’s written by John Williams.  It’s actually really good – as technically-accomplished as always, but full of emotion and simply oozing class.  It was such a nice surprise to see him scoring a film not directed by Steven Spielberg – I say that not because there’s anything wrong with his scores for Steven Spielberg, but simply because there wasn’t a Spielberg film available to score during the year!  I do hope there’s still plenty of new music to hear from the great man in the coming years.

8: Rush – Hans Zimmer

About 20% of the world’s population contacted me during the year to tell me how stupid I am for blindly hating everything that Hans Zimmer does even though it’s all awesome.  These people have evidently missed the large number of extremely positive reviews I’ve given to the man who has undoubtedly become the highest-profile and most influential film composer of his generation; and this year he excelled with Rush, a brilliant score for its film which made an adrenaline-filled thrill ride of an album.

9: Riddle – Scott Glasgow

I’d never even heard of the film when I received the soundtrack album to review but quickly found myself seriously impressed by the music, which has a classical elegance to it which is rare indeed in modern American film music.  It’s just really, really impressive music from a composer who has consistently demonstrated a great talent; I would hope it is only a matter of time before that talent is discovered by filmmakers who might be able to give him projects which would raise his profile to the level it deserves to be.

10: Baczynski – Bartosz Chajdecki

The elegance I just mentioned is actually not all that uncommon in European film music, but even by those standards this one impressed me.  Great melodies, great warmth; actually, just great.  Chajdecki also wrote some other really good music for 2013 projects, my favourite other one being a wonderful score called Ambassada.  He’s clearly another great talent just waiting to be discovered by the masses.

Other major scores

Here’s an alphabetically-ordered quick summary of the year’s other major scores – this isn’t intended to be a list of other scores I liked (though I did like a lot of them!) – it’s just a list of other major Hollywood scores.

Copperhead – Laurent Eyquem

OK, so this isn’t a major Hollywood score, but it’s so good I had to mention it anyway.  I’d never even heard of Eyquem before I heard this album but it’s gorgeous music, warm and moving and well worth hearing.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Howard Shore

Other than Hans Zimmer scores, I’ve never had so many people disagreeing with me as much as they did when I (finally) published my review of the first score; they’ll probably disagree with me even more now because I thought this one was even worse.  Hour after hour of murk and grime, the album is a truly miserable experience; and I suspect even if you took all the good bits out into a playlist (and admittedly, some of them are really good) you really wouldn’t end up with that much.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – James Newton Howard

I was one of the few who seemed to really like Howard’s work on the first of these films, but he took a big step back for the second, descending into generic territory that was wholly unsatisfying.  A great opportunity missed, given how surprisingly good the film was.

Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 – Brian Tyler

At last!  I liked Alan Silvestri’s two Marvel scores a lot more than most people did, but actually Iron Man 3 took the series to a whole new level, with its fantastic main theme (a radical concept in modern film music – a theme for a comic book hero) and balls-to-the-wall action music.  Thor 2 is just as good.  And hey – here are two nearly-80-minute albums that I really, really love.

The Lone Ranger – Hans Zimmer

It didn’t hit the heights of his best Pirates of the Caribbean music but this was still very enjoyable, witty when needed but also surprisingly expansive.  The nods to Morricone were predictable (but fun!); the nods to the more wide-open-spaces western scores were wholly unexpected (but also fun!)

Man of Steel – Hans Zimmer

I won’t dwell on it – I did more than enough of that at the time – but this really did feel like a new low-point for Hollywood film music to me.  By that I don’t mean it’s the worst score I’ve ever heard – it wasn’t by any stretch even the worst of 2013 – but for such a high-profile film, with such an obvious opportunity for a great score, that it was so far from the mark and also so bizarrely acclaimed by so many people was worrying indeed.  When he’s on form Zimmer is capable of greatness but I think he sometimes takes on projects which just aren’t suited to his approach and this is one of those.  I understand why and of course he wouldn’t in any way think he couldn’t do them; and I assume too that he sometimes just has a desire to be contrary.  But just occasionally I think it’s worth noting that when there’s an established, successful approach, doing precisely the opposite to that is actually entirely the wrong thing to do, however contrary you might want to be.

Saving Mr Banks – Thomas Newman

I’ve no doubt whatsoever that Thomas Newman is destined to be considered one of the all time great film composers and, with John Williams so inactive and James Horner apparently exiled completely from Hollywood, he is surely the finest active American film composer.  Saving Mr Banks may be a little “ordinary” by his standards, but my word it’s gorgeous.  More please.

Star Trek Into Darkness – Michael Giacchino

The film was bizarre in how much it relied on goodwill towards The Wrath of Khan rather than trying to generate any goodwill of its own; but I enjoyed Giacchino’s work, particularly his outstanding theme for the new Khan.  The composer had an unusually quiet year otherwise; but I’m sure will be back with a bang before long.

The Wolverine and World War Z – Marco Beltrami

Two surprisingly brutal scores by a very fine composer, the first one left me cold but the second had more to offer.  I love that Beltrami isn’t afraid of stepping into very challenging musical territory and even though I can’t say I could derive any enjoyment from listening to The Wolverine, deep down I’m probably still pleased and impressed that he even tried anything so outlandish.  (Note: I realise how absolutely this contradicts my earlier comments about music for comic book heroes; I also have no intention of trying to explain this erratic line of thinking.)

And finally…

Thanks for reading.  I really do mean it.  I can’t believe that so many people read this rubbish that I write and I can’t believe some of the controversy it generates – it’s only one man’s opinion.  (I won’t mention him by name since the correspondence was private, but one impassioned exchange with a film composer during the year also made me realise how much it hurts them when a fool like me damns the work they do – so, sorry about that to anyone I’ve offended; but I’m afraid the only words I can write are the ones I believe.)

  1. Irons (Reply) on Tuesday 21 January, 2014 at 22:14

    I’m sorry you had to be under fire from Zimmer zealots. And I do mean zealots because there is seemingly a LOT of people who’ll love absolutely anything for which he is credited (even when, and that’s truly ironic, he doesn’t have much to do with it). And these people will lash out at anyone who doesn’t like a Zimmer score, and call them haters, and so on… But actually, from extensive film music forum experience, there’s pretty few people who will hate anything Zimmer does by principle. On Man of Steel for instance, most of the people who hated/didn’t like/were bored to tears by it, are people who actually love a good chunk of the man’s output, including me, and including the reviewers such as you, Clemmensen and Broxton.

  2. KilklineNut (Reply) on Tuesday 21 January, 2014 at 22:15

    Keep up the good work. 🙂

  3. christopher (Reply) on Tuesday 21 January, 2014 at 22:35

    Great review, James. I’m glad to see some scores on your list that a lot of people haven’t been mentioning (AFRICA in particular – I don’t know why people aren’t shouting it’s praises from the rooftops). I also appreciate seeing THE BOOK THIEF on there and defending it. It’s one of my favorites from this year, too. It felt like a sequel score, almost, to ANGELA’S ASHES, which I love. I’m also very excited to hear STALINGRAD in its entirety. One more week! Thanks for all the reviews this year. They’re great.

  4. Elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Tuesday 21 January, 2014 at 22:39

    I’m curious, did you get to hear Javier Navarrete’s Byzantium ?

  5. Ad de Nijs (Reply) on Tuesday 21 January, 2014 at 22:40

    James, it’s a nice review with my personal favours amongst the ones you approved.
    I second your opinion that the overall level of Hollywood Blockbuster moviescores is saddening.
    Thumbs up for pinpointing to Chajdecki, Glasgow and Eyquem. These are all composers we also discovered and made enthusiastic on/for
    If you wanna hear more from Bartosz: Our 1st SST Selection album is filled with some fine
    examples of the other works he scored and which were not previously published.

  6. James Southall (Reply) on Tuesday 21 January, 2014 at 23:01

    Thanks, Ad, and allow me to say how great it is that you promote these guys’ work.

    Elfenthalsmith – no, I haven’t. Do you recommend it?

  7. JBlough (Reply) on Tuesday 21 January, 2014 at 23:11

    Great perspective as always, James. May you continue your prodigious output in 2014 and beyond.

    I may have to finally break down and snag The Best Offer and Copperhead.

    I had no idea that Stalingrad had a forthcoming album in the states. Fantastic news.

  8. Elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Tuesday 21 January, 2014 at 23:24

    Yes I’d really recommend it, very curious what you might think of it, though judging from other people’s opinion of it, it really isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

  9. Craig Richard Lysy (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 01:15

    Nicely done James and my head is spinning at your furious rate of reviews! Continued success in 2014!

  10. Mikal (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 06:06

    “I can’t believe some of the controversy it generates – it’s only one man’s opinion. (I won’t mention him by name since the correspondence was private, but one impassioned exchange with a film composer during the year also made me realise how much it hurts them when a fool like me damns the work they do – so, sorry about that to anyone I’ve offended; but I’m afraid the only words I can write are the ones I believe.)”

    I’ve said this ad nauseum, but I haven’t said it in awhile, so I’ll reiterate as pithily as possible: it’s not your opinion, in and of itself, that rubs people the wrong way, it’s the way in which you express it. Tact counts for a lot, although, yes, it may be more time-consuming in terms of figuring out how to properly articulate a thought. For example, saying that Man of Steel hit a new low in terms of film scoring, a score on which Zimmer spent a fair amount of time and effort…well, you can understand how saying something like that could potentially infuriate someone. You go on to say that he’s capable of greatness, and that was nice and all, but it’s sort of negated by the former comment. And you can say he’s a high-profile artist, so he should just grin and bare the criticism. But despite being in the limelight, people still have feelings, and the bottom line is, we never know how our words may affect someone, even if they seem like far-off figures. Anyway, all I’m saying is maybe consider being a bit more mindful of that in the future. So much for being short…

  11. Jostein (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 09:18

    For the record I completely agree that Man of Steel, for a high budget movie score, is a new low for the medium in terms of what it SHOULD have been.

    All the drum kits and taiko drums or whatever in the world didn’t help that score from being a boring mess.

    I’d rather listen to Inception again which is actually a great score.

  12. Jens (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 14:41

    Mikal, I think you are way off-base. Putting great effort or thought into a work does not exempt it from criticism. It also doesn’t mean the reviewer should sugarcoat their opinion. In the case of Man of Steel, I personally feel that whatever effort Zimmer put in, it simply does not show in the final product. James is absolutely correct stating that the score appears to be lazy. He also has a good point about the minimalistic approach being misguided for this project. This is not an insult to Zimmer, or an attack on Zimmer, or offensive in any way. It is an honest and valid opinion.

    I mean, I get the Zimmer fans’ reaction. I was also a teenager once. Back then, I spent much of my time trolling the Filmtracks forums, attacking Clemmensen for his often very negative reviews of Goldsmith’s work. I found his writing pompous and dismissive, and his opinions straight up wrong. At some point, though, I decided to stop being a fanboy asshole, and I just stopped reading him. Similarly, if you take umbrage to James’ opinions or tone, just don’t read him. I reckon most of his readers like the manner in which he writes – that is why they are here – and wouldn’t want him to censor himself in any way.

  13. Jens (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 15:00

    Addendum: I know you said you objected only to James’ tone and not his opinions, but clearly “this is a new low for film scoring” IS in fact an opinion. But boo-hoo, he shouldn’t say that, because Zimmer spent a lot of time on the score. Bah!

    James, just keep up the great work.

  14. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 18:44

    Fine writing as always! I am right there with you about Deriviere: I hope he gets more work, and possibly even some film work. Honestly, a lot of the best music (in terms of both creativity and “old-fashioned” use of an orchestra) seems to come out of game scores these days.

    One question: what was your take on the year Danny Elfman had? I know you weren’t crazy about Epic (which I loved), but did you ever get around to hearing Oz (which I felt was a bit overstuffed but with some good parts)?

  15. Mikal (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 18:47

    Jens – Anytime I bring up this point, people always claim I say that all criticism should be avoided. I have never said that, nor even implied it. Now, you say you agree with his assessment of Man of Steel, which is undoubtedly why you feel he is correct in pointing out that it appears to be lazy…but what about those who don’t think it appears to be lazy? Are they simply wrong?

    I’m a huge fan of his music, but I’ve also made similar remarks regarding composers whose music I, by and large, don’t enjoy, e.g., Tyler Bates…and, incidentally, Man of Steel is not one of my favorite scores by Zimmer–heck, it didn’t even make my top ten of 2013! Additionally, I don’t have a problem with the vast majority of what he says, but sometimes I take issue with statements like “this is a new low for film scoring,” and apparently I’m not the only one. His opinion is that he didn’t like the score, quite plainly, and there are *any* number of ways in which you could express that opinion. What I’m saying is, perhaps being more thoughtful would reduce the number of confrontations with composers, because the way in which he chose to enunciate his opinions obviously hurt some people. Not many people, admittedly, but people who still deserve respect, nevertheless.

    All in all, it’s just a suggestion. He doesn’t have to pay it any heed, and he probably won’t, since, as you said, most of his readers like his style of writing. A fool’s errand, I suppose.

  16. James Southall (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 18:48

    Orion – sounds like I thought the same as you about Oz. Some really nice parts, but I couldn’t get on with it overall.

  17. James Southall (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 18:50

    Mikal – I do hear what you’re saying. I can only say that my opinion IS that it’s a new low and if I sugar-coated that in some way then I wouldn’t really be expressing my opinion any more.

  18. Mikal (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 19:39

    James – Fair enough. Thanks for hearing me out, at least. It may not appear it, although I did express it above, but to restate, I do enjoy most of your reviews.

  19. Elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 22:05

    “but what about those who don’t think it appears to be lazy? Are they simply wrong?” Come on Mikal, you can’t be serious when writing that. A review of this kind is about what the reviewer thinks, not about what other people think. The other people can write about what their think too, and all those differing opinions can co-exist.
    Of course I agree that a review should never get personal with the composer (something James has never done), but I must say you seem to be advocating a very sanitized kind of reviewing that wouldn’t really have much meaning ; after all no praise is worth anything without the liberty to blame.

  20. Jens (Reply) on Wednesday 22 January, 2014 at 23:29

    Sorry Mikal,

    I realize I went overboard with my response. When I used the words “exempt from criticism”, I didn’t mean that literally, but I was exaggerating for the sake of my main point: I don’t think John was being tactless when he said those things, and I don’t think it’s a valid criticism of his review.

    I had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction because accusations of tactlessness are so often thrown around to stifle criticism, and I genuinely don’t believe they apply here. And yes, I would still feel that way even if I didn’t agree with the particulars of the review. Lord knows, I disagree with John often enough.

    I think if you’re going to critique a piece of criticism, you need to directly address its points, not its tone. For instance, I disagree with James’ point that there’s a “good sense of fun” to the film. If anything, Zack Snyder has deliberately stripped the story of all levity: every moment from Superman’s childhood is tragic, jokes are few and far between, the color palette is desaturated, the Christ-imagery is overt, and the collateral damage is tramatizing. Superman doesn’t enjoy being Superman, and he fails to save millions of people. It’s a dour, banal and joyless picture, in my opinion. That’s why Zimmer’s score actually suits it well. Unfortunately, like the movie, it also isn’t remotely interesting. It shares its exact weaknesses: it’s grim, overblown, self-important, and simplistic. It’s a headache.

    Was there an opportunity for a great score here, as James seems to think? I’m not sure. If Zimmer had taken a more introspective, experimental approach, he might have elevated the material. It just feels like he didn’t really care about this movie, and didn’t want to do it. I’m happy that he’s now talking about reinventing himself, and about how sick he is of writing in the Batman/Inception style. He is certainly capable of great things.

  21. AJ (Reply) on Thursday 23 January, 2014 at 07:07

    Well done to another year writing about film music. I enjoy most of all reading about your new disgusts and low points, often articulated with a pleasing humorous aptitude. That said, I feel after a few years my taste and opinion is drifting considerably further from yours James. Yet I come back for more.

  22. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Thursday 23 January, 2014 at 18:06

    “Is there another body of work in all of film music history which is full of such uncynical, never-ending joy?”

    Sure there is – John Powell’s animated scores! With all respect to Newman and all that he’s accomplished, I’d know in a heartbeat which of the two I’d pick. 😉

  23. Debbie (Reply) on Friday 24 January, 2014 at 03:07

    Following your advice, I went to you-tube to discover other work by Chajdecki. Currently enjoying something called Czas Honoru.
    Thanks, I love that sort of music and am very happy to have discovered this composer.

  24. Bibliomisiek (Reply) on Friday 24 January, 2014 at 08:22

    James, thanks for Your writing. I’ve read Your blog every week, i’s much closer to my own opinions than, for ex., Christian Clemmensen’s. Go on, don’t stop. Greetings from Poland.

  25. Mikal (Reply) on Friday 24 January, 2014 at 17:02

    Hugo – I wish I spoke French fluently. We might then have a proper conversation about the matter. Not that your English is bad or anything – actually, it’s quite good – but I don’t feel like I’m being effectively communicative.

    Jens – No worries, dude. We can all be a tad hyperbolic, on occasion–myself included. The funny thing about tactlessness…I actually have a very irreverent sense of humor. But I think it bothers me when harsh criticisms are leveled against artists, be they composers, painters, etc., because I deeply value art as a “tangible” expression of the human condition. Thus, I try not to project my own views on what a work of art is, but rather glean some kind of meaning from it. Critics do the latter, but they are more concerned with the former, and fundamentally I think that’s why I occasionally butt heads with them.

    Critiquing the points is futile if they’re undercut by the tone. 😉 Isn’t the object of reviews to be, well, objective? I tend to address points by way of the tone in non-factual cases. But I do agree that if one wants to take a more intellectual approach to their rebuttal of a critical review, one should do so based on its reasoning. Anyway, in the interest of, er, interest (huge Superman fan), I will respond to your assessment of the film. I liked the darker tone more than the campy tone which dominated the Reeve Superman films (with the exception of Superman II, which, incidentally, is the only one I really enjoy). I thought Superman Returns found a nice middle ground between gravity and levity; despite all of its dismissals, I thought it was very well-done. Still, I think it might be helpful if people can convince themselves that Snyder’s take on Superman is just different. (Interestingly, the original Superman was more morally ambiguous, but a lot of people don’t know that.) It is supposed to be more dramatic than fun (fun ≠ no action, and there is still plenty of entertainment). Oh, and what is with everyone zeroing in on the collateral damage? We never see anyone get killed as a direct result of Superman (in fact, we often see the opposite) – even if it may be implied – yet it isn’t even the first live-action superhero film where that happens; just last summer, Hulk was crashing through buildings! Still, I like the idea of a darker Superman dealing with profound internal struggles (à la Smallville), because it’s more relatable; but I also like the idea of a more ethical Superman (à la most animated versions), because he gives us something to aspire to. I find value in both depictions.

    Regarding Zimmer, he was initially reluctant to take it on. Plus, coming on the heels of The Dark Knight trilogy–I suppose one could argue that he was burnt out on superhero films, to some extent. However, he did still try to find inspiration in the movie, that much is clear, what with the employment of steel pedal guitars and the drum circle, and his explanation for why he did so. As for how much effort he put into it, I guess how you interpret that is relative, since that kind of thing isn’t exactly quantifiable. Anyway, I’m glad we cleared some of that up. 🙂

    If either one of you (or anyone else, for that matter) would like to respond to me, please do so through Filmtracks. Shoot me a private message via the Scoreboard (click the ‘Send E-Mail’ link next to my username in any thread in which I’ve participated) and we’ll chat. I don’t want to clog up James’ page anymore with this bloated discussion. 😛

  26. Jens (Reply) on Saturday 25 January, 2014 at 00:16

    Mikal – No thanks, I’m not going back to Filmtracks for any reason. I really only want to address one thing, anyway. It is a pet-peeve of mine: “Isn’t the object of reviews to be, well, objective?” Anyone who claims they are reviewing objectively is a liar. Reviews are opinions, no more and no less. Reviews without opinions are fact sheets. “The music is part orchestral, part synthetic. There are several themes. The main theme is in a major key. The orchestra carries the melody while a piano makes an accompaniment made of rapid oscillating arpeggios…” THAT’S an example of objective writing. As soon as you make a judgement – does the music fit the film, is it interesting, etc. – you have veered into the realm of the subjective. Just because some reviewers write like Data from Star Trek, that does not make their opinion objective.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 25 January, 2014 at 00:20

      Somebody once told me that the reason they never visit my website is because my reviews are “too opinionated” – I sighed at the state of mankind.

  27. Mathias (Reply) on Saturday 25 January, 2014 at 13:50

    Thank you for your reviews (especially Morricone) James!

  28. Elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Saturday 25 January, 2014 at 14:41

    Actually Mikal, though I don’t think my English is perfect or anything, I do think it is more than sufficient to have a “proper” conversation on the matter, and after all we’ve already had a few in-depth ones without misunderstandings. But it’s ok I get that it can be a bit tiresome to answer to two persons at the same time on the same topic. And after all I find myself in an almost complete agreement with Jens (give or take a few points).

  29. Mikal (Reply) on Saturday 25 January, 2014 at 19:48

    Jens – Ha! The funny thing is, and this was implicit in my responses above, that I agree with you, completely. In fact, I’m fairly certain that you and I got embroiled in a larger discussion at some point in the not-so-distant past (it was either on Facebook, via a mutual friend, or, indeed, the Scoreboard) regarding this very issue. I was actually trying to bait you with that bit about reviews being objective. 🙂 However, I think I would take it a little further and say that no writing is even objective writing, since all writing was (presumably) written by a human being, and thus instilled with subjectivity–how we decide to frame our writing, says A LOT about us, even if the terminology is relatively staid and the content is purely factual. Still, interestingly, I’d say that most of the time I consult reviews, it is to get clarification on a technical aspect, rather than to get a reviewer’s general impression. Although there is some varying overlap between my general proclivities and those of reviewers, and I can sometimes gauge how likely I am to enjoy a score based on their ratings, if a score interests me, I am going to listen to it, regardless of what anyone says. Ultimately, I come to my own conclusions.

    James – That statement is ill-conceived, but the sentiment is earnest; I think what they’re getting at is what I addressed above.

    Hugo – Aye, we have! I’ve mellowed a bit more since our earlier encounters, admittedly. I’m glad we can now agree to disagree in an amicable manner. 🙂

  30. Mikal (Reply) on Saturday 25 January, 2014 at 19:54

    Also, that is the LAST thing I’m going to say–I promise this time. 😛

  31. James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 25 January, 2014 at 19:55

    I’m the dullest person I’ve ever met, but I can’t bring myself to be more prosaic when I write soundtrack reviews.

  32. James Southall (Reply) on Saturday 25 January, 2014 at 19:55

    No need to stop talking, by the way!

  33. Jens (Reply) on Sunday 26 January, 2014 at 04:02

    I would actually like to address Mikal’s earlier point regarding collateral damage in Man of Steel. Mikal asks: “What is with everyone zeroing in on the collateral damage?” I would argue that people aren’t “zeroing in”, a phrase which implies focus on a small or negligible part of the movie. In actuality, a huge chunk of the film’s running time is devoted to leveling Metropolis, with imagery that strongly evokes real life tragedies. While we indeed never see anyone directly killed, that strikes me as cop out (and a concession to the PG13 rating). We are only supposed to be concerned with the half-dozen or so survivors that are shown. However, let’s face facts: the city was not evacuated beforehand, and destruction of the scale that is depicted would mean deaths in the millions. Metropolis is reduced to rubble by the end of Man of Steel. Superman doesn’t even make an attempt to limit the destruction. After the first half of his lengthy fight with Zod, he doesn’t keep it in the already destroyed zone, but instead punches Zod into another row of far away skyscrapers. We saw the word “disaster porn” thrown around a lot after this movie came out, but it is an apt description. We are supposed to enjoy the eye-candy without considering the narrative implications.

    The above is only one of several dozen things that bother me hugely about the movie. The way Jonathan Kent was characterized, for instance, felt completely off. The Jonathan Kent I know or love would never tell Clark that he should have let the other children die, and would not commit suicide by tornado to make a point. I didn’t like the disjointed flashback structure. I didn’t like how pointless Lois Lane’s character was. I didn’t like the way the movie glorified the U.S. military. I hated the ludicrously in-your-face product placement. I hated the fact that, once we get past the origin story, the movie devolves into a series of overlong and exhausting fight scenes between immortals that cannot hurt each other. I hated the gray aesthetic and was desperate for some color. I hated the headache-inducing music.

    Now, obviously, none of that stuff bothers you. I’m glad you were able to find enjoyment in Man of Steel. I personally couldn’t find any joy in the film and I left the theater feeling pummeled and depressed. To each their own, I suppose.

  34. Clemery (Reply) on Friday 7 February, 2014 at 08:24

    I, Frankenstein is so far (in my opinion) the best score of 2014!

    I look forward to your opinion on it!