Tag Archives: Joaquin Phoenix

Soundtrack Review: Joker (2019)

The soundtrack for the recently released film Joker (starring Joaquin Phoenix) is now available via WaterTower Music. The Joker soundtrack album features an original score by Emmy Award-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (Chernobyl, Sicario: Day of the Soldado), whose composition features the cello as the centerpiece of the score, leading string-based melodies played by a symphony orchestra of 90 musicians.

To interpret the many themes explored throughout the film, director Todd Phillips very early on turned to the composer. “Hildur was writing music as far back as pre-production. I was sending her script pages and she was writing music before we even shot, and what she did for the film is so unique,” says Phillips.

Regarding the soundtrack, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir had this to say:

Todd asked me to write some music based on my feelings from reading the script, which I was inspired to do because it truly resonated with me.” She sent him a sample and recalls, “The film is a gritty character study, which to me translated to melodies that are very simple and monotonic, because that’s kind of the way Joaquin’s character Arthur is seeing things.  Then I tried to expand within that simplicity the orchestration around Joker’s evolution not with chords or any complicated music, but with texture that I felt resonated with the melancholia of this character.

960x0

Having listened to the soundtrack, I found myself slowly but surely drawn in by those monotonic melodies. The music feels so simple at first, but the more you listen, like in “Defeated Clown” the more you begin to get a sense of nuance. The cello really was a great choice, it’s an instrument with an incredibly wide range, and when it’s paired with the pounding drums, you can just feel the tension pouring out of the music. In one blow the music can leap from melancholy to a burning rage (“Following Sophie” contains a great example of rage in music). In fact, the music intrigues me so much, I’m nearly tempted to see the film to hear this music in context (though I think I’ll wait for the DVD release, I don’t think I can handle this film in theaters).

The point I’m trying to make is, I think Hildur Guðnadóttir has done something brilliant with the soundtrack for Joker. She’s taken very simple melodies and used them to slowly build up a musical impression of how Arthur, the man who becomes the Joker, views the world, and how he feels deep inside. And that’s the key here, you need to remember that the music, in many ways, IS Arthur. It’s mood matches Arthur’s moods (that’s my impression). And it’s so brilliant because, given that this is the Joker, you would think the character would have bombastic and swirling melodies to match. But no, that’s not it at all. Hildur hit on the reality that the Joker’s frame of mind is actually very simple (to him), and the music reflects that. This is definitely one of my favorite soundtracks of the year, and a must-listen for anyone who enjoys movie soundtracks.

Track List:
  1. Hoyt’s Office
  2. Defeated Clown
  3. Following Sophie
  4. Penny in the Hospital
  5. Young Penny
  6. Meeting Bruce Wayne
  7. Hiding in the Fridge
  8. A Bad Comedian
  9. Arthur Comes to Sophie
  10. Looking For Answers
  11. Penny Taken to the Hospital
  12. Subway
  13. Bathroom Dance
  14. Learning How to Act Normal
  15. Confession
  16. Escape from the Train
  17. Call Me Joker

Let me know what you think of the soundtrack for Joker, and the film itself, in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Advertisements

SpaceCamp “The Launch” (1986)

John Williams has done so many film scores over the years that it’s no surprise some have fallen through the cracks. One example is his score for the 1986 film SpaceCamp, which in my opinion is one of his more underrated scores mostly because very few seem to know it exists.

For those who don’t know, SpaceCamp is a space adventure film that follows a group of misfit kids at (you guessed it) Space Camp. The adventure revolves around an incident that leads to the kids and their instructor being trapped in the Space Shuttle when it’s suddenly forced to launch (I’m oversimplifying but that is in essence what happens). The shuttle launch scene is one of the big moments of the film, and I wanted to talk about the way John Williams scores this moment (cue starts around 1:17 and stops around 2:25).

The first thing to note is that there is no music whatsoever before the cue in question starts. The only major background sound comes from the rumble of the booster. As the second booster is ignited to initiate launch, the background noise “crescendos” as the launch system activates, with the music beginning the moment the shuttle lifts off the pad.

Listen carefully to the music as the shuttle lifts off, because I think what Williams is doing here is brilliant. This is a layered situation, and the music reflects it perfectly. On the one hand, now that the shuttle has launched, it’s important for the launch to go perfectly so it can reach orbit. But on the other hand, the shuttle has launched with a bunch of kids on board and there’s a general feeling of “oh my God what did we just do?” Williams reflects both sentiments in this single cue: it starts with what I can only describe as a “moody” trumpet fanfare (well, fanfare is admittedly a stretch but I can’t think of a better word) as liftoff commences. It’s the type of music you’d expect to hear when a space shuttle launches, because it’s admittedly an awe-inspiring sight. But the normally triumphant music is almost immediately dampened by a minor-sounding intrusion (after the line “My God, we have liftoff”) that reminds us that, while beautiful, this launch shouldn’t be happening.

This is one of my favorite musical moments in the entire film, and I love how Williams funnels several conflicting emotions into a single cue. I’ll conclude with a bit of bonus trivia: Max (the littlest kid in the shuttle) is played by Joaquin Phoenix (credited here as Leaf Phoenix) in only his 2nd film appearance.

Let me know what you think about SpaceCamp (and the launch scene and its music) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

 

 

 

 

My thoughts on: Gladiator (2000)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

A70-11370

Set in the year 180 AD, the film follows the saga of General Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) as he is betrayed by Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) after the latter murders his father, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (when he revealed to Commodus that he was going to restore the Republic). Maximus is sent to be executed when he discovers what Commodus has done but he manages to escape and races back home, only to discover that his wife and son have been brutally murdered, his home burned to the ground.

11419

Maximus is subsequently captured by slavers and becomes a gladiator in a backwater town of the Empire. Meanwhile, Commodus has returned to Rome and proceeds to enjoy life as an Emperor, giving the people an unending stream of “bread and circuses” so that no one notices that he’s really a terrible ruler.

Phoenix’s performance as the slowly-going-mad Emperor is really spine-chilling at times. He comes off as slightly buffoonish in the beginning, but once he really begins to go mad (I’m thinking of the scene where he threatens to kill his nephew unless his sister does whatever he wants), he’s quite terrifying.

gladiator-3

Of course Maximus inevitably makes his way to Rome as a gladiator, to fight in the great Colosseum. He vainly attempts to hide his identity (fearing that he’ll be killed on the spot if recognized), but the Emperor demands to know who he is, leading to one of the greatest movie lines of all time:

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

And vengeance he gets, though not without paying the ultimate price in return.

The score for this brilliant film was composed by the legendary Hans Zimmer. Some have noted that the music in many battle scenes bears a distinct resemblance to the music from “Mars: The Bringer of War” composed by Gustav Holst (so much so in fact that at one point the Holst Foundation sued Zimmer on the grounds that he had plagiarized Holst’s work). Also, Commodus’s triumphal entry into Rome contains music that seems to evoke two of Richard Wagner’s operas “The Rhine Gold” and “Twilight of the Gods.”

It’s been a while since I watched this movie, but it is indeed a modern classic that everyone should see at least once in their lives.

*poster is the property of DreamWorks Pictures

For more thoughts on live-action film, see also: Live-Action Films/TV

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂