Saturday, March 11, 2006

Filmmakers I adore: Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman, composer of the scores in masterpieces such as The Shawshank Redemption, Finding Nemo, and American Beauty, and son of Hollywood legend Alfred Newman, will launch my weekly series of “Filmmakers I adore.”

His trademark touches are tremolo strings and heavy piano chords (usually played by him), and at one point on every one of his scores, you will hear this (Still Dead in American Beauty, Zihautenago in Shawshank, and, best of all, in Road to Chicago from Road to Perdition). However, this is not the be-all and end all for him. He has astounded me for many occasions with his music, often with rare instruments or unusual styles. Instruments include the marimba, pizzicato in strings and the electric guitar, and they have been used to capture the essence of the film, whether it be a satire, emotional epic, or boxing movie. Styles include bass & accompaniment, rhythm-fueled passages, or slow, drawn out orchestral music.

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Here is my breakdown of his best work:

07. Angels in America (TV)
06. Cinderella Man
05. American Beauty
04. The Shawshank Redemption Best film scored by Thomas Newman
03. Road to Perdition02. Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events
01. Finding Nemo
Newman has been someone who has been accused of plagiarising himself. Such a claim is completely ridiculous, as he is one of the more inventive, versatile and original composers around. Who else could go from 30s poverty to 90s War zone in the same year? Who else could capture the mindset of a bored suburbanite and prisoners on death row? The man is nothing short of a genius (though his talented musicians are owed much thanks too), and should be held in as high esteem as Howard Shore (yuck) and John Williams.

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His score for Finding Nemo, is, in my humble opinion, one of the best pieces of music scored for a film. He perfectly captures the spirit of the sea in his music, but, even better, captures the spirit of the fish and all their emotions in his strings, pizzicato and the lovely pan flute that plays quietly in the background.

The definitive Thomas Newman soundtrack

01. First Day (Finding Nemo)
02. Drive Away (Lemony Snicket)
03. And that Right Soon (The Shawshank Redemption)
04. Dead Already (American Beauty)
05. The Little Clownfish from the Reef (Finding Nemo)
06. The Letter than Never Came (Lemony Snicket)
07. Road to Chicago (Road to Perdition)
08. End Titles (The Shawshank Redemption)
09. Filter Attempt (Finidng Nemo)
10. Chez Olaf (Lemony Snicket)
11. The Reptile Room (Lemony Snicket)
12. Mouse on the Mile (The Green Mile)
13. Change of Fortune (Cinderella Man)
14. Main Title (Angels in America)
15. Short-Term Dory (Finding Nemo)
16. Hope of the Irish (Cinderella Man)

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And the piece of music that successfully incorporates all of Newman’s styles is:

Fronds like These from Finding Nemo

Although yet to win an Oscar, Newman has been nominated 7 times. I would give him an Oscar soon. Because if they don’t, I will.


Anonymous said...

it's shocking how you refused to mention his work on "Little Women."

jay said...

Film is a predominantly visual medium, which means the general purpose of a music score is to capture and reinforce the essence of a film, generally without drawing attention to itself. As a result, and more often than not, I naturally tend to overlook the score - unless its brilliance stands out in the best of ways, which is what happens whenever Mr Newman is hired to score a film.

You've already done a great job explaining your fondness for his music, so I'll just say I agree and proceed to list my own...

1, American Beauty
2, The Shawshank Redemption
3, Finding Nemo
4, Road to Perdition
5, Angels in America
6, Cinderella Man
7, Jarhead

Also, his score to Pay It Forward was by far and away the best thing about the film... yes, and I think I liked Mad City's too.

I like this series!

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Emma said...

Using this space as storage, once again:

Numbers Relating to Determined People

53 – number of days it took Paul McCartney and John Lennon to complete writing Rocky Raccoon

9000 – the number of shots that Michael Jordan says he has missed over his career.

121 – number of times Woody Allen re-shot the infamous scene in Manhattan

63 – number of publishers that Zadie Smith sent her first novel, White Teeth, before it was considered.

25 – sit ins Martin Luther King made, before people started paying him attention.

456 – number of times the tower of cards collapsed before it was finally completed.

21 – number of failed trials, before a rocket was successfully launched to the moon.

1210 – minutes Crouchie went without a Premiership goal, before scoring twice in his match against Wigan.

Allan said...

Definitely plagarazies himself. You can't deny that the melody in Finding Nemo where the fish are in the whale's mouth is taken from Shawshank. Hmm..

Emma said...

Wow, I was talking to someone about this just yesterday! Freaky.