My Favorite Movie is Not A Movie

What’s Your Favorite Movie?

The Incredibles CD

When I get asked that question, I either draw a blank or I blurt out a movie title based on the soundtrack! Witness this answer: The Incredibles! The soundtrack by Michael Giacchino is truly incredible (pun intended.)

It’s not the same without the music

The thing about movie soundtracks is how much they contribute to the movie itself. Just try watching a movie without the music. The soundtrack can make you laugh or make you cry or make your grip the edge of your seat in terror!

Further, say you’re watching a scene and it looks scary, but then the music is kinda light and almost silly. And a few beats later, there’s a pratfall or punch line delivered.

And consider the opposite situation. You’re watching a scene in which the protagonist is walking down the cellar stairs. Nothing to be scared of there, right? I mean, you go into your basement every day. Nothing bad happens.

But for some reason, when you watch this character descend into the darkness, you want to yell, “Don’t go down there!!” Why?

The music tells you to.

Here are some very famous snippets of music that cause that reaction.

Jaws – The infamous minor second. Just hear it once and you won’t want to even be near water anymore. So much tension and fear in such a small interval.

*For music nerds: The minor second is the smallest interval in Western music, consisting of only a half step between two pitches. In music of the Far East and Asia, quarter tones are commonplace. Now that’s a small interval!

Psycho – Listen to this theme music from Psycho. The dissonant sound of a minor second played together creates fear and intense suspense. It starts at 4:32 in the video.

A little suspense goes a long way

I listened to some more suspenseful movie scores, but quickly became tense. Not a good feeling before bed.

For that reason alone, let me get back to my original fave movie soundtrack, The Incredibles, and what makes it so good.

Cool, groovy, hip music

Write/director Brad Bird had a sound in mind for his superhero movie – “…big, bold, jazzy music, played by a full orchestra with oceans of brass, music that had the size and emotional sweep of traditional symphonic film scores, but filtered through the cool of jazz and the explosive simplicity of rock.”

Well, yeah, I’ll have some of that!

And that’s exactly what composer Michael Giacchino wrote for the film. It’s got the sound of mid-1960s television spy shows and groovy finger-snapping sing-a-longs. The music “soars with the exhilaration of saving the planet, hisses at the bad guy’s sinister schemes and constantly cries ‘cool’ about how it feels to be a superhero.” Paul Tonks, liner notes.

It is this combination of jazzy big band sound, wailing improvised solos, lush orchestration that harken back to the golden age of cinema (1930s-1960s) – that caught my attention and had me falling in love with the music. Musical soundtracks aside, this was the first film soundtrack I ever bought.

You’ve probably seen the movie – if you haven’t, rent it tonight. Seriously. It’s that good. I mean, at least the music is! And yes, the movie is clever and adventurous and all out fun. Being a 12 year old flick, it won’t be at Redbox, but you’ll for sure find it at Portland’s Movie Madness or even your public library.

Selections from The Incredibles

Now that I’ve whet your appetite for Giacchino’s music, let me point you to two snippets of music I put together from the film.

Life’s Incredible Again

Glory Days

Select Giacchino Discography

And speaking of the excitement of Giacchino’s music, here are just some of the film soundtracks he has written. You might have heard of them. 😉

  • 2004 The Incredibles
  • 2006 Mission: Impossible III
  • 2007 Ratatouille (also with Brad Bird)
  • 2009 Star Trek
  • 2011 Cars 2
  • 2011 Super 8

Not a complete list by any means. And here are some due out in the coming months and years.

  • 2016 Star Trek Beyond – out July 2016
  • 2017 War for The Planet of The Apes
  • 2019 The Incredibles 2 – Yes! A sequel!

Live Score Performance

Have you heard of this thing many symphony orchestras are doing these days? They project a print of a movie with just dialogue and sound effects on a screen above the orchestra who is playing the soundtrack to the movie. And what a great way to hear the score to a movie, in a concert hall!

The Oregon Symphony offers a ‘popcorn package’, three movies on screen while the symphony plays the film score. For the 2016-17 season, the movies are Raiders of The Lost Ark, It’s A Wonderful Life, and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.

So, what’s your favorite movie… soundtrack?

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