Where have you gone John Williams? A nation turns its lonely ears to you
September 12, 2014 10:26 AM   Subscribe

 
Was it this awkward when they filmed it, do you suppose? I always heard that the extras were taunting the actors and saying how terrible the movie was going to be.
posted by dellsolace at 10:35 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


*clears throat*
posted by echocollate at 10:37 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just frantically googled John Williams to make sure he wasn't dead. Don't scare me like that again!
posted by widdershins at 10:37 AM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


LOL. Excellent. But those ... noises from Chewie were quite unexpected. It never occurred to me that the guttural Wookie growl would (of course) also be added post-filming.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:37 AM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


It *is* a terrible movie. Aside from the FX bravura it is an Objectively Bad Film. This does not diminish the fact that it's well-loved. You are allowed to love terrible things, and you don't even have to have a reason.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:38 AM on September 12, 2014 [12 favorites]


Huh, I never thought about it but there's nothing necessarily implying the music in that scene is diagetic, right?

I'm picturing intercut scenes of a Rebel audio tech arriving in a beat-up X-Wing and just barreling down hallways.

Excellent. But those ... noises from Chewie were quite unexpected.

Yeah I completely forgot about that so now I think everyone in my otherwise really quiet office is wondering what the hell I just did.
posted by griphus at 10:39 AM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


It *is* a terrible movie. Aside from the FX bravura it is an Objectively Bad Film.

oh come on man it's Friday don't do this to me
posted by griphus at 10:40 AM on September 12, 2014 [54 favorites]


I still got goosebumps upon seeing Han, Luke, and Chewie enter the room.

Saw that movie in the theatre when I was THREE. Formative experience, man.

(stares intently at object on floor, wiling it to move)
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:41 AM on September 12, 2014 [10 favorites]


for some reason, it got me focused on the Luke and Hans' hair. How is it that some long and far away zone happens to have male hair fashions that are entirely consistent with the norm for men (and boys) in the mid/late 70s, which is to say, just long enough on the sides to cover the ears (or most of them anyway), but not so long as to be wild in anyway.

Good thing Punk was in the process of erupting.
posted by philip-random at 10:43 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


It *is* a terrible movie. Aside from the FX bravura it is an Objectively Bad Film. This does not diminish the fact that it's well-loved. You are allowed to love terrible things, and you don't even have to have a reason.

Well, as we all know, it's just sort of a bush remake of The Hidden Fortress. Still, didn't keep me from forcing my parents to take me to it five times in the theater when I was a wee lass.
posted by holborne at 10:47 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I had kind of a thought about this a couple of years ago when I wandered into the living room while my wife was watching Gray's Anatomy. I don't know anything about the show, and I'm not sure if this is typical, but the scene I saw was about three minutes (but seemed much longer) of a man and a woman standing in a window staring at each other. There was some emo track playing in the background, and it made the scene pretty poignant, until I thought: Hey, wait, the music is in the show, not in their lives. They're just standing there staring. That's actually awkward as shit.

It's a banal observation, but there was something about the way that TV show was set up that made it stick. I've never looked at sound design the same way.
posted by OmieWise at 10:48 AM on September 12, 2014 [19 favorites]


(stares intently at object on floor, wiling it to move)

YES! When I was a kid I learned somewhere that the reason most people can't wiggle their ears is that the muscles atrophy to the point where they can't be used, and so I figured that telekinesis probably worked the same way and, if I went through a serious of rigorous and carefully planned exercises, I could strengthen my telekinesis muscles to the point where they would work. This involved a lot of holding my hand out towards objects and flexing it dramatically. It didn't occur to me until just now that perhaps this came from my experience watching people use the Force.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:48 AM on September 12, 2014 [11 favorites]


Two things:

1) this reminds me of church
2) Chewbacca is funny
posted by mazola at 10:51 AM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


You guys do realize that this soundtrack wasn't recorded when it was filmed, right? It's closer to this.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:52 AM on September 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


Was it this awkward when they filmed it, do you suppose? I always heard that the extras were taunting the actors and saying how terrible the movie was going to be.

My boyfriend sent this to me yesterday and was like, "You HAVE to watch this, it's HILARIOUS." So I sit down, play the video, and think: I'm sure this is *wildly* bizarre to someone who's seen the movie a bunch and loves it and knows what it's supposed to sound like, but [as someone who's seen it once or twice, I think, and never really cared much for it] honestly the only 'weird' thing I can pick out is that Chewbacca's wails sound a little silly. Which... whatever. And I say, "Yeah! That! Diegesis!" Relationship saved.

So then I sent him Finnish DuckTales and we went our merry ways.
posted by psoas at 10:53 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


griphus, I'm sorry! I'm not trying to be mean or anything. I like Star Wars too! In fact I love it, earnestly and without irony. I'm not putting it in some cliché "guilty pleasures" category or anything like that.

Taking out the music kinda reiterates that for me. This is relevant, because the same thing happened in Phantom Menace to me. It seemed like everybody hated Episode 1, but all I remembered from that first viewing was how powerfully affected I was by the music and imagery of Anakin being forcibly separated from his mother. I CRIED REAL HOT TEARS IN PHANTOM MENACE because of that combination of images and sounds.

In hindsight I understand the criticisms, I acknowledge that it's a pretty bad film. But I still love it! Maybe that's weird. I also know that Kraft Dinner is objectively terrible but that doesn't stop me from enjoying it without apology.

The Monuments Men has a rating of 32% on Rottentomatoes. I can read the snippets and pretty much agree that all those assesments are correct and that that by the standards of film criticism it's kind of a bad film...but I still love it.

On preview: on the surface it seems boring and obvious to point out the music makes dumb scenes smarter...but I think there's a lot of interesting ideas to discuss in that seemingly banal point...and the larger discussion of the effect of overall sound design on a film.


Ok, ok, I'll back away from the thread now. Honestly not trying to shit on Star Wars, just making some observations
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:53 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


It would be an exaggeration to refer to Star Wars as "an operetta by John Williams" and think that George Lucas deserves to be as well-known as the guy who wrote the libretto to Mozart's The Magic Flute. But not by very much.
posted by straight at 10:53 AM on September 12, 2014 [24 favorites]


Calling Star Wars "objectively bad" is like calling the Christmas holiday "objectively bad"... It's the correct analysis, but it doesn't make any difference anyway.
posted by Nevin at 10:55 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Tight script, textbook perfect three-act plot, some great performances to sell the suspension of disbelief, masterful pacing, obsessively detailed settings and props - oh, it's about space-sorcerers, so it's objectively bad. Pfeh.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:56 AM on September 12, 2014 [33 favorites]


Well, yeah...That scene is pretty awkward and empty without the music.

That said, I've always found Williams' scores to be really fucking annoying and over-the-top bombastic. Dude has no concept of "subtle" or "mood". I'd love to see a completely re-scored Star Wars sans Williams.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:57 AM on September 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm not trying to be mean or anything.

Oh don't get me wrong, I'm not personally injured that you think Star Wars is an objectively bad movie. It's just them's fightin' words and it's the end of the week and I ran out of the energy required to have a fight about the cinematic value of Star Wars around, like, Tuesday.
posted by griphus at 10:59 AM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think this essay might change your mind about whether Star Wars was an objectively bad film.

It's a silly movie made by a serious film maker, who completely fell off the rails once the money started rolling in.
posted by empath at 10:59 AM on September 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


empath: “It's a silly movie made by a serious film maker, who completely fell off the rails once the money started rolling in.”

The serious film maker who made Star Wars didn't fall off the rails. Her husband did, so they ended up getting divorced.
posted by koeselitz at 11:03 AM on September 12, 2014 [45 favorites]


I like it better without the music.
posted by mumimor at 11:06 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've always found Williams' scores to be really fucking annoying and over-the-top bombastic.

I can't think of a single tune that I can hum from a film score that's not by John Williams, except for that one from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (not counting actual songs sung in a musical).

Williams has literally dozens of them. I don't want that in every movie. Lots of movies are better with soundtracks that never push into the foreground. But for movies like Star Wars, Raiders, Superman, I think what Williams does is great and unmatched by any other film composer.
posted by straight at 11:06 AM on September 12, 2014 [20 favorites]


What happened to 3PO's movement sounds?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:06 AM on September 12, 2014


Calling Star Wars "objectively bad" is like calling the Christmas holiday "objectively bad"... It's the correct analysis, but it doesn't make any difference anyway.

actually, it opens an interesting door toward discussing the different between "best" and "favorite", objective and subjective. Were I stuck teaching a class of bored Grade Nines, it's something I'd definitely try, though these days, Harry Potter would likely be a more relevant talking point.

I happen to be more with Doleful Creature than agin, though I wouldn't say that Star Wars (the first movie that came out in 1977) is terrible, just not THAT great. Or as I put it in a previous thread ...

Because I first saw it when it was brand new and I was eighteen, and though I found it enjoyable in a comic book sort of way, I was hardly blown away. The FX and such were cool, of course, but the overall experience felt a little too aimed-at-nine-year-olds for me to get way excited about.

Which to this day has come to form my overall take on all manner of pop "masterpieces". If you first experienced them at a certain pre-critical age and they genuinely transported you, then I suspect you're never going to be much interested in taking them on critically.

If anything, my Star Wars was the original Jonny Quest yt , first encountered when I was maybe seven years old and never to be questioned as to its goddamned magnificence (or its dubious politics, racial and otherwise).

posted by philip-random at 11:07 AM on September 12, 2014


None of the people look like Hayden Christensen.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:08 AM on September 12, 2014


I ran out of the energy required to have a fight about the cinematic value of Star Wars around, like, Tuesday.

I totally hear you, griphus. What the fuck has been going on with this fucking week?
posted by The Bellman at 11:08 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd love to see a completely re-scored Star Wars sans Williams.

Hissssssssssssss.
posted by brennen at 11:09 AM on September 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


Huh, I never thought about it but there's nothing necessarily implying the music in that scene is diagetic, right?

Yeah I think the of that brass introduction sort of implies that it is an actual fanfare that's happening even though I don't think you see an spacehorns in the background.

I was a brutally unmusical kid, but that scene still made me think "wow how do these scruffy underdog rebels have time to put together such a tight rhythm section?"
posted by SharkParty at 11:12 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


That said, I've always found Williams' scores to be really fucking annoying and over-the-top bombastic. Dude has no concept of "subtle" or "mood". I'd love to see a completely re-scored Star Wars sans Williams.

I find your lack of faith disturbing.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:13 AM on September 12, 2014 [15 favorites]


According to Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki:
"The ceremony scene emulates a similar segment in Triumph of the Will, a Nazi propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl in 1934.[6]"

Here's a clip of that segment, with John Williams' music plus Star War characters added.
posted by Bwithh at 11:13 AM on September 12, 2014 [24 favorites]


Also, according to Wookieepedia:
"Chewbacca, who was Solo's best friend and copilot, did not receive a medal during the official ceremony, as Wookiees do not place any meaning in such tangible awards.[6] However, at the request of Solo, Chewbacca was presented with his own medal in private, during the feast that followed the ceremony. Princess Leia, who was too short to put it over the Wookiee's neck, stood on a table to award this final medal.[7]"


Um... OK.

does that mean other Wookies will beat Chewbecca up or shun him if they find out he has a secret medal?
posted by Bwithh at 11:14 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Thank you for your additional comments concerning Ep I and Monuments Men Doleful Creature, now I know you are an insane monster I can forgive your initial gambit.
posted by biffa at 11:17 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


empath, thank you for sharing that essay. I'm going to have to spend some time with that, there's a lot of exegesis to process in there.

And ok, "terrible" is perhaps too strong a word.*

Regarding the music. It is known that Williams was channeling Korngold mightily. Which, not a bad thing but definitely a thing. Korngold was the go-to guy for High Adventure movie music, with movies under hist belt like Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Robin Hood, etc...This is consistent with Lucas's well-known aesthetic goals regarding Star Wars, which I think was always about an idealized version of Lucas's own formative experiences listening to Flash Gordon on the radio (see also Indiana Jones, eh).


*You know what, maybe it's just the caffeine talking but I'm beginning to wonder if we need to have, as a counter to auteur theory, some kind of blockbuster theory. It might enable more useful discussion of recent films like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, too (films which I enjoyed the hell out of but which are not really that great, honestly). I think this has sort of been attempted with the work of Michael Bay, but can't recall the details.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:19 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


"The ceremony scene emulates a similar segment in Triumph of the Will, a Nazi propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl in 1934.[6]"
Here's a clip of that segment, with John Williams' music plus droids added.


Oh my god, that's just the wrongest thing ever. So very, very wrong.
(I wish I had posted it.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:20 AM on September 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


> What happened to 3PO's movement sounds?

Not only that but the amount of applause was too little for as many people as there were in that audience.
posted by Gev at 11:21 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Doleful Creature, now I know you are an insane monster

Yes, this is true.

But seriously I was watching Monuments Men last night and there were moments where I was like "but this looks like a History Channel documentary" and then other moments I was like WHOA CATHARSIS and then then other moments I was like "wait what is the significance of alcoholism and redemption in the English chap I feel like there are some deleted scenes to be had here" and then I'm like CLOONEY IS THE SNAPPY FRANK CAPRA THE WORLD NEEDS NOT THE ONE IT DESERVES and then my wife is like "honey, put down the keyboard and come to bed, you're frightening the children"
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:24 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


"The ceremony scene emulates a similar segment in Triumph of the Will, a Nazi propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl in 1934.[6]"

Here's a clip of that segment a coronation a high mass my wedding with John Williams' music plus droids added.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:28 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's a clip of that segment, with John Williams' music plus droids added.

Oh my god, that's just the wrongest thing ever. So very, very wrong.



Yes, terribly wrong.

The Nazis would never have let some untermech translator droid on stage with der Führer.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:29 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't know anything about the show, and I'm not sure if this is typical, but the scene I saw was about three minutes (but seemed much longer) of a man and a woman standing in a window staring at each other.

It is totally typical of that show and the only thing missing is a tragically embarrassing tender reenactment of the iconic Kirk-Spock scene where they place their hands together on opposite sides of the glass.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:30 AM on September 12, 2014


I can't think of a single tune that I can hum from a film score that's not by John Williams

Game of Thrones.
posted by empath at 11:31 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


The music at the beginning of the clip was not from the movie, but the end of Holst's Jupiter.

But John Williams is the world's greatest Gustav Holst cover band so it doesn't really make much difference.
posted by sourwookie at 11:38 AM on September 12, 2014 [14 favorites]


A thought that's been bubbling around in my head for a while, and this thread seems as apropos a place as any for it:

When I am exposed to right-wing media (radio and TV mostly), I come away feeling that these people think I and anyone like me are evil and depraved and they would be happy were I to be killed. I used to occasionally deliberately listen to our local right-wing talk radio station just to get an idea of what was being said, but it's been quite a while since I could muster the fortitude to do so.

When I am exposed to more liberal media (blogs and other websites, mostly), I come away feeling that these people think that I and anyone like me are idiots with no taste whatsoever. (This does come off as better at least as far as not wanting me dead, but in some of the more vitriolic moments I see I get additional tinges of contempt for not doing anything to make the world better which at times does leave an aftertaste of once-the-revolution-comes.)
posted by Four Ds at 11:38 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


The Rocketeer is a pretty cool action movie. Neat concept, pretty to look at, acting that's certainly no worse than Star Wars. If it had a John Williams soundtrack it would be remembered as a classic, but it doesn't.

Music is that important, especially to an action movie.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:39 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


But John Williams is the world's greatest Gustav Holst cover band so it doesn't really make much difference.

Well, that explains why the first time I heard the Planets suite I couldn't help thinking it sounded a lot like something I've heard before, just better.
posted by griphus at 11:39 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also, I thought that there should be more ambient crowd noise in the background (rabble rabble I guess if you're the only ones who make it back you get a medal rabble rabble so much better with her hair up rabble rabble hey my dad was a nerf herder rabble rabble), but then Chewbacca and I lost it completely.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:41 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


[default iPhone ringtone][loud scrambling][slience][sound of phone vibrating][more scrambling][silence][sound of phone vibrating][prolonged noises of someone getting up and leaving from the middle of an aisle]
posted by griphus at 11:43 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


One of my friends used to say, "The world won't be safe for music until John Williams is strangled with the intestines of Andrew Lloyd Webber." So there's that.
posted by sneebler at 11:44 AM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


Game of Thrones.

Excellent, but not a film.

[default iPhone ringtone][loud scrambling][slience][sound of phone vibrating][more scrambling][silence][sound of phone vibrating][prolonged noises of someone getting up and leaving from the middle of an aisle]

What is the soundtrack to Special Hell, Alex?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:45 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wtf is going on here. Star Wars: Awesome. Full stop. John Williams: Awesome. Full stop.

Someone needs to put some Ewoks on stage with Hitler.

(I was thinking the same thing about their hair: amazing how in a galaxy far, far away that they have late-70s hair. (Yes, yes, they're speaking late 20th century American English.).)
posted by persona au gratin at 11:51 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


According to Wookieepedia's meticulous reference notes, the link between the Star Wars ceremony scene and the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will is mentioned by LucasArts' 1998 interactive CD-ROM, Star Wars: Behind the Magic.

This may be a somewhat unreliable source though because it has confirmed inaccuracies that "include setting Obi-Wan Kenobi's birthdate to 60 BBY instead of 57 BBY, placing the events of Episode III at 20 BBY, and placing the birth of the Skywalker twins at 18 BBY."
posted by Bwithh at 11:51 AM on September 12, 2014


Goose-stepping Ewoks. Get on it, internet.
posted by persona au gratin at 11:52 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


"The world won't be safe for music until John Williams is strangled with the intestines of Andrew Lloyd Webber."

Rebuttal: "The Imperial motherfucking March"
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:52 AM on September 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


Four Ds: what have you done today to free Mumia?
posted by persona au gratin at 11:54 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not to directly rehash whether this movie is Objectively Bad... but any work ultimately has to be evaluated in its final form*, and we didn't see and form our opinions about it by watching and hearing its constituent parts separated out. If anything, the parts will be weak on their own because they only exist to be attached to other pieces. In this case, the sound collage and film score performed for it.

Cakes are delicious even though flour tastes nasty. "Jump" is still a great pop single even though David Lee Roth sounds like a prat in his isolated vocal tracks.

*(And yes I know Lucas has fucked around with the final form multiple times, but when you watch any of those edits of the movie, you're still watching and being affected by a movie in its entirety, and by the public opinion and influence on culture the Star Wars franchises have.)
posted by ardgedee at 11:55 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Someone needs to put some Ewoks on stage with Hitler.

Now I'm picturing Hitler getting clobbered by a giant swinging log. My day is much improved.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:56 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I can't think of a single tune that I can hum from a film score that's not by John Williams

Jerry Goldsmith -- ST:TMP, especially the theme they recycled for TNG and the little "here come some Klingons!" theme

Howard Shore -- the various LOTR movies

I mean, even if you can't bring yourself to hum them for aesthetic reasons, it's hard to deny that they're memorable and hummable.

Game of Thrones.

[morbo]GAME OF THRONES IS NOT A FILM![/morbo]

...but if you accept tv shows, then *looks* Barry Gray wins for UFO. It makes you reach for your gogo boots.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:59 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pretty much everyone knows that the Ewoks are Maoist.


Translated title of the original victory song at the end of Jedi: "The Struggle of the Forest People Is A Revolutionary Struggle."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:01 PM on September 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


Zerzan anti-civ anarchists for sure.
posted by idiopath at 12:06 PM on September 12, 2014


The best part is that I am 95% sure there's an Expanded Universe novel detailing the sociopolitics of the Ewoks.
posted by griphus at 12:09 PM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


That said, I've always found Williams' scores to be really fucking annoying and over-the-top bombastic. Dude has no concept of "subtle" or "mood". I'd love to see a completely re-scored Star Wars sans Williams.

Well this isn't better.
posted by mazola at 12:12 PM on September 12, 2014


It's hard to imagine quite a few movies from that era without John Williams' scores. Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, and Indiana Jones where all taken to another level by the music. Heck in Jaws the shark basically is Williams's music. You don't actually see it until the end, mostly you just here "dunt, dunt, dunt dunt, dunt dunt' and think you saw a shark.
posted by octothorpe at 12:14 PM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


...but if you accept tv shows, then *looks* Barry Gray wins for UFO.

Not even his best work.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:19 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't actually remember any of the score to Game of Thrones. I can remember the theme song, but that's a theme song. I can remember dozens of those.
posted by koeselitz at 12:20 PM on September 12, 2014


I just started singing the phrase "Game of Thrones" to the Charles in Charge theme and you're all guilty.
posted by griphus at 12:21 PM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'll wager a re-cut version of Star Wars without soundtrack, SFX, and post-production audio would really suck!
posted by mazola at 12:28 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't think of a single tune that I can hum from a film score that's not by John Williams

Game of Thrones.


I have no idea what the music for Game of Thrones sounds like, having only seen the odd youtube clip of the show here and there. But when I read this, the theme music from the TV show "Benson" immediately jumped into my mind. So I assume that's exactly what the Game of Thrones music sounds like.
posted by The World Famous at 12:31 PM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


Great, now I've got the Simpsons version of Guys and Dolls caught in my head, but with "Game of Thrones" instead of "Guys and Dolls".
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:40 PM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


But for movies like Star Wars, Raiders, Superman, I think what Williams does is great and unmatched by any other film composer.
posted by straight at 11:06 AM on September 12 [5 favorites +] [!]

Regarding the music. It is known that Williams was channeling Korngold mightily . Which, not a bad thing but definitely a thing. Korngold was the go-to guy for High Adventure movie music, with movies under hist belt like Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Robin Hood, etc...This is consistent with Lucas's well-known aesthetic goals regarding Star Wars, which I think was always about an idealized version of Lucas's own formative experiences listening to Flash Gordon on the radio (see also Indiana Jones, eh).
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:19 AM on September 12 [+] [!]


I was watching an old swashbuckler a few weeks ago, and my first thought, was, "so that's where Williams ripped off the Superman theme." Now of course I have no way of knowing that as a True Fact, and I'm not accusing him of plagiarism or even conscious (or unconscious) borrowing, but that key musical phrase seems to be awfully familiar. (It comes in at about the 30 second and one minute mark of the opening credits medley.) In this case the composer listed in the credits isn't Korngold but Roy Webb.

All this is a roundabout way of saying I agree completely with Doleful Creature, Williams is definitely a product of those big score, bold and brassy composers who came up in Hollywood's golden era and who created the music that put the wind in the sales of adventurous pirates and spirited the heroes along in their righteous quests for love or justice or glory.
posted by sardonyx at 12:41 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I like this audio better:
posted by ericbop at 12:43 PM on September 12, 2014


Mrs. Pterodactyl: When I was a kid I learned somewhere that the reason most people can't wiggle their ears is that the muscles atrophy to the point where they can't be used, and so I figured that telekinesis probably worked the same way and, if I went through a serious of rigorous and carefully planned exercises, I could strengthen my telekinesis muscles to the point where they would work.

When I learned that same thing as a kid, I was a little more pragmatic and just figured out how to move my ears.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:48 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't think of a single tune that I can hum from a film score that's not by John Williams

Back to the Future? Beetlejuice? Lord of the Rings? Does Ghostbusters count?

I don't know, you either need to watch more movies or listen to more music.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 12:51 PM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


the Gen X/Millennial split is most easily seen WRT to Star Wars.
posted by The Whelk at 12:52 PM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


...and the little "here come some Klingons!" theme

oh yeah. ROU_Xenopobe reveals themselves to be a person of taste and distinction.

Love that theme, especially around 0:50 when V'Ger's signature pprrrrrrronnnnnnnnnnggggg sound disrupts the jaunty Klingon bounce with fucking cosmic menace.
posted by Sauce Trough at 12:55 PM on September 12, 2014


I just watched the version with music, and I think this scene has been ruined for me.

Thanks internet.
posted by smackfu at 1:02 PM on September 12, 2014


ROU_Xenophobe: “...but if you accept tv shows, then *looks* Barry Gray wins for UFO. It makes you reach for your gogo boots.”

Oh man, that reminds me of David Shire's exceedingly good music from the opening titles of the awesome original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Man, that is still one of my favorite pieces of badass movie music ever.
posted by koeselitz at 1:11 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


You are allowed to love terrible things, and you don't even have to have a reason.

Actually, according to a recent metafilter post, no you are not. Shouldn't you be watching adult stuff, like oh, Requiem for a Dream?

Say, does anyone remember the theme song to that?
posted by happyroach at 1:11 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't think of a single tune that I can hum from a film score that's not by John Williams

Not even one James Bond? Seriously?

According to Wookieepedia's meticulous reference notes, the link between the Star Wars ceremony scene and the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will is mentioned by LucasArts' 1998 interactive CD-ROM, Star Wars: Behind the Magic.

The obvious homage was discussed as early as Vincent Canby's NYT review in 1977 and a 1978 issue of the film zine Jump Cut. It really isn't much of a debatable point, anyway -- Lucas was a film school graduate and surely knew exactly what he was doing, and especially that the vast majority of his audience would not.

Anyway, the whole issue of recutting is a very old one -- here is a famed 1939 recut of Movietone footage of stormtroopers marching to the swing tune The Lambeth Walk.

I do recommend that anyone interested in film as a medium take a long considered look at Triump of the Will. It's an incredible mix of stark visuals edited with brio, all to the purposes of fascism. As the Jump Cut piece puts it:
This implicit conservative and reactionary strain [evident in Lucas's borrowing of adventure/conquest tropes] is present in STAR WARS, and undercuts its tone of youthful rebelliousness. The final scene of the film, in which Luke and Han Solo walk between rows of uniformed soldiers at rigid attention to receive their medals, clearly echoes the march of Hitler, Himmler, and Lutze to the Nuremberg memorial in Leni Riefenstahl's TRIUMPH OF THE WILL.[11] The grins that the heroes exchange with Princess Leia are meant to assure us that these three at least aren't taking all this military pomp very seriously. But since the scene and its totalitarian, fascist overtones grow so naturally out of the rest of the fantasies and images in the film, it seems fair to ask whether the grins really undercut this image, or if they simply allow it to function for us in much the same way that Riefenstahl's original image functioned.

The scene confirms all the hierarchical and militaristic values that have characterized the bad guys up to this point, and applies them to the heroes. Martial tones dominate the scene and the accompanying music. The military position of "attention" and the practice of lining troops up in precisely even rows is an attempt to deny the weakness and vulnerability of the human body, to make human beings hard-edged and precise like their weapons. Up to this conclusion, the bad guys have been associated with their rigid body-armor, impenetrable mask-like helmets, and heavily armored Death Star. When so drastic a reversal or transition takes place at the end, it becomes important to try to understand the nature of that transition.

posted by dhartung at 1:13 PM on September 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


Legit questions:

who is giving these medals? The royalist rebellion government in exile?

where are they giving them? Cause like I assumed they're all now public enemy number one?

how are they giving them? If we assume it's an Alderani medal of honor or something, didn't all those things get blasted into space junk when the planet exploded? Is the room literally just any Alderans left who happened to be lucky enough to be off planet? Did they send invites? Did people RSVP? Did they have to end it quickly cause oh by the way the Empire totally knows you're here having a medal ceremony and not cowering an ice cave like you should be?
posted by The Whelk at 1:13 PM on September 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


I love this, but of course I fell here from another slightly parallel dimension where it's okay for people like me to hate hate hate hate hate how John Williams ruined film scoring forever by single-handedly convincing all of Hollywood's bean counters that they could never do another film that wasn't overwhelmed with tympani and other orchestral bullshit. For me, little Johnny Williams had one good theme in him and it wasn't from Star Wars. Obviously, though, this is not believed to be true in this dimension, but y'all are a strange lot. Where I come from, this film is the enduring classic for all generations, with two decent sequels and three horrible prequels, and Star Wars is watched primarily by stoned college students in so-bad-they're-good film festivals.

Hell, I'm cosplaying Pinback right now.
posted by sonascope at 1:27 PM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


I always thought that the shoutout to Triumph of the Will at the end of Star Wars was Lucas telling us the galaxy might just be trading in one set of fascists for another.
posted by octothorpe at 1:27 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Doleful Creature: "Objectively Bad Film"

I'm not a huge Star Wars fan, but "objectively bad" doesn't seem like something you could apply to anything, anywhere.
posted by brundlefly at 1:27 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


The music at the beginning of the clip was not from the movie, but the end of Holst's Jupiter.

But John Williams is the world's greatest Gustav Holst cover band so it doesn't really make much difference.


but Holst was over-the-top late-romantic trash of the lowest order way back when, 'The Planets' is like the KISS solo albums on the trash meter... so where does that leave us?
posted by ennui.bz at 1:29 PM on September 12, 2014


sonascope, I disagree with you about Williams but wholeheartedly agree with you about Dark Star.
posted by brundlefly at 1:29 PM on September 12, 2014


for some reason, it got me focused on the Luke and Hans' hair. How is it that some long and far away zone happens to have male hair fashions that are entirely consistent with the norm for men (and boys) in the mid/late 70s, which is to say, just long enough on the sides to cover the ears (or most of them anyway), but not so long as to be wild in anyway.

Good thing Punk was in the process of erupting.


So.. you think they'd look better with Mohawks?
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:30 PM on September 12, 2014


Liquidwolf: "This was 1983. Punk had already erupted. And a lot of people still had shaggy hair, not mohawks."

1977
posted by brundlefly at 1:31 PM on September 12, 2014


brundlefly

Yeah i edited to my post after I realized this was Star Wars, not Return of the Jedi which I originally thought.
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:33 PM on September 12, 2014


where are they giving them? Cause like I assumed they're all now public enemy

Your question answers itself. They aren't medals, they're clocks.

(and Terminator Chewie speaks with his hands)
posted by COBRA! at 1:36 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]




I always thought that the shoutout to Triumph of the Will at the end of Star Wars was Lucas telling us the galaxy might just be trading in one set of fascists for another.

George Lucas doesn't do subtle. Or subtext.
posted by empath at 1:50 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


straight: "I can't think of a single tune that I can hum from a film score that's not by John Williams"

Pink Panther theme? Henry Mancini has a lot of recognizable movie and tv show themes. His career was the template for John Williams, but with Blake Edwards instead of Spielberg and Lucas.
posted by I am the Walrus at 1:56 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Of all the things that Lucas changed in the 2nd (or 3rd) go-round, he couldn't give Chewbacca a medal?

I mean, the Sarlacc gets extra tentacles, the garbage monster gets eyelids, but the freakin' copilot of the Millennium Falcon can't get a shiny badge?

That's some racist (speciest?) bullshit.
posted by madajb at 1:58 PM on September 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


That said, I've always found Williams' scores to be really fucking annoying and over-the-top bombastic. Dude has no concept of "subtle" or "mood". I'd love to see a completely re-scored Star Wars sans Williams.

It possibly depends on what you've experienced. Granted the Star Wars prequels were more-or-less a wall-to-wall retread of his earlier work for the series, but there's much of Williams' music that brims with an innate understanding of mood and story, i.e. Altman's Images or Arthur Penn's The Missouri Breaks. Williams also managed to bring a strange intimacy to some of the juggernauts of Hollywood - for example, Close Encounters has real moments of minimal beauty, as does I think Jaws (i.e. the departure of the Orca) and I'd certainly describe something like Raiders as being astonishingly lyrical rather than anything approaching remotely bombastic.
posted by specialbrew at 1:59 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, as we all know, it's just sort of a bush remake of The Hidden Fortress.

You know, I'd heard opinions to that effect for years, but hadn't gotten around to watching the thing until a couple months ago.

The only real similarities are the two peasants being *vaguely* analogous to the droids in terms of comedy relief, there's a princess that needs rescuing, there's a sword fight, and there are some deserty bits. That's about as far as it goes.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:16 PM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Whelk: you mean Gen Xer's love Star Wars and millennials don't like it? Finally! A valid reason to hate on millennials!
posted by persona au gratin at 2:20 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


My kids and I laughed aloud at Chewy, but the brother/sister looks were just creepy and incest-ridden!
posted by greenhornet at 2:39 PM on September 12, 2014


Whelk: you mean Gen Xer's love Star Wars and millennials don't like it?

It's not all that clear. I saw SW in '77, lit up like a little nine-year-old jack-o-lantern about it, and watched ROTJ in the theater 29 times with my best friend, but these days? I can barely stand to watch any of 'em more than once every eight or nine years at this point, while if I see five minutes of The Fifth Element, Serenity, or The American Astronaut, I have to continue and watch the entire film and have done so far too many times. Some Gen-Xers are actually able to move on to new obsessions.
posted by sonascope at 2:43 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


who is giving these medals? The royalist rebellion government in exile?

The republic is only dissolved in the early part of the film so that seems likely to have remaining elements of authority.

where are they giving them? Cause like I assumed they're all now public enemy number one?

The wookiepedia says its in the Great Temple on Yavin 4. Presumably the end of the Death Star has left the Empire with some holes in its defences.

how are they giving them? If we assume it's an Alderani medal of honor or something, didn't all those things get blasted into space junk when the planet exploded?

Apparently its the Medal of Bravery, the highest decoration for military valor given by the Alliance to Restore the Republic. The Alliance had a fleet and a base on the planet which DOESN'T GET BLOWN UP at the end of SW.

Is the room literally just any Alderans left who happened to be lucky enough to be off planet? Did they send invites? Did people RSVP? Did they have to end it quickly cause oh by the way the Empire totally knows you're here having a medal ceremony and not cowering an ice cave like you should be?

Its the people on the planet which doesn't get blown up, alliance soldiers and support staff. Presumably they're kind of cheerful, perhaps with a certain insouciance about death given their recent brush.
posted by biffa at 2:52 PM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


If the rebels are having nazi ceremonies, surely that would make the ewoks little furry Quislings.

Which frankly would be a much better name for them.
posted by Sourisnoire at 3:03 PM on September 12, 2014


Well, as we all know, it's just sort of a bush remake of The Hidden Fortress.

Star Wars was a big mashup of scores or even hundreds of old movies, it's got bits and pieces of everything from silents, 40's serials, westerns, Errol Flynn swashbucklers, multiple samurai movies, sword and sandal epics, WWI and WWII dog fight movies all dumped in with liberal borrowings from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Heinlein, Asimov and Herbert.

Kitbashed does a good job of illustrating the references.
posted by octothorpe at 3:05 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's kind of interesting how the opposite works: listen to the music without watching the movie. That holds up just fine (and doesn't ruin the movie!).

Aside: I don't understand all the JW hate on the MF…
posted by mazola at 3:44 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hitler never got killed by Ewok booby traps, so you'll have to settle for Vader using the Force to choke an admiral played by a guy who played Hitler multiple times (including for Indiana Jones).
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:06 PM on September 12, 2014


I had kind of a thought about this a couple of years ago when I wandered into the living room while my wife was watching Gray's Anatomy. I don't know anything about the show, and I'm not sure if this is typical, but the scene I saw was about three minutes (but seemed much longer) of a man and a woman standing in a window staring at each other. There was some emo track playing in the background, and it made the scene pretty poignant, until I thought: Hey, wait, the music is in the show, not in their lives. They're just standing there staring. That's actually awkward as shit.

Early Gray's Anatomy had some stellar music choices. Somewhere along the way they fired the person who did that and replaced them with an executive leveraging corporate synergies or something and the show just became a bunch of constant whinging instead of being a show with a bunch of constant whinging with good music.
posted by srboisvert at 5:58 PM on September 12, 2014


Yo dont miss this other video by the folks who made this which is both crazy stupid and hilarious and on both counts better than the original.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:20 PM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Space Hooters… ?
posted by George Lucas at 6:46 PM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


As I kid, it was a tossup whether we'd rather listen to the Star Wars music LP or watch the video. Just as Scott McCloud argues that comics gain over more realistic images by allowing the reader to project onto the stylized form, the music was like the purest essence of Star Wars, allowing us to reenact, modify, and become Star Wars in a way the movie itself never could. Even now, Hidden Fortress or Holst, original or terrible, it hardly matters. SF largely derives its impact from the novelty and impact of the world, which is of course always relative to what an individual has seen before. And back then, blissfully ignorant of Kurosawa or Riefenstahl, it was all so flabbergastingly new and awesome. Luckily whatever Lucas or creeping curmudgeonism have done since can touch that -- and for me, the music more than any other aspect of the film reinvokes that childhood amazement. Watching the movie now it looks pretty silly, but if I close my eyes and just listen to that space operatic swoop, I'm transported back.
posted by chortly at 7:28 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was in college when Star Wars came out. In those pre-VCR days, the music was all we had, and my friends and I ate it up. My love of John Williams continues to this day and led to enjoying Korngold (not just for his movie music). But long before that I loved Wagner and Holst and R. Strauss. Williams is descended from a long line of late 19th century composers who knew how to use an ocean of musicians. Maurice Jarre' and MaxSteiner were in there, too.

Williams hasn't ruined movie music. He represents a particular school of film music that tends to work well with a certain kind of film (not that it's the only kind he composes).
posted by lhauser at 8:09 PM on September 12, 2014


brundlefly: "Doleful Creature: "Objectively Bad Film"

I'm not a huge Star Wars fan, but "objectively bad" doesn't seem like something you could apply to anything, anywhere.
"

This problem is solved as far as I'm concerned.
posted by invitapriore at 9:24 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I watched the "despecialized" version of Star Wars (IV) a few weeks ago for the first time in decades and without Lucas' horrible later day CGI diarrhea, it really is a good movie. And if you can put yourself back into the mindset of a thirteen year old boy in 1977 who'd been reading tons of used golden-age sci-fi paperbacks, it's a great movie.
posted by octothorpe at 5:39 AM on September 13, 2014


The Rocketeer is a pretty cool action movie. Neat concept, pretty to look at, acting that's certainly no worse than Star Wars. If it had a John Williams soundtrack it would be remembered as a classic, but it doesn't.

The Rocketeer's soundtrack was composed by James Horner, whose work I guarantee you've heard in a little hit called Titanic. I can hum it from memory, as it's one of my favorite movie themes.

The music wasn't the problem. It was released the same week as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and opened #4 at the box office. There is also speculation that the film's release under Walt Disney Pictures led moviegoers to assume it was for kids. Katzenberg's efforts to sell tons of merch aimed at kids didn't help this perception.

Also in my headcanon, The Rocketeer exists in the same universe as Indiana Jones and they have occasional adventures together.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:01 AM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


invitapriore: "This problem is solved as far as I'm concerned."

Good luck with those "internally consistent aesthetic frameworks."
posted by straight at 10:34 AM on September 13, 2014


I can't think of a single tune that I can hum from a film score that's not by John Williams

Back to the Future!!!!

Last of the Mohicans

And a lot of Hans Zimmer sound tracks.
posted by coust at 11:22 AM on September 13, 2014


Williams hasn't ruined movie music. He represents a particular school of film music that tends to work well with a certain kind of film

Let's not forget the other major school of film music from the 70s and 80s, as personified by "Ladyhawke". Otherwise known as "Yeah, my cousin has a synthesizer, he'll give you a soundtrack in a couple days. You like Alan Parsons Project? "
posted by happyroach at 3:17 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I thought this was going to be the perfect thread to expound my theory that one version of the Space:1999 theme wanted to be a tango. But then I went and listened and I can't figure out what the hell I was thinking. Maybe I came here from the alternate universe where Space:1999 was scored by Astor Piazzolla?
posted by moonmilk at 3:23 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Man, I'd hate to think how many people assume that was the actual on-set audio (granted, the actual one probably wasn't much better).
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 3:43 PM on September 13, 2014


Yeah, all that nodding and smiling makes no sense if they're just standing there in silence. If so, they'd speak, there'd be a presentation speech. I think you have to assume there's some kind of loud band music playing, even if it's not what's on the soundtrack.

What would not surprise me in the least would be to find that George Lucas originally wanted a long, ponderous, cliché-strewn speech followed by an "aw shucks, weren't nothing ma'am", and Marcia Griffin/Lucas pulled his nuts out of the fire again by editing together a tight sequence that does the same thing entirely visually in a quarter of the time with twice the impact.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:15 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't think of a single tune that I can hum from a film score that's not by John Williams

James Bond
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Rocky
Mission Impossible
The Exorcist
Halloween

I mean come on.
posted by The World Famous at 9:44 AM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm gonna throw in (despite the Danny Elfman derision I linked to earlier) the Micheal Keaton era Batman theme tune as exceptionally hummable.
posted by TwoWordReview at 10:31 AM on September 15, 2014


Speaking of non-Williams scores, must mention Morricone's extraordinary "Magic & Ecstasy" from Exorcist II (here done by the also extraordinary Snakefinger).

Lots of memorable themes outside the realm of tympani and symphonic bullshit.

My favorite score in the post-ruination age is Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd's gorgeous, floating, haunting soundtrack to Mysterious Skin, which is just…oh my.
posted by sonascope at 4:23 PM on September 15, 2014


So apparently I'm the only person who doesn't find the scene particularly weird without music? I mean, if you changed Chewie's growl back to normal, and had the applause at the end sustained for a minute or two, it would just seem like...a quiet, dignified award ceremony.
posted by Bugbread at 10:11 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think at least part of the amusement is due to the fact that people don't think of those characters as fitting in in a quiet, dignified award ceremony. And, in fact, that's part of what I think is intended to be communicated in the scene anyway, and the reason for the various glances and giggles.
posted by The World Famous at 2:44 PM on September 16, 2014


I can't think of a single tune that I can hum from a film score that's not by John Williams

To add on to the list:

Aliens
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Ravenous
Basically anything by Jerry Goldsmith
posted by brundlefly at 3:30 PM on September 16, 2014


it would just seem like...a quiet, dignified award ceremony.

Well, very weirdly quiet -- no dialog quiet. Yeah, you could retcon something here about multilingual interspecies awards ceremonies, and maybe everyone is listening to translator/announcers in headphones or some such like at the UN, but it's mostly that nobody speaks at all (unless you count Chewie, and I suppose we have to). In a way, that allows the scene to carry itself without the weight of exposition that would normally be there, like a little "we still have much to do" speech setting up TESB, but of course on release a sequel wasn't a certainty. I think the way it was staged also allowed for those exchanged glances and bolstered character depth.

It's almost odd that this wasn't carried through as a motif in the other episodes (if I'm wrong someone will remind me).
posted by dhartung at 11:28 PM on September 16, 2014


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