FourScore Match-Up #12: “Oh, I Love the Holidays”

So many days of the year are devoted to holidays and each of us undoubtedly has our favorites. But what happens when Hollywood sets out to make a statement about a particular day of the year? Well if you’re like me then you won’t mind Hollywood doing a movie about Arbor Day (or an equally overlooked holiday) as long as the music is good and fits the story. Today’s FourScore hops around the calendar a bit and looks at the films that take good use of the most popular holidays and the scores behind them that help make these films so memorable and iconic.

So which of these holiday themed themes is tops in today’s match up? Is it the story of Bill Murray’s perpetual problems with Punxsutawney Phil? Is it Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum keeping up human relations with Earth’s other worldly visitors? Is the terrorizing and traumatizing tale of a boy and his sister reunited after 17 years? Or is it the story of a little Ralphie Parker; a young man who simply set out to get his coveted Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle? Find out after the jump…

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Groundhog Day – George Fenton crafts an all around playful score that really matches Murray’s antics on screen. Overall the lighthearted music has a deceiving degree of complexity as it is simultaneously funny and heartwarming with weighty romantic undertones. Fenton’s work is overly plucky and breezy but is driven by his strong dramatic themes that thankfully, in a movie about an inescapable day, doesn’t become repetitive…except for that Sonny & Cher song of course.

(Favorite Tracks: You Like Boats But Not The Ocean and Sometimes People Just Die)

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Independence Day – David Arnold’s rousing score certainly gets the adrenaline going but also tugs at your heartstrings just a bit. The deep percussion of his score is nearly overpowering as the alien ships first appear and the sound comes through you speakers in such an intense manner you’d think aliens were truly invading.  While the film might have had some campy elements you can forgive the overacting and enjoy the humor as some may call ID4 a guilty pleasure. This movie is popcorn entertainment and a lot of fun but Arnold is all business. You’ll find it impossible not to get absolutely pumped during the canyon chase or tear up just the tiniest during the culmination of Bill Pullman’s speech.

(Favorite Tracks: The President’s Speech and End Titles)

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Halloween – Eerie and foreboding; just what you’d expect from a Carpenter pic right? A master of horror yes but also a masterfully simple score and who cares if now a days the synthesizer is incredibly dated? When something works, it works. Period. It’s rather hard to believe how effective something can be despite it sounding so chaotic and amateur. Highly redundant but in a way it seems purposefully so as almost mirroring the tone of the movie where we find Micheal’s pursuit of his sister not really redundant but relentless.

(Favorite Tracks: Halloween Theme and He’s Here?)

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A Christmas Story – If you aren’t already still sick from hearing this music from the last marathon of “24 Hours of A Christmas Story” on TV then I invite you to have a listen once again. Seeming as if it was written by Norman Rockwell Carl Zittrer & Paul Zaza create music (sampled from classic tunes including Peter and the Wolf) that’s as fun and nostalgic as you can get. In short their efforts, with a little help from Jean Shepherd‘s short stories of course, pretty much defined this holiday for all time.

(Favorite Tracks:  Bob’s Major Award, Meeting Of The Minds and Glorious, Beautiful Christmas )

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FourScore Ruling:

These films above don’t have groundbreaking music yet they all fit the story and (at times) the action/drama on screen. But as far as an all around cinematic score, David Arnold edges out his competition today. High points go to the fun factor he added to Emmerich’s story/visuals but also there’s much to be said of his score as a whole for its cohesive nature. That’s important because Arnold is able to mimic the tones of the other films above since ID4 did have plenty had moments of nostalgia, romance, humor, horror and more. But all that aside, nothing hits home like his score when Bill Pullman gives his motivational speech. For that, Independence Day takes the cake on this one. Hmm, maybe should have posted this on Independence Day.

I think Arnold’s work can best be summed up with the quote from Dean Devlin (the film’s co-writer and producer) in CD liner notes “Leave it to a Brit to come up with some of the most stirringly patriotic music I’ve ever heard“. I heartily agree with that.

Saving the world and celebrating the country’s birthday has never been this exhilarating!!

Carpenter didn’t take the win today but regardless, Happy Halloween everyone!! If you’re looking for some last minute scares, then check out our Top 10 Flicks for Halloween.

  • My pick out of those would be Halloween. It’s one of my favorite scores. I love pretty much all of Carpenter’s music, though. Sure, the synth stuff can date it, but as you said, if it works, it works.

    • Personal fav Carpenter is Big Trouble in Little China for both the film and the music. But while I thought Prince of Darkness was a story that never realized as it intended the music was pretty effective and worked for me.