Matt Schrader’s film has no room for a deep dive on composition, but it does an admirable job of covering the history, major figures, and routine of its musicians.
Even if you’re not a movie buff, you probably know a composer or two. There are movies that wouldn’t be half as powerful without the memorable score. Powerful scores manage to live on beyond the movies that created them, and yet they’re seen as just one piece of a larger puzzle. Matt Schraderit is Score: A documentary on film music finally gives composers their due. While the film never delves into controversial topics like directors wanting music to sound like the temp tracks or how independent films with lower budgets try to manage their scores, it nonetheless succeeds as a celebration of songwriters. , their history and their work.
Schrader’s documentary focuses on three areas: the history of film music, notable composers, and how those composers work. The story is more of a brief overview, taking us from the days of the “silent film” and how there would be a live orchestra, through the more soundtrack-focused 1960s, and then the resurgence of sheet music. led by Jerry Goldsmith and particularly John Williams. The movie tries to shine a line on notable composers throughout history, but Williams (unsurprisingly) gets the most attention. That being said, the composers who took part in the documentary to show off their workflow also take up a significant portion of the runtime, so we see how people like John Debney (The jungle Book) and Tyler Bates (guardians of the galaxy) job.
Goal works more like a celebration of the art of composing, and it is a worthy celebration. If anything, I wish Schrader had more time to really delve into the various topics he was exploring. His look at the history of composition is a good overview, but it’s easy to see that there are so many more nuances and details that are left out in a 93-minute feature. It’s good that the film addresses Ennio Morricone‘s work, but it has to kind of speed up, make people say “He was important for westerns!” before moving on to the next composer. It’s cool to see modern composers at work, but we don’t really get into the nitty-gritty or the conflicts they face beyond deadlines.
As it is, Goal functions more as a rough outline that leaves you wanting more, though it does an admirable job of providing a brief introduction to the art of composing. It’s basically a syllabus rather than a full course load, and hopefully after people see the film they’ll want to learn more about composition and do their own research. It’s a start, and any movie that sheds an admirable light on talent below the line is worth seeing.
Schrader does a great job of balancing his areas of exploration even if he doesn’t have time to delve into any of them. He is able to get subjects talking about their work without making it too wonky or esoteric, and while Goal is not the last word on the subject, it is a good start. I would love to see him do documentaries on other areas below the line like costume design, cinematography, etc.
Goal will appeal to anyone who loves movies and loves the music behind Hollywood films. Although those who want to delve deeper into the conflicts and controversies in the field may be left behind, it will always inspire you to search for your favorite scores and learn more about the art of composing for films.
This tale as old as time takes a little turn
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