SPECTRE: Thomas Newman is Back! (appreciation topic)

edited December 2014 in SPECTRE Posts: 11,119
I have been reading many negative reviews from people inside the Bond fan community about Thomas Newman's score for 'Skyfall'. This part from http://www.examiner.com/review/soundtrack-review-thomas-newman-falls-a-few-clouds-short-with-skyfall basically sums it up: "While mainstream press continues to tout the “Skyfall” soundtrack as one of the best in Bond history, I unfortunately believe the exact opposite." Call me the more 'mainstream movie music lover' then.

It's interesting to read reviews from those who don't like John Barry-esque romance, but tend to favour 'easy-to-listen' action music and easy-recognizable Bond themes (http://www.soundtrackgeek.com/v2/soundtrack-review-skyfall/, http://moviemusicmusings.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/skyfall-film-and-score-review/, but I'm not that kind of man. 'Skyfall' is so much more than just another Bond film. So is its music.

Actually, I am among those who find 'Skyfall' truly exquisit. Yes, I am a Bond fan, but foremost I am a movie lover and music lover in general. Having said that I think Thomas Newman's score for 'Skyfall' has been the most effective Bond music ride since the late 1980's (John Barry's 'The Living Daylights', Michael Kamen's 'Licence To Kill').

Down below I will give my own set of arguments why I think Thomas Newman's take on the music for Bond has been the best in decades....and why I think Thomas Newman must return for the 24th official Bond adventure:

--> Better, richer recorded sound: Is it because of the way 'Skyfall' was recorded by Newman's colleague Simon Rhodes? Or is it because Newman simply used more people/more instruments in his orchestra set-up compared to David Arnold? Fact is, when I listen to Newman's score, it sounds both richer and 'deeper' compared to Arnold's scores.
--> Use of strings in orchestra: It's fairly obvious to me that Newman is doing much more with strings (violins, cello) than we have heard ever since John Barry's 'The Living Daylights'. Is it because Newman's also uses 'electronical strings' besides the 'normal' violinists?
--> Up-tempo use of strings: Listen to the track 'Health and Safety' and 'Tennyson' for instance. It's quite incredible how Newman uses the double bass and cello in such a way that they almost seem 'fighting' with other string parts. It creates wunderful tension that I haven't heard in a Bond film in decades. It are these 'deeper layers' that fascinate me.
--> Use of other instruments that have a prominent role: Think of flutes, for instance the german flute, which you can hear at the start of 'Quartermaster' but also instruments like harps can be heared at the start of 'Somebody Usually Dies' and 'Severine'
--> Simon Rhodes: He has always been working with Thomas Newman and is also editing/mixing the original orchestra music with electronical music. Listen to tracks like 'Voluntary Retirement', 'The Moors' and 'Quartermaster'. But the way electronics are used, are in such a subtle, delicate way, that it never sounds overdone in an Arnold kind of way. It is as if orchestra and electronics are perfectly blended together. The electronical percussion parts create the extra tension.
--> Enhancing romantic/dramatic/mysterious scenes: Perhaps it is, again, due to the rich use of strings, but it surely creates more drama and mystery in tracks like 'Someone Usually Dies'. Tracks like 'Modigliani', 'Severine' (shower scene) give an almost Barry-esque romantic quality to the film. Also 'Komodo Dragon' feels mysterious.
--> Newman is a conductor too: David Arnold always relied on his buddy Nicholas Dodd. Arnold himself mentioned several times that he is not a conductor. But Dodd's qualities as a conductor are pale compared to what Newman can do. Conducting is pivotal in actually getting all these different layers of music in a smooth way. We haven't had a composerconductor ever since 1987's 'The Living Daylights' and 1989's 'Licence To Kill' (Michael Kamen).
--> Enhancing the theme of the movie: I was listening to Mark Kermode's review of 'Skyfall' and he was saying: "Well actually, it may not make strict narrative sense, as in....'would somebody actually do that at that point', but it makes complete thematic sense! That in a way is the key.". He is right. And I think Thomas Newman is musically enhancing all these political/social themes in the film (use of modern spies, use of intelligence services, hacking, Julian Assange).
--> Newman doesn't forget the Bond fans: Listen to tracks like 'Grand Bazaar/Istanbul' and 'The Bloody Shot' (The latter is a bit John Powell-esque). He skillfully uses Monty Norman's theme. Even more so than David Arnold did in 'Casino Royale'. 'Breadcrumbs' gives us the James Bond theme in a more traditional way.
--> The score on the whole has a Hans Zimmer-esque grandness: Listen to tracks like 'Jellyfish' and 'Brave New World'. It has a certain Batman-feel to it. It isn't only that. As a music production 'Skyfall' sounds way bigger than David Arnold's attempts.
--> Thomas Newman excells himself: Let's be honest here, Newman hasn't done true action-packed movies. A few exceptions are 'Jarhead' and 'The Adjustment Bureau'. But even those aren't true action-thrillers. No, 'Skyfall' is Newman's first real attempt of composing a score for a truly grand action blockbuster. For me that is something way more difficult than composing action music Bond film after Bond film (David Arnold). I think that's why Newman received an Oscar nomination for his 'Skyfall' score; the first ever Bond score doing so since Marvin Hamlisch' score of 'The Spy Who Loved Me'.
--> All the above reasons make me say: Bring Thomas Newman back. I love his work, not only because he did one Bond film so far, but also because his work outside Bond is as good as the score for 'Skyfall'. So in a way, 'Skyfall' is not just a Bond score, it's more than that. It's a phenomenal movie score on the whole.

PS: I all had to retype this, which I hate hehe. But well, my memory is okay :-). So these were all the arguments that made me say: "Newman, you're 'in' again, Arnold, you're still 'out'."
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Comments

  • doubleoegodoubleoego #LightWork
    Posts: 11,090
    With Mendes likely to return I wouldn't be surprised if Newman comes back too but in all honesty I'd rather have Arnold return. His scores for CR and QoS IMO are better and more memorable than anything Newman did for SF.
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 1,985
    If you plan to write 1200 words on it, I wonder if you'll write about such oddities as :

    - why the Eastern sounds in New Digs (at least it sounds so to me, and when the OST was first out, some here thought it would be related to the Istanbul location) ? The scene takes place in London and has no relation to the Eastern landscape of the PTS (on the contrary, it takes place underground as a strong symbol, while the PTS is all about being in the open air etc).

    - why did the producers used at the end the David Arnold's version of the James Bond theme for the 50 years logo ? Is it yet another "not so diplomatic" last second change (like Eric Serra's tank chase music replaced at the last moment by something more Barry-esque by Sean Callery & David Arnold) ? Newman had time to do last minute music (cf the Adele theme within one track) so I don't believe they had the idea of using the James Bond theme in full scale mode only very late and that it prevented him from doing one.

    - do you think in 5 years you'll be able to whistle a single theme from this score ?

    But well, given that Thomas Newman is Thomas Newman, I'm afraid we'll rather read once again something about his nominations and so on, and how David Arnold never got one, etc. I suspect if David Arnold had written "Brave New World", we would be reading how ridiculous the beginning of it sounds, "like in Octopussy when Vijay plays it".




  • edited June 2013 Posts: 50
    I wouldn't mind if Newman returned. I enjoy the soundtrack album and only really had one issue in the film itelf and am not entirely sure if that was a result of how Newman scored the sequence in question - the getting ready for battle scene at Skyfall - or a result of editing in post production. As the sequence ends the climax to the music seems a bit too grandiose for the images we are seeing.

    If he does come back though, I think he either needs to be given a crack at working on the title theme or else given enough time to interpolate the theme by whoever else does it rather than just have one a one track adaption as in Skyfall.
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 12,292
    Newman got the Oscar nom because he was Thomas Newman. If Arnold had produced that exact same score it wouldn't have got a second look from the Academy.
    - do you think in 5 years you'll be able to whistle a single theme from this score ?

    This is my main problem. People keep calling it "subtle" but I think it's just forgettable. It fits in well with the film but in the end it blends in too well imo and you hardly ever notice it. I never once thought during the film "wow, the score is great!" and there wasn't a single track stuck in my head after.

    Bring back Arnold!
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 792
    Newman won the Oscar because he was Thomas Newman. If Arnold had produced that exact same score it wouldn't have got a second look from the Academy.

    Some confusion here. Newman did not win an Oscar for his 'Skyfall' score. It was beaten by 'Life Of Pi'. Adele won an Oscar for the Skyfall title song which she co-composed.

    Newman was awarded the UK BAFTA for best score for 'Skyfall'.

    Newman's 'Skyfall' is easily the best Bond score since John Barry's 'The Living Daylights in 1987'. I'd be very happy to see Newman return for Bond 24
  • Posts: 12,292
    I meant him being nominated, sorry.
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 3,049
    Why the Eastern sounds in New Digs (at least it sounds so to me, and when the OST was first out, some here thought it would be related to the Istanbul location) ? The scene takes place in London and has no relation to the Eastern landscape of the PTS (on the contrary, it takes place underground as a strong symbol, while the PTS is all about being in the open air etc). I suspect if David Arnold had written "Brave New World", we would be reading how ridiculous the beginning of it sounds, "like in Octopussy when Vijay plays it".
    Some very good points there, @Suivez_ce_parachute. I too was mystified as to why these exotic Eastern music segments were used inappropriately throughout the movie. It's like having a shot of the Taj Mahal and having the Chinese dragon dance as background music, aesthetically it's all wrong.

    I'm in agreement with some of you here and would rather hear David Arnold return.
  • Posts: 4,619
    Newman earned the first 'Best Original Score' Oscar nomination for the franchise in 35 years. I bet the producers would want him to return even if Mendes doesn't.
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 3,049
    Correct me if I'm wrong, @PanchitoPistoles, but a Bond score has never been nominated for an Oscar until SF, so shouldn't that read: the first 'Best Original Score' Oscar nomination for the franchise in 50 years?

    EDIT: I see that Marvin Hamlisch was nominated last in 1977, which is disgraceful when you think John Barry was never nominated for his superior compositions but Hamlisch and Newman got their feeble efforts submitted.
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 1,985
    TSWLM's score was nominated. John Barry got 4 Oscars, and more nominations, but nothing for this work on Bond. Marvin Hamlisch and Thomas Newman did... I don't think people will conclude he's the less competent composer of the three, but I'm not sure here !

    Funnily enough, the same Academy which is meaningless when people talk here about Deakins, becomes now meaningful when defending Newman :)
  • ShardlakeShardlake Leeds, West Yorkshire, England
    Posts: 3,970
    I like Newman's score to Skyfall it's no Barry masterpiece but none of Arnold's are, his QOS was his best so yes I'd like to his return at some point. To be honest it's probably going to do Arnold the world of good having someone else step into his spot.

    Hopefully he''ll raise his game and produce that score this Craig era really deserves if he returns, to be honest I think he thought it was his gig for as long as he wanted but Mendes bringing TN on board changed that. If Sam wants him back for Bond I won't be holding protests like some.

    Nothing wrong in some new blood for the series and to me I think Newman's score works very well, no it's not got much toe tapping moments and maybe I won't be whistling any of the cues but I can't say I've found myself whistling Arnold's efforts so doesn't make a jot of difference to me.

    Bond in fact full on film scoring is never likely to see Barry's originality and sheer talent again, it's hard for anyone to be original now. The films were just afforded so much quality when Barry was holding the baton that any other poor sod is likely to be on to a hiding to nothing following him, Arnold, Newman or anyone else that takes on the job is inevitably going to be compared to him.
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 1,985
    Shardlake wrote:
    I can't say I've found myself whistling Arnold's efforts so doesn't make a jot of difference to me.
    We'll never know if Surrender would have become a memorable title tune because the producers decide to have a more bankable singer (looking at the rankings and awards is not always a good thing it seems :) ), but I suspect it'd been considered one of the best of recent years.

    Also, the fact Skyfall ends with David Arnold's version of the James Bond theme is not something to forget IMO !
    Odly enough, the reviews from movie music lovers in general seem to be way more positive. .

    Ah once again, your song about you being the only true movie lover here (even though I've never read you writing about something else than blockbusters, your comment about Gemma Arterton being very successful with "Wrath of Titans", "Prince of Persia", and "Hansel and Gretel" speaks a lot :) )

    http://www.filmtracks.com/titles/skyfall.html

    " Ultimately, the Skyfall score has to be considered a disappointment, both when it struggles in context and on its exceedingly long and often understated album. The title song easily out-classes the score on all levels. "

  • Posts: 12,020
    Would have no objections to this, but I am more focused on hopefully having Deakins back first and foremost!
  • Posts: 11,119
    Done. I finished my opening post :-P. Had to rewrite everything, but it's there :-). A bunch of very good reasons why I think Newman must return.
  • Posts: 11,119
    TSWLM's score was nominated. John Barry got 4 Oscars, and more nominations, but nothing for this work on Bond. Marvin Hamlisch and Thomas Newman did... I don't think people will conclude he's the less competent composer of the three, but I'm not sure here !

    Funnily enough, the same Academy which is meaningless when people talk here about Deakins, becomes now meaningful when defending Newman :)

    Because a nomination still IS a nomination. Hence the fact that the remainder of the nominees, four in total, will receive a certificate from the Academy when they don't win the statue. I always look on the bright side: Being nominated is always better than not being nominated. Barry, Martin, Hamlisch and Newman got nominated for their work on (movie) music. Arnold however......

    And don't call the Academy meaningless. I actually know Mike van Diem (winner foreign Oscar 'Character' in 1998) and for him hit was a pivotal moment in his movie work. A moment he will never forget.
  • Bringing David Arnold back would be a backward step for the series. Five is enough. Newman showed how to score a 21st century Bond movie. Arnold has had his run. Newman deserves to be offered Bond 24.
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 1,985
    Barry, Martin, Hamlisch and Newman got nominated for their work on (movie) music. Arnold however......
    Yeah, let's fire Craig, he's no Connery. And let's stop talking about a Bond directed by Nolan, a Zero Academy Award nomination for director directing a Zero Academy Award nomination for lead actor, a recipe for disaster right ?
    Gee...
    I see why you keep on calling yourself a true movie fan (who understand music better than those who want "'easy-to-listen" action music). Because no one else will.

  • Posts: 11,119
    Bringing David Arnold back would be a backward step for the series. Five is enough. Newman showed how to score a 21st century Bond movie. Arnold has had his run. Newman deserves to be offered Bond 24.

    Completely agree with you here. What did you personally like about the score?
  • Posts: 12,292
    Oscar nominations mean nothing if you only get nominated because of who you are.
  • Posts: 4,238
    doubleoego wrote:
    With Mendes likely to return I wouldn't be surprised if Newman comes back too but in all honesty I'd rather have Arnold return. His scores for CR and QoS IMO are better and more memorable than anything Newman did for SF.

    +1

    Arnold's score for the last 2 Brosnan films were great (the best thing about DAD is it's soundtrack) and he nailed CR and gave this best work in QOS. Newman's score promised so much and delivered so little, I feel that Arnold had more to give.

    Also I have to say @Gustav_Graves you are entirely wrong when you say Arnold 'ignored' the Bond theme in CR and Newman appreciated the fans more. Arnold's muscial choices were inspired for that movie, Bond was not the Bond we know from the previous films during the course of that film, he had not earned the theme and gradually throughout the film Arnold laced small notes into the fabric of the musical score, showing Bond slowly earning his stripes, ie; winning the Aston and trying on his tux. It's not till the last 2 minutes of the movie that Bond has truly arrives and Arnold can let rip with the Bond theme proper. Great concept executed with a great score in a great movie.
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 1,985
    Oscar nominations mean nothing if you only get nominated because of who you are.

    And "The Secret Service" should star Colin Firth. Should we conclude we'll see the best portrayal of "Bond" on screen then ? I mean the guy had several nominations and even won the Oscar, he's not that actor from Cheshire who got none :)
    (the best thing about DAD is it's soundtrack)

    Isn't it the same for TND ? Producers told Arnold to use the Bond theme a lot and he delivered :)

  • Posts: 12,292
    Oscar nominations mean nothing if you only get nominated because of who you are.

    And "The Secret Service" should star Colin Firth. Should we conclude we'll see the best portrayal of "Bond" on screen then ? I mean the guy had several nominations and even won the Oscar, he's not that actor from Cheshire who got none :)

    Halle Berry is (correct me if I'm wrong) the only Bond girl to have won best actress.

    Clearly this proves that Jinx was a fantastic character, head and shoulders above all those none Oscar winners like Tracy, Vesper, etc :))
  • Posts: 11,119
    Oscar nominations mean nothing if you only get nominated because of who you are.

    Oscar nominations mean something if it's about the quality of the score. Anyway, this discussion is besides the point really. I just wanted to mention my arguments why Thomas Newman was great and should return.
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 1,985
    Here a shorter version of my questions then :

    - why the Eastern sounds in New Digs ?

    - why do we hear at the end the David Arnold's version of the James Bond theme for the 50 years logo ? You hint he's clueless and yet seemingly Newman couldn't do it better...

    - do you think in 5 years you'll be able to whistle a single theme from this score ?

  • edited June 2013 Posts: 5,767
    Newman´s SF score totally fails to make any kind of statement, except for a desperate attempt at sounding pseudo-contemporary and at times Zimmer-esque. It has no identity, and it even isn´t fun to listen to.

    The notion that Newman showed how to score a 21st century Bond film is completely incomprehensible to me.

    Newman returning for another Bond film is a thing that has to be avoided at any cost.
    Shardlake wrote:
    Bond in fact full on film scoring is never likely to see Barry's originality and sheer talent again, it's hard for anyone to be original now. The films were just afforded so much quality when Barry was holding the baton that any other poor sod is likely to be on to a hiding to nothing following him, Arnold, Newman or anyone else that takes on the job is inevitably going to be compared to him.
    Wrong. I don´t compare any other Bond composer to Barry, and I don´t expect or demand things similar to what Barry did from any composer.

  • Posts: 50
    - why do we hear at the end the David Arnold's version of the James Bond theme for the 50 years logo ? You hint he's clueless and yet seemingly Newman couldn't do it better...

    Wouldn't surprise me if Arnold's version had already been temped tracked in during editing. If it works and does not need to be thematically linked to the rest of the Skyfall score, no point in getting Newman to re-score it.

  • edited June 2013 Posts: 1,985
    Halle Berry is (correct me if I'm wrong) the only Bond girl to have won best actress.

    It depends...

    Because, well, if Oscar nominations are SO important, then the most stellar Bond is the one with :

    Academy Award Winner Sean Connery
    Academy Award Winner Kim Basinger
    Academy Award Nominee Max Von Sidow
    Academy Award Nominee Klaus Maria Brandauer
    Academy Award Winner Michel Legrand (music)
    Academy Award Nominee Douglas Slocombe (DP)
    Academy Award Winner Stephen Grimes (production designer)
    Academy Award Winner Leslie Dilley (art designer)
    Academy Award Winner Peter Howitt (decorator)
    Academy Award Nominee Charles Knode (costume designer)

    and I may forget some.

    As it also has a story directly from Fleming, and took about 10 years to make, surely the best Bond is therefore...

    Never Say Never Again :)

    [Funny to think that Gustav Graves claims he's the only one here to "think as a producer". The Bond producer who thought a bit like him is rather Kevin Mc Clory who recruited a "dream team", and not Eon !]

    PS : Have a look at Ender's Game trailer. I still can't believe it :)
  • Posts: 971
    boldfinger wrote:
    Newman´s SF score totally fails to make any kind of statement, except for a desperate attempt at sounding pseudo-contemporary and at times Zimmer-esque. It has no identity, and it even isn´t fun to listen to.

    The notion that Newman showed how to score a 21st century Bond film is completely incomprehensible to me.

    Newman returning for another Bond film is a thing that has to be avoided at any cost.
    Shardlake wrote:
    Bond in fact full on film scoring is never likely to see Barry's originality and sheer talent again, it's hard for anyone to be original now. The films were just afforded so much quality when Barry was holding the baton that any other poor sod is likely to be on to a hiding to nothing following him, Arnold, Newman or anyone else that takes on the job is inevitably going to be compared to him.
    Wrong. I don´t compare any other Bond composer to Barry, and I don´t expect or demand things similar to what Barry did from any composer.


    Could not have said it any better.

  • ShardlakeShardlake Leeds, West Yorkshire, England
    edited June 2013 Posts: 3,970
    Newman did nothing as terrible as that segment of music that is used when the Sky Plane is revealed in CR, it was like pure Austin Powers, in fact whole Miami sequence was lots of pounding percussion with no melody at all.

    It greatly amuses me that so many were saying Arnold needs replaced and now he's the second coming after Newman's scoring. As I said quite few of us me included if I'm honest are always going to be unsatisfied with a Bond score.

    Plus I'm not suggesting anyone should sound like Barry, I'm saying we are never likely to see that kind of identity again in a Bond score, everyone will always echo is work, Newman bought more originality to the table with his first score than Arnold had in his entire time, I didn't hear any pastiches on Barry during his score.
  • edited June 2013 Posts: 1,985
    Shardlake wrote:
    Newman bought more originality to the table with his first score than Arnold had in his entire time, I didn't hear any pastiches on Barry during his score.

    Don't forget the producers asked Arnold to be more "Barryesque" after the Eric Serra score that left them a bit puzzled (they even felt they had to change the music for the tank action sequence, and "censored" Serra's score to put something more Barry-esque by John Altman or whoever).

    As for the nomination being so important and meaning "true movie fan should then acknowledge the score is brilliant", will we ever know how many voters for the nominees thought Skyfall's score composer also composed Skyfall, the song by Adele (the ballots for nominees only have "Skyfall" written I think) ? No. But I think it's more than a few :)



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