Split Decision: Dead (Elf)Man's Party
Welcome back to Split Decision! Each week, we pose a question to our staff of knowledgable and passionate film geeks and share the responses! We may never know if it is legal to park in the center of Broad Street, but we’ll answer movie questions all day long. Chime in on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below!
This week’s question:
This week's question: In honor of Men In Black: International, what is your favorite film music by Danny Elfman?
I somehow came into possession of the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack around the time that film came out and I played it regularly until I somehow lost it. I really liked his music for that film; it was very evocative of the fantasy world Tim Burton created.
And since it's pride month, I'll give a shout out to Elfman's score for Milk, which was very minimalist and emotional for me.
Like Gary and what may turn out to be everybody, the name "Danny Elfman" instantly connects to Tim Burton in my mind. Elfman was at his "bwom bwom" best on The Nightmare Before Christmas and has as much ownership over the movie's tone as forever-forgotten director Henry Selick has. It's also, I think, the only movie where he sings the lead part (I think the only other movie he sings in extensively is Forbidden Zone, but you couldn't call him the main character there). So as a composer, as a lyricist and as a musical goth totem, I think he did his best work here.
Batman Returns is one of the first scores that I remember noticing as a kid. Each villain has its own little theme that always finds a way to blend into the main Batman theme whenever he shows up. It's a sequel that takes on a much darker tone than its predecessor, and the music is a huge reason why this tonal change works so well.
I'm in agreement. Batman Returns is such a nuanced score. It has the classic Batman melody, but it dips into shrieking violins as Selina has her transformation, or the calliope sounds of the circus any time the Red Triangle Gang rolls through (Note: Batman straight up kills many members of this gang). I've always preferred the fantastical air of Batman Returns, and much of that has to do with the score. I think that's also why it's one of my favorite movies to watch while snowed in (The Thing and The Hateful Eight are good for that too).
Check out this little gem. Anyone remember Novocaine, the oddball dark comedy with Steve Martin as a scheming dentist? If you don’t it's worth checking out. Danny Elfman did not do the music, but he did do the opening titles. Check it out.
I love how recognizable Danny Elfman’s scores tend to be, even across genre and tone of the project. My favorites from him tend to be things that feel equally at home in a twisted world or being played by a marching band. My absolute favorite being from Mars Attacks! Elfman’s score is incredible, weaving together his love of punchy brass statements, as well as a chorus and liberal use of the theremin to create the perfect B-movie tribute.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention one of Elfman’s other singing performances, that of the Oompa-Loompas in Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Each song that is sung after one of the kids is offed uses Road Dahl’s original lyrics, is written in a different genre, and features Eflman’s voice modulated in various ways to match the performance of Deep Roy as every single Oompa-Loompa. Each one of them is as absolute joy to behold.
I think it's all about Batman (1989). That music is just so devilishly perfect, and as essential a component of the film as Keaton, Nicholson, or Burton.
The answer to this question, and I feel the answer has applied to other questions here, is The Nightmare Before Christmas. All music and lyrics written, composed, and in some instances, sung, by Danny Elfman. For the month of October and beyond, Ryan and I wake up in the morning singing “This is Halloween” to each other. We're very romantic in that way. Every song is an earworm, and the musical themes are equal parts meloncholy and macabre for this offbeat little musical.
I’m well versed in Danny Elfman music at the moment, as my show “Johnny Depp: A Retrospective on Late-Stage Capitalism” is having an illustrious remount at Fergie’s pub. But my favorite Danny Elfman score is from Beetlejuice. It’s creepy and loud, starts slow and works to a fever pitch. It’s silly and scary at once. Quintessential Elfman.