Film released by Redeemable Features / IDP Distribution (2002)
"And you can take that to the bank"
"Lung cancer - it's not without its benefits."
No score CD available
clip, 0'57" (1.35Mb at 192kbps) [End credits]
(Many clips throughout "Webmaster's additional 2")
Writer-director Bob Gale creates an amusing life-exploration tale: a cleverly written, inoffensively R-rated, decently acted (filled with cameos brought in as a favour owed to the man long associated with the film industry - catch Michael J Fox screaming, swearing and crying!) and at times thought-provoking movie on a very modest budget. James Marsden (blithely stepping out from behind the cyclops) plays Neal, looking for 'answers' to his life; Gary Oldman (beautifully miscast in self-dyed orange hair and Pee Wee red bowtie) plays mischievious wish-granter O.W. Grant, who, with Christopher Lloyd's illusive 'Ray', guides our hero through Oz/Wonderland Interstate 60's signposts and billboards of life towards Amy Smart's love interest. A film that rewards closer inspection for the little details that bind the real and the magical.
Christophe Beck produces a whimsical score which alternates Grant's cheeky clarinet-tipped theme with a pre-Under the Tuscan Sun glimpse of warm orchestral maturity, and sugars this vitamin-filled fruit salad with themes or catchy instrumentation for the numerous characters Neal meets on his way to enlightenment (e.g. Chris Cooper's truth-seeking cowboy is illustrated by twanging guitar).
Webmaster's additional 1: the director/actors' commentary
DVD counter readings are approximate (taken from an NTSC version) and may not tally with the cue-commentary.
BOB GALE: "Coming up here is out little clip from Close Encounters. I'll spill the beans here that we did not get permission to use the real score from Close encounters - it's a separate rights thing. You have to get permission from the studio to use the movie (and the director and who's ever in it has to sign off on it... and Spielberg gave permission and Richard Dreyfuss gave permission), but the music rights are separate and we couldn't get permission from John Williams, so the score that plays over that is a fake version of it written by our composer's assistant."
1:34'53" [As we arrive at the motel.]
JAMES MARSDEN: "I really like what the score starts to do here. It's a nice moment in the movie where you [get the] strings out and the violins and it's... I remember seeing the movie for the first time and thinking that's..."
BOB GALE: "Chris Beck did a great job with this score. I wanted to have sort of a... what I call Peter and the Wolf [Prokofiev] score, where the different characters and the different ideas have themes - Chris Cooper has that little [makes boinging noises] twanging thing and there's this theme that permeates the love story that always comes back. O.W.Grant has his own theme, and he understood that type of writing and was able to write memorable themes where you're there from one part of the movie to the next. This little cello solo here [1:35'50" - nighttime at the motel] [Marsden interrupts briefly about confusing cello and violin solos]... We recorded this with members of the Seattle Orchestra but the cello player just wasn't quite good enough up there [it is a high and exposed solo!], so Chris had this re-done with [and] L.A. Philharmonic cello player, who was great."
Webmaster's additional 2: principal themes and trends
Chris Beck's film scores are notable for their thematic economy, often because they lack the space to breathe. Here, though, a thematic approach appears to have been very much encouraged, and the composer has responded with motifs for a number of "characters".
"I-60 theme". The principal guiding theme, which generally occurs
when the romance of Interstate 60 is alluded to, either in spoken reference
or in incident on the highway. It is characterised by the descending interval
of a 5th, but in a way it grows out of the music from the opening of the
film, and thus becomes closely associated with the main character, Neal.
It also bonds with a particular acoustic guitar timbre, the "I-60 vibe"
credits - opening and close, 1:55'22"] [Ex.1/midi]
N.B. The I-60 theme is probably the most flexible due to the obviousness of the falling-5th. An example is at 1:17'56" where Neal confronts "the proverbial fork in the road": a mysterious development of the theme shows his doubt over whether to keep his blood promise to deliver a package or make a possibly dangerous detour in search of Lynn. [mp3, 1:17'56"]
"Grant's theme". Gary Oldman as O.W.Grant is such an incongruous character, featuring his Pee-Wee Herman clothes and shock of hair, that a suitably luminous theme seems most appropriate. The clarinet is the obvious instrument for such a role, and its sly twist of a theme is instantly recognizable. Notice how the composer rarely employs this instrument elsewhere. [mp3, Clarinet, 0:03'06"] [mp3, Trombone entry, 0:04'35"] [Ex.2/midi]
"Love theme". This could easily also be seen as Lynn Linden's theme, since she is the love interest. It emerges when Neal thinks about her and when he sees her face on billboards, but is at its most powerful towards the end of the film when they actually meet. [mp3, End credits - see mid-point, 1:55'22"] [Ex.3/midi]
"Euphoria theme". One of this film's few genuinely chilling moments are in the town of Bentin, where the drug Euphoria has been legalised and used to divide society into those who take it (and live a pleasurable but meanial existence) and those who don't (who repa the benefits of a cheap labour source). Watching a mother take to the drug out of depair after her son has fallen victim to it is incredibly moving. Beck lends Euphoria its sinister tone from the outset with funerial minor chords, and follows it up later with chilling celeste counterpoint (shown in clip). [mp3, chords only 0:52'50"] [mp3, chords and counterpoint, 1:00'00"] [Ex.4/midi]
Mr Cody's bomb. At 1:09'02" and at 1:27'27" we are treated to the simplest theme possible: a single bass guitar twang. [mp3, 1:09'35"]
The I-60 vibe (acoustic guitar, etc.) is very much a binding feature of the score but it is at its strongest when Neal is cruising along I-60, and is often used as a backdrop to the I-60 theme. It too grows out of the harp/guitar pizz of the first music you hear in the film.
Magic/impressionistic underscore. Grant's theme isn't particularly magical, and perhaps a style is needed for the presence of Grant's magic beyond the I-60 vibe. Beck let's his orchestration tickle rather than hit you with its power. [mp3, Opening moments, 0:04'35"]
Mr Cody's vibe. The twanging guitar underscore represents the Chris Cooper's character's obsession with frontiers by harking back to the Wild West. Its strongest manifestation is with "Mr Cody's bomb" theme noted above, but at 1:05'37" a theme (heavily overlaid with Cooper's dialogue) is heard which could be said to represent him. Interestingly enough, it starts with a decsending scale that covers the interval of a 5th, so could equally be commenting on Cody's speech about the I-60 as a frontier. A neat convergence of theme with vibe.
Webmaster's additional 3: the cue discussion
DVD counter readings are approximate (taken from NTSC version).
0:00'00"-0:00'26" Subtle high strings (tremolo) with guitar/harp pizz (probably very quietly given echoe by horn), underscoring Neal's opening dialogue with the audience. Slightly dreamy in mood. This is the kernal of a theme which follows Neal on his journey, transforming as it goes. At the moment it is not yet recognisable as such, but could grow into the I-60 theme and vibe.
0:00'26"-0:01'41" Background country music. Diegetic. Scene in which students and locals discuss a lack of American wish-givers.
0:02'33"-0:03'28" Alto (or lower) flute gives us an almost subliminal taste of O.W.Grant's theme, under quiet upper strings. A feeling of anticipation: hestitant pizzicatos. All as the students discuss the unlikelihood of Grant's existence and of his haunt, Interstate 60. At 3'06" the swift cut from gloomy bar to bright street is punctuated by cymbals/orchestra chord, and we are introduced to O.W.Grant, cycling innocently, accompanied by his theme on melodious (and cheeky) clarinet.
0:04'24"-1:05'18" O.W.Grant grants his first mischievious wish. High string note with hints of glass harmonica and softly swelling horn chords, as the wish is made (that Grant had not cycled into the Fox character's car). At 4:35" xylophone and harp accompany the magic in motion; strong rising strings (tremolo) raise the sonic level for 4'49" as time resets on Grant's bike ride. This time, though, the clarinet is replaced by the more raucus sound of trombone for Grant's theme. The accompaniment is also fuller, with the clashing of the 'major second' interval noticeable, and percussion taking a more central role. All is brought down a notch (trombone replaced by horn, for example) so we can hear Fox's character's phone conversation again. Rather than give us an orchestral exclamation mark, Beck allows his strings to relax into a slight crescendo before letting the noise of the approaching truck take the cue to its icky conclusion. "Some people just don't know what to wish for."
0:05'26"-0:06'53" Rock band for further credits and introduction to (and by) Neal, in his appartment.
0:08'39"-0:09'14" Dreamy underscore style from 0:00'00" returns, without a specific theme to note, but recognizable drop of a fifth, which foreshadows the I-60 theme. Guitar again with strings. Neal introduces the context of his birthday party.
0:11'13"-0:12'54" The Red Car. Clarinet 5-note melody is a developement of 0:00'00", over shimmering strings. Tinklingly impressionistic orchestration hints at magic to come. At 12'14" after the bucket knocks Neal out, we are returned to a single note (a form of "starting again"?), at which point 0:00'00"'s guitar returns, with the melody closer to this cue's clarinet version. Accompaniment is strings, with hints of horns and cor anglais.
0:15'14"-0:15'59" Subtle mainly-string underscore, similar in harmonies to the accompaniment of the 0:00'00" theme in its 0:11'13" version.
0:16'33"-0:16'34" Single chord. Punctuation for end-of-scene at the hospital.
[0:18'24"-0:19'03" The Chinese. Diegetic restaurant music. Unverified authoriship.]
0:19'03"-0:20'09" Guitar over shimmering synths and strings, hinting back to 0:00'00". Moves straight to Douglas Romayne Stevens' faux underscore to Close Encounters (see director's commentary note on Webmaster's additional 1).
0:20'29"-0:20'57" Guitar, strings, with subtle percussion. Peaceful underscore which complements the atmosphere of 0:00'00" and works with the general peacefully-enlightened mood of the film as a whole.
0:22'43"-0:23'58" A new theme coming from the guitar/harp ether with thin string accompaniment. Characterised by its opening leap of a major 7th: Love theme. Neal sees his dreamed-of/painted muse on a bill board. This is the first time her appearance has been underscored.
0:24'37"-0:30'21" Guitar/strings more eerie at first, hinting again at magic. The fall-of-a-fifth in the theme that emerges is more highlighted than at 0:08'39": the I-60 starting to form. Mysterious, minor-key underscore as Neal keeps his appointment with the mysterious Ray, but the I-60 theme is gaining ground as Neal is persuaded to take a package on the Interstate 60 to Danver. At 0:28'12" trombones intimate the theme in gloomier but still more recognizable context. Strings repeat it.
0:30'40"-0:32'11" More energetic cue as Neal gets started on his journey. Strumming guitars; I-60 theme now freer on upper strings. At 31'15" a cor angais develops the Love theme, emphasizing the notes: C (up to) B (up to) C, perhaps in A minor/F major (or equivalent transposition). At 0:31'59" Grant's theme is nicely reprised in simpler form (slowly on clarinet) as O.W. is found hitching a ride.
0:32'59"-0:34'05" I-60 theme on flute, developed by clarinet. 8-ball reveals there is such a thing as the Interstate 60.
0:34'28"-0:37'04" I-60 theme confidently on horns. Neal finds Interstate 60. Segues into relaxed acoustic guitar underscore - "cruise music" perhaps. Here Neal and Grant are discussing the existence of I-60. 0:36'42"-0:37'05" strings start edging in, tremolo, harmonies shift up gears as Neal tests Grant's theories against an on-coming truck. Horns show at the peak before the music silences completely at the near-miss. High celeste tinkling and a rounding-off guitar finish the scene in a returned state of relaxation.
0:37'05"-0:38'13" Diegetic background music of the cafe. Electric guitar band. May not be Beck. No vocals. Fades out as we get into the dialogue of the scene.
0:40'05"-0:41'23" Pizzicato upper strings, with arco mid-strings: Neal places his bet in favour of the man eating his large menu order in one hour. Tremolo strings and tam-tam percussion underscore alternate with this style, and later low pizz and triangle have a turn. All cheeky underscore with syncopated favour but no thematic significance. Music stops as man finishes his meal.
0:41'50"-0:42'34" The man's eating wish is explained, with Grant's theme in lower strings, and its opening upward-semi-tone echoed by upper strings.
0:45'34"-0:46'08" Laura hitches a ride to her perfect f**k. A flute theme (characterised by its opening major-7th leap hints at the Love theme) over I-60 guitar and shimmering strings.
0:49'46"-0:51'32" Guitar puntuation as Laura departs screaming, and the I-60 theme launches back into its stride on guitar - this time the melody is extended somewhat. Neal and Grant approach the Museum of Art Fraud. This stops as they are stopped by an anxious mother. As she explains her plight, the underscore is almost non-existent (sotto voce strings). As Grant leaves them to their journey to Bentin, the guitar elaborates (with some slow syncopation) over a minor key chord, with hopeful references to the major - this accompanies his re-discovery of a red ace of spades.
0:52'17"-0:53'49" Approaching Bentin, learning of "Euphoria" drug. Minor key chords, with two in particular most recognisable - Euphoria theme - with now-eerie plucked notes plus celeste. The pizz/celeste combo is chilling perhaps because of its childlike repetition, like an old music box.
[0:53'49"-0:56'23" Rave music version of "Relax, don't do it"]
0:59'55"-1:01'14" Eerie underscore fades in, featuring a return (for brass at first) of the Euphoria theme, and then the chilling pizz/celeste. The mother makes her choice: to take Euphoria and join her son in Bentin. Oddly enough the pizz/celeste combo appear to be hinting at Grant's theme (esp the upward semi-tone), although this could be coincidental.
1:01'45"-1:02'35" Sombre underscore, shifting from eerie pizz/celeste style back to the I-60 lilt, with the theme in a state of dissollution.
1:02'30"-1:02'35" Southern twang of guitar (not banjo?) for Neal's new ride: the truth-seeking Mr Cody (Chris Cooper).
1:03'35"-1:03'51" I-60 groove shifts back in: Neal's humour has returned as they drive off.
1:03'53"-1:04'07" Radio car advert jingle (electric guitars and drums). Unverified authoriship
1:04'08"-1:04'18" Radio film trailer music. Unverified authorship: Hans Zimmer-style, but could be pastiche.
1:04'20"-1:04'27" Radio 'US Post Office' jingle. Acoustic guitar with drums.
[1:04'31"-1:05'32" "I get a kick out of you" by Cole Porter. Performed by Frank Sinatra. Played on the car radio. Diegetic.]
1:05'37"-1:07'42" Twanging guitar featured: Mr Cody's speech on frontiers. A good melody below the dialogue which could be his theme. The opening is a descending scale spanning the interval of a 5th, so linking with the I-60 theme.
1:09'02"-1:10'09" "Wash the damn car." Tense quiet strings give way to heavy low guitar twang as Mr Cody reveals his bomb. Revving bass guitar, maracas and trilling strings as beggar loses his options.
[1:10'09"-1:12'30" "On the sunny side of the street" by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields. Performed by Frank Sinatra. Played on car radio. Diegetic, although possibly not played while characters are acting, since it starts as the car drives away in the distance.]
1:12'51"-1:13'08" The I-60 theme returns, but with a more mellow twang to it as Neal leaves Mr Cody's employ and turns to the Museum of Art Fraud.
[1:14'15"-1:17'09" "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" (excerpt) by Mozart. Arrangement by George Wilson. Plays (implied diegetically) in the background of the 'Affordable Art' room of the Museum.]
1:17'09"-1:19'26" Clarinet plays Grant's theme as Neal spots his self-portrait. We move straight into the I-60 theme on low strings with busy guitar and subtle percussion as Neal carries on his journey. Harp-like cadensa as Neal finds the billboards pointing him to his muze and away from his parcel's destination, and at 1:17'56" a minor key development of the I-60 theme lends doubt on upper strings and celeste (over a ringing almost glass harmonica harmony) as his ponders which road to take. Morlock for his muze? A viola solo for the Love theme, more recognisable than ever. Getting warmer! As Neal drives to Morlock, the viola's rendition of the Love theme is given a boost from a more chirpy guitar-led accompaniment (the I-60 vibe). At 1:19'15" this fades off, less settled as Neal is stopped by the police.
1:19'57"-1:20'46" Pizz strings, maracas, wood block etc. underscore Neal's approach to this new challenge to his senses. Odd. Slightly weird. Excellent counterpoint. Tremolo strings enter as he looks around at the law firms, with the former scoring returning as he is bombarded by legal practitioners. Music stops as he does: with his new lawyer.
1:24'24"-1:25'44" Underscore string chords: Neal incarcerated. At 1:24'49" the Love theme enters as an imprisoned Neal spots his muse in an adjacent cell. Feeble beneath the stormy weather. At 1:25'37" the Southern guitar twang accompanies Neal's inspiration on the character witness front - CB's score follows Neal's thoughts but not his internal verbalisation, so we only have the score to tell us that Mr Cody is to be called until the next scene.
1:26'27"-1:28'00" The jury laid bare. Tremolo strings, slight twang, quiet gong: tense underscore. At 1:27'27" a bass guitar note punctuates Mr Cody's bomb (the same method was used when we last saw it, after 1:09'02"). Revving bass again builds up the tension before the judge gives in to his demands for a fair system in town.
1:28'49"-1:29'27" Low acoustic guitar, twanging guitar and triangle as Mr Cody makes his mark on the town.
1:29'38"-1:30'33" Harp delicately pics out the outline of the Love theme with sympathetically warm string accompaniment: the muse makes her entrance. Music stops abruptly when she starts talking - "roughly".
1:31'27"-1:33'54" Mid/low strings re-enter with a cautious version of the Love theme as Neal realises he's been had, and she's been testing him. As they start to talk a new theme appears to emerge (assuming it is new), based at first on a rising semi-tone and scored for upper strings with accompanying acoustic guitar. Unsure if this is alluding only to the Love theme or obliquely to Grant's theme, since they are discussing their wishes. At 1:33'20" the Love theme enters on harp in a more recognizable form (would have made a touching cue but for the farting...).
1:33'54"-1:37'48" Back on the road, with the I-60 strumming guitar vibe. At 1:34'26" the I-60 theme itself (complete with it's strong initial perfect-5th drop) cruises into view on tutti strings. Dreamlike underscore for the happily ever after possibility. At 1:35'22" a gloomier (low strings with double bass drone undertone) rendition of the I-60 theme underscores the message that one of them at least should not be going to Neal's Danver parcel destination. At 1:35'48" a viola plays the Love theme, at first fragily, then with warm strings for their stay in the motel - it drops into harp underscore as they discuss his new picture, and into minor key territory, leaving the theme behind as Neal makes his decision to continue alone.
1:37'48"-1:39'42" Very strong brass-led version of the I-60 theme, extended: Neal drives on alone. A more determined mood: the man with a mission. Minor key underscore at 1:38'34", growing more eerie as the murderer's red car is described almost as Neal's (but for a splash of white paint). 1:39'26" Neal asks 8-ball: "Is Lynn in danger from this killer?" and what sounds like a strangled flute version of the Love theme is heard.
1:40'07"-1:42'45" Minor key music from the last cue returns - this time with strings tremolo. Neal's car has just been splashed with white paint. Oops. At 1:40'47" brass take back the I-60 theme, this time matching the higher urgency with the tremolo strings and a racing pulse below it. Parallel chromatics, tremolo strings, swelling brass all underscore Neal's wrestling with his plight: how best to avoid the cops. 1:42'21" I-60 theme (very brief version) with suggestion of finality: Neal has made his own mind up at last and decides to take his car "to the bank" literally.
1:43'14"-1:45'24" Action music for the murderer's red car on it's way into the roadblock. The minor key music from 1:38'34" returns: Neal inspects the car for his alternative future. More sympathetic strings shift back to more major key territory, with the brighter scoring (harp, etc.) filtering in as Neal realises what the what-if is teaching him. Bye-bye 8-ball.
1:45'35"-1:48'20" Philosophical (exhausted?) guitar follows Neal to his destination, package in hand. Spooky atmospherics for his seach for the package's owner, 'Robin Field'; and when he finds Ray, harp enters, breaking the mood in readiness for... 1:46'50"'s clarinet adding the correct theme for O.W. Grant, and extending it a little as the man explains the package and its meaning. Strings and low flute continue. 1:48'14" - the magic does its work on Neal (indescribable mixture of sounds!)
1:48'20"-1:49'07" Harp picks out the I-60 theme with sparse string accompaniment as Neal finds himself back at the hospital. Returned to subtle impressionistic orchestrations.
1:50'34"-1:52'46" Nice mixture of rustling percussion over a rising sequence of string chords, then doubled with brass, lifting out into bright flute. A very slight clarinet touch hints at Grant's hand in entering Neal's motel painting in the exhibition. At 1:51'31" the Love theme returns for harp (with string accompaniment) as his interested buyer turns out to be his muse. Flute and strings lyrically extend the theme. Neal's sister is advised by Grant to make a wish on her next birthday, and his theme (at 1:52'42") returns properly.
[1:52'46"-1:55'22" End credits: "Everything in the world" by Danny Michel. Performed by Starling.]
1:55'22"-1:56'16" The I-60 theme reprise on strings in its home guitar vibe; shifts to cor anglais with the Love theme over dreamily blurred harmonies, and extended by strings everso slightly before dying away with guitar.
Film music credits