The Next Williams

I’m not the first to say it.  But I believe it all the same, and so I don’t say it lightly.

Which is to say, Michael Giacchino is the John Williams of his generation.

He’s that film composer in every generation, one of a handful at most, who inspires so much excitement about his music, so much interest in film music in general, that even people who may otherwise know nothing of film composers know of him.

I didn’t see it coming, and I’ve known of Giacchino for a while, since I first discovered his work in video games with the Medal of Honor franchise.  Most of the games may not hold up quite as well now, but his music (especially his extraordinary score for MOH: Frontline) holds up beautifully.

I’d like to think that Williams himself would be proud to have his name on the Medal of Honor scores; they have the kind of energy and spirit that made Raiders of the Lost Ark one of the Essentials.  But it wasn’t enough for Giacchino to merely imitate The Williams Style, as so many have done.  He understood it, and through that understanding created a work with a voice and power all its own.

From that introduction, I’ve followed his career with unqualified enthusiasm, from his breakthrough film score (2004’s seminal The Incredibles) through Ratatouille through his work on Lost (the series where The Giacchino Style found its first full expression).  And I knew that a truly extraordinary year was inevitable for him.

That would be last year.  The year of Giacchino’s finest scores to date.  The year of Star Trek and Up.

Just as Williams’ music became a pivotal character in films like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, so did Giacchino’s become a pivotal character in Star Trek, simultaneously building on the foundation of Alexander Courage and James Horner and the incomparable Jerry Goldsmith and escaping their shadow to (again) create an original work with a singular voice, a singular energy, a singular heart.

And I can’t think of a better word than heart to describe his work on Up.  In fact, I’m having trouble thinking of words altogether.  Up, as a film and as a score, is better experienced than described.  If you’ve seen it, if you remember the first 12 minutes (and if you’ve seen it, you will remember the first 12 minutes), then you’ll understand the emotional impact of the film as a whole, and of Giacchino’s score as a part.  It’s the kind of score that reminds me of what great film music is truly capable of.

I wasn’t the only one to remember, as Michael Giacchino’s extraordinary year culminated in a well-deserved Oscar for Up, and an acceptance speech that was one of the ceremony’s high points.  That love letter to the creative impulse has become a staple of my social network profiles, and makes a fitting close to this ode to a composer I’m convinced will be remembered as one of the greats:

Thank you, guys. When I was… I was nine and I asked my dad, “Can I have your movie camera? That old, wind-up 8 millimeter camera that was in your drawer?” And he goes, “Sure, take it.” And I took it and I started making movies with it and I started being as creative as I could, and never once in my life did my parents ever say, “What you’re doing is a waste of time.” Never. And I grew up, I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I worked with all through my life who always told me what you’re doing is not a waste of time. So that was normal to me that it was OK to do that. I know there are kids out there that don’t have that support system so if you’re out there and you’re listening, listen to me: If you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It’s not a waste of time. Do it. OK? Thank you. Thank you.

The feeling’s mutual – thank you…

One thought on “The Next Williams

  1. Lee – Glad you’re keeping tabs to such matters, given that I haven’t paid attention to who’s writing what score in years. From here on out I’ll make a mental note when I see Giacchiono’s name in the credits.

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