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Score: A Film Music Documentary is a most melodious film-history lecture

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We gave it a B+

It’s why the Psycho shower scene makes you jump and the opening of Up makes you cry. Music is one of a filmmaker’s most powerful emotional tools, and movie scores have been manipulating our feelings and challenging our expectations ever since a Wurlitzer organ player first accompanied a silent film. But with the exception of a few iconic melodies — think Star Wars, Rocky, or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly — scores are one of the most underrated components of moviemaking. Matt Schrader’s Score finally gives film composers their due with a documentary that’s part geeky history lesson, part tribute to some of the greatest musical moments in movie history.

Schrader’s assembled some of the industry’s best to talk about all things film music, and it’s a bit like getting to spend a few hours in a mad scientist’s lab, as legends like Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Rachel Portman, Quincy Jones, and Howard Shore all dissect their composing process. (John Williams and Thomas Newman also appear in archival footage.) Structurally, Score isn’t all that innovative, mostly just weaving together archival film scenes with talking heads. But it’s the detail that makes this doc so fascinating, exploring everything from how Tom Holkenborg got those epic drums in Mad Max: Fury Road to why you can hear Elfman’s Batman theme in every superhero movie since. Think of it as the most melodious film-history lecture ever. B+