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' As Good As It Gets '

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As Good As It Gets trailer
  • Composer - Hans Zimmer (Various Artists)
  • Performance - Media Ventures/12 piece orchestra
  • Score Producer - Hans Zimmer/Adam Smalley
  • Score Mixer - Alan Meyerson
  • Album Compiler - Jeff Rona
  • Conductor - Harry Gregson-Williams/Lucas Richmond
  • Orchestrator - Bruce Fowler/Suzette Moriarty
  • Assistant engineer - Greg W. Silk
  • Technical score advisor - Marc Streitenfeld

  • Length - Score 31 minutes (Album 54 minutes)
  • Label - Promo (Columbia/Sony)
  • Recording - 8 out of 10
  • Rating - 6 out of 10 score; 8 out of 10 album

    Click on cover art to view trailer!

  • The movie opened December 25th in the US - here is the official Tristar Pictures website. Check out the Official Columbia Records site for the soundtrack (has track listing error). And here is the IMDB listing!

    There have been mixed reviews of the movie, but Jack Nicholson got praise by almost everyone. The advance word from MV on the score was that you are going to enjoy it. It is complete on CD, and has been Oscar-nominated for Best Comedy Score. And the winner is...Anne Dudley for The Full Monty.

    Below is a detailed comparative analysis which is the way I review scores. I give substantial weight to production quality and soundscapes, and was reviewed on a Mac Audio Player with output on a 2-channel stereo Bose and Discwasher Monitor headphones.

    This listening post holds edited sound clips from the album, in the Real Audio 3.0 format . Of course the CD sounds heck of a lot better, and don't sell yourself short by being content with these clips.

    You have a choice to listen (pseudo)-streamed (faster playback, possible clipping) - recommended for 28.8 or higher users,
    or unstreamed (wait for download copy, which plays back unclipped) - recommended for 14.4 users.

    Real Audio Samples
    Streamed or Unstreamed
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    Streamed or Unstreamed
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    As Good As It Gets (1.23)

    Right into it with a sway of violins, and a flute melody, slowing down into violin plotting...given centre stage. And into a 2nd passage...and there it is, a succinct, brief but definite intro to the album.

    Streamed or Unstreamed
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    A Better Man (5.35)

    Piano tinkling starts off this beautiful cue...with soft strings in the background, aided by the oboe, and in come the violins, forming a swell mix and reprise of the main theme...slow down and into the 3rd theme...building up into a progressive and bold 4th theme....slowing down ala League Of Their Own...back to the piano, a tinge of Nine Months here...moulding with the 3rd theme, and more League Of Their Own, and once again plucking of the harp...violins and flutes meander a soft variation of the main theme...more pausing...but still sustaining the theme...layers always keeping the momentum, with the celli prodding about and building to a continuous tease, but the denouement arrives.

    Streamed or Unstreamed
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    Humanity (6.25)

    The flutes begin here...lovely clarinet stuff...and stronger but pleasant piano, rising ala Nine Months, and then the cool celli start off a brash movement, to slow for marking time with the various sections, to build into a beautiful violin gathering, that just made my hair stand...slowing into more harp tinkling...with periodic contributions from the orchestra, building into a swathe with tempo, tapping along, with oboe tempering the style, and a sudden change in tune and tempo, back to the 'baby-ish' atmosphere, and strings...real slow...raised by the clarinet, violins rising with the feel, plucking and washing coming back...a climax, and slowdown into the oboe solo...real slow, easy does it.....the harp takes over into a rendition of the I'll Do Anything theme, punctuated subsequently by piano and violin tandem, and back into wind sustenance...and slowdown again into the smaller wind, harping here and there, and a pleasant accompaniment by the viola.....in and out by the various sections again, for this thematic transition, interweaved with a rapid 5th (sub) theme ...to fade.

    Streamed or Unstreamed
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    Streamed or Unstreamed
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    Too Much Reality (6.07)

    This begins with a reprise of the opening main theme with a slower tempo, and into the 6th theme by the celli, joined by harp and wind instruments, to go into the 3rd theme, and into the 2nd...in and out...and now into rapid celli, chaotic but cohesive ramblings, pause, and back into it......joined by the clarinet, and violins....viola solo, all taking their turns at varying the group of 3 themes...and piano reappears for the 3rd...this time I'll Do Anything is reprised by lower string plucking...marking time for a bit, then some percussion joins the main section for a rhythmic passage, with an abrupt close fade.

    Streamed or Unstreamed
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    Streamed or Unstreamed
    (ISDN Stereo 660k)

    (2.13) (3.54)

    A snare begins the proceedings with the oboe taking the 4th along, into more reflections, marking time, slowing down into piano...a turn into the main theme, with clarinet this time, the violins washing away with glee, high key piano...and into the pretty flute stuff......piano taking melodic presence here, strings rising...Nine Months stuff...then back with the new themes, once again each section taking its share of the spotlight, and into the rhythm again, lighter this time, but brilliantly interweaving....an ever so slight glimpse of Radio Flyer, to end with a good combination of the Nine Months closing style.

    Streamed or Unstreamed
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    Greatest Woman On Earth (7.49)

    Piano...steady.....with entering violins in the background, ever so delicate...this would be the Rennaisance Man feel... and into another variation of the 'love' theme, with 3 instruments....slowly changing into a build from Nine Months, punctuated with harp and piano...progressing, and with sustenance from a Driving Miss Daisy like oboe...and back into the present with more.....clarinet changing the pace, violins come into play with a sombre priority, ever so slightly reminiscent of House Of The Spirits, and the harp takes over for more reflection, and a hovering cello...the main theme makes a comeback...more relaxed...rising into a rich, textured reprise, and the sequential progression of all sections come into play, glossed with the wash of strings.....slowing into another theme...briefly rising...and then into the next theme, violins having a good time...and then the League Of Their Own flutes bring things to a neat close.

    10, 7, 9
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    Song Medley A (8.51)

  • Everything My Heart Desires - Danielle Brisebois
    A pleasant romantic, lyrically yearning ditty, featured live in the movie.

  • Under Stars - Phil Roy
    Bonus track (not featured in movie); Columbia trying to plug one of their 'new' artists, who sounds too much like Babyface; a slow almost acapella performance.

  • My Only - Danielle Brisebois
    A funky upbeat tempo performance, in the style of Basia; more romantic yearnings.

  • For Sentimental Reasons (I Love You) - Nat King Cole
    The classic, from the legend, always welcome.
  • 11, 12
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    (ISDN Stereo 960k)


    Song Medley B (7.59)

  • Hand On My Heart - Judith Owen
    A hip, brash, thunderous and sharp performance; the song to accentuate an album! Her 'name' is deceptive.

  • Climb On (A Back That's Strong) - Shawn Colvin
    A great follow on from Sunny Came Home, with lyrics to boot. Performance is quite affecting; great back to back next to Judith.
  • 13
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    (28.8 Mono 310k)

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    (ISDN Stereo 790k)


    Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (2.38)

    Ok!!! Grin...that Zimmer (produced) choir is back...aided by Art Garfunkel on this rendition of the classic by Eric Idle from Monty Python (Life Of Brian). You won't stop whistling! The rendition here is uncensored replacing "a can of fish" from the movie, with "a piece of shxx".


    Well, this one has been a 'really long' time coming. Sorry! Opinions have differed greatly, even more so than with The Rock and The Peacemaker; people either love it or don't (most likely with a preference for synth/action scores), which is an ironic turnaround. I do agree that it takes a long time to really like it, and unlike what some have said, it is nothing new, in style as far as Zimmer himself goes. It is a sequential change for sure, next to The Peacemaker, but as you may have gleaned from my analysis, a pleasant return to this part of his forte.

    The trouble with the album though, is the quite low recording levels for the score section, and even more so on the last track, by Art Garfunkel. The last song even sounds like it is in mono! And as far as I'm concerned, that certainly affects my listening, and consequently my appreciation and pleasure from it. No, I am not fussy; there are certain sonic standards as we know it. Take the example of the score tracks on Cool Runnings - they are terribly pressed! Furthermore, the cassette of The Preacher's Wife, and even worse, the promo CD to James Newton Howard's My Best Friend's Wedding. No matter how great the music, if it sounds like a muffled, suppressed, distorted (badly recorded) home cassette, it grates people like me to an extent where it doesn't get played. The best way to listen to this is VERY loud, or on headphones. And do play with the listening order; try starting with the songs first, with album repeat, or starting at track 11 or 13 and album repeating.


    To keep things short, I consequently recommend picking up I'll Do Anything, which should at least serve as a great companion piece, which is percussive, cool, jazzy and pleasant - certainly better pressed.

    I would say this is quite elegant, and more complex than I'll Do Anything, while also reminiscent of Younger & Younger. The self-referencing is from the trilogy of the style - Cool Runnings/Renaissance Man/League Of Their Own. There is certainly an allusion to the style of Rachael Portman and Patrick Doyle, but I doubt either would have come up with a better score; the orchestration here is just so precise yet natural. I would have given the score a 7 rating had the pressing been more presentable, and the album 9. The songs definitely add pizaaz to the album, as they are quite repressed within the movie (as usual), and if there is a bunch of great female vocalists, they are certainly present here. Lyrically, they are spot on. With the exception of the commercial inclusion of the song by Phil Roy, this would have been a superb album; but even after so many listens, he doesn't sound so bad - I guess I'm human too.

    Thanks goes to Mo at MV for providing the preview CD.

    After seeing the movie, the score definitely appealed more. Yes, I'm one of the people who often gets the score before watching the movie. It was unintrusive, enhanced the moments, and great feeling from a great movie. Jack certainly performs here, as does Helen Hunt, Cuba Gooding Jr., Greg Kinnear and the dog! Very funny, witty and touching movie - even the whole Fiji audience laughed at the intellectual jokes. Curiously, there seemed to be a fixation on Helen's breasts (she being pregnant at the time). I would say the Best Picture nominations are deserved this year, and all have a good chance of winning. The best part of the score in the movie, for me, was the part where Helen is facing her date in her living room, where the I'll Do Anything passage is played, apart from the Tristar logo opening - violins!

    Trivia - the movie credits on the back of the CD don't mention the composer! Tut tut. The Oscar nomination is the 4th for Hans. The movie was formerly titled Old Friends.

    How to purchase - well, if you're convinced, you can buy this album from Pentagon. Doing so supports Zinfo in a small way. Thank you, and enjoy! Cheapest buy - Pentagon

    Bonus - Liner notes

    Hans certainly thanks a lot of people, in addition to naming all the musicians once again. Dedication is also to Boo (whoever that is...I happen to refer to Zimmerite pioneer Brian Tiemann as that as well). And for the director, "don't forget...Always look on the bright side of life!!"

    From the director:

    "Okay, Hans Zimmer. These must be random notes. I have no choice. Because, typically for Hans, this collection of the music from the movie is being put together at the last possible moment (complete score, by Jeff Rona) and I have, just a scant minute ago, guessed and he has confirmed that he'd like me to write some notes for the package, this just now coming out because he was too friggin' considerate to come out and actually ask me to do it when we finally wrapped the movie at three ayem a few days back when I could have had the Thanksgiving Holiday to poke around about what to say.
    So random thoughts it is:
    Hans is one of the truly beloved people you can't work up a hate for. He is giving and pure and generous and all this NOT to a fault to a fault.
    He suffers in his work process perhaps more than anyone else who writes so effortlessly.
    I met him a bunch of years ago when I went to a preview of A League Of Their Own directed by my friend Penny Marshall. (I think it was League - I don't even have the time to check stuff like that - one busy guy, or not such a friend, knowledgeable movie person, lolI saw this guy chain smoking and chain talking - each with an accent. I was impressed. Going full bore at Penny takes gumption. I figured him for a gifted and nervy film producer since he went into every area of the film and his rap on all was really smart. Then I found out he was THE COMPOSER. Composers don't do that - They come in, they chat, they look at the film, say polite nothings about your work and then do their thing and move onto the next project.
    We are now close friends. His wife Suzanne, my wife Holly forming, with us, one of those unusual four cornered relationships where everyone is close to everyone. Hans and I have been bloodied together on a film, I'll Do Anything, that I cared about enormously and which became a prominent commercial failure. Hans cared too and class will tell during the tough times. His class screamed. Set examples for mankind etc.
    Now we've done this one together, As Good As It Gets. He's been talking to me and contributing to this one for more than two years. It was a cheery New Year's Eve at his place where he gave me "Bright Side Of Life" as an idea for the song in the movie. As always he knew everything what I wanted for this film, knew what I couldn't articulate. (Incidentally he expresses himself and others too easily. Picture this; you are in a state of alarming self doubt as a director and co-writer of this movie but you are a professional, keeping up the front, disguising your own waves of doubt so others don't falter. Suddenly a soft empathetic voice is patting its way into your reverie. "it's because you're afraid since the last one didn't work, right?" And even as you're lying to him and telling him he COULDN'T BE MORE WRONG AND STUPID you feel a little comforted. His confession is good for your soul.)
    There were many times in the final months of this movie when he was bent in two by the difficulty as we all have been, all who participated in the movie, for reasons so hard to communicate. I should keep it all to myself - but he has left me no time for editing and wise choices. It has to do with tone and an ever-present perversity in the moment to moment life of the picture. Roughness gives way to romance in a half-beat, comedy to drama, drama to comedy, romance to isolation, hope to futility (You get the idea of how much I could use some editing time. There was a way to say that whole thing in six words.) This meant that the music could never quite assume or lead but had to support, even to the very end, sudden tilts of mood and tone. I'd come to his studio and see him slumped awash in hopelessness. I'd take a page from his book but remember his book is in a foreign language so I'm terrible at the page I take. "Scared shitless, huh?" I'd commiserate. "Yeah, it's tough and if you don't solve it the movie won't work." And then I'd leave him to his work which went past dawn. I love what his work and spirit did for this picture. No kidding. Ask anyone close to the process. I am telling the truth. He was amazing. And the talent is wild like watching magic tricks. Melodies are very hard to write. (What's the last Holywood picture where you come out with the music in your head.) But not for Hans. So when something didn't work right for the picture you'd watch him throw away a theme any other movie would celebrate; that didn't work here because of the usual nature of the beast. And, AS YOU WATCHED, a new tune would take its place. Tunes you'd want in music boxes. And he turns this stuff out while knowing every foot of the film as well as you, while knowing what your heart wants, while taking care of an ever increasing amount of business and people, while mentoring a large number of other composers and while continuing to hear any negative reaction to the music for a particular scene not as judgement but part of the struggle to serve the work. Not only that - while he's going through these contortions of productivity he remains this smart, sympathetic friend so, with me, even while he's fearing he won't pull it together I can't resist laying a little of my life on him and always, even in the middle of hard deadlines and Hollywood, he will give that too his best shot..
    And here too Hans' best shot is the very best there is.

    Jim Brooks

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