Case in point. I was watching Pay it Forward the other day (which is something clearly worth doing...), and I heard something very familiar - a revamped version of a song that I remembered hearing in Real Genius.
So, I checked out who did the music. It's done by Thomas Newman, who also (rather obviously...) did the music for American Beauty, as well as over 60 other films, including Erin Brockovich, The Green Mile, Meet Joe Black, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Little Women, The Shawshank Redemption, and Scent of a Woman.
It's hard to underestimate the value of a movie's composer, really... You can watch a plastic bag blow in the breeze during American Beauty and think - "How beautiful! How wistful! The way that bag is just dancing..." but it's the music that really makes that scene work. It's the music that can make you look at a silent, still scene that shows Kevin Spacey's face and be profoundly moved... even though you may not be actively listening to it, the music is providing the emotional context - and even if you don't go home whistling the song in your head, that's just a very good sign of how skillfully the music was used. Yes, you were quite definitely emotionally manipulated, but it wasn't glaringly obvious at the time.
Well, turns out that Thomas Newman is actually part of a Hollywood legacy... he's the Son of Alfred Newman, one of Hollywood's most famous composers. One of the first movies he did music for was City Lights with Charlie Chaplin. There are also over 200 other movies I could mention but here's a short list: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Modern Times, Miracle on 34th Street, How to Marry a Millionaire, Carousel, The King and I, Flower Drum Song, South Pacific, Camelot, It's a Wonderful Life, The Seven Year Itch, My Friend Flicka, Beau Geste, and Heaven Can Wait. He also created this flashy little tune...
Thomas Newman also has some other relatives, such as his uncle Lionel, who was the music supervisor and/or conductor for films like Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien, Hello Dolly!, Cleopatra, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Give My Regards to Broadway, and Breaking Away... plus another 200ish films. There's also his Uncle Emil, who did music for about 140 films, including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Joan of Arc, The Best Years of Our Lives, Stormy Weather, and Body and Soul.
Oh, did I also mention the seventysuch fims that his brother David did (including Throw Momma from the Train, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Hoffa, The War of the Roses, The Flintstones, Brokedown Palace, Galaxy Quest, and Bowfinger...) or his cousin Randy, who, when he isn't singing about L.A. or writing mean-spirited songs about short people, has done some movie music himself... he's really the family's underachiever, with a scant 27 films under his belt, including Toy Story, A Bug's Life, The Natural, Meet the Parents, Ragtime, James and the Giant Peach, and Monster's Inc.
It's hard to contemplate all the pain that Randy Newman songs have inflicted on the world, but it's nice to think that for every movie Randy Newman has done, his cousin Thomas has done two.
So, that makes a family total of 72 Academy Award nominations and 10 Oscars, I guess... In one sense, it's extremely impressive. In another, it's a really, really good reason to hate Hollywood. Um... hey, guys?! Give someone else a chance!