5 FILM SCORES TO HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE (PART 1)
Article By Abbey Archer
If there’s one thing that can elevate a film from good to great (or turn an otherwise mediocre film into something a bit more bearable), it’s the music. Why else would studio execs go out of their way to release records, cassettes, CDs, and digital downloads of such scores? Because music — much like film — can be one of the ultimate ways to escape reality. Music is a big part of my life, especially that of film, since the very first albums I ever received as a kid were themes from some of the best films. And though there are many “soundtracks” out there that deserve a listen in your speakers (like 500 Days of Summer and both of the Guardians of the Galaxy films), we’ll be focusing on actual compositional scores over the coming weeks. Be sure to check these albums out on Spotify, Amazon, or iTunes; you’ll be all the better for it!
A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001): JAMES HORNER
James Horner was one of the modern era’s most revered composers, but I decided not to go with the score that won him the Oscar (Titanic). His music for Ron Howard‘s A Beautiful Mind may be his best work and is definitely one of his more underrated gems. The use of piano is often present in his work, and it doesn’t disappoint here, often accompanied by Charlotte Church‘s angelic vocals. It works well with the film to tell of heartbreaking genius John Nash, whose world is not all as it appears; and the melody of the film’s theme, “All Love Can Be,” will weave its way around your brain and stay with you long after the music — and story — ends.
NOTABLE TRACKS: A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics; Cracking the Russian Codes; The Car Chase.
ATONEMENT (2007): DARIO MARIANELLI
When Atonement hit theaters in 2007, one of the things critics couldn’t stop raving about was the soundtrack by relatively unknown composer Dario Marianelli. While the film didn’t end up winning Best Picture at the Oscars, it did take home the statuette for Original Score — and once you hear it, you’ll understand why. The back and forth of frenetic piano and strings work to bring the breathless wonder of Briony, whose accusation against a family friend wreaks havoc on the lives affected by the scandal. The slower themes kick in as WWII hits, and the finale hits you so hard in the gut, with the help of haunting piano notes. Good luck keeping the waterworks from breaking through.
NOTABLE TRACKS: Briony; Elegy For Dunkirk; The Cottage On the Beach.
BLADE RUNNER (1982): VANGELIS
Blade Runner, since its inception, has been divisive among critics and audiences (I’m personally in the ‘Meh’ crowd), but one thing that unifies them is the soundtrack. Vangelis brings a sound that not only screams “The Eighties”, but actually does a great job blending synthesizers with actual music. Where his Oscar-winning work in Chariots of Fire is arguably one-note, his themes in this sci-fi monolith add depth and dimension to its already cerebral narrative. Regardless of how you feel about the film itself, there’ll be no denying the wonder of its atmospheric tunes with the volume on full blast.
NOTABLE TRACKS: Rachel’s Song; Memories of Green; Tears in Rain.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961): HENRY MANCINI
We head back to the ’60s for these final two entries, and they couldn’t be more different. First off is the Audrey Hepburn classic, made all the more iconic by Henry Mancini‘s “Moon River.” Its sultry melody, sung by Hepburn, has transcended pop culture and maybe even more famous than the film itself. But it’s Mancini’s jazz background that really deserves the high marks, composing memorable tunes that took home the Oscar that year. It’s a charming soundtrack that has mod flair, like classy elevator music, but much more ear-wormy.
NOTABLE TRACKS: Moon River; Sally’s Tomato; Lain Golightly.
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969): BURT BACHARACH
Last up is a soundtrack that has a lot of joy to it, despite its rather bleak ending. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a funny adventure flick, and the music definitely adds to its charm. Like “Moon River” mentioned above, this film’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” may be more recognizable than the source material, and it — along with the entire score — took home an Oscar. Composer Burt Bacharach has managed to bottle up happiness and turn it into a great time for his listeners. I recommend playing this on vinyl, so you can have an original listening experience and be transported back to a somewhat simpler time.
NOTABLE TRACKS: Not Goin’ Home Anymore; South America Getaway; Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.