I thought it was high time to pollute the Inter-waves with more of my un-asked-for opinions about the movies, this time by introducing an ongoing series of some of my personal top 10s. I thought it would be fun to eventually accumulate a diverse collection spanning all kinds of things, from individual moments to a canonized list of my Favorite Movies of All Time™ (if we're lucky--absolutes are hard!).
All of these are going to be, obviously, incredibly subjective and arbitrary, but I also firmly believe that I am infallible so I look forward to not reading your comments. With love of course.
So without further ado, let's jump in with a look at scores!
Ground rules: basically I restricted this category to music originally composed for the film in which it appears. And for the sake of succinctness, technically these are ranked as individual selections from the larger score, albeit the ones I tend to think of when considering the score. (For the most part... Anyway.)
10. "When You're Next to Me" (A Mighty Wind)
This song is one of many original numbers composed by the cast for the 60s folk tribute the film centers around. The film itself is a delightful farce from the people who brought you This Is Spinal Tap and Best in Show, but the music is often surprisingly heartfelt. Duo Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara) gift us with the most genuinely emotional musical moment of the film with "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow." This song, while only featured in the credits, is my favorite of their programme though.
9. "Feed the Birds" (Mary Poppins)
Sherman & Sherman
So, Julie Andrews is a queen. But this song is more a sermon, one that I don't think would show up in any film other than one produced by Disney Studios at the end of the great man's life. I've heard it was his favorite composition from all of his house's films, and if that's true I can't find anything with which to dispute it. I can't help it, the instrumentation over the bridge takes my breath every time I hear it.
8. "Solace" (The Sting)
Marvin Hamlisch/Scott Joplin
OK, OK, I know, I'm cheating on this one. But just slightly. Hamlisch based his entire score for this fantastic grifter film (featuring Paul Newman and peak-sexy Robert Redford, you're welcome very much) on Joplin's iconic ragtime music. But his orchestrations and arrangements give them a life they wouldn't have had otherwise. So it's a tiny fudge, but now you all know about the wonderfulness of the music and are going to watch the film, so that evens everything out.
7. "Gabriel's Oboe" (The Mission)
There is a very convincing argument to be made that Ennio Morricone is the greatest film composer there has been. And his work on The Mission, a film about two 18th-century Jesuit priests in Brazil, does much to bolster that argument. His music is infinitely listen-able without surpassing the films they accompany. This score in particular has a searching spirituality that elevates the film while grounding it, making the priests' toil in starting a mission in the jungle a personal journey for the viewer.
6. "Wild Theme" (Local Hero)
Knopfler is primarily known for his effortless-virtuoso guitar work playing in Dire Straits in the 80s. You also probably know his music for The Princess Bride. But before that, he scored a tiny independent Scottish production about the confluence of the modern world and traditional Scottish coastal life called Local Hero. Blending synths and sublime guitar, he perfectly captures the essence of that idiosyncratic life by sea that was so quickly becoming a thing of the past.
5. "For the Hungry Boy" (Phantom Thread)
It also feels like cheating to put a selection from such a recent film so high on this list. But I think it is fully deserving. As I've said before, the score's rich tones are as romantic a thing as there can be in music, a perfect blend of Debussy and Oscar Peterson. It is Greenwood's greatest collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood notwithstanding) and the perfect pairing for a complicated narrative of two complicated, yea, even dark, lovers. But it is from start to finish a delicious listening experience.
4. "C'Era Una Volta il West" (Once Upon a Time in the West)
I tried to avoid duplicating composers, but Mr. Morricone is unavoidable. He rose to instant recognizability with his iconic work on Serio Leone's three Eastwood westerns, but with this final effort he went positively operatic. The score was written and recorded prior to the film's production, and Leone played characters' leitmotifs on set to help them get a sense of each scene.
**This video has the entire score, which is all a treat, but I recommend especially the first section, which begins the film and runs through about 3'45 or so.**
3. "John Dunbar Theme" (Dances with Wolves)
This is, in my opinion, the one western film with a score better than those of Ennio. If he reached for and (more than attained) iconic melodies and operatic proportions, John Barry's work on Dances with Wolves achieves true symphonic depth. It is the majesty and romance and eventual decline of the American West transcribed, without flaw, into music. Listen to this music on a trip across country, through mountain pass or over plain and you'll see exactly what I mean.
2. "Penelope's Theme" (The Brothers Bloom)
The Brothers Bloom is another great grifter movie but could hardly be more different than The Sting. Bloom's score is playfully wistful where the other is nostalgic and even vaudevillian. Nowhere is this better captured than in the theme for Penelope (played by Rachel Weisz). It is first love and regret and hope melancholy wrapped into a few notes, a combination potently kept in balance throughout the film and a large reason Rian Johnson was one of my favorite working filmmakers (until his abduction by Star War but we won't talk about that).
1. "The Vote" (The Village)
James Newton Howard
To top this list I had to go with what has been my favorite for the longest. This is the rare score that contains no filler--each note is perfect and necessary. It is subtle and poignant, yet crucial to the success of the film. I content that those who misread this film do so primarily because they ignore Howard's work. The score is, above all, a deep lament not untinted with an illusory hope. Hilary Hahn's violin is, in many ways, the film's main linking thread: without it I do not think the film could work or sustain its own weight. And it is a delicate and fitting note to end our little quest on today.
So! What did I miss or what surprised you? I won't be reading about it but go ahead and chat/fight amongst yourselves. More importantly, if there are films on this list you haven't seen, I can heartily endorse them all and definitely encourage you to check them out in lieu of Dinosaur World this weekend. Cheers!
by Chase Harrison