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SCORE! Top 20 Film Scores of 2012 (pt. 3)

So looks like 2013 is here to stay.  But before we give up completely on 2012, we continue our round-up of the year’s Top 20 Film Scores. Here’s part 3, where the stakes get high and the tunes get great – so before reading any further make sure you’re caught up on parts 1 (here) and 2 (here). And now, without further ado, we dip into the first half of our top 10…
 

10.) W.E.Abel Korzeniowski

W.E.

At number 10 we have the score for W.E., a film directed by the queen of pop herself, Madonna. IMDB says this movie was released in 2011 but if you look at the fine print you’ll see its limited release was Feb. 3, 2012. So it’s kosher. And oh, how kosher! Lush, overflowing with emotion, Romantic to the Nth degree, and with a capital R! Right from the get-go, we get strings heaped upon strings, a beautiful melody building into a lyrical crescendo that crashes like a wave onto a gentle shore and then continues in rivulets of pizzicato between robust boulders of arco … in other words, it’s real purdy. Grandiose without being overbearing, it’s an incredibly satisfying score by a master musician, full of a variety of melodies, shifts in tone, and even the occasional waltz. The only misstep is the inclusion of a final song by the auteur herself, “Masterpiece,” where lyrics like “If you were the Mona Lisa / you’d be hanging in the Louvre / everyone would come to see you / you’d be impossible to move” sit like an ironic crap left by a spoilt Pomeranian on the marbled floor of an art museum. See what I did there? That was super-kosher.

Here’s track 1, “Charms”:

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Here’s track 4, “I Will Follow You”:

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9.) We Are LegionJohn Dragonetti

We Are Legion_ The Story of the Hacktivists

Here’s the score to a very informative, highly recommended documentary by Brian Knappenberger that tells the story of the group known as Anonymous – and their evolution (some in the doc say de-volution) from a group of 4chan rabble-rousers to the powerful self-made protectors of human rights that they are today. There’s a wealth of musical diversity on hand, from quirky upbeat marches to introspective ambient passages to anthems reminiscent of something you’d hear by MGMT. Added to all the electronic synths, cycling piano, string orchestras and sequenced percussion are some other manufactured sounds as well – including what sounds like a Hawaiian lap steel guitar and swarming electronic insects (not as annoying as you’d think). All in all it’s a radical, shifting score that nicely mirrors its complicated subject matter, and no matter your opinion of the Guy Fawkes – masked Hacktivists, rest assured that there’s plenty for you to love here.

Here’s track 12, “In the Halls of /b/”:

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Here’s track 16, “Heal the Sick:”

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8.) The Odd Life of Timothy GreenGeoff Zanelli

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Here we have a whimsical, light-hearted score to Peter Hedgesfilm about a magical boy found by an infertile couple (played by Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) who seems to have grown in their garden following a buried wish. Doesn’t sound like the typical stuff I go in for, but there’s something special about Zanelli’s music that separates it from this usual type of fluff. There’s a folksy, grass-roots feel to it, with crisp melodies and a memorable theme which Zanelli returns to in a variety of phrasings, featuring beautiful guitar work, piano, accordion and light percussion. It’s not a bombastic affair, but it does resonate emotionally. I haven’t seen the movie but if it’s as magical as its score, I’m definitely looking forward to it – even if the plot does sound like a Disney take on Swamp Thing!

Here’s the opening track, “You’re Gonna Find it Hard to Believe”:

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Here’s track 4, “Our Kid”:

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7.) ParanormanJon Brion

ParaNorman

Our first animated film score, Jon Brion‘s work for this fun film about a boy who can speak to the dead (directed by Chris Butler & Sam Fell) got my attention right from the gate, in the way it references the great Italian schlock masters of the 70’s – sounding like Goblin‘s Buio Omega, Fabio Frizzi‘s work on Zombi 2 or any of those soundtracks those of us addicted to Midnight movies would instantly recognize. That fat synthy Argento bassline had me hella excited – and in a Children’s movie no less! And while Brion abandons the homage and fills the rest of the disc with the type of understated melodies that befit his work on Punch-Drunk Love and I ♥ Huckabees, it’s the man’s overall attention to detail and the way he balances between the sunshine-y, lilting tunes and the dark foreboding passages that make this such a memorable score.

Here’s track 1, “Zombie Attacks in the Eighties”:

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Here’s track 3, “Norman’s Walk”:

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6.) The Man with the Iron FistRZA and Howard Drossin

The Man With The Iron Fists

The compilation soundtrack that came out in conjunction with  RZA‘s directorial debut might have been better publicized – featuring the Wu-Tang collaborating with Kool G Rap, Kanye West, Pusha T, Corinne Bailey Rae, and The Black Keys – but this instrumental score featuring the actual music from the film is even better. Opening with a rocking version of “Shame on a Ni**a” that’s been busted up and put back together (used over the film’s title sequence) and continuing with 29 more tracks featuring some sick blends of Soul, Rock and Asian elements, this is a fantastic outing for RZA and co-conspirator Drossin – and is very likely the best thing about the relentlessly over-the-top movie! And just in case you wanted to get both albums – plus a compilation of old soul and funk originals sampled by the clan, there’s this ultra special limited edition 5 CD set. Go crazy, son!

Here’s track 2, “Jungle Village”:

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Here’s track 11, “Zen Yi Rides In”:

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Here’s track 18, “Jack Up the Street”:

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We conclude our look at the sounds of 2012 – and close the book on 2012 once and for all – next week. In the meantime you can check out last years’ countdown as well as the ridiculously ambitious and highly subjective countdown that started it all – our Top 150 scores of all time! And look at our companion list: 100 favorite albums of 2012, here!
 

And please leave us a comment telling us your favorite score of the year!

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January 4, 2013   No Comments

20 FANTASTIC FINALES FROM FILMDOM (4 of 4)

If you’ve been following us for the last month and a half, you know that we partnered with BoxingUweBoll to bring you The TOP 20 CLOSING SCENES in film, as selected by the writers on both staffs. And today we bring you the final installment, numbers 1-5:

5.) Inception (2010) –  Christopher Nolan

[by Sean Carnegie]

The dream is over. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) wakes up upon successfully completing the process of inception and walks dazedly through US customs, back to the home he once knew. Once he arrives at his house, he instinctively pulls out his totem and gives it a spin to reassure himself that he isn’t still dreaming. His attention is soon drawn away however, by the sight of his two children and as they rush into his arms the camera pans back to the now forgotten top. The music builds, the top wobbles and… Cut to black.
I have never heard so many theater goers simultaneously exhale in surprise at the ending of film as I did during that final cut of Inception. With this movie, Christopher Nolan built something as puzzlingly complex as a house of cards stuffed inside of a Russian nesting doll. All the way through my first viewing of the movie, I was convinced there was no possible way for him to land a satisfying ending after creating such a wonderfully complex narrative. Yet all it took was the slight wobbling of a top and a perfectly timed cut to knock the wind out of my lungs and set the internet on absolute fire with the question, “Is Cobb still dreaming”? Even though there have been millions of words spent on the subject, the bottom line is that the question is far more important than the answer. Nolan left the blank. It’s up to you to fill it.

[admin. note: embedding has once again been disabled – but please follow the link to see the ending.]

4.) The Thing (1982) – John Carpenter

[by Boaz Dror]

Carpenter’s soon-to-be-prequel’d remake of the Howard Hawks‘ classic begins with a bang and spends the entire 2nd act building suspense as an alien shape-shifter infiltrates a rag-tag pack of Alpha Males and wreaks havoc on their minds, bodies and souls. Against a harsh arctic landscape, the twists and turns hold increasingly higher stakes, as the fate of the world hangs in the balance. And though the eye-candy that fuels this film is Rob Bottin‘s amazing creature effects, the ending is as bare-bones as possible: having seemingly killed the creature, super-cool helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) stumbles to what his final resting place by the camp’s flickering remains. Suddenly his rival Childs (Keith David) appears, “you the only one who made it?” the weight of his words filled with meaning. “Not the only one,” MacReady replies, insinuating what we’re all thinking. As Childs protests that he’s as human as the next guy, it occurs to us that the next guy – Mac himself – might not be so human. “Why don’t we just wait here a little while… see what happens.” Carpenter drops the curtain on the two men and freezes them figuratively in our minds before winter freezes them literally in their tracks, and whether we’re watching two combatant species or two of humanity’s unknown saviors, it’s a perfect ending to a movie in which no one is what he seems, and nothing can be trusted. It’s a delectably open-ended resolution to a masterpiece that won’t be topped anytime soon.

[admin. note: for a more in-depth review of the Thing look here.]

3.) The 400 Blows (1959) –  François Truffaut

[by David Micevic]

When Truffaut shot The 400 Blows, he was an outsider in the film industry, more than that, a hostile adversary—a fiery critic who famously wrote a call-to-arms deriding the stagnation he saw enveloping French cinema. At odds with the industry, by the famous final shot of his groundbreaking debut, he arguably now was the industry. With The 400 Blows he placed an indelible mark on the French film landscape, ushering in a new era of auteur cinema. To watch this scene in isolation doesn’t do it justice. It requires that you come to fully understand the plight of the film’s protagonist, renegade youth Antoine Doinel; to witness his persecution at the hands of authority figures, his eventual confinement in a juvenile detention center and his sudden escape from it all. If cinema, to paraphrase Godard, is not the station, but the train, Truffaut knew that his film needed to expresses that sense of endlessness. To convey the open-ended nature of Doinel’s journey, Truffaut employed a simple, but now-legendary cinematic technique. As Antoine makes his way onto the isolated beach, the camera zooms in on a freeze-frame of his face, and then the film abruptly ends. Truffaut leaves us with a haunting image of absolute uncertainty. There is no resolution; no reprieve. Antoine remains forever frozen in our minds, caught between the captivity of his past and the endless expanse of the unknown future.

2.) Chinatown (1974) –  Roman Polanski

[by Steven Short]

Although it’s remembered both for its technical dexterity and its unflinchingly bleak view of humanity, the ending to Chinatown is perhaps most revered for it astronomically high tragedy-per-minute ratio. In a scant five minutes, the hero is falsely arrested, his lady is shot in the head, a screaming child is carried away in the arms of an elderly pedophile, and the film’s main villain skulks away into the night. The gravity of the sequence is bolstered by a jarring lack of music, and an incorporation of eye-level shots and sparse editing lend the otherwise stylistically bold film an unpredictable, documentary-like feel. Through Polanski’s smart use of shaky P.O.V. shots, the viewer is standing right next to protagonist Jake Gittes as this shocking display of inhumanity unfolds. Everything Gittes has accomplished up until the film’s final moments has been for naught, and before all hope is extinguished a colleague mutters the famous phrase, “Forget it, Jake; it’s Chinatown.” As viewers we know those words have fallen on deaf ears, as his already dreary worldview was shaped by a similar incident in the past. He won’t forget Chinatown, and his compounded cynicism speaks to those of us who know the world can really be that bad.

1.) The Usual Suspects (1995)Bryan Singer

[by Boaz Dror]

There are gimmick endings and then there are outright shocks, culminations that cause us to question not only what came before but also the very nature of storytelling. The Usual Suspects, which pushes the concept of an unreliable narrator to dizzying heights, proves that “the bigger the lie, the more will believe it.” As smug agent Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) – with whom we’ve identified the entire film – bullies lowly Verbal Kint into finishing his account of Satanic Keyser Soze, we know his betrayal will earn him death. We pity Kint as he’s released, which is our undoing – for in the ensuing moments everything is transformed. Without Kint to lead him, Kujan finally sees the truth – and we see through his eyes. As Spacey shapeshifts from Kint to Soze in one of the greatest tracking shots in film, the audience’s collective jaw drops beyond the fourth wall. We realize we’ve not only been the victims of the greatest sleight of hand in film history, but that we’ve been active participants in our own undoing – we wanted this unbelievable tale-within-a-tale, of a mythical superman and a pathetic gimp, of colorful bad guys and outlandish double-crosses. And as Soze disappears forever, his greatest triumph is the one bit of fiction proven to be true: of his own greatness. Though as an audience we’re left exposed – swindled even – this fleeting fiction is an ultimate Truth we can cling to, a wisp of smoke in a hall of mirrors. The perfect ending to a perfect lie. And then – poof – it’s gone.

[admin. note: unfortunately, embedding has once again been disabled – but please follow the link to see the ending.]

What do you think? You agree/disagree? Either way, we hope you’ve enjoyed our countdown – be sure to revisit parts 12, 3, and to also visit Boxing Uwe Boll for the first installment, The countdown of the top 20 film openings! Please keep visiting both blogs for fantastic writing about movies, and look for more collaborations in the future! Thanks!

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August 8, 2011   3 Comments

SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 14 (of 15)

Almost done! We’re into classic territory now, as we head towards the top 20 soundtracks of all time. Enjoy – and don’t forget to comment!

20.) Paris, Texas (1984) – Ry Cooder

Wim Wenders directs the classic existential love story, starring Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski and Dean Stockwell and adapted by L.M. Kit Carson from Sam Shepard’s play. The story of a man who wanders out of the desert with no recollection of who he is is a meditation on how our lives affect the lives of others – especially our loved ones. The soundtrack is awesome, by prolific guitarist and producer Ry Cooder, who has played with everyone from Captain Beefheart to Taj Mahal and who not long ago introduced the world to the Buena Vista Social Club. His soundtracks include The Long Riders, Johnny Handsome and even Trespass. This time out he uses some incredibly poignant slide guitar to create a Brian Eno-like soundscape. Here’s track 1, “Paris Texas”:

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and track 2, “Brothers”:

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and track 4, “Cancion Mixteca”:

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19.) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) – Joe Hisaishi

Master storyteller Hayao Miyazaki has taken us to some amazing worlds over the years, none more magnificent than this future where man’s destructive nature has fundamentally altered the Earth, creating forests whose toxic spores and giant insects have forced mankind into hiding. But in the Valley of Wind there lives a princess named Nausicaä who’s empathy for all living things might be our only salvation – if she can survive the wars of man which threaten her kingdom. One of the spiritual heirs to Avatar (along with Miyazaki’s later Princess Mononoke), this is a wonderfully hypnotic visual feast of a film, aided largely by Hisaishi’s score, filled with eerie electronics and sweeping romanticism. Beside creating most of the Ghibli scores, including My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Hisaishi has also scored several “Beat” Takeshi Kitano films (Kikujiro, Brother, Fireworks) – now that’s what you call a diverse body of work.

Here’s an excerpt from track 1:

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and track 2:

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and track 5, “Kushana No Shinryaku”:

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18.) Punch-Drunk Love (2002) – Jon Brion

Paul Thomas Anderson directs this romantic comedy about awkwardness starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman, wherein a down on his luck small-business owner gets a harmonium and embarks on a romantic journey with a mysterious woman. Brion also did Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Magnolia, and I ♥ Huckabees. This soundtrack, thanks to quirky compositions and glitchy electronics, outclasses the others and makes the cut. Here’s track 2, “Tabla”:

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and track 3, “Punch Drunk Melody”:

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and track 7, “Punchy Tack Piano”:

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and track 8, “He Needs Me,” a song featuring the vocals of actress Shelley Duvall, ported over from Harry Nilsson’s Popeye and given new life:

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17.) Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) – Krzysztof Komeda

Roman Polanski‘s vampire comedy hearkens back to a simpler time, when vampire movies were few and far between, and a good deal of them were actually watchable. Starring Polanski, Jack MacGowran, Alfie Bass and Polanski’s future wife (and future Manson victim) Sharon Tate, it’s the story of a zany professor searching a remote Transylvanian village for vampires. Komeda, an iconic figure in Polish Jazz, has composed works ranging from Classical to the Avant Garde, and his soundtracks for Polanski’s Cul de Sac and Rosemary’s Baby are also noteworthy, though this is the score that features his most impressive work. Check out the main title:

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and track 2, “Sarah In Bath”:

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and track 10, “To The Cellar”:

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and track 11, “Skiing”:

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16.) Walker (1987) – Joe Strummer

One of the truly sad stories in cinema is the blacklisting of gifted director Alex Cox by Hollywood. The man’s a genius – Repo Man, Sid & Nancy and Highway Patrolman alone corroborate this. And this film, about rogue general William Walker and his mercenary coup d’etat in Nicaragua in the middle of the 19th century is way ahead of its time, thanks to a great script by Rudy Wurlitzer (go read his novel, Quake) and Cox’s directorial vision. Starring Ed Harris, Richard Masur, Peter Boyle, and Marlee Matlin, it’s an aggressively subversive film, littered with anachronisms (modern cars, helicopters, magazines and coca cola bottles) which takes on capitalism with a spirit of Punk anarchism that’s fun to watch. It’s no wonder Joe Strummer, front man of The Clash, was enlisted to compose the score (he also appears as Faucet, and starred in Cox’s Straight to Hell). This soundtrack rocks, and for more on Strummer (who died in 2002) watch the documentary The Future Is Unwritten. Here’s track 1, “Filibustero”:

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and track 8, “The Unknown Immortal”:

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and track 10 – my favorite – “The Brooding Side of Madness”:

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and track 12, “Smash Everything”:

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15.) Kamikaze 1989 (1982) – Edgar Froese

Wolf Gremm directs German New Wave auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder in this surreal sci-fi film which exists somewhere between Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, Elio Petri’s The 10th Victim and Jared Drake’s recent Visioneers, which tells the tale of a futuristic “Combine” which controls TV and News outlets in the near future. When a bomb threat is made on the Combine, it’s up to super-cop Jansen (Fassbinder) – an overweight, out of shape, wretched excuse for a super-cop – to investigate. With four days to solve the mystery, Jansen looks to the combine’s enemy, Krysmopompas, and becomes embroiled in an absurd mystery that revolves around the Combine’s mysterious 31st floor – hidden somewhere within their Tower’s 30 floors. Froese was a member of electronica trailblazers Tangerine Dream, who made fine soundtracks to Firestarter, Thief, Near Dark and Miracle Mile – but this solo effort is unquestionably superior – so don’t bother questioning it, just seek out the hard to find soundtrack and listen repeatedly. Here’s track 1, “Videophonic”:

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and track 7, the awesome “Blue Panther”:

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and track 11, “Tower Block”:

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14.) Taxi Driver (1976) – Bernard Herrmann

Martin Scorsese directs Paul Schrader‘s classic character study of Travis Bickle, an unhinged insomniac cab driver who calls himself “God’s lonely man” and obsesses over innocence and sin. It features bold direction by a young Scorsese, one of the screen’s finest performances by Robert De Niro and fine acting by all assembled: Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle (again) and Albert Brooks. It also features an incredible score by Bernard Herrmann, who’s given us some of the most memorable film music of all time: Citizen Kane, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Vertigo, Psycho, Fahrenheit 451 and Sisters, to name but a few. If there were a Mount Rushmore of film composers he’d be up there – and here he’s given us one of his finest works, combining the feel of late night jazz with neurotic military vamps to create a portrait of unpredictable schizophrenia. Case in point, track 1, the main title”

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and track 15, “I Work the Whole City”:

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and track 16, “Betsy in a White Dress”:

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13.) Superfly (1972) – Curtis Mayfield

Gordon Parks Jr., son of Shaft director Gordon Parks, gives us the other seminal blaxploitation film, starring Ron O’Neal, Carl Lee and Sheila Frazier. This time out our protagonist is a big pimpin’ cocaine dealer who has a change of heart and decides to make one last score before running off to start a new life – but of course the Mob has other plans for him. Funk and Soul legend Curtis Mayfield began his career as a member of The Impressions before branching out in the 1970’s with hit after hit and classic album after classic album. This album belongs in every audiophile and cinephile’s collection. In fact it’s nearly perfect – my only complaint is the line, “the oppressed seem to have suffered the most in every continent, coast to coast” at the beginning of No Thing On Me (Cocaine Song). I always cringe at the logic expressed in that line – of course the oppressed suffer – it’s what makes them oppressed. That’s like saying “the malnourished have always been the least well fed, throughout history.” Aside from that, this is a flawless outing. Here’s track 2, “Pusherman”:

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and track 6, “Eddie You Should Know Better”:

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and track 9, “Superfly”:

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12.) The Great Silence [Il Grande Silenzio] (1968) – Ennio Morricone

Admit it. You were wondering when I’d get to Morricone. Well, here he is – providing the score to Sergio Corbucci‘s unique Western, set in the snow and starring Jean-Louis Trintignant as a mute gunslinger named Silence who’s hired to exact revenge on a cruel villain named Loco, played by the one and only Klaus Kinski. Hyper-stylistic, filled with flashbacks, violence, and a bleak ending, it’s a memorable film – and a memorable soundtrack. One of the other faces on that aforementioned Mount Rushmore, Morricone’s body of work is vast, consistently outstanding, and daunting to sift through, with highlights being Navajo Joe, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, The Big Gundown, The Battle of Algiers, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, Peur sur la ville [Fear Over the City], Autostop Rosso Sangue [Hitch Hike], The Mission, The Untouchables and Cinema Paradiso. You can really take your pick and find a winner. I did, and it’s The Great Silence. Here’s track 1, “Il Grande Silenzio Restless”:

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and track 2, “Passaggi Nel Tempo”:

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and track 4, “Barbara E Tagliente”:

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11.) La Ragazza Fuori Strada [Cross Country Girl] (1973) – Piero Umiliani

Luigi Scattini directs this Italian melodrama about an Italian journalist who falls in love with a beautiful black girl, and brings her home to his provincial hometown where she faces racism, hypocrisy, derision and cruelty by his family and friends. The soundtrack by Piero Umiliani is definitely the highlight – Umiliani was a jazz musician who played with Gato Barbieri for a time and also gave us the wonderful soundtracks for Il Corpo and Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso [Sweden, Heaven and Hell] – for which he created the famous Mah nà, mah nà song – seen here on target=”_blank”>The Muppet Show. Here’s the opening track, “Volto Di Donna”:

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and track 3, the beautiful “Nostalgia”:

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and track 10, “Cantata Per Maryam”:

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and track 13, “La Prima Uscita”:

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Click to see part 1 (OST’s #141-150) , part 2 (131-140),  part 3 (121-130), part 4 (111-120), part 5 (101-110), part 6 (91-100), part 7 (81-90), part 8 (71-80), part 9 (61-70), part 10 (51-60), part 11 (41-50), part 12 (31-40), part 13 (21-30), part 14 (11-20) and part 15 (1-10).

And tune in next week, as we bring you the finale – the créme de la créme, the thrilling, fantastic, glorious conclusion of our countdown!

November 22, 2010   4 Comments

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