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SCORE! Top 20 Film Scores of 2012 (pt. 2)

Happy New Year! It’s 2013 but we’re not quite done looking back at 2012, with our year-end Top 20 Film Score Countdown. We’re moving now into even more emotional territory – exploring sounds which will surely stir your soul!

15.) ÉsimésacMichel Corriveau

Ésimésac

I don’t know much about this French film by Director (and Starship Enterprise captain) Luc Picard, and the un-subtitled trailer doesn’t help matters much either. What I do know is that it seems to be a visually stunning fable about a magical village. And that the soundtrack, which I found on emusic entirely by chance, kicks a whole lot of ass. Lyrical, beautiful, it’s simply a well crafted piece of music the whole way through, with intertwining melodies full of guitars, piano, the whole shebang. Emminently listenable without having even seen the film, it’s an emotional journey which conjures all sorts of fantastic feelings. Let’s hope the visuals live up to the music!

Here’s the opening track, “Sur ses épaules”:

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Here’s track 3, “Marie”:

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14.) Der AusflugBeat Solèr

Der Ausflug

More music from a film I haven’t seen or even know much about, with another (this time German) un-subtitled #” target=”_blank”>trailer to pique our interest. This tale of a family’s disastrous trip into the woods by Mathieu Seiler is a low-budget affair, making the soundtrack even more important – since ambiance and mood can heighten production value and make any film look great. Enter Beat Solér, who’s crafted a dark and ominous fairy tale score full of gongs, dissonant piano trills, ethereal vocals and steady low end strings – but plenty of beautiful passages too, which we know from Prokofiev‘s Peter and the Wolf is a perfect way to build tension: when the melody is sweet you can just sense something terrible lurking beneath. Not the scariest score of the year (Christopher Young’s Sinister score is scary to the point of being nearly un-listenable) but very good, especially if you enjoy synthy low-key Goblin fare from the 70’s.

Here’s track 1, “Der Ausflug Main Theme”:

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Here’s track 8, “Enter the Forest”:

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13.) End of WatchDavid Sardy

End of Watch

The score to David Ayer‘s End of Watch opens with Public Enemy‘s awesome “harder than you think,” a hard anthem to follow, but composer Sardy is up to the task, with a score full of muscular riffs breaking down into fragile piano before exploding again, emulating the start-stop suspenseful nature of this fantastic film. Percussion melds with electronics to create a ticking time bomb of adrenaline you’d expect from a Muse or Tool album, and even at just over 20 minutes of original material (complete with Joshua Homme‘s accompanying vocals on the last track) it leaves you emotionally exhausted. Lots of 2012 scores did this “warped industrial” sound well – from Paul Leonard Morgan‘s Dredd to tomandandy‘s Resident Evil: Retribution – but there’s a quality which elevates David Sardy’s score and earns it a place on our list.

Here’s track 2, “I Am the Police”:

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Here’s track 6, “Heroes”:

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12.) Get the GringoAntonio Pinto

Get the Gringo

This time it’s obscure 60’s rock band Ten Years After‘s “50,000 Beneath My Brain” that sets the tone, and composer Antonio Pinto who follows up with a fantastic score to Adrian Grunberg‘s Get the Gringo. If you enjoy Joe Strummer‘s score to Alex Cox‘s Walker, Ry Cooder‘s spare guitar on Wim WendersParis, Texas and Neil Young‘s atmospheric Dead Man score for Jim Jarmusch you’ll love this low-key affair, peppered with a variety of guitars, tempo shifts, percussive nuances and the occasional echoey reverb. But if you’re like the many haters on Amazon who expected this to be a compilation of tunes more like track 2, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs‘ “Padre Nuestro,” you’ll want to move along.

Here’s track 4, “Driver Sets Fire”:

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Here’s track 12, “Sunny Day in Mexico”:

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11.) HaywireDavid Holmes

Haywire

For the score to his controversial and star-studded flick starting MMA fighter-turned actress Gina Carano, Steven Soderbergh enlisted David Holmes, a name familiar to anyone around in the late 90’s (his Let’s Get Killed was on record store end-caps everywhere). Many were turned off by the film’s seemingly in-congruent minimalistic aesthetic and slow pace, but I found it enjoyable, in large part due to the music. Bass-heavy and incredibly funky, it’s propelled by a driving beat and filled with little nuances – like bass clarinet, warped electronics, and voices buried deep in the background. It’s an ironic and self-aware piece of music, nodding heavily towards its influences – from lifting the Western genre’s rattlesnake-percussion to borrowing Italian crime score elements (the work of Riz Ortolani springs to mind) and of course quoting funky keyboards and guitars from old-school Blaxploitation flicks – all in all it sounds like an updated J.J. Johnson‘s Across 110th Street, full of brass and a robust horn section. Give it a spin and see what you think!

Here’s track 9, The Drive Rossbourgh”:

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Here’s track 10, “Looking for Clues”:

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And so concludes part 2 of our celebration of the sounds of 2012. Check out part 1 here and tune in for part 3 on Friday – and 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 be sure to leave us a comment telling us your favorite score of the year!
 
Ooh-ooh! Almost forgot! We also posted a list of our 100 favorite albums of 2012 here!
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January 2, 2013   No Comments

SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 10 (of 15)

60.) Mishima (1985) - Philip Glass

Paul Schrader, the writer of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and countless other classics directs this biographical film about Japanese author and mega-personality Yukio Mishima. The Philip Glass score is hypnotic and ethereal, as is his score for Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line, which might have gotten the nod were it not packed with dialogue. Also recommended by Glass is Music from Candyman, as well as the Koyaanisqatsi-Powaqqatsi-Naqoyqatsi scores. Check out track 12, “The Last Day”:

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and track 14, “Mishima: Closing”:

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59.) The ‘Burbs (1989) – Jerry Goldsmith

Joe Dante directs this underrated black comedy starring Tom Hanks, which takes place in a prototypical American suburb, where strange new neighbors, the Klopeks, stir up suspicion among the residents. Jerry Goldsmith is one of the most pedigreed of composers, responsible for the score of Papillon, Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, Gremlins, Rambo and Poltergeist. His score for The ‘Burbs is inventive, dark, and full of bells, violins, gunfire and quacking ducks- and seems to have been a profound influence on Danny Elfman. Here’s the main title, “Night Work”:

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and track 6, the gunfire-filled “Let’s Go”:

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and track 15, “The Note”:

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58.) An Elephant Called Slowly (1969) – Howard Blake

James Hill directs this film about a 5 year old elephant called Poly-Poly (or Slowly-Slowly) who lives out in the African wilderness, and the foreign couple he adopts – in this sequel to Born Free. Howard Blake, who also composed the orchestral score for Flash Gordon, supplies the funky music filled with bass clarinets. Here’s track 1, “An Elephant Called Slowly”:

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and track 3, “Mr. Mopoji – Wild Dogs”:

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57.) After the Fox (1966) – Burt Bacharach

This Vittorio De Sica directed film scripted by Neil Simon stars the amazing Peter Sellers as The Fox, top criminal mind and master of disguise, who escapes from prison and immediately plans his next job, pretending to be a famous director on the set of his new movie in order to smuggle gold into the country. This score comes courtesy of the great Burt Bacharach, composer of the songs “ target=”_blank”>Close to You” and “ target=”_blank”>What the World Needs Now,” who also composed the scores of What’s New Pussycat?, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the original Casino Royale. Check out the always entertaining Peter Sellers collaborating with The Hollies on the title song, “After the Fox”:

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and track 6, the swanky “Italian Fuzz”:

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and track 15, “The Via Veneto”:

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56.) Yojimbo (1961) – Masaru Satô

Akira Kurosawa borrowed the themes and plots of Dashiell Hammet’s Red Harvest and created the masterpiece that is Yojimbo, the tale of a wandering samurai who arrives in a town ravaged by two competing gangsters and plays one side against the other, a narrative later re-recycled to become Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars. And where Leone had Morricone, Kurosawa had Satô, who also scored The Hidden Fortress, Throne of Blood, as well as Hideo Gosha‘s The Wolves, Kihachi Okamoto‘s Sword of Doom, and several Godzilla films. His work on Yojimbo‘s score features rhythmically intriguing melodies like the following main title:

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and track 3, “White Horse Lodge”:

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as well as track 23. “Women”:

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and track 45, “Strange Basket Dealer”:

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55.) Q the Winged Serpent (1982) - Robert O. Ragland

Larry Cohen is king of the B’s, the man responsible for The Stuff, God Told Me To, and Hell Up in Harlem. In this well crafted low budget monster movie, a giant flying lizard – the mythical Quetzalcoatl - terrorizes New York, and only an out-of-work, ex-con piano player (played by Michael Moriarty) knows the location of the monster’s nest- and he ain’t telling. Ragland’s score is full of target=”_blank”>theremins, bass clarinets, and all the other goodies you’d expect from a good ol’ fashioned monster movie. Check out the main title:

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and track 16, “Ritual In The Warehouse”:

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54.) Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders (1970) - Luboš Fišer

Jaromil Jires directs this surreal Czech coming of age film which feels like an elaborate dream filled with vampires, priests, underage girls in silk pajamas, magic earrings and burnings at the stake and has something to do with menstruation. Whatever it’s about, it’s highly recommended, in large part because of the music, which is enchanting, ethereal, and full of angelic voices and eerie melodies. Here’s track 5, “Losing the Way”:

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and track 9, “Dense Smoke”:

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and track 12, “Disquiet”:

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53.) Il Postino (1994) – Luis Enríquez Bacalov

Michael Radford‘s commercial and critical hit tells the tale of an uneducated postman hired to hand-deliver the mail of exiled poet Pablo Neruda, the famous Chilean poet, who learns something about love and the power of poetry along the way. The soundtrack by Luis Bacalov will teach you something about love and poetry as well, filled with warm strings, a forlorn accordion, and a chorus of clarinets. Here’s track 2, “In Bicicletta”:

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and track 11, “Milogna Del Poeta”:

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52.) Evil Dead (1981) - Joseph LoDuca

The movie that launched Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s careers tells the tale of 5 friends, a cabin in the woods, a book of the dead known as the Necronomicon, and an unspeakable evil determined to claim the souls of all. It also features a memorable score by LoDuca, who would go on to score Raimi’s proto-remake/quasi-sequel, Evil Dead 2, as well as TV syndicated powerhouses Xena and Hercules. In Evil Dead he employs staccato plucking of strings, electronic swells, and weeping violins to create a palpable sense of dread. Here’s track 1, “Introduction”:

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and track 4, the pluck-heavy “Rape of the Vines”:

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and track 6, “Automatic Writing”:

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51.) Mirrormask (2005) – Iain Ballamy

Writer Neil Gaiman and Graphic Artist-turned-Director Dave McKean – frequent collaborators on the Sandman comic book series – collaborate on this fantasy about a girl named Helena with a bed-ridden mother who falls through the looking glass into a strange world filled with bizarre creatures and masked inhabitants, where the white queen has fallen ill and can only be saved by the MirrorMask. The music is fractured, haunting, and yet beautiful, mirroring (sorry) the imagery. Here’s track 3, “Spanish Web”:

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and track 24, an eerie rendition of Burt Bacharach’s “Close to You”:

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and track 25, “A New Life”:

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and track 27, “Butterfingers”:

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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).

October 25, 2010   No Comments

SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 2 (of 15)

OST = Original Soundtrack.

We continue our countdown with numbers 131-140…

For the first installment, including my self-imposed guidelines, check part 1.

140.) Omega Man (1971) - Ron Grainer

Boris Sagal’s take on Richard Matheson’s classic I am Legend stars Moses himself – Charlton Heston – and reeks of 70’s sensibilities. The soundtrack is a fun affair, alternating between Ron Grainer’s quirky atmospheric score and jazz-tinged muzak, reminding us that an unpopulated Earth is much like an empty department store. Here’s track 2, “The Omega Man”:

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139.) Yol (1982) - Sebastian Argol

Directors Serif Gören & Yilmaz Güney wrote and directed this award-winning Turkish film about prisoners on furlough which starred James Bond himself – Sean Connery – in a movie I’ve often confused for the sword and sorcery epic Yor, The Hunter From The Future, released a year later, and the old Atari 2600 title Yars’ Revenge, released a year earlier. Regardless, it’s a powerful soundtrack for a movie I’ve never seen, combining middle eastern elements with ambient electronics. Here’s track 6, “Horsemen in the Wind”:

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138.) Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010) – Eric Serra

Since 1983’s Le Dernier Combat Luc Besson has been employing Eric Serra as his composer of choice, and this soundtrack, their most recent collaboration, is their best – with a kooky, kitchen-sink approach that features cacophonous car horns, discordant electronics, a dramatic chanteuse and sweeping themes that capture the spirit of high adventure. Check out this target=”_blank”>trailer and tell me you don’t want to see the movie. You liar. Here’s track 2, “Hiéroglyphes”:

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137.) Naked Angels (1969) – Jeff Simmons

Don’t know much about this Bruce D. Clark biker flick, except that that cover is absolutely sick and the composer, Jeff Simmons, would later become a Frank Zappa collaborator. And that the music is rocking, with fuzz guitars and a steady rock beat.

Here’s track 1, “Naked Angels Theme”:

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and track 5, “Cop Out”:

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136.) Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) (1958) – Miles Davis

Louis Malle’s suspense noir might be a tad dated, but this Miles Davis soundtrack sure isn’t – it’s his best score for a film, though Kind of Blue is still the greatest soundtrack he ever wrote to a movie never made. Here’s track 5, “Florence sur les Champs-Elysées”:

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135.) High Noon (1952) – Dimitri Tiomkin

Fred Zinnemann’s classic western gets a fantastic old-era-Hollywood score courtesy of Tiomkin, who also scored The Alamo, Guns of Navarone, Giant and countless other classics, and who later wrote the TV theme song for Rawhide. Here’s track 1, the main title, sung by Tex Ritter (John Ritter’s dad), which won the 1953 Academy Award for best song:

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134.) Avalon (2001) - Kenji Kawai

Anime director (Ghost in the Shell) Mamoru Oshii directed this live action sci-fi movie about a destitute future where virtual gaming determines financial reward-or death by catatonia. The film’s unique flavor stems from its Japanese-Polish production, heavy referencing of Arthurian mythology, and muted sepia-tone cinematography, and is carried over into the soundtrack, where Kawai’s haunting score features Polish language chanting and tons of murky futuristic melancholy. Here’s track 2, “Log Off”:

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133.) Heathers (1989) – David Newman

Michael Lehmann defined a generation with his smart, satirical high school revenge flick, which took John Hughes’ high school comedies and ramped ‘em up to high black-comedy heaven. The cold, electronic soundtrack enhances the feeling of detachment which Winona Ryder and Christian Slater feel in their popularity-obsessed high school. Composition runs in the family – Newman is the cousin of Randy, the brother of Thomas and the son of Alfred. Are any other Newmans gonna make this list? Are all of them? Do me a favor – Wait and find out. That way I can stop asking rhetorical questions. Here’s track 3, “JD Blows Up”:

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132.) Institute Benjamenta (1995) – Lech Jankowski

The Brothers Quay deliver a vivid black and white dream of a movie, based on Kafka-predecessor Robert Walser’s Jakob von Gunten, a surrealistic 1909 novel about a mysterious institute where men learn to become servants. Lech’s sparse, haunting soundtrack, complete with strained strings, lonely trumpets, rumbling bass, haunting voices and intermittent silences makes it a perfect accompaniment, which also stands on its own as an eerie listening experience for fans of challenging music.

Here’s track 6, “Introdukja Liliowa”:

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and track 8, “Kolysanka wg Erika S”:

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131.) Didn’t You Hear? (1970) – Mort Garson

Not many people have seen Skip Sherwood’s college film about a daydreaming teen, which not only features a young Gary Busey, but also a score by the legendary Mort Garson. Here is a review of the movie. A friend once bequeathed unto me an entire DVD full of Garson’s albums, including this one, and I’ve been a fan ever since (both of Garson and my friend).

Here’s track 5, “Kevin’s Theme”:

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and track 9, “Walk to Grange Hall”:

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20 OST’s down, 130 to go! What’s your favorite soundtrack? Will it make the cut? Check back next week, and be sure to leave feedback… it’ll make us stronger here at the isle!

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).

September 2, 2010   No Comments

SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 1 (of 15)

OST = Original Soundtrack

Been working on this mega-post for months now, listening to hundreds of Soundtracks, spending money on downloads from Amazon, iTunes, and even ACTUAL PHYSICAL CDs! But it’s been worth it. Here are some self-imposed rules I came up with along the way:

1. Music must be original and performed for the soundtrack – no recycled rock songs, adapted Broadway musicals, Concert movies, or glorified mixtapes.

2. One score per scorer – each score measured against the other. Some composers will not be represented despite a vast body of work. I’m sorry if you’re upset. It’s movie against movie.

3. Bass clarinets, Moogs, Theremins and etheral wordless choruses earn extra points. Heavy dialogue within scores is deeply frowned upon.

Here we go…

150.) Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) – Michael Andrews

I have not seen this film directed by Miranda July, but the soundtrack by Michael Andrews – who also did the Donnie Darko score – features a haunting electronic score. Check this track from the CD out:

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149.) Barbarella (1968) – Bob Crewe

Roger Vadim’s space fantasy features whacked out songs reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s Danger: Diabolik (and dozens of other 60’s scores), but between the crooning there’s sci-fi noodling that helps make the entire affair a rewarding listen. Here’s the title track from the Soundtrack, which grows on you like a space virus:

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148.) The Third Man (1949) – Anton Karas

Carol Reed’s engrossing tale of espionage features not only a knockout performance by Orson Welles but also an improbable score featuring Zither which lightens up the whole affair. If there weren’t so much dialogue on this soundtrack it’d be closer to the top of the list. Here’s an example:

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147.) Akira (1988) – Geinoh Yamashirugomi

Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s epic (the comic book is even more intense) revolutionized big-screen Anime. The eclectic soundtrack, fueled by aggressive percussion and futuristic sci-fi soundscapes, helped tremendously. Here’s the opening track, “Kaneda”:

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146.) Cannibal Holocaust (1980) – Riz Ortolani

I’m not a fan of Ruggero Deodato’s film. The score, however, is super cool – you’d never suspect it was the soundtrack to a gory cannibal snuff film:

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145.) Anatomy of a Murder (1959) - Duke Ellington

Otto Preminger scored a coup when he got the greatest bandleader of all time to compose music for this crime caper, and even contribute some nifty piano:

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144.) Gloria (1980) - Bill Conti

John Cassavetes’ gritty action film starring wife Gena Rowlands gets a fantastic soundtrack courtesy of Rocky composer Bill Conti. Listen to this track, called “Aftermath,” which resembles Halloween – but with a lil’ spanish guitar thrown in:

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143.) The Murder Farm [Tannöd] (2009) - Johan Söderqvist

I don’t know much about this German film directed by Bettina Oberli, but I do know the atmospheric score was penned by the same guy who scored the fabulous Let the Right One In. Here’s the main theme:

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142.) Pastoral: To Die in the Country [Den-en ni shisu] (1974) – J.A. Seazer

I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Shuji Terayama’s surreal masterpiece, but I’ve listened to the soundtrack at least a hundred times. It’s a challenging experience but a rewarding one, with tons of dramatic spoken word (in Japanese) separated by interesting instrumentation and children’s voices. Here’s the opening track:

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141.) The Burning Train (1980) – Rahul Dev Burman

Everything I know about Bollywood I learned from the excellent blog Music from the Third Floor, where I’ve experience tons of soundtracks, many by the master, Rahul Dev Burman. His score to Ravi Chopra’s epic action film is my favorite, with its processed voices, electronic fireworks, aggressive beat, and overall WTF?ness.

The Title track:

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The beautiful “Vaada… Haan Vaada,” which happens to be my ringtone.

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10 down, 140 to go!!! No turning back now! Check in next week for part 2! And leave a comment letting me know your favorite soundtrack!

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).

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August 30, 2010   3 Comments

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