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SCORE! Top 20 Film Scores of 2012 (pt. 4)

Welcome to the exciting conclusion of our Top 20 Film Scores of 2012! Check out parts 1 (here) 2 (here) and 3 (here). It’s been a fun ride and we sincerely hope you enjoyed the musical snippets along the way! Tomorrow morning the Oscar nominations come out and you’ll have the mainstream’s opinion – but until then we hope we’ve unearthed some rarer gems for your aural pleasure. And now we present our top 5 score of 2012: the cream of the musical crop. Enjoy!
 

5.) MotorwayAlex Gopher & Xavier Jamaux

Motorway

Last year Cliff Martinez released Drive, a soundtrack that barely missed our top 20. This year a more muscular score in a similar vein shot all the way to the top – the vein being the Tangerine Dream / John Carpenter style of brooding ambient electronics, full of retro synths and melodies perfect for speeding down a darkened highway at 2am. Composer/DJ’s Alex Gopher and Xavier Jamaux are members of what’s commonly referred to as “French Touch,” and they’ve touched on something magical for this score to Motorway, a Hong Kong action film produced by Johnnie To and directed by Pou-Soi Cheang, about a rookie cop who takes on a veteran escape driver in a death defying motorway chase. Just writing that last sentence raised my testosterone levels. You can tell from the ” target=”_blank”>trailer this film is not messing around, action-wise – even if the officers are wearing some goofy day-glo safety vests (which I’m sure they’ll drop for the Hollywood remake).

Here’s track 7, “Night Theme”:

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Here’s track 8, “Lessons”:

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Here’s track 14, “Hide and Seek”:

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4.) Il Comandante E La CicognaBanda Osiris

Il Comandante E La Cicogna

Sounding like it was performed by a drunken Italian orchestra seated in bombed out Fiats in some surreal back-alley, the score to director Silvio Soldini‘s Il Comandante e la Cicogna (The Commander and the Stork) is a feat of deconstructed beauty. Pots and pans clang alongside pianos and accordions, melodies sweetening before coming to an abrupt halt, creating an atmosphere that is at once both cacophonous and harmonious. You’ll find rich basslines, bold trumpets, and curious clarinets probing the tenuous silences before giving up completely, only to reemerge in fragile tangos that collapse under their own weight. It’s jazzy, schizophrenic and delicious, both confident and unsure of itself, steady and fragile. And it all culminates in a Russian vocal track that sounds as if it were being played on a bad Victrola. Like a beautiful mix of Tom WaitsRain Dogs and Angelo Badalamenti‘s score for La Cité des Enfants Perdus (City of Lost Children), this is one heady brew that’s not to be missed!

Here’s track 3, “Tango Di Amanzio”:

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Here’s track 8, “Garibaldi Osserva (Leopardi Version)”:

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Here’s track 11, “La Cicogna (Strumentale)”:

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3.) Killer JoeTyler Bates

Killer Joe

Director William Friedkin‘s Killer Joe, adapted by Tracy Letts from his own stage play – sweeps all awards in the category of “boldest use of a drumstick” – and has a killer score to boot, supplied by Tyler Bates, who also scored Zack Snyder‘s Watchmen and 300. Here Bates gives us a loud and snarling beast of a score, with a heavy take on good-ol’ Southern twang, full of a grittiness that’s unshakeable. This is not background music – it’s jagged and bold and it taps into some serious darkness. The music serves as a character itself: an embodiment of the violence constantly hovering just over the trailer park in which our twisted characters (played superbly by Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple and especially Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church) find themselves. Harmonicas reverberate amidst Frampton-esque ‘Talkbox‘ guitar, and heavy bass stalks alongside plucked piano like creatures in the dark. A supremely engaging, brilliantly executed nightmare.

Here’s track 2, “Killer Joe”:

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Here’s track 4, “Billiards Hall”:

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Here’s track 5, “Texas Motel”:

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2.) Anna KareninaDario Marianelli

anna k

A beautiful, varied, and truly haunting affair that ranges from rich & euphonious to downright chaotic, Dario Marianelli‘s classically inspired score doesn’t rest on its laurels or settle for prettiness. Marianelli – whose prior collaboration with director Joe Wright, Atonement (2007), earned him an Oscar – here crafts an unforgettable score, combining Russian orchestral music with folk music, and then adding a few quirky twists – like the sound of locomotives, whistles, balalaikas and garmon accordions, topped off with the incredible solos of British violin prodigy Jack Liebeck. The classic tale of a Moscow socialite married to a boring government official who falls in love with a cavalry officer and discovers the true meaning of love, it features waltzes which mirror the underlying themes of courtship and are extended to the overall construction of the score, as the motifs intertwine and separate as if mirroring the central figures in the story – and the many points at which their lives intersect. Adapted for the screen by Tom Stoppard and studded with the starpower of Keira Knightley & Jude Law, this is an Anna Karenina whose highbrow production comes with a breathtaking score to match its pedigree: Leo Tolstoy himself would be proud!

Here’s track 2, “Clerks”:

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Here’s track 3, “She is of the Heavens”:

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Here’s track 8, “The Girl and the Birch”:

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Here’s track 10, “Can-Can”:

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1.) Beasts of the Southern WildDan Romer & Benh Zeitlin

Beasts of the Southern Wild

This sleeper indie directed (and co-written) by Benh Zeitlin caught everyone’s attention with its unique blend of Magical Realism with post-Katrina realism, highlighted by an incredible performance by its child star, Quvenzhané Wallis. Borrowing heavily from the Neil Gaiman / Hayao Miyazaki school of children’s fable, it was well executed, deeply emotional, and above all else understated – a rare feat indeed.  Beautifully shot (by cinematographer Ben Richardson), there are many passages in which we glimpse the world through the eyes of our protagonist, with little to no dialogue. Music naturally plays a critical role in the failure and/or success of these types of films… and in that regards composers Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin (this guy does everything!) deliver an even greater achievement than the film itself: a magical piece of music which builds emotional momentum through rhythmic passages brimming over with Cajun flavor, that pulsate and crescendo and brim over with life. Simply put, it’s an outstanding piece of music, uplifting without being overbearing, full of hope yet tinged with sadness, as small as a little girl yet as vast as the world beyond her tiny existence.

Here’s track 2, “The Bathtub”:

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Here’s track 5, “The Smallest Piece”:

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Here’s track 7, “End of the World”:

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Here’s track 15, “The Confrontation”:

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There you have it! The sounds and sights of another year over! Hope you’ll join us next year for more lovin’ of cinema on the Isle of Cinema. Don’t forget to give us some feedback so we can grow brighter and better in 2013! 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 check out our companion list: 100 favorite albums of 2012, here!
 
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January 9, 2013   1 Comment

SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 6 (of 15)

100.) To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) – Elmer Bernstein

Robert Mulligan’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel stars Gregory Peck and benefits from a fantastic score by the great Elmer Bernstein, who also composed The Man with the Golden Arm, The Magnificent Seven, and Walk on the Wild Side. Here’s track 3, “Atticus Accepts the Case”:

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99.) Savage! (1973) – Don Julian

I somehow missed this blaxploitation flick directed by Cirio H. Santiago, one of the many produced in The Philippines by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, which stars James Inglehart as a mercenary who becomes leader of a rebel faction. The flute-heavy funk soundtrack is awesome, as is Don Julian’s other obscure score, for Shorty the Pimp. For more on movies made in the Philippines keep your eyes peeled for the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed!

Here’s the title theme, “Savage!”:

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and track 2, “Lay it on Your Head”:

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98.) The Trip (1967) – The Electric Flag

Roger Corman directs Peter Fonda as a commercial director experiencing a mid-life crisis who turns to an LSD guru (Bruce Dern) for help. Dennis Hopper costars, in a flick written by none other than Jack Nicholson. The Electric Flag, fronted by Mike Bloomfield & Nick Gravenites and featuring the legendary Buddy Miles, provide the mind-altering psychedelic soundtrack.

Here’s track3:

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and track 5, “Hobbit”:

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and track 7, “Green & Gold”:

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97.) Yakuza (1975) – Dave Grusin

Sydney Pollack’s movie, written by screenwriting legends Paul Schrader and Robert Towne, tells the story of a businessman who travels Japan to rescue his friend’s kidnapped daughter from the Japanese mafia, also known as the Yakuza. The easy listening soundtrack comes courtesy of Dave Grusin, who also composed the soundtracks for Three Days of the Condor and The Goonies.

Here’s track 4, “Tokyo Return”:

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and track 18, “Bows”:

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96.) Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) – Ryûichi Sakamoto

Nagisa Ôshima directs Ryuichi Sakamoto, the soundtrack composer himself, opposite David Bowie, in this period war drama in which Japanese discipline, honor and glory clash with Western sensibilities. Sakamoto’s score for The Handmaid’s Tale and Pedro Almodovar’s High Heels are also worth seeking out.

Here’s track 4, “A Hearty Breakfast”:

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and track 19, “Forbidden Colours,” which features singer David Sylvian:

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95.) Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) – Yeong Wook Jo

Chan-wook Park’s film is the final installment in a trilogy including Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy and stars Yeong-ae Lee as a woman trying to put her life back together after 13 years in prison for kidnap and murder, who happens to also be arranging her revenge on the real killer who framed her. The black humor in the film is offset by the elegant soundtrack, which is dramatic and beautiful, incorporating harpsichord and baroque guitars and borrowing from Vivaldi’s “Ah ch’infelice sempre,” a song about, appropriately enough, revenge and betrayal.

Here’s track 2, “The Gold Letter, Which It Intends”:

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and track 16, “First It Was Wicked From The World”:

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94.) Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) – Riichiro Manabe

Jun Fukuda directs the giant rubbery lizard in this, the 13th film of the franchise, which features Gigan, Megalon and Jet Jaguar, creatures sent by the underground kingdom of Seatopia to destroy us pesky above-ground Earthlings. So it’s one of those times when Godzilla is with us rather than against us. Manabe’s music is always weird and amazing – check out the equally incredible Godzilla vs. Hedorah if you’re into it.

Here’s the main title:

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and track 4, “Highway Road”:

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93.) Man and Boy (1971) – J.J. Johnson

E.W. Swackhamer’s film stars Bill Cosby (who also produced) in his dramatic debut as a former cowboy and Union soldier who sets out with his 12-year-old son (George Spell) to retrieve a horse and plow stolen from him by white bigots in this G-rated Western re-imagining of The Bicycle Thief. Costarring Yaphet Kotto and Henry Silva, the film benefits greatly from a fantastic soundtrack by J.J. Johnson, filled with the wonderful sound of target=”_blank”>bass harmonica and the familiar voice of Bill Withers. Trombonist Johnson also composed the scores for Cleopatra Jones, Willie Dynamite, and Across 110th Street (with Bobby Womack – featuring the greatest title song of all time!), as well as tons of releases on the Blue Note and Impulse! labels, all worth seeking out.

Here’s track 1, the title theme, “Better Days” sung by Bill Withers:

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and track 4, “Pull, Jubal, Pull”:

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and track 6, “Theme from Man and Boy”:

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92.) City of the Living Dead [a.k.a. The Gates of Hell] (1980) – Fabio Frizzi

In Lucio Fulci’s free-form gore-fest, a priest commits suicide and opens the gates of Hell, and it’s up to a psychic and a reporter to close them before the malevolent zombies take over the world. The music is top notch, full of creepy “ahh”-ing voices, weird moog, and swanky bass-lines, which lend Fulci’s over-the-top apocalyptic tale an appropriately epic – and slightly pornographic – feel. Here’s track 3, “Irrealta Di Suoni”:

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and track 5, “Verso L’Alba”:

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and track 6, “Apoteosi Del Mistero”:

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91.) A Pugni Nudi [Naked Fists] (1974) – Franco Bixio

Marcello Zeani’s film about a juvenile delinquent-turned boxer who throws a fight to pay for an operation for his friend is full of melodrama, backstabbings, and is set to the sounds of Bixio’s funky grooves. Here’s the opening track, “With Bare Fists”:

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and track 3, “Where They Reform You”:

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60 down, 90 to go!!!

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 27, 2010   3 Comments

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