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Now Hear This!

While coming out of a recent film I commented to my viewing partner how much I had enjoyed the film's score. She had a classic

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While coming out of a recent film I commented to my viewing partner how much I had enjoyed the film's score. She had a classic comment, "I never notice background music." Although we may not register a movie score as something we want on CD, it can make or break the atmosphere of a film as much as cinematography or acting. Below is a little ode to the unsung heroes of movie scores with their best works as recommended views.

Alfred Newman

Starting in the 1930's, Newman composed and adapted music for movies for 40 years and received countless awards for his work, including nine Oscars. Love is a Many-Splendored Thing's eponymous song was recorded by The Four Aces, Jerry Vale, and Frank Sinatra and was the first song from a movie to go to No.1 on the charts. The scenes in which Jennifer Jones waits on a wind swept hill for her love with the song in the background is intensely, if melodramatically, romantic. Newman adapted quite a few Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway musicals, the best are Carousel and The King and I. You'll have "Shall We Dance" in your head for days. He passed his musical genes on to his nephew Randy Newman, a talented composer with an Oscar and many nominations to his credit.

Rachel Portman

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Portman is a prolific composer, having composed the score for 72 films since 1982. The best is The Cider House Rules directed by Lasse Hallström - a sympathetic look at John Irving's book about an orphanage depicted through gauzy cinematography and a soothing, atmospheric score. More whimsical is Portman's score for Chocolat, tinged with the romance and magic of Provincial France. Benny and Joon was a small movie about an imbalanced woman, her caretaker brother and the eccentric man she falls in love with. Indie pop tunes mix with another score full of whimsy and a bit of magic.

Henry Mancini

Mancini is often associated with the captivating and perennially popular "Moon River". The image in Breakfast at Tiffany's of Holly Golightly strumming a guitar on a Manhattan fire escape seems to encapsulate Mancini and his music. Of course, he wrote more than 200 scores, all of which are worth a listen even if some of the films aren't worth the view. Director Blake Edwards (who directed Breakfast at Tiffany's) worked closely with Mancini throughout his career. For Edwards, Mancini composed some of the most famous movie scoring ever - the theme to the Pink Panther series starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. Three other Edwards' films Days of Wine and Roses, Victor Victoria and The Great Race, have very different but equally brilliant scores and are a perfect line up for a Blake Edwards/Henry Mancini movie-thon. Other recommended films are Two for the Road, a look at a couples marital arc as told through flashbacks starring Audrey Hepburn; and the Orson Well's classic, A Touch of Evil, which is a masterpiece all the way around from the amazing direction to the sinister music. Hatar, deals with disturbing subject matter by today's standards but it has a great score which spawned the popular hit known as "Baby Elephant Walk"- a song recognizable from many other modern applications.

 

 

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