Big screen melodies: my 5 favourite movie soundtracks

 

I once read somewhere that the best movie soundtracks are the ones you don’t notice when the movie is playing.

Doing just what they’re designed to do, they augment the visuals, audible but not dominating, a seamless part of the cinematic whole.

Even so, ever since the movie studios began promoting “soundtrack albums” in the 1940s, the music and songs that have been released with the movies we love have increasingly come to be enjoyed almost as much as the movies from which they’re drawn.

The soundtracks for movies like Star Wars, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, West Side Story, Lawrence of Arabia and Vertigo, all of which were just voted the five best soundtracks of all time in a BBC3 radio poll – in that order starting with John Williams’s superlative Oscar-winning Star Wars music sitting at #1 – have become much loved parts of the cultural soundscape, and  deservedly so.

But the poll, which was conducted as part of the BBC’s Sound of Cinema series that, according to deadline.com, is “dedicated to exploring the composers, songs and film scores that form the soundtrack to the big screen”, got me thinking about which soundtracks have come to mean the most to me, and naturally, being the contrary slightly left-of-normal beastie that I am, my top 5 picks did not match those of BBC’s listeners.

While I love the soundtracks (to varying degrees) that grabbed the top 5 spots in the poll, it’s the following five movie music collections that have, for a host of reasons, have won a special spot in my music-loving heart.

 

FORCES OF NATURE

 

(image via allmusic.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Ben Holmes (Affleck) is a “blurb” writer responsible for writing the short introductions on the sleeves of hardcover books. On his way to Savannah, Georgia for his wedding with Bridget (Maura Tierney), he’s already nervous about flying. His nerves aren’t helped when he’s seated next to Sarah (Bullock), a free-spirited person who seems to get on his nerves. On takeoff, a bird flies into one of the engines, causing a flameout. Now afraid to fly, he reluctantly agrees to travel with Sarah, who also needs to get to Savannah within a few days.

During the course of their trip, things seem to keep happening to prevent them from getting to their destination — from being on the wrong car of a train to getting caught in various thunderstorms. However, Ben is impressed by Sarah’s easy spirit, and starts to feel a connection with her. As they get closer to their destination, Ben starts to wonder if he’s making the right choice in getting married to Bridget, or if he should just let fate take him with Sarah, who has a secret of her own. Ben and Bridget still agree to get married since they realize even after everything that has happened, they only want each other. Sara witnesses this exchange and slips away to go find her kid and move on with her life. (source: wikipedia.com)

WHY I LOVE THE SOUNDTRACK
Forces of Nature has one of the most edgy, unorthodox selection of songs for a romantic comedy ever assembled. And that I think has a lot to do with the fact that Sarah, played with irrepressible glee by my favourite actress ever, Sandra Bullock, is an envelope-pushing, free spirit who doesn’t follow the expected paths, and since she largely influences the delightfully chaotic screwball spirit of the movie, it makes sense that executive album producer Robbie Robertson matched the songs with her personality.

It helps too that the songs he selected are a little off the beaten track too.

He managed to convince U2 to record “Everlasting Love” and Swervedriver to cover “Magic Bus”, and then threw into the mix just sexually-suggestive tracks as Touch and Go’s “Would You … [go to bed with me]?” and Blueboy’s “Remember Me [I’m the one who had your baby]” that capture the should we/shouldn’t we vibe of the movie.

It’s the perfect marriage of song and story, as catchy a soundtrack as you’ll find anywhere.

 

 

ABOUT A BOY

 

(image via junodownload.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Based on Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel, About A Boy is the story of a cynical, immature young man, Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) who is taught how to act like a grown-up by a little boy Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) (source: imdb.com) 

WHY I LOVE THE SOUNDTRACK
I have long been a fan of Badly Drawn Boy aka Damian Michael Gough,  a music artist who has a knack for crafting delicate yet emotionally robust indie rock/pop songs.

His soundtrack for the film, including the enchanting standout track “Something to Talk About”, which was released as a single in 2002 and reached #28 in the UK Singles Chart, perfectly captured the gentle, whimsical tone of the film.

While About a Boy actually covered some fairly serious material, including most poignantly the close but uneven relationship between Marcus and his troubled mother (Toni Collette), it was also about the burgeoning friendship between Will and Nicholas, which ends up saving them both, and the upbeat songs, that burble along with a quiet, rambling joy, accent the specialness of this relationship.

As much a joy to listen to as the film is to watch, the soundtrack is the perfect pick-me-up on sad or stressful days.

 

 

MEET JOE BLACK

 

(image via filmmusicsite.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
A media mogul (Anthony Hopkins) acts as a guide to Death, who takes the form of a young man (Brad Pitt) to learn about life on Earth and in the process, fall in love with his guide’s daughter (Claire Forlani). (source: imdb.com) 

WHY I LOVE THE SOUNDTRACK
This is one of those rare times where I didn’t love the movie as much as I liked the music that accompanied it.

While not a particularly bad movie, it wasn’t a standout either, a three hour epic that buried the intensely beautiful relationships between all three principal characters under far too much tedious spiritualising and worthy insights.

Ah but the soundtrack, by one the greats of cinematic scoring Thomas Newman with classic songs by Cole Porter (“Anything Goes”) and Irving Berlin (“Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and “Isn’t This a Lovely Day”) was an exquisite gem.

Incandescently beautiful, it matches perfectly the richness of the emotional connections within the film, doing a better job of bringing these to life than the stodgy editing of the movie itself.

Losing yourself in its quiet beauty is very easy to do and one of those rare joys on a busy day.

 

 

ROMY AND MICHELLE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

 

(image via anthonypeoples.wordpress.com)

 

SNAPSHOT
Two women get into a lot of trouble when they go to their high school reunion and lie about their lives after twelfth grade. (source: imdb.com)

WHY I LOVE THE SOUNDTRACK
I’m an 80s music boy.

Granted I was in 1965 and really came into my musical own in the 70s with ABBA and Disco, but it was the 80s when I was finishing high school and going to university that I really branched out in my musical tastes, flocking to bands like Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, Wang Chung and The Go-Gos.

And to my great delight, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, as sweet, delightful and funny film as you’re ever likely to find brings so many of these decades classic tracks back together, just 7 years after it ended.

Songs like the gloriously upbeat  “Dance Hall Days” by Wang Chung, the jump-in-your-car-and-drive-fun of “Our Lips Are Sealed” by The Go-Gos, and The Vapors’ slightly naughty but I love it “Turning Japanese are spot on accompaniments to the movie, and the sort of songs I can listen to over and over and never tire of.

Reality kind of worn you down? Take a brief escape with this wonderful collection of songs.

 

 

LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER 

 

(image via YouTube)

 

SNAPSHOT
Video game adventuress Lara Croft comes to life in a movie where she races against time and villains to recover powerful ancient artifacts. (source: imdb.com)

WHY I LOVE THE SOUNDTRACK
Lara Croft Tomb Raider got a lot of schtick from critics and some fans of the game for being far too lightweight and narratively fragmented, I nevertheless enjoy it immensely as a piece of pure escapist entertainment.

But what truly grabbed me was the magnificently gritty, hard-edged and musically cutting edge soundtrack.

Stuffed to the musical gills with amazing songs like “Elevation” by U2, “Galaxy Bounce” by Chemical Brothers, “Where’s Your Head At” by Basement Jaxx, and “Get Ur Freak On” by Missy Elliott and Nelly Furtado, it is exactly the sort of energetic, pounding soundtrack that you’d want for a full-on action movie based on a video game.

It’s bristling with energy and attitude and is inextricably a part of the film itself.

It is all but impossible to listen to this collection of songs and not want to bounce like a madman around your room before racing out to take on the world.

Absolutely brilliant and one of my favourite sets of song to listen to.

 


 

* So what’s your favourite soundtrack and why? 

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