For myself, although a bit drastic, the soundtrack can be the make-or-break ingredient of any film; I mean, where would the power of the Lion King be without The Circle of Life or the James Bond saga without its annual theme song? Sometimes the impact of a movie is limited by its musical accompaniments, such as Disney’s Tarzan, which is burdened by the 34.72 minutes of soundtrack, starring Phil Collins… yeah.
Right now, I would like to share 5 movies whose soundtracks I have hummed, whistled and tapped for days and weeks after watching them because they are so bloody fantastic. As well as enjoying the movies themselves, these soundtracks have brought me amusement, ambience and moved me to uncontrollable tears. So without any further flattery, here are my 5 (in N.P.O).
1. The Royal Tenenbaums
In pure Wes Anderson style, the film is engaging from the get-go, and the characters are introduced in an almost reality-show manner; with their closeup, accompanied by their name and character title. The unmistakable sound of Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major plays during this opening sequences, making it immediately theatrical and almost even amusing.
The movie is full of relevant songs that compliment the energy and humour of the plot, such as The Ramones’ Judy is a Punk and The Clash’s Police and Thieves. The soundtrack features all kinds of musical heroes such as The Who, Bob Dylan, Donovan, The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones. However, as well as being able to bring life to each scene with these nostalgic punk and folk anthems, he is also able to move me to tears with his meticulously selected soundtrack.
For example, the use of Elliot Smith’s Needle in the Hay is not only heartbreaking, but also in keeping with the many themes of the soundtrack with its sad-folk sound. This scene is absolutely harrowing, and the song is one of the things that is most moving. It is already an extremely heart-stopping scene in which you see Richie in mid-crisis as the lyrics “you idiot kid, you don’t have a clue” play through. It’s sad, it’s tense, and this songs does it all a huge justice.
Finally, my absolute favourite moment of the movie is when Margot gets off the green bus and the absolutely beautiful noise of Nico’s These Days begins to ring through the scene as she floats towards Richie. It is totally majestic and incredibly sweet. You can, without a doubt, feel the adoration an he chemistry between the characters here.
2. The Greasy Strangler
Okay, I don’t need to say this if you’ve already seen it, but this movie is absolutely next-level fucked up. Being such a surreal movie, it’s sometimes difficult to get lost in the story or empathise with the characters. However, Andrew Hung’s soundtrack allows us to know what to feel and when with his bizarre but revealing songs.
With erratic songs like Get On The Greasy and Fizzy Barf reappearing in more than one scene in the movie, we can identify these songs with what will happen when they play (no spoilers). These songs also act as the theme for our main character, allowing the audience to brace themselves for his presence.
All of the songs on the soundtrack sound like a combination of noises from kids’ tv shows and old arcade games with a disquieting twist. Hung’s voice is altered in all the songs, creating an extraterrestrial, squeaky sound. The scenes, being joined by such a perfect soundtrack, made me laugh, gasp, gag, shudder, cringe and…wait…get emotional?
Yes. There is one scene in which Brayden is pacing the street outside his house in which I actually felt sorry for a character within the film- and I mean really, really felt for him. The track, Go Home To My Bed (Sad Mix) complimented the scene perfectly and allowed me to really understand the feelings of this strange and sometimes detached character. Besides from creating the mood, I also genuinely enjoyed the song.
The soundtrack is full of new and exciting noises and weird and wonderful combinations. Along with the beauty of the film itself and the hilarious plot, this soundtrack is the final touch to an awesome movie-watching experience.
Now, this little gem of a soundtrack by Alex Turner is literally only 6 songs long, but it is one of my absolute favourites. Packed with emotion and a heart-on-sleeve approach to his songwriting, Turner captures Craig Roberts’ character flawlessly.
Each song acts as almost a message from Alex Turner to the character of Oliver, chosen to play in the most tender and emotional of moments. However, as well as being blissfully poetic and utterly romantic, they are modest, naive and innocent in nature.
The songs themselves are very light in texture, with Turner often using a piano and an acoustic guitar. The brightness of the instruments used, combined with Turner’s raspy, northern twang compliment each other wonderfully and the lyrics, if a bit ambiguous, are beautifully written.
This soundtrack is, much like the film, modest and charming and simple but powerful and raw and reflects the brooding nature of Oliver and the other teenagers in the movie. Each word engendered a tear, each note sent shivers down my spine and it is just so in sync with the narrative. It really is a masterpiece.
4. The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann)
Probably one of the most talked about things about this movie was Luhrmann’s soundtrack choice. I’m not much of a listener of Pop artists such as Sia or Emeli Sande however I was so pleasantly surprised to hear their song adaptions when I did watch the movie.
The massive party scene in which Jordan and Nick are dancing around the pool somewhat resembled Justin Bieber’s Beauty and a Beat music video with the high-energy song, A Little Party Never Killed Nobody blasting through the scene. I really loved how the song was played as both diegetic and non-diegetic noise so that whenever Nick and Jordan were filmed in another room, you could faintly hear the song coming through the walls, whereas when they were near the band, the audio was the only thing to hear. It really clarified the huge scale of the party and the modern-dance twist also really helped create the same effect.
I was also thoroughly pleased by the more Jazz-orientated songs such as Bryan Ferry’s jazzy adaption of his own Love is the Drug, traditionally performed in classic Roxy Music fashion. It’s super sexy and even slightly devious sounding- it is one of the songs that captures the movie’s mood perfectly, as well as the time frame.
Lastly, one beautiful moment in the movie is when Daisy gets a taste of what her life could have been. Lana Del Ray’s iconic and beautiful Young and Beautiful plays and suddenly switches the film’s mood from being all about expensive parties and alcohol to being about love and loss whilst, simultaneously, keeping in touch with the art deco glamour.
5. La La Land
I’m sure it won’t surprise you to see this on my list and, yeah, I know, everyone is talking about it- but with good reason.
From the very start of this brilliant movie, we start with a classically cheesy flash-mob with the song, Another Day Of Sun. It is everything that a typical musical soundtrack should sound like; it’s corny, catchy, contains group singing and a break for a dance circle. The second song, Someone in the Crowd introduces us to the Jazz theme a little bit better. Starting with a slightly cabaret-like sound, the girls sing beautifully and theatrically, however it is when the snare and that double bass kick in, and the absolutely gorgeous instrumental is introduced that really makes the song super.
Another favourite of mine is the first song that Mia and Sebastian perform together, A Lovely Night. It almost has a Baby, It’s Cold Outside vibe about it and I was really impressed by Stone and Gosling’s singing. It’s super witty, is accompanied by great dancing and there is a real connection between the two, despite the lyrics “I’m feeling nothing…It might be less than nothing.”
The great thing about this soundtrack is that it is so amazingly relevant to the time in which these west end musicals typically take place, despite being set in the present. Also the songs get stuck in your head for days upon days upon days because, not only are they repeated subtly throughout the movie, like Mia and Sebastian’s theme, but they’re also just so bloody catchy!
La La Land has already won Best Score at this year’s Golden Globes and has also been nominated for best song awards at the BAFTAs and the Oscars, and I have a feeling it’s going to steal the show.