by Ben Shine
Through a series of very fortunate events, a few friends and I will be presenting "The Harder They Come" at the Indianapolis Art Center's Basile Auditorium on October 17. I haven't seen the movie itself in over a decade, and frankly, I'm not crazy interested in the movie.
It's the soundtrack.
It's amazing, and it's a linchpin in my vinyl collection over the last couple of years. It's a family staple too; one that Mr. Baby enjoys a lot and is great for living room hang-outs, impromptu dance parties, house cleaning and, like many of my favorite soundtracks, is less a score and more an amazing mix.
The best soundtracks stand alone from the movies they accompany. The soundtracks to Wes Anderson movies, with their incidental tracks by the genius Mark Mothersbaugh and perfectly edited vintage songs, are an archivist listener's dream. Purple Rain is a nearly perfect album, period (oh, "Computer Blue" and "Darlin Nikki", you throw me off a little, though). RZA's work scoring and producing the soundtrack to Ghost Dog (my favorite album in the car) demonstrates his abilities and that hip-hop can be a powerful partner in a quiet, violent Jim Jarmusch movie about an urban samurai. Curtis Mayfield's Superfly has come to overshadow the movie it was composed for. These are soundtracks that stand alone, but they also make each of their partner films better, stronger, more compelling.
With the Heartland Film Festival approaching, Indy Film Fest's fall series of music-themed movies that promise to "rock your socks right off," and the changing fall season, (perfect weather to stay home on your couch with Netflix) it's a good time to watch movies. With that, I asked a few local cinematic enthusiasts about their favorite soundtracks to help guide your movie selections.
Louise Henderson, Heartland Film Festival
Stop Making Sense
Seeing this Jonathan Demme movie in 1984 at the University of Michigan is one of those experiences that vividly remains in my memory. From the moment David Byrne walked on to the screen, turned on a boom box and started singing, the entire audience at the Michigan Theatre filled the aisles and danced through the entire amazing movie to the Talking Heads' music.
Pieces of April
The Stephin Merritt-written music performed by the Magnetic Fields and The 6ths is haunting, young, insightful--evoking the many emotions of every character through the course of the day leading up to the Thanksgiving meal. This music is on a frequent rotation on my iTunes.
Tim Irwin, Heartland Film Festival
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife
& Her Lover
Beautiful, haunting, almost bizarre music to go along with a beautiful, haunting, bizarre film. This is another example of a fantastic film that owes a huge debt to an incredible soundtrack, as many of the best films do.
Requiem for a Dream
Beautiful strings from Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet are evocative, emotional and devastating. The music and almost Foley-like effects work with Aronosky's visuals to create an unforgettable experience.
Matt Mays, Mays Entertainment
This is the transition album from Rubber Soul to subsequent, more adventurous works. The title track, "Yesterday," "Ticket to Ride," "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away..." Do I need to go on? (Shine's note: Yes, because "I Need You" doesn't get mentioned enough, but, yeah...)
The Last Waltz, The Band
The actual album release is more complete than what is featured in the Scorsese film, widely considered to be one of the best concert films ever made. The album features all of the film's wonderful performances and more.
Craig Mince, Indy Film Fest
Not only is this one of the best soundtracks, it's one of the best albums period. My mom would play this record constantly when I was young and it's stuck with me ever since. When I got older she would play the record then tell me stories about how she made out with Prince once when she was in college. Unfortunately, that has stuck with me as well. Thanks Mom!
This soundtrack blew me away the first time I heard it when I saw Pulp Fiction back in high school. It sets the tone for the movie perfectly. It's also one of the first soundtracks I had that had audio clips from the film on it. I'm a total film quote nerd so this was a big bonus.
Jason Roemer, Indy Film Fest
I love it when one of my favorite musicians jumps in to collaborate on a film that drills its way into my favorite movies' archive. EefBarzelay's quirky score for "Rocket Science" helps drive the narrative of a film that captures all the awkwardness of growing up. This soundtrack includes a blistering version of the classic "Battle Hymn of the Republic" that is best enjoyed L-O-U-D.
Umbrellas de Cherbourg
Technically a musical, I know, but Michel Legrand's score for this 1964 classic bent the genre in two for me. I first discovered this film in a friend's third floor apartment where we spent our evenings cooking and drinking wine. It's most appealing to me after midnight, when the world loosens its grip a little and things start to seem possible again.
David Yosha, Magnet Films
My favorite soundtrack, by far, is Thomas Newman's haunting, quirky, sometimes funny and incredibly moving score to American Beauty. The scenes with the swirling plastic bag and Kevin Spacey's post-mortem review of his life and loves are so enhanced by his music that it is impossible to imagine them having that kind of power without it.
Days of Heaven
Ennio Morricone's soundtrack was the perfect counterpart to the groundbreaking poetic style of this 1978 film. The beauty of the naturalistic cinematography and its unusual, quiet way of telling a story was perfectly accompanied by the veteran composer's music. His list of classic film scores is impressive, but this happens to be my personal favorite.