Jazz Film Soundtracks
Oh, goody, yet another list. How f$%&ing original!
For some silly reason, there seems to be all this hoo-haa about the silly Vanity Fair article on the top Movie Soundtracks of all time.
These people are wankers for many reasons: 1) The VF weenies press released to death; b) the article is not even available on line; iii) the editors chose Purple Rain as the greatest film soundtrack of all time.
I remain convinced that the purveyors of these annoying lists select a controversial top pick to generate buzz (tho' you would think this would might encourage online posting).
Regardless, let's not play into their hand. Rather than waste too much time telling you how clueless VF's music editors are, or giving them any linklove, I would rather -- in the spirit of Friday Night Jazz -- compile a worthwhile list of films and soundtracks for your perusal.
A few ground rules:
• We are looking for outstanding soundtracks to outstanding films. (Merely o.k. doesn't cut it).
• Groundbreaking films, soundtracks and performances get bonus points. (Mediocre performances get cut).
• Better non-film versions take points away from the movie soundtrack -- where there are superior versions such as the Broadway soundtrack (i.e., Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, etc.) than those flicks don 't make the cut.
• Pure adaptations of Broadway shows also get cut. In my mind, Cabaret, Chicago, Chorus Line are more filmed stage productions, rather than pure movies. (as forewarned, totally subjective).
Hence, several films that I love failed to make the cut: Apocalypse Now is fantastic in the way it uses music (especially The Doors' The End, and Wagner's The Ride Of The Valkyries), but its not great as a standalone soundtrack; the wonderful My Fair Lady, with Rex Harrison's mediocre voice, and the dubbing of Audrey Hepburn's voice, also doesn't make the cut.
These things are totally subjective, and are rarely based exclusively on mere merits. Pink Floyd The Wall was a great album so overplayed when I was in college, that I simply couldn't pull the trigger on it (the film is a bit ponderous to boot). Again, these things are very subjective.
Alternatively, the film can't suck. The greatest soundtrack in the world becomes irrelevant if its attached to a film like, say, Hedwig and the Angry Inch -- a play that sucked two hours out of my life that I will never get back, and will literally regret on my death bed.
We can certainly debate the order of any list, or the contents, and we probably will (thats what the comments are for).
Here's my subjective top ~20:
1. A Hard Day's Night: A brilliant film and album that both remain as energetic and fresh today as they were in 1964. The Beatles personalities were perfectly suited to the medium, so much so that its hard to imagine a better film/soundtrack combo.
2. Stop Making Sense: Quite simply, the best concert film ever made. Yes, some of you will declare The Last Waltz, (with a few stragglers nominating Woodstock) but there is simply nothing else that ha the combination of showmanship, musical innovation -- and the big suit -- like this film does. Marvelous.
3. Blade Runner: Forget the ponderous and boring Chariots of Fire, THIS is Vangelis Masterpiece. Not only is the music hauntingly beautiful, but it fits the filmscape so perfectly, making it even better than it originally was. We've already spilled so many words about BR, that the less said the better. "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."
4. The Rocky Horror Picture Show:
I could try to explain this, but I couldn't do it justice. Find a
theater where this is playing at the midnight show, and go with someone
who's gone before. Repeat.
5. The Graduate: Not only is this a seminal, groundbreaking film, but the soundtrack is phenomenal. The way the various songs are interwoven into the action, mood, psyches of the players is amazing (listen as Benjamin's Alpha Romeo Spider runs out of gas).
I don't know if Mike Nichols is a genius, or just got incredibly lucky. Either way, its a great soundtrack and a great movie.
6. Harold and Maude: One of the most subversive, outrageously amusing black comedies ever made -- hysterically funny to boot. Cat Stevens (before he became Yusaf) created a wonderful collection of songs that enhance the story line's mood and emotions. This is, quite bluntly, one of the funniest films ever made.
7. Garden State: My "surprise" entry. A charming little film with a soundtrack that simply refuses to stop delighting you with its lovely tunes and ballads, nearly all of which are by bands that prior to this soundtrack were relatively unknown. This disc was played constantly in the car in 2004/05.
Perhaps its my age showing, but I have always found each of these to be tremendous films and soundtracks. The Zep concert film was utterly ground breaking, and I must have seen it a zillion times after they broke up; The Who film was a fantastic documentary.
10. Fantasia: Music by Tchaikovsky, Moussorgsky, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Ponchielli, Bach, Dukas, and Schubert. 'nuff said.
The film was groundbreaking in many ways, including the innovative use of animation and stereophonic sound -- but its the overall approach that has been so enduring: Allow the Disney animators tointerpret Classical music. The results are both playful and surreal. Its amazing how well this has held up after 60 years . . .
11. Pulp Fiction: The film does so many things so well -- but the way the music is integrated into the actual plot is simply terrific. Plus, Travolta and Uma can each dance.
12. West Side Story: Leonard Bernstein's musical update of Romeo and Juliet. The combination of Stephen Sondheim brilliant lyrics, the kinetic choreography and the bravura camera work made for a fantastic wide screen film. The soundtrack created the perfect counterpoint to the dance and action.
Sure, its a bit dated (hence, #10), but it remains an all time great.
13. Purple Rain: There is no doubt that the purple one can sign, dance, play guitar -- but Acting? Not so much.
Regardless, his sheer overwhelming talent is why this manages to get onto my top 15.
True Story: I saw this in the theaters in college, and my remark was "He's going to be bigger than Michael Jackson" -- who was huge at the time.
Its a toss up how right that call was, but the general concept was dead on . . .
14. Little Shop Of Horrors: A fantabulous musical/horror/comedy. It's all a whole lot of fun, and the musical styles range from honky-tonk to doo-wop to straightforward rock n' roll. The strength of the film carries what otherwise might have been a mere Broadway adaption into an entire different level.
15. Koyaanisqatsi: A quasi-documentary, this film has been described as "visual concert of images" or a "filmic landscape." The reason its here is the hauntingly beautiful music of Phillip Glass. A classic college flick . . .
16. Saturday Night Fever: One of those seminal films that tremendously influenced the culture.
My choice in music was rock-n-roll, and I had little interest in blow-dried hair, white polyester suits, or cruising discos looking to pick Staten Island bimbos.
The music works as well on its own, but it also works as a classic piece of pop history. (And John Travolta makes the list twice!)
17. The Tao of Steve: Another charming little film that surprises with its wonderful songs. A fun amusing, philosophically oriented film, with a soundtrack to match. For you Outdoor Types.
18. All That Jazz: The Oscar winning soundtrack by Ralph Burns includes jazz, classical, pop, and Broadway standards. Its a marvelous mix that works to great effect in the film.
Can you imagine anyone other Director making so self-critical autobiographical film other than Bob Fosse? While some have criticized the film as a rip-off of Fellini's 8 1/2, my favored descriptions of All That Jazz is "the musical version of Apocalypse Now." If you can imagine that, you have a better sense of what the film itself is like.
All that work. All that glitter. All that pain. All that love. All that crazy rhythm. All that jazz.
19. The Big Chill: The Motown dominated score was one of the most artistically skillful -- and commercially successful -- uses of pop ever set to a film.
More than merely setting a time and place, the soundtrack has a wispy nostalgia for a prior period in the players' lives. Subsequent attempts by other movies have been less successful of creating a look back from a specific time to another one; e.g., I think of the Forrest Gump soundtrack as Big Chill 2.
20. South Park - Bigger, Longer & Uncut: You will laugh until you piss yourself. This one squeaks in at #20 because the soundtrack is so very, very funny.
Thats my top list; A few Honorable Mentions are after the jump . . .
Sound of Music
Pink Floyd - The Wall
Oh Brother, Wherefore Art Thou
Grosse Pointe Blanke
Sorcerer Lost in Translation
The Virgin Suicides
The Motorcycle Diaries
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Jesus Christ, Superstar
All that Jazz
Pennies from Heaven
Phantom of the Paradise
Robin & the 7 hoods
Beauty & the Beast
The Last Waltz
Let It Be
Fiddler on the Roof
Meaning of Life
A Star is Born
If you've hummed along, tapped your feet, or even danced in your seat while watching "Purple Rain," "Saturday Night Fever" or "Trainspotting," you're not alone.
The soundtracks from those movies have been named among the 50 greatest by the editors of Vanity Fair magazine. The full list will be revealed next month in a one-time Conde Nast magazine, Movies Rock, for subscribers of its 14 titles.
"Purple Rain" topped the chart even though it was described as "perhaps the best badly acted film ever," editors at Vanity Fair said, while "Trainspotting" came in at No. 7 and "Saturday Night Fever" was eighth.
"Purple Rain" greatest film soundtrack: Vanity Fair
Wed Oct 24, 12:30 AM ET
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Jazz Film Soundtracks:
a very long shot for an honorable mention:
Mulatu Astatke for Broken Flowers
Posted by: Beatnikbob | Nov 2, 2007 8:22:58 PM
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