Wanting to kick off the week with something triumphant, how about we venture on over to a film score, written by John Addison for the World War II epic A Bridge Too Far (my review of which can be found here), which depicted the failed allied invasion of Holland, known as Operation Market Garden. No other soundtrack for a war film ever shone through with such militaria like this one has. It has everything you could want, with some old-time fife and drums present, as well as some jazzy interludes that bring in the era of big bands in America with plenty of brass. It has a catchy main theme that can get stuck in your head for an entire day, and prove to not be such a bad thing. For me, one essential item for a war movie is the soundtrack, with the exception of Saving Private Ryan, which offered none. This one ranks very high on my list.
It’s been four months since my last rating of a movie soundtrack, but due to the late summer doldrums I have decided to bring it back.
Next on the list at number six goes to the 2003 Civil War epic Gods and Generals, directed by Ronald Maxwell. Although he has directed other films, Maxwell will always be known for directing this films sequel, Gettysburg, along with this, and in both films, he shows a ear for great music.
While Edelman composed the music for Gettysburg, he was too busy with other projects when this film rolled around. He would contribute some music but the majority went to John Frizzell, whom Edelman recommended.
This film’s opening score starts out rather unusual, with a song rather than a main theme. We hear “Going Home” sung by Mary Fahl, and although I was surprised, this piece really sets the tone for the film. The overlay of all the different battle flags in the background was also a really nice touch.
Not used much at all, save for a few excerpts, is the main theme of the film, “Gods and Generals”, which is powerful and resounding, perfect for a movie with so much emotion, both in battle and in the private lives of the main generals of both commanding forces.
The Battle of Fredericksburg, which is the second battle depicted in this film, was the first time that Irish Brigades of the Union met those of the Confederacy. For that, we have the haunting theme of “These Brave Irishmen” which captures the saddening effect of men from the same country, fighting each other on a foreign land. As Buster Kilrain would say, “We left Ireland to escape a tyranny and wind up shooting at one another in the land of the free.”
Perhaps my most favorite piece from this wonderful soundtrack is “V.M.I Will Be Heard From Today”, played when Jackson’s troops are surprise attacking the Union at Chancellorsville. The music starts out very slow, but gradually gets louder and faster, before erupting in a bold out-lash of vocals. This was another instance of music being used to perfection, as it was played while his troops slowly approached the Union line, and finally attacked them.
To close out the movie, Bob Dylan’s song, “Cross the Green Mountain” was used during the end credits. Just listen to the words of this song, and it will give you a great idea of what the American Civil War was all about.
Previous Films on this List
In the few short years that I have been studying film, I can safely say that Stanley Kubrick is my favorite director of all-time. 2001: A Space Odyssey is one that I consider his personal masterpiece and it is my own favorite. The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Dr. Strangelove are right behind that one. All in all, I had seen every movie Kubrick ever made, all but one; Eyes Wide Shut.
Upon finishing this movie earlier today, I’m really at a loss for words. There is a meaning of the film that is so apparently obvious, but if you are watching a Kubrick movie and actually understand it the first time, there is something wrong– it means, the true meaning went right over your head.
I will not pretend that I even have the slightest clue as to what Kubrick’s real intention was, but to explain the obvious story portrayed, it is a simple tale of spousal trust and infidelity. Nicole Kidman’s character tells her husband, played by Tom Cruise, that one time when they were on vacation, she thought about having an affair.
From there, a stunned Cruise walks all over New York City, where he encounters a prostitute, whom he leaves before allowing anything to happen, because he fells guilty. He then finds an old friend who is a piano player at a bar. This man, played by Todd Field, tells cruise of a clandestine meeting that he attends to play the piano for. Each time they meet, it is at a different location, and he must remain blindfolded at all times.
To not give away the entire scene, let’s just say that these “meetings” are basically orgies set up with hundreds of wealthy and important society people. However, Cruise’s character is uncovered and they kick him out with a warning to not speak about it to anyone. Within the next day, people involved start dying one by one, and Cruise continues to wander around the city.
That is essentially the plot of the movie, as Cruise has countless encounters with people who challenge his own faithfulness to his wife. The end of the movie is still something that seems obvious, but there is clearly an underlying meaning to it.
This was Stanley Kubrick’s final movie, as he died four days after presenting the final cut to Warner Brothers. I am glad that I final got a chance to see it, but overall, I really don’t know if I liked it or not. The film is well made, but I will have to watch it at least one more time to fully understand it, and at two hours and forty minutes, I don’t know how convenient that will be for me.
Perhaps the part I enjoyed the most was Kubrick’s use of music, of which he has superb taste in almost every film of us. The eerie music of Gyorgy Ligeti makes a third appearance in a Kubrick film, and this piece by Dmitri Shostakovich was very enjoyable, setting up the film nicely.
For my final rating, I will give it between a 7 and an 8. I wish I would have been able to understand what I will call the strangest movie I have seen to date. Had Kubrick not cared about censorship (like he didn’t for A Clockwork Orange, adding to how good the film was) and gone with an NC-17, or perhaps even pushing it with an X rating, it could have been better.
Few movies are as depressing, or are as effective as Schindler’s List, directed by Steven Spielberg. The film stays with you long after you watch it, and a first time viewing is guaranteed to have you in tears by the end. The music used in this film plays a major part in that.
Aside from assembling an all-star cast, including Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes, Spielberg used John Williams, a composer who is arguably the greatest soundtrack music writer of our lifetime, to write the score. To play the violin in certain pieces, the famed Itzhak Perlman was there as well.
The main title gives a perfect example at what the music and mood would be throughout the film, but not one piece of music would be as haunting as Perlman’s play in Auschwitz-Birkenau. This is perhaps the most saddening scene in the movie, as the music is being played as a large group of women and young girls are calmly led to one of the gas chambers, and the doors are sealed.
This movie is one of my personal favorites, because of how well made it is, and because of how effective it is. When going through the school system, students are shown this film in one class or another, and some have seen it multiple times in class alone. I have seen it so many times that I have almost become de-sensitized to how sad it really is, but when I become a history teacher a few years from now, you can be sure I’ll be showing it in class, just like everyone else.
Other Films on this List
The theme song for this movie finds itself everywhere you look; from sporting events right before a crucial moment in the game, to commercials, TV shows and movies. Everywhere you look, you’ll hear some form of this classic western showdown sounding piece that kicks off The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Ennio Morricone was the major film composer in 1960′s Italy, which is where this movie was filmed, giving credibility to the “spaghetti western” genre. If you search for his work, you will find he has composed the soundtracks for 490 films, and is still working to this very day; Spider Dance, his latest project, is slated to come out later in the year.
You never would think that opera, or some variation of it, would find its way into a gritty, hard-hitting, action packed western. But for the most crucial seen in the movie, right before the final shootout, Ecstasy of Gold, builds the tension as the seconds wind down to who will draw first, and which of the three major characters will be gunned down.
I highly recommend for everyone to check out Morricone’s work, cause chances are, if you’ve seen a spaghetti western, it was he who composed the soundtrack for it.
He was also able to show how wide-ranging his talents stretched. Check out this Jazzy, and upbeat soundtrack for one of the most disturbing films ever made in history.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly gets my nod for the ninth best film soundtrack of all-time. Please check out prior films in this countdown: #10- A Clockwork Orange.
This is without a doubt the weirdest movie you will ever see, leaving you uneasy from beginning to end. This is re-enforced by the soundtrack that Stanley Kubrick used. He only had one piece of music actually recorded for the film, and that was the theme music, written by Wendy Carlos, who he would work with nine years later for The Shining.
A Clockwork Orange is unique because it uses atonal, almost electronic sounding music, such as the theme linked above, but also famous classical pieces.
The main character, Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell), loves his Beethoven, and during several key parts of the movie, you can hear the ninth symphony/second movement. The music is even used in the most crucial scene of the movie, during a scientific experiment on Alex. Will not say any more to avoid spoilers.
We also get to hear two different movements of Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance. Guarantee you will never sit through another graduation ceremony in the same way again!
Last but not least, who could forget Singin’ in the Rain, sung by Gene Kelly, that is played during one of the most disturbing scenes in the film.
Stanley Kubrick always made sure to use great music in his movies, and this one would not be the same without the different moods captured in the various pieces, to make the audience feel uneasy. But because there was only one piece of original music composed, it gets the nod at number ten on my list.