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He Shoots He Scores #7: American Beauty

Five Great Original Film Scores I Love

When music occurs in film, as we all know, it’s either soundtrack or score. I think more focus is put on the soundtrack than one of the most important parts of the film, the score. It represents the mood and feeling of the movie, and can carry all the emotions without even speaking a word.

Magnolia by Jon Brion

In my favourite movie of all time, I could list hundreds of reasons why I love it as much as I do, but one of the top ten would have to be Jon Brion’s fantastic score. I bought the CD a few months back, and it’s been playing over and over almost non-stop. It’s easy to miss it while watching the movie, but every time I watch it now that music is in my mind; I notice it, and it affects me. It’s an almost perfect score, for a perfect movie.

American Beauty by Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman’s score to Sam Mendes’ breakthrough feature manages to be consistently soft, even when it’s in its angriest mood. The complex layer of disputing emotions conveyed through the music track the path of the characters as they are pulled along a storyline of uprising and downfall. An incredibly original, poignant and affecting score that’s enough to put a tear in your eye every time:

Mulholland Dr. by Angelo Badalamenti

The film’s reliance on music is extraordinary, and even though not all of it is composed by Badalamenti, much of it including the terrific ‘Love Theme’ is. It’s incredibly sad, moving music that lulls the viewer into the same dreamlike state of frightening dystopian disorder that Lynch does with his film. Listen to it for yourself:

Requiem for a Dream by Clint Mansell

Arguably the most well known score on this list, Clint Mansell’s score, while being overused in various advertisements and television programs, consists of much more than just the popularised, searing Lux Aeterna. The downward path of drug abuse portrayed in the film and it’s effect owes a lot to the music, which subliminally makes it seem more horrifying and disturbing, if that were indeed possible. Check out this piece from the score, which is nowhere near as appreciated as it should be:

The Fountain by Clint Mansell

The second album from Clint Mansell also features some of his best, most underrated work as a composer. While the film itself was rather disappointing and conflicted among critics, the score is an inarguable success. The track ‘Death is the Road to Awe’ is one of the ten best pieces of musical score I have ever heard, and it’s not the only one worth mentioning. So much of the album is pure brilliance.

Those are my picks. I could list more, but this is plenty of listening material for you guys for now. Hopefully you can find the time to listen to some of the tracks above… there are many more on YouTube. If there’s anything you’d like to add, leave a comment below.

20 Great Scenes from 20 Great Movies

One might be surprised to discover that my two favourite scenes of all time from movies are both from films directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. About two months ago, I revealed my favourite scene of all time and promised to try and work on a list of great scenes. Well now I’ve finished compiling the list, and here it is, unleashed. They’re in no particular order, as it would be too hard to rank them, but I’ll start off with my second favourite scene of all time.

1: The Drug Deal Scene, Boogie Nights (1997)

Everything in this scene is pitch perfect. The tension works brilliantly, with the firecrackers and nervous tics. And the soundtrack… unbelieveable. You’ve got to hand it to P.T.A., he can pick the right music for any movie and it suits perfectly. There’s also a 45-second closeup of Mark Wahlberg (6:30-7:15) that is perhaps my favourite shot in the movie. Not because I like Mark Wahlberg, but just because it’s a perfect little piece of Anderson, and it reveals so much about Dirk Diggler without saying a word. Fantastic.

2: The Goy’s Teeth, A Serious Man (2009)

A perfect example of what makes the Coen brothers so unique. They can have a long, rambling, incredibly interesting monologue with virtually no meaning and it makes sense. The scene is both fun to watch and full of anticipation. Sure, it might be a let down to discover there’s no point in the whole thing, but it’s part of life. A lot of what we go through is long, tedious and has no real affect or reason, and yet, we live through it. The truth is, some questions weren’t made to be answered, and this scene sums it up perfectly.

3: The Street Shootout, Heat (1995)

Michael Mann’s visually daring 1995 heist movie features one of my personal favourite sequences of extended violence and warfare. Imagine a gritty shootout between many men, placed in the middle of a bustling street. Might not sound like the most original idea now, but back in 1995, it sizzled.

4: The Briefcase, The Killing (1956)

Though I sadly cannot find a video for this fantastic final scene to Stanley Kubrick’s heist movie, I can assure you it is brilliant. When two thieves are getting on to a plane escaping with millions in a briefcase, the unexpected happens, the briefcase opens, and all Hell breaks loose. A visually stunning shot, that in some ways anticipated Kubrick’s whole career.

5: Gutterballs, The Big Lebowski (1998)

A perfect combination of stylistic music and sexual innuendo combined with the Dude’s love of bowling, this priceless sequence makes the entire movie worth watching and symbolises (like #2) the uniqueness of the Coen brothers. No other director/s could have pulled this off.

6: “Hello, Dimitri?”, Dr. Strangelove (1964)

If there was a top prize for awkward, subtle humour in film, Dr. Strangelove would be a definite contender for top spot, and this scene explains exactly why. It makes me laugh every single time I watch it, and the first time I saw it, I was in tears by the time it ended. Fantastic. If you like to think you have anything resembling a sense of humour, you must see this movie.

7: Alice’s Monologue, Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

This is not actually the whole scene, but it’s enough of it to get the point across. Nicole Kidman is absolutely fucking fantastic in this scene, spitting out each line perfectly in character and in a manner that almost puts the viewer into the same drug-induced trance as her. A fantastic look at the effects of marriage and human relationships, this is definitely the film’s highlight.

8: Mr. Blonde, Reservoir Dogs (1992)

There are a lot of scenes which deserve a spot on here from QT’s breakthrough debut and it was really tough making a decision, but no other scene has the raw impact and masochistic beauty of this brilliantly filmed violence overblow. QT laughs in our faces and left me gaping when Mr. Blonde exited the warehouse and everything changed for those brief few seconds. He’s a genius, and this scene is a testament to his ability.

9: The German Girl, Paths of Glory (1957)

I hope you have a box of Kleenex, because you may be about to cry. The following is technically two scenes, one in which Kirk Douglas tells his boss where to stick his promotion (my favourite line in the film occurs at 0:59, listen for that one), and in the second part, in a scene that really is a testament to the heartlessness and cruelty of war, a German girl is forced to sing by a bunch of rowdy, drunken, ogling American soldiers, but the unexpected happens. Seriously, this scene… I cannot express my love for it enough, and it is one of the main reasons it’s placed so high among my favourite movies of all time. The best scene Kubrick ever directed. Ever.

10: Perfect Day, Trainspotting (1996)

Apparently, embedding is disabled so you can watch it here if it doesn’t work. What follows is an example of Danny Boyle’s great talent. He hear combines a scene where we see the protagonist Renton (Ewan MacGregor) take a “final” hit of heroin, and uses the best possible music to ironically describe the hellish levels to which he has sunk. Spectacularly depressing.

11: The End, Dogville (2003)

I warn you now, do NOT watch this scene if you have not already seen the movie. It contains spoilers that should NEVER be spoiled. It is the almost perfect, sadistic ending to Lars von Trier’s amazing stage-play filmed Dogville. It’s definitely in my Top 5 for jaw-dropping scenes. You will be stunned.

12: The Club Silencio, Mulholland Dr. (2001)

A beautiful, artistic, memorable scene from David Lynch’s amazing movie, this is a really well-done look at the thin line between dreams and reality, and how easily we can be tricked.

13: Don’t Leave, Magnolia (1999)

I know I’ve mentioned and shown this scene all over Southern Vision a few times, but if you haven’t seen it, it really is worth it. In general, I dislike Tom Cruise as an actor. But in this scene… wow, he really packs a punch that’s difficult to shake. Amazing portrayal of grief and loss.

14: Plastic Bag in the Wind, American Beauty (1999)

The scene has such emotion, and beauty, that there’s really nothing much left to say that Wes Bentley doesn’t say himself. Great background score from Thomas Newman, one of my favourite musical score composers of all time.

15: The Pool Scene, Let the Right One In (2008)

Almost poetic in its use of strewn body parts, sudden deaths, and great audio, this scene forces the audience to use their imagination which produces much more horrific results than any scary imagery. A beautiful, terrifying scene.

16: The Boardwalk Scene, A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The perfect combination of sickening violence and amazing classical music, Stanley Kubrick’s controversial masterpiece features countless great scenes of amazing direction, but this one tops them all.

17: Standing In Line for a Movie, Annie Hall (1977)

Woody Allen’s famous comedy works more like a series of hilarious sketches, and it’s difficult to pick just one, but when I watched it the first time, this scene really struck me as very funny, and has been parodied often in pop culture.

18: Lovefool, Hot Fuzz (2007)

This list would go uncomplete without a reference to the funniest of all the hilarious scenes in this Edgar Wright classic. The look on Simon Pegg’s face is hysterical.

19: The Copacabana Shot, Goodfellas (1991)

You’ll have to skip to two minutes before the actual shot starts, but it is a brilliant one. One of the most famous and influential tracking shots in all of cinema, this really pumps up the class in this Scorsese classic and is one of the many reasons it is as brilliant as it is.

20: Dreams, No Country for Old Men (2007)

A fitting way to finish off this list is with the disquieting, eerie, brilliant final scene that tops off an amazingly fantastic movie. Tommy Lee Jones leads the Coen brothers’ western-style classic to an awesome conclusion.

There, that’s my list. There’s plenty more I could add, but this is enough for now. So, what do you think? Anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment below.

The 3-Way Movie Challenge: “American” Movies

The 3-Way Movie Challenge is a competition between three movies that might be completely unrelated except for some purely coincidental link, such as today’s: They all start with the word American.

The Competitors:

AMERICAN BEAUTY    AMERICAN HISTORY X    AMERICAN PSYCHO

Let’s get going:

American Beauty (1999)

Love it or loathe it, you’ve got to admit: Sam Mendes’ Oscar-sweeping 1999 film is a masterpiece. It contains raw, powerful scenes of emotion, and a thought-provoking and disturbingly honest look at the seemingly normal suburban society in a manner that no film prior or subsequent could match. Spacey and Bening are superb in the starring roles, the cinematography is to croak for, and the screenplay contains some sublime and brilliantly written lines that your head will spin. The supporting cast are just as important as the leads as well, and Wes Bentley and Thora Birch are nothing less than extraordinary in their roles as disillusioned young adults. There is powerful emotion in this film, and a powerful opinion of society that is both shockingly correct and outrageously over-the-top. At least, it seems over-the-top at first until we realize how scarily similar it is to our own lives. Superb.

American History X (1998)

Edward Norton rocks the boat and then some in this graphic, moving film which once again tackles suburbia, but in a completely different manner and with a crucially different outlook and focus. Racism is common, and one in two people are likely to have racial thoughts, whether purposefully or completely accidentally at some point or another in their lives. Norton plays a man whose racism is like a virus that has taken him over to the point where he can’t determine the difference between a good and bad person altogether. Almost everyone is scum to him, and the director Tony Kaye makes sure the audience knows this. Some powerfully written scenes may slightly exaggerate the feeling of righteousness seen within the characters, but who cares? Either way it’s a movie that must be seen.

American Psycho (2000)

Patrick Bateman. Just hearing the words sends a shiver down my spine, and the above picture doesn’t do anything to console me either. He is a ruthless murderer by nightfall played brilliantly by Christian Bale. He likes rocking out to Huey Lewis and the News, keeps himself as healthy as a horse, murders the odd homeless person and (in the book) sticks the odd rat in the vagina (not a metaphor). Mary Harron directs with skill and pace the horrific tale of the coolest serial killer in history. Unless you’re a woman. Then he’s the complete opposite. But whether its misogynistic and sexist or not (which I believe it isn’t), you cannot deny how truly excellent this thriller is. Bale is given the role of a lifetime as he passionately portrays the killer in a way so that we can see into his mind and understand his world and what its like in the business in which he works where no one cares about anyone and everyone looks the same. Try getting a reservation at Dorsia now, you f**king stupid bastard.

So there you have it! Short reviews of three “American” movies, and three of my favourite movies (though ironically, I’ve yet to see American Movie). And… which is the best? Well, you can watch them and decide for yourself, but for me this was extremely close between Beauty and Psycho. I’m going to have to go with the first choice, because of its social honesty and some really awesome, tearjerking monologues. Nothing gets me like a good monologue. However, I highly recommend you see all these films, and if you already have, tell me what you think down below in the COMMENTS!!!

Thanks for reading.