The score of a film sometimes does more than just provide appropriate background music and emphasize emotional climaxes with appropriate swells. Sometimes, the score makes or breaks the film. For instance, I cannot watch any movie from the mid-to-late ‘80s because of their synthesizer-based tendencies. That goes for stage productions as well; Phantom of the Opera is great, but it’s hard to get entirely behind it with its pervasive use of electronic drums.
On the other hand, a score can make a good film into a masterpiece. The ultimate example of this, of course, is Garden State. (I apologize, that was a joke.) But the ultimate example of this is the masterpiece of Academy Award-winning writer Paul Haggis, The Last Kiss. Ok, that was the last Zach Braff-themed joke. And now back to the column:
For a movie made great by its score, look no further than 2001: A Space Odyssey. Could you imagine watching that film with a less iconic sound track? Could you imagine the movie without that epic crescendo in the bone smashing/boar killing scene? How about the space scenes without the appropriation of “The Blue Danube”? I would say it’d make the movie a lot sillier and less awesome. Let’s all think about the cut from the smashing of a skull to the falling of a dead boar. Yes!
To keep the space motif, consider the necessity of the score in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The musical communication of the aliens transcends human realms by using the most transcendent of art forms. Although, wouldn’t it be funny if the aliens’ spaceship played “Baby Elephant Walk?” Let’s all imagine an alien with a tuba playing “Baby Elephant Walk.” Yes!
P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is another movie that benefits immensely from its score. Written by Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood, it creates a driving tension that bursts and bubbles like a volatile oil well. Perfectly highlighting and overwhelming the visual aspect of the film, Greenwood’s music creates an entire new subtext void from the movie’s other elements. Moaning violins and cellos meet driving metallic percussion and make the conflicts and concerns of the film jump more out of the screen. The score makes the actors, particularly Daniel Day-Lewis, enter the realm of the inhuman.
I’d like to see more popular/rock musicians work on movie scores and sound tracks. Of course, I mean more than Britt Daniel lending his discography to Stranger Than Fiction. Trent Reznor is supposedly working on original songs for the musical adaptation of everyone’s favorite-movie-that-no-one-knows-was-a-book, Fight Club. That should be very cool, especially if choreographers incorporate jazz hands around the “first rule of fight club” scene.
Basically, I want Greenwood to score every movie that comes out. In particular, Bratz: The Movie. The haunting string sections would really emphasize the dangers and troubles that exist in high school cliques. The cliques! The cliques are ruining our friendship! The cliques have an insatiable lust for power and oil!

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