Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

When bad scores happen to good movies

Watching WHITE OLEANDER for my fix of degenerate runaway Nordic blondeness I can't help but feel it would be a great movie without that sappy "American Beauty-lite" piano music by Thomas Newman.... come to think of it, so would GIRL, INTERRUPTED.

The Halloween season with its ample horror movies provides insight into this phenomena: when the soundtrack is good--as in Argento's films, Carpenter's films, some of Jess Franco's films-- the movie itself is boosted from mere eye candy-ish nonsense into jazzy poetry. When the soundtrack is trite or tacky, John Williams-grandiose or those minor key steel drum and piano indie accents, the film is revealed for what it is, an empty calorie sugar high.

The minor key piano melancholia and punchy steel drum accented montage and driving music is all over indie cinema. It especially grossed me out when playing underneath POLLOCK, as when Ed Harris is first learning to go nuts with big canvasses. The music should have, could have been wild squalls of bebop and whatever else Pollock was digging at the time. Instead we've got that crisp mournful indie music, Sundance music... recycled emotional responses in the key of C, from a string of films all snaking out of AMERICAN BEAUTY and SIX FEET UNDER.

What others? Man, I even have to keep the sound off for parts of Oleander. But I love it - Michelle of course, Alison Lohman, Robin Wright, all so good. I even like Renee Zelwegger in this movie. And Cole Hauser! But oh, the woebegone piano. Oh Lord deliver thine holy blonde killer footage unto someone like Stars of the Lid, Ornette Coleman or Ennio or the amazing and under appreciated David Julyan!

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