February 26, 2012

Where the Rock Stars Are: In the Movies

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When this year’s Academy Award nominations rolled around, I could pretty much recite the entire list before any formal announcement was made. The Artist! George Clooney! Bridesmaids (whose mere recognition from any respectable institution will never cease to baffle me)! But when I scrolled down to the nominations for Best Original Score, one musical duo’s glaring absence caused me to read the list repeatedly ever so carefully and slowly in an attempt to convince myself that I had mistakenly looked over it. But, much to my dismay, my eyes were not deceiving me. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, composers of the soundtrack for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and 2011 Oscar winners for The Social Network soundtrack, were nowhere to be seen. Seriously, Academy?! Is the Nine Inch Nails frontman too cool for you? And so what if Reznor and Ross took home the prize last year for  their brilliant score for the equally brilliant The Social Network? Everyone and his or her mom knows that David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo boasted the most haunting, eerie and stirring (not to mention appropriate for the gritty murder mystery) soundtrack heard in any film this year. Remember the movie’s opening credits sequence set to a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song?” Of course you do, because it was perhaps one of the most unforgettable sequences of the year, thanks in large part to Reznor’s industrial (not to mention awesome) take on the Zeppelin classic. But in what can only be described as a crime against everything that is right in this world, Reznor and Ross were ignored by the Academy. The Academy must learn from its grave mistake. Rock stars turned film composers deserve more love and respect than this. Yes, Reznor and Ross have already taken home the gold statuettes, but they certainly earned it and they are an exception to the rule. Rock stars who take a shot at composing film scores just don’t get the reverence their work warrants. Before last year’s glorious praise for The Social Network’s pulsing score, when was the last time one of your favorite rock musicians received prestigious awards recognition? Exactly. Take note, Academy. Don’t be afraid to show rockers some love. In my previous column, I named my favorite bands whose videos received the high film art treatment from some of the most venerated names that Hollywood has to offer. Here, I’ll present the opposite by designating my favorite rock star contributions to some of my favorite films. The marriage between film and music that I described in my previous entry now comes full circle. 1. Jonny Greenwood for There Will Be Blood: Well, this one’s just a given. The orchestral masterpiece composed by the Radiohead multi-instrumentalist (who has always kind of reminded me of Animal from the Muppets, but I digress) is the ultimate composition in the Film Scores By Rock Stars canon. The building tension in his opus is so ingeniously crafted that the strings sound like they’re about to snap. And how can you forget that scene with the oil well disaster that Greenwood magnificently paired with a tribal-esque percussion number? Greenwood composes a tour de force that parallels the growing unease between Daniel Day-Lewis’ oil tycoon and Paul Dano’s naïve preacher exquisitely. Ironically enough, the explosive final scene in which the two rivals’ psyches climactically collide contains no music at all. 2. AIR for The Virgin Suicides: The one where Hollywood royalty’s heiress to the throne Sofia Coppola exposed the world to her obsession with the female coming-of-age storyline and French pop music for the first time. The ambient, synth-heavy composition by French duo AIR is appropriately eerie for the film, which chronicles the events leading up to the suicides of five blonde sisters in a 1970s suburb. The atmospheric electronica complements the cloudy uncertainty of the neighborhood boys who become witnesses to the tragic demise of the seemingly flawless sisters. The standout track, sung by Coppola’s husband Thomas Mars of the band Phoenix, is the sax-laden “Playground Love,” a moody number that adds to the dark mystique of the film. The score underlies the simultaneous sunniness and melancholy of the film, leaving us perplexed by the inexplicable circumstances. 3. Karen O & The Kids for Where the Wild Things Are: Even those unfamiliar with the work of Karen O as part of the New York underground hooligans the Yeah Yeah Yeahs know that a children’s movie is questionable territory for the wailing, swearing, beer-swilling punk rock goddess. But in a move that shocked YYYs fans, Karen O composed an adorable and gleefully innocent score fit for Spike Jonze’s adaptation of the picture book classic. Backed by a band featuring members of the YYYs, The Raconteurs, Deerhunter and a chorus of, well, kids, Karen O’s playful tracks made perfect harmony with Jonze’s heartwarming take on Maurice Sendak’s childhood favorite. Karen O’s solemn cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Worried Shoes” and children’s cheering on the elated “All is Love” had us embracing the wild things in all of us.

Original Author: Sydney Ramsden