1970s American New Wave Header

Look, anyone who knows me knows I have an unhealthy affinity for movies made in the 70s. I like the anti-heroes; the Bobby Dupeas, the Travis Bickles, the Popeye Doyles — characters who are hard to like at first, characters with grit, with baggage, characters who make mistakes — sometimes BIG mistakes.

The Parallax View Warren BeattyI like stories about ordinary people who are thrust into extraordinary circumstances, like when a timid David Sumner must defend his “home” and everything he stands for from being destroyed by an angry mob in Peckinpah’s brutal Straw Dogs. Or when Cosmo Vittelli is forced to do a hit for the mafia after getting himself into a steep gambling debt in Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

I like stories with ambiguous endings — I like the bittersweet aftertaste — the ending without all the loose ends getting tied up, no getting the girl and riding off into the sunset because life just isn’t like that. Five Easy Pieces, Taxi Driver, The Conversation. What changes at the end? Nothing. Everything. Even Rocky — holy crap, after all that, he lost the fight! But did he win something else?

And I like when things just end badly, because life is like that too. Like in Pakula’s excellent The Parallax View, or in Chinatown, or Dog Day Afternoon. Consequences can be deadly. Or how about Donald Sutherland’s deranged scream at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

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Film Scores, Cult Gems, A Spontaneous Curation

I love a good film.  And let’s face it, most of the good films I love were made in the 1970′s, but that’s not important right now.

Once in a while I’m asked to compose some music for a film and since I love music and film, I usually jump at the chance.  It’s a rewarding task but rarely an easy one.  While creating a song can be a totally free and expressive process that can take you anywhere, composing music to picture is menaced with all sorts of variables to consider, like dialogue, moods, cues, etc.  It’s a finicky little art, and one misplaced gong here or a goofy slide-whistle there and the whole scene is ruined — or it’s genius (Ladyhawke?).

So on the subject of soundtracks, I thought I’d share a few of the goodies from my collection — the ones that I pull from the old milk-crate from time to time as inspiration or just good listening.

This little assemblage doesn’t include the obvious masterworks by the likes of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Howard Shore and company.  (Incidentally there’s a great little doc on Howard Shore here produced by my colleague Gerry Flahive: A Composer’s Dream)  Sure, the Star Wars music is probably the most recognized and awesome-est score ever.  It should have top billing with big bells on.  Agreed.  But what I am attempting to pull together here are some of the lesser-known or long forgotten gems — a dirty dozen if you will — the types of scores that you can put on shuffle along with The Dark Side of the Moon and OK Computer at your next social without fear of the “Cantina Band” song making you look like a total nerfherder.

Now that you just remembered how the Cantina song goes….stop thinking about it right now.

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