Part Three! After our immersion in the ’60’s, ’70’s, ’80’s and ’90’s, their best movies and their film scores, we are primed to bring this pleasurable examination to a conclusion by taking a look at the 20 aughts–2000 through 2009, our fifth decade. The contrast from the first decade to the fifth bring into focus the evolution of filmmaking and the attendant music.
There are many high-quality films in this most recent decade. All genres are represented, from solid drama and political intrigue to animated fantasy with comedic overtones throughout. International films are part of the mix also. The finest films of the aughts have been some of the most grand or most charming or most sobering or most breathtaking ever produced. Delightful cinema from such titles as Pirates of the Caribbean and Chocolat (whoa–two Johnny Depp efforts!) doesn’t present itself every year. Thoroughly enjoyable, visually and musically. The Da Vinci Code and Road to Perdition (whoa–both Tom Hanks showcases!) present tremendous intrigue to keep viewers on the edge of their seats while examining the depths of mystery and humanity. Gladiator brings the awesome spectacle of 1959’s Ben-Hur with an added look at the heart and soul of an enslaved warrior under the thumb of Roman cruelty. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are thrilling in their scope, splendor and overall beauty. The Pianist was highly respected for its heart-wrenching historical story and its classical soundtrack which sets a truly high bar.
The music in each of these above-mentioned movies is illustrious, but resonating with me the most are Chocolat, The Lord of the Rings and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This is equally true of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, scored by Jon Brion, which had a theme and overall soundtrack that was progressive in its modern, innovative style. James Horner’s soundtrack for Avatar rose to the same heights as it brilliantly captured the spirit of the transcendent experience of Jake becoming one with the Neytiri. I love all these movies and their music! Ruling out any is mentally taxing and makes me feel treacherous. The axe must fall, however, and I hack away now at Pirates of the Caribbean, The Da Vinci Code, Road to Perdition and The Pianist for not reaching the apex of being the best movies of the decade, splendid as they are. Chocolat gives me great joy, but the soundtrack consists of some wonderful songs that were borrowed, though this doesn’t take anything away from Rachel Portman and her Oscar-winning best original music. Similarly, many of the compositions in The Pianist were composed by Chopin, so I’m eliminating both of these from consideration although again the original music in the film was remarkable.
I’ve now reached back and listened to more of the score for the three finalists. Unable to make a decision, I listened again to the main themes of each. Avatar stands out to me the most, which is mildly amusing since it doesn’t even make the lists I’ve seen of best scores for this time period. The Lord of the Rings gives everything one could expect. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon draws me in with its sounds of the Orient and where its music conforms to western themes, it doesn’t disappoint.
In the final analysis, the film that in the decade of the 2000’s best accomplishes a fusion of eminent filmmaking and memorable music is the entire trilogy of The Lord of the Rings. Adapting it so incredibly well from the treasured literature of J.R.R. Tolkien was the work of a lifetime. Bringing to life all the diverse elements of the tale visually and in musical scoring required a variety of artistic styles. The sheer volume of the work is astounding. Peter Jackson, Howard Shore and the entire team made many dreams come true with this production.
In summary, my selections for the five decades are The Sound of Music, The Godfather, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Titanic and The Lord of the Rings. So many films are deserving of inclusion on this list, no one should feel snubbed. There will be no attempt to choose one as superior to the others in the blending of movie and music. With each decade, there is change and evolution. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I have no wish to rob any of these films of their prominence. This has been an education for me on how poorly qualified I am to make such judgments about film and film scoring, but I feel enriched for having made this study on two art forms I admire deeply. I urge you to enjoy some of the fine examples of cinema I’ve enumerated in this series or choose your own as you wish. Treat your eyes,ears and heart!