The Oscars ceremony airs tonight, and one of the coveted golden statues will be awarded for best soundtrack. This could be for original composed music, or for a soundtrack compilation of many different tracks, or a combination of the two. I have been thinking about some of my favorite film musical moments and gems, some of which are not that well known. I’ve selected a few for this Spotify playlist, and they include both original compositions as well as tracks that were brilliantly used in their films. They all stand alone as great musical works.
I have bypassed more obvious choices such as Isaac Hayes’ music for Shaft, that beguiling augmented chord Bernard Hermann used in Vertigo, the five-note whistle theme of Morricone’s The Good, Bad and the Ugly, or Delibes’ “Viens Malika” from Someone to Watch Over Me, also used in Room with a View. I love all these, too, but wanted to dig deeper for some lesser-known works.
Without further ado, my soundtrack gems list:
- Luiz Bonfá: “Manha da Carnival” performed by Elizeth Cardoso from Marcel Camus’ 1959 film Black Orpheus.
- Ryuichi Sakamoto: “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence“—Sakamoto appeared in this film of the same name, which also starred David Bowie.
- A.R. Rahman: “O Rey Chhori” from the epic Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India. A perfect love song and blend of Bollywood and English lyrics from the king of Bollywood music.
- Nino Rota: “Pin Penin” from Fellini’s Il Casanova—only a genius like Nino Rota would use rubbed wine glasses in his music.
- Tomás Mendez: “Cucurrucucu Paloma” from Talk to Her. The 1954 bolero, sung here by Caetano Veloso, who performs it in a wonderful scene in the Pedro Almodóvar film.
- Toru Takemitsu: “Music of Training and Rest” from the 1959 documentary film José Torres. Takemitsu wrote music that parallels Mark Rothko’s painting.
- Elmer Bernstein: “Clark Street” from Otto Preminger’s 1955 film starring Frank Sinatra, The Man with the Golden Arm. This album also features very cool album art by Saul Bass.
- Vladimir Cosma: “Sentimental Walk” from Diva—Beautiful solo piano similar to Sakamoto’s “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.” It’s a killer track from the 1982 French film.
- Stanley Myers: “Cavatina” from The Deer Hunter. Soft and evocative.
- Fairuz: “Kamata Mariyam” from Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls. In my opinion, one of the most brilliant song placements ever—a great Lebanese diva singing a Good Friday song as Javier Bardém’s dying character drives a big Cadillac convertible in New York City while snow falls. Amazing.
- Thomas Newman: “Brooks Was Here” from The Shawshank Redemption. Hypnotic, minimalist genius.