With two feet planted firmly in 2018 and awards season nearing its mythic end, it’s already been a great year for cinema sound. Though there arguably isn’t enough buzz swirling around the looming Oscar categories for Best Original Song and Film Score, I have a feeling that’s about to change. With the advance release of the soundtrack to Marvel’s highly anticipated Black Panther drumming up unbridled excitement and redirecting public attention to movie sound, I am struck by the truth of a common thought: for movies, what looks like a masterpiece often sounds like a hit. Before the Oscar envelopes are opened, take a look at movie moments where the music stole the show.
"Mrs. Robinson" – The Graduate
I’d like to posit that Simon and Garfunkel don’t actually know what a flop is. Though this made–for–the–movie single only shows up as wordless melody in The Graduate, it’s entrance is notably striking. For one, Mrs. Robinson isn’t even present when it’s first played, and the light melody triggers a weirdly eerie sense of foreboding, as if rock bottom were right around the corner for our luckless graduate. After a few bars, what could’ve been an unremarkable moment becomes unforgettable.
"Don’t You (Forget About Me)" – The Breakfast Club
As complimentary as any song can be to a movie, it’s rare that one has the ability to capture the whole film in less than four minutes. Being told that high school is your life’s peak would certainly inspire one’s desperate demand of "don’t you / forget about me." High school is a fresh, fragile, trying time for reasons we all understand, in The Breakfast Club’s raised–fist rebellion and ever after.
"Moon River" – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
As revered as Audrey Hepburn is as Holly Golightly, in what is arguably her most well–known movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a film that’s gaudy on purpose with messages and themes as loud as the accessories. But within that world, "Moon River" sings a different tune. The song comes when Holly is alone on her New York fire escape, wearing a grey sweatshirt and jeans; a stripped melody in a bare–faced moment that’s impossible not to feel.
"When You Believe" – Prince of Egypt
The entirety of the Prince of Egypt soundtrack is a lesson in bops, bangers, and biblical gems, but Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey’s "When You Believe" take the whole soundtrack to heaven’s gates. These vocal cord queens defined the word "inspirational" with a simple riff. It’s “Don’t Stop Believing” meets “Take Me to Church” in a soulful song of scripture that we simply do not deserve.
"Benny and the Jets" – 27 Dresses
Don’t. Even. Lie. 27 Dresses is standard viewing for any foray into rom–com binge–watching on a "tub of ice cream for dinner" kind of night. While romantic comedy veterans Katherine Heigl and James Marsden pretend to try not to fall in love, a predictable drunken karaoke moment produces this somewhat reluctant feeling of joy we simply cannot resist. But then, what were you expecting?
"Visions of Gideon" – Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name is an Oscars stand–out, a breath of fresh air and necessary viewing for anyone on the cusp of a new age or new love. There is a sense that the film could be played silently and it would still inspire the same feelings of punch–in–the–gut love, joy, and breathless loss as with sound. That being said, when "Visions of Gideon" is finally played near the very end of the film, those swelling emotions brim and overflow. Together, the looming ending and the song's lilting melody seem to say: here comes that feeling you thought you’d forget.