While Ennio Morricone did receive an honorary Oscar, honoring his work for over 400 film scores, the presentation of his work left a lot to be desired. This slight had me feeling the (obsessive) need to go back and chronologize songs from all his movies that I could find (i.e., digitally avaiable). As a result, I present to you this playlist of his work from nearly one hundred films.
Playlist: Ennio Morricone
So what got me all hot and bothered about the Oscar presentation? First was the medley of songs they chose, and in particular, the instrumentation. For many of Morricone's scores, the instrumentation and production were just as important as the music written. This is especially true of his early work for Sergio Leone Westerns, specifically "the man with no name" trilogy of spaghetti Westerns featuring Clint Eastwood: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. For each of these he put to work his childhood friend Alessandro Alessandroni, who was a talented whistler as well as musician. Morricone also famously infused rock into the sound, in particular the twangy guitar dipped in reverb. Combine that with his addition of a flamenco-inspired trumpet to the mix and the sound of the Western would be forever altered. I don't necessarily blame Academy Awards musical director Willam Ross (where was Bill Conti this year?), as it's a huge undertaking, trying to encompass all that is Morricone with a traditional orchestra.
The next offense came when Celine Dion came out and butchered "Deborah's Theme" from Once Upon a Time in America (rechristened as "I Knew I Loved You"). This is a new version of the song, complete with lyrics and production from Quincy Jones. It's for the compilation that just came out last week called We All Love Ennio Morricone, which thankfully features a diverse group of artists, including Metallica doing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly's "The Ecstasy Of Gold" (which they often open their live shows with) and Roger Waters singing "Lost Boys Calling" from The Legend of 1900. It's an up and down collection, and is mostly saved by Morricone's own participation on many of the songs.
For Morricone, the past eight years have been littered with works that have gone straight to video, films that should've gone straight to video (Mission to Mars) and a lot of television. Betwen the honorary Oscar, the tribute album, and the paltry work of late, the time is ripe for a comeback, and there are two movies coming up that are thankfully setting up Morricone for just that. The first is the prequel to Brian De Palma's successful The Untouchables (titled The Untouchables: Capone Rising), which reunites Morricone and De Palma. The second is the very ambitious WWII picture Leningrad, which again reunites him with a favorite director in Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, Malena). This was the project that Sergio Leone was rumored to be working on when he died in 1989, and was supposed to feature Robert De Niro, continuing their work together following Once Upon a Time in America.
So while we (and the Academy) look back on the legend, there appears to be plenty to look forward to as well.