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Ennio Morricone (#110 of 4)

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions Original Score

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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Original Score

The Weinstein Company

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Original Score

That John Williams is nominated this year presumably for re-interpolating his striking themes from the original Star Wars franchise, and not so much whatever new material he brought to the table, only stresses the extent to which respect for longstanding reputations is running through the minds of the music branch. (Oh please, fanboys. If you can correctly identify and hum from memory one single leitmotif that doesn’t belong to Han Solo, Princess Leia, or Chewy, we’ll willingly clear our throats on Adam Driver’s lightsaber.) In fact, the only score that doesn’t fit within this year’s pattern of rewarding longevity is young buck Jóhann Jóhannsson’s work on Sicario, a brutal and audacious series of industrial horror cues that couldn’t be further from the lilting delicacies of his The Theory of Everything score, and the nomination for which in part excuses the Academy’s predictable cold shoulder toward Disasterpiece’s monstrously effective compositions for It Follows.

“William Lustig Presents”: Sergio Corbucci’s Navajo Joe and The Mercenary

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“William Lustig Presents”: Sergio Corbucci’s <em>Navajo Joe</em> and <em>The Mercenary</em>
“William Lustig Presents”: Sergio Corbucci’s <em>Navajo Joe</em> and <em>The Mercenary</em>

Second only to Leone, Sergio Corbucci is the king of the spaghetti western. In the same years that his two most successful films—Django and The Big Silence—respectively came out, Corbucci made Navajo Joe and The Mercenary, which New Yorkers have the privilege of seeing in their Techniscope glory thanks to “William Lustig Presents,” an annual showcase of overlooked genre gems at Anthology Film Archives. B-sides though they may be, Navajo Joe and The Mercenary both bring on euphoria as assuredly as hit singles.

On the other hand, westerns are as gritty as pop music is sugar-sweet, and Corbucci’s, which celebrate violence even more so than sex or money, are no exception. Navajo Joe is such an overt ode to blood-spilling that the pre-titles sequence features the grisliest opening sight gag imaginable: A bandit on horseback shoots the title character’s wife, then rides off with not just her jewelry, but her scalp too.

The Poet As Hired Gun: Ennio Morricone

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The Poet As Hired Gun: Ennio Morricone
The Poet As Hired Gun: Ennio Morricone

I wonder whether Ennio Morricone would be accepting an honorary Oscar at the Academy Awards Feb. 25 had he not been primary-school classmates with one Sergio Leone.

Morricone likes to remind interviewers that Leone’s spaghetti westerns represent just a sliver of his output (examples of which will be screened February 2-22 at New York’s Film Forum). He’s produced hundreds of scores, including five that have been nominated for Oscars: Days of Heaven, The Mission, The Untouchables, Bugsy and Malena. But his groundbreaking contribution to that trilogy that began 43 years ago is what caught the film world’s imagination and led to a high-profile career. And the truth is that Morricone’s work since then, the quality work of an established artist, has rarely equaled the inventiveness of the early stuff.