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.