Today we examine four film scores that help tell stories that are less about the that championship game/match/season/event but more about gaining personal pride. On the roster we have: the Fighting Irish’s most famous underdog football player, the middle-aged ball player who gets a second chance, the two Olympic sprinters running for different and personal reasons, or the man who refuses to let his own setbacks affect his family. One thing these different athletes have in common is that each of these inspiring tales span generations. But which is the mostinspirational?? Find out after the jump…
Rudy – Pint sized and unwavering, Rudy is the name in sports to concisely sum up one of the truest tales about determination. It’s rare to find a person willing to go through so much opposition for just a few shining moments of brilliance. I guess that’s what being a winner is all about; never giving up. Jerry Goldsmith has been around a long time (scoring the original Planet of the Apes to give you an idea) and created some fantastic scores that meld well with all genres of film. Jerry is a true renaissance man and a chameleon…I for one find it tough to identify a score of his as he has few tell tale/repetitious themes. Here, with hints of the Irish determination that made America great (plus the fact that Rudy is playing at Notre Dame after all), he similarly uses those motifs to parlay the struggle and steadfastness of Rudy in body and spirit. “Who’s the wild man now?”
(Favorite Tracks: To Notre Dame and The Final Game)
The Natural – Oh the Baseball movie of legend. Whatever Robert Redford did on screen was only half the effort of what Randy Newman off it in this amazing movie. If you listen closely, you’ll find that a good chunk of the iconic music fell prey to the synthesizer boom of the mid 80’s. But that’s only a minor dated drawback to the bouncy score which is saturated in the rhythm & blues injected ragtime flair that Newman culled from his days in New Orleans. It really seems to set the standard for films of that time, specifically baseball ones. The playfulness of the film stands out most prominently and Randy gets to have some fun with it. You can hear what will become his trademark style for all future films and you can see why he seems so suited to score all those Pixar titles. Redford knocks this out of the park but only with a little help from Mr. Randy “Singing about what he sees” Newman.
Chariots of Fire – Vangelis will forever be remembered for two things: the score to this film and the one to Blade Runner. While synthesizers don’t typically pull at your heart strings or move you the same as a 110 piece orchestra, this comes damn close to drawing tears. Not only inspirational but also highly memorable because of it’s uniqueness, Vangelis has a talent for creating something ethereal yet based right here on Earth. Vangelis manages to make something as dated as a synthesizer better and more enjoyable than similar orchestral-void films (read auditory casualties) like Ladyhawke or Legend. It’s a piece so original and against type that it not only stays with film fans for generations (winning an Oscar can do that) but also created countless imitators wanting to derive sophistication with a slow motion run. Like it or not, and whether you’ve seen the film or not, I’m sure there are very few people who don’t know his iconic theme.
(Favorite Tracks: Titles and Abraham’s Theme)
Cinderella Man – Going from the top of his game to the bottom of the barrel (thanks 100% to The Great Depression), James J. Braddock fights again, only this time it’s not for pride, but to keep his children fed and the lights on. That’s a much more driving motivator. Thomas Newman turns out a fine score and while is nearly as good as his work for Road to Perdition (a lot of similar motifs can be heard here) it’s delivery is, unfortunately, only quasi-moving. While it doesn’t really follow James as closely as it does a character like Rudy, it is still enough to get you into the movie. Fine pieces abound but this does seem like it could have been reworked and used in a number of other films, not specifically fit for the tale of a down on his luck pugilist. It’s touching but never distances itself from his other films nor does it satisfyingly or personally chronicle Braddock.
If you in need of a hero, this is the sports film to deliver the goods and thanks in large part to Jerry Goldsmith. While most might think Rocky or better yet The Natural would be the no-brainer in this showdown, good old Jerry (God rest his soul) trumps all others as he musically tells the tale of the pint size defensive end with a stadium sized heart. Sweeping strings and a theme that continually builds on itself, this Irish inspired score probably resonates in the head of every athlete on the planet. This music pays reverence to Daniel E. ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger, “The Little Footballer That Could” taking us through his journey from tiny to Titan and inspiring everyone along the way.
And if I don’t convince you , then my friend Castor has some kind words to say about it too…
Rudy; short in stature, wide in conviction…