Warrior Words: The melody of the movies

Pop quiz, everyone! What movie am I quoting? “Life’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

If you guessed Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, or When Harry Met Sally, you are sadly incorrect. This quotation appears in the film Forrest Gump. Starring Tom Hanks, Sally Field, and Robin Wright, the film depicts several decades in the life of Forrest Gump, a naïve and slow-witted Alabama native who witnesses several defining moments during the latter half of the 20th Century.

Since watching Forrest Gump is a staple of my Christmas Day celebrations and counts as an all-time movie favorite, I should only hope that every reader has seen this classic American comedy-drama.

Over the weekend, my brother Christian (age 7) and I found ourselves watching the movie yet again. For the first time, I really paid attention to the songs that were played in the movie. After a little bit of research, I found out some rather interesting tidbits about the songs in the Forrest Gump soundtrack.

During the scene where Forrest and Bubba are searching through the Vietnam jungle during the war, Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival played. First of all, what a great song; secondly, I never realized that the lyrics actually meant something! The origin of the song referred to the fortunate young men who were not permitted to fight because of their relative political stature or rank in society. Who knew?

In that particular sound track the works of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendricks, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and The Doors, and some classic Fleetwood Mac all added to the greatness of the movie. After the completion of the film, I promptly made my way to the nearest computer and bought the entire Forrest Gump sound track on iTunes. The entire rest of the weekend I listened to every single song on that sound track and tried to rehash the life of a glorified individual such as Forrest Gump.

Since then, I have been trying to remember all of the movies whose sound tracks have played such an important role in the making of the movie. I looked to movies like American Graffiti, Easy Rider, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Big Chill, and Pulp Fiction, all of which had, in my opinion, the greatest sound tracks to be featured in American cinema. Obviously, I’m missing some movies. In fact, almost every great movie is bound to feature amazing music. With my new understanding of knowing the importance of a movie sound track, I have been able to watch some movies in the appropriate mind-set.

As I have come to appreciate the music in a movie, I have realized the following: Music can make or break any movie. Example: In the ending scene of Goodfellas, when the camera displays all of the dead participants of an unlawful heist found in cars and in the back of meat trucks, the Piano Exit of Layla by Derek and the Dominoes plays in the background. This moving, and appropriately influential, scene in the movie was, in my opinion, all thanks to the song that played. Had Martin Scorsese (the Academy Award-winning director and writer of Goodfellas) chosen a different song, the outcome of the scene and reaction from the audience would have been completely different.

As I write this, I continue to think of countless examples where music has played an imperative role in the success of a movie. No matter the number of examples I can think of, I want to relay the following. In a day and age where movies are filled with awe-inspiring visual effects, and where studios are committed to spending tens of millions of dollars to improve the pictorial pleasure of a film, the importance of a musical sound track or score must continue to be considered a defining part of film production. I mean, that’s all you have, your eyes and ears, and whatever isn’t dialogue or sound effects is music. Music is what sets the mood in a movie, even more so than what’s shown on screen.

Terrence McLaughlin is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with four classmates.