The Critics’ Choice (1995)
THOMAS c. DUFFY
The Critics’ Choice is a movie score. Unfortunately, the movie has not yet been written, scripted, cast, or produced.
In fact, only the roughest ideas of the movie plot are available; they are the titles of the various “scenes”: “The Lonely Girl,” “The Nervous Guy (Trouble’s Brewin’),” “On the Run,” and the various “Finales.”
The score begins with the brief “Logo Music,” music which at the beginning of the film traditionally accompanies those wonderful vignettes that identify the production company or studio (lions, winged horses, cats or even dogs).
We immediately begin with Scene I, “The Lonely Girl.” One hears the clock strike twelveÑand then a woman wanders through the deserted inner-city streets, alone, anxious, sad, depressed. She meanders, she skips, she waltzes, but all in a bizarre way, in a scene lit only by street lamps and carlight. She spins dizzily at times, swinging on lampposts, and her lethargic progress is broken by the kinds of manic bursts of happiness that occur when, as the result of drink or dreaming, the sad reality of the present is forgotten for a moment. Here and there one hears a hint of the tune, “Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage,” suggesting that her story is indeed a sad one. The scene ends with her gentle collapse as we hear the sound of her dropped bottle breaking.
Now, enter “The Nervous Guy,” a hyper dude, paranoid and scared, moving quickly through the streets. Secretly terrified of his own shadow, this Barney Fife-like guy’s desperate plea to be hip can be heard in the jazzy (but not quite correct) clichŽd melodic fragments that accompany his frantic scampering from corner to corner and alley to alley. “Trouble’s Brewin” for sure; one can imagine him looking over his shoulder as he scurriesÑsomething is wrong, someone is after him. He works up his courage and steps out time and again, only to scare himself by disturbing some pigeons, stumbling over a garbage can, and imagining footsteps behind him. The scene ends with the Nervous Guy stumbling over the Lonely Girl; their motives join and they team up to be lonely and nervous together.
Enter the Bad Guys. They show up and chase the two protagonists. In “On the Run,” the chase weaves in and out of the urban landscape and comes to a close in some kind of no-way-out situation, perhaps a dead end, perhaps the top of a skyscraper, perhaps on the bank of a river.
At this point, the composer has given us three possible endingsÑEnding One: “Everyone Lives Happily Ever After,” a tender but unsettling and romantic ending; Ending Two: “Everybody Dies,” complete with the sounds of guns, sirens, police whistles, and other aural clichŽs that signal the ultimate dispatch of all of the players; and Ending Three: “The Projector Breaks Down,” an ending that begins with the “Everybody Dies” music, but never finishes. Mechanical things begin to go wrong, the film stutters on the screen, the soundtrack winds down, catches and begins again, but peters out with the thump of metal and woodÑthe last gasp of the protagonists refusing to “go gentle into that good night.”
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