Elliott Smith–Miss Misery

Sometimes the reputation of a soundtrack can outlive that of a film.  Public opinion of Good Will Hunting has shifted drastically in the nearly 20 (jesus, really?) years since its release.  But the soundtrack by Elliott Smith still stands as one of the most haunting and beautiful contributions that any songwriter has made to cinema.  Most of the songs appeared on previous albums, but new composition Miss Misery netted him an Oscar nomination.  Sulking onto the stage after Celine Dion’s bombastic, orchestra-backed performance of My Heart Will Go On, Smith cut a deeply lonely figure in comparison, clad in a white suit and accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar.  It was a moment I will not forget as long as I live.   Smith made a supreme show of vulnerability, contrasting the theatrical emotions that preceded his performance.  The song has everything his fans cherish about his music: gutwrenchingly honest, keenly observed lyrics about depression; full-bodied acoustic guitar; and a gentle, broken, near-whispered delivery.  Wes Anderson would put these elements to excellent use again by making Needle in the Hay a centerpiece of The Royal Tenenbaums.  But it was Miss Misery that launched Smith, for better or for worse, into the pantheon of heartbroken singer-songwriters.

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