Monday, October 5, 2009

12 Notable uses of Music in Film

My love for films and music is so infused together that it is impossible to separate them. My love for films informs my love for music and vice versa. Therefore, I decided to make a list of notable uses of music in films. In these picks, I think that the sum of its parts is greater than the whole. The list is in no particular order and it doesn’t constitute the “best”, just some noteworthy examples. Buckle up. Here we go.

1. Dawn of the Dead (2004), Zack Snyder – The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash

I remember how excited I was about Dawn of the Dead. The trailer looked promising, even though at the time some believed this movie should never be made. Within the first few minutes of the movie, I knew I was in for a treat. Could it be possible to improve upon Romero’s zombie opera? It sure was, and we were witnessing proof of it. The hunting voice of Johnny Cash was ad hoc to chronicle the horror of the zombie apocalypse.

I wasn’t able to find the intro clip, but take a look at this video made with some scenes and Johnny’s tune.

2. Slumdog Millionarie (2008), Danny Boyle – Paper Planes, M.I.A.

This song, although used in the trailer for Pineapple Express (a movie that I enjoyed very much) it was with Slumdog Millionaire that it found its rightful place. The song seems a perfect fit for Jamal’s adventures. It plays during a montage of the young boys riding the train and hustling their way to survive. I loved this song so much that I kept playing it all the time and it happened to be playing in the “background” of one of my life’s defining moments.

3. Casablanca (1942), Michael Curtiz - As Time Goes By, Dooley Wilson

You can never go wrong by going old school. It is a classic and it is impossible to think of this song without immediately being transported to black & white Casablanca and WWII. It is the epitome of classic. It is also the source of one of the most famous misquotations: “Play it again, Sam”.

4. Y tu mamá también (2001), Alfoso Cuarón - Si No Te Hubieras Ido, Marco Antonio Solís

A song that within the plot seems to be picked randomly from the jukebox but fits perfectly with the story. It is a song about pain and loss and the yearning for someone. A song that seems to encapsulate the fate of the characters that becomes even more hunting since the characters are unaware of it.

5. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991), Peter Hewitt - God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You II, KISS (Wyld Stallyns)

A great song in a very underrated movie. If there ever were a band that could change the world with its music, this song would seem part of their repertoire.

This is the music video featuring scenes from the movie.

6. The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Jonathan Demme - Goodbye Horses, Q. Lazzarus

Buffalo Bill dancing to this song is scary. Jonathan Demme uses this song to convey exactly what’s going on in Buffalo Bill’s head. This scene was later parodied by Kevin Smith in Clerks 2.

The clip of Buffalo Bill dancing to this song has been removed from youtube. Kevin Smith's version will have to suffice for now.

As parodied in Clerks 2.

7. My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), P.J. Hogan - Wishin' and Hopin', Ani Difranco

Ani DiFranco's rendition of a song made popular by Dusty Springfield plays over the opening credits of the film and works perfectly by setting the mood for what will come later. I have to admit I have a soft spot for romantic comedies.

8. Hable con Ella (2002), Pedro Almodovar - Cucurrucucú Paloma, Caetano Veloso

The first time I saw this movie I was utterly moved by Caetano’s rendition of this classic Mexican song. It was made famous by Lola Beltran and she owned this song, however, Caetano made it his in the movie. I still love Lola’s version, but whenever I listen to this song I’m immediately transported to Hable con Ella.

9. Almost Famous (2000), Cameron Crowe - Tiny Dancer, Elton John

This is probably one of the most obvious choices in this list, everyone seems to love Cameron Crowe’s love letter to rock n’ roll and this scene is one of the movie’s highlights. This scene and the song embody pure bitter-sweet nostalgia.

10. Frantic (1988), Roman Polanski - I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango), Grace Jones

This song is played throughout Roman Polanski’s thriller and it accompanies Harrison Ford through his frantic search for his wife. The scene at the club where he is dancing to this song seems like a nightmare in which he is clinging on to anything that might lead him to find his wife.

11. Once (2006), John Carney –  Falling Slowly, Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová

This song deservedly won the Oscar for best original song in 2008. It is difficult to pick a favorite song amongst the movie’s entire soundtrack. All of the songs make us root for the love of the Guy and the Girl. This song summarizes their love struggle.

This is just some of the movie scenes with Falling Slowly. If you haven’t seen this movie you should go see it ASAP.

12. Magnolia (1999), Paul Thomas Anderson – One, Aimee Mann

How do you introduce all of your seemingly unrelated characters in an epic drama? Easy, you call Paul Thomas Anderson. He did it in Boogie Nights and again in Magnolia. The movie was apparently inspired by Aimee’s music and the introduction (after a brilliant prologue) serves as the perfect welcoming to the lives of these characters.

I couldn’t find the actual scene, but you can see the trailer of Magnolia to the sound of One.

Adios amigos.

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