Thursday, March 22, 2012

The 100 Best Uses of Songs in Movies pt. 2 (of 10)

As I mentioned in the first go: I'm going to time release this. Go back and check out part 1 here and look for new installments each week!

11. "Everybody Wants Some!!" / Van Halen
Better Off Dead (1985)
Two words, my friends: claymation hamburger. The centerpiece of the already hysterical Better Off Dead is a grand moment of teen boredom in which John Cusack's character makes fast food employment somehow bearable.  Yes, it is exactly what we didn't know we wanted.

12. "Tiny Dancer" / Elton John
Almost Famous (2000)
A quintessential moment in bringing folks together.  In one of the band's darkest moments a song everyone knows comes on and magically solves all problems on screen and off.  Cameron Crowe  drops a rock standard we all know into a scene that completely changes the conversation.  You can no longer dissociate the two.   

13. "Making Time" / Creation
Rushmore (1998)
Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino are soundtrack masters and it's best to admit right now that they're bound to show up a few more times as this list continues.  Here, Anderson used "Making Time" to add a driving pulse to overachiever Max Fischer's list of accomplishments.  It transforms the nerd into a bit of a badass and gives us an inside glimpse at his delusions of grandeur.

14. "One" / Aimee Mann  [NSFW vid]
Magnolia (1999)
Ok, technically Aimee Mann recorded "One" explicitly for use in Magnolia, but as the song is a cover of Harry Nilsson's track (made famous as a cover by Three Dog Night), we can't call it an original composition.  The role it plays as the backing score of the opening scene grounds us in a world of lonely people, and its hard to imagine something that would have worked better.

15. "Bela Lugosi's Dead" / Bauhaus
The Hunger (1983)
I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again: this is pretty much my favorite opening credit sequence ever.  Say what you will about the film itself, but Tony Scott has mad style and a Bauhaus-filled goth club scene is the ideal way to begin any vampire story.  The strobes! The quick edits! The grating! The darkness! The Bowie!  Best ever. 

16. "Disco Science" / Mirwais
Snatch (2000)
I loved this song in 2000, yo.  "Disco Science" and "Naive Song" were all over my mix CDs, and everywhere else, for that matter: lingerie commercials, car commercials, mall stores, you name it. I was all for it, too. The best use, however, was without a doubt the song's appearance in Guy Ritchie's hyper-stylized  Snatch, where the slow-motion, electro-whip stretches of the song's complex beats perfectly underscore the already great paralleled montage.  Periwinkle Blue.

17. "Atomic" / Blondie
Trainspotting (1996)
Trainspotting is 100% full of memorable song moments. It's like big, heroin injected, music video. While "Lust for Life" or "Perfect Day" or "Born Slippy" have strong shots at appearing later on this list, one of my favorite scenes involves Blondie's disco-centric "Atomic" draped over a dirtied up meet-cute between Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) and Diane (Kelly MacDonald).  You will note- the song's natural instrumental breaks are used to a tee.  

18. "Cat People" / David Bowie
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
In a jarring moment that completely divorces the film from its timeline, Tarantino throws down an 80's Bowie track (made for a completely different film) as Shosanna's (Melanie Laurent) battle hymn. It's thoroughly bizarre, and yet instantly memorable. 

19. "The End" / The Doors
Apocalypse Now (1979)
This should be one of those entries I can throw up without explanation.  Even if you're in the anti-Doors camp, it's hard to argue with how Coppola used "The End" as the beginning of his nightmarish voyage into the heart of darkness.  See what I did there?  Times two? Huh? Huh? Yeah, you do.

20. "Stack-O-Lee" 
Black Snake Moan (2006)
The song in this clip has many names and many lyrical alterations. It is Stagger Lee, Stackerlee, Stagolee, and everything in between.  It is always, however, a folk song about murder. In this version, the perspective switches to first person.  Samuel L. Jackson is a religious man here, and his bluesy retelling of Stagger Lee's story echoes some of his own broken-hearted narrative in a way that seems cathartic, appropriate, and makes for one hell of a low-down, sweaty dance party. 

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