Thursday, March 29, 2012

The 100 Best Uses of Songs in Movies pt. 3 (of 10)

This list has become a sort of pet project right now, and the hardest part of this week's ten has been exercising some restraint and holding back on including another Tarantino or Wes Anderson pick.  So, here it is, part 3: which contains no trace of a Vega or a Tenenbaum.  If you need a bit of those things, go back and check out parts 1 and 2, and, remember to come back next week.  I'm pretty sure they'll be revisiting again soon.  As always, feel free to post your favorites!

21. "Head Over Heels" / Tears for Fears
Donnie Darko (2001)
The world of Donnie Darko in miniature, in miniature.  Tears for Fears and the high school  tour in one slow, surreal take that encapsulates, somehow, exactly what our protagonist must see when he walks through those hallowed halls.  Also, those opening notes just hit so hard.

22. "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" / Michael Crawford (from Hello Dolly!)

WALL·E (2008)

In some strange stroke of genius, Andrew Stanton (or someone at Pixar) decided that lovable trash compactor Wall-E should have a Hello Dolly showtune as his theme song.  The song plays right into a haunting bit of juxtaposition in the opening scene, and later serves as a touchstone of Wall-E's remarkably human behavior.  

23. "Superfreak" / Rick James
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Drug-addled, don't-give-a-shit-about-your-opinions Grandpa chose the song and taught  Olive (Abigail Breslin) a choreography based on strip clubs and goofy moves.  After hearing about Olive's training for much of the movie, when we finally reach the pageant, the pay-off is a moment of inappropriate, hysterical glee made all the better by the choice of song and the family togetherness it leads to. 

24. "Old Time Rock and Roll" / Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
Risky Business (1983)
Risky Business would have been great without this iconic moment, but you have to admit there's something pretty fabulous about Joel's response to being left at home during his parent's vacation.  This is the kind of couch jumping I'll allow, Tom Cruise...

25. "Life's a Bitch" / Nas
Fish Tank (2009)
Spoiler alert: this is pretty much the final scene of the film.  While it reveals very little about the events leading up to it (and you really have to see it to understand), the Nas song is perfectly matched to Mia's broken family in this instant.  This is about as good as it gets between the generations, and what's unspoken between the characters is excused, in part, by Nas's rhymes.

26. "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" / Harry Belafonte
Beetlejuice (1988)
Short of projectile vomit, what more could you ask for from a possession scene?  Answer: nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

27. "I Touch Myself" / The Divinyls
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
It's an absurd on-screen moment: Austin Powers must disarm a room full of robotic killing machines programmed to seduce and destroy.  How to do it?  Oh, of course, work the mojo, show the chest hair, dance about in white socks, and make their heads explode.  I could have gone with "Soul Bossa Nova" (maybe I still will), but this scene always sort of cracked me up. 

28. "Singin' in the Rain"
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Fortunately or unfortunately, embedding is disabled on the already cut-short clip from A Clockwork Orange.  Yet, the likelihood is that you've seen it already.  If you haven't, you've likely heard of it. In the film's most disturbing moment, we watch as Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his Droogs break-in and assault a couple, gleefully raping the wife as as Alex sings the theme song to one of the most happy-making musicals in existence.  It's sickening, and, well, it's supposed to be.

29. "New York, New York" / Liza Minnelli
Shame (2011)
Look! A more recent film than the Drive pick! If you saw it, you know Carey Mulligan's night club performance of "New York, New York" is one of those strange, quietly heartbreaking cinematic moments that will be spoken about for years to come. It's an awkward, devastating rendition that reveals the vulnerability and broken-down hope in her character and the pain deep in the dark heart of her temperamental, sex-addicted brother (Michael Fassbender). 

30. "Sinnerman" / Nina Simone
The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
I had to put this on here. I loved The Thomas Crown Affair remake when I was 15 and thought the clever, closing twist on the heist sequence (btw: the video is a massive spoiler) was one of the coolest on-screen 'crimes' I'd ever seen.  It's still pretty smart, and I can thank the film for introducing me to Nina Simone, one of the all time greats.


  1. I've been waiting...patiently. Still no mention of my favorite. So I will have to mention it myself.

    My Heart Will Go On--Titanic--Celine Dion

    No other song in the world can make me cry like that one.

  2. I've actually been waiting for you to comment with that!

    It won't show up on this list, though, because the rule is that the song can't be composed specifically for the film (it's like the opposite of the Academy Awards). Yesterday that meant that I couldn't use "FIght the Power" for "Do the Right Thing" because it is indeed actually made just for those opening credits...

  3. I have no idea how or why it has taken me this long to find this blog, but thanks so much for commenting on my Rules of Attraction post, because found you I have.

    Anyway, this list = brilliant. I'm pretty sure you're the only other blogger I've seen write about Fish Tank, and to highlight that scene and that song, well, you've earned a whole shitload of respect from me.

    Great stuff. I'll be back often.

    1. I seem to exist in an isolated corner of the internet and don't get to around to commenting on posts nearly as much as I read them, so while I've stopped by your blog a few times, apparently I never left a trace! Glad you found your way here!

      But, yeah, Fish Tank is great. I just can't dissociate the scene from the song any longer. Definitely deserved a place on the list (and that film needs a much wider audience).

  4. GREAT call on Nas in Fish Tank.

    1. Thanks, yo. Trying to make sure I come up with more than the obvious.


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