Saturday, May 12, 2012

The 100 Best Uses of Songs in Movies pt. 9 (of 10)

Next week's entry will be the final one for this list, and before we reach that critical point I'm going to ask you to speak now or forever hold your peace.  If you see something missing, it's very possible I've simply forgotten it.  In an effort to keep things as relevant and thorough as I can, I'm definitely interested in hearing your opinions on glaring omissions.  Feedback = always welcome.  So, take a look through the lists of old, see the sights, and suggest away! Remember, though, the songs have to pre-date the movie.  These aren't 'from or inspired by', they're just part of the soundtrack.

81. "Some Velvet Morning" / Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood
Morvern Callar (2002)
Morvern Callar has a tremendous soundtrack, actually, and is well worth checking out in its entirety.  Of all the tracks, the standout moment on screen comes courtesy of the original gangsta Barbie, Nancy Sinatra and serious mustache cowboy Lee Hazlewood.  I love this song  a shit-ton, so anytime I hear its opening strains my ears flick to attention, but even so: here it seems to underscore Morvern's (Samantha Morton) insulated pain.

82. "Stuck in the Middle With You" / Stealers Wheel
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The other Vega brother, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) has a little dance party that leads absolutely nowhere good.  From what I can tell, there are a massive amount of people who haven't actually seen Reservoir Dogs who still, somehow, are able to associate this song with the hasty removal of an ear.  That's pop culture permanence, kids. 

83. "Hey You" / Pink Floyd
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
I thought about opting for Noah Baumbach's use of Risky Business's "Love on a Real Train" in this film, as it transforms some crucial coming of age moments into slightly menacing moments of self-discovery and growing up to soon.  I also thought about "Street Hassle", which serves as the perfect closer.  Ultimately, though, I went with the stole Pink Floyd track Jesse Eisenberg's teenage Walt claims ownership of for the school talent show. It's a desperate plea to his family, whether he realizes it or not, and one that thematically echoes the film to a tee. 

84. "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing" / Chris Issak   
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
[NSFW] I'm of the opinion that Eyes Wide Shut is a woefully underrated Kubrick movie containing secret multitudes that can be unpacked for ages.  I've seen it several times, used it for several school projects, and each time I revisit it it seems somehow new to me.  All that aside, however, I love how completely this song is associated with this movie from advertising campaign to film itself.  It cuts to the slightly menacing, nasty heart below the slow, slow scenic surface.

85. "Born to be Wild" / Steppenwolf
Easy Rider (1969)
Um, duh.  I mean, "Born to be Wild" is one of those songs I feel like people actually come out of the birth canal knowing by heart.  And, weirdly, I don't remember a time when I didn't innately know this song as something associated with motorcycles.  Have you experienced this?  Do you feel like you've always known about Easy Rider?  

86. "The Locomotion" / Little Eva
Inland Empire (2006)
I'm a big fan of a successful random dance sequence (again: Spider-Man 3 does not qualify).  I'm also a big fan of WTF moments.  Inland Empire may qualify as one big WTF moment, but David Lynch drops in a dancing group of ladies who seem so weirdly normal in context that the result is almost creepy.  They even return in the end credits to dance about to "Sinner Man" (as previously mentioned).  It's an explosion of echoing sound that's somehow welcome in all the doom and gloom.  But, why is this happening?  

87. "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" / Simon & Garfunkel 
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
I know you're probably sick of me putting cuts from The Royal Tenenbaums on this list, but in my opinion the film really, really deserves the over-hype in this department.  The interplay between the music and the images really helps define the eccentric family at the heart of this story, and this is one scene that I just adore. It's gleefully irreverent and so, so great. All that and there's still another song I could put on this list, but I may have to restrain myself (we'll see).  

88. "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time) / The Delfonics
Jackie Brown (1997)
Pam Grier accidentally seduces Robert Forster with a bathrobe and a bit of old soul in this quiet, strangely sweet scene.  In the middle of all the drug running, gun play, and marijuana haze, The Delfonics enter the picture and add a touch of unexpected romance (all while serving as an absent subject for QT jibber-jabber aplenty scattered throughout the film).  

89. "I'm Your Man" / Leonard Cohen
Secretary (2002)
For some reason Lionsgate has made accessing clips from their films nearly impossible on YouTube.  For Secretary, I can't even post a trailer (totally ridiculous) on this site, so you'll have to view the light S&M montage here.  Leonard Cohen is no stranger to movie soundtracks (hell, he's composed a few himself), but this one usage always stands out as fabulously droll in context.  While the lyrics match the subject, the dry monotone of Cohen's intonation adds an amusing touch to the smirk on Maggie Gyllenhaal's face as she gets herself fitted for a saddle, accepts pellets from James Spader's palm, and bends herself on over.  

90. "Dry the Rain" / The Beta Band
High Fidelity (2000)
In any other movie, this would be a throwaway scene.  In High Fidelity, it makes the list perhaps because after listening to Rob Gordon (John Cusack) make music references through the entire run-time of the film, we learn to pay attention when he speaks and take whatever recommendation he throws at us.  If he knows The Three EPs by The Beta Band will bring a serene calm to his record store,  we must take him seriously.


  1. Another great addition. My only fear is that this series will soon be over!

  2. I'm glad you're an "Eyes Wide Shut" appreciator. I don't understand why there are still so many detractors. I'm more impressed each time I watch it.

    And that Jackie Brown choice is very interesting. That is a movie I really need to revisit.


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