Thursday, August 20, 2009

Of Movies, Soundtracks, and iPods

iPod Classic [120GB]Image by christyxcore via Flickr

People get exposed to music in all form and manner. From TV, cable programs, entertainment systems (your own or what's blaring from the vehicle bordering next to you while you wait at the traffic signal), to friends/co-workers. Even picking up on new and un-experienced tunes from those who write some very keen blog posts on the subject (I include bloggers Moondancer, Jen, Corey, and Dennis, here), or leave generous and insightful comments in response to such (like internet friend Poncho). My library and I have benefited from these, of late. But since I have a penchant for watching movies, too [wife: "No... really?"], I have to confess that that medium has been another avenue for identifying new music and acquiring tracks that end up on to my iPod. It goes without saying, the endless play of those tunes has given me an untold amount of enjoyment, and has driven the consternation of my immediate family, on occasion. On the other hand, I see that last part as my job as the jumbled spouse, and generationally-challenged parent. That's just par for the course.

CollateralNotwithstanding, the mere fact that a track is in a film (even if it's a good movie or song), doesn't guarantee that I'll acquire it for that sake. But there are times when the music (whether it's a popular tune or not) will match so eloquently to the scene, the action, or the mood of that cinema moment. On these rare occasions, it melds both movie and song into my memory, and that is when I move on it. If I hear that song or melody, I'm right back there in my head. Quite the contrary, a track like the Theme from a Summer Place, while it is on my iPod, didn't get there using the criteria I just described. That old instrumental is memorable to me because, as a child, I was brought up with it, and it's not because of that particular film. Just the same, a song like Huey Lewis and the News' The Power of Love does make it on that basis. And you're probably sick of me alluding to it so many times, but Crowded House's Recurring Dream is stuck in my head (and on my iPod) because of the movie Tequila Sunrise. As well, you might as well throw a filmmaker like Michael Mann into this mix. Especially, for his soundtrack selections (see the use of the infectious salsa tune Arranca by Manzanita in 2006's Miami Vice). The instrumental music he chooses for his closing shots, in particular, are exemplary for their culminating tenor (see Thief, Heat, or Collateral). He really knows how to end a movie (on a high note, so to speak).

Jackie Brown album coverImage via Wikipedia

Additionally, I could have a section of the library dedicated to Quentin Tarantino films all by themselves. His clever use of old, current, and eccentric music in all of his movie soundtracks is almost freakishly dead on. I include the noir lyrical Goodnight Moon (from Kill Bill Vol. 2), to The Delfonics and Bobby Womack cuts of Jackie Brown, to making me wince when I think of (Reservoir Dogs) Stealers Wheel's Stuck in the Middle With You. And then there are the longshot contributions of such underrated fare like The Long Kiss Goodnight (which is one of the great movie titles, ever, and sounds like it should be a classic crime fiction novel by Raymond Chandler) for bringing in the likes of Santana's version of The Zombie's classic, She's Not There. Through the years, there have been so many of these that have eaten up storage capacity on my computer and iPod (and in case you're worried, I do make it a point to run back-up programs).

And, if I was going to mention and/or list those soundtrack songs that illicit this peculiar procurement response (what else would be the point of yammering on so, if not to make a post of it), I'd have to start with the examples below. So the question I put to you, Have any movie/music combinations done the same to you and your personal digital player?

Even though Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly didn't come out till late 1967, we had the single the next year (well, my brother did - but I listened to it constantly after viewing this movie). Clint Eastwood's third spaghetti western continued his rise in world popular movie status, and continued composer Ennio Morricone's association with the famed Italian director. Years later, Morricone would do other distinct and wonderful scores in other film favorites of mine, including The Thing (1982), The Mission, and The Untouchables. When I finally downloaded this to an iPod, it was one of the first of these movie tracks (though, it was Hugo Montenegro's version of the instrumental).

I didn't see Breakfast at Tiffany's when it came out (I was only 7 years old in 1961), but years later, it is likely when I fell for Audrey Hepburn. Perhaps that very moment, when I recognized it, was when Audrey sang the Johnny Mercer, Henry Mancini tune this in the movie. The irony here is that I started out with both the Andy Williams vocal and the Mancini instrumental versions in the iPod library, and it was only recently that I picked up Audrey's simple and heartfelt version from the movie itself.

I enjoyed listening to both Harry Belafonte's Jump the Line and Day-O songs, beforehand. But Tim Burton's highly imaginative use of them in Beetlejuice sealed the deal. I can't listen to either without thinking about the movie - and neither can my daughter who absolutely hates how the sequence (above) culminates.

Paul Oakenfold's charged dance tune, Ready Steady Go, gets here because it has been use twice in two electrifying action sequences. In The Bourne Identity's car chase sequence in 2002 (by director Doug Liman), and above in Michael Mann's exciting, almost music video-like sequence from 2004's Collateral. It's strange in that it works so well in both films since their sequences are so different in mood and staging. But, it does.

Truthfully, I'd have Gimme Shelter on my iPod, anyway. But, since it's been used so effectively by Martin Scorsese in some killer sequences for three of his crime films (Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed), I've got to mention it here. Even a Simpson's episode used it. Besides, any excuse to listen to Merry Clayton belt out that second, echoey vocal track is always fine by me.

And if I'm going to list that Stones' tune, you know I've got to include the Ferris Bueller's Day Off clip of the lead character lip-syncing the great Twist and Shout by the boys from Liverpool. The clip speaks for itself (and this song must be in the air, or ether, because this YouTube video clip was just added a couple of weeks ago).

Composer Danny Elfman's soundtrack of The Kingdom is mostly guitar instrumentals. But, this affecting track (titled Finale), which comes after the great but draining action sequence of the film, is such a melodic, haunting tune (that more than matches the emotional context and dialogue in the scene it appears in). If you've seen it, you'll know what I'm talking about.

I don't have a lot of opera classics on my digital player, but most of those that I do have came from the movies. In this case, Vide Cor Meum (written by Patrick Cassidy) is a prime example. It really is an evocative piece. So much so, that director Ridley Scott used it (quite effectively) in two of his movies: first in 2001's Hannibal, and later in Kingdom of Heaven (2005).

Okay, I admit it. I can be such a Christmas time softy, at times. But, Josh Groban's version of Believe (from 2004's The Polar Express) sure made it easier to stomach the motion sickness inducing 3-D effects employed on this film.

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  1. I want to play but I don't have an iPod. Sigh. (Maybe this will change after Apple's big announcement Sept. 7.)

    I do think Audrey Hepburn's rendition of "Moon River" is one of the loneliest, most heart-tugging songs I've ever heard.

  2. You've been nominated for a 2009 BBAW Award. If you email me your email address and blog name, I will send you a note about your nomination!

    BBAW Awards Committee

  3. PCN: yes, we're gotta have to rectify that. And perhaps that September date that Apple's arranged might be something... You've nailed it with regard to AH's rendition. It is something special. Thank you.

    Sheri: Why, thank you!

  4. WOW! Gotta say I've got an awful lot of songs which come from movies (but also some TV series) in my cellphone...

    Tarantino's choices make one part, by the way.

    But among others, I have Jace Everett's Bad Things from True Blood. I find the song so in tune with the series and the opening is just amazing.

    There's also Pearl Jam's Man of the Hour which always makes me cry (I also blame the movie!), Regina Spektor's The Call from ...Prince Caspian, So Close by Jon McLaughlin (I'm a Disney boy!).

    I must say you beat me with a lot of good ones!

  5. See, you've done it again, Poncho. I haven't seen True Blood, yet (no HBO). I checked it out on YouTube, and it's a great cut by JE. I agree with you on PJ's lyrics for Man of the Hour and its place in Big Fish.

    I remember the Enchanted piece well. Prince Caspian the kids have on DVD, and I need to check out. Thanks much, Poncho. Those are some special cuts.

  6. I just love, love, love your music posts, Michael! I totally agree, too. Another area I'm guilty of is stage musicals. When I hear and see music done on stage in those shows, I'm hooked big time.

    I tend to pick up more full CDs or start listening to artists because I hear their music in movies. Kyle Eastwood is one of the more recent ones. I loved the song he and Clint did for the credits in Gran Torino. I started listening to Jack Johnson because of...yes, wait for it...Curious George. While I listened to him long before, I immediately fell in love with Phil Collins' music for Tarzan. And as funny as this might sound, for ages I listened to the entire soundtrack from Sister Act.

    One big surprise for me was how much I liked the music from Sweeney Todd. Johnny Depp can sing! Who knew?

  7. You are so right about stage musicals, Jen. I have some from Phantom..., Cats, and others, too. Depp and Sweeney Todd were something else (in a great way).

    When you mentioned Kyle Eastwood, I couldn't help but remember him as a youngster in Honkytonk Man. I'm going to have to check more of his music out.

    And Jen, at least you didn't say Barney ;-)

    Thank you.

  8. Could've sworn I left a comment on this post last night. And no, I wasn't in the bottle last night.

    I think I said something to the effect...I think you're right about when the music perfectly matches the scene or mood. Because although the music has been used in many films, I didn't feel compelled to buy Carl Orff's 'O Fortuna' until it was used in 'The Hunt for Red October.'

  9. Oh, and congrats on the BBAW nomination! Well done, sir!

  10. The Hunt for Red October and the fine choral piece O Fortuna are a great match. But, did you happen to see that someone on YouTube successfully translated the lyrics from the latin?

    Thanks for the comment, Corey. And no one is more shocked than I regarding BBAW. Just found out it's for the I'm Not Going to Make It post from earlier this year.

  11. ROTFLMAO! What a perfect translation. Thank you for sharing that. And if that's true about windmill cookies, there's no hope for humanity.

    The 'Not Going To Make It' post is a classic, for sure.

  12. When you walk out of the movies and the music stays with you.........
    Some fav sound tracks, Blues Brothers, (no brainer), the hopeless romantic in me wants to hear "Last of the Mohicans" and "Lonesome Dove" and the one, (3) I keep meaning to get, "Lord of the Rings"

  13. HnL: all of the movies you've mentioned have great scores. I should check what's available for download. Thank you much for the comment.

  14. By the way... I cannot believe you posted the Beatlejuice song. I loved it as well, but now (as when I saw the film the first time) I haven't been able to pull it out of my head -I'm even doing the awkward dancing everywhere!

  15. It's definitely is infectious, Poncho! Thanks.

  16. Congratulations on the BRAW award (I don't know what it is but it sounds impressive.) Of course, now you have me thinking about my favorite soundtracks...The Big Chill springs to mind, every song fits each of the moments in the movie. Hmmmm, music again, I love it!

  17. The Big Chill has one of the all-time best of soundtracks. Thanks much, Moondancer.