Saturday, January 30, 2010

Best Movie Song Moments

When they present the award for score at the Academy Awards, they show a great scene without music. This emphasises how important music is to the movies.

I think this is overkill. If music is really critical to the scene it is almost another character. My definition of critical is this:
1. Does the song make the scene better?
2. If you hear the song years later does it make you think of that scene?
3. Does the song reflect the characters/scenes thoughts, emotions, essence better than words or actions?
4. Does hearing that song years later evoke emotions/a physical reaction years later?

Editors Note: I am refusing to include any song that was the name of a movie. Yes, that means I am refusing to discuss Pretty Woman and Satisfaction. Get your Julia Roberts fix somewhere else. I am also refusing to discuss movies that were vehicles for musicians to being a movie. No Hard Days Night, no Yellow Submarine (toughest omission) and no Elvis movies (easiest omission).

Top Five Movie Song Moments
5. Stuck in the Middle with You - Reservoir Dogs; This has become definitive song to play when you absolutely , positively have to cut someones ear off. If there is a YouTube clip of the movie Lust for Life with Stuck in the Middle being played please send it to me.
This song is perfect because 1. It was not a hugely popular son before Reservoir Dogs. It did not have a built in memory for most people. Therefore, Terintino could define how it will be viewed, remembered and define a dramatic movie scene. 2. The pop music qualities are perfect for Michale Madsen (aka Mr. Blond) to do his little dance as he is getting out his razor. The dance showed that he was genuinely looking forward to torturing this cop. He did not care what the cop knew. He was dancing and having a good time because he could not contain his excitement. 3. The ominous lines of "I don't know whey I came here tonight. I got the feeling that something ain't right." Those are simple lines but become disturbing when a sociopath is dancing in front of you with a razor blade.

Wouldn't you have loved to be a fly on the way when Terintino, the studio's legal department, the sound mixer and the owners of the rights to the song were discussing how it will be used. How much money would they need to give a song writer to let them decide that a song they loved would become the soundtrack for someone being tortured?

Honorable Mention from Terintino movies:
True Blue by Madonna. The scene where Terintino aka Mr. Brown is describing the meaning of the song. A great contrast of all those hardened criminals discusion the fluffiest song that Madonna ever performed.
Teenage Wedding by Chuck Berry (Pulp Fiction); First of all, any scene where John Travolta dances is worth taking a look at. It is a bizarre scene and it shows an event that brings Travolta and Thurman together.

Weekly movie trivia: In the two honorable mention scenes one actor is in the wrap up of the True Blue Scene and is in the setup for the Pulp Fiction dance scene. Who is the actor? (answer at bottom)

4. In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel; Say Anything: People forget that the son appears twice in the movie. The first time is when Ioni Skye and John Cusack have sex for the first time. The sex scene conveys the act and raw emotions of the two teenagers who are completely infatuated and have not been jaded by disingenuous lovers who date with agenda and not a true heart. The second time is where Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack in his best performance ever) holds the boom box over his heard to serenade Ioni Sky. This scene is great for allot of reasons. Lloyd is standing there strong, vulnerable and "without pride" telling the woman he loves that he wants to be with her and that will give her time and that although they are not together he loves her unconditionally. Lloyd Dobler puts beautifully and bravely puts his emotions in front of the whole world.

Yes, this scene is made fun of. But if you hear In Your Eyes what do you think of?

3. You make my Dreams come True by Hall and Oats; 500 Days of Summer: If you have not seen 500 Days of Summer quit what you are doing and go watch the movie. It is a great movie. It takes the formulaic romantic comedy, breaks all the rules and predictability while keeping the humor, reality and genuine heart in.
The scene takes place takes place the morning after Gordon Levit (second great and under seen movie he has stared in. The other was The Lookout. Go watch it now.) leaves Zoe Daschanel's apartment after they have sex for the first time. There is a truly magical moment when you make love to someone you truly care for an want to have a real relationship with. All is good in the wold. You can do anything. You believe that everything will be perfect. As Gordon walks down the street he has a glowing smile, he moves in a bouncing glide, a cartoon bird flies in (this surprisingly works in the scene), the people walking down the street with him pick up his vibe and start to move with him, taking up his walk that evolves to a dance as Hall and Oats is played. It is a completely unrealistic scene but it is incredibly emotionally elastic. The dancing and song perfectly reflect everything that Gordon is feeling. His heart was dancing.

2. Them from Jaws; Have you ever heard the ominous DaDa DaDa and not thought of Jaws? People forget that the shark does not appear until almost two thirds of the way through the movie. The song was the shark when you could not see the shark. The music took the place of the shark and became a character in the movie. The director took a huge chance. If it had not worked the director would never have gotten another movie. What ever happened to him?

1. Gonna Fly Now : Rocky, Rocky II and Rocky Balboa; A few years ago I was on the treadmill in the gym. Gonna Fly Now came on the gym sound system. I noticed that me and about half a dozen of the other people all increased the speed on their treadmills. If you go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art you ill see people running up the steps and raising their arms any time of the year. Rocky came out over 30 years ago. The fact that those scenes still generate such powerful emotions says allot about its impact and how that scene holds up.

Songs that barely missed the list:
Laid by James from American Pie
ABC by the Jackson 5 from Clerks 2
Overcome by Live from the last episode of season 2 of The Shield (not a movie but an amazing scene)

Weekly Movie Trivia answer: Steve Buschimi (he was Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs and the Waiter at Jack Rabit Slims in Pulp Fiction)

So what did I leave off? What should not have made it? Let me know.

The Movie Guy

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Movie Guy Blog 1: World's Greatest Dad

This month Randy Johnson, surprisingly not a porn star, retired from Major League Baseball. He retired with 5 Cy Young awards and 4,875 strike outs. What makes this future Hall of Famer so interesting is that when he came up to the Majors he had a great fastball and no control. It took him a few years but eventually he put all of the tools together and had a great career. That is what World's Greatest Dad was like. It had a ton of potential, a funny name and some interesting people involved and like the first few years of Randy Johnson's career this movie did not work.

The basic plot of the Bobcat Goldthwait written and directed film is that Robin Williams plays Lance, a failed writer who works as a high school English/poetry teacher. Lance is every school teacher who was inspired a little too much by Dead Poet's Society. Lance is divorced and has custody of his son, Kyle (played by Daryl Sabara of the Spy Kid's films). Kyle is virtually friendless, crude, offensive, lazy, insulting and is way to into porn. He is also into erotic asphyxiation. SPOILER ALLERT: Kyle accidently kills himself while masturbating. Lance discovers Kyle and in moment of pure pain and anguish decides to save his son one last moment of ridicule by writing a fake suicide note and staging Kyle's body to look like a suicide. After the suicide, the movie goes from being a crude comedy about an awkward and far too common relationship between parents and teenagers to a very dark comedy. When the school paper publishes Kyle's "suicide note", Lance achieves a higher social status. His classes become more popular, his ex-girlfriend comes over more, and Kyle goes from being a friendless social out cast to the most revered person in the school. Lance's behavior could be excused as a father trying to protect his son if he stopped there, but he doesn't. Lance produces Kyle's journals. These journals then catapult Lance to a national audience with offers for additional publishing and potential for fame and fortune.

World's Greatest Dad has some very funny moments. Daryl Sabara is very funny. He takes a one dimensional character and makes him real. He shows all of the insecurities of being a teenager who does not quite fit in with the bravado of youth. In an industry that chews up child actors and spits them out, I am curious about how Daryl will evolve.

While casting of Daryl Sabara was great, the film caused a distraction with the casting of a non-speaking role that has less than 30 seconds of film time. I have no idea why Bobcat Goldthwait would cast former Nirvana bassist, Kris Noveselic, in this role. Noveselic's musical career will always be partially defined by the death of Kurt Cobain. Noveselic’s role caused two problems. One, by being out of the spotlight for so long led me to think “is that him or not.” This took away from his one very funny/poignant scene. Second, because he is so tied to suicide seeing him led me to think about where I was when Cobain’s suicide was announced. This took me out of the moment and caused me to loose interest in the film. If Noveselic wants to act he should not choose films that deal with how someone profits by faking a suicide.

I hope people will watch World's Greatest Dad even though it is not very good. I want people to watch it because the movie takes chances. Goldthwait took a chance on casting the star of kid’s movies as a very crude, unlikeable character. I like that the script took a chance on making a joke about someone dying from erotic asphyxiation. I like that the movie did not cheat us by creating an artificially happy ending. Movies should take chances. Movie's should aim big and try for greatness. Movies should not take the easy way out. Movie's should not all follow a set formula. World's Greatest Dad does not follow the rules. While it is not a great film, films like this should be seen so that it makes money and we are not force fed a diet of formulaic romantic comedies and mind numbing "blockbusters" that exist for the sole purpose of making money.