Am I starting a meme with this? I think I am. Read on and see if you want to blog your own choices and let me know about it in the comments section (or just create your own list right there). The idea is to talk about your favorite songs in films. Those beautiful moments when a piece of soundtrack matches a scene so perfectly, it gives you goosebumps, or just makes the film and song that much cooler. The rules (which you may break at your leisure, of course) are simple: Stick to soundtracks played over the action. No scores written for the film, no songs sung exclusively by the actors (i.e. in musicals), and no selections from television shows (they'll be a future post). Songs that play over credits are eligible, since they comment on the film as a whole, but they're not as interesting. I'll personally stick to one song for any given film, though you're free to like more. Fair enough? Here we go.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Quentin Tarantino
Before I get into my list, let me just put the master out of the way. I could run a Top 20, even a Top 100, of JUST Tarantino song choices. I won't. And I can't really choose one song out of his entire oeuvre. From Little Green Bag in the opening of Reservoir Dogs to the wonderfully anachronistic Gasoline in Inglourious Basterds, there's hardly a misstep. I'm a huge fan of the soundtrack-before-film technique, and no one does it better. Instead of a scene, I present a relevant interview filled with clips.
Now that I've apparently already broken my rules, let's get into the Top 5. I start with a very personal, even silly choice...
5. Take My Breath Away (Sandy Lam Yik-Lin) - As Tears Go By
Wong Kar-Wai is a director I admire greatly who also makes very interesting song choices across all his films. This Chinese version of Take My Breath Away is kitsch and ridiculous, in some ways because the original is associated with the 80s-cool Top Gun, and yet immediately memorable as the love theme between As Tears Go By's cousin lovers. I love it for its camp value as much as anything, and really don't want to apologize for it.
4. Bring Me to Life (Evanescence) - Daredevil
I know a lot of people hate Evanescence, but their two songs on the overly heavy Daredevil soundtrack are perfect. Bring Me to Life is set up by the band's My Immortal, earlier in the film, a beautiful song that acts as a dirge for both Elektra's father and her ability to love Matt Murdock. Later, as Daredevil and Elektra get ready for battle each in their own space, Bring Me to Life raises Elektra and in ironic fashion, her relationship with DD, from the dead. The song is a duet and so is the scene, despite the characters not being together, and the action cut to it is immensely satisfying. Also note how each song has an eye motif appropriate to the lead character.
3. Hey (Pixies) - Zack and Miri Make a Porno
I've been a fan of the Pixies since I first heard Doolittle in the summer of 1990, but Hey was renewed for me in the way it was laid into this movie. Rarely have words so well matched to a scene. The final series of "We're chained" blow a hundred "I'll never let you go" hand-slipping moments from Titanic and elsewhere out of the water.
2. Knockin' on Heaven's Door (Bob Dylan) - Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
Here's where I get teary-eyed. Bob Dylan composed all the music for this Peckinpah classic, including Knockin' in Heaven's Door which has since become a classic itself. Over the death of Slim Pickens' character, it is heart-breakingly moving despite the fact that Sheriff Colin Baker isn't much more than a cameo. His quiet death is that of the frontier's way of life, beautifully evoked by Dylan.
1. Wise Up (Aimee Mann) - Magnolia
But when it comes to grinding my heart into a fine powder, no song use compares to P.T. Anderson's Magnolia. Wise Up is that lyrical moment of despair at the center of the film, as the camera moves in on each of the characters, as the song plays on Claudia's stereo. Connecting them in their loneliness and isolation is a song that, in a transcendent movie moment, they each sing a verse to (always well chosen too). It quite literally gives me the shakes. The film breaks the fourth wall again at the end, with the more hopeful Save Me, another great moment, but only made possible by this centerpiece. It is my all-time favorite use of a song in a film.
Over to you, film and music buffs. What are your favorite uses of soundtrack in film? Give me about a week, and I'll let you know what my favorite musical tv moments are.