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Entries in Mix Tape (13)


Melanie 'Must Be Going'... With A Playlist

Hello everyone! My little guest blogging stint has come to an end.

It has been really fun, and I want to thank Nathaniel from the bottom of my heart for entrusting me with his wonderful blog for a few posts.

"Hello, I Must Be Going" September 7th in theaters!

So, right now I am preparing for a movie that I'm shooting in October, and one of the things I always do to prepare is to create a playlist for my work. It's a collection of songs that will bring up specific feelings for me, or music I think the character would like, or songs that have an energy to them that feels right for the tone of the film. I usually find that while we're shooting, I will start to listen to one song from the playlist kind of obsessively, and that song will be my "theme song" for the movie. 

When I was shooting the strip club scene in Away We Go, I listened to the Band Of Horses song "No-One's Gonna Love You" so many times that it became the number one most played song on my ipod the next day. Doing The Informant! I only listened to music from the soundtracks to 80s movies. "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong" became my song for that one.  I have also noticed that I kind of do that same thing in my life... my theme song for the summer has been Conor Oberst's "Lenders In The Temple". I just keep going back to it right now. And crying, because it's gorgeous, and heart wrenching. 

the strip scene in "Away We Go"

My favourite thing about this little guest hosting thing has been interacting with all you smart, funny, film lovers in the comments.

So for my last post I would love to hear any and all of your stories about theme songs! Perhaps your life has a theme song right now? Maybe you like to listen to music at work, like I do, to get you in a certain frame of mind? Maybe there is a movie that uses music in a way you have really loved? My two favourite directors soundtrack-wise are Sofia Coppola (I lost my mind when The Cure's "All Cats Are Grey" started playing in Marie Antoinette!!!) and Wes Anderson (Nico in The Royal Tenenbaums comes immediately to mind). Or, we can be negative too! Maybe there's a song you hate that is used all the time in movies? If you have a story, or even just a random thought, I want to hear it.  And ask away in the comments if you want to know what my song was for any particular movie. Thanks for reading everyone and thanks again Nathaniel!!!

Wishing you all good things.

xo, Melanie

[Editor's Note. Thank you again to fine actress Melanie Lynskey for these amazing peaks into her process (here's a playlist to accompany her post), behind the scenes, into her DVD collection, and especially those love letters to and from her favorite talents in the movie industry. Give her a huge round of applause -- she really went all out! -- and go see "Hello, I Must Be Going" on Friday, September 7th when it opens. It's her best performance yet and a too rare opportunity to see her carry a whole film.  -Nathaniel R]


Behind the Scene with Lizzy & Adam in "Bachelorette"...

...Or, 'How Public Transportation, Running Out of Time and "Party Down" Created Two Perfect Movie Minutes'

-by Leslye Headland

If there’s one thing I learned making a movie, it’s that every frame has a pretty epic story behind it. Here’s one about the scene with Lizzy and Adam on the bed in Bachelorette.

In 2007, during a bus ride from Beverly Hills back to Hollywood (I didn’t have a car for two years), The Proclaimers “500 Miles” came on my iPod shuffle. It was a song that meant so much to me when I was little (Benny & Joon!) but I hadn't heard it in forever. I decided to put it in the scene where my pokerfaced ex-lovers, Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Clyde (Adam Scott), reconnect. There’s nothing like nostalgia to melt a cynical heart.

Fast forward to 2011. I’m in my first week of shooting. I’m on set with Lizzy and Adam. [Click for More]

Click to read more ...


Mix Tape: "California Dreamin'" in Chungking Express & Fish Tank

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with a special Mix Tape double feature.

Although released over a decade apart, Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express and Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank (one of last year's best films) have a shared emblem for their characters' longings and frustrations: The Mamas and the Papas' song "California Dreamin'," a staple of classic rock stations that has taken on a cultural life of its own.

In Chungking Express, it's the anthem for lonely waitress Faye (Faye Wong) as she fixates on an equally lonely policeman. In Fish Tank, the impoverished Mia (Katie Jarvis) wants to use Bobby Womack's cover version for her ill-fated dance audition. These women come from radically different places -- Hong Kong and eastern England, respectively -- but they still each dream of a "California."

After the jump, one song seen from two very different perspectives...

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Mix Tape: "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with one of the most disturbing cinematic uses of pop music.

From his controlled demolition of the nuclear family in Eraserhead to his grotesque send-up of Hollywood in Mulholland Drive, David Lynch has always delighted in savaging American institutions. Through the S&M-tinged surrealism of Blue Velvet, he pried the bland surface off of suburbia and illuminated the perverse secrets underneath.

The darkest of those secrets is Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), an abusive, foul-mouthed gangster who holds sultry chanteuse Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) in his thrall. Hopper is a villain unlike any other, snapping from relative calm to strung-out psychosis without warning. But Frank's most terrifying tendency isn't his hair-trigger temper or his torrents of profanity: it's the unexpected well of emotion festering inside him.

Read more about Dennis Hopper in David Lynch's America after the jump.

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Mix Tape: "Gondola no Uta" in Ikiru

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with an especially sobering song selection.

Midway through Akira Kurosawa's life-affirming masterpiece Ikiru (1952), the terminally ill protagonist Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) gives those around him a painful reminder of life's transience. An aging bureaucrat, Watanabe has been trying to indulge in a little of the good life as he dies of stomach cancer. But nothing, not even a fancy new hat, has been able to lift his depression.

At his nadir, Watanabe sits in a bar surrounded by young revelers, with an attractive woman is at his side. The piano man calls out for requests, and in a low rasp, Watanabe suggests "Gondola no Uta." The piano man obliges him and, although the bar's denizens initially try to dance, they soon fall still and silent as Watanabe's anguished singing takes over the soundtrack.

Read more about Takashi Shimura's incredible performance (including Ikiru spoilers) after the jump.

Click to read more ...


Mix Tape: "We'll Meet Again" in Dr. Strangelove

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, to talk about one of the most infamously ironic song choices out there. And spoiler alert -- if you care about such things for 47 year old movies -- it's all about the ending.

As Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb reaches its bleakly absurd denouement, everyone is plotting for an imagined future. The Soviet ambassador is snapping photos of the "Big Board," the hawkish General Turgidson is predicting a post-apocalyptic "mineshaft gap," and even the title character, an eccentric ex-Nazi, is rising from his wheelchair and crying out, "Sir! I have a plan!" before adding, "Mein Führer! I can walk!" All of their paranoid schemes are self-evidently ridiculous, and ultimately futile, because that's right when the world ends.

But it doesn't end with a whimper, or with a bang: it ends with British songstress Vera Lynn singing her WWII-era hit "We'll Meet Again" over a minute-and-a-half-long montage of mushroom clouds. In a single blow, Kubrick and editor Anthony Harvey (reputedly working from a suggestion by British comedy legend Spike Milligan) render all of the film's frantic negotiations pointless and greet Armageddon with a smile. It's about the most superficially cheery response to annihilation this side of Life of Brian's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and like that song, it hides bitterness in its whimsy.

The power of this satirical finale lies in the song's historical roots...

Click to read more ...


Mix Tape: "Perfect Day" in Trainspotting

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with the scene that served as my introduction to Lou Reed.

At his best, Danny Boyle knows how to mix memorable visuals, dynamic editing, and pop music into one striking, powerful package. The overdose scene in Trainspotting, his saga of Edinburgh heroin addicts, has all this and more set to the morose tune of Reed's "Perfect Day" (an ironic song title if there ever was one). Anti-hero Mark Renton, eager for "one fucking hit," returns to the desolate apartment of a sleazy dealer, where he shoots up... only to fall into a catatonic stupor, which Boyle represents by having him sink into a hole in the carpet, as if into a grave.

This is when Reed's flatly casual voice breaks in, singing the lyrics ("Just a perfect day, drink sangria in the park...") in a subdued tone that belies their supposed cheerfulness. As the dealer deposits Renton's immobile body on the street to wait for a taxi, Reed bursts into the chorus, and already the irony is palpable: clearly, Renton is having anything but a perfect day. But the irony goes far beyond that simple "happy song, sad scene" incongruity—because the song is self-contradictory to begin with, and the scene isn't merely sad.

Boyle's depiction of the overdose traffics in the same dark, sometimes satirical humor as the rest of Trainspotting, and it's shot in the same kinetic, self-conscious style. For example, the burgundy carpet, which blinkers Renton's POV shots while he's unconscious, functions as both a metaphor for his isolation in the depths of his overdose, and as a bleak visual joke. Similarly, the grim way he's passed along from dealer to cabbie to hospital orderlies borders on kafkaesque. This is no self-serious afterschool special; Boyle has an eye for the funny side of excessive drug use.

This clash between tragic subject matter and flashy style could come across as ridiculous or tasteless, but any such tonal ruffles are smoothed out by the faultless use of "Perfect Day." Despite occasional dips into ironic enthusiasm on one end and melancholy on the other, Reed's voice is stable throughout the song, almost to the point of monotone; this makes it the ideal song to accompany Renton's comatose journey to the emergency room. Even in its loudest, most climactic moments, "Perfect Day" is still as steady and patient as an elevator ride, and balances out the bounciness of Boyle's camera.

And throughout the scene, it offers a bittersweet lyrical counterpoint to Renton's current predicament, with the line "You just keep me hanging on..." ringing out just as the dealer shoves Renton into the back of the taxi, and the closing refrain, "You're going to reap just what you sow," as a dire reminder that he brought this miserable situation upon himself. It's also starkly appropriate that a song partially about self-delusion and ignoring one's problems should arrive in the center of a film about drug addicts.

According to rumor, "Perfect Day" is actually about heroin, and that may be case, but its usage here isn't just a matter of finding a song whose topic matches the film. (Had that been the case, Lou Reed wrote a song called "Heroin" that could've been used instead.) The scene derives much of its sticking power from the very precise interplay between the song's unique tone, the editing, and the camerawork, which together sustain a forlorn mood laced with many ironies. This seamless integration of visuals and music brings a light touch to the protagonist's near-death and rebirth, and forever entangles "Perfect Day" with the image of Ewan McGregor dying in a carpet.


Mix Tape: "Put the Blame on Mame" in Gilda

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with one of the sultriest musical numbers ever committed to film.

Nightclub acts are scattered throughout the seamy annals of film noir. For starters, you've got Lauren Bacall singing "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine" at the casino in The Big Sleep, and Veronica Lake putting on a magic act in This Gun for Hire. Live music, cut with equal parts despair and eroticism, is just perfect for noir's postwar underworld. In Gilda, Rita Hayworth outdoes every other noir chanteuse with her unforgettable rendition of "Put the Blame on Mame." It's sexy, sassy, and bundles up the film's themes in a black satin ribbon.

By the time the nightclub performance arrives, though, we've already heard Hayworth rehearsing the song twice. She's humming along to it during her indelible introduction ("Gilda, are you decent?" / "Me?") and later, her paramour-turned-husband Johnny (Glenn Ford) catches her singing it for Uncle Pio, the old washroom attendant. Throughout, the song acts as Gilda's leitmotif, emblematic of her fearsome sexual power. It's a side of her that the jealous, overprotective Johnny doesn't want anyone else to see.

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