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Entries in Soundtracking (21)

Wednesday
Oct112017

Soundtracking: "Mistress America"

The Meyerowitz Stories comes to Netflix this week, so Chris looks back at Noah Baumbach's last farce...

It's not uncommon for a hip song to singularly define a film, but rarely do they also unlock or embody a character with equal force. When Mistress America does so with “You Could’ve Been A Lady” by Hot Chocolate it’s working with a character that wants to similarly been seen as a lot of things, but most importantly cool. As if Great Greta Gerwig could ever be seen as something less than complex and cool as heck.

Mistress America takes off musically with a more subdued approach. Lola Kirke’s Tracy arrives at college, one of the times where we we allow music to outwardly define us, whether it’s a dorm poster or conversation starter. It's no surprise that college films lean in heavy on contemporary musical hipness for their identity. This film instead first relies on Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham’s score instead, presenting impressionable Tracy as a somewhat blank slate. That is until the film’s signature track busts in and dominates just like Gerwig’s Brooke.

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Wednesday
Oct042017

Soundtracking: "The Lure"

Just in time for Halloween, musical oddity The Lure has joined The Criterion Collection. Here's Chris on its soundtrack...

Yet another Polish lesbian mermaid pop musical? Geez. For those that complain that musicals have no originality anymore, may I introduce a bloody disco ball of a film: The Lure. The story of two mermaids who come aground and quickly rise to success singing in a Warsaw nightclub, it’s both fairy tale and metaphor for female sexuality. But most importantly, the music kicks a whole lot of ass.

Led by young stars Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszańska and with some disco diva stylings from Kinga Preis, the film is about the most delightful genre hybrid we have seen in some time. It’s a femme-centric mix of musical and horror, with more pointedly ironic sexuality than any music video once banned from MTV. It would be glib to describe it as a t.A.T.u. performing a Let The Right One In jukebox musical of Abba songs but that is the closest I can get to painting a vision of its giddy melodic morbidity. Or describing the fun of its singular strangeness.

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Wednesday
Sep272017

Soundtracking: "The Breakfast Club"

The 1985 Smackdown is coming, so Chris looks at that year's iconic track from The Breakfast Club...

Is there a better era for films defined by a single song (and vice versa) than the 80s, particularly those from John Hughes? Hughes was more than a master of understanding the teenage disposition, and music was always a part of his equation. But the pillar of this kind of definitive relationship of song and subject in his films is The Breakfast Club and “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds. You can’t separate one from the other: hear the song and suddenly you’re monologuing an “athlete, basket case, princess, etc.” piece; see its iconic poster and you’ll hear a “hey hey hey HEY” in your head.

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Wednesday
Sep202017

Soundtracking: "Across the Universe"

We're talking the 10th anniversary of Across the Universe in Chris Feil's weekly column on music in the movies!

Across the Universe came to the screens just as jukebox musicals were becoming especially grating on Broadway, but more of a curiosity for the big screen. The film promised stunning Julie Taymor-directed imaginative images set to a massive catalog from The Beatles - and delivered us something a bit more uneven than the creativity explosion that sounds like. Perhaps the high bar already set by invoking the biggest band in the history of popular music was an impossible goal, but the film does provide at least a fun reimagining for some of the best music of the century. A Beatles musical in any context? Yes please (with trepidation)!

The film plays best when it side-steps the plot in its musical sequences...

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Wednesday
Sep132017

Soundtracking: "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut"

Chris Feil's soundtrack series doesn't "Blame Canada" this week while he is at TIFF...

When Book of Mormon opened on Broadway, it was met with a fairly shocked response that Trey Parker and Matt Stone were able to create such an old-fashioned musical within their own foul-mouthed lexicon. It was as if people had quickly forgotten that they had already created a catchy and sweet musical on screen with South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. And this was a few years before musicals would be cool at the movies again and a bit of a “gotcha” joke on their fanbase expecting simple crudeness, so maybe it’s easy to forget just how gutsy the South Park movie was.

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Wednesday
Sep062017

Soundtracking: "Almost Famous"

Chris Feil's weekly series looks back at Cameron Crowe's rock opus...

Of everything that Almost Famous gets right about our relationship with music, its richest insights come from how it explores the importance of music in adolescence. Cameron Crowe is telling his own story of his teenage music journalism days in the film, but that’s not solely why the film feels so personal. It’s personal because it’s about that time in our life when music is never more personal.

When Crowe stand-in William Miller is gifted a treasure chest of vinyl from his sister Anita she isn’t just handing over the greats, she’s tasking him to find himself. At that age our musical taste is a vessel to both define ourselves and connect to others, to develop some kind of community or shared experience. It’s in the background of every heartbreak and happy memory, even if it just played in our heads. Through music, Crowe makes the intensely personal into something universal. Just like a song.

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