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Entries in Soundtracking (106)

Wednesday
Jun122019

Soundtracking: Rocketman

by Chris Feil

Rocketman is just about the jukeboxiest musical that ever jukeboxed, arriving on the screen with a structure more indebted to that of the stage than the kind of musical biopic (namely Bohemian Rhapsody) some might have expected. It’s as if Elton John’s and his Billy Elliot collaborator Lee Hall had shifted gears mid-conception, opting for a film with what had originally been planned for the stage. Safe bets will be on Rocketman coming to Broadway eventually anyway.

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Wednesday
Jun052019

Soundtracking: Moulin Rouge!

by Chris Feil

Perhaps it’s easy to forget how revolutionary Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge! was in 2001. The thing about masterpieces is their legacy sometimes overshadows the context that birthed them. But at the time, the musical was a massive gamble and creative leap, helping to relaunch the genre that had died a slow death at the box office and to cultural  cinematic tastes. Just as Luhrman’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet had aggressively re-imagined its text for the MTV set, he delivered something even more drug-fevered to the musical, shattering notions of what the genre’s limitations were and how it could exist in the modern era.

Musicals may be more commonplace now, but they have yet to be as audacious since. But as much as Luhrman’s trippy, frenetic stylings play nearly twenty (gasp!) years later as its most obvious innovations, it was Luhrman’s music choices that were the biggest shock to the system for movie musicals.

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Wednesday
May222019

Soundtracking: Bridesmaids

by Chris Feil

“Hold On” by Wilson Phillips ends Bridesmaids on a high note, both soaring the film to its crowd-pleasing crest and underlining the emotional depths of what we’ve just watched. Yes it’s a film about women leaning on eachother for support in crucial moments, but it’s also about the journey out of isolation. But even with all of the pathos, it’s still an upbeat experience. You couldn’t pin a more appropriate song on the feeling that the film conjures, or for its central journey.

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Wednesday
May152019

Soundtracking: Funny Games

by Chris Feil

Joining the Criterion Collection this week is Michael Haneke’s notorious Funny Games, a confrontational allegory about western obsession and consumption of violence as entertainment. Here a family is psychologically tortured by two young male invaders, with the fourth wall broken and the audience taunted for their refusal to stop watching. The film plays with the gentle and the profane within our society, the contrasts between them drawing out what is toxically mundane about both. Haneke introduces his metaphor in the film’s angelic opening scene, and music is his shocking first tool.

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Wednesday
May082019

Soundtracking: Her Smell

by Chris Feil

It’s not incorrect to call Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell a musical, it just feels like a simple categorization doesn’t contain all of the levels that the film operates on. It’s also King Lear on downstairs cocaine, a Cassavettes character study, and an epic saga of female friendship. And of course it’s also a subtle period piece, unfolding over the years when Spin magazine reigned supreme, bad behavior was a natural extension of star persona, and grunge and punk excesses converged into a million different stylistic offshoots.

But music remains the film’s connective tissue, whether it is pushed to the background by the impossible behavior of Elisabeth Moss’s demonic antihero Becky Something or returns because of her genius. What makes it all work is that the music feels authentic both to the period and the specific, fractious aesthetic Perry is going for.

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Wednesday
May012019

Soundtracking: The Life Aquatic

Chris Feil wishing Wes Anderson a happy 50th birthday!

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou feels like a transitional film for Wes Anderson, one caught between our perceptions of his “arrival” and the artist himself firming up his trademark approach. At the time of its release, dismissals of Anderson as all affect without substance were starting to take hold. The key traits used against the film were its dollhouse set design, its rudimentary and chintzy sea creatures, and a song score that relied heavily on revamping and repurposing the David Bowie songbook.

But now the (sure, flawed) film defies that perception on rewatch as a something that’s explicitly about living and creating with authenticity...

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