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Entries in Soundtracking (62)

Wednesday
Aug082018

Soundtracking: "Chi-Raq"

by Chris Feil

Few filmmakers understand the power of the soundtrack as well as Spike Lee. The full force iconography of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” in Do the Right Thing is an integral part of the American cinematic lexicon. But there’s also the era authenticity of Summer of Sam, the haze of jazz over Mo Better Blues, and the largely undiscovered but brilliantly precise filming he did of Broadway’s Passing Strange. It’s a wonder that the closest he’s come to a true musical is Chi-Raq.

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Wednesday
Aug012018

Soundtracking: "Shame"

by Chris Feil

There is reinvention of a golden standard and then there is what Shame does with “New York, New York”. Carey Mulligan’s Sissy interrupts the life her sex addict brother Brandon, played by Michael Fassbender, initiating his decent into rock bottom. But when he goes to see her perform in some anonymously upscale bar, her rendition of Frank Sinatra’s musical calling card similarly halts the film’s syncopated rhythms. Sparsely orchestrated, Sissy goes off-melody and off-tradition, singing an unexpectedly fragile version that McQueen uses to link the emotional brokenness between siblings. Decidedly not the triumph we are used to hearing in a Sinatra horn section...

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Wednesday
Jul252018

Soundtracking: "Girl Crazy"

by Chris Feil

The Gershwin musical Girl Crazy was immortalized on screen by Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in 1943, shortly after it arrived on Broadway and brought with it a handful of legendary numbers from the songwriting duo. George and Ira Gershwin are part of the American musical fabric, having crafted a treasure trove of a songbook where the source material has become irrelevant to the legacy of the songs themselves. Indeed, Girl Crazy would later be expanded and reconfigured to make one of the first jukebox musicals Crazy For You.

So even with screen legends like Garland and Rooney, the legendary tracks still only compare to decades of plentiful versions we have heard since. And while neither star (both carrying essentially the entire film’s musical weight) create definitive versions of these Gershwin songs, how could you? Part of the film’s charms from a contemporary perspective is how the musical numbers don’t feel encumbered by having to match a legacy...

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Wednesday
Jul182018

Soundtracking: "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" - Season 3

by Chris Feil

Save for recognizing our beloved Big Mouth, this year’s Original Music and Lyrics nominees are a bit of an underwhelming assemblage. So rather than examine this lineup, let’s take a look at one of the more egregious omissions: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Now, Emmy already has a lamentable history in overlooking the show - and never more so than voters completely ignoring this third season’s multi-layered and vital look at mental illness. But the original song category has made some curious decisions in regards to the show. Season two’s nominated “We Tapped That Ass” is delightful but soft compared to other options. We can’t really begrudge the season one nomination of swooner “Settle For Me” but where was series-defining genius of “You Stupid Bitch”? The song category is perhaps proof that Emmy voters just don’t get the highwire act that this show pulls off...

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Wednesday
Jul112018

Soundtracking: "The Rose"

by Chris Feil

History may never let us forget that The Rose began as a Janis Joplin biopic before objections from her family and even its eventual star, Bette Midler. And sure, the similarities remain: a tragic end after a life of drugs, booze, and emotional bruises so deep that they bled out into the vocals.

But the unfortunate side-effect of the Joplin adjacency is that Midler’s achievement is overshadowed in the public consciousness. It’s Joplin as template only and its songs are nearly all covers of other blues and rock artists, and still Midler creates her own unique persona and musical identity. When so many actual biopics fail to discover the inner humanity of an artist, she ends up capturing the the crushed spirit of an entire genre...

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Wednesday
Jul042018

Soundtracking: "Hearts Beat Loud"

by Chris Feil

Brett Haley is quietly becoming the American independent counterpart to Once and Sing Street’s John Carney, crafting happy-sad narratives with music as a key ingredient. With music partner Keegan DeWitt, Haley’s films feature characters at the end of their performance days taking one renewed grasp toward fulfillment. His newest film Hearts Beat Loud is the most addictively musical, and like his I’ll See You in My Dreams before it, its songs come straight from the heart.

Loud is the story of Frank and Sam Fisher, played by Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons, a father-daughter pair preparing for imminent college bicoastal separation. Frank is a failed musician and now record store owner, forever pushing the gifted Sam towards a music collaboration she perpetually resists...

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