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Entries in Soundtracking (99)


Soundtracking: Take This Waltz

by Chris Feil

Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz gets its name from Leonard Cohen’s indelible song, announcing itself immediately as musically astute. The film is a nuanced look at love and personhood, following Michelle Williams’ Margot through her affectionately dull marriage and flirtatious dalliance with a handsome neighbor. Cohen’s track arrives towards the film’s close, a swirling punctuation point on the film’s observations on love and sex as escape before reality (and mounting baggage) sets in. It’s the film’s largest stylistic flourish, but its richest musical insights lie elsewhere.

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Soundtracking: Other People

by Chris Feil

Writer/director Chris Kelly has quietly become one of our sharpest surveyors of gay life in a very straight world. His is a gay perspective adept at illuminating the very specific mileage between not only queer folk and the straight people who think they understand them, but also between gay generations often lumped into one.

We saw this at play this year in the new beloved series he co-created, The Other Two, but we first got that insight in his underrated debut feature Other People. This semi-autobiographical dramatic comedy saw a thirty-year-old gay writer David (played beautifully by Jesse Plemons) returning to his suburban home to care for his mother Joanne (the immaculate Molly Shannon), recently diagnosed with cancer. All of that human drama, including its gay textures, get embodied in one perfect song choice that Kelly uses throughout...

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Soundtracking: Rock 'n' Roll High School

by Chris Feil

This day and age the jukebox musical has moved firmly into passé territory, a product that plays squarely to a built-in audience usually of the nostalgic variety. It’s hard to imagine anything shaking the subgenre up when it’s now become a factory for your dad’s favorite bands to make a little extra cash. But the jukebox musical didn’t start with your dad’s regular bands, it started with your dad’s cool bands. Reader, how is the Ramones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll High School celebrating it’s 40th anniversary?!

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Soundtracking: Gloria Bell

by Chris Feil

For everywoman Gloria Bell, you are what you listen to. In this retelling, as it was with his Chilean original starring Paulina García, Sebastián Lelio places his eponymous hero in a headspace where music is all around. This time it is Julianne Moore who frequents dance clubs with bisexual lighting and sings in her car as if no one is watching. But the film succeeds through the audience’s musical voyeurism of watching such vulnerable moments, all of them stitched together into the broader canvas that is her life.

Lelio curates a batch of upbeat standards of adult contemporary radio, many of them overly familiar but here they provide specific texture...

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Soundtracking: Spring Breakers

by Chris Feil

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is a masterstroke as definitive for its musical sensibility as any film in recent years. The film is a septic portrait of neon dreams gone sour, its partying coeds representing a state of mind numbed by a need to escape their bland existence. Where Korine finds more than beneath the drunken surface of their ultimately violent misbehavings, he also finds more pathos beneath the acid pop veneer that fuels their waywardness.

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Soundtracking: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

by Chris Feil

If you want to look to reinforcement of traditional gender roles in the movies, sadly you can look to the history of movie musicals for consistent examples. It’s a genre that consistently returns to tropes and archetypes for its structure, but that just makes it all the more rewarding when there are examples to the contrary. Take Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for example - no seriously, take it and watch it on a loop because it is perfect cinema.

The film gives us two unique musical heroines in Jane Russell’s Dorothy Shaw and Marilyn Monroe’s Lorelei Lee, a team on the stage and in dealing with men. They are two ingenues that subvert genre tropes and traditional images of women looking for love on screen, and you can see how they do so in their solo songs...

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