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William Holden in Picnic

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Entries in Soundtracking (47)

Wednesday
Apr252018

Soundtracking: "The Virgin Suicides"

Chris looks at the music of Sofia Coppola's debut, now a part of The Criterion Collection.

Time has been kind to Sofia Coppola The Virgin Suicides, as effective a critique on the male gaze as anything else in the past twenty years. In Coppola’s gauzy vision of its central Lisbon sisters (as told by neighborhood boys) is a reflection of male idolatry that ignores the voice and emotional reality of real women. While the film is typically remembered for how it visually creates this perspective, it also uses music in interesting ways to subvert male self-serving worship.

The film is haunted by Air’s “Playground Love”, it’s most evocative and film-defining musical passage. It’s an apt song choice, one that tempts you into its pull like the tumble into a teenage crush, all jazzy hormones mired in lyrical thinness. And yet despite its temptation and seemingly feminine sway, its a starkly male brand of lust and the woman on the other end of its proclamations is never more than a vague idea. Naturally, it becomes the theme song to its young male obsession with the unknowable and unknown girls on the receiving end of empty crushes. Coppola sees and hears your  horniness and you willful ignorance, gentlemen, and the film sends out a subtle and cutting middle finger.

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Wednesday
Apr182018

Soundtracking: "Westworld"

Westworld returns to HBO this Sunday, so Chris is taking on season one's hidden songs...

Remember back in 2016 when Westworld debuted and select corners of the internet went gaga over the songs that underscored its Thandie Newton-forefronted saloon. This would-be jukebox of pianistic gloom christened its maidens and gunslingers in the likes of Soundgarden and Radiohead, an easter egg in plain sight meant to draw oohs and ahs of macho irony.

Instead of stereotypical ragtime revelry, this wild west fantasy sounds like a wind-up music box sold at a Hot Topic...

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Wednesday
Apr112018

Soundtracking: "Woodstock"

The 1970 Smackdown is coming! To kickoff our look at everything 1970, here's Chris looking the music of that year's landmark Oscar-winning documentary...

We love examining the lasting cultural impact of our subjects here at Soundtracking, but rarely do the soundtracks explored serve as a cultural artifact themselves. Woodstock is an event that became a part of the American story, and essentially by accident. It was more than a concert, but a landmark display in anti-war sentiment and activism through artistry. Michael Wadleigh’s staggering cinematic account shows how music and movement lived symbiotically during the era, empowering a generation and an art form.

One of the significances of the concert film is that it allows the viewer to participate in a musical moment that they didn’t get first-hand. But the very best of the genre (see: Stop Making Sense) imbue their own perspective of the artistry on display and provide something an attendee of the live experience couldn’t have lived. Here Wadleigh creates a split-screen, all-encompassing view of the weekend, one that presents the crowd and the musicians as peers moved by the same feeling.

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Wednesday
Apr042018

Soundtracking: "2001: A Space Odyssey"

Stanley Kubrick's space saga is 50 this week! Here's Chris on its iconic music...

bwaamm bwaaammm bwaamMMM...
BAH BAHHHH
!!...

It’s as memorable a music cue as any in film history. Out of darkness, Stanley Kubrick opens his abract space opus 2001: A Space Odyssey to the stirrings of Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra (the “Sunrise” movement specifically) with the sonic weight of impending creation. Or is it destruction?

Strauss’s composition carries throughout the final, creating an a link that ties its ambitious, fractured narrative together. By repeating the track, Kubrick shows how innovation, exploration, and even violence come from the same lifeforce, like a spiritual Big Bang. The music is a key to understand how the film explores human instincts against the nature of the universe: can they be both at odds while also being the same? The sheer force of the sound, the kind of music you feel deeper than your bones, is its own impenetrable force. For a movie that creates iconography out of a literal monolith, its biggest monolith might be its omnipresent orchestral sound.

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Wednesday
Mar282018

Soundtracking: "The Royal Tenenbaums"

by Chris Feil

Among the many stylistic things Wes Anderson is known for, his music choices are among his most distinct. Each of his films blend an inventive original score with folk-tinged rock and roll (not to mention occasionally too-hip-for-school posturing) to create a fairy tale all his own. Perhaps the most beloved of all of his musical assemblages is The Royal Tenenbaums, a dorm room staple ranging from The Clash to Van Morrison.

And the film begins with one of his most beloved sequences, musical or not: a prologue detailing the Tenenbaum family history set to an instrumental take on “Hey Jude.” Sequence and song are alike: undercut with pain yet too sweet for this world and ultimately quite moving....

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