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Entries in Soundtracking (13)

Wednesday
Aug162017

Soundtracking: "Evita"

It's Madonna's birthday!! Chris Feil looks back at one of her biggest soundtracks...

By the mid-90s, musicals were all but dead, even though Disney created their own resurgence in animated form. Madonna’s career however was always heading toward reviving it: she constantly reinvented the game for the music video and her Breathless Mahoney songstress was Dick Tracy’s genre flirtation device. With her divisive performance in Evita, she brought the cinematic musical back into the popular culture and delivered a hit soundtrack in the process.

And I should qualify that for emphasis: a hit soundtrack to a quasi-opera about propaganda and Argentine political figures when the popular music landscape highlighted Alanis, Tupac, and The Smashing Pumpkins. Madonna did that in arguably the least accommodating musical or cinematic climate, and perhaps only Madonna could have done it. Like it or not, much of the film’s success (even musically) is thanks to her star power, no matter how indelible Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s score remains.

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Wednesday
Aug092017

Soundtracking: "Stop Making Sense"

This week, Chris Feil's series on music in the movies ponders the concert movie...

Who killed the concert movie? While the subgenre never reached the commonality of the music video, that particular form’s rise is timed right around the concert film’s demise. But perhaps it was just a form that seldom met the heights of “you are there” excitement or insight into the performer as Jonathan Demme and Talking Heads’s Stop Making Sense.

For such a distinctive visually-defined group as the Talking Heads were in music video form, Stop Making Sense remains their defining document. As much as David Byrne is the creative spearhead of the band and that radical rebellious sound, Demme’s insight is what makes this more than just a filmed event or way to see a popular band if they skipped over your town. If a concert is a singular way to live in the full experience of a performer and their sound, Demme takes that to the next level by dropping us in the middle of this creative unit.

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Wednesday
Aug022017

Soundtracking: "The First Wives Club"

Chris Feil's series on music in the movies dips into some actressexuality this week!

Do you and your friend group have a song, one that defines and unites you instantaneously? Or is that just something that happens in the movies? I’ve certainly never had that, but my two best gays from college do namesake ourselves by a set of cinematic galpals that do: The First Wives Club. (I’m the Bette.)

This film has the good sense to capitalize on the musical charms of its legendary actresses Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton. This threesome foursome *technically* (RIP Cynthia) has their origins defined by their place in musical history, with Diane Keaton’s opening narration evoking Woodstock and The Beatles. But its the beginning twinkle of Hal David / Burt Bacharach fantasy over the opening credits that more musically defines the feminine fantasy thrust upon their generation - idyllic beauty, subservience to men, etc. By the time Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox have them breaking down literal walls in the third act, these sisters are doin’ “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” for themselves.

But obviously the film’s most enduring and notorious musical impact comes from Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”.

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Wednesday
Jul262017

Soundtracking: "Young Adult"

We're celebrating Charlize Theron before Atomic Blonde opens this week! Here's Chris Feil's weekly series on music in the movies...

Young Adult begins with a near ten minute stretch of almost silence before its recurring song choice bursts in and becomes one of the film’s most illuminating crutches of its antihero Mavis Gary, played with utter genius by Charlize Theron.

At the news that her high school sweetheart Buddy is a new father, Mavis departs her depressing life on a cringe-inducing quest to win him back, armed with tunes from their love that she keeps in a memory box in her closet. The keepsake mixtape “Mad Love, Buddy” begins with “The Concept” by Teenage Fanclub, quite the apropos band name for Mavis’s frozen disposition. After several instant rewinds it becomes clear this isn’t just a favorite road trip singalong, but the one she remembers Buddy by. Their song.

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Wednesday
Jul192017

Soundtracking: "A Bigger Splash"

This week, Chris Feil's series on music in the movies sits poolside with last year's steamer...

Confession: Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash has been something of a minor addiction for yours truly in the year since its stateside release. And it’s key use of “Emotional Rescue” by The Rolling Stones has put that track into heavy nonstop rotation as well. I mean how can you not fall in immediately love with a film that casts Tilda Swinton as a rock star named Marianne Lane. It is sensory overload, all mouthwatering cuisine and eye contact between actor and camera. But not least of its horny senses is its rock and roll soundscape, subtly infused throughout to appealing effect.

In Splash, the lasting impact of great music is just like to great sex for its lingering spell. Its cues and references are scattered throughout, recalling the visages of Bowie and Patti Smith to make its musical world more realized. Even more fluidly, it crafts character identity and relationship as one with the music in ways as subtle as how its reveals their shiftiness.

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Wednesday
Jul122017

Soundtracking: "Blue Velvet"

This week, Chris Feil's soundtrack series covers a David Lynch classic...

David Lynch has used music to genius effect over his career, particularly drawing from 50s and 60s crooners to create a cinematic world displaced in time. But Lynch’s most definitive use of preexisting songs is in one of his most narratively focused masterpieces, Blue Velvet. This is the best example of how he distorts the wholesomeness of the sound to reveal darker tones beneath performative American culture.

Music is as much a piece of this suburban facade as any of Lynch’s hellscapes, announcing as much when it fades from Angelo Badalamenti’s operatic overture to Bobby Vinton’s title classic. A placid sky descends upon a thorny rose bush, gorgeously staining the picked fence’s rigid sterility like how Lynch poisons our relationship to the music. Vinton’s voice is tinny in its soulfulness, a swingy sanitized ode that matches Lynch’s picturesque neighborhood for quaintness. Musically, it feels as manufactured as this idyllic vision before us until it fades and morphs into something beastly beneath the manicured, bland exterior.

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