Continuing from our post last week are the final ten memorable musical moments in films of the last twenty years- see if your favourite made the cut!
Orinoco Flow – Enya (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2011)
Apparently we have Daniel Craig to blame for this moment as he was the one that suggested using this innocuous Enya song as the backdrop for the climactic scene in which Stellan Skarsgård prepares to murder journalist Mikael Blomkvist. What used to be an easy listening track that reminded me a bit of whale songs now only conjures images of harnesses and asphyxiation. This scene did for Enya what Silence of the Lambs did for Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus. Thanks, Daniel.
Hip to Be Square – Huey Lewis and the News (American Psycho, 2000)
It’s no secret that this film hinged on Christian Bale’s incredible performance as psychotic yuppie Patrick Bateman, and the scene in which he gives a long, rambling monologue detailing his love for Huey Lewis and the News whilst preparing to decapitate his rival Paul Allen with an axe is a work of genius. Although a similar passage exists in Bret Easton Ellis’s original novel it doesn’t occur at the time of the murder, making the screen version completely unforgettable in its own right.
Down in Mexico, The Coasters (Death Proof, 2007)
I was reluctant to include another Tarantino moment on this list at the risk of playing favourites, but I think it’s impossible to forget the lap dance scene in the first half of Grindhouse, a film that still divides critics and is often referred to as Tarantino’s weakest work, something that the man himself even admits. Oddly enough the scene was cut from the theatrical version, replaced with a “Missing Reel” screen, still somewhat visible at the end of the scene in the DVD release. Putting all that aside though, it’s difficult to not appreciate the choreography and sheer audacity of the scene in which Arlene/Butterfly gives a lap dance to Kurt Russell’s sociopath Stuntman Mike McKay.
Unforgettable – Nat King Cole (Watchmen, 2009)
Speaking of unforgettable, the use of this ballad at the beginning of Zack Snyder’s comic book adaptation is another example of juxtaposition between sound and image that works completely. As aged superhero The Comedian is attacked in his home by a mysterious intruder and fights for his life, Nat King Cole croons on in the background, and the beautifully orchestrated fight plays out just like a slow dance, even as he is sent hurling through the window to his death.
“California Dreamin’,” the Mamas & the Papas (Chungking Express, 1994)
BFJ recently took a look at three of Wong Kar-wai’s other films (Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love and 2046) and tomorrow our concluding part exploring 2046 will be published, but for the moment the focus is on one of his other films and the use of an American classic. The favourite song of Faye within the film, California Dreamin’ is used multiple times, but none is as poignant as at the first meeting between Faye and the man known only as Cop 663. A soulful song about dreams of escaping the monotony and familiarity of life oddly reflects exactly how Faye’s future plays out.
“Wise Up”, Aimee Mann (Magnolia, 1999)
Paul Thomas Anderson rarely puts a foot wrong in his films, and it was a close call between this scene and the infamous ‘Jesse’s Girl/99 Luftballons’ part of Boogie Nights, but in the end Magnolia wins out. Apparently many of the film’s stars were nervous about singing the lyrics to this ballad in the film’s climax, but they really needn’t have been- it’s the rawness and unpolished nature of their performances that compels the audience. This scene tends to divide audiences into ‘Love it or Loathe it’ camps, but few directors could take such an idea and turn it into a scene that blends it perfectly with the rest of the film without detracting.
“Hey Jude”, Mutato Muzika Orchestra (The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001)
In one of the most unique openings to a film, Wes Anderson pairs a whimsical instrumental version of a Beatles classic with the introduction to the Tenenbaum family. Considering the song is considered to have been written for Julian Lennon during his parents’ divorce and the divorce of Royal and Etheline is the starting point of the film there is an added relevance to its use, and it’s hard to imagine any other song would have helped make the opening titles of this film quite so magical.
“New York, New York”, Performed by Carey Mulligan (Shame, 2011)
In one of the most heart-breaking scenes in Steve McQueen’s incredibly underrated second film, Carey Mulligan’s tragic Sissy sings this song at a bar in front of her brother and his boss. For the entire duration the cameras focus almost entirely on Mulligan, who gives a soul-shattering performance, turning Frank Sinatra’s song into a trembling sorrowful work of art. Also worth mentioning is the fact that James Badge Dale and Michael Fassbender had never heard Mulligan sing before, thus their reactions are completely genuine. It’s a moment that highlights the deep bond between Brandon and his sister, but it comes with an impenetrable sadness that haunts the whole film.
“Married Life”, Michael Giacchino (Up, 2010)
Pixar films really know how to tug on the heartstrings, but it’s a scene within the first ten minutes of their 2010 that took this into overdrive. Chronicling the ups and downs of a couples’ lifetime without the use of any dialogue, it’s a credit to Giacchino’s beautiful composition and Pixar’s talent for turning animation into art that the scene has such an emotional impact.
“Don’t Stop Me Now”, Queen (Shaun of the Dead, 2004)
The world’s first zom-rom-com gave us many things, but two of the best have to be its impeccable soundtrack and the scene in which Shaun and his friends take out the zombified landlord of their local pub perfectly in rhythm with this Queen track. It’s ridiculous, hilarious, and utterly absurd, but much like the rest of the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy, it’s also incredibly memorable.