Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sound + Vision

No, this isn't a blog in honor of the genius of David Bowie, (although I would love to get around to writing that one)...
 What I'm talking about is the cerebral connection between the visual aspects of movies and their, (in my opinion), even more important auditory counterpart - the music. Even when I was a kid, it was the music in films that I grew up loving - not just the movies themselves. I remember the first soundtrack on a tape that I owned - "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Yep, an overzealous John Williams soundtrack, but a suitable one for a nine year old kid.
 And of course, over the years I've grown appreciative of the key part that music plays in movies - enriching the cinematic experience, etc...blah, blah, blah...
  But every now and then, you a see a movie where the director and whomever is organizing the sound track gets it perfect - an exact moment of cinema that is flawless and sends chills up your spine. Oftentimes this is most impressive when the music being used is an old pop song of some form.... And oftentimes, it hooks you visually to a form of music you may have never heard before.... Please allow me to digress...
  Awhile back I had the opportunity to finally watch Nicolas Wending Refn's "Bronson" which had a fantastic opening set to the tone of the Walker Brothers' "The Electrician", (in fact there are other such moments throughout, including a song by Glass Candy, and New Order's "Your Silent Face"). The song just blew me away, and I initially thought it was Nick Cave singing.... But after some careful (ahem... Wikipedia) research, I was able to track this song down and find out who sang it.
   But this doesn't stop there. Let's look at "Breaking Bad" and specifically it's final episode. Using Badfinger's "Baby Blue" was perfect and fitting for those final scenes. Who the hell didn't like that ending?
  How about "Lost In Translation"? Aside from numerous great scenes with an awesome soundtrack, the scene at the end with the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey" playing along? That's movie magic there, not some blue-screened crappy CGI garbage (ahem... George Lucas)...
  Think about every Quentin Tarantino movie - those songs in the soundtrack don't set the mood for scenes - they're practically another character in the movie! There's a whole slew of director's who are following in those footsteps - Guy Ritchie and Edgar Wright being two of the most impressive ones.
  And for all you other geeks out there, think about "Donnie Darko" without all the cool 80's songs that really put it in motion. For instance, the scene of Donnie and Gretchen coming down the stairs to Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart Again"?  Again.... Perfect scene, perfect song..
     Alright, so you can hopefully get my point. However, there is a downside - sometimes in the wrong hands, it doesn't work particularly well. Case in point, the Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie "50/50". While not a bad movie, and pretty likable, there is a part where Radiohead's "High and Dry" is played during a small montage - and for whatever reason, it feels hollow. Don't get me wrong, I freakin' love Radiohead, and "High and Dry" is my jam from my early teenage years. But it feels more like an after-thought, rather than a song that fits those scenes.
   There's plenty of other examples of this - numerous soundtracks that simply are a mixed bag of "hot indie" artists that are more for drawing in cash, rather than an integral part of the movie. For some reason, the movie "Garden State" comes to mind - but since I haven't actually seen it, I'm not going to weigh in whether it works cinematically - but this idea doesn't require lots of examples, you barely have to look farther than the "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" soundtrack. It's a marketing tool at that point. 
    Now, I'm not completely against these "cash-in" soundtracks. The problem is that these soundtracks generally have the feeling of being tacked-on to the movie. And usually the guys actually making the movie don't have the good sense to use the music appropriately....
   Alright.... That's it for my soapbox this week.  As always, I appreciate any feedback or comments - even if you disagree...
   See you next week...
    
    
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