2012: The Year in Movie Music

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As we begin the long trek through awards season, I have a question for you: What was the best use of music in a 2012 film? I feel like well-curated, well-placed song choices go perennially unrecognized. The Oscars are always willing to award an Original Song or Original Score, but what if the song/score wasn’t original—what if it was just right? So I want to acknowledge the music, whether original or preexisting, whether performed onscreen or played from a recording, that helped define this year’s movies. Here are a few of my own favorites to get you started:

  • The Master, for example, has two such songs: Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Get Thee Behind Me Satan” and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s of “Slow Boat to China,” the former establishing the film’s early ’50s setting and the latter serving as a last-minute emotional bombshell.
  • Paolo Sorrentino’s tragicomic curio This Must Be the Place gets lots of mileage out of the eponymous Talking Heads song, as it’s covered again and again without ever losing its oddball charm.
  • Clarence Carter’s “Strokin'” unforgettably aids and abets William Friedkin’s sick sense of humor in Killer Joe. Has to be the most violent credits music whiplash since An American Werewolf in London.
  • Two songs by yé-yé girl Françoise Hardy found their way into the films of 2012, with “Tous les garçons et les filles” popping up in Attenberg and “Le Temps de l’Amour” scoring Sam and Suzy’s beachfront dance party in Moonrise Kingdom.
  • Finally, Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress has an honest-to-goodness musical number set to the Gershwin Brothers’ “Things Are Looking Up,” an audiovisual explosion of optimism that’s also an ideal denouement for the film as a whole.

So I put it to you: which songs were used best?

8 Comments

Filed under Cinema, Music

8 responses to “2012: The Year in Movie Music

  1. Magic Mike. Pony. ENOUGH SAID

  2. (But also Molly Malone in The Deep Blue Sea.)

  3. Love that Deep Blue Sea one. But also:
    https://vimeo.com/53449826 (Portuguese more saudade version of Be My Baby in Miguel Gomes’s Tabu)
    and Let My Baby Ride in Holy Motors

  4. I’ll be back – but the first that come to mind. Molly Malone, yes and You Belong To Me in THE DEEP BLUE SEA. Then, Who We Were from HOLY MOTORS. And even though the movie has issues TAKE THIS WALTZ and two gorgeous scenes, The Take This Waltz one and Video Killed the Radio Star.

    As I said, I’ll be back when I ponder more.

  5. By default, I usually give Wes Anderson and QT this award each year. However I’ve yet to see “Django”…Anyway I was also very impressed by Audiard’s use of Bon Iver, Lykke Li and particularly Katy Perry in “Rust and Bone” and Kathryn Bigelow’s choice for the only song in ZDT was phenomenal and effective.

  6. I’m iffy about Mumford & Sons or Bon Iver, but “Wuthering Heights” & “Rust and Bone,” respectively, briefly changed my mind. “Cuckoo Song” in “Moonrise” killed me. Metric in “Cosmopolis.” “Victim” in Magic Mike. A dance montage played against the un-dancey “Girl from the North Country” in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Desire’s “Under Your Spell” in “Oslo, August 31.” The mock euphoria of “Savages”‘ second, cynical ending with ELO. Rodriguez’ voice on ghostly cityscapes in “Sugar Man.” Not only “Slow Boat” or “Get Thee Behind Me,” but PTA’s tip-of-the-hat to Huston’s “Moby-Dick” with “We’ll Go No More A-Roving” in “The Master.” And of course, everything in “The History of Future Folk.”

  7. Thanks so much to everyone for the suggestions! I’m getting reminded of a lot of songs I forgot—”Pony,” “Video Killed the Radio Star,” all three in The Deep Blue Sea—and many song-filled movies I’ve yet to see. (Tabu! Rust and Bone! etc.) Some wonderful lists.

  8. “Be My Baby” from TABU is my main pick. Not only striking, but a means of linking present and past (and revealing even its anticolonial look at the past as a privileged, subjective interpretation of same). It may have the most meaning of all the songs I’ve heard in film this year. Close second to Moonrise Kingdom’s use of Hardy as a source of liberation (and one that brings out the film’s New Wavy paean to youth cutting loose).

    H.M.s, of course, to Strokin’ and Pony.

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