Category Archives: Music

Link Dump: #89

This week’s kitty is a threat to the singing cockroaches of Joe’s Apartment (1996), a hyperactive comedy from MTV Films—and a film that features cameos by Hate and Love and Rockets, two of its era’s signature indie comics. And now, links:

This week’s amusingly pornographic search terms: “love 1940s pussy”! “albus lily luna incest fuck hard”! I don’t think we have the kind of Harry Potter fanfiction they’re looking for.

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2012: The Year in Movie Music


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?


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Disney Revisited: Fantasia

Some thoughts after rewatching Fantasia (1940)…

  • Just as with Snow White, it’s first and foremost a work of art. Each element of Fantasia—its length and scope; its clouds of abstraction, exploding with light and color; even its 15-minute intermission—is calculated to impress its ambition and absolute beauty on the viewer. The language of Deems Taylor’s interstitial narration further frames Fantasia as “a new form of entertainment.” It flaunts its innovation and cultural significance.
  • It’s middlebrow to the core. Fantasia is a utopian, anti-elitist vision of art in the 20th century. It sets out to give everyone (children and adults, rich and poor, college-educated and illiterate) equal access to the wonders of classical music. It’s a book-of-the-month club approach that tries to enlighten and flatter its mass audience simultaneously. However, in the process of rendering its subject matter more accessible, it also erases a lot of context and nuance. (This goes not only for classical music but for earth’s evolutionary history, of which the Rites of Spring sequence claims to be a “coldly accurate reproduction,” and for Greek myth, as witnessed with the Pastoral Symphony.)
  • The whole film is premised on Mickey Mousing—i.e., synchronizing onscreen motion with the rhythms of the music. Superficially, this technique works: it makes the music and image feel made for each other, as if both were telling the same story. But it also strikes me as inherently limiting and literal-minded, suggesting an artificial one-to-one relationship. It allows even Fantasia’s abstractions to degenerate into cutesy anthropomorphism, hopping along to the beat of the music. The film works best when it plays with this schema, using it to draw out invisible parallels rather than for straightforward cross-media mimicry.
  • The Rites of Spring sequence is startlingly naturalistic and brutal. Even within the constraints of Mickey Mousing, its prehistoric world finds room to breathe. Before unifying its dinosaurs against the threat of the tyrannosaurus, the segment glides from one milieu to another, observing vicious, survival-driven animals at work. (One vignette, in which a pteranodon flies into the jaws of a mosasaurus, is especially haunting.) Once the tyrannosaurus has devoured its prey, it refuses to wrap up neatly, but drags on through a drought and ice age. It’s a bleak, unsentimental representation of extinction-inducing cataclysms.
  • Chernebog from Night on Bald Mountain is a masterstroke of character design. Like the Queen from Snow White, he’s a figure of charismatic, confident evil—a mass of dense, fleshy darkness punctuated by a pair of yellow eyes. He’s majestic, even graceful, as he leads the Walpurgisnacht rites. Sweeping across the countryside, raising hell with mere gestures, Chernebog resembles the sorcerer from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. And both, in their godlike fashions, call to mind Fantasia’s conductor, Leopold Stokowski. Or another figure who could create worlds with gestures: Walt Disney.
  • The whole film has a quasi-religious aura to it. It’s all too appropriate that Fantasia ends with dawn breaking to the tune of Schubert’s Ave Maria. The segment, and by extension the rest of Fantasia, feels designed to engender reverential awe in the viewer. Going back to my first point about its self-conscious artistry, Fantasia is meant to be vast, overwhelming, more than just a movie. It’s billed as a synthesis of aural and visual art (“Hear the pictures! See the music!” crowed its tagline) and, by implication, as the culmination of both. This, Fantasia seems to say, is all that can be done. It’s as far as you can go. For me, it’s emblematic of Disney’s status as the monolithic representative of all animation. It’s an open invitation to give up, come inside, and worship at the temple of Walt.

(This is part of “Disney Revisited,” my chronological film-by-film exploration of the Disney animated canon.)


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Do the Loco-Motion

By Andreas

David Lynch has always enjoyed dragging pop music into his cesspools of sinister weirdness. There’s “In Heaven” in Eraserhead, “In Dreams” in Blue Velvet, “Love Me Tender” in Wild at Heart, “Llorando” in Mulholland Drive—you get the idea. So I really shouldn’t have been surprised when, in the middle of Lynch’s most recent feature INLAND EMPIRE (2006), a gang of maybe-prostitutes started dancing to Little Eva’s recording of “The Loco-Motion.”

And of course, this is David Lynch we’re talking about, so it’s not just an impromptu dance number. Anything but. The dancers’ brassy enthusiasm for the dance makes it kind of funny, but any comedy is drowned out by the aura of vague menace: it’s in the dazed look of horror on Laura Dern’s face as she watches; the abrasively flashing lights; and the nearly subliminal intrusion of hushed industrial noise onto the soundtrack.

INLAND EMPIRE is in many ways a surrealist horror movie, and a creeping horror infects this carefree dance. Like at the end, when all the dancers vanish into thin air, leaving behind an empty, blandly decorated room and a world-weary Laura Dern. (They’ll be back, of course, to persecute her and to share long, stilted conversations about sex.) It’s never overtly scary, but it is uncanny and off-putting. It’s mesmerizing in its frightful ambiguity, as if an unstated riddle was lurking inside the choreography.

This is one reason why David Lynch is a genius, and why his movies crawl under my skin: he doesn’t just set up polarities. This scene isn’t just a juxtaposition of a benevolent song with malevolent visuals. It’s a diabolical imbrication of song, dancer, dance—every aspect of the soundtrack and mise-en-scène, and all their associated value sets. Nothing’s solely trustworthy, and nothing’s solely evil. Everything is tentative. Everything’s kind of silly.

(For what it’s worth, INLAND EMPIRE also contains one of the scariest images I’ve ever seen.)


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Link Dump: #41

Aww, look! Michel Piccoli, playing an old artist in Jacques Rivette’s La Belle Noiseuse, is petting a kitty! That’s so CUTE. Almost as cute as this week’s batch of adorable little links:

Search term of the week: “pragncy pussy.” That is some inventive misspelling. How girl get pragnt, anyway?


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Link Dump: #40

This kitty comes to us from Tom Tykwer’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), recently named by reader Christianne as one of the best horror movies of the past decade, and recently reviewed by Andreas over at 366 Weird Movies. It’s got a half-naked Ben Whishaw and the sonorous voice of Alan Rickman; what more could you want? How about some links?

Alas, no truly surprising search terms this week… but tune in next Friday, and that just might change.


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Sex and Satin

One night she started to shimmy shake
That brought on the Frisco quake
So you can put the blame on Mame, boys
Put the blame on Mame

In my most recent “Mix Tape” piece over at The Film Experience, I pay tribute to one of the sexiest, greatest song, dance, and striptease numbers in all of film. Specifically, it’s the “Put the Blame on Mame” scene from Gilda, wherein Rita Hayworth burns up the stage in a Rio de Janeiro nightclub with her raw sexual power. As she struts her way into our collective hearts (and nether regions), she also does for black satin gloves what Liza Minnelli did for bowler hats in Cabaret: she turns them into persuasively sexy accessories to her dance, props brimming with erotic energy.

There’s a lot to love in Gilda, including its fiery love/hate relationship, its weird set design, and its overt homoeroticism. But “Put the Blame on Mame” is by far the best part, a few endlessly rewatchable minutes of seduction, style, and psychosexual gamesmanship. Head on over and read more of what I had to say!

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