September 4th, 2008


Music in Movies

This post over at boing boing has Rage Against the Machine doing an acapella stint at an anti-RNC event. The dialogue from Zak and (I think) Tom is worth hearing, though the actual songs aren't - they don't translate well to the medium...

...anyway, the point of this post is that, amazing as much of Rage's eponymous album is, I can't help but think of the closing of The Matrix when I hear it. And that's because the sequence, where Neo makes that final call, leaves the booth, and zooms into the sky as the credits kick in, is a hugely successful combination of editing and soundtrack. Even the names work, for crying out loud: The Matrix finishing with Rage Against the Machine performing Wake Up. I mean, come on.

And on the Kill Bill Vol 1 extras, I recal Tarantino talking about how people remember his movies because he's good at picking the right music to go with the "moments"[1] in his movies. Take, for example, said Vol 1: one of the most memorable pieces is the build-up to the 'Massacre At the House of Blue Leaves' section, where Lucy Liu's character power-walks into the venue with Crazy 88's in tow, and - crucially - RZA's sound-track pounding over everything in slow-mo. Not only did they take that fragment of music and make it the DVD's main-menu music, but Simon Cowell picked it for the judges' entrance music on The X-Factor. And give the man credit for knowing when music will make an impression.

Musically, Reservoir Dogs has two moments - the "Let's Go To Work" moment, and Michael Madsen boogying to Stuck In the Middle With You while slicing bits off Tim Roth. Pulp Fiction has Travolta and Thurman twisting, of course. Jackie Brown? Not so much.

If I think what other musical moments have stuck with me, there are several parts of the early Cruise vehicle (not to mention de Mornay) Risky Business, with its Tangerine Dream soundtrack: swirling cameras around the two of them, or the late-night train sequence. Speaking of Cruise, there's Cruise spinning his bike on the front wheel in the closing stages of MI:II, to Limp Bizkit's rock. About the only part of Face Off that comes to mind (another John Woo movie) has Nicholas Cage walking across a runway, Crombie blowing in the wind, as he draws two gold-plated 9mm's in slow-mo. (Hey, I said it was a John Woo flick.) But here, I forget the music.

(The Exorcist wouldn't be the same without Tubular Bells, but it's not really one of my movies, so I won't count that.)

There's probably more to this, but I'm tired. What's sticking with you, moments and music-wise?

(Jaws, Star Wars, Indy, The Twilight Zone and The X-Files all have iconic themes, but they're easy. Plus, the latter didn't help the recent movie all that much. So no points there.)

[1] Moments. How to describe moments? JMS of B5 fame said this of moments: it's hard to describe what they are, but you know them when you see them. You know the bits of movies they put into trailers? Those bits are inevitably "moments".