Soundtrack > Movie

soundtracks

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was making the late night drive home from Poughkeepsie. I make this drive frequently, since that’s where I catch Metro North whenever I’m heading into the City, but it’s not a very interesting ride and I’m usually doing it after a very fun, but exhausting, day. One of the ways that I keep myself alert is to play music really loud that I can sing along with; this keeps my energy up and makes the time fly by faster. The song “Footloose” came on and as I was belting out my best Kenny Loggins impression, I thought about how much I loved this soundtrack when I was a kid. It was one of the first non-kid albums (yes – I had albums) that I owned and I liked pretty much every song on it; “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” was a personal favorite, but there were also great tunes by John Cougar Mellencamp, Quiet Riot, Bonnie Tyler and Foreigner. I used to play that record a lot, probably driving my mother crazy in the process.

The irony is I didn’t even like the movie Footloose.

While I thought Footloose (the soundtrack) was one of the greatest things I’d ever heard, even at eight years old I knew that the premise of Footloose (the movie) was rubbish. I mean, a town where dancing was banned? What was that? I just wasn’t buying what they were selling. I finally got around to seeing the movie when I was a little bit older and my early instincts were right – this was not a good movie. But thirty years later, I still enjoy all the songs from the soundtrack.

This got me thinking about other instances where I liked a movie soundtrack a lot more than the movie itself. Turns out, this happens more than I would have expected. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I hated the movie in question, but simply that I enjoyed the collection of songs featured in the movie more. Maybe it’s a sign of being a kid of the 80s and early 90s, when soundtracks were really big business, that I pay as much attention to the music in films as I do. A good soundtrack improves a movie and helps the viewer connect with it. It often also exposes you to new artists that you might not have been familiar with; I’ve discovered a lot of music that I like from the artist being featured on a soundtrack that I enjoy. When it’d done perfectly, and there is a perfect marriage between song and movie, you can’t help but think of one without thinking of the other. The two are forever interconnected.

Sometimes the quality of the move can’t seem to quite live up to the quality of the soundtrack. While I’d listen to the following soundtracks anytime, you’d be less likely to get me to watch the movie that they are supposedly supporting. In some of these cases, the music is the star and the movie is more secondary. In others, the music is the only redeeming thing about the film experience.

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

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I didn’t hate this movie as much as everyone else did, but I’ll admit that it wasn’t very good either. I respect what Diablo Cody was going for with her black comedy horror script, but it just didn’t come together all that well. The cast was pretty good – it featured a pre-super fame Chris Pratt – and it tried to put a new twist on the horror genre, but it gets an A for effort and a C for execution. The soundtrack, however, was great and marked my first exposure to the band Florence + the Machine. I was immediately drawn to their song “Kiss With A Fist” as soon as I heard it; In fact, I paused the movie midway through to start exploring the soundtrack online (not a good sign for the actual movie). It was full of a ton of bands that I liked or wound up liking. The movie experience wasn’t all that great, but the musical experience was top notch.

 

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

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While I didn’t get around to watching Saturday Night Fever until pretty recently, I was under the impression that it was just a cheesy 70s disco movie. I’d see plenty of iconic clips from the movie over the years – John Travolta in his white suit on the multi-colored dance floor. So I was ill-prepared for the fact that the bulk of this movie was not about dancing. You’d think that someone would have mentioned the rapes and gang violence and suicide at some point. Those are topics that I don’t necessarily have a problem with in a movie, but they were so far afoul of what I thought I was going to see that I wasn’t a fan of the movie at all. Thank goodness for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which provided me with all the disco-goodness that I was looking for. With the Bee-Gees, you get what you expect.

 

Into the Wild (2007)

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I didn’t mind the film Into the Wild, but it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I liked the book more, but that had more to do with Jon Krakauer’s writing style more than anything else. I just didn’t completely connect with Christopher McCandless’ story, probably because I am not, by any definition of the word, outdoorsy. The wilderness is pretty and all, but I’m over it pretty quickly. Taking off to be one with nature is nothing that I would ever do, let alone to do such a half-assed job of it or without telling anyone where I was going. I found much more beauty in Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack, not surprising since I’ve loved Eddie Vedder since I was 13 years old. Add some banjos into the mix and the movie didn’t stand a chance.

Top Gun (1986)

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Maybe I like Kenny Loggins more than I thought I did.

Top Gun is a fine movie; I enjoyed it a lot more when I was a kid and I might stop to watch it if it’s on cable on a Sunday afternoon. It doesn’t necessarily hold up all that well – the volleyball scene that was such a big deal when I was younger reads a little differently now that I’m an adult (and poor Goose – forced to play beach volleyball with a shirt on). But even on the strength of only one song – Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” – the soundtrack easily surpasses the movie. And seriously, who doesn’t love “Danger Zone?” Advantage soundtrack.

 

Garden State (2004)

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I have a complicated and ever evolving relationship with the movie Garden State. I didn’t really love it the first time I saw it, but the movie eventually won me over after a few viewings – until I hit a saturation point and fell out of like with the film (possibly related to falling out of like with someone who really loved the film). Now I’m mostly ambivalent about the movie. The soundtrack, on the other hand, I always liked quite a bit. There is just so much wonderful indie rock on there – Coldplay, The Shins, Colin Hay, Remy Zero. I’m 1,000 times more likely to play the Garden State soundtrack than re-watch Garden State itself.

Reality Bites (1994)

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I was too young and naïve when I saw Reality Bites for the first time. I was in high school when the movie came out and the thought that this angst was my future was not what I had planned. I didn’t get the appeal of arty and unambitious Ethan Hawke. Then I went to college and Reality Bites made a whole lot more sense. But while I didn’t love the movie as much as my peers did, I had nothing but love for all the music. Squeeze’s “Tempted” is one of my all-time favorite songs, and “My Sharona” and “Stay” are up there as well. I should probably give Reality Bites another watch to see where I stand on it now, but no matter where I am in my life I have always dug the tunes.

Your turn – what soundtracks do you like more than the movie that they were spawned from? Sound off in the comments below.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Spring Cleaning Edition

I found myself in an unusual position last weekend – I stayed in town and didn’t have any plans. I decided to take advantage of this unexpected free time to start spring cleaning. My apartment was in desperate need of a purge – turns out that when you are never home, things tend to pile up and your place is a mess. So I put some March Madness on the TV and went to town, throwing out a lot of stuff that I’ve accumulated and putting other things where they belong. I even donated a bunch of books and clothing, so my spring cleaning helped others. I’ve still got some work to do – I ran out of steam eventually – but I made a real dent in the mess. That’s progress.

I also cleaned out all the links that I’ve been compiling for the last week and the result is yet another pop culture roundup. So kick back, relax and see what you might have missed in the last seven days.

  • James Corden kicked off his tenure of hosting The Late Late Show by recreating Tom Hanks’ filmography:

 

  • Florence + the Machine debuted another new song:

 

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  • Conan and Zachary Quinto remember the late Leonard Nimoy:

 

  • Cookie Monster, Life Coach:

 

Time for some trailers….

  • I’m a little embarrassed about how excited I am for Lip Sync Battle:

 

  • Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation:

 

  • Silicon Valley, season two:

 

  • Matt Dillon in the new Fox series, Wayward Pines:

 

  • Orphan Black, season three:

 

  • Ethan Hawke in Good Kill:

 

  • Pitch Perfect 2:

 

  • James Franco and Jonah Hill in True Story:

 

  • Paper Towns:

 

  • Lake Bell and Simon Pegg in Man Up:

 

  • The WWE keeps cranking out movies – The Marine 4: Moving Target:

 

  • New Entourage trailer:

 

Premiere Of HBO's "Big Love" Season 5 - Arrivals

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts:

  • Kendrick Lamar and the theme from Seinfeld go together well:

 

  • Up as a horror movie:

 

  • A Harry Potter-themed parody of “Uptown Funk”:

 

  • A dream sequence supercut:

 

  • LEGO The Matrix:

 

  • The Peanuts perform Journey:

 

  • The Avengers meets Friends:

 

  • And finally – Saved By The Bell meets Game of Thrones:

Some Thoughts on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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NBC’s loss is Netflix’s gain.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the newest comedy from Tina Fey and was originally developed for NBC. The network passed on the pilot and Netflix was waiting in the wings to not only snatch up the series, but to give it an automatic two season pickup. It’s clear that Netflix wants to be a player in original programming and is willing to take some chances where networks are not. It is also clear that Netflix has a better eye for comedy than NBC (not that hard to do), since The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is really, really funny. I blazed through the whole first season in a day and can’t wait to spend more time in this world.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is definitely a quirky little show and that begins right with its premise: Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) and three other women are freed from a doomsday cult after 15 years of isolation from the rest of the world. When she and the other women are brought to New York City to appear on the Today Show, Kimmy decides to stay and make a life for herself, despite the fact that she is pretty ill-equipped to make it alone in the big city, given her naiveté and arrested development. Kimmy finds an unconventional support system in her roommate (the hilarious Titus Burgess), her landlady (the always fabulous Carol Kane) and her wealthy employer (Jane Krakowski). The show deals with Kimmy’s adjustment to life outside the cult, but is also a pretty sharp satire as well that deals with race, wealth and feminism in a way that is not preachy. The show is smart and silly; its shared DNA with 30 Rock is apparent in its comic beats and mix of absurdity and sharp observations. Perhaps that is what scared off NBC; though 30 Rock was a critical success, it never did particularly well in the ratings.

When the casting was announced, I was unsure if Ellie Kemper was going to be able to carry her own show. I enjoyed her a lot on The Office and in her supporting role in various movies (including Bridesmaids), but I didn’t know if she was capable of being the lead. Kemper is actually pretty great in this role – all her natural likability and sweetness only serves to make Kimmy Schmidt perhaps the nicest character on TV. You inherently root for Kimmy to make it, even when the odds are stacked against her, and you can’t help but admire her resiliency in the face of some many obstacles. Kemper handles the writing and odd situations very well; she really inhabit Kimmy and is so natural in the role that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that she’s acting. My initial concerns were completely unfounded – she’s a home run in this role and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Kimmy. The premise for the show is kind of dark, but Kemper just lights up the room and keeps things from getting depressing or sad. Kimmy’s life hasn’t been an easy one, but her ability to smile and still find happiness in little things buoys the show

The rest of the cast is simply outstanding as well – while I was very aware of Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski’s respective bodies of work, Titus Burgess was a newcomer to me and he almost steals every scene that he’s in. He’s just fantastic and fits into this odd little world perfectly. His character is completely over the top and gets some of the best lines, but Burgess is just reined in enough that it doesn’t become too cartoony or distracting. He and Kemper work very well together and they have nice chemistry. Perhaps one of my favorite moments of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is when Titus (the actor and character have the same name) makes a music video for a terrible song he wrote:

 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt also boasts some wonderful guest stars over the course of the first season. Lots of familiar faces drop in, including Tina Fey herself. Perhaps the biggest reveal is who plays the cult leader that imprisoned Kimmy – I figured it out in the first episode because I immediately recognized the actor’s voice, but it’s still a trip to see this person turn up in this weird role later in the series. Tina Fey has a deep bench of friends to call on and I won’t be surprised if the guest appearances are just as strong in the second season. It will also be fun to see what Fey and company do in a second season that is not done for network TV; I think it will be freeing for them to be able to do the show that they want to do without the restrictions that come from doing a show for a major network. If Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt gets weirder in the process, I’m all for it.

Not only does the show boast a great cast and hilarious writing, but it may also have the best theme song of any recent TV show (and we all know how much I love a good TV theme song). This song (written by Tina Fey’s husband) is ridiculously catchy and a total earworm; unlike most shows were I tired of the opening credits after a while, I actually looked forward to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme every single time.

 

They’re right – Females ARE as strong as hell. Now good luck getting that out of your head for the rest of the day.

I had so much fun watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and I am really looking forward to what the second season has to offer. NBC was foolish to pass on this show – it’s the perfect mix of sweetness, silliness and cleverness. There were so many jokes flying in that first season that I may go back and watch the episodes all over again just to see what I may have missed. There are so many sight gags and quick one liners that it is very possible that my brain couldn’t process that much comedy at once. If you have Netflix, I strongly recommend giving Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt a chance, especially if you were a fan of 30 Rock. It is my favorite new comedy of the season.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is now streaming on Netflix.