Sunday, March 10, 2024

Let's Go the Movies!

Introductions to each of the songs on the playlist, which is made up of three categories: 1) some favorite songs from movie musicals (very few, in the end, because showtunes in excess don't go over so well at Starfall), 2) some of my favorite musical moments in non-musical movies, and 3) songs used in so many films that they've become cliches (though still great songs).

  1. Opening up with the newest song on this list, from Wonka and my beloved Timothée; he has such a lovely voice, not much range but a beautiful tone, and this central production number shows it off to great effect.
  2. The Blues Brothers is one of the greatest musical movies of all time, and it was hard to choose which song to feature in this list; but I think this one is the most joyfully energetic and really invests you into the narrative.
  3. "Low Rider" is frequently used to indicate a barrio setting or a character becoming inexplicably cool, and appears in seventeen films from Cheech & Chong Up In Smoke, Gone in 60 Seconds, Fridays, and A Knight's Tale.
  4. "Bad to the Bone" is a reliable stand-by to indicate a character doing something naughty, or rebelling, or putting on a leather jacket. 28 film appearances include Terminator 2, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and The Parent Trap.
  5. Aretha Franklin is an immediately recognizable performer with 333 IMDB soundtrack credits, and "Respect" appears in 29 feature films including Blues Brothers 2000, Mystic Pizza, and That Darn Cat.
  6. "Tequila" by the Champs was a #1 R&B hit when it was released in 1958, but was largely forgotten until suddenly rocketed into popular culture by one of cinema's most memorable moments in 1985's Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.
  7. "Mr. Blue Sky" is one of my all-time favorite songs, memorably scoring the opening credits of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but also appearing in Megamind, Role Models, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
  8. "Walking on Sunshine" is another of my personal favorites; this song gets trotted out any time a character is shown to be in an exceptionally good mood, and features in 22 films, from Look Who's Talking to American Psycho.
  9. "Fame" from Fame is an energetic tune scoring a very energetic scene when the High School for the Performing Arts spills out into New York City traffic for an impromptu dance party, one of the more memorable scenes in cinema history. Fun piece of trivia: the song wasn't ready when the scene was filmed, so the students are filmed dancing to Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff."
  10. One of my all-time favorite films, 1994's Interview With the Vampire, ends with a Guns-n-Roses cover of "Sympathy for the Devil" recorded for the occasion, providing one of the most exciting end credit moments in film history.
  11. Joan Jett is another popular soundtrack artist, and "Bad Reputation" one of the most reliable songs to show transformative montages and dirty fight scenes, with eight feature films to its credit, including Kick-Ass and Shrek, plus many more featuring covers.
  12. "Immigrant Song" is a favorite of mine, and its appearance at the opening scene of Thor: Ragnarok was so epic that it rescued the rest of the movie from ennui. It also appeared in Shool of Rock, Soldier, and Shrek the Third.
  13. Day-O! Da-a-a-yo! Daylight come and me wan' go home! We all remember the fantastic dinner party scene in Beetlejuice even if we didn't see the movie, and it remains one of my favorite go-to videos when I need a smile.
  14. The Dickies had a UK #7 hit in 1979 with "Banana Splits (the Tra La La Song)" covered from the theme of the classic psychedelic children's show, but it came to greater prominence on the soundtrack of Hit Girl's incredible first fight scene in 2010's Kick-Ass, one of my favorite exciting moments in a movie theater. 
  15. "All Along the Watchtower" usually indicates we're in the Vietnam era, and/or getting stoned, and has appeared in 17 feature films including Watchmen and Forrest Gump.
  16. "Gimme Shelter" - Martin Scorcese seems unable to make a movie without this song, and it's been used in fourteen films, more than half of which are his.
  17. "Just take those old records off the shelf" and a still-innocent-and-adorable Tom Cruise slides into frame in his underwear and a pink shirt in this most memorable moment in film; I had a boner for three days solid from seeing Risky Business when I was fifteen. 
  18. This scene in The Color Purple always has me in floods of tears, but happy tears, and it's so glorious that I can forgive it being a gospel song. Táta Vega provides Shug Avery's voice, I think the choir soloist is the actress in the movie, Maria Howell, but I can't find a credit anywhere.
  19. "Stayin' Alive" - Written for the movie Saturday Night Fever, it has appeared in 140 films and TV shows, usually when a character is strutting with confidence; since the original gives me a headache, here's a cover from Tropical Fuck Storm.
  20. "Cinema Italiano" - this song isn't as good outside of its movie (Nine), in which it is incredibly cool and flashy and sexy and just one of my favorite moments in a movie musical, but it's still a good song and worth sharing. 
  21. The Hunger is one of my all-time favorite films despite being not very well-written or well-directed... extreme case of style over substance, the music and art direction are exquisite and the actors and sets a joy to the eye... but this song opens the film and is so damn sexy it sets the tone for the rest of the film. Famously the song did not appear on the distributed soundtrack recording, but was published separately as a promotional 7" with the theatrical release.
  22. Ferris Bueller's Day Off pushed a whole host of otherwise-obscure music into the zeitgeist, such as Wayne Newton's "Danke Schoen" and Mello's "Oh, Yeah"... the Beatles' early hit "Twist and Shout" scores Ferris's lipsynch performance on a parade float that unbelievably but wonderfully inspires all of downtown Chicago to dance in the streets.
  23. "Under Pressure" - this Queen/David Bowie teamup is one of the best songs in the world, and has eighteen film credits including Atomic Blonde, The Girl Next Door, and 40 Days & 40 Nights. Queen is a popular soundtrack staple with a total of 525 IMDB credits across film, television, video games, and even podcasts.
  24. "Kung Fu Fighting" has 30 film credits and more than sixty for TV shows, shorts, and video games; it usually heralds a comic fight scene in which kung fu may or may not be used.
  25. "A Town Called Malice" scores one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies, 2000's Billy Elliot; the song also appears in fifteen other films including Morbius and Spiderman: Far From Home.
  26. "This Is Me" - I've still not seen The Greatest Showman and don't really care if I ever do, but this song thrills me right down to my marrow, the perfect outsider's anthem that aligns with my own queer experience.
  27. AC/DC are a reliable sound to indicate something super cool and very metal is going down in the film; "Back in Black" is a popular choice, appearing in thirteen films ranging from Iron Man to The Muppets.
  28. "London Calling" turns out almost any time an establishing shot of a London location rolls into view; this song has appeared in 13 films and over 200 documentaries and TV shows.
  29. If a strait-laced character suddenly throws off the shackles of propriety and/or gets on a motorcycle, chances are "Born to Be Wild" will be heard. It's appeared in 41 films, starting with Easy Rider and most recently with Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
  30. Rusted Root's one hit "Send Me On My Way" scores a favorite scene in Matilda, but also appears in twelve other films, such as Ice Age and Twister, usually to indicate hopeful traveling.
  31. "Over the Rainbow" - Written for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, this song appears in dozens of films, usually to set a mood of wistful hope, but often just with the film playing in the background. Since the original is a little too saccharine for this setting, here's a nice punk cover.
  32. David Bowie's 1971 album Hunky Dory has provided more songs to film soundtracks than any other, though no one song sets records on its own. "Changes", "Life on Mars?", and "Queen Bitch" are the most popular tracks.
  33. The most frequently used recording artist in film soundtracks is Bob Dylan, with his songs appearing in more than 200 films, not counting covers of Dylan songs which bumps the number up even higher. "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" is the most popular but "The Times They Are A-Changing" is arguably the most iconic.  
  34. Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In the Sky" is film's most frequently used single song, appearing in fifty-three films including Apollo 13, Remember the Titans, and This is the End; my favorite was the end-credits scene in The Wolves of Kromer.
  35. Ending the evening with the best ending song in the list is Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"...with 24 films and hundreds of TV and shorts appearances, sung by himself or more frequently Jeff Buckley, which the late songsmith thought excessive and once asked for a break from his own track. “I think it’s a good song, but too many people sing it,” he told The Guardian in 2009, agreeing with a critic for The New York Times who asked for a moratorium on “Hallelujah” in movies.
And that's my Oscar Party Playlist, thanks for coming out to play!

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