There are few things in life that excite me as much as a well used pop song in a movie, a television show, or a trailer. This is likely because there are so many abuses of the medium, so many lazy attempts at profundity, so many throwaways, so many overused tunes, that it's easy to spot great moments when they happen. Just think of how many times you've heard Van Morrison sing about finding "someoneeee exactly like youuuuu" while two attractive characters reconcile/meet/fall in love. Or how many times you've heard that "there's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear" in a scene about Vietnam or just general 60s/70s unrest.
Now, there is nothing wrong with using a classic, but at a certain point it just reeks of disinterest on the part of the filmmakers. In fact, in the case of Mr. Morrison, I am actually enraged everytime I hear "Someone Like You" in any movie. It's a great song. But it was used in seven films in a decade (Only the Lonely, Prelude to a Kiss, French Kiss, One Fine Day, Proof of Life, Someone Like You, Bridget Jones's Diary)...and yes, three of those were Meg Ryan films. I can't even pinpoint its use to a specific scene anymore, which is, I'm sure, the biggest insult one could levy against both the song and the scenes it was chosen for.
So, over the next few months, I'll be writing a recurring segment about great uses of pop songs in movies, with some failed attempts thrown in to keep things interesting. Some will be obvious, some, I hope, will not be so obvious. Many will be scene enhancers - aka, songs that the characters aren't aware of - and some will be songs that the characters themselves experience. Video clips are hard to come by on this project, but I'll do my best to describe and direct.
In no particular order, here's a preview of some of the moments I'll be covering:
Inglorious Basterds, "Putting Out Fire With Gasoline" by David Bowie
Rushmore, "I Am Waiting" by The Rolling Stones
Being There, "Basketball Jones" by Cheech Marin
The Royal Tennenbaums, "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" by Paul Simon
Almost Famous, "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" performed by Elton John
Reality Bites, "All I Want is You" by U2
The Virgin Suicides, "Magic Man" by Heart
Saving Private Ryan, "Tu Es Partout" by Edith Piaf
(500) Days of Summer, "Bookends" by Simon & Garfunkel
Magnolia, "Goodbye Stranger" by Supertramp AND "Wise Up" by Aimee Mann
Wall-E, "La Vie En Rose" performed by Louis Armstrong
Harold and Maude, "Don't be Shy" by Cat Stevens
Into the Wild, "Rise" by Eddie Vedder
Watchmen, "The Times They Are A Changin'" by Bob Dylan
And why not kick things off with one of the most famous pairings of song and scene? One that is so notable that there's really nothing I can say here to elaborate. Let's just watch and appreciate.
Stay tuned. Suggestions are always welcome.