Tag Archives: Quentin Tarantino

Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood

In The Royal Tenenbaums, Eli Cash, played by Owen Wilson, writes a book and describes it thusly: “Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is… maybe he didn’t.” It’s a great line. It kills me. And Owen Wilson passes it off so well.

Quentin Tarantino seems to have had a similar bug up his bum when he wrote Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood.

This review is a little…late, and while, yes, we were happily at the cottage when it came out, we have not been in a hurry to see it since we got home either, and in fact only saw it this past weekend because it was playing in the right time slot. Had Dora been playing at that time, I would have happily-ish seen that instead. The truth is, I’m kind of over Quentin Tarantino. I just don’t feel like racism is the price I want to pay to see his films. $12? Fine. Gratuitous use of the n-word? No thanks.

And while it’s impossible to say this film is racism-free (it isn’t), it’s not the film’s biggest problem. Sean and I just found it…boring.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Rick Dalton, a washed up TV star struggling to stay relevant. Dalton is a fictional amalgam of several stars of that era. He was a big star on a western television series a decade ago but now he’s lucky to guest star as the heavy on single, sporadic episodes. He drowns his sorrows in a pitcher of whiskey sours. His one time stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) is now mostly his driver…and sometime handyman. He seems pretty content with his lot, his laid-back surfer dude persona disguising his continued ability to kick some serious ass.

Rick Dalton just happens to be living slightly beyond his means next to Roman Polanski in the Benedict Canyon neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Polanski is off filming a movie, leaving behind his 8 months pregnant wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), and several houseguests…including the man who continued to love her despite her recent marriage to someone else, Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch).

Sharon Tate bops around town while Quentin Tarantino fixates on her legs…and eventually, her dirty feet. Margot Robbie is the picture of youth and health and vitality and promise. But other than as a symbol, she has little to do in the movie. She was few lines and little screen time. Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood is only tangentially about the Manson Family murders. It’s mostly Tarantino’s love letter to old Hollywood, and in that respect, it’s a good one. There’s lots of period cars and neon lights and references to old-timey movies and actors (Damian Lewis appears as Steve McQueen). But the movie acts mostly as a vehicle for DiCaprio and Pitt, indulging in lengthy scenes that are great testaments to their acting abilities…but don’t really serve a greater story. One flashback scene is so long and absorbing, Sean literally forgot it was a flashback scene, and then the story just spits us back out where we belong – it’s interesting, sure, but it corroborates a single, throw-away detail, which makes it totally irrelevant. This film is 161 minutes long…it didn’t exactly need any padding. I would normally suggest the story needed some good editing, but I think the real problem is that Tarantino isn’t sure exactly where the story is. He’s got a series of good ideas but no cohesive narrative into which he can plug them.

DiCaprio and Pitt are acting their little tushies off though. Pitt in particular. He steals every scene he’s in. When he, a 55 year old man, takes off his shirt, revealing an extremely fit physique, it earns whistles and applause in nearly every theatre it screens in. Arguably, old man abs are not exactly acting…but he backs them up charm and dynamism.

This puzzle had many attractive pieces. But some puzzles, when you finish them, you spackle them with glue to frame and hang on your wall. Others you merely break apart and put back into the box…where it will collect dust until you sell it in a yard sale, usually at least one piece short. Once Upon A Time In…Hollwood is the second kind of puzzle. It’s fine. It’s just not great.

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Fantasia Film Festival

The Fantasia International Film Festival is in its 20th year as one of Canada’s most notable and exciting film events. It’s a genre festival, emphasizing imaginative movies, spotlighting alternative cinema not normally screened in North America alongside more mainstream offerings. Quentin Tarantino has called it “The most important and prestigious genre film festival on this continent” and it hosted the North American premiere of his Inglorious Basterds.

Fantasia seems to grow in size and stature every year, attracting more movies worth celebrating and more audience members to do the celebrating, plus tonnes of industry representatives to really get the party started. James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy, has said “Fantasia remains to this day one of my very favorite film festivals in the world” and it’s not hard to see why with its lively downtown Montreal location and appreciative audience members from all over the world. Edgar Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead, says “I promise to make many more genre films just so I can get invited back” but you don’t actually have to come bearing a film – they’ll let you in for the cost of a reasonably-priced ticket!

You can buy tickets here, but I must warn you: choosing from among this year’s stellar line-up isn’t going to be easy.

before-i-wakeFantasia favourite Mike Flanagan (his debut Absentia premiered at Fantasia!) is welcomed back enthusiastically with a special screening of his eerie and poetic horror/fantasy Before I Wake, starring Jacob Tremblay (the cute kid from Room) as a troubled orphan whose dreams spill out into the real-world while he sleeps – as do his nightmares. Also starring Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, and Annabeth Gish.

Another frequent Fantasia face, Jackie Chan, has a movie making its North American premiere: Renny Harlin’s Skiptrace, in which Chan is a detective from Hong Kong teamed up with a degenerate American gambler (Johnny Knozville) to fight a Chinese criminal.

Leonard Nimoy’s son Adam presents For The Love of Spock, a documentary love-of-spock-croppedthat gives an intimate look at his late father and the iconic character he’s known for, just in time for Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.

Kevin Smith is presenting his uniquely Quebec-centric comedy Yoga Hosers, the second in the indie filmmaker’s “True North” trilogy centered around outrageously kooky and inventively hallucinatory happenings in our beautiful land.

There’s so much more happening than I can list here, so please visit the website for movie and ticket info and consider a trip to lovely Montreal for a film festival you’ll quickly become addicted to. Fantasia International Film Festival runs July 14-August 2 2016.

The Hateful Eight!!!!!!!!

Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has a date with a hangman’s noose and bounty hunter hateful eight 3John Ruth, “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell), isn’t letting anyone stand in the way of his ten thousand dollar reward. Just to be safe, he’s got her chained to his wrist at all times and, to show her who’s boss, decks her any time she gives him any sass. Making their way through a blizzard, their stagecoach happens on a stranger stranded on the road: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). “Got room for one more?” asks Marquis.

So begins The Hateful Eight, the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino. As the storm intensifies, Marquis and The Hangman are forced to wait it out in a tiny lodge with six other strangers. (It’s unclear to me which of these 9 Tarantino is excluding from being “Hateful”). I won’t attempt to describe the story that Tarantino weaves any further. No one in Hollywood tells a story quite like Quentin and for me to try to summarize the chain of events that follows in Minnie’s Haberdashery just wouldn’t be right. It’s best just to watch and let it unfold.

If you’ve been following the drama surrounding the 8th film from Quentin Tarantino, you may know that Daisy, Marquis, and The Hangman almost didn’t get to meet in snowy Wyoming. After a draft of the Hateful Eight script leaked online in early 2014, Tarantino felt so wounded that he vowed not to continue with the project. He got over it quick though. His enthusiasm was renewed three months later after a live read with the cast in Los Angeles.

His enthusiasm is contagious. I was almost giddy with excitement through the opening chapters of The Hateful Eight. It’s hard to tell quite where any Tarantino film is heading and the early scenes- with such wit, tension, and restraint- were full of promise. With each new character that he introduced, the more exciting and suspenseful the movie gets. Set in a confined space filled with people who can’t fully trust each other, The Hateful Eight is a welcome reminder of what it was like to see Resevoir Dogs for the first time. The first half is so deliberately paced that it’s tempting to think of it as the director’s most grown up film yet, tricking me into a false sense of security that left me completely unprepared for the second half.

Once the blood finally begins to spill, The Hateful Eight shows its true colours. By the end of its three-hour running time, Tarantino’s eighth film has revealed itself as his darkest, blood-thirstiest, meanest, nastiest and most pessimistic since Resevoir Dogs, a drastic shift from the tone of Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. I still count The Hateful Eight among the best of both Quentin’s filmography and of 2015. But the enthusiasm that I felt for the first half of the film was mostly gone by the time I left the theater. I left feeling a little disheartened and even a little guilty for the briliant bit of sadism that I participated in by watching it.

Have you seen The Hateful Eight yet? Does it rank among Tarantino’s harshest or am I just getting soft?

Boycotting Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, Among Others

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Police unions across the U.S. are calling for its members to support a boycott of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.

What provoked their ire? Tarantino attended a Black Lives matter rally in NYC on October 24th. “This is not being dealt with in any way at all,” Tarantino said. “That’s why we are out here. If it was being dealt with, then these murdering cops would be in jail or at least be facing charges. When I see murders, I do not stand by. I have to call a murder a murder, and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”

The National Association of Police Organizations, representing 10-hateful-eight-yelling_w529_h352_2xnearly a quarter million sworn law enforcement officers asks “officers to stop working special assignments or off-duty jobs, such as providing security, traffic control or technical advice for any of Tarantino’s projects. We need to send a loud and clear message that such hateful rhetoric against police officers is unacceptable. The police he is calling murderers are the same officers who were present along the protest route to ensure the safety of protesters, who provide security when he is filming, and who put their lives on the line to protect our communities day in and day out.”

This is not the first time, nor, dare I say, the last that a major film has met with resistance. Ender’s Game, you might recall, was released under a cloud of controversy because the author of the book, Orson enders-game-harrison-ford-asa-butterfield1Scott Card, was a raging homophobe. People boycotted and refused to give their money to such a cad, despite the fact that their movie ticket purchases were not directly lining his pocket, and that neither the book nor the movie, starring Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield, contain any overt homophobic material. Paradoxically, Card’s book sales continue to rise, and he sees any controversy as free publicity. So just how effective are these boycotts, anyway?

Catholics have been urged to boycott all kinds of movies – The Da Vinci code being a recent one, as well as The Golden Compass for its reported anti-Christian agenda.

Lately, white people were called on to boycott the Thor movie, the Council of Conservative Citizens justifying the call to action with the following statement:  “It seems that Marvel Studios believes that white people should have nothing that is unique to themselves. An upcoming moIdris-Elba-in-Thor-The-Dark-World-2013-Movie-Imagevie, based on the comic book Thor, will give Norse mythology an insulting multi-cultural make-over. One of the Gods will be played by Hip Hop DJ Idris Elba.” A black god? Impossible! Is nothing sacred??? Racist trolls do not know when to shut the fuck up and they’re at it again, this time with Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens in their crosshairs. #BoycottStarWarJohn-Boyega-in-Star-WarssVII they say, because JJ Abrams, a “white-hating Hollywood Jew” is perpetrating a “white genocide” on the Star Wars universe by casting multiple people of colour. I don’t know Abrams but I’m guessing he doesn’t mind if these jerks stay home.

You know who else may have stayed home and nobody noticed? The “men’s rights activists” who called a boycott against Mad Max: Fury Road for being a “feminist piece of propaganda posing as a guy flick.” They were concerned that unsuspecting men “are going to be duped by explosions, fire tornadoes, and desert raiders into seeing 75what is guaranteed to be nothing more than feminist propaganda, while at the same time being insulted AND tricked into viewing a piece of American culture ruined and rewritten right in front of their very eyes. Let us be clear. This is the vehicle by which they are guaranteed to force a lecture on feminism down your throat. This is the Trojan Horse feminists and Hollywood leftists will use to (vainly) insist on the trope women are equal to men in all things, including physique, strength, and logic.” These sweethearts prohibit women and homosexuals from posting on their site at all, so I can’t even call them the ass monkeys they are. Guess I’ll have to defer to our male readership – men, do you feel duped?

Other movie boycotts:

Aloha – for making a movie about Hawaii and failing to cast a single Hawaiian, and for having the audacity to call Emma Stone just a very pale Hawaiian

Exodus: Gods and Kings: again, for an all-white cast  in brown face playing Middle Easterners

Sicario: the mayor of the city featured in the movie and about 30 of its residents are boycotting because they say the movie is “out of date” because the 8 murders a day figure has vastly improved since 2010

50 Shades of Grey: for showing domestic violence and calling it erotic

There’s a can of worms here that’s hard to really comment on. You may take issue with some or all or none of these things. But does a trumboboycott just impose your own judgements on someone else? And at what point do we start nearing Trumbo territory? Remember Hollywood’s shame: the blacklisting scandal. Dalton Trumbo was a famed screen writer who was jailed and blacklisted (which meant no one would hire him) because of his political beliefs – or his perceived political beliefs, because blacklisting became a witch hunt and there was no such thing as a fair trial before your career was ripped away from you. So I wonder if any film maker, whether pro-gay or anti-gay, for example, should suffer the same fate. Do people have the right to think and say what they really believe, and do we have a right to deprive them of their livelihood if we disagree?

And for that matter, do we then start boycotting people like Woody Allen for being a weirdo and probably a pedophile? And Christian Bale for allegedly assaulting his mother and sister? There are actually a LOT of unsavoury characters in Hollywood and it seems impossible to avoid all of them for their various transgressions. I have neither the time nor the inclination to vet the beliefs and behaviours of every artist, and I have even less inclination to have them vetted for me by the squeakiest wheel.

Should we just boycott anyone who has different beliefs than our own? But isn’t that what art is about – challenging our preconceptions, sampling different viewpoints? We don’t have to agree with them of course, but isn’t a good thing to read and watch and experience from a variety of sources?

Back to Tarantino. No one has a problem with the movie because no one’s seen it. They have a problem with what he said – which, from what I can tell, is actually a pretty inarguable fact. Cops are Tarantino-1-e1446380773154gunning down black kids just for being black. Which is not to say that all cops are like this, or even most. But there is a discernible problem with racism, and when you give them all guns, even a small racist minority can turn really deadly. Since when is it wrong to point out flaws in the system? Isn’t it the job of artists in particular to provide social commentary?

Which of these movies would you boycott?

 

 

San Francisco Treats

If you haven’t caught on yet, the Assholes are on vacation! Matt, Jay & Sean are in California for the week, and today we’re in sunny San Francisco, possibly on the ferry right this very minute on our way to visit Alcatraz.

Because movies are the only homework we know, we prepped for this vacation for watching anything that gave us a glimpse of the monuments we planned to visit, and today’s theme was a no-brainer.

Alcatraz island, also known as the rock, was home to a federal prison from 1933-1963. At the time the movie The Rock was made, the island was already a tourist hotspot, allowing tourists to explore the prison and sitalcatraz in the cells where the worst and most violent prisoners were held, and from whence no one ever successfully escaped.

Or did they? In The Rock, Sean Connery plays a convict and the one unofficial escapee. When a group of crazed rogue Marines take over the prison and claim 81 tourists as hostages, Connery is tapped to help coordinate the police mission to win the prison back. In the end it falls to him and to weiner-chemist Nicolas Cage to save the day.

The prison (in real life) was very expensive to operate and locals were complaining about the sewage attributed to the inmates, so the facility was closed down. Today the whole island is a National Historical Landmark and we’re reasonably confident that hostage situations no longer arise, and if they do, they’ll have the foresight to pick on a later tour group.

During filming, Sean Connery didn’t want to travel back and forth to the mainland so he had a The-Rock-sean-connery-331361_450_350cottage built on the island to accommodate him. Later, the film’s premiere was held in the prison’s rec yard. The island had remained open to the public during filming, so I suppose the tourists had a little something to keep them entertained while waiting in line  (unless it was a Cage scene, in which case I’m sure they asked for their money back).

This is Michael Bay’s favourite Michael Bay film, and the only one in his whole repertoire certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Quentin Tarantino was an uncredited writer on the script. And Arnold Schwarzenegger was offered either Cage’s or Connery’s role, depending who you ask, but in any case turned it down, and lived to regret it.

Later tonight, Sean and I are going to a Giants game where Sean will likely drink a Pabst Blue Ribbon and I’ll cheer for mustard in the hot dog race, we’ll watch a little baseball, and no one will show up to stalk and\or stab any of the players.

The Fan came out the same year as The Rock (1996), what a boon for San Francisco! Robert De de-niro-the-fanNiro plays the degenerate fan and Wesley Snipes the star player who inspires De Niro’s fanaticism. It’s not a great movie and also not a great comfort if these are possibly the kinds of fans we might encounter tonight. Anyway, if a disgruntled knife salesman does get stabby, then I guess we’re out of luck, with little else than a witty Hunter Pence poster to defend ourselves with (and last time I checked, scissors beat paper). A natural disaster, however, we can handle. The other The Rock (as in Dwayne Johnson) showed is in San Andreas just how sturdy this stadium is – AT&T Park is immovable, come hell or high water, and of course both those things come in spades during the course of this disasteriest of disaster movies.

Annnnyway, I’m sure San Francisco is nothing like the movies. I’m sure it’s much more like an episode of Full House!

 

Just off the Top of O-Ren Ishii’s Head: 10 Death Scenes I Will Never Forget

I’m not really a Final Destination kind of guy but with stock dwindling at my favourite video store just two weeks before it closes, I settled on a movie that my friend had been trying to get me to watch for months. Final Destination 2- so far left on the shelves by eager shoppers looking to take advantage of the store’s Everything Must Go policy- has a death scene that apparently I just had to watch.

Watching the movie, I couldn’t be sure which scene she meant. There were a lot. Could it be the lottery winner who slipped on some spaghetti and got his head smashed in by a falling fire escape? Or the grieving mother who was decaptiated when she got her head caught in an elevator door? Turns out I should have been watching for the teenager who was crushed to death by something- what exactly I can’t be sure, things happen fast in this movie- while chasing away some pigeons. Apparently, if you watch closely, he explodes long before anything falls on him. How does she know? She’s watched it in slow motion. Several times.

final destination

While I may not have even been temptedc to check the tape on that one, it got me thinking of my favourite on-screen passings. After all, we just saw some real beauts in Mad Max: Fury Road on Friday. Here’s my attempt at a Top Ten. I left out a lot out, I know. How about you? What are some of your favourite scenes that I might have missed?

10. Count Laszlo de Almásy  The English Patient (1996)

English Patient

One of the movies that I am most likely to meditate on the finality of death after watching. Once we’re gone, everything we’ve felt, everything we’ve feared, everything we’ve loved die with us. It’s painful to watch Ralph Fiennes suffer from his burns throughout the movie and when Juliette Binoche’s Hana agrees to help him end his agony once and for all, I could almost feel his last breath. Even though, technically, the scene ends before Laszlo does. Before this act of mercy, Hana reads him this.

“We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have entered and swum up like rivers, fears we’ve hidden in like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. We’re the real counttries. Not the boundaries drawn on maps, the names of powerful men”.

9. Phil Groundhog Day (1993)

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Condemned to live a bad day over and over until he gets it right, Phil (Bill Murray) uses this opportunity to try new things without having to wake up with any consequences. He makes a move on the girl he likes and punches the guy he doesn’t. He runs around town playing hero. He even gives dying a try. His suicidal phase is one of the funniest and darkest parts of the movie. (I haven’t seen the movie in awhile so I can’t remember if it’s made clear to us whether Phil is counting on waking up the next morning or hoping not to).

Before my favourite of said suicide “attempts”, Phil calmly walks into the lobby ignoring the pleasantries of the hotel staff and steals their toaster. Phil calmly prepares himself a nice hot bath and takes the toaster in with him. This scene would also make my list of Top Ten Reasons I Love Bill Murray.

8. Captain Frye The Rock (1996)

the rock

Ed Harris’ General Hummell is a madman but he really does think he’s doing the right thing. It’s the mercenaries he brings with him to sieze Alcatraz Island that make me nervous, especially Captain Frye. Played with his usual sneer by character actor Gregory Sporleder, there’s just something not quite right about this guy. He always seems to be wishing he was pushing an old lady down a flight of stairs.

A lot of these guys die for their cause in spectacular fashion but director Michael Bay saves the best for last when chemistry geek/action hero Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) shoves a vial of sarin gas in his mouth and smashes it with his fist. Neither Bay or Cage have gotten much right since but they did good here. This guy had it coming.

7. Sydney Barringer Magnolia (1999)

Magnolia

P. T. Anderson gets our attention right from the start and manages to hold it for Magnolia’s entire three-hour running time. Seventeen year-old Sydney Barringer jumps from the roof of his nine-story apartment building only to have his suicide attempt interrupted both by a safety net installed by some window washers and by a shotgun blast from a sixth floor window that killed him instantly. His unsuccessful suicide became a successful homicide when his own mother accidentally fired a shot while threatening his father during a heated argument.

Anderson didn’t come up with this story on his own. It’s an adaptation of a sort of urban legend that had been circulating for years but it sets up the strange events that follow perfectly.

6. Guy in elevator Drive (2011)

Drive

Ryan Gosling is a charmer. He swept Rachel McAdams off her feet both on and off screen and even taught Steve Carrell how to be a smooth talker. Just don’t get on his bad side. This guy’s not fucking around. He understands the golden rule of action movies. When someone’s giving you trouble, sometimes you’ve just got to stomp on their face until they’re dead. He doesn’t carry a gun much in Drive but why would he? He’s got his boot.

5. Edward Bloom Big Fish (2003)

Big Fish

The deathbed scene in The English Patient inspires me to meditate on death. Big Fish inspires me to reflect on life. Will Bloom (Billy Crudup) finally understands the value of myth and the key to good storytelling while seeing his father (Albert Finney) through his final moments. For most of his adult life, Will stubbornly told stories with “all of the facts, none of the flavour” but, when his father asks him to tell him “how he goes”, Will ad-libs a fantastical story fit for Ed’s remarkable life- one that undoubtedly touched so many others, even if the details are a little embellished. I still get chills when I watch it.

4. Cecilia Shepard Zodiac (2007)

zodiac

I feel crass talking about an on-screen depiction of something that actually happened in the same post as the twisted thrills of Drive but there aren’t many scenes in 21st century American film that are more effective. All the recreations of the Zodiac killings in this movie are almost impossible to watch without some temptation to look away but this one at the beach is the most chilling. I felt a wave of anxiety every time I found myself anywhere secluded for weeks after watching this movie. The Zodiac killer was never caught or named but this faceless killer- now probably long gone- still haunts me.

3. Elle Driver Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

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I only allowed myself one Quentin Tarantino entry on this post and I could have easily done one just on the Top Ten Tarantino Death Scenes. He’s the guy that knows how to do it, whose mind seems to take him to to places most of us wouldn’t dare. Daryl Hannah’s Elle puts up quite a fight against the Bride but the fight’s pretty much over when Uma Thurman’s antihero plucks out her only good eye. Adding insult to injury beyond anything I can imagine, poor Elle hears a sound that can only be Uma crushing it beneath her feet. Good and pissed but with nothing much she can do about it, Elle thrashes about unitl a poisonous Black Mamba finishes her off.

Elle Driver was an assassin and a bit of a sadist but I can’t help but feel just a little bad. What a way to go.

2. Spider Goodfellas (1990)

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Everyone has a favourite scene here and I could have probably done a Top Ten just on this one movie but Spider (Michael Imperioli) really gets a raw deal. After finally being able to get back to work after being shot in the foot by Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), the poor waiter finally stands up for himself and tells Tommy to fuck off. Tommy’s gangster buddy love it and tease Tommy until he loses it and empties his clip into the poor guy, shocking his buddies. “What the fuck, Tommy?goodfellas We were just kidding around”.

Tommy’s a funny guy (yes, sort of like a clown) and I sure did miss him after he gets whacked. But he really was a mad dog. It’s probably for the best that he never got made.

1. Lester Burnham American Beauty (1999)

american beauty

This also made my list of Movie Moments That Took My Breath Away. Lester makes it very clear from the start that he won’t survive the movie and the final moments are filled with tension as we wait for something to happen. Writer Alan Ball presents us with three suspects and we’re not sure until after the killing shot is fired who murdered Lester Burnham.

The murder is beside the point anyway. The tragedy is that Lester dies in pretty much the instant that he finds inner peace. His life flashes before his eyes as he reflects on all the beauty  in the world. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry. You will someday”.

The Needle Drop

I’m a complete and total sucker when life pairs two of my favourite things – movies and music – in an ungodly goodly way. I love being moved by a score, I love a soundtrack I can relate to, but nothing arrests me like the perfect pairing of a movie scene and a pop song.

You Make My Dreams, Hall & Oates from 500 Days of Summer

This? This is genius. Have you seen this movie? SEE THIS MOVIE! It’s about this guy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who falls for a fanciful, quirky woman, and for a time at least, it’s totally magical and transformative and the best thing about it? She lets him have sex with her! This scene is the morning after – the world is just different. In fact, it’s 10% better. Or 50% better! He literally wakes up with a song in his heart and a bounce in his step. The world is smiling back at him! His own reflection is proud. It’s crazy but it’s relatable. I feel like this too often probably, but if a good song comes on my MP3 (and a good song is always coming on!) and the sun is shining and life is good, then yeah, I’m the girl shaking my bootie down the street. Rarely do other people join in, let alone the bird from Cinderella, but I think it’s only a matter of time. My life is 10% better just knowing this exists in the world.

Stuck in The Middle With You, Stealers Wheel from Reservoir Dogs

This one has possibly made life just a little bit worse. In fact, I have not, since watching this, been able to hear this song and not feel a slight stinging in my ear. But I loved it. Quentin Tarantino is kind of a superstar when it comes to his ingenious pairing of image and sound. Here, Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde boogies down to his favourite oldies radio station while severely torturing a cop. The image is graphic and horrible but the song is light and catchy. Your eyes and your ears are experiencing two different things, which makes your belly do a queasy thing and it’s fucking brilliant, man. I mean, I hate it, but I love it. And Mr. Blonde? He just loves it. He’s having a party. Gives you a lot of insight into just what kind of guy we’re dealing with. Watch at your own risk.

Where Is My Mind, Pixies from Fight Club

The perfect song for the perfect scene – the music is haunting and kind of apocalyptic, the lyrics vague and dream-like. The song is asking Where Is My Mind? when it’s entirely possible that Edward Norton’s protagonist is only just finding it for the first time in the whole movie. The ending is meant to be ambiguous but David Fincher leaves us with a beautiful moment, giving us time to digest the blows we’ve just been dealt.

Wise Up, Aimee Mann from Magnolia

If you’ve seen this movie, and you totally should, you can’t ever forget it. It rains frogs, goddammit. It’s way too complex to  explain the varied bisecting characters and stories, but it’s a whole group of people who are in bad situations – the movie tackles regret, loneliness, family violence and exploitation. In the middle of a whole heck of a lot of hard times, every major character takes a turn singing Aimee Mann’s beautiful but unforgiving song Wise Up.

It’s not what you thought
When you first began it
You got what you want
Now you can hardly stand it, though
By now you know
It’s not going to stop
Till you wise up

You’re sure there’s a cure
And you have finally found it
You think one drink
Will shrink you till you’re underground
And living down
But it’s not going to stop
Till you wise up

Prepare a list for what you need
Before you sign away the deed
‘Cause it’s not going to stop
It’s not going to stop
Till you wise up

No, it’s not going to stop
Till you wise up
No, it’s not going to stop
So just give up

These lyrics prepare us for the fact that Paul Thomas Anderson isn’t giving out absolution. Mistakes can’t always be erased. There are limits to forgiveness. If you’re looking for a happy ending, look elsewhere. Hard truths, softened by an ethereal melody.

The Blower’s Daughter, Damien Rice from Closer

This movie just kills me and this end shot with the song layered over top really hammers home the wrist-slitting qualities of heart break and loss. Like, if you weren’t quite depressed enough, Mike Nichols finishes you off with this song just so you can be sure that there’s no happiness to be had here, only pain and confusion. Ouch.

Then He kissed Me, The Crystals from GoodFellas

Martin Scorsese might be the king of pop songs and movies so it’s hard to just pick one – hell, it’s hard to just pick one from GoodFellas. But I’m going with this one because it’s a classic Marty shot, a famous minutes-long steadi-cam single take that follows Henry as he leads Karen into the bowels of the Copacabana, passing out twenties like nobody’s business and basically impressing the panties off her. The song mimics this with its carefree feeling and sweep-her-off-her-feet lyrics. You feel and see and hear things from her perspective; it’s a whirlwindy pop song power trip that shows how much privilege he has while also reminding us that he came in the back door. One of my favourite three minutes of film ever.

Tiny Dancer, Elton John from Almost Famous

Who but Elton John could unite a bus full of cranky, burnt out super-egos? In a movie chock-full of songs, this one is particularly well chosen, but we wouldn’t expect any less of Cameron Crowe, would we?

Old Time Rock N Roll, Bob Seger from Risky Business

I resisted including this one for as long as I could, but rarely does a scene rival this one in our collective audience consciousness. It has transcended the movie and belongs now to pop culture’s hereafter. I have never dated a man who hasn’t at least partially recreated this scene for me unbidden and I have never seen this song fail to pack a dance floor.  Tom Cruise dances around in his underpants (apparently unchoreographed) and a star is born.

I’m Kissing you, Des’Ree from Romeo + Juliet

Now to cleanse your palette and possibly enrage you, I present to you for your consideration: Baz Luhrmann. It’s nearly criminal to leave him off a list like this, but people have mixed feelings about anachronistic music in period films. This movie was released the exact year I was reading Romeo + Juliet in high school and our English class boarded a bus and drove an hour and a half so the girls could all sob as we watched the movie in a dark, dark theatre. Oh, Leo! Remember when you were briefly a teen heartthrob? Baz Luhrmann does, and this movie serves as a shrine to that era. But it’s also William Shakespeare doing a teen drama, and this song reminds us that in this moment, forget the flowery language and the hundreds of years of venerating the bard – this is about adolescent love at first sight. I’m sad that I can’t find you the exact right scene but I’m pretty confident that the song will take you to the spot I’m talking about. Meanwhile, Baz Luhrmann is famous for inserting crazy music where you wouldn’t think it belongs – Prince into Shakespeare, Nirvana into the can-can, and Jay-Z into The Great Gatsby. Does Baz Luhrmann get a pass for being inventive or is it just as jarring as when somebody thought to use Queen’s We Will Rock You in A Knight’s Tale or David Bowie in Inglorious Basterds?

It turns out that I could geek out for hours on this subject, so I’ll cut myself off here – for now. Meanwhile, please tell me YOUR favourite musical moment in a movie! Matt, I know you just wrote about Somewhere Over the Rainbow in Face\Off last week, and Sean, I’m guessing yours is probably from Top Gun. 🙂