The Good, The Bad and The Weird: Songs From The Movies (AU Magazine, Issue.41)
October 25, 2009, 7:06 pm
Filed under: Features, Movie Features

Words_John Calvert

Music and Cinema, the great love affair of the popular arts. They go together like Fred and Ginger, like Joany and Chachi, like nachos and that cheesy-tasting ming they give you at the Odeon. Whether it’s ‘Born To Be Wild’ with Jack Nicholson riding pillion on Peter Fonda’s hog or Michael Madsen butchering Kirk Baldz’s doomed cop to the strains of Stealers Wheel’s ‘Stuck In The Middle’, many of the greatest moments in celluloid history have been as a result of a sublime marriage of sound and vision.

Of course its not all gold. In the eighties, when a disparate team of lovable misfits improved at a chosen sport they did so with the help of the montage, home to many of cinema’s most sublimely unfortunate passages. Where would you be without your favourite music monthly protecting you from the evils of Montage Rock. Presenting the A.U guide for those L.O.S.T in the world of the O.S.T. Role V.T.

The Good

Kurtz like a Knife

A/V: The Doors – ‘The End’ / Apocalypse Now (1979)

Set the Scene: Assigned for the assassination of renegade Colonel, Walter E. Kurtz, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) travels up the river towards his mission and through the insanity of the Vietnam war. In the greatest opening salvo in cinema history malarian phantasmagoria merges with Willard’s 1000-yard stare. as Morrison’s epic 60’s psychedelica rages cacophonously. As images of burning Vietnamese countryside and helicopter blades dissolve into Willard’s ceiling fan, no longer was the film complete without song and the same true in reverse. An auspicious curtain-raiser to a film thats as much about the end of a film-making era as the end of the world.

Best Bit: Fading from black to a jungle tree-line, swirling flare-smoke and distorting sounds of helicopters intermingle. Mute napalm fury erupts just as Jim utters his opening declaration. ‘This is the end, Beautiful friend”. Unforgettable.

Quite Interesting Fact: Behind the scenes documentary ‘Heart of Darkness’ revealed that Willard’s tormented dance to The Door’s’ free-from climax was not staged. Martin Sheen, drunk as the devil, punches out a mirror in a crazed act of performance art. Real booze, real blood, real madness.

Peanut Butter on my Pants!!!!


A/V: Deluxxe Folk Implosion -‘Daddy Never Understood’ / Kids (1995)

Set the Scene: 24 hours in tow of Aids-infected teenage lothario ‘Telly’ and his wayward friends, ‘Kids’ so frightened audiences and critics alike at the time that one reviewer deemed it as ‘a warning to modern society’. Featured on the soundtrack and clocking in at under 1 min 15 seconds ‘Daddy Never Understood’ is a snotty, sneering bit of post-modern punk that will tell you everything you need to know about the short, sharp gut-punch which is Clarke’s apocalyptic vision. As dumb, thuggish and unruly as the teenaged Manhatten-ites ‘Kids’ depicts.

Best Bit: Ghoulishly cut to the theme tune to ‘Casper The Friendly Ghost’ The kids stamp a fellow skater to near-death.

Quite Interesting Fact: One of several NYC pro-skaters to star as themselves, Jeff Pang later claimed the party scenes were authentic with teens and pre-teens alike getting brained for real before Director Larry Clarke’s leering gaze.

Gold Turkey


A/V: Lou Reed – Perfect Day / Trainspotting (1996)

Set the Scene: The first plaintive keys of Reed’s love-letter to Heroin begin as junkie anti-hero Mark Rent-Boy’ Renton descends into overdose through a coffin-shaped hole in the floor. Every time Director Danny Boyle marries song with scene in Trainspotting it’s exhilarating, but it’s Lou Reed’s wastoid melancholia that reveals the film’s beat-up soul.

Best Bit: Reborn into a new world, Mark returns from hospital with his parents, frail and sheepish. Carried up to his childhood bedroom by his father, Reed sings a final warning to his junkie brethren “You’re going to reap / just what you sow”, vanquishing iany doubts surrounding the film’s intention to glamorise heroin.

Quite Interesting Fact: Boyle credits The Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ video as a major influence on the opening sequence. Directed by video promo wunderkind Spike Jonze, the video features bad-ass maverick cops cavorting around L.A, generally raising hell.



A/V: Elliott Smith – ‘Needle in the Hay’ / The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Set the Scene: Rejected by his sister-by-genius Margot (Gynneth Paltrow), Luke Wilson’s former child tennis prodigy Ritchie attempts suicide in a blue-hued bathroom. Proving that no one does sad quite like Smith, his sombre / edgy tale of druggy anonymity compliments beautifully Wes Anderson’s mellow direction. The scene echoes Smith’s sad demise at his own hands two years later.

Best Bit: Discarding his Bjorn Bjorg-esque sunglasses and removing hair and beard, Ritchie says to his reflection “I’m gonna kill myself tomorrow” before digging deep. To Smith’s hushed vocals Black-red blood forms tributaries down wrists and through shorn hair.

Quite Interesting Fact: Wes Anderson named the Tenenbaums’ dog ‘Buckley’ after Jeff Buckley.

The Bad

I Just Wanna Dance!

music-scene-breakfast-clubThe Good, The Bad and The Weird Songs from the Movies.

A/V: Karla DeVito – ‘We are not Alone’ / The Breakfast Club (1985)

Set the scene: After coming to terms with themselves and each other the mythical Brain, Athlete, BasketCase, Princess and the Criminal smoke a little bit of John Bender’s ‘pot’. Fuelled by the crazy injection of energy that Marijuana affords a person, the detentionees take to the library and dance like there was no tomorrow. Cue liberal shots of naff footwork (Bender has a bandana on his shoe?!) and gloriously 80’s rug-cutting. Irrelevant to the point of being surreal.

Worst Bit: The boys form a kind of loose man-kebab and do a weird Genesis-style march in perfect unison.

Quite Interesting Fact: The song that Bender sings by way of a diversion to let the others get back to the cafeteria is partly ‘Turning Japanese’ by The Vapors. Apparently a metaphor for slapping a ham.

Simian Mobi Disco


A/V:OutKast – Hey Ya / Flight of the Phoenix (2004)

Set the scene: After crash-landing in the Mobi Desert and fast running out of food and water, the crew attempt to rebuild the Phoenix before it’s too late. But, as always happens in these situations someone gets the old Ipod out. The gang take a break from dying of thirst to indulge in Outkast’s catchy floor-filler, bonding through the medium of dance.

Worst Bit: As Andre hits his chorus you’re just waiting for a less enthusiastic member of the group to suggest they maybe get back to work because malnutrition sets in.

Quite Interesting Fact: Umm. Did you know that you can fit a baby squirrel monkey in a milk bottle?

The Weird

Lip Kink


A/V:Roy Orbison – In Dreams / Blue Velvet (1986)

Set the scene: After Dennis Hopper’s unforgettable sociopath finds his Mrs on the job with Kyle McClachlan, he takes them to see master hoodlum and flamboyant homosexual ‘Ben’. Within the typically Lynch-ian lounge area (all red carpeting and noirish lighting) Ben performs a lip-synch to Roy Orbison’s languorous Americana, with nightmarish results. David Lynch’s preternatural affinity with the dream-state reached a high water mark as the amyl-nitrate-chugging Frank watches his friend, at once aroused, teary and repulsed.

Weirdest Bit: Orbison’s opening line is mimed by Dean Stockwell’s under-lit dandy ;Ben’: “A candy-colored clown they call the sandman / tiptoes to my room every night”.

Quite Interesting Fact: Lynch would repeat the trick in Mulholland Drive (2001) with Rebekah Del Rio singing a Spanish version of Orbison’s “Crying”. Equally unnerving.

Fade Away

A/V:Michael Pitt – ‘That Day’ / Last Days (2005)

Set the scene: In Gus Van Sant’s largely word-less depiction of Cobain’s final days, Michael Pitt’s Kurt-a-Like ‘Blake’ wonders from room to room in a dilapidated mansion, mumbles to himself incoherently, has a brief conversation with a yellow pages salesman, makes a bowl of macaroni and cheese and then dies, climbing up to heaven on a ladder. In what might be described as the centrepiece of the film ‘Blake’, all alone, composes by looping 5 instruments and drums, adding them one at a time, building an eerily Nirvana-esque racquet that was written by Pitt himself on the spot. It serves as one of the only real musical interludes within an unsettlingly minimalist soundtrack that aims to replicate Blake’s irretrievable psyche.

Weirdest Bit: From outside in the garden looking in at Blake, a extended dolly-shot sees the camera retreat slowly from the window, resting at a distance from the mansion. It is an instance of slow-dawning objectivity that conveys effectively Blake’s absolute isolation.

Quite Interesting Fact: The fan Blake meets in a local club is played by Harmony Korin who wrote the screenplay for Larry Clarke’s ‘Kids’.


A/V: Aimee Mann – ‘Wise Up’ / Magnolia

Set the scene: Parading medicine ball-sized cajones, director Paul Thomas Anderson arranges his lonely hearted L.A characters in a metaphysical sing-along. Each alone in their bed/kitchen/car the troubled Angelinos, strangers to one another, each take a line of Mann’s song.

Weirdest Bit: From ten-year-old child to dying septuagenarian to Juilanne Moore’s overdosing suicide attempt, everyone gets a turn on the mike.

Quite Interesting Fact: Anderson claims that the entire film was inspired by a single line from an Aimee Mann’s ‘Deathly’ -“Now that I’ve met you / Would you object to / Never seeing / Each other again”.

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