I didn’t even bother watching the Oscars this year because the only film in the running that I’d seen was Moneyball, so I was spared Billy Crystal’s blackface routine — which apparently wasn’t even the worst thing in the broadcast. Yikes. That said, Oscar season certainly shines a spotlight on the movies and so this particular EAP is the first of a two-parter, looking at songs used in movie soundtracks. While the next one will focus on small songs in small films (and boy do I have some doozies lined up for that one), this particular list looks at some songs that you may not remember from some films that you’ve likely seen.
Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – “Falling Slowly” [from Once]
The best place to start is with the only song that has ever won an Oscar that I actually like and listen to (sorry Randy Newman, your songs are fine in a Pixar movie, but they’re not on my iPod). Hansard and Irglova make beautiful music together — both on film and with their band the Swell Season. Once may be the smallest movie on this list, but if you haven’t seen it, I can’t recommend it enough — it’s a wistful love story and a pretty accurate depiction of the joys of creating music.
Sophie Zelmani – “Always You” [from My Best Friend’s Wedding]
I recently wrote about fellow Swede Halina Larsson on my blog, Ear To The Sound, and that’s what brought Zelmani’s work back to mind. This song was one of a dozen delicate folk-tinged pop songs on her self-titled debut and was tapped to feature in the rom-com behemoth My Best Friend’s Wedding back when Julia Roberts was at the height of her powers and Cameron Diaz was an unknown.
Lightning Seeds – “Change” [from Clueless]
Speaking of being at the height of power, in the mid-nineties Brit-pop was the sound, with bands like Blur and Oasis leading the charge and numerous smaller acts grabbing a share of the spotlight. Lightning Seeds was one such act and this joyfully exuberant track from their 1994 album Jollification was repurposed for Clueless. That film’s soundtrack also featured Radiohead’s acoustic version of “Fake Plastic Trees.” The music supervisor Amy Heckerling and co. hired really earned their money.
Smashing Pumpkins – “The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning” [from Batman Forever]
Let’s be honest, Batman Forever was a dud, but it was a “blockbuster” as well. That’s why this tune is on this list — that and the fact that it was re-used by the marketers for the adaptation of the graphic novel The Watchmen in a very effective trailer (I liked, but didn’t love The Watchmen movie). This tune is from 1995, the same year the Pumpkins released their epic Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and it carries some of the same ominous charging energy as “Zero” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.”
Burt Bacharach & The Posies – “What The World Needs Now Is Love” [from Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery]
While a decade-and-a-half has dimmed the star of Mike Myers considerably (though he is beloved by kids as Shrek, no right-minded adult is a Love Guru fan), time has done nothing to lessen the greatness of this and other songs from the soundtrack to the first Austin Powers movie. The conceit of course was bringing the songs of the swinging London era into the modern age and so here we have power-pop group the Posies paired with the godfather of pop music, Burt Bacharach on a version of one of Bacharach’s greatest tunes.
Simon & Garfunkel – “The Only Living Boy In New York” [from Garden State]
While it was tempting to go with one of the Shins tunes that Natalie Portman forces Zach Braff to listen to in Garden State, I decided instead to spotlight one of my favourite Simon & Garfunkel tunes (from Bridge Over Troubled Water, an album chock-a-block with amazing songs). This quiet, ennui-laden song was the perfect accompaniment to the quarry scene in the film.
AC/DC – “Thunderstruck” [from Iron Man 2]
While the second film in the Iron Man franchise didn’t match the exuberance and fun of the first (I’m not alone in thinking this) the one thing it absolutely did right was the choice of featuring nothing but AC/DC tunes in the soundtrack. Both the band and the film have an energy and attitude that pair up nicely.
Mott The Hoople – “All The Young Dudes” [from Juno]
Speaking of a perfect pairing, Jason Reitman and co. nailed it with the use of this David Bowie-penned, Mott The Hoople-performed tune in the scene where Jason Bateman’s character is trying to recapture his youth (or at least rebel against his actual age by acting immature) in Juno.
Jamie Foxx feat. Guru and Common – “Any Given Sunday” [from Any Given Sunday]
It was tempting to choose “Peace” by Paul Kelly as that’s the song that plays in “One inch at a time / six inches in front of your face” speech Al Pacino delivers in the locker room (an epic scene).I Instead I figured I’d go with the title track by one of the film’s stars featuring rhymes by the late Guru of Gang Starr and Common back when he wasn’t dissing Canada Dry Ginger Ale. Seriously, who disses that sweet stuff?
Ja Rule feat. Vita & 01 – “Furious” [from The Fast and the Furious]
The unofficial theme song to the entire Fast franchise (it was used in the original and has featured in the trailers for several of the sequels), “Furious” includes frequent Ja Rule collaborator Vita, who in the video inexplicably sports a Cleveland Indians cap. Watching that video makes me want to marathon the series.