Soundtrack Sunday

Hopefully a series I can continue each Sunday, wherein I share some of my favourite music from my favourite films, television etc.

Magnolia is one of those somewhat pretentious films where separate lives culminate in one big supposedly profound conclusion. PT Anderson does a good job of it, though. I didn’t find the end particularly profound, simply quirky. What I particularly liked about this film was the way the characters’ emotions were displayed so realistically and affectingly. Due credit also goes to the cast for their phenomenal performances (though these are all known established actors so there’s little surprise there). What really tied the characters emotions together was the soundtrack. At one point, in their darkest hour, the characters all sit alone and sing along to Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up.” Though I think the strongest song in the soundtrack is probably “Save Me,” “Wise Up” is used constructively at the moment of Epiphany or realisation for each struggling character.

Aimee Mann – Wise Up [buy]

Jon Brion also contributed to the score music for Magnolia. This guy really gets around. He did a strong composition for Punch-Drunk Love. In this, another PT Anderson film, a simple love story is told in a peculiar and unique way. Kudos to Adam Sandler who shows he can play serious roles and isn’t half as annoying when he does. What stands out with this soundtrack is its understatedness. Brion doesn’t overload his scores with a multitude of sound, he tends to rotate around one or two tunes that crop up throughout the film. This isn’t particularly new for a scorist, but Brion has a knack for conceptualising the core intentions of the director and enhancing them. I love the way he uses the song “He Needs Me,” which is a song Olive sings to her love, Popeye in the original series, to represent the cutesiness of the relationship focussed on from beginning to end. But my favourite song is the climactic “Here We Go,” which hints at the adrenalin rush one gets when a relationship is blossoming.

Jon Brion – Here We Go [buy]

I’ll continue on with Jon Brion’s influence, since his work is so prevalent in the world of soundtracks. In what was my favourite film of 2004, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry focuses on the life of a man grappling with the break up from his girlfriend. When she fails to recognise him one day and he learns she has gone to a special clinic and erased her memories of him, he determines to do the same. What we see is the memories as they’re being erased. The beauty of this film is that even though this is classed by some as a “romantic comedy” it’s not just about the translucency of “couple” relationships but all. In an exploration of the strength and fragility of relationships and their vulnerability to human behaviour, Gondry really excites the audience to “fight” for the maintenance of the characters’ memories, and reveals the utter destruction beyond the decision to erase memories to ease the pain.
These two songs (one a score piece from Brion that crops up throughout the film, the other a remarkable cover by Beck) are my favourite pieces from the film. I particularly like the clarity given in the lyrics for “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime.”

Jon Brion – Peer Pressure
Beck – Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime [buy]

Somersault wasn’t the best film I’d ever seen. Directed by an Australian, Cate Shortland, we watch as a girl runs away from home and struggles with the tumultuous loneliness brought on oneself through selfdestructive behaviour. It’s ultimately about the need for others’ forgiveness, even if you’ve buried yourself under guilt and grief. Actually, I don’t know if this was intended by the director and if it had’ve been about this at the core I probably would have enjoyed it more.
My main problem with this film was that at times I felt it was boring and pretentious. However, Shortland chose the scenery and music well and it pays off watching this film just to see the beautiful Blue Mountains. The sad soft soundtrack caters to the beauty embedded in the film.

Decoder Ring – Somersault [buy]

Of course I can’t leave you on such a depressing note. My favourite film of all time is Donnie Darko. I’m not entirely sure what it’s about, other than to perhaps say it’s one of the most unique films I’ve ever seen. It’s funny, sad, scary, exciting… It’s about time travel, growing up, fate, the contradiction of life… And well, in saying that I still haven’t done it justice. But for some reason (and I’m sure there is a reason if you pick away at the film) the film is set in the 80s so we get a soundtrack of songs that have lasted through the 80s and can still be appreciated now. And no, this doesn’t include Ciny Lauper (whose songs should only really be played at 80s dance parties). Tears for Fears seem to sit perfectly in this film. We have the popular cover of their song “Mad World,” performed by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules. But I also really, for the first time, got into the song “Head over Heels.”

Tears for Fears – Head over Heels [buy]

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