This is the next entry in a series from early last year that looks at the use of “needle dropped” songs, many of them popular tunes, in movies. Specifically, in more than one. Yet they are not officially considered part of a film’s score. A score consists of those orchestral, choral, or instrumental pieces some consider background music. Both music forms are equally utilized as cues by filmmakers for a specific purpose or to elicit certain reactions by the audience.
I’m fascinated by this in general, and movie soundtracks have long intrigued me. This convergence of the music and film arts I’ve spent much time toward. My wife can confirm this. Some (not all) movie soundtracks have incorporated those songs the director or music programmer showcased in their production along with the film’s score.
A few filmmakers have made it part of their work to incorporate well-known or popular song as a recurrent element. Why not? Music and movies make for a wonderful tandem, and I regularly watch out for them. As usual, I give credit to my blogging colleague over at Fog’s Movie Review for helping to ignite this series care of his excellent post, Tossin’ It Out There: What’s YOUR Favorite Song From a Movie?:
“… there’s a deep connection between the two arts, and sometimes that winds up creating an inseparable bond between the two in the viewer’s mind.”
Since I began the year with a tune identified with “The Chairman of the Board”, I’ll continue with another. This one written by the late pop/country singer, producer, and songwriter Lee Hazlewood. Though better known for his well-known 60s collaboration with the famed singer’s daughter (who also had an intriguing cover of the song), he wrote the noted and bluesy vocal, This Town, for the 1967 ‘Frank Sinatra and the World We Knew’ album.
The pounding brass and harmonica arrangement differs markedly from Nancy Sinatra’s more languid interpretation. Still, the lyrics made it unique. The tune was utilized in a pair of films from the 00s in comparable analog interpretations and like subject matter by two different directors (both previously chronicled in this series) and films.
Matchstick Men (2003)
One of director Ridley Scott’s more under appreciated works (see Morgan’s fine look at this from last week, if you doubt me), Matchstick Men used locale and music to diverting purposes in its tale of the wicked artistry practiced among the cons swimming in the city of Los Angeles. Composer Hans Zimmer’s needle dropped score slyly added to the mix via the popular songs selected. The Hazlewood tune is notable for its contradictory love-hate lyrics, and offered an at odds serenade to the story’s backdrop. “This town is a make-you town, Or a break-you town and bring-you-down town”, it’s used almost as a warning piece to the lead character, Nicholas Cage in a made-for role, if there ever was one. The throw-back number was given a nice treatment within the short sequence by Scott as it showcased the old turntable playing the tune in the background while phobic Roy Waller quirks were on display. That deception’s his métier, and his partners, was only augmented by the tune.
Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
In a similar vein, American producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and director Steven Soderbergh deployed This Town to meet a couple of ends in Ocean’s Thirteen. The final film in his crime caper trilogy. Since the initial segment was itself a remake of the Rat Pack’s most famous movie, Ocean’s 11 (1960), this song was indeed fitting since Frank Sinatra lead both that film and this song. That it would involve more con men was just a given. The tune staked out almost identical territory, this set in the glittering excesses of Las Vegas. Plus, Soderbergh (along with scorer David Holmes) used the song as a reversion piece from the first film for its culminating, congratulatory assembly of all involved. And it’s that which marked its primary difference with the above film. While duplicity was very much in play, ultimately that same guile and deceit got one of theirs back on his feet, instead of thrown. The tune in this case honored the camaraderie among these matchstick men.
The entire series can be found here.