Although you might disagree if you recently paid $10 to see “The Hottie and the Nottie,” most movies aspire to be art. So does music, no matter how many Kid Rock songs you’ve been forced to endure. And when music and movies come together for that perfect match, well, those are the truly transcendent moments that touch an audience in the most powerful ways possible.
With the Oscars upon us once again, plenty of people will soon be going home with little gold men for “best” this and “lifetime-achievement” that. But what about the great moments in not-always-great movies that rocked our eyes and our ears? With that in mind, here are our favorite musical moments from the past year in film.
“Enchanted”: Ever wish that your life were a musical? Your dream came true, albeit for a moment, if you caught this blockbuster Disney flick. Standing in dreary Central Park, with jaded people all around, Princess Giselle broke through like a ray of sunshine by belting out a ditty called “That’s How You Know!” As everyone from the cops to random old people joined in on the Oscar-nominated tune, all Patrick Dempsey could do was stand in the middle of it all and wonder how he didn’t know the words. Next time you’re in a park, you know you’re gonna sing a few lines and see what happens.
“Resident Evil: Extinction”: This Milla Jovovich action flick began with an epic sequence that had Ali Larter, Oded Fehr and others triumphantly slaughtering the undead in a truly macabre road trip. As the trippy Iron Butterfly classic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” blared from the soundtrack, the group ran down zombies in the desert with monster trucks. Honestly, things couldn’t get any better — and as if to prove that point, the rest of the movie sucked.
“Juno”: It’s a flick driven by music, from Ellen Page’s love of Patti Smith to Jason Bateman’s dogged assertions that Mudhoney were underrated. But the movie hit an emotional peak in its final scene, as all the chaos and confusion went away and Juno and Bleeker finally got to sit down on a stoop and play their guitars. Taking turns with Kimya Dawson’s sweet “Anyone Else but You,” they put the cherry on top of their yummy treat. And as their voices flowed together so perfectly in a duet, you were left with the feeling that the formerly imperiled characters would make a good team for years to come.
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“Superbad”: Speaking of Michael Cera, who can forget his tuneless performance of the Guess Who classic “These Eyes,” as performed in front of a room full of inebriated older men who wanted to beat him up? Looking at the two musical scenes in his double-barreled 2007 hits, it reminds you again of the 19-year-old’s versatility. Sweet or sarcastic, he hits all the right notes.
“Rocket Science”: The Violent Femmes are a lot of things: weird, tuneful, uncompromising. But it wasn’t until this quirky flick came along that we started thinking of Gordon Gano and his gang as therapeutic. During one of the film’s funnier moments, suburban stutterer Reece Thompson went to his friend’s house and found his parents incorporating an instrumental version of “Blister in the Sun” as marriage therapy. One thing’s for sure: This will be going down on our permanent record.
“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”: Unfortunately, this comedy spoof of films like “Ray” wasn’t nearly as funny as everyone hoped. It did reach a special moment of transcendence, however, when stars John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer stood next to each other onstage, straddled the microphone, and sang “Let’s Duet.” With entendre-riffic lyrics like “In my dreams you’re blowing me … some kisses” and “I just want to make out … what you’re saying,” it’s one of the only original songs to make our list, but most certainly the dirtiest.
“Grindhouse”: One thing’s for sure: From “Stuck in the Middle With You” to “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” Quentin Tarantino sure does know his music. That’s why it was no surprise that “Death Proof,” his half of last year’s B-movie homage, brought back the infectious beats of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich for a horrifying scene scored to their long-forgotten hit “Hold Tight!” It had all of us tapping our toes — except for the poor actress who soon found hers unattached from the rest of her body.
“Once”: Some are calling this Irish indie flick the best musical of the last several years, and with good reason. But the important thing to notice is that the songs are organic, performed by two musician characters who just happen to express themselves better in song. Never is this more evident than in the piano store, where actors Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova expressed their growing affections by touching the keys, rather than each other. Entitled “Falling Slowly,” the duet is up for an Oscar for Best Original Song this weekend. We hope people are finally done underestimating this sweet little gem.
“The Hitcher”: This remake of an ’80s slasher flick was directed by music-video maestro Dave Meyers, so it’s no wonder that it had trouble maintaining its momentum and had a nasty habit of overlooking huge plot holes. It also makes sense, however, that the flick would yield a mini-movie head-and-shoulders above the rest of it, scored to a kick-ass song. As the mysterious John Ryder (Sean Bean) came over the horizon in a black car, the first thump-thumps of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” began pumping out of the theater speakers. With effortless glee, he took out numerous cops and even a helicopter, finally capturing his prey. As the chorus repeatedly screamed “Help Me,” everything clicked into place horrifically, and beautifully.
“Into the Wild”: Although there are specific “songs” that Eddie Vedder composed for this Oscar-nominated Emile Hirsch drama, it is the overall film for which the Pearl Jam frontman should be commended. Working closely with director Sean Penn, the script left huge gaping holes (on purpose!) so Vedder’s music could fill in the blanks. The finished product is a primal, triumphant and ultimately tragic connection between voice and visual. It reminds us that if we ever wanted to drop out and head to Alaska, we’d make sure we at least brought along an iPod.
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