Programmed by Noah Levine and Michael Martinez
For much of cinematic history, films relied on composed, usually orchestral, original scores. Though the scope, method, and elements of these scores have changed over the years, they have also in part given way to an alternate method of scoring films--the use of popular music. Once a rare addition to a 'normal' orchestra score, pop music has become increasingly ubiquitous in the films of today.
Popular music in films can be used for many purposes, from setting the mood to placing the film in a particular setting. It can be diegetic, anachronistic, essential, or none of these things, and its presence in a work can range from the occasional song to accompany the orchestrated score to a substitute for the score itself. However, what is probably the most effective use of pop music is the ability to capture the essence of a film's setting and to intimately join the movie with its soundtrack. This series focuses on films that use their soundtracks in such a way that they become essential to their films--they establish mood, flesh out setting, and create the overall aesthetic of the film itself.
(George Lucas, 1973) · George Lucas' love letter to his childhood, American Graffiti documents the last night of the summer of 1962 in Modesto, California. The film weaves together the experiences of the town's youth as they cruise around looking for things to do. Featuring greaser gangs, drag races, and a near-constant soundtrack of period-appropriate music, this coming-of-age masterpiece perfectly captures the mood of a country that would be torn apart by the end of the decade.
runtime: 110m format: 35mm
(Dennis Hopper, 1969) · Billy and Wyatt, aka director Dennis Hopper and writer Peter Fonda, are a pair of bikers traveling from Los Angeles to New Orleans with a large sum of money. A prime example of New Hollywood cinema, the film portrays all aspects of counterculture life in the late 1960s, from communal living to extensive drug use. In addition to its folk rock soundtrack and Kubrick-inspired cinematography, Easy Rider also features Jack Nicholson as lawyer George Hanson, a role which helped propel the actor to stardom.
runtime: 95m format: 35mm
(Martin Scorsese, 1990) · Goodfellas tells the real-life story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), a mafia member turned FBI informant. The film charts his rise and fall as he slowly moves from traditional gangster activity into the burgeoning cocaine business. His escapades culminate in his participation in the heist of $6 million from the Lufthansa vault at JFK Airport, at that time the largest cash robbery in American history. The passage of Hill's life is marked by a wide-ranging, period appropriate soundtrack.
runtime: 146m format: 35mm
(Gordon Parks Jr., 1972) · One of the defining entries in the "blaxploitation" genre, Super Fly stars Ron O'Neal as Youngblood Priest, a Harlem cocaine dealer who longs to "go straight." As he attempts to conduct the deal that will let him retire, Priest must contend with both the police and members of his own drug empire. Directed by Gordon Parks Jr., Super Fly is probably most well known for Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack, a pioneering soul and funk album that out-grossed the film itself.
runtime: 91m format: 35mm
(Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997) · Paul Thomas Anderson's second film, Boogie Nights, follows Eddie (Mark Wahlberg), a high school dropout who becomes swept up in the flourishing pornography industry of the late 1970s after meeting filmmaker Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds). Tracing the lives of Eddie (alias "Dirk Diggler"), Horner, and others through the industry's golden age and decline, Boogie Nights features outstanding performances from a huge cast of characters, all to the tune of nonstop, period-appropriate disco, soul, and pop music.
runtime: 155m format: 35mm
(Howard Deutch, 1986) · One of writer-director John Hughes's classic coming-of-age dramas, Pretty in Pink follows Andie (Molly Ringwald) in the weeks leading up to her senior prom. Though she originally plans to go alone, Andie soon meets and falls for the high-class Blane, much to the chagrin of her lifelong friend Duckie. Though it was named after a song by the Psychedelic Furs, Pretty in Pink also features '80s hits from bands such as New Order, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, and the Smiths.
runtime: 97m format: 35mm
(Cameron Crowe, 1992) · Named after the one-bedroom units of the apartment block in which it takes place, Singles explores the culture of Seattle's grunge scene in the early 1990s. The film focuses on the stressed-at-times relationships between two couples, as well as their friends and co-workers. Featuring music by contemporary grunge artists such as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam, Singles's soundtrack was by some accounts pivotal in the rise of grunge and alternative rock into American mainstream culture.
runtime: 99m format: 35mm
(Danny Boyle, 1996) · Marketed as "a British Pulp Fiction," Trainspotting follows a group of heroin addicts in the slums of Edinburgh. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor in his breakout role) wants to get clean, but his circle of friends makes it difficult. This pillar of 90s independent cinema brings to life the desperate worlds of its characters, showing exactly what they are willing to do to continue their habits. The film's soundtrack, itself a cultural phenomenon, combines older, drug-inspired music with then-contemporary Britpop and dance music.
runtime: 93m format: Digital
(Stephen Frears, 2000) · Set and filmed in 1990s-era Wicker Park, High Fidelity follows the life of Rob Gordon (John Cusak), a record store owner whose sense of musical elitism is matched only by his inability to commit to a relationship. Rob drifts through a life filled with skater punks, old exes, and constantly making "Top 5" lists with his employees. Complementing the taste of its main characters, High Fidelity's soundtrack is an eclectic mix of over 30 years of music, from everything from The Velvet Underground to Stevie Wonder to Stereolab.
runtime: 113m format: 35mm