Music makes movies memorable

One of my regular writing gigs is a weekly post on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page. I write up a series of posts - and every 12 weeks or so I change, new theme, new topic. Once the series is done I load them all up to the Off The Tracks site and then I'm free to keep adding to them with time. You might remember I told you all about The Worst - which was in fact not one single worst thing, but a series of music-related worst experiences, in fact I had to update The Worst rather swiftly after - and there'll be more posts in that series I'm sure.

Before that it was The Best Gigs I've Ever Seen, before that it was about revisiting Great Kiwi albums and it all started with tearing apart a few "Classic" Albums.

So I've just finished off the latest series - Movies of My Life; I opened by asking about favourite movies, what makes a favourite movie, that sort of thing... but what I realised as the series was happening is that almost every single movie I thought of - and it was about movies I'd watched more than once, movies I felt compelled to revisit, sometimes regularly - had a music component, was music-related, or it was something about the soundtrack that drew me back to the film. I've written about movie soundtracks often, I keep coming back to the score being a huge part of films for me; even the absence of score can be a huge part of a film experience for me.

And so it was as I rolled through the Movies of My Life series. As with the other weekly Phantom write-ups I thought I'd share them here for any Blog On The Tracks readers to check out. And then we can talk about the Movies of Your Life - the films that you're drawn back to, whether music documentaries or biopics, and if, in the case of narrative/fictional films it's still, in some cases, the music that serves as a reason for you to go back to the film.

I've just reviewed a new Daniel Lanois collection, ostensibly it's the soundtrack to Billy Bob Thornton's film, Sling Blade. The original score - a favourite of mine, possibly my all-time favourite $1 bargain bin CD! - has long been out of print. So Lanois has put together a new version featuring off-cuts, a few pieces written for the film that weren't used in the final cut. Listening to this music is all the reminder I need of that film. I loved the movie but I'm not sure I ever need to see it again. Some of my all-time favourite films are movies I never end up returning to. One watch is sometimes enough. But if I do return to Sling Blade it'll be because of Lanois' music - because of reviewing this new version of the film's score. I loved Billy Bob's performance, his writing and directing too. The character of Karl Childers is there in my mind - in part due to that wonderful score. Dwight Yoakam was great in the picture too, I remember. Anyway, perhaps, after another watch that'll be a future film to add to the Movies of My Life file. But, again, it will be because of the music.

So here is the series so far.

1. What are the films of your life?   [introduction to the series]

2. Grizzly Man - the reason I wanted to see this film was because of Richard Thompson's soundtrack. I love the film for a bunch of reasons outside of that, but the music is certainly the reason I arrived at the film.

3. The Proposition - the fact that the film was written by Nick Cave was the draw card. His score was another important part of it, and of going in for return viewings.

4. The Place Beyond The Pines - again, it was the score that sold me on this film, I hadn't heard it before seeing the film, I held off until after, but knowing that it was by Mike Patton was intriguing to me. I knew the director's other work, liked the actors involved and saw the trailer; all reasons to want to see the film. But it was wanting to see Patton's score as part of the film that provided the impetus.

5. Bad Boy Bubby - I couldn't tell you that music sent me to this film but there is a music component; specifically a clever comment on pop-culture and Warhol's much quoted '15 minutes of fame'. I'd be lying if I said that was the main reason for returning to this film though - to begin with it was about the shock of it as something new; about watching it with the uninitiated.

6. Crossroads - This was the film I watched the most as a teenager. And it was, of course, all about the music.

7. The Wedding Singer - I guess you'd call it a guilty pleasure, though I have no shame in admitting that I love this film. I don't think I could watch Adam Sandler in anything else, but I enjoy this. All music I grew up with I's a bit like going to a reunion or theme-party without actually having to go.

8. They Live - a big part of loving John Carpenter films for me is knowing how involved he is in all parts of the process including writing the scores to a lot of his films. I arrived at this because I was a pro-wrestling fan, loved Rowdy Roddy Piper. I stayed for many reasons - the way you should with John Carpenter films.

9. Year of The Horse - it might not be the Neil Young concert film/doco you're supposed to rave about but it's the one I love the most.

10. Nacho Libre - no music connection here really. I mean, sure, Jack Black is a musician, kinda. And he often sings in his films, including this one. But that would be a tenuous link. I like this film because I thought it was great, really funny and so off-beat. And so many people appeared to hate it. I found that intriguing. I reckon it's a virtuoso comic performance.

11. Shihad: Beautiful Machine - I had an advance screener of this film, to write a review for the Dominion Post. I watched it three or four times in a week. And then on from there. I think it's one of the very best music docos I've seen - and like the very best music docos it's almost irrelevant that it's about music. It's about the story of the people involved. In this case they just happen to be musicians.

12. This Boy's Life - the film's soundtrack has played a big part in keeping this movie alive for me. A great film too.

So, that's the Movies of My Life - for now. Obviously there are so many great films to think about including, but I'm curious to know, if you were to start a similar list, if you'd include many music-related films? Or whether music is ever the trigger for you with a film? Can a soundtrack, or knowing who a soundtrack has been created by be the reason you attend (or re-watch) a film? What are some of the movies of your life?

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