Top 10 Musical Moments of All Time

While we still haven’t quite sorted out
how to get around the music bots for a full fledged episode on film scores, we’re going to take a stab
at the next closest thing. From rap battles to sing alongs,
to boom box blasts, these are our picks for the ten best
uses of music in movies of all time. (Sound)
The official term for the kind of music we’re looking
at on this list is diegetic, that which originates from
inside the world of the story. And while that usually
excludes soundtracks, sometimes films cleverly embed
them in the scene itself. There’s a musician or a record player or
a jukebox in the world that just so happens to play exactly the right music
to orchestrate what’s about to come next. Like how the post apocalyptic dictator
has brought along a crazy dangling guitar player for this exact purpose. Or how the Shaun of the Dead jukebox
magically seems to sync up perfectly to every move that the story makes. And while musicals are an entire study in,
are they or aren’t they diegetic, we decided to set them aside from
this list for a future installment. But, other great examples that toe
this line include the first heist in Baby Driver, the alien opera
singer in the Fifth Element. The household jazz quartet from
the Triplets of Bellville, and this surreal drummer from Birdman. But if there’s one use of music that most
perfectly scores a scene from within it, it’s gotta be this one from Hero. (Music) Where a typical non-diegetic soundtrack
is essentially an external comment on the action that’s taking place. The diegetic soundtrack is like
a scene commenting on itself. The music ceases to be the filmmaker’s
opinion about the world and instead becomes an utterance by and of it. And this scene takes
that idea even further, because not only is this
old man scoring a fight, he’s scoring a fight that’s actually
taking place inside their heads. And then to take it another step beyond
that, this is all embedded an extra narrative layer deeper within an untrue
story being told to mislead the king. So it’s a made-up story about an imaginary
fight set to in-universe music. All of it simply a re-enactment and
musicalization of Nameless’s inner world. (Sound) Of course on the other side of
the coin from scene that scores itself perfectly, is scene that ironically scores
itself in exactly the opposite way from what you would expect. This is called contrapuntal scoring, where
the film makers pick a soundtrack that’s particularly oppositional to
what’s happening in a scene. It imbues the film with a sense of
irony towards its subject matter. There’s an uncanniness between the story
and how it’s being told to us. But when the contrapuntal score comes
from within the world of the story, it is no longer the perspective
of the film that’s weird and off. It signals to us a perversion
of tone inside the characters or the world they inhabit. Consider Reservoir Dogs’ famous
Stuck in the Middle With You. Or American Psycho’s Hip to beSquare,
or Boogie Nights’ Jessie’s Girl, or Blue Velvet’s In Dreams. Life of Brian plays it for laughs while the Girl with
the Dragon Tattoo plays it for terror. But we think none of them do it quite as well as
Full Metal Jacket’s Mickey Mouse March. (Music) Stanley Kubrick is kind of the master
of the contrapuntal score. He uses it in 2001: A Space Odyssey,
in A Clockwork Orange, but never quite as eerily as here. Probably because it never
hits quite as close to home. 2001 gives us the musical perversion
of an imaginary computer, and Clockwork shows us the musical sadism
of an already hard to believe sadist. But Full Metal Jacket’s turn is something
far more believable and sadly familiar. This playful, innocent, child-like tune
chanted in war-like cadence as soldiers march through the burning
wreckage of Vietnam. Thoroughly blurs the line between boys and
men, between human beings and war machines. And perfectly highlights the inhuman split
that Stanley Kubrick thinks might occur in the life of a soldier. (Sound)
Beyond tone, music placement in a scene can also
help us get to know a character. And choosing music diegetically can
often be a stronger choice than just a soundtrack. Because it’s not just
a comment on the character, but a comment on the character
by that character. It’s how they feel about themselves. The best songs attached to characters
include M’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, Guardian of
the Galaxy’s Come and Get Your Love, Jessica Rabbit’s Why Don’t You Do Right,
and Willy Wonka’s Pure Imagination. However, for our favorite pic of this ilk,
we’re very, very partial to the Clash at Demonhead’s performance of Black Sheep
in Scott Pilgrim vs the World. (Music)>>That guy on bass- Yeah?
>>That’s Todd.>>I know! Yeah?
>>You know? Yeah! No.
>>Sure, we’ve met envy briefly before, but this is really her first
appearance in full storied form. And is there a better imaginable way
to introduce not only the heart-rending ex-girlfriend, but also her new boyfriend
slash ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend? Metric’s original song is awesome,
but Brie Larson’s cover, while not necessarily better,
is definitely the perfect thing here. Combine that with one of the most cleverly
staged and shot concert sequences that somehow manages to actually use our pet
peeve of split screen brilliantly and you’ve got yourself some fans. (Sound) Scott Pilgrim and all enterprising singles at karaoke
bars know more than most that diegetic music can also be an extraordinary
thing to bond over romantically. There’s something about music,
especially when participating in it, that really allows the emotions
to come to the fore. So on film that’s Johnny and June flirting
on stage over It Ain’t Me Babe, or lip syncing along to Love is
Strange in Dirty Dancing. Or Pulp Fiction twisting
to You Never Can Tell. It’s composing a ukulele
tune with a computer in Her. Or Blue Valentine’s Street Side Serenade,
Before Sunrise’s Listening Booth, Before Sunset’s Nina Simone’s seduction,
or Call Me by Your Name’s Bach flirtation. But our top pic for charm, it’s the pink haired karaoke
scene from Lost in Translation. (Music) This scene is a pretty important lesson
in how there really is no substitute for real chemistry. You cannot fake that kind of connection or
that kind of fun. And Johansson and Murray so beautifully
capture the kind of bittersweet, push and pull, will they, won’t they, can’t they
dynamic in this room full of other people where they’re really only
there with each other. And the music provides not
only the perfect conduit, but also just enough sense of play
to keep the distance safe. The music isn’t just
an expression of feelings, it’s a performance of
an expression of feelings. It’s a make believe opportunity for
them to try the feelings on for size without having to own them. Like an emotional pink wig and it allows the entire subtext of this
scene to come brilliantly to life. (Sound) But romance isn’t the only kind
of bonding that can happen to a tune, shared music breaks emotional
icebergs of all kinds. From a car full of fools belting Bohemian
Rhapsody in Wayne’s World to a group of old friends who Ain’t Too Proud To Beg
in The Big Chill. From a beautiful moment between man and child in Grosse Pointe Blank to
the climax of Under Pressure. To our pick for number six, the
reconnection of an entire band on their tour bus to the irresistible charm of
Elton John’s Tiny Dancer in Almost Famous. (Music) This one here is a diegetic trick,
appearing first as if it were soundtrack before the gradual revelation that
it is actually playing on the bus. As if the melancholy tone of the film
infects the story itself until the story and
storytelling are finally in alignment. And that’s what this
scene is really about. A gradual piece-wise alignment of a ragtag
band of separate individuals into a unit. To the tune of an unstoppable ear worm
that the members literally cannot help but connect over. And even as the scene teases us with
shots of Russel as the last and toughest holdout, it builds itself to a perfect
climax where he can’t resist any longer. And finally, at the peak of the brilliant
chorus, rejoins the group in song. (Sound) We want to take a brief stop
halfway through our musical tour here to look at another kind of movie music that
doesn’t quite demand a category of its own but that wouldn’t feel right to leave out. Music playing for no real reason other
than the fact that music is great. And sometimes it’s just
nice to listen to it. These are Life Aquatic’s French Bowie
covers, Tropic Thunder’s Tom Cruise dance. But if we’re going to take
a moment here to jam for the sake of jamming,
it’s gotta be the literal intermission accordion cover of
Let My Baby Ride from Holy Motors. (Music) But okay, back to the numbers. Next up, we’re looking at all the times
movie characters use music to express their sense of celebration. Some of the best come in the form of Jack
Black’s Let’s Get It On in High Fidelity. Marty McFly’s Johnny Be Good
in Back To The Future. Ferris Bueller’s Twist and Shout, 500
Days Of Summer’s Dreams Coming True, and Bridesmaid’s Wilson Phillips sing along. However if there’s a moment of musical
celebration we think can’t be beat, it’s gotta be the Palace Ballroom
performance of Everybody Needs Somebody To Love
by the Blues Brothers. (Music)
Surrounded by state troopers, the Blues Brothers cannot stop that
irrepressible charisma that makes them who they are. It’s a victory lap in front of a sold-out
crowd of the successful fundraiser the brothers have spent all movie so
far trying to pull off. Of course, we probably could’ve picked
most of the Blues Brothers’ songs for this track. They’re almost all
a celebration of some kind. That’s kind of their
relationship with music. Two men on a mission from God
imbued with the power of song. We just like this one best. (Applause)
>>Emotional expression is pretty much what music is best at, so there’s no lack
of scenes that make creative use of it. Of course that emotion
isn’t always celebratory. There’s also grief in a Welsh Lullaby,
remorse in Pippin’s song, childishness in Pretty Girl Rock,
loneliness in Wise Up. Regret in New York New York,
and deep sorrow in Llorando. But the one we just can’t get out
of heads came so very recently. A desperate, terrified need for comfort in I’ve Never Been To Me from
last year’s You Were Never Really Here. (Music) You Were Never Really Here is one of
the best movies we’ve ever seen that will absolutely wreck your entire day. And we were originally turned onto
it by one of our viewers here. So a big thank you to Spencer for
totally crushing our souls. But amidst its many, many brilliant
moments that put you deep inside the head of a thoroughly wounded man. Is this moment here that finds our hero
lying on the floor with the man he’s just mortally wounded. As they sing an absurdly contrapuntal
song that never ends up feeling absurd, only just very, very sad. And we think that’s because this
counter point here between music and scenario is less about
reveling in the irony. Than in acknowledging that the hardness
of hate and the weakness of vulnerability are not opposite ends of the spectrum but
actually the closest of bed fellows. And for a moment,
this song lets us see right behind it. (Sound) One step up from expression
is outright communication, where the message takes the form of music. The classic example here is Say Anything’s
boombox blasting In Your Eyes through the window, but there’s so many more. A message of patriotism in Casablanca’s
La Marseillaise, of revolution in V for Vendetta’s 1812 Overture. Of control in
Ex Machina’s Get Down Saturday Night. Of mother’s presence in Que sera,
sera from The Man Who Knew Too Much. And of weaponized terror in the form of
Ride of the Valkyries from Apocalypse Now. But for our number three pick, our
favorite use of music as a message goes to the Marriage of Figaro from
The Shawshank Redemption. (Music) Now this might not immediately
seem like an obvious candidate for music as a message. At first glance we quickly lumped it in
with the emotional crowd because it is after all such an emotional moment and
piece. But if you break down its
function in the scene, and especially the reason why Andy is playing
it, we think the message becomes clear. Hope, a reminder to all the prisoners in
Shawshank that there is still beauty and freedom in the world,
even if they are kept apart from it. And a secondary message too,
one embedded in the very act of playing, that sometimes hope is
worth rebelling for.>>Dufresne, Dufresne, can you let me out? (Sound)
>>Narrowing in on the finish, one of our favorite ways diegetic music
can be used in film is as a motif. In movies, this repetition allows pieces
of music to quickly accumulate layer upon layer of meaning. Each one building upon the last until
the piece takes on massive symbolic significance. This can build up in a grading repetition,
as in Ground Hog Day’s I Got You Babe. Or get twisted from one
thing into another, as Ludwig Van’s 9th Symphony
from a Clockwork Orange. It can become a driving force as with
O’ Brother Where Art Thou’s Man of Constant Sorrow. Or be refracted in all manner of different
incarnations as in The Long Goodbye. Inside Llewyn Davis attaches immense
meaning to Fare Thee Well and then brings it to a crushing climax. But for our favorite music as motif,
we think that California Dreamin in Chungking Express is
about as good as it gets. (Music)>>It is so hard to explain here the power
of California Dreamin in Wong Kar-Wai’s brilliant tale of loss and longing. Because it really is an effort
of build up and accumulation. The song is used a total of eight times
throughout the latter half of his and for so many different reasons. As a character introduction, an obstacle,
a gag, an escape, a reminder, eventually even an annoyance. And then finally, beautifully, magically, as the most touching accidental
evidence of love you could imagine. It really is one of the most spectacular
long games in movie music history. And finally in our top slot, we want to
take a special look at those moments where music becomes the conduit for
the drama that’s taking place. Where the conflict of a scene is played
out, not just to music, but through music. Where all the emotional subtext and
character motivation and wants and desires and obstacles and twists and turns are
being waged on the battlefield of song. Battles of the bands,
rap battles, guitar duels, but there are other nuanced
forms of it as well. There’s a much labored emotional awakening
of the shadow self that plays out on stage during
Black Swan’s Swan Lake performance. There’s a crying out against assailants
from behind the walls of the fort in the strings of a violin from The Alamo. There’s a late night duet sung between two
people who very much intend to kill each other in The Night of the Hunter. There’s an entire relationship that
plays out in a final performance from humiliation and betrayal to attack and
ultimately partnership in Whiplash. However, for our top pick,
we gotta give it to Amadeus.>>Start with the voices. Bassist first, second beat of the first-
>>Time, time?>>Common time, second beat of the first measure-
>>What is so fantastic about this clip is that Foreman
doesn’t shy away from the jargon and vernacular of an actual composer. And he doesn’t waste time to try
to explain it to us, either. Mozart speaks with the real
authority of a musical genius, and instead of us getting caught up
in the literal detail of it. We instead get to put all of our energy
into what’s happening beneath it all. A frenzy of creative energy on a deathbed. A jealous rival trying to keep up,
struggling to stay ahead, failing, eventually
giving into the master. And, as a reward, getting a chance
to participate in his mastery for one small moment in his small career. It is a rivalry over music,
played out through music. And out of it comes a spectacular
alchemy of a masterpiece that blurs from the diegetic to non-diegetic. Which is why we think it’s one of the best
uses of music in movies of all time. (Music) So what do you think? Disagree with any of our picks? Did we leave out any of your
favorite uses of music in film? Feel musically blue-balled by any of
the hundred songs we just played half of? Check out the link in the description
below to this episode’s special Spotify playlist, let us know how you
feel in the comments below. And be sure to subscribe for
more CineFix movie lists.

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