The cavalcade of great scores this year did come at a bit of a price: there were very few good movies that were propelled by a source music soundtrack. By this I am of course referring to movies which use originally recorded music in order to accentuate various scenes. It’s an art that was mastered by people like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarentino, but filmmakers have been surprisingly disinterested this year, forcing me to pick some movies that are… not great. And as one final asterisk, this is all about the use of songs in a movie, it has nothing to do with the actual soundtrack albums.
- 127 Hours: Musically, this is an odd film in that its musical engine is about 50% score and 50% source music and I think both of these contribute equally to the film. I’ve already discussed the film’s opening sequence set to Free Blood, and I had Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day” stuck in my head for days after I saw the film. As the film goes on we get treated to catchy oddities like “Ça Plane Pour Moi” (a French surf punk song) and atmospheric tracks like Sigur Ros’ “Festival.” It’s all topped off by the Oscar nominated Dido track “If I Rise.”
- The Fighter: Nothing in the movies Three Kings or I Heart Huckabees lead me to believe that David O. Russell was the kind of music geek who would put together a rock soundtrack like this, but low and behold here we have it. This is loaded with classic rockers that must have cost a fortune to licence. The Led Zeppelin song alone must have cost more than Mellissa Leo’s salary, but they still had money left over to pay The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wang Chung, and Whitesnake among others. Not to mention that song by The Heavy that I praised.
- Get Him to the Greek: The heart of the music in this movie are the comedic rock songs performed by Aldus Snow’s band Infant Sorrow. Those songs are… interesting… but what I’m really looking at there are the various original rock songs from elsewhere in the soundtrack like The Rolling Stone’s “Rocks Off” or The Sex Pistol’s “Anarchy in the UK” (played appropriately during some English debauchery). It’s almost like they were trying to hearken back to a time when rock stars were still relevant.
- Hot Tub Time Machine: There are many opinions about Hot Tub Time Machine: some called it “stupid,” others called it “very stupid,” others called it just plain bad. I probably agree with all of that, in fact I might go so far as to call it the worst movie I saw last year, but one thing it does pretty well is loading itself to the brim with songs that are “totally eighties.” All of those quintessentially eighties songs seem to pop up here and they don’t seem particularly interested in choosing un-predictable songs. Still all the tracks in here must have cost some coin and I guess I appreciate the quantity if nothing else.
- Kick-Ass: Most soundtracks stick pretty closely to a particular aesthetic, but this one skews more towards a particular attitude. There are a number of neat little touches like the “Banana Splits” remix that plays in Hit Girl’s slaughter, or the Gnarls Barkley track that Kick-Ass and Red mist listen to while cruising in a car. The track I’m really glad I was introduced to was “Stand Up” by The Prodigy, which seemed to really fit the movie in a very appealing way.