This is and always has been a strange category for me, one which looks at scenes which involve the life performance of a song by a character onscreen. The actual performance isn’t what I’m judging, in fact the music itself can be quite bad if that’s the intention, it’s the overall scene that I’m judging. The performance can take the form of anything from a song in a musical to a impromptu sing-along at a party, what matters is that the song contributes to an overall scene that makes for an important moment in a film.
- Bernie Sings – Bernie: I’m cheating a little bit here because I don’t really have a specific scene in mind here, but there were a number of scenes in Bernie where the titular character would begin singing in churches, at funerals, and as a part of community theater productions and they contribute greatly to the film. The guy looks like an absolute dork while he’s doing this and you begin to realize just how un-self-conscious the guys is. On top of that you do get a good idea of how his personality, strange as it may seem to us blue-state urbanites, would be completely charming to the older set in his East Texas small town. It’s a great twist on Jack Black’s usual comedic singing act.
- National Anthem – The Dark Knight Rises: If you saw the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises you probably heard this musical performance by a young child singing the national anthem at a football game. The song’s performance in this part of the film acts as a sort of symbol for how unprepared Gotham is for the “storm” that’s about to hit them. More importantly it sets up a neat little moment where Bane, evil person though he may be, is able to stop and recognize that the child has a beautiful voice.
- Accordion entr’acte – Holy Motors: In a film full of weird, random, and glorious moments, this was the weirdest, the most random, and the most glorious. Midway through the film the character we’re following enters a seemingly abandoned building and suddenly begins leading a small mostly accordion based band in a rendition of R.L. Burnside’s “Let My Baby Ride.” It comes out of nowhere, but it’s a joyous moment in a joyous film.
- I Dreamed a Dream – Les Misérables: There was only so much I could take of the music in Les Misérables, but there were definitely moments where I got sucked in. Anne Hathaway’s performance of the song “I Dreamed a Dream” is clearly a highlight in the film both musically and dramatically. Sung by a character while she is at her lowest point, this song ruthlessly tugs at the heartstrings and Hathaway does everything in her power to make stick the landing.
- Party Singalong – The Master: The one scene involving a musical performance this year which is sure to be loved by both The New York Times and Mrskin.com is this sequence in The Master where Lancaster Dodd starts singing some weird old song at a party and everyone starts singing along with him. Freddie Quell is not amused and uses the opportunity to start picturing all the women at the party naked. The scene manages to convey both the unself-aware dorkiness of Dodd and the hopeless perviness of Quell all at once.