This is and always has been a really weird category. Had the movies Once and Black Snake Moan not come out the year of the initial Golden Stakes award there’s a good chance that I never would have thought to make it a category. Basically it’s a category that looks at scenes where characters are performing music on screen, and the award is for the scene rather than necessarily the quality of the music. Every year I worry that I won’t find five nominees I’m happy with and every year I actually do end up with a lineup I’m happy with. Go figure.
- “Roll Jordan Roll”- 12 Years a Slave: In 12 Years a Slave we see religion at its worst and we see it as its best. We see it at its worst at the William Ford’s plantation, where it’s used to justify all sorts of cruelty, and we see it at its best in this scene where it gives people hope (perhaps unfounded hope) when they’re in a desperate situation. In the scene the slaves are singing a traditional spiritual and Solomon only reluctantly begins to sing along before suddenly taking to the song in a very heartfelt way. The scene depicts both an important shift in attitude for the character and also acts as a rebuke for a similarly titled but obscenely offensive song that’s sung earlier by the Paul Dano character.
- “Please Mr. Kennedy” – Inside Llewyn Davis: In this scene in Inside Llewyn Davis you really get to see the process of collaborative studio creativity. We see the characters warming up in some peculiar ways (something about puh-puh-puhs?) before the characters finally launch into this weird little song that is both kind of dumb and also kind of catchy. The key to the scene is of course Adam Driver, whose weird chants make the song both funny and also intriguing.
- Marcus’ Rap – Short Term 12: Few of the young people at the foster care facility in the film Short Term 12 are in a good place, but the character who seems to be in the worst place is a guy named Marcus who’s about to age out of the facility and faces an uncertain future. He lets out all his frustrations in this scene where he recites a rap song he wrote to one of his caretakers. He’s not overly talented and the song isn’t exactly expertly written, but that’s not really the point. What matters is that he manages to express his personal frustrations in a way that doesn’t shatter the “hard” exterior that he’s built.
- Piano Duet – Stoker: I wasn’t a huge fan of Stoker, but I did like this scene where India Stoker is playing a piece on the piano when her uncle Charlie suddenly appears behind her and starts playing along with her. They play a nifty little duet but there’s also something rather uncomfortable about the way that he’s forcing himself into her activity. It reflects the character’s larger discomfort with the way that this uncle has butted into her life even if he’s ostensibly helping her in a number of ways.
- “Goldfinger” – The Wolf of Wall Street: There’s a scene in The Wolf of Wall Street where Jordan Belfort says “when you sail on a boat fit for a bond villain, sometimes you need to play the part.” It’s a sentiment that he’s even warped enough to bring to his wedding night where he’s apparently asked the wedding singer (played by Sharon Jones) to sing this theme to the Bond film of the same name. In this context the song’s lyrical content like “Pretty girl, beware of his heart of gold / This heart is cold” and “Beckons you to enter his web of sin” take on a new context.