2014 Best Use of Source Music Nominees

This is an award that seeks to reward the use of a pre-existing piece of popular music within a single scene in a film.  The use of classical music will be shied away from, as will scenes involving original music composed for the film.  If there’s a unifying theme in this year’s nominees it was probably irony.  Many of the film’s use music that’s actually kind of cheesy in order to make a clever juxtaposition or enhance a joke.  In fact I only actually “like” one of these songs when it’s played outside of the context of these various scenes.

  • “Soak Up the Sun” by Sheryl Crow- Boyhood: The music of Boyhood is all about reminding audiences of what it’s like to experience pop culture at various different ages.  This particular song, which plays as the family is relocating to Huston, is a good reminder of what it was like to be stuck in the back seat of a car when your mother is in control of the radio.  The song is period appropriate (and yes, it pains me that a scene set in 2002 can be called “period appropriate”) but also works because it’s the ultimate “mom” song, a piece of easy listening that seems tailor made to appeal to women of a certain age who have stopped trying to be cool.  It also just works really well as music to accompany a scene of a car driving in the summer.
  • “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes- Guardian of the Galaxy: The music of Guardians of the Galaxy is based around one simple but usually effective notion: that playing cheesy music from the 70s over space opera scenes is really funny.  There were a couple of good choices, but the one I decided to run with was this piece that played towards the end of the prison escape scene (get it, “escape”) as the main character goes out of his way to get back his Walkman, which is being listened to by a green alien guard.  Something about imposing this goofy yacht rock on the galaxy makes me giggle uncontrollably.
  • “Firework” by Katey Perry- The Interview: I hate this song.  I really really really hate it… and yet this is actually the second time it’s shown up in the category (the first time being in 2012 for its use in Rust and Bone).  The song actually comes up three times in the film: once when it’s revealed that Kim Jong-Un listens to it while cruising in his tank, again when Franco’s character uses this information to trip up the dictator during the titular interview, and one final time right as Jong-Un is about to literally become a firework.
  • “Burning Down the House” by Talking Heads- Nymphomaniac: Nymphomaniac is both of a piece with Lars Von Trier’s last two films and also unlike them.  In general it’s livelier than Antichrist and Melancholia and the music tends less towards classical pieces and more towards rock and roll and popular music.  One of the more memorable comes when Talking Head’s “Burning Down the House” plays right as a Molotov cocktail ignites on a car.  In particular I was fond of the way the music also played during a bit where this scene is foreshadowed before it comes up chronologically and the music really signals that it’s going to be a scene worth looking forward to.
  • “Pretty Girl Rock” by Keri Hilson- The Rover: If you aren’t familiar with “Pretty Girl Rock” then congratulations, you’ve made better decisions in life than I have.  It’s one of the most vapid bits of airheaded songwriting ever imposed on the American public and it’s pretty much the last song you’d expect to hear in a moody post-apocalyptic Australian revenge movie about a stone cold killer hell bent on retrieving his car.  The song, which plays just as two badass characters are walking into the sunset in cool as fuck fashion, isn’t just there for irony’s sake.  It’s quickly revealed that one of the characters is actually listening to the song on a radio and this moronic tune actually brings him to tears, not because of anything in the lyrics but because it reminds him of a bygone time when such frivolity existed.

And the Golden Stake Goes To…

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