Top Ten Lists are a very personal thing. Ask someone to list their top ten favorite songs or bands, books or movies and you may as well be asking to explore the depths of someone’s soul. I used to use such lists as litmus tests to either fall for or write off potential suitors. So I give a lot of latitude to readers who write in and either praise or berate any of my posted selections because I get that you’re passionate about what you love.
So with that, here’s my latest Top Ten List. I guarantee I’ll leave something out and you’ll think it’s blasphemous that I did so, but I may also surprise you with a choice you haven’t thought of before. In any event, happy reading, and here it is…
I must have seen this movie about a half-dozen times when it was out in theaters. Not only did it beautifully encapsulate for me what it was like to be in my twenties in the 90s, but also introduced the Seattle sound to a larger audience. Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone – many Seattle staples are featured on this soundtrack. And ya gotta love a story line where the couple starts making out to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘May This Be Love’ and ends fucking to Mudhoney’s ‘Overblown’. Well, that’s how they used to do it in my neighborhood at least.
Ms. Mix & Bitch Choice Track: Dyslexic Heart – Paul Westerberg
9. Pretty in Pink
If you’re going to pick the quintessential Eighties movie which encapsulated the look and sound of the day glo era, you have to go with a John Hughes movie and what better choice than Pretty in Pink? Especially this one, where Hughes go-to-it-girl, Molly Ringwald, supposedly helped pick much of the soundtrack. The music is everything right and everything wrong with the era. What’s right? The Psychedelic Furs, INXS, The Smiths and Suzanne Vega. Of course, being an Eighties film soundtrack, there’s the unfortunate hiccup of Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark’s ‘If You Leave’ – with possibly the most asinine lyrics ever written – and New Order’s ‘Shellshock’ (I never got the repetitious dance machination fascination there). Whadaya gonna do… at least WHAM! wasn’t featured.
Ms. Mix & Bitch’s Choice Track: Pretty in Pink – The Psychedelic Furs.
8. Saturday Night Fever
I still kinda chuckle to myself over this one, not because of the disco music (although many readers think I should keep that love on the down lo), but because by the time this movie came out, disco was on its last breath in New York. Then SNF is released and every suburban center across the country starts pawning off latin hustle lessons and disco ladies nights. Men were walking around in white polyester suits and women of every skin color were wearing heaps of baby blue eye shadow. Scary. But the music was – and still is – infectious, and is a perfect marriage of story and song.
Ms. Mix & Bitch’s Choice Track: More Than a Woman – The Bee Gees
7. The Harder They Come
I’ve said this before when Jimmy Cliff was nominated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but it bears repeating: this movie, this album brought reggae out of Jamaica to a worldwide audience. And while I don’t adore reggae music, you’ve got to give props when one record brings an entire genre to global consciousness. Now, that’s power.
Ms. Mix & Bitch Choice Track: Many Rivers to Cross – Jimmy Cliff
I’m not a big fan of musicals. In fact, I think it’s fucking annoying that right at the critical moment in a scene people break out into song. It’s just so fucking contrived. That said, Cabaret is absolute magic and Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles was pure perfection. Period. She’s so good that you actually rejoice every time it’s her turn to blow her pipes. There are other musicals I like, but this is the only one that’s art.
Ms. Mix & Bitch’s Choice Track: Cabaret – Liza Minelli
5. Good Will Hunting
While most of the movie soundtracks highlight a time or musical genre in history, I put Good Will Hunting in my top ten for no other reason than it introduced us to the brilliance and artistry that was Elliott Smith. Listen to him and discover that just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean it’s not some of the most powerful music ever made.
Ms. Mix & Bitch’s Choice Track: Miss Misery – Elliott Smith
4. The Godfather
Unlike many film aficionados, I don’t pay a lot of attention to musical scores in film. That doesn’t mean I discount their importance to creating mood and texture to the story, but I’m not getting my panties all wet over dressed up musak either.
Unless we’re talking about Nino Rota’s score for Francis Ford Coppola’s crime-family saga, The Godfather. You hear that horn blow and my reaction is visceral, Pavlovian every time. I just love it.
Here’s a little music history for you. Rota’s score was heavily favored to win the Oscar in 1972 until it was discovered that Rota had reworked themes from his Fortunella score from the Fifties. The nomination was promptly withdrawn, and what a shame because it was certainly Oscar worthy.
Ms. Mix & Bitch’s Choice Track: As if you didn’t know.
3. Garden State
Now I know many of you have had it up to here with Zach Braff (he has become quite narcissistically annoying post-Garden State success), but like it or not he made an incredible movie and compiled the seminal soundtrack for our generation. Which is ironic to me because he found the musical voice for Generation X in the most typical way anyone of X accomplishes anything – by not trying at all. Braff’s only goal was to take the songs which spoke to him and create a moment in time – unlike so many others whose primary goal was to define a generation yet fell embarrassingly short (think Reality Bites). For me, having others discover bands such as The Shins and Frou Frou re-established my belief that good music will always find a way to be heard…something I need to hold onto in a time and place where music has become yet another extension of corporate branding. Braff proved that the heart and soul of music is far from dead, it just takes more effort to find it.
Ms. Mix & Bitch’s Choice Track: Such Great Heights – Iron and Wine.
Arranger Danny Boyle’s screen interpretation of Irvine Welsh’s novel has often been called ‘the Clockwork Orange of the Nineties – a movie which redefined the face of modern British cinema, leaving an indelible impression upon contemporary youth culture’. Essential to the film’s success was the frenetically organized soundtrack which perfectly embodied the film’s outsider mystic. Listening to the CD is like watching the entire movie in your head, from Iggy Pop’s frenetic ‘Lust For Life’ (the opening high-street chase sequence), through the ironic melancholy of Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ (Renton’s heroin overdose), to the blood-pumping climax of Underworld’s chanting heartbeat ‘Born Slippy’ (our anti-hero’s gleeful escape). Brilliant.
Ms. Mix & Bitch’s Choice Track: Deep Blue Day – Brian Eno
1. The Graduate
Before there was Garden State or Pulp Fiction or Trainspotting or frankly any of those pairing narrative voice and music soundtrack, there was introduction of the postmodern perspective through the lens and musicality of Mike Nichols. Rock & roll had seeped into movies by 1967, but most of those films were concert flicks or Elvis embarrassments. All that changed with Mike Nichols’ gently satiric swipe at the establishment and the emerging counterculture. Nichols’ use of old and new Simon & Garfunkel songs was ingenious: Cue ”The Sound of Silence” as Benjamin rides a moving walkway to his uncertain future or ”Scarborough Fair” as his romantic dreams crumble. Even though half of it is devoted to a mood-music score, this landmark introduced ”youth music” to grown-ups’ movies, the reverberations of which are still being felt.
Ms. Mix & Bitch’s Choice Track: Sounds of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel