My Top 5 (+1) Musical Movie Moments

From my previous post, one of the podcasts that brings me joy is the Deucecast; it's all about movies. I thought I was a film buff until I started following David Dollar's blog and podcast; he makes me look like a casual fan in comparison. It is satisfying to listen to someone so passionate about something I enjoy. Additionally, I don't get out to the theater as much as I used to, so David and his friends provide insight to movies that I probably will never have the time to see.

A few weeks ago, The Deucecast had an episode about their favorite musical moments from film - the best I have heard from them so far. Music is one topic over which I will gleefully geek out. They combined two of my favorite things and that awesome Deucecast episode, so here is the countdown of my favorite musical moments in cinema.

Honorable mention: Mariachi lessons from Desperado. Desperado is a dude's movie. Shootouts, explosions, guitar cases filled with guns, and Salma Hayek. The Chicano rock and Latin music infused soundtrack helps make this one of my all time favorite movies. The movie's premise is simple: a man on a quest for revenge. On the way to the Tarasco bar to confront his enemy's goons, El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) meets a kid who is struggling to play a guitar. El Mariachi provides some tips and a quick lesson to help the kid improve his technique. It is a tender moment in a hyperactive movie, a glimpse of kindness and compassion from a man preoccupied with violence.

Now ...

Five. "Step in Time" from Mary Poppins. If I am honest, I strongly dislike this movie. It and the Sound of Music are two of my mom's favorites; I cannot count how many times she forced me to watch them when I was growing up. Even though I cringe at numbers like "A Spoonful of Sugar" or "Let's Go Fly a Kite," there is a certain oddness to the rooftop dance routine and the pub-like quality of "Step in Time" that I do appreciate. It is the one scene from Mary Poppins that I find entertaining. It's a daft blend of absurdity and danger with a dark streak that suits my preference for scarier and more action filled movies.

Four: "Johnny B. Goode" from Back to the Future. Seeing Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travel back in time to meet his parents is the stuff that inspired the wildest dreams of my 80s era imagination. If I ever found myself transported back to a time when my parents were in high school and was thrust upon a stage at a school dance to play with the band, I would play a song they've never heard. It wouldn't be "Johnny B. Goode," perhaps "Wonderwall" from Oasis or "Today" from Smashing Pumpkins. But I would not be able to resist doing what Marty did: get a little carried away.

Three: "You Make My Dreams" from (500) Days of Summer. This quirky movie is both depressing and optimistic as it traverses the highs and lows of a dysfunctional romance. And somewhere in the middle of it, between the butterflies and the heartbreak, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has a moment of bliss. Along his walk to work, a tune from Hall & Oates plays. There is an extra pep in his step as he starts dancing. Then the crowd on the sidewalk dances with him. A little cartoon bird perches on his shoulder. He walks into his office; the elevator doors close to end the scene. Just about every guy I know has felt like this at some point in their lives. I know I have.

Two: “Sweet Caroline” from Beautiful Girls. This is my favorite movie ever. From the melancholic title song by Pete Droge to the bittersweet tone of the movie. So many memorable scenes: Rosie O'Donnell’s anti-pornography rant; Michael Rapaport’s creepy monologue about the power of a beautiful girl; the conversation between Timothy Hutton and Natalie Portman about love, The Wizard of Oz, and Winnie the Poo; the argument over champagne colored diamonds. It’s endlessly quotable and bits of dialog from this film have worked their way into my conversational repertoire. When I tuck my daughter into bed and give her a bedtime kiss, I tell her four words from this movie: “Good night sweet girl.” The one musical clip that stands out above the others is when the guys gathered at the bar convince Willie (Hutton) to play the piano and it devolves into a group sing-a-long of the Neil Diamond classic. Everyone is off key and reveling in the moment. This scene demonstrates the best that a good group of friends can offer.

One: I Want Joe's Money from Empire Records. Of course, a movie set in a record shop would be filled with great musical moments. Most of it centers around the store staff dancing and singing while cleaning or stocking shelves. Then there is Rory Cochrane’s banishment to the couch, Ethan Embry’s breaking of the fourth wall, Robin Tunney shaving her head, the shoplifter chase, and subsequent mockery of the shoplifter’s musical tastes. The soundtrack is as much a part of this story as much as the characters. You can see it in Embry starting a mosh pit during a Suicidal Tendencies song, The Cranberries playing in the background as AJ (Johnny Whitworth) confesses his feelings to Corey (Liv Tyler), or Renée Zellweger and Coyote Shivers singing Sugar High in a rooftop concert at the end. Most of the music is there for flavor but one song serves to further the plot. That is Flying Lizards cover of Money (That's What I Want). The song and an employee’s lyrical change prompt Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) to inform his staff of the impending transition to a big-box music retailer. Everything about this scene is the kind of thing we would do when I worked in a record store.

Those are my favorites. What are yours?

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