Best soundtracks of the decade

Best soundtracks of the decade (photo)

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This past decade has been awash in both great and terrible soundtracks, with a preponderance of directors who have great musical taste but often apply it too liberally to their films. The music video, long fallen from prominence on TV, seems to have found it’s place on the big screen, with scenes written around songs now part of a formula. This isn’t always a bad thing, and some of the finest moments in film cannot be separated from the songs that accompany them. Some even become forever inseparable.

The more gratuitous examples are tiresome, even offensive. Some directors don’t know how to build a scene or earn the right to employ the song — they just slap it in there because it seems cool. In many cases the indispensable music supervisor did it for them. A best of list for the decade is sure to include some of these lesser moments but I’ve assembled a list of films whose soundtracks have risen above the pack. Keep in mind, this is not about films scores which is another beast entirely.

1. “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001)

I often think of Wes Anderson as the biggest asshole I’ve never met. Film after film, he (along with his music supe Randall Poster) selfishly claims more of the best songs ever written as his own. There they are, burned forever into his films, greats by The Rolling Stones, Nico, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Velvet Underground. He’s often the first to use them and, even when someone already has, he tends to do it better. Genius you can be jealous of. I’ve grown a bit tired of the constant song barrage he employs but glance back with me to “The Royal Tenenbaums,” before all was overplayed out. That moment with Margot coming off the bus… it still almost makes me weep, it’s so beautiful. Elliot Smith too.

2. “Adventureland” (2009)

Greg Mottola’s ’80s amusement park/graduate love story has not yet had the chance to stand the test of time, but it will. Hands down the best soundtrack of 2009 and possibly the best use of The Velvet Underground in the history of film. Even Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” was a good time.

3. “Children of Men” (2006)

It’s hard to stand back and separate a great soundtrack from a great film, and it may be that this is so high on the list because I’m swayed by the quality of Alfonso Cuarón’s filmmaking, Michael Caine and Deep Purple. Add some Donovan, Radiohead, Lennon, that wispy Franco Battiato “Ruby Tuesday” cover and King Crimson and I think you have one of the most bad-ass soundtracks of the Naughts.

4. “Breakfast on Pluto” (2005)

I was so smitten with Kitten that I had to check myself when I left the theater after seeing this Neil Jordan fun fest. You know, whistle at a couple broads on the street on my way to give my girlfriend a pearl necklace. I was even more impressed with the songcraft of Harry Nilsson, Dusty Springfield and T-Rex. Not the first time, “Children of the Revolution” was employed (see “Billy Elliot” and “Dogtown and Z-Boys”), but it was tough as nails — painted ones of course.

5. “24 Hour Party People” (2002)

If you’re a huge Joy Division fan (I am) or lover of New Order (less so) you might have had to see this film multiple times. It doesn’t necessarily live or die as a film because of the bands — it’s a great story about a moment in time in Manchester, and Steve Coogan is particularly hilarious — but the bands are why this soundtrack kicks ass.

6. “High Fidelity” (2000)

If only we still had the mix tape. John Cusack’s damaged record store owner was a dying breed then and only a memory now. This film, while lacking some of the flavor of the book, makes up for it in the music. Love, Smog, 13th Floor Elevators, The Velvet Underground, Stereolab, even the now forgotten Beta Band.

7. “Almost famous” (2000)

Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical fantasy about his experience as a teenage writer for Rolling Stone is pretty much mandatory for this list. Whatever you think of the film now, the soundtrack brilliantly captured the sound and feeling of the zany trip everyone was on in the early ’70s. Remember the fun/lame Elton John sing along? Cat Stevens, Led Zeppelin, Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” seals it.

8. “Juno” (2007)

Dominated by Kimya Dawson/The Moldy Peaches, this soundtrack still has some variety in Astrud Gilberto, The Kinks and Sonic Youth. What’s more, Michael Cera and Ellen Page’s cover of “Anyone Else But You” is entirely endearing.

9. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (2001)

I would never have thought I’d be so pleased with a musical film about an East German transgendered Bowie wannabe (who lost his johnson) on tour with his weird glam band. Composer Stephen Trask wrote all the songs for the stage musical on which the film is based, and likewise the soundtrack is all Trask (aside from a bit of “Walk on the Wild Side,” there’s little other music in the film). I never got so fired up about it that I bought the soundtrack, but the achievement and execution deserves serious recognition.

10 / 0. “Watchmen” (2009)

Lastly, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen deserves some special top ten consideration. Think of this less as number 10 and maybe more number 0. It’s rare that a film employs a repertoire of such weighty songs and so many of them so badly. Snyder doesn’t earn half of the songs he uses — “The Sound of Silence,” are you kidding me? — and he basically rapes Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” As confounding and tasteless as it is used, the soundtrack alone is fantastic. The Phillip Glass song worked wonders and the revisionist history opening credits, set to “The Times They Are A-Changin,” are magic.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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