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.

Ghostbusters 2

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Take the Ultimate Ghostbusters Fan Quiz

Catch the Ghostbusters movies November 30th on IFC.

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Photo credit: Columbia Pictures courtesy Everett Collection

When there’s something strange in your neighborhood, nothing beats kicking back with an airing of the Ghostbusters movies on IFC to help remind you that you ain’t afraid of no ghosts. But do you know what adult film star makes a cameo in the first film? Or what beloved actor Slimer is based on? Prove your might as the ultimate Ghostbusters fan by taking our movie quiz below.



The Future Is Funny

The 10 Funniest Sci-Fi Comedies

Happy Back to the Future Day!

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Often covering heady concepts like philosophy and tragic social norms, science fiction is always in danger of being too dry and dour for its own good. However intelligent and astute the observations may be, if the themes don’t align with the tone, the end results could be a slog to watch. Sometimes we just want laughs to accompany aliens, time travel, and dystopian futures. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of sci-fi comedies that perfectly pair humor and futuristic wonder into a delightful package.

Here are 10 such sci-fi comedies that deserve a play when you need cheering up.

10. Repo Man

A staple in the cult film pantheon, Repo Man throws a punk-rocking Emilio Estevez into the bizarre world of car repossession set against a backdrop of a slightly-more-dystopian version of Los Angeles. Featuring veteran weirdo Harry Dean Stanton, a Chevy Malibu with aliens in the trunk, and a thumbnail philosophy centered around a hypothetical plate of shrimp, this midnight movie is a must-watch for those who are sick of boilerplate plotlines.

9. Night of the Comet

If you ever watched Valley Girl and thought it could use some zombies, then Night of the Comet is for you. This unfairly forgotten gem pits two mall-obsessed sisters against undead stockboys, bloodthirsty soldiers, and healthy teenage hormones in a post-apocalyptic land straight out of Omega Man. With tongue firmly in cheek, Night of the Comet is a fun and cheesy sci-fi comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

8. They Live

Written and directed by genre king John Carpenter, They Live is a hilariously over-the-top treatise against commercialism, government control, and religious zealotry. The movie stars the sadly late (and never-better) Roddy Piper as migrant worker Nada who finds a special pair of sunglasses that reveal a world choked with subliminal consumerist messages and humanoid aliens. It’s endlessly quotable with a ridiculous yet valid message and contains the best street fight ever captured on film.

7. Idiocracy

If you’ve read the comment section for an article on the Kardashians, energy drinks, or the state of our educational system, then you’re probably familiar with Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. Depicting a future where every American institution has crumbled due to wanton stupidity, average bloke Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) becomes an Einstein among the mentally challenged and humanity’s last hope for survival. Like Judge’s Office Space, Idiocracy achieved cult status after a mismanaged theatrical release. It was also oddly prescient.

6. Innerspace

Endless charm and eye-popping special effects rev this high-energy, high-concept Joe Dante sci-fi comedy. Basically a goofball version of Fantastic Voyage, Innerspace injects a minuscule bio-pod piloted by Dennis Quaid into a neurotic Martin Short and propels them into the dangerous scientific underworld of nanotechnology supremacy. Quaid and Short — along with Meg Ryan, Robert Picardo, and Kevin McCarthy — are fun personified in this rollicking, rewatchable classic.

5. Galaxy Quest

Unfairly derided as “Three Amigos in space,” Galaxy Quest is actually one of the most accurate depictions of sci-fi tropes and geek fandom ever produced. A thinly veiled satire of the original Star Trek series, the ensemble comedy tackles everything from fan conventions to space-based MacGuffins, but does so with an unmistakable love for the genre.

4. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Movie concepts don’t come any higher: A lovable pair of wannabe rock gods travel through time in a phone booth to assemble historical figures as a means to pass their history final and unite the planet through music. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are an effusive duo you can’t help but love, George Carlin as their time-guide Rufus is perfectly cast, and the moral message (“Be excellent to each other and party on, dudes!”) should be a real-world Golden Rule.

3. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

With a running time of 75 minutes and lacking a second “Mad” for loonier interplay, MST3K: The Movie is considered a lesser entry when compared to the television series. However, Mike and the Bots are in top form when mocking the sci-fi flick This Island Earth — Interocitor assembly and alien foreheads have never been richer for riffs — and any fan of the show would be remiss to skip the film.

2. Tie: Ghostbusters and Men in Black

It doesn’t get any more quotable than Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as the titular spectre-snatching quartet. At its core, this beloved treasure follows the hardships of a new fringe business as it tries to find a reliable customer base. But add supernatural elements, and Ghostbusters becomes a perfect blend of comedy, sci-fi (those proton packs wouldn’t be out of place on Star Trek) and the occult. Every line in every scene is a bona fide classic, rightfully earning the film its place among other worn-out VHS tapes in our collection. Meanwhile, Men in Black channels Ghostbusters with its mix of comedy, sci-fi and creepy creature-based bureaucracy.

1. Back to the Future

Arguably the best matchup in a comedy film, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are absolutely perfect in this 1985 favorite. Back to the Future features Fox as a time-traveling teen sent back 30 years whose existence is in jeopardy when his 17-year-old mother falls in love with him and his father is too shy and weak-willed to pursue her. Nominated for Best Original Screenplay and spending 11 weeks at number one in the box office, Back to the Future is the rare mix of audience appreciation and critical acclaim — not to mention comedy and sci-fi.


Super Awkward

The 10 Most Hilariously Awkward Sex Comedies

Get racy with Gigi Does It Mondays at 10:30P.

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Let’s face it: sex is innately funny. Body parts squishing together is always a recipe for potential awkwardness. So it’s only natural that Hollywood has mined the beast with two backs for comedy since the mid-­1950s. With Gigi getting her groove back on this week’s Gigi Does It, we thought we’d spotlight the 10 most hilariously awkward sex comedies ever lensed, from sci­fi parodies to touching teen romances.

10. Porky’s

Set in the 1950s, Bob Clark’s 1981 hit comedy follows a group of high school kids who want to lose their virginity, and travel to a nightclub in the Florida Everglades to do it. This kicks off a string of comical events that includes a “peeping on the girls locker room” scene that has been endlessly homaged and parodied. Porky’s was a massive critical flop on release, but thanks to VHS and cable airings it became a sweaty ’80s classic.

9. The Virginity Hit

The 2010 comedy The Virginity Hit takes the found­ footage approach from flicks like Paranormal Activity and transplants it into the much scarier world of high school sex and YouTube humiliation. This underrated movie laid the groundwork for a potential “third wave” of sex comedies.

8. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)

Woody Allen took a best­selling advice book and transformed it into this episodic comedy that cast a baleful eye on sex in the Free Love decade. The stellar cast (Gene Wilder! Burt Reynolds! Lynn Redgrave!) deliver some of the bits that rank among the best in Allen’s career. The rapid­-fire pace lets The Woodman touch on all manner of sexual deviancy, and the movie’s climax — in which the director plays a sperm getting ready to blast off into the throes of orgasm –­ is one of cinema’s most iconic moments.

7. Orgazmo

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have never shied away from getting explicit, and their NC­-17 sex comedy was an early taste of the duo’s outrageous humor. A young Mormon missionary comes to Los Angeles to try and save souls and winds up getting hired to star in a superhero-­themed porno. When his costar invents a ray gun that gives people orgasms, all Hell (and hilarity) breaks loose.

6. Superbad

This Judd Apatow-produced hit brought teen comedies into the age of the overshare with its mix of teenage awkwardness, uproarious gags and a healthy bromance between leads Michael Cera and Jonah Hill.

5. American Pie

The second great era of sex comedies kicked off in 1999 with this remarkably ribald ensenble flick about a quartet of friends trying to lose their virginity before they graduate high school. American Pie takes its name from the scene where Jason Biggs gets caught in a compromising position with some pastry, but the movie has multiple unforgettable bits, particularly Alyson Hannigan’s reverie about band camp.

4. There’s Something About Mary

The Farrelly Brothers cemented their position as a comedic powerhouse with this still hilarious Ben Stiller/Cameron Diaz rom com. Rarely has a film that involves testicular injury and unfortunate choices in hair gel been so sweet.

3. The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Judd Apatow proved that sex comedies aren’t just for teens with his breakthrough big screen comedy which cast Steve Carell as the titular middle-aged virgin. Although there’s plenty of erotic tomfoolery in this flick, it’s the real sense of heart and emotional consequence that makes it a classic.

2. The Girl Next Door

The normalization of pornography has drastically changed the way we think about sex, and 2004’s The Girl Next Door wrings tons of laughs from what happens when dirty movies hit a little too close to home. Elisha Cuthbert is the not-so-innocent girl next door who helps Emile Hirsch find new purpose in his life. A surprisingly dark and high-­quality outing for a film that was marketed as “American Porn.”

1. The Graduate

Single­-handedly responsible for introducing the concept of the “MILF” to American culture, Mike Nichols’ 1967 comedy features genre­-defining performances from Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft as a recent college graduate and the older woman he hooks up with. Sex is integral to The Graduate‘s plot and premise — it’s the fulcrum of the emotional conflict, not just thrown in for titillation, making for one of the best comedies of all time.


'Soft' Rock

Get Gentle and Soft With The Blue Jean Committee’s New EP

The Documentary Now! band has a new EP.

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The Blue Jean Committee is about to head straight up the charts with their new song “Gentle & Soft.” Is it us, or did it just get really smooth in here?

The band, whose tumultuous history was chronicled in a compelling two-part episode of Documentary Now!, is back with an extremely soft bullet with the release of Catalina Breeze, an actual 12″ EP with actual songs that you can actually (and should actually) buy. As Fred Armisen, who sings in the Blue Jean Committee along with his Documentary Now! cohort Bill Hadertold EW, he wanted the band to capture the ’70s California soft rock sound. “So the best way to do it for us would be to just spell it out and call the song ‘Gentle and Soft,'” Armisen said.

The EP, which will be released on November 20th, also features the classic BJC tracks “Mama You’re a Dancer,” “Walking Shoes” and the titular jam all about relaxing Catalina breezes. True to its name, the Catalina Breeze EP will hit you like the wind, rushing your hair into a halo, which is as gentle and soft as it comes. Head over to Drag City to listen to song samples and grab the EP.

For more Documentary Now!, check out the complete archive, episode clips, and music from the show.

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