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Exclusive: Cameron Crowe on the soundtrack of “We Bought a Zoo” and why it sounds different than anything he’s done before

Exclusive: Cameron Crowe on the soundtrack of “We Bought a Zoo” and why it sounds different than anything he’s done before (photo)

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You think of Cameron Crowe movies, you think of the music in Cameron Crowe movies. John Cusack and the boombox in “Say Anything…” Stillwater singing “Tiny Dancer” on the tour bus in “Almost Famous.” Orlando Bloom’s mixtape roadtrip at the end of “Elizabethtown.” Nobody does movie music quite like Crowe. That’s why we’re wrapping up our multipart interview on his new movie “We Bought a Zoo” (you can read parts 1 and 2 here and here) with his thoughts on its soundtrack, which Crowe says is totally different than anything else he’s done as a director.

A big reason why is Jónsi, the singer and guitarist from Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós, who is serving as “We Bought a Zoo”‘s composer. Crowe said he wanted him to score the film, after listening to his music on set while he was shooting.

“We fell in love with the music of Jónsi and Sigur Rós just as an environment while we were making the movie,” Crowe explained. “And about halfway through the edit it became obvious that I had to ask if Jónsi himself would come score it. I wrote him an email and reached him in Iceland. He asked to read the script and I sent him the script and streamed him a scene and he got on a plane and came from Iceland. He wrote the theme for the movie immediately and we’ve been living in this intoxicating world of his music in the movie ever since.”

Asked whether the only music in the film would be Jónsi’s, Crowe replied “There are a few other songs, but it’s different from other stuff that I’ve done that’s felt like a mixtape or a radio station with a lot of different [music] in it. That’s kind of the way I’ve always approached it, but this is definitely Jónsi creating the overall musical character — and it is like a character, and there a few records along the way. I’ve never done it like this before and it’s really exciting.”

Searching for a point of comparison for his unusual approach, Crowe invoked the name of another director who knows a thing or two about movie music: Wes Anderson. “It’s probably like “Royal Tenenbaums”‘ relationship between records and Mark Mothersbaugh’s stuff,” Crowe said. “It’s probably a little more that that, but a similar relationship. Where Mothersbaugh created that joyful, whimsical, happy, sad exuberance — that’s Jónsi.”

No word from Crowe yet on what other artists might be contributing to the “We Bought a Zoo” soundtrack, mostly, he told me, because they haven’t asked all the artists yet (“They could say no, and that would be embarrassing,” he laughed). Plus, the already limited roster of additional musicians keeps shrinking because Jónsi keeps writing new pieces of music. “What I like, though,” Crowe added, “is it has a real strong musical feeling, as strong as anything I’ve ever done.”

So what’s next for Crowe, once this project is done? Asked whether he’d be resuming work on his Marvin Gaye biopic, Crowe instead told me about a brand new project he’s started. It came about, he said, “from auditioning and working with a bunch of actors for ‘We Bought a Zoo.’ This woman that I work with, Gail Levin, is a great casting director. She’s always finding new faces. The kids she found for ‘We Bought a Zoo’ are so exciting. We met with all these actors, and they would leave the room and it was a situation where I would turn to Gail and say ‘They’re not right for this one, but I want to write something where we can work with that person.’ That was the genesis for writing a whole new script which I’ve been working on while we were doing ‘We Bought a Zoo’ and finishing this Pearl Jam movie.”

It sounds like whatever this upcoming project is, it’s going to see Crowe return to his roots in teen-driven storytelling. It will also be his fourth movie in a little more than a year, a huge output for a director whose last film opened in 2006. “I’m trying out this prolific thing,” Crowe admitted. “The thing about being prolific? It’s a lot of work.”

“We Bought a Zoo” opens December 23. What’s your favorite Cameron Crowe soundtrack? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.