Thursday, May 17, 2012

Top 5 Movies Driven By Music (Non-Musicals)

Top 5 is a new feature inspired by the John Cusack classic film High Fidelity.  In the film, the main character has an almost obsession of creating Top 5 lists (often of very random things).  It is in this light that I’ve decided to start my own set of Top 5 lists.  Often they will be random things (usually related to music in some fashion or another), but the key is that I will be limiting myself to picking my five favorites in whatever topic is being discussed.

For the first installment of this new series I’m going to tackle movies that are driven by music, yet are not musicals.

1.  Pump Up the Volume (IMDB, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia)
In what is probably Christian Slater’s best film, Pump Up the Volume follows the antics of a pirate radio DJ (Slater) and his crusade against the authoritarian nature of his local high school.  The film boasts not only a killer soundtrack, but also some poignant social commentary that is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.  On the music end of things, there is a moment in the very beginning of the film where the camera slowly pans over a stack of cassette tapes by artists like Camper Van Beethovan, the Pixies, Rollins Band, and Concrete Blonde.  That image was one of the coolest things that I’d ever seen and is something that I would replicate were I ever in the position of directing a film.  

2.  Pretty in Pink (IMDB, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia)
The soundtrack of this John Hughes classic in a lot of ways defined a certain segment of my generation.  This was a film about the misfits of high school and how they interact with the cool kids and did so in a way that had never really been done before, not on a large scale at least.  Pretty in Pink illustrated the divisions in high school that were expressly Generation X.  Yes there had always been cliques, cool kids and nerds, but with the advent of punk in the 1970s and the subsequent subculture that grew out of it, social groups in schools across America would never be the same again.  

3.  High Fidelity (IMDB, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia)
Taking place in a record store, High Fidelity is completely entrenched in music, from the listing of Top 5 side-ones, track ones to the discussion of the properties of an excellent mix tape to a rousing cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” by Jack Black.  The heart of this film is the story of the eccentric and usually very OCD music nerd.  Plus any movie that uses Stiff Little Fingers as a plot point is okay by me.

4.  Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (IMDB, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia)
In many ways, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is the Millennial’s and Generation I’s Pretty in Pink.  This film follows a group of teenagers in search of a secret show by their favorite band.  Music plays a huge part in the lives of the characters and while I don’t think the soundtrack is as strong as Pretty in Pinks’, that is probably because this film wasn’t written for my generation.  

5.  Juno (Fox Searchlight, IMDB, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia)
Aside from being one of the most brilliantly funny films of the 21st century, Juno also boasts a heck of a soundtrack.  This is another film that really grabs the musical underground of the moment, but at the same time harkens back to music of the past (the scene with the Sonic Youth cover of The Carpenters comes to mind).

Honorable Mentions -- 
Grosse Pointe Blank  

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