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Cameron Crowe Marries Rock and Film in Top Ten List

No filmmaker besides Martin Scorsese, probably, uses music so well as Cameron Crowe does throughout his career.  That’s probably why Almost Famous rang so true when it opened and rings true today.  It wasn’t only a film about criticism, journalism and coming-of-age, it was a film about rock and roll.  Now he’s taken his love of both music and film and put together a list. He tries to stay at ten but can’t help it and goes to twenty.

I’m going to add a few of mine (some already tweeted) after his.  He starts by saying “The first thing to remember about any top ten list is that it is not to be trusted. A top ten list is almost invariably subject to the whims of the day. You could be feeling sentimental or melancholy, and suddenly your top ten is a weepy diary of your feelings on the unfortunate day you made the list.”

Counting backwards, the first few:

10. “Where Is My Mind” (The Pixies)
Fight Club (1999)
Some say the lyrics of a song should never comment on the scene. This is not one of those times. The world crumbles, and of course, David Fincher knows the precise song to turn out the lights to.

9. “Cucurrucucu Paloma” (Tomas Mendez)
Talk To Her (2002)
The song is actually a favorite of the director and his friends. It was not uncommon to hear them break out singing this song in public, at get-togethers and restaurants. Almodovar wrote “Cucurrucucu Palmona” into the movie, and it fits the great Talk To Her like a favorite scarf. Marco, the troubled journalist, is in emotional flux, in love with a famous woman bullfighter. He hears the song performed live in a nightclub. The version is immaculate, and the words and song plays largely on the listeners faces. Finally Marco is overcome, and must go for a walk. The bullfighter follows. Their only dialogue: “The song gave me goosebumps.”

8. “Edge Of Reality” (Elvis Presley)
Live A Little, Love A Little (1968)
Many credit the Colonel for steering Elvis into his (arguably-cheesy) 60′s movie period. Actually it was Norman Taurog who defined and perfected the so-called Elvis Movie that became the King’s bread-and-butter after the more authentic Lovin’ You-Jailhouse Rock-King Creole phase. Taurog ended all that with G.I. Blues and went on to shoot eight more Elvis kissing-dancing-loving classics. The rootsy early E was never to be seen again on the big screen, but in its place was a riveting run of films that showed Elvis literally walking through movies at a pace of three a year. Every once in a while, true genius would come shooting through. Elvis’ weariness and unpreparedness sometimes created seismically funny and unintentionally profound sequences like this one. Turn it up and groove out to E’s only true foray into psychedelia. It’s no “She Said She Said” but it’s appropriately trippy and you can’t quite believe it exists.

The rest.

Of course, I had to start with Cameron Crowe’s own musical references and how those beloved songs refer back and weave through the film so well.

I’m cheating all over the place. Not making a list. Not sticking to one song.

Say Anything – In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel, maybe the most famous scene ever, maybe the best ever use of a rock song with a movie.
Jerry Maguire
– Secret Garden by Bruce Springsteen threads throughout the film but eventually had deep meaning. Free-falling by Tom Petty is also a pivotal song, meaningful to what’s happening internally.
Almost Famous – Tiny Dancer, used to fuse the band together when they fall apart. Ma Cherie Amour, the great OD scene when Patrick Fugit realizes he is love with Kate Hudson.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High — I love the way Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir is used in the film.

High Fidelity – Most of the Time by Bob Dylan used to show how John Cusack is mourning his girlfriend.
Gimme Shelter, used so well by Martin Scorsese in The Departed
Mrs. Robinson by Simon Garfunkle in The Graduate
This Magic Moment that Lou Reed covered in Lost Highway
The Song of the Siren by This Mortal Coil for Lost Highway
And Then He Kissed Me in Goodfellas (for that great long take)
Fight the Power by Public Enemy for Do The Right Thing
Just like Honey by Jesus and the Mary Chain (oops) for the last wonderful minutes of Lost in Translation
Comfortably Numb – Van Morrison and Roger Waters for The Departed
Shipping up to Boston – Dropkick Murphys for The Departed

Since music and movies are pretty much my life I knew my list would be long and unruly. Like Mr. Crowe, I think I’ll start thinking about this and maybe start to harvest a really good one. This is kind of all over the place. But not enough filmmakers are smart enough about music to really use it well. A few of them do – Cameron Crowe hovers right up near the top.

What are yours?