3 December 2013

Sing-Along With Me

New York-Theatre
New York-Theatre
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Music makes everything better. It can bring instant joy or can reduce you to tears in a heartbeat. This post was influenced by my sister, who is crazily passionate about music. I, myself prefer films so I thought I'd take a look at both - the way Hollywood merges the two past-times, how music influences a film so much that people are able to conjure up the scene whilst hearing that specific track.


Grease
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I love Grease. There, I've said it. Yes, it's a musical and yes musicals are known to be cheesy at times, Grease being no exception but I don't care. I grew up watching this film and by now can sing along to every song, knowing all of the words. It's a feel-good film, helped in part because of the songs featured. Whether it's background music to help along the scene, for example Love Is A Many Splendored Thing before the opening credits, or of course when anybody randomly bursts into song (i.e. Summer Lovin', You're The One That I Want, etc), the pace remains constant and quick, never slowing down. The music matches the energy of the cast (ignore the fact that most of the cast were in their mid-late 20s playing teenagers). The soundtrack still remains strong today with a song to fit every mood: light-hearted (We Go Together); heartbreak (Hopelessly Devoted To You); insecurity (Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee - Reprise) and romance (You're The One That I Want) to name but a few. There's probably only one song that dampers the mood and slows down the pace but only by a little and that's 'Sandy' as sung by John Travolta's Danny. You've just acted like an idiot to the girl you're dating, don't then sing a song that basically puts the blame on her.
The music is a constant rollercoaster from start to finish, right up to the end credits. Grease is a film that never bores and even though some parts are a bit silly (flying car, anyone?), it's easy to watch over and over.


Dirty DancingDirty Dancing
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How can anyone not love Dirty Dancing? Especially teamed with the soundtrack that fits so well into scenes. I don't care if you're a guy, or a girl; old, or young, there's no excuse to not like this film. Slightly different to the previous film mentioned in that it's not a musical, I've included it as it has such a memorable soundtrack that, when it comes to thinking of famous music used in films, Dirty Dancing immediately springs to mind. More adult, in terms of subject compared to Grease, Dirty Dancing was still a film I grew up on (until I was 'banned' from watching it by my parents when they found out it was a 15 certificate and I was 7). The first song that springs to mind when thinking of the film is one featured in the final scene: Time Of My Life which sums up the film perfectly. It's a track that is fused in with the image of the film. Another memorable song featured is Love Is Strange, a song that Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray playfully mime to, something that wasn't scripted and was just the two actors messing about between scenes. The director liked it so much, he kept it in the film. It's easy to see why as this scene shows not only the characters' undeniable chemistry but also the actors', all enhanced by a song. One song that will always conjure up emotion is Patrick Swayze's She's Like The Wind, which can be heard in the scene prior to the big finale. The audience can almost feel Baby's heart break as they listen to the lyrics that blend so well with the images on the screen.
 Dirty Dancing is a journey of first love and discovering oneself, amplified by the music in every given scene. The emotions conjured by the film and music are what makes Dirty Dancing so memorable.


Pulp Fiction – Cover with Uma Thurman Movie Poster
Pulp Fiction –...
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 It's hard to think of soundtracks without thinking of films by Quentin Tarantino. It's clear from watching most of his movies that he's as heavily influenced by music as he is by films. One film that comes to mind that relates to this subject is Pulp Fiction, a complete departure from the two films mentioned above. The film is driven by the music choices, giving it an almost laid-back feel in scenes. Most of the music used is to convey the coolness of John Travolta's character whilst ending abruptly when the succeeding scene becomes manic and faster-paced. An example being the track: Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon used in the scene where Travolta tries to talk himself out of doing anything with Uma Thurman's Mia whilst the camera cuts back to Mia calmly taking drugs. The music fades just as Mia overdoses. This can be symbolic of her growing up, she's experiencing death in a way that changes her, linking to the subject matter of the song. The track fading can symbolise her life slowly draining away, the pace still remaining quite calm until the next scene where it's more frantic. By then, the song has stopped altogether.
 A famous scene in Pulp Fiction is, of course, the Twist dance contest. Here Tarantino uses a song that is not a cliche when it comes to thinking of music associated with the Twist dance, Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell. This makes it unique, allowing people to conjure up the scene when later hearing that particular song. The scene in question is a favourite with fans as it was Travolta's big comeback, showing that he still has the moves as he demonstrated in Saturday Night Fever (1977).
  A film enhanced by the song choices, it is evident from Pulp Fiction that the director is passionate about music as he carefully chooses tracks so well, putting time and effort into the process.

Without music, films are stark and empty. Music helps to tell the audience what mood the director/producer is going for. It drives the pace of a film and allows the audience to relate to particular scenes. When done well, music in films stays with us for a long time after the credits have ended.

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