SMPM'S FAVOURITE MOMENTS OF MUSIC IN FILM
From Shia LaBeouf to Spider-Man.
AMERICAN HONEY (2016)
From the dystopic thrall of pop music playing over fluorescent rows of shopping aisles and checkout counters, serenading shoppers with syrupy hooks and EDM bass-drops, Andrea Arnold finds something effortlessly real in the meeting of Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf at the start of 2016’s American Honey. After Sasha follows Shia’s cohort of hard-partying teens selling magazine subscriptions into her town’s roadside shopping centre, the connection of their eyes from across the check-out queues coincides with the start of Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ over the store’s speakers.
Checking each other out while captured in the tune, LaBeouf delivers trademark chaotic energy and unkempt charisma with his rattail, eyebrow piercings and suspenders, dancing up onto the countertop and fatefully spilling his bedazzled phone to set the movie’s events in motion. Riri’s voice rises above the chatter of cash registers, as every word she sings lights up in Sasha’s eyes, with Arnold displaying her mastery of scenes like this in the picturesque tint of "yellow diamonds in the light" against the realist monotony of this "hopeless place", as Shia and his party offer a glimpse of something looking like freedom. Or at least hedonism. At this point in the movie, its too early to say.
Watch Sam's moment of music in film here.
- Sam (@samoharding)
If you are a bookworm, then all I can say is hi, hello, I love Matilda too. Directed by the one and only Danny DeVito, you really can’t go wrong with this quirky, uplifting childhood classic from the late 1990s. It is a film about embracing what makes you different, rising up against those who mistreat you and, of course, telekinesis. Oh, and it also features a couple of wholesome bangers: ‘Send Me on My Way’ by Rusted Root and ‘Little Bitty Pretty One’ by Thurston Harris. I am here to talk about the latter.
Harris’ song plays once Matilda has learned about her telekinetic powers, and is just about getting used to them. What’s magical about this musical moment is that it captures her childlike excitement perfectly. ‘Itty Bitty Pretty One’ is a VERY groovy song, and thus it is no wonder that Matilda’s entire room starts to dance along with her. On top of that, the track’s old-timey nature matches the practical special effects happening on-screen perfectly, and it is so endearing to the film’s set coming alive in such an ‘analogue’ way, with spinning vases, blinking lights, and flying poker chips. Most of all, however, it is beautiful to watch Matilda just being a kid. By this point in the film, she has had to stand so much neglect and abuse that, when this dance scene comes along, you could even call it liberating. It perfectly showcases the freeing potential that Matilda’s powers hold, how they are a powerful tool she can use to not only to escape her abusers, but to invite joy into her life as well. And that is certainly something worth dancing to.
Watch Ainhoa's moment of music in film here.
- Ainhoa (@ainhoa.jpeg)
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018)
When I was set this task, I instantly thought of Post Malone and Swae Lee's 'Sunflower' from Sony's Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse. Upon reflection, it's not objectively the best song, or even the best movie to include, but to me, it is a perfect example of the synergy between music and film. Whilst there are plenty of wonderful examples of music paired with a specific scene (Sufjan Stevens' 'Visions of Gideon' at the end of Call Me By Your Name instantly comes to mind). 'Sunflower' brilliantly captures the essence of Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse.
The light, airy production, paired with Swae Lee's catchy melodies, encapsulates Miles Morales' teenage experience as he sings along to it whilst drawing, blissfully unaware of his parents’ calls. His attempt to sing along, which inevitably leaves him mumbling over half the words, is a hilariously relatable thing to do (at least for me) that endears Miles to the viewers. Whilst the lyrics aren't exactly in touch with the movie, it's really more of a vibe. Yes, I know that sounds a little cringe, but I genuinely can’t think of a better term. The song features in the movie when Miles is rushing to get to school in time, again another relatable moment, and for some ineffable reason, 'Sunflower' just makes sense. It’s not in the movie for long and perhaps I’m only so aware of it because of its commercial success, but I can’t separate the song from the movie, and the character of Miles Morales, and that to me is the sign of a wonderful moment of music in film.
Watch Alex's moment of music in film here.
- Alex (@thealexkutscher)
PULP FICTION (1994)
You guessed it. But honestly, you could make a ‘best music moments in film’ article from Quentin Tarantino’s films alone, because if there's one thing that man knows how to do it is interweaving banging soundtracks with his films that simply set them a class apart. One of his most iconic music moments, in my opinion, is the scene in Pulp Fiction where Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) dances to 'Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon' shortly before disturbingly ODing on heroin. The version of the song used in the film is Urge Overkill’s “cooler” cover of Neil Diamond’s 1967 single, and while it may at first seem a tad random, it fits the scene perfectly because it speaks to her transition from her normal state to drug overdose. While it is quite mellow, the song inspires a sense of reckless abandon, which is a lot like Thurman’s character herself. From the start where she’s grooving along coolly, to the end where she’s completely surfeited by heroin, the moment feels intimate and unadulterated. I can’t imagine any other song suiting this scene better.
Watch Tara's moment of music in film here.
- Tara (@tara.0611)
BABY DRIVER (2017)
It’s in the very first scene of Baby Driver that Edgar Wright delivers his mission statement: a heist movie of elaborate car chases blasting headfirst down the streets of Atlanta, GA – but with a tantalising twist. Each and every edit, sound effect, and camera motion are stitched together perfectly in time with the music playing through the earphones of its main character. The choreography throughout is astounding, and certainly some of the best car chases ever devised for film, but it is in the movie’s opening 6 minute clip that the music of Baby Driver fuses so elegantly with the action on-screen.
Fading from black with a note of metaphorical tinnitus, the now iconic red Subaru pulls into view as The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s ‘Bellbottoms’ commands attention with guitar chords leaping from Ansel Elgort’s iPod. Each character gets a perfectly divided 4-beat introduction, before the heist breaks into gear. The car doors open and close with this immediately satisfying synchronicity, and within seconds this high budget remake of Edgar Wright’s timeless Mint Royale music video demonstrates just how fucking clever this director really is.
After a gunshot kicks the music back into gear like a well-placed snare hit, the real genius starts to show off. A lightning fast car chase ensues, using *every single* police siren and security alarm in the absolute perfect tempo to overlap with ‘Bellbottoms’ as the pursuit relentlessly picks up in intensity through Atlanta. Phenomenal choreography and eye-watering action make this the perfect introduction to one of the 2010’s most exciting films, but signing off with the open door alarm of the ditched Subaru corresponding exactly with the fading cries of “bellbottoms, bellbottoms” establishes the opening moments of Baby Driver as a scene that you simply cannot turn your eyes or ears away from.
Watch Ben's moment of music in film here.
- Ben (@wheadsauce)
KILLER OF SHEEP (1978)
Charles Burnett's 1978 classic has gained serious cultural significance since its release, with even legendary rapper Mos Def using a still from the roof jumping scene as the cover of his 2009 album The Ecstatic. The whole project is a series of vignettes woven into a loose narrative depicting the dynamic of a family trying to survive in the rubble left behind by the Watts riots of 1965, in protest of racial profiling by a police officer.
The dire conditions force the father in the film to find work monotonously butchering sheep at a slaughterhouse, and his numbing work takes a devastating toll on his family. The film exposes both forms of gendered labour, also making visible the domestic labour the wife has to carry out in the usually enclosed space of the home. Burnett consciously displays the toll on her with shots lingering on her exhausted face, her eyes often worn and desperate, filled with tears and sadness. This is not to suggest that the father is portraying a tyrannical husband, he is a victim too, and the grinding labour they both carry out has become a necessity simply to survive. There is evidently a genuine love between the husband and wife but they are unable to express it fully as a result of their utter exhaustion from their societal situation.
Burnett has a talent for juxtaposing popular music with his shots, and the sheer amount of music strewn throughout the film, including the likes of Louis Armstrong, and Earth, Wind and Fire, meant his project was not widely released initially due to copyright complications. His dedication to his choice of music did however, result in a stunning scene of the husband and wife dancing slowly in their house to ‘This Bitter Earth’ by Dinah Washington, moving each other with genuine compassion. This scene is their only true moment of refuge from the torments of their lives and the song seems to lament their thoughts: "if my life is like the dust that hides the glow of a rose / what good am I / heaven only knows”, and ends with the notion that if someone answers your call, you can find some small refuge in them, just for a moment, and the world doesn’t seem “so bitter after all”. The moment ends when he leaves and sad normality resumes, leaving viewers transfixed and yearning for the song to play again. It's absolutely harrowing and has stuck with me ever since. I can't recommend it enough.
Watch Fin's moment of music in film here.
- Fin (@fincousins)
This article was edited by Fin Cousins, a postgrad literature student studying at King’s College London. He loves sport, music and writing and he is still waiting for Love Island to accept his application. He also made our logo.
Sam Harding is a student at York and an enthusiast of mosh pits. He is trying to marry music with writing but is running out of onomatopoeia. Life soundtrack includes underground rap and electronic bleep bloops.
Ainhoa Santos Goikoetxea (pronounced "I-know-ah") is a culturally confused Creative Writing postgraduate student from the Basque Country, Spain. She is passionate about film, music and politics, and she should probably know more than she does about all three.
Alex Kutscher is an English Literature graduate from King’s College London and founder of TPLC Sports. He plays basketball and watches Chelsea on the weekend while praying that Kepa never plays for them again.
Tara Choudhary is a third-year student at King’s College London, who euphemises her indecisiveness by saying she studies the Liberal Arts. She enjoys music, theatre and basically anything she can categorise as “not math”.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and co-edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He is also a Fleet Foxes shill.
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