May 18, 2006

Practical Effects

Risky Business, Say Anything and Clockwork Orange. All three contain canonical examples of characters interacting with practical music playback ("Old Time Rock and Roll," "In Your Eyes" and Beethoven's 9th, respectively). It's an awesome device for pulling the audience into the character's headspace.

But what, you ask, are good examples of this effect on television?

  1. Six Feet Under Series Finale: "Breathe Me" by Sia

    It's a good thing this isn't actually a good song because I can't hear it without getting all weepy in remembrance of the best last episode ever.

  2. Lost Season S2E1: "Make Your Own Kinda Music" by Mama Cass

    I'd basically given up on Lost midway through the first season. The introduction of the Hatch in this tantalizing obtuse way brought me back around.

  3. Star Trek: TNG S2E2: Gymnopedie #1 by Eric Satie

    The Enterprise is going to be blowed up so an alien force can learn what death is like. Picard's response is to mope while waiting for a firey death with this as the soundtrack. How emo is that?

  4. Battlestar Galactica S2E2: Metamorphosis #1 by Philip Glass

    Starbuck returns to Caprica and drops by her old pad. What will she pop in the hifi to unwind from being hunted by Cylons? Serialist piano music, of course.

  5. Buffy S2E1: "Sugar Water" by Cibo Matto

    This one's kind of a cheat because rather than having the track played back, Cibo Matto performs it. And there's a dozen better examples from West Wing of the use of live musical performance. But none of those episodes have Sarah Michelle Gellar performing some sort of upright lap dance in a slinky dress.


Matt said...

I love it when movies blur the distinction between incidental music and music that's actually going on in the scene.

In Eyes Wide Shut: Cruise is in the prostitute's apartment, you hear what you assume to be incidental music, but then Tom hits stop on her boombox, and you realize that the characters heard the music, too.

In many Sergio Leone flix: The harmonica playing in Once Upon a Time in the West is a solid example, as is the weird torture scene/camp band in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The best, though, is in For a Few Dollars More. There's a recurring theme that's played on the chimes of Lee van Cleef's pocketwatch and moves in and out of the score. Pretty powerful.

If I recall correctly, Lost pulled a similar trick. For much of season one, they'd end each episode with some classy soulful pop song. Then, one episode, they abruptly cut the song in the middle, then flash to Hurley. He's wearing headphones and the batteries on his cd player just died.

goldman said...

Yeah, Kubrick loves this trick. And in fact I remember discussing that with you when Eyes Wide Shut was released.

In Lost, the CD player running out of juice is an awesome way to show that, in fact, time has passed on the island.

I'm pretty hooked on that show at this point. My only worry is I don't know how long they can keep it up.

Dgcopter said...

Ohmygod, I have the same reaction to "Breathe Me". After that last episode, I was completely obsessed with that song. I would listen to it over and over and get weepy as I remembered Claire driving off into the sunset. Most emo experience of my life.