Great Musical Moments

To quote a recent blog post from my friend John Sciacca, “Few things in life have the power to trigger memories and instantly transport you to another moment in time like music...
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Four Movie Scenes Featuring Essential Music

To quote a recent blog post from my friend John Sciacca, “Few things in life have the power to trigger memories and instantly transport you to another moment in time like music... But when coupled with a movie, the memory imprints doubly on two senses. And some films have a way of weaving music into them that will make them forever intertwined.” I’ll take that one step further and say that there’s simply not a more effective home theater demo than a gorgeous movie scene paired with the perfect song. Because, let’s face it, the audio in most movies may pimp the power handling of your sound system, but does it no favors in terms of fidelity. And, a great music demo just leaves your screen sort of sitting there, so why not dip your chocolate in your clients’ peanut butter and push your demo room to its fullest potential with a few of these great musical movie moments?

The Big Lebowski, Chapter 8

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When the new DTS-HD Master Audio track really kicks into high gear on Chapter 8 of The Big Lebowski, it doesn’t “take ’er easy.”

I know what you’re thinking: “Hang on a second. The Big Lebowski may well be the crowning achievement of twentieth-century cinema, but it’s not really demo scene material, is it?” Think again. Maybe my DVD of the film is simply worn out, but it’s been a long time since the old Duder was so impressed by a shiny new 1080p remaster. And when the new DTS-HD Master Audio track really kicks into high gear, it doesn’t take ’er easy.

Cue up the unforgettable introduction of Jesus Quintana for a taste of this. The opening notes of the Gipsy Kings’s rendition of “Hotel California” saunter out of the front soundstage–a rich back and forth of percussive acoustical guitar licks bracket an image that’s on the verge of bursting with slick, glistening primary hues and the vibrant violet of Quintana’s accoutrements. Add to that a bit of warm, thick “subwooferage” when the song finally hits its stride (concurrent with John Turturro’s inimitable little victory dance), along with a gorgeous montage of images–oodles of detail, glistening plastic surfaces, wonderfully textured costumes, and some truly beautiful bokeh–and you’ve got the makings of a demo scene that no one could have ever seen (or heard) coming.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Chapter 16

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Put the dichotomous elements of Chapter 16 of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 together and you end up with a movie/music melding that’ll make your demo room hop.

What is it about flamenco cover tracks that makes them sound so delicious? Whatever it is, in a film stuffed to the sprocket holes with standout musical moments, the scene with Santa Esmeralda’s take on Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” stands above the rest in terms of pure audiovisual bliss. Perhaps it’s the dichotomy: the disco-Latin beats and chacha- cha six-strings set against the beautiful blue-white snowscape in which the Bride and O-Ren tangle swords; the cool hues punctuated by the Crayola red and yellow of Uma Thurman’s blood-spattered jumpsuit; the highlights positively shoved off the screen by blacks so deep you just want to drop a penny into the screen and count how long it takes to hear a splash.

Put those dichotomous elements together and you end up with a movie/music melding that’ll make your demo room hop. The song’s bouncy bassline thumps at exactly the right frequency to get your heart pumping, and the song’s up-tempo hand-clapping dances subtly around the back of the room–just enough to show off the surround speakers without interfering with the delicious melding of plucked strings and clashing Hattori Hanzo steel dancing around in the LCRs.

Sucker Punch, Chapter 4

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Say what you will about this overblown pastiche from Sucker Punch director Zack Snyder, but the man always knows how to mate the right music to his outlandish visuals.

Say what you will about this overblown pastiche from Zack Snyder (of 300 and Watchmen fame), but the man always knows how to mate the right music to his outlandish visuals. At the top of Baby Doll’s first fantasy-withina- fantasy scene, Björk’s girl power anthem “Army of Me” ekes out of a reelto- reel tape, and slowly builds in fidelity until its hard-hitting beats hammer at your naughty bits. What’s cool about this one, though, is that Snyder teases you with the song, then takes it away while Baby Doll fights her way through a trio of giant mechanical samurai that bleed blinding light. Bullets whiz. Splinters fly. Red rockets glare and whoosh through the surround soundfield. Things go boom. By the time that loping, guttural bassline of Björk’s kicks back in and sets your subwoofers to hopping like a puppy nipping at a bag of Beggin’ Strips, the musical tension is so thick you nearly want to stand and cheer at the screen. Don’t, though. That would be embarrassing.

Across the Universe, Chapter 22 (and 23)

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No sequence in Across the Universe encapsulates range of Lennon-McCartney songs as well as the chaotic mashup of “Across the Universe” and “Helter Skelter” near the end of the film.

Pick any scene at random from this gorgeous cinematic tribute to the Beatles and you’re guaranteed to land on a system-selling demo. The cinematography and song selection pay perfect homage to the era in which the songs were created, from the sweet, idyllic suburbia and the syrupy Lennon-McCartney love songs of the early years on to the angst and turmoil of the Vietnam War. No sequence encapsulates all of this quite so well as the chaotic mashup of “Across the Universe” and “Helter Skelter” near the end of the film. It starts off sweetly enough–jangly guitars and echo-y reverberation float through the room while Jude’s haunting vocals flow out like endless rain into a paper cup–but as the character leaves his little world and finds himself mixed up in a violent protest, the mix takes a turn for the cacophonous and his delicate reminiscences end up fighting with the howling of “Helter Skelter” in a crock pot of sound.

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