When music meets movies: Ten Great Hollywood Decisions
All right, a few weeks ago we offered up our take on the ten worst moments of crossover disaster, ill-advised efforts to mate movies with music. Now it's time to look at the flip side of the coin, the ten movies in which music and Hollywood made great bedfellows, outstanding cinematic turns that were win-win in terms of elevating the film and being a boon to the artist in question. Follow the jump for the full list.
10. The Big Lebowski, featuring Flea
Flea's been in a number of movies and been surprisingly decent in some and merely meh in others. In The Big Lebowski, although Flea admittedly has a bit part, he plays it well enough to make us forget that he's Flea, the ferociously talented four stringer. Instead, we see him here as one of the nihilists, the doofuses who barge in on the Dude as he's soaking in the tub and drop a marmot in with him and then threaten to "stomp on" and "squish" his johnson in that wonky faux German accent. Clearly this one isn't an academy award winner or anything, but it's not cringe worthy either.
Although this movie now feels seriously dated, at the time it seemed relevant, albiet calculating, with cameos from various members of Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, whose Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard and Eddie Vedder served as members of Citizen Dick, Matt Dillon's faux grunge band. Although the guys had limited speaking parts, in hindsight, it was an excellent call on the part of Cameron Crowe, who used Seattle as the backdrop of the movie, to cast actual members of that city's scene to be in the movie -- nice window dressing even if none of them can act.
08. Spun, featuring Jason Schwartzman, Deborah Harry, Rob Halford and Billy Corgan
Hands down, Spun is the creepiest film of the bunch here. Jason Schwartzman stars as a completely believable meth head named Ross that links up with a bunch of fellow tweekers and ends up shuttling around a hotplate chemist played by Mickey Rourke and his equally spun girlfriend. Thanks to fast-motion cinematography that recalls Requiem for a Dream, by the end of the film -- which also features cameos from Deborah Harry, who plays Ross's butch neighbor, Rob Halford, who plays a clerk in a porn shop, and Billy Corgan, who also contributed numerous songs to the soundtrack -- you feel so bugged out and skeezy you'll immediately want to brush your teeth and exfoliate your skin.
07. Sling Blade, featuring Dwight Yoakam
Dwight Yoakam, who's damn near unrecognizable in this movie, gives Billy Bob Thornton, who plays the lead role of Karl Childers, a genuine run for his money. As the abrasive, hard-drinking Doyle Hargraves, Yoakam succeeds in creating such an utterly loathesome character that it feels downright vindicating when he ultimately meets his fate at the hands of Childers at the end of the movie.
06. Hi-Fidelity, featuring Jack Black, with a cameo by Bruce Springsteen
Of all the roles that Jack Black has played over the years, with perhaps the exception of himself in Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, this is probably the most believable. The epitome of smug record store clerks, Black absolutely steals the show from John Cusack, who plays a pained record store owner reflecting upon his past breakups, exhuming previous failed relationships in an effort to reconcile with his estranged girlfriend. Black's witty retorts are half the draw here. The other half? His absolutely killer rendition of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" at the end of the movie. Bonus points for a daydream sequence featuring the Boss giving Cusack's character the lowdown on love.
05. 8 Mile, featuring Eminem
With a storyline that mirrored his own Motor City upbringing, it's not too surprising that Marshall Mathers won over critics and fans with his completely relatable role as Rabbit, a gifted MC that overcomes his hardscrabble surroundings by rocking the mike. Like Tupac in Juice, playing Rabbit didn't seem to be that big of a stretch for Em. It also probably didn't hurt that the flick was filmed in his native Detroit.
04. Boyz 'N the Hood, featuring Ice Cube
As if the title weren't indicative enough, Boyz In the 'Hood, the debut film of then-21-year-old director, John Singleton, was at least partially influenced if not directly inspired by the ideals of Ice Cube and his N.W.A. crew. The MC, in fact, wrote the song performed by Eazy-E that inspired the name of the film. What's more, the lines uttered by Doughboy, Cube's ill-fated character in the film, "Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the hood," in referrence to the news media, echo sentiments expressed by Cube and company, who considered themselves the CNN of the 'hood. With that in mind, it was a natural for Singleton to cast Cube as Doughboy, a burgeoning gangster, a role which he knocks completely out of the park.
03. Juice, featuring Tupac
This is the movie that introduced the world to Tupac. Playing the role of Bishop, a sociopatchic thug with a distinctive darkside, Pac showcased his acting skills, which were surprisingly on par with his chops as a rapper. In the scene above, in which Bishop confronts Omar Epps and says that he doesn't give a fuck about anything, including himself, and asserts that he's the one we should be worried about, the tension and unease he creates is tangible. As Bishop, Pac left little room for doubt that he really didn't give a fuck. Once we got a glimpse into Tupac's psyche through his lyrics, turns out the role wasn't really that big of a stretch for the notably dualistic MC.
02. Mystery Train, featuring Joe Strummer, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Tom Waits
Mystery Train is an intriguing film that pivots on three separate narratives that revolve around the storylines of three sets of people who all converge in Memphis, with the ghost of Elvis hovering for good measure. Benefitting from the distinctive style and direction of Jim Jarmusch, Train boasts outstanding performances from Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who plays a hotel conscierge, and Joe Strummer, an ill-fated rockabilly dude who ends up killing a liquor store clerk.
Talk about a no brainer. Picking The Blues Brothers as number one is as effortless as breathing. Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues, aka the Blues Brothers, are on a mission from God. When the former gets sprung from the clink, the siblings discover that the home where they were raised is endangered because of taxes owed. So the two put the old band back together to raise enough loot to save the place. While movie bears the distinct whif of a musical and musicals as a whole tend to be loathesome -- the whole idea of folks bursting into song for no apparent reason -- it's impossible to resist The Blues Brothers, particularly when those doing the bursting are icons like Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Ray Charles, not to mention other noteworthy performances form Cab Calloway, John Lee Hooker and Chaka Kahn.
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