Last year, as we here at Cinema Blend celebrated the end of the decade, I wrote an article titled “Film's 10 Best Music Moments In The Aughts.” The goal was simple: look at the all of the movies from the past ten years and pick out the scenes that made the best utilization of their soundtrack. The selection process was incredibly difficult and I never expected that I would be able to make the same kind of list for one specific year. Then 2010 came around and blew me away.
Say what you will about the quality of films we got this year, particularly during the summer months, but this was an amazing year for soundtracks and scores. Composers like Hans Zimmer, Clint Mansell and Daft Punk created some truly stunning pieces while directors utilized the songs of Joni Mitchell, Edith Piaf, Metric and The Human League flawlessly. So without further ado, I present the 10 Best Movie Music Moments Of 2010.
(Warning: There are some spoilers involved below. If you haven't seen one or more of the films, you might want to skip the appropriate sections until you have)
Song: "Non, Je ne regrette rien" by Edith Piaf / ”Half Remembered Dream” by Hans Zimmer
Prior to the release of Inception, analysts had absolutely no clue how things would play out at the box office. While the film certainly played up the “From The Director Of The Dark Knight” angle, they were unsure if people in middle America would have any interest in a blockbuster art film about the world of dreams. But do you know who didn’t underestimate audiences’ intelligence? Christopher Nolan. In fact, if anything, he overestimated them. Case in point, the brilliant use of “Non, Je ne regrette rien” by Edith Piaf.
In addition to using the beautiful song as the signal to the dreamers that they were about to experience a kick, the song was also slowed down and used by Hans Zimmer as the basis for the entire score. So how does this tie back to Nolan overestimating the audience? Following the casting of Marion Cottiard as the villainous Mal, Nolan wanted to scrap the use of Piaf all together because Cottiard had just won an Oscar for playing the singer in La Vie En Rose and he was afraid that audiences would make the connection when there wasn’t any. The slowing down of the song also perfectly fits in with the film’s concept of time moving much slower while in the dream state. Much like the movie itself, Nolan’s use of “Non, Je ne regrette rien” is brilliantly leveled and gets more fascinating the deeper you go.
Song: "All The Way Down" by “Megan”
When first concocting the idea for this list last year, one major criteria that I kept in mind was the effect of the music on the plot of the film. After all, what’s the point of making a list of movies with impactful music if the music has no impact in the movies? Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” helped get Stillwater back together in Almost Famous; the performance of “I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow” by The Soggy Bottom Boys literally solved every single problem in O Brother Where Art Thou?; and it is the song "All The Way Down" that changes everything in Catfish.
In the documentary, photographer Nev Schulman believes that he has discovered the love of his life in Megan, a girl who he has never met but has had endless conversations with over the phone and online. But then something happens that completely alters his perception: she sends him an audio file of her singing a song called “All The Way Down.” After doing some research into the song’s origin, Nev realizes that it is, in fact, not her singing, but rather someone else entirely. It’s because of this seemingly insignificant song that he begins to doubt everything that he has felt about “Megan” and kicks off his desire to discover the truth.
The Other Guys
Song: "Imma Be" by The Black Eyed Peas
Say what you will about the band’s talent as a whole, but if there’s anything that the Black Eyed Peas can do well it’s make party music. You can be the wallfloweriest of wallflowers, but if the song “Imma Be” comes on over the speakers, you should be careful not to spill your beer as you start nodding your head in rhythm with the beat. Hence why it was such a perfect song choice for the bar scene in Adam McKay’s The Other Guys.
After Det. Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) gets into a fight with his wife, his partner and woman-troubles sympathizer Det. Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) decides to take him out for a few drinks at the local pub. Fueled by the Black Eyed Peas song and filmed as a nod to the short film “Carousel” by Adam Berg, the scene packs a entire night of inebriation, gun fire, and priest-biting into less than a minute. Though the scene could have been even better had it lasted just 30 seconds longer, it’s so awesome as it stands that it deserves a spot on this list. (Watch it here.)
Song: "Dancing In The Moonlight" by Top Loader
While sadly under-seen (it was never released to more than 14 theaters during its domestic run), Chris Morris’ Four Lions was one of the funniest and most irreverent movies that I saw this year. The film is an absolutely brilliant satire of one of the world’s least funny issues, suicide bombers, but it is crafted so perfectly that it acts more as a soothing balm than as a target for outrage. Lucky for me, because I won’t be posting a personal top 10 list, it also contains a screamingly hilarious music scene, giving me an excuse to write about it.
Featured towards the end of the film, the four surviving members of the small, English terrorist cell have finally decided what they are going to bomb and hop in the car to road trip down to London. To start, the group listens to nasheed, Islamic vocal music, to try and get in the proper mood for what they are about to do. While the group’s leader, Omar (Riz Ahmed) does his best to try and get the others into it, the whole thing is for naught as the rest of the group nods their heads trying to get into the music, but simply can’t. Smash cut to the next morning and the group is rocking out to “Dancing in the Moonlight” by Top Loader, a song that features the lyrics, “Everybody’s feeling warm and bright, Its such a fine and natural sight.” Not only is the contrarian mood of the song a laugh by itself, but their reactions speak deeply about their real character and commitment to their cause, which is to say that they don’t have any. (Watch it here.)
Song: "Derezzed" by Daft Punk
Names like John Williams, Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman mean a lot to people who are completely infatuated with film, but you rarely see a film score make its way into the top spots of the Billboard 200. But that’s exactly what Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy did. Sold with as much buzz as the movie itself, the French duo provided the film with some of its best highlights, including one scene in particular.
Sold as an actual single off of the soundtrack, complete with a music video and everything, the use of the song “Derezzed” in the film is nothing short of breath-taking. Set in the End of Line Club, with Daft Punk in the background spinning the records as a pair of MP3s, the track is used to back one of the most exciting scenes in the film, as Sam (Garrett Hedlund), Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and Kevin (Jeff Bridges) have been found by the evil program Clu. Even if the battle had been fought using feathers and ticklish spots, the music infuses it with so much energy that it’s elevated to a different level. Top it off with Michael Sheen’s Castor playing air guitar on his cane and you have a winner.
Song: "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League
In the Duplass brothers’ movie Cyrus, things don’t start off great for John C. Reilly’s character, John. Divorced for the last seven years and a self-contained prisoner in his own apartment, he couldn’t possibly be any lonelier. Making matters worse, his ex-wife, who he stays in close contact with, tells him that she is getting remarried. Urging him to go out and meet new people, she drags him to a party where he meets a beautiful woman named Molly, played by Marisa Tomei. So how does he go about getting her to like him? By singing a drunken rendition of “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League, of course.
Because it takes place so early in the film and the audience is only just learning to like John, the scene is incredibly important to the rest of the film’s storyline and everyone involved absolutely nails it. Because everyone’s made a fool of themselves at least once while wasted, John earns our empathy when everyone at the party is just staring at him and not joining in. It’s when Molly steps in to sing the second verse, however, that everything steps perfectly into place. The spark between them is immediately ignited and the audience is fully prepared to watch them for two hours – and all because of some 80s synthpop. (Watch it here.)
The Kids Are All Right
Song: "All I Want" by Joni Mitchell
For the vast majority of Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, Annette Bening’s character, Nic, can’t stand the character played by Mark Ruffalo, named Paul. The biological father of her two children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson), not only is she upset that they tracked him down, but she doesn’t approve of anything he does. She doesn’t like that he rides a motorcycle; she doesn’t like that he spends so much time with her wife, Jules (Julianne Moore); and she doesn’t like that her kids are spending so much time with him instead of her. So when the two characters finally see eye-to-eye on something, it’s a major step forward, and they do so with a little help from Joni Mitchell and the song “All I Want.”
Sung a cappella by Nic while at a family dinner at Paul’s house, the scene perfectly balances awkwardness while also informing the characters (Joni was named after Joni Mitchell). Only making the scene better is how the rest of the night plays out, with Nic discovering that Paul and Jules are sleeping together. All of the progress that they’ve made shatters like glass, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective without the song.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Song: "Black Sheep" by The Clash At Demonhead
After a bad break-up, there’s nothing in the world you want more than to see your ex fail. You want to see them punished for breaking your heart. It’s the little bit of schadenfreude that exists in all of us. Unfortunately for Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), his one major ex, Envy (Brie Larson), happens to be in one of the biggest bands in the country and his best friends have roped him into seeing them perform. Then comes the double-whammy: the band is absolutely amazing and the bassist is one of the seven evil exes that he must do battle with.
There’s an incredible number of amazing music moments in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and it was a sincere challenge picking just one. When watching the performance of The Clash At Demonhead for the first time, however, I was literally pushed back into my seat. The song itself is a stunner (as is Larson’s singing voice) and the editing, isolating the characters as they stare each other down, is magic. The reaction by Mark Webber’s Steven Stills after the performance says it all: “That was…that was devastating.” (Watch it here.)
Song: "A Swan Is Born" and “Perfection” by Clint Mansell
Just as Nina Sayers spends her entire life preparing to dance the lead in Swan Lake, the movie Black Swan builds entirely toward the dance of the ballet and the Tchaikovsky music that comes with it. As Nina endures rehearsals and the immense psychological pressure of tapping into her dark side to dance both the white and black swan, Clint Mansell's score veers between the unsettling, modern notes of his own work and hints of Tchaikovsky's classic. We hear the major themes from Tchaikovksy's work in Nina's cell phone ring and the music box her mother places by her bedside, in the piano and violin music in the rehearsal room, and in scraps Mansell's score, quickly covered up by the haunting modern piano and violin that contrast so sharply with the classical work.
And then, it's time for Nina to dance, and the score gives over completely to Tchaikovsky's work so familiar from the past century of ballet. The violins soar and the percussion booms as Nina dances, shyly at first during the white swan segment, and then with ferocity matching the orchestra as she transforms into the black swan. She's introduced with a trumpet fanfare as she begins the black swan dance, and what's striking about the music at that moment isn't its intensity, but how similarly jarring and strange it is to Mansell's original score. Tchaikovsky, it turns out, is just as dark and oddly compelling as something written this decade. Even in a scene where a young woman transforms to an evil swan before our eyes, music written 130 years ago is the real showstopper. (Watch it here.) (Contributed by Katey Rich)
The Social Network
Song: "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Unlike last year, when I ranked the top ten music moments of the aughts, I decided that this time around I wouldn’t put the scenes in competition with each other, instead letting them stand on their own as small, amazing moments in cinema from the last year. That said, I will admit that this scene isn’t only my favorite music moment from 2010, but my favorite scene overall.
Known to most as the “Henley Sequence,” what separates this scene from the others is that it actually has no baring on the plot whatsoever – it’s simply an incredible piece of filmmaking. Shot using what’s called tilt shift photography, the cinematography alone is enough to blow anyone away, but it’s the adaptation of Edvard Grieg’s “In The Hall of The Mountain King” by score composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that makes the scene utterly perfect. Meshing perfectly with the visuals of spectators watching the annual Henley Royal Regatta, the music slowly builds and builds before becoming massively chaotic towards the end of the race, where the Winklevoss twins and the Harvard crew team experiences defeat. If my news production slows after January 11, when The Social Network is released on Blu-ray, know that it’s because I am too busy watching this scene over and over. (Watch it here.)
Honorable Mention: “How You Like Me Now” by The Heavy in The Fighter; “Let’s Get It Started” by Craig Robinson in Hot Tub Time Machine; “In The House In A Heartbeat” by John Murphy in Kick-Ass; “You and Me” by Penny and the Quarters in Blue Valentine; “Never Hear Surf Music Again” by Free Blood in 127 Hours.
For more of Cinema Blend's 2010 wrap-up go here.
NJ native who calls LA home; lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran; endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.
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