Contributor Picks: Music

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Happy World Music Day! To celebrate the international holiday, our contributors have decided to give a few recommendations to bring song into your hearts.

© Copyright Buena Vista Pictures

© Copyright Buena Vista Pictures

Pamela’s Pick:
Mr Holland’s Opus (1995)

The value of music in our education system is hotly debated these days, what with glee club always under budgetary threat, and no movie addresses the issue better than Mr Holland’s Opus. Cheesy to the nth degree, the film follows Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfus), a would-be composer who takes a high school teaching position to pay the bills. In the span of thirty years, life, work, and the birth of a deaf son inevitably eclipse his dream of having a symphony performed, and the titular Mr Holland goes from phoning it in to nurturing his students’ special talents, hence the cheese.

Mr Holland’s Opus drives home the idea that studying music can help troubled kids straighten out, shy kids gain confidence, and lonely kids find friends. Moreover, music, as a discipline, contributes to the overall wellbeing of both performers and listeners in a way math, history, and grammar simply can’t. Through the arts, human beings can share not just their knowledge but their experiences as well, and the movie reminds us that this gift is a precious one. See? I can be cheesy too.

© Copyright New Line Cinema

© Copyright New Line Cinema

Dimitri’s Pick:
Magnolia (1999)

Make no mistake: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia is a musical. Granted, its characters don’t interrupt their daily lives, conversations, and responsibilities to burst into random Broadway numbers (how do these closet Wayne Bradys know the choreography anyway?), but their lives follow a melody just the same, their respective solitudes woven together by Jon Brion’s orchestral score (to which singer-songwriter Fiona Apple contributed) and their longings given voice by Aimee Mann’s soulful rock ballads.

Clocking at over three hours, Magnolia follows ten miserable lives, including that of a sexually abused cocaine addict (Melora Walters), a former child genius (William H. Macy), and a misogynistic self-help guru (Tom Cruise) whose absentee father (Jason Robards) is dying of cancer. Some characters are connected by coincidence, others by fate, and all by the desire to be part of a larger, more meaningful opus. Consider the sequence in which every cast member sings along to Mann’s “Save Me” playing on the radio. I remember having done the same on multiple occasions (with different songs, of course), finding solace in the knowledge that at least one person out there shares my sorrow. That is what music does, you see: like any art, it unites us.

© Copyright Lionsgate Films

© Copyright Lionsgate Films

Dimitri’s Other Pick:
Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

All right, enough with the pretentious art stuff. You know what goes well with song and dance? Bloody human carcasses chopped up into tiny, reusable bits! If you don’t believe me, then check out Darren Lynn Bousman’s adaptation of Repo! The Genetic Opera, starring Anthony Steward Head (the Folgers Coffee guy) as a company assassin who, in a dystopian future where plastic surgery has become the new fad, repossesses GeneCo organs from folk who can’t pay their leases on them. Yeah, the clients usually end up dead, but at least they get to sing about it!

I know what you’re thinking: “That reads a lot like the premise to that awful 2010 Jude Law and Forest Whitaker vehicle!” It sure does, but Repo! The Genetic Opera was released two years before, and it’s based on Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich’s play, which came out another two years prior, so there. Besides, whereas Repo Men assaults our senses with adolescent “eat the rich” platitudes, Bousman’s horror musical actual delves into the heart of our current financial crisis, criticising not just the corporations that went from profiting from our debt to bleeding us dry but also a culture that encourages people to live beyond their means in the name of vanity… I just came off pompous again, didn’t I?

Eileen’s Pick:
“Millions” by Eternal Summers

If you’ve never heard of Eternal Summers, “Millions”, the first single off their upcoming album Correct Behavior, makes for an excellent introduction to the Virginia indie-pop trio. Unlike their lo-fi but still awesome chef-d’oeuvres from The Dawn of Eternal Summers and Silver, the song has got the clean and shiny quality one expects from the same folk who engineered 50 Cent’s work. Yes, the band is one step closer to selling out, but, considering each member still has a day job, I’m not worried about its artistic integrity yet.

The music video for “Millions” is pretty straightforward: two vaguely Thelma and Louise type BFFs go out in the desert to shoot, smash, and stomp stuff, breaking them into “millions”. Once you get past their less than satisfying attempt at destroying a television set, the rest of the breakage gets quite refreshing actually. Though I don’t think the video does justice to the song, it is worth watching if only to see someone squash pretty cakes with a shovel.

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Category: Contributor Picks | Tags: , , , , , ,

Podcast Hostess: A goddess to some but just strange to everyone else, Pamela has a joint B.A. in English and history. This, along with her children and her Star Wars fetish, informs everything she thinks but mercifully not everything she writes.

Editor in Chief / Movie Critic: When he started this site, Dimitri never thought he'd be writing blurbs about himself in the third person. In his other life, he works as a writer, translator, and editor for various publications in print and online. His motto is, "Have pen, will travel."

Guest Contributor: An English editor with a penchant for ironic absurdities, Eileen started out on the site as a composer instead of a writer. Though the matter has since been rectified, the absurd irony of it all still pleases her.