7. Empire Records
It hurts me to even imply there’s something that might not be perfect about this movie I love so much, but if I’m being honest, without Edwyn Collins, The Cranberries and Dire Straits (not to mention my beloved Toad the Wet Sprocket), this movie is just a lot of whiny teenagers and some quarters glued to the floor (though I’d love it dearly stll—I don’t feel that I need to explain my art to you, Warren). I made special effort to disclude movies that would be absolutely nothing without their soundtracks (Singles, The Harder They Come) and this didn’t fall in that realm for me, but even I, ardent lover I am, have to admit the soundtrack weighs more heavily on the scale than content.
6. Lost in Translation
I’m sorry. I know this to be one of the most divisive movies in ‘jibaland. But dear Christ did it pretentch me into nothingness. Like Kirsten Dunst before her (see below), I’ve never understood the acting boner people had for Scarlett Johannssen (it seems to have subsided). Yes, she’s very pretty. Yes, she has a substantial chest piece. But that does not an actress make, and nor does her vacant-stare-as-clue-to-a-deeper-lake-of-emotion thing that she keeps calling a performance (see also: January Jones, and you people keep fighting me on this, but seriously, SERIOUSLY, being emotionless is not the same as acting emotionless). I had such high hopes for Sophia Coppola after The Virgin Suicides, which remains one of my favorite movies, but she took that hope and acted at it and then it died (people always point out Godfather 3, but her Peggy Sue Got Married performance is even better/worse). Also, the Cameron Diaz character was just a shitty low blow. All that said, Bill Murray is better than you and the soundtrack is very nice.
5. Cold Mountain
Anthony Minghella was a supreme talent with an eye for scope and who knew how to create the very image of epic and lush. And he did that in this movie. It just…wasn’t…great. It was fine. It just wasn’t the Oscar magnet it wanted to be. Part of that can be blamed on Nicole Kidman’s face, which had just begun its turn into complete paralysis, but mostly it was just dull and cold. But, the soundtrack. The soundtrack. T Bone Burnett is a genius, Gabriel Yared is always one to be counted on for beauty even when the film he’s scoring can’t, and between Jack White, Elvis Costello and the resplendent Allison Krauss, this soundtrack was a work of art.
I’ve had an SRL of movies people grow out of after college churning in my head for awhile, but haven’t done it yet because it’s pretty much just this and Me and You and Everyone We Know and a lot of me saying “fuck this pretentious bullshit” over and over again. But love this movie or hate it, there exists no feeling for Aimee Mann but utter adoration.
3. City of Angels
The movie that kicked off the national getting-over of Meg Ryan, this film tried and failed at what a number of people attempted to do throughout a ten or so year period in the ’80s and ’90s—make Nic Cage a romantic lead. The movie did give us two things. a) A nude Dennis Franz (another thing people kept trying to give us in the ’90s) and b) a gorgeous soundtrack, complete with one of Alanis Morissette’s best songs ever, as well as songs by U2, Peter Gabriel and, of course, The Goo Goo Dolls with the record-breaking “Iris.”.
Look. If you’re not only going to use the music of Patty Griffin, My Morning Jacket and Loudon Wainwright III (not to mention Elton John, Tom Petty and Ryan Adams), but have them appear in your movie, too, it better be a fucking good one. But, no. Cameron Crowe did not give us the second coming of Dobler. He further solidified his role on the list of “Directors with the Spottiest CV’s Who We Still Adore for Some Reason” and gave us a lot of navel-gazing, indiequirkalicious stereotypery and Kirsten goddamn Dunst, who I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone, ANYONE, continues to cast. She has the charm of a mallet to the sack with an acting skillset vastly overmatched by said mallet.
1. I Am Sam
[ignore the actual video, unless you like ducks. And who doesn’t? Duckies are the horsies of the ocean.]
God, this movie tried so hard I think it may have pulled a muscle. Between the obvious film school use of color, the overwrought script, the groping at my heartstrings like a wobbly Torgo and the “full retard” factor, this movie’s desperation to be adored was so apparent, it would have bordered on sad if it hadn’t been such an in-your-face dick about its goals. This desperation seeped right into the soundtrack. All Beatles covers? Are you even goddamn kidding me? Proof point #1 of the film’s cocky arrogance. And yet, despite some major missteps (Chocolate Genius’s “Julia”, Howie Day’s “Help” and film soundtracks’ continious need to make Heather Nova happen for me) the soundtrack is fantastic. Though gimmicky, they really did find the (mostly) perfect group of people to cover these tracks. Rufus Wainwright’s “Across the Universe” is simply beautiful, Sarah McLachlan does a lovely “Blackbird” and Ben Folds is great as always. Maybe if the movie had taken some lessons in from its soundtrack artists and hadn’t strained itself into a schism to make me like it, it would have been a decent film.