2010 Film List: Top 10 Song Usages in 2010 Film


Hello all! I told you I would be back. It just took a while. I move into my dorm next week for grad school and my best friend came back from South Korea for a few weeks (who I haven’t seen for a year) so I’ve been busy. This also includes watching more 2010 films for my lists! There will be more soon to come. I’ll repeat this every time I post a list: these are not meant to be objective. Granted, obviously these are all on the list because they were well done but they do not represent what I think was the “best” of the year. These lists are based in what I enjoyed the most. While there is a moderately strong correlation between any “subjectivity” and “objectivity”, I prefer to claim subjectivity mainly because I think it’s not only more interesting but a hell of a lot less entitled. Being drawn to the way songs are used in film are a combination of the song itself and the way it is used. That may be an obvious thing to say but it’s worth mentioning.


Honorable Mention: “I’ll Try Anything Once” (demo) – The Strokes – Somewhere

10. “Strobe/Adagio in D-Minor” – John Murphy – Kick-Ass (SPOILER ALERT)
I’m still unsure if this should be eligible. John Murphy helped score Kick-Ass. He took the track “Adagio in D-Minor”, which he originally wrote for Sunshine and tweaked it a little, renaming it “Strobe (Adagio in D-Minor)”. The association with Sunshine is too strong to ignore, thus I’m counting it. I am not the biggest fan of Kick-Ass. It had significant problems and while there was a surprising amount of elements that worked, there were just as many that didn’t. The best scene in the film comes about three quarters in. Using Murphy’s Sunshine score has become quite a big fad recently. “The Adjustment Bureau” trailer, Walking Dead and Kick-Ass have all made use of the track. If the composer himself is recycling his own music, he clearly understands how powerful the track is. Even though the track itself guarantees success, the way it is used in this is especially notable. This is Big Daddy’s death scene. As he burns in front of his daughter’s (Hit Girl) eyes, she is forced to watch and simultaneously defend herself. She attaches a strobe light on her gun which she soon sets down in order to confuse her enemies. The strobe light effect lends standout visuals and the use of slow motion is well earned. Add Murphy’s music and you have a pitch-perfect scene that single handedly re-invested me into a flawed film.


9. “White Moon” – Jack White/The White Stripes – The White Stripes Under the Great Northern Lights

In this personal documentary that alternates between stellar concert footage and private moments between band members Jack and Meg White, the highlight comes in the film’s last scene. Jack White plays “White Moon” on the piano as Meg sits beside him and listens. As the song continues, Meg gets visibly emotional as she cries throughout. After it ends, he comforts her. Not having the specific emotional context allows us to focus solely on the moment itself. It is uncommonly personal given the band’s very private and at times even cryptic private lives. There are many private moments featured in this film, but nothing comes close to this closing scene.  It is poignant and moving; the perfect note to end this rich concert film.


8
. “Lady Grinning Soul” – David Bowie – The Runaways
Another film that I’m not quite on board with even though I very much enjoyed it. This was a standard biopic with two excellent lead performances and sprinkles of brilliance that remain some of the best moments from any film this past year. Cherie Currie’s (Dakota Fanning) unconventional choice of song for her school talent how gets her booed off stage. She manages to get the last word by flicking off her fellow students. I realize it’s wrong to say this but Fanning looks damn good in the film, especially here. Director Floria Sigismondi’s presentation of the material aligns itself with the song. It is a song you could melt to and visually the scene takes on the same relaxed and confident tone with its casual camera movements. The film uses it to introduce Cherie’s transformed identity which is protective and outwardly unafraid.


7. “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love” – Ryan Gosling – Blue Valentine

Anyone who has seen the trailer to Blue Valentine has essentially already seen this scene. It conveys the early chronological sequences’ spontaneous tone. By the time this scene occurs in the film, the audience has already seen plenty of sequences from the later chronological sequences.  The scene works on its own as a romantic and even adorable moment between two characters. Add the context of where Dean and Cindy end up and the scene becomes additionally somber.

6. “Don’t You Want Me” – The Human League – Cyrus
The highpoint of Cyrus comes early on when it combines our inherent desire to see John C. Reilly succeed with a great song to create a really fun scene that transcends its own cliches with excellent execution. John is having a rough night and by the time he meets Molly (Marisa Tomei) he is drunk. The song in question comes on and he explodes with excitement and startes singing karaoke. Everyone watches him embarass himself until Tomei saves the day by joining him. Soon Catherine Keener is on board and then everyone at the party is singing along. The scene made me wish I was at that party so I could sing along with them. It’s also triumphant and had me smiling throughout.


5. “Shift” (Alternate Version) – Grizzly Bear – Blue Valentine (SPOILER ALERT)
Grizzly Bear’s music is used to act as a “score” for Blue Valentine. They did not actually create anything new for the film but gave the rights of their music over to director Derek Cianfrance for use. The best usage comes towards the end when the juxtaposition between the two time periods become actively involved with each other through the editing. It acts as a sort of climax between both periods of time, marking Dean and Cindy’s marriage and the subsequent final disintegration of of it.


4. “Dreams Never End” – New Order – Carlos

This was the only scene I could not find a picture from. While other songs like “Dot Dash” and “Loveless Love” are used memorably, it’s New Order’s “Dreams Never End” that stands out the most. What begins as a simple early scene as the song is coolly put to one of Carlos’ terrorist activities, is quickly transformed into something more complex. Carlos is seen naked in his room as he looks in the mirror grabbing himself with a new sense of power. From the start, we see how Carlos associates his terrorist activities. Aside from the complexity, it remains the hottest nude scene of 2010 and has a killer song to overlook the juxtaposition of destruction and power.


3. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” – The Stooges – The Runaways

This was the sexiest scene from a 2010 release. It essentially is this year’s equivalent to the “Carlos” scene from A Single Man. Hence it’s very high placement on the list.


2. “O Children” – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

This and number 1 were impossible to pick between. In an entirely added scene, Harry and Hermione are given an intimate moment that is representative of their friendship over the course of seven films. Ron has left and Hermione is miserable because of it. They have the radio on and “O Children” begins. They are on a hopeless journey and all they have is each other. Harry dances with Hermione in an effort cheer her up. For a moment Hermione allows herself to be happy but it soon passes and she sinks back into reality. The scene is an uplifting one featuring an inspired song choice; a bright spot in a film filled with ennui and hopelessness.


1. “Life’s a Bitch” – Nas – Fish Tank
Nobody expected to see “Life’s a Bitch” put to this kind of profound use. That’s right; profound.  By the time this scene arrives, the characters have gone through a lot. The family dynamic is virtually irreparable and Mia’s only real chance is to start anew. Her goodbye scene with her mother and sister turns into an impromptu dance. It contains all the unspoken emotion between the family and shows that this is their highest capacity of communication. The fact that this dance is all they can do for each other prevents the scene from veering into too much sentimentality. It remains touching without losing its edge. Not to mention the scene is just beautiful. A true highlight amongst so many memorable scenes from 2010 releases.

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2 thoughts on “2010 Film List: Top 10 Song Usages in 2010 Film

    1. Catherine says:

      Nice addition! There were several Scott Pilgrim options in the running but ultimately I had to cut them. Great choice though!

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