Trend spotters, rain makers, early adopters, and other thought leaders have, of course, been keenly aware of the Lloyds (*cough*, *hack*) since this time last year, but for the uninitiated, here's the deal: since the Academy Awards recognizes only music that was written
for the film in which it appears, the Lloyds instead honor those directors who create powerful, memorable cinematic moments using music not written for their films...music that has had a life and a context outside the movies. Today we take a look back at such moments in 2008, and honor those that really stood out.
Lloyd #10 goes to Director/Writer Harmony Korine, Music Supervisor Liz Gallacher, and Bobby Vinton (aka Stanley Robert Vintula, Jr.) for the "Mister Lonely" sequence in Mister Lonely.
This film's protagonist is a Michael Jackson impersonator and in the
indelible opening scene of the film he's shown riding a miniature all-terrain
vehicle around an empty racetrack in a surgical mask and high
white socks, a toy
winged-monkey perched off the side.
This is all in slow motion to Bobby Vinton's 1964 hit "Mister Lonely," the last song to go to number one before the Beatles captured the U.S. charts. Vinton's voice has that lilting, androgynous sound of
the early sixties, so it perfectly
sets up the untenable fairy tale of this film, one which hinges on a
group of eccentrics trying to create a separate, gentler world for
themselves, only to find out how impossible that is.
Lloyd #9 goes to Director Guillermo del Toro, Music Supervisor Kathy Nelson, and Barry Manilow for the "Can't Smile Without You" sequence in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. When Abe Sapien and Hellboy are bewitched and bewildered (respectively) by two different ladies. They get drunk and pine for their women while the besotted Abe blasts Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You" at top volume. At first Hellboy is disgusted, but the simple words of Manilow's white-boy blues are so true to his mood that he ends up bellowing out the tune in spite of himself. And if you've never seen a demon belt out Barry Manilow, you really should.
Lloyd #8 goes to Director Ben Stiller, Music Supervisor George Drakoulias, and Enigma for the "Sadeness" sequence in Tropic Thunder. The three fake movie trailers at the beginning of Tropic Thunder are freaking hysterical, but when Toby McGuire fondles Robert Downey Jr's rosary beads to the tune of Enigma's "Sadeness," you know that this movie is about to bring it in a big, big way. Kudos them.
Lloyd #7 goes to Director Darnell Martin and Music Supervisor Beth Rosenblatt for the "Smokestack Lightening" scene in Cadillac Records. Cadillac Records is the fictionalized story of the Chicago's legendary Chess Records, home to some of the greatest names in blues and R&B including Howlin' Wolf, aka Chester Arthur Burnett. When you first meet Burnett in the film, Eamonn Walker is singing one of his songs with an intensity that absolutely pins you to your seat. There is something raw and electric in Walker's eyes and it makes for one of the most arresting film-music moments this year.
Lloyd #6 goes to director Danny Boyle and M.I.A. for the "Paper Planes" sequence in Slumdog Millionaire. I know everyone's all fired up about the music that big time Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman did for this film, but for me his sequences didn't hold a candle to the one Boyle set to M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes." In that montage the newly orphaned boys find themselves stowaways on passenger trains and "Paper Planes" sounds so good, so resonant that it's impossible to imagine any other music for this sequence. It's playful with a gritty, desperate edge, and when Boyle shows the two brothers sitting atop a moving train car with their heads dipping down with exhaustion, it's as if Ms. Maya Arulpragasam is singing the song only for them.
Lloyd #5 goes to Writers/Directors Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter for the "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" sequence in WALL-E. The opening scene of WALL-E is set in the vastness of deep space, so the unlikeliness of hearing "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" from Hello Dolly! is absolutely delicious: "There's a world outside of Yonkers, Way out there beyond this hick town, Barnaby. There's a slick town, Barnaby. Out there, full of shine and full of sparkle." Just as you're buying into these cheery promises, the scene shifts to the utter ruin that is Earth..a festering garbage heap long abandoned by human inhabitants, and then a much darker layer of irony is added. "Close your eyes and see it glisten, Barnaby." I applaud the creators of WALL-E for not being afraid to bring some real darkness into this animated film.
Lloyd #4 Goes to Director Alan Ball, Music Supervisor Gary Calamar, and Jace Everett for the "Bad Things" opening credits to True Blood. The 90 second opening to True Blood somehow manages to evoke all the sinning of a Saturday night in Louisiana, and all its Sunday morning saving too. Visually, Ball puts these behaviors into a context of the animal kingdom through brilliantly manipulated snippets of footage: a Venus fly trap eating a frog, a woman wrapping her legs around a man, a luna moth emerging unevenly from its cocoon, a supplicant being baptized just as unevenly in a lake. We are driven by the same rhythms, passions, and appetites the rest of the animal kingdom, he seems to be saying, and even our strange propensity for guilt is a part of this pattern.
Lloyd #3 goes to Director Doug Pray for the "David Singing" sequence in Surfwise. One of the most amazing film-music moments I saw this year was in a documentary about the Pascowitz family, known as "surfing royalty," among those in the know, but also a doctor and sex guru who, together with his wife, brought up nine children in a camper on the beach. All of the kids were home-schooled and were made to follow a strict lifestyle regimen including daily surfing. The documentary interviews the now grown Pascowitz clan to ask how their unique upbringing affected them and in one sequence, one of the adult sons, David, sings his way through a deeply bitter song he wrote about his father. The song itself is somewhat melodramatic and overwrought, but the immediacy of the moment is inescapable and boldly, Pray doesn't let you off the hook, but makes you sit through the entire, uncomfortable thing. By the time David finishes, tears are streaming down his face and you're squirming in your seat, but by God you have a real sense of what dear old Dad put these boys through.
Lloyd #2 goes to Director Gus Van Sant and Frances White for the "Walk Through Resonant Landscape No.2" sequence in Paranoid Park. This film is littered with genius music moments, but there's one in particular that stands out and it happens during the film's most charged sequences, just after a pivotal moment in fact. It's a very simple but memorable scene in which Alex is standing in the shower, head lowered, long, icicle-like water forms extending downward from his hair. The music is "Walk Through Resonant Landscape No. 2" by avant-garde artist Frances White, and it's difficult to explain how powerfully sound and image come together in this scene. The music features a simple electronic tone paired with rainfall and birdsong, but as it plays out in the film it's like watching some sort of exotic flower bloom in real time; the moment just keeps getting bigger, fuller, and more loaded with each passing second.
Lloyd #1 goes to Director Darren Aronofsky, Music Supervisor Jim Black, and Guns N' Roses for the "Sweet Child of Mine" sequence in The Wrestler. Professional wrestler Randy 'The Ram' Robinson's heyday has long since past, but he doesn't quite know it yet. He still bleaches his hair, wears spandex like it's '86, and rocks out to Quiet Riot with total unselfconsciousness, all of which makes him both an absurd and tragic figure, or so it seems. Randy's personal life is in shambles and he hasn't figured out what life after wrestling looks like at all, so when a chance to reenact his most famous match comes along, he grabs it despite a recent heart attack and dire warnings from his doctor. On match day, Randy emerges from the tinsel at maximum glam, the gleaming guitar line of GNR's "Sweet Child of Mine" coruscating all around him like the sun. The crowd goes wild, and in that moment, it all comes together for Randy. The disappointments and humiliations of his life evaporate, and he's a fierce, golden god ready to do battle.
And there you have it! The intensely subjective Lloyd Awards, brought to you by Boombox Serenade and Hint of Id perfume. Special thanks to Chris "Mantroid" Ward for the statuette graphic. See you next year!
Honorable Mention Lloyds: The Pleasure of Being Robbed, Milk.