Hi there, home slices! Welcome to the fifth annual Lloyd Awards! Each year, Boombox Serenade bestows this award on directors who used real music in original and powerful ways in their films. By "real music," I mean music that wasn't written explicitly for the film in which it appears, but music that has a life and context outside of that film. As usual, we start at the bottom and work our way up to number one.
Lloyd #10 goes to Director David Fincher for the "Orinoco Flow" sequence in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Ok, so he may have borrowed a little too heavily from American Psycho when he put Enya in the middle of this film's murderous climax, but he did it so well. He's David Fincher, after all -- a Jedi of the ironic film-music moment. Last year, Fincher won a Lloyd for the "Baby You're a Rich Man" scene in The Social Network and another for his use of "Hurdy Gurdy Man" in the 2008 film Zodiac, making him the only three-time Lloyd winner. (He probably brags about this all the time.)
Lloyd #9 goes to Director Jason Reitman for the "Mavis Rewinds the Tape" sequence in Young Adult. Mavis, 37, is driving back to her hometown in a misguided attempt to win back her now married high school boyfriend. As she drives, she keeps rewinding "The Concept" by Teenage Fanclub, belting out quasi-sensitive lyrics like, "I didn't want to hurt you, oh yeah." Presumably this was their song back in the day and the Reitman's repetition of it is a clever stroke of character development -- one of many signs Mavis is unwilling to move forward in life.
Lloyd #8 goes to Director Sean Durkin for the "Marcy's Song" sequence in Martha Marcy May Marlene. When the manipulative leader of Martha's new "community" sings a song about her in front of the entire group, it subtly but definitively wins her over. The song is actually by Jackson Frank, an obscure 1960's folk singer who only released one album, but the obsessive lyrics are perfect for the quietly sinister tone of the film and John Hawkes' performance is riveting.
Lloyd #7 goes to Director Bennett Miller for the "Casey Sings" sequences in Moneyball. Last year was the first time a set of film-music moments won a Lloyd (Sofia Coppola's Somewhere) and this year another such Lloyd goes Moneyball. The first bookend is when Billy Beane takes his daughter to a guitar store where she plays him 'The Show,' a sweet, girly song that might not have been as memorable had it not been meaningfully reprised. Just before the end of the film, Bean is restlessly driving his truck, listening to a CD his daughter made for him and Casey's voice floats into the scene with "The Show" once again. (The irony of the chaw-chewing Bean listening to such pretty music is a nice touch.) Later when we learn he has declined a generous job offer in Boston we're allowed to infer the song was a subtle influence in that direction -- a musical reminder of their father-daughter moment. The actual song was written by an Australian songwriter named Lenka.
Lloyd #6 goes to Director Simon Curtis for the "Colin watches Marilyn in the bathtub" sequence in My Week With Marilyn. Marilyn's in the bathtub, languidly sponging herself and singing "I Found a Dream" in dulcet, contented tones. Marilyn's way of singing in this moment is more loose and natural than her on screen style but has just enough panache to make us wonder if she's aware her young admirer, Colin Clark, is watching from just beyond the doorway. Is Marilyn rehearsing or performing here? Is she truly unguarded or just emulating that? Michelle Williams plays it all with a deliciously maddening, Mona Lisa like inscrutability. All of her choices in this film, in fact, communicate how blurry the line between Marilyn's private self and public persona had become and Williams' ability to add and subtract layers of identity on a moment's notice is nothing short of virtuosic. "I Found a Dream", by the way, was written by Richard Addinsell, who penned it for The Prince and The Showgirl, the film on which Clark was serving as an assistant director when he met Monroe.
Lloyd #5 goes to Director Miranda July for the "Sophie's Laptop Dance" sequence in The Future. Sophie in profile...Sophie wearing an improbable collar and doing a strange, stiff little dance to the willfully synthetic beats of Beach House. "Jack of all trades, master of none. Cry all the time, cause I'm not having fun." It's difficult to watch her struggle with the humiliation of self-imposed artistic failure, but this moment is an existential success even if she's not aware of it...a Fabergé egg of a moment. A tiny foothold in the void.
Lloyd #4 goes to Director Alexander Payne for the "Matt King Runs toward the Truth" sequence in The Descendants. Alexander Payne can find the humor and pathos in even the darkest moments and there's something so touching about the one just after Matt King learns his comatose wife has been having an affair. His beach shoes smack absurdly on the pavement as he hustles down the street toward his friends' house where he's hoping to learn the name of the other man. For this sequence, Payne selects not the tense, dramatic music that almost any other director would have but the easygoing "Wai O Ke Aniani" by Gabby Pahinui -- a gentle meditation on the mountain water of a particular ridge in the Moanalua Valley. It's a perfect example of how choosing unexpected music can make a scene weirdly unforgettable. It's also one of the many moments in which Payne allies his protagonist with place and suggests ancestral ties can cushion the blows life inevitably deals. There's a type of traditional Hawaiian song called a “mele pana," which means "song of place," and this year I think Alexander Payne made a film of place in part through one of the warmest, most soulful soundtracks I've heard in a long time.
Lloyd #3 goes to Director Derek Cianfrance for the "You Always Hurt the One You Love" sequence in Blue Valentine. There's something so fresh yet completely timeless about the tableau of a slightly scruffy couple courting one another in the doorway of a closed New York formal wear shop. Dean strums an out-of-tune ukelele and Cindy does a halting shuffle ball change, her apple red sweater popping against a backdrop of cheap pastel prom dresses. Before he starts the song, Dean informs her he has to sing it "goofy," and that is mostly how Dean himself seems then -- sweet and goofy -- his darker qualities only foreshadowed by the song at this point. Blue Valentine has the fateful quality asynchronous timelines can sometimes impart and the ukelele tap dance is just one end of its love-hate mobius strip. At the other is the violent, drunken, and not entirely consensual sex Cindy has with Dean in the shower of a space-themed hotel room in Eastern Pennsylvania, a room Dean likens to the “inside of a robot’s vagina." It really captured the depair.
Lloyd #2 goes to Director Nicolas Winding Refn for the "Oh My Love" sequence in Drive. The dream-like, 80's inflected soundtrack to Drive was ridiculously brilliant and gorgeous, but the real stand-out film music moment owes itself to a song that couldn't have been more different from the rest of the soundtrack -- a reverent, Streisand-esque ballad of hope borrowed from a 1971 Italian film called Goodbye Uncle Tom. Its soft strains begin as the Driver is caressing the cheek of a friend who has just been murdered by the mob, then build to a climax as the Driver finds the man who ordered the hit, t-bones his car over a bluff, then unceremoniously drowns him in the Pacific ocean. A profoundly unexpected choice, "Oh My Love," gives this procession of images an oddly holy quality, as if the driver is purifying himself somehow, and like the brilliant "Soul Holiday" sequence from Lee Daniels' Precious, the song seems at first a bitterly ironic commentary on how bad things have become, only to morph into an exalted manifesto for the future. It is a feat of a sequence.
Lloyd #1 goes to Director Lars Von Trier for the Tristan and Isolde prologue to Melancholia. The epic scale of this seven plus minute prologue somehow doesn't eclipse an exacting sense of detail and texture throughout. Yes, there are planets colliding, but there are also two perfect rips in the knees of Justine's jeans. Deep, black footprints in a lush golf course green. A boy slowly stripping knotty bark from a branch. Delicate tendrils of electricity dancing on Justine's fingertips. The extreme slow motion makes it seem as if each scene is still playing out somewhere, each still gracefully blooming. Von Trier has said he had some of the scenes edited to same pace as the music. "It's kind of like a music video that way," he said. "It's supposed to be vulgar." But is it vulgar when a master designer makes clothing to fit perfectly a particular body? The man often says outlandish things, but this film is darkly majestic, elegant, and eternal.
And there you have it! The intensely subjective Lloyd Awards, brought to you by Boombox Serenade. See you next year!