On Horror

Trying to accurately define the horror genre is like trying to hold a fish. It wriggles and squirms, trying to get free. It's covered in slime, trying to wrestle free from your grip. It's got subtle barbs and spines daring you to squeeze tighter. Luckily, there's an escape. An escape brought to us by the least likely of all film analysts, US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.

"Based on the corroborating evidence, the court can conclude, beyond the shadow of a doubt, Deckard was not a replicant."
In the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio, the court was tasked with deciding whether obscenity was a form of free speech. In my own blunt terms, yes (important note: my own blunt terms will not hold up in a court of law. Please consult actual legal advice from a practicing attorney.)

The United States Supreme Court decided obscenity is indeed a form of free speech, protected by the United States Constitution, therefore laws cannot ban or inhibit the action (sadly, this ruling came three months after a string of fines left comedian Lenny Bruce destitute and ruined.)

The exception to this ruling was hard-core pornography, which could still be banned based on any state's respective laws. When pressed about which obscenities constitute hard-core porn, Justice Stewart replied:

"I know it when I see it."

That one little sentence. That beautiful little get-out-of-jail free card. The line every film, television, and video game blogger owes their reputation to, and the thesis of this particular entry.

It's October, so what better time to talk about horror films? But what exactly is a horror film? How can one exactly declare what is and what is not a horror film?

Let's start with the empirical definition from Wikipedia:

"Horror fiction is a genre of media, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its audience, scare or startle viewers/readers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere."

Well, that's pretty conclusive, isn't it? Horror movies are movies that frighten the viewer.

However feeble the attempt.

But what is fear? Isn't fear subjective? Doesn't everybody have one or two irrational phobias? Lots of people will panic when they find a spider, others keep them as pets. Some people are frightened by thunder, some consider it a welcome sign of April. Fear of clowns used to be considered an odd fear, but the phobia has grown exponentially; it's a wonder anybody still associates them with happiness. I knew a girl in college who was absolutely terrified of the Care Bears. Yours truly has an unexplained aversion to flowers.

Oh God, they're getting smarter!

 So what makes something frightening? Further down the Wikipedia page we go:

"Horror films often feature scenes that startle the viewer; the macabre and the supernatural are frequent themes. Thus they may overlap with the fantasy, supernatural, and thriller genres."

That certainly helps: Horror films could include some things, and might easily be confused with other things.

What was that quote I mentioned earlier? "I know it when I see it."

That's right. If you want to identify a horror flick, you can't set up a list of qualifiers and regulations. You just have to look at it, and either accept it or reject it.

Is Silence of the Lambs a horror film? I'd say so. How about Se7en? Sure. Both these films are grounded in reality, and are a departure from the ghosts and boogeymen of other horror flicks, but they still scare. They still frighten.

And what of something like Jurassic Park? I consider that a horror movie as well. It may be a thriller first, but the dinosaurs create a distinct ability to frighten. Being hunted is essentially the same as being chased. And what horror flick doesn't have one or two chase scenes?

How's about Ghostbusters? It's getting into a gray area, but I'd say so. It's a horror-comedy. And what's the first word of horror-comedy? Just because the characters makes light of the subject, it doesn't invalidate the scary atmosphere and storyline.

Then how about Twister? Here's where I draw the line. As mentioned, horror is subjective, but its intent must clearly be demonstrated by the filmmaker. Thrillers often contain moments of peril and danger, but an evocation of the fight or flight response is a standard side-effect of any action/adventure/thriller. So no, it's not a horror film.

I was inspired to make this post after various claims of purported film fans claiming they "don't like scary movies." Don't outright declare your dissatisfaction outright. Horror movies are as wide and varied as comedies and romances. Spooks and spectres are all around the world of film, be they splatterfests, psychlogical, slashers, creature features or gothic romances. You may claim you don't like horror films, but I guaranteee there's one out there you'll enjoy. You'll know it when you see it.


Electric Boogaloo

15 Sequels That Will Never Happen:

1) The Subtle Knife
2) Super Mario Bros 2
3) Buckaroo Banzai and the World Crime League
4) Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires
5) Street Fighter II: Turbo
6) The Last Airbender - Book 2: Earth
7) Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
8) Eldest
9) Kung Pow 2: Tongue of Fury
10) Ralph Bakshi's Return of the King
11) Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money
12) The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
13) Fletch Won
14) Masters of the Universe II
15) Charlie and the Great Glass Wonkavator

15 Sequels Nobody Asked For But Are Coming Anyways:

1) Pirates of the Caribbean 5
2) Paranormal Activity 5
3) Men in Black 4
4) The Legend of Conan
5)  Prometheus 2
6) Oz: The Great and Powerful Part 2
7) Hot Tub Time Machine 2
8) Snow White and the Huntsman 2
9) Night at the Museum 3
10) Terminator 5
11) The Lost Symbol
12) A Haunted House 2
13) xXx Three
14) Tron 3
15) Rio 2

15 Sequels I Want:

1) Tucker and Dale Vs. The Aliens
2) Lock, Stock, and Two More Smoking Barrels
3) The Player 2: Sequel Pitch
4) Return to District 9
5) Twilight Watch
6) tranCendenZ
7) Galaxy Quest: The Next Generation
8) Warshinton: The Legend of Early Grayce
9) Bike Fatboy Bike
10) Lemony Snickett's A Regrettably Second Series of Unfortunate Events
11) That Thing You Did
12) Zombieland 3D
13) Kiss Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang Bang
14) School of Rock 2: America Rocks
15) Pineapple Express 2: The New Strand


10 Great Sesame Street Songs

Sesame Street is a cultural icon. It transcends international boundaries to reach children and teach them fundamental skills of life and learning. And there are Muppets involved. Double plus good.

Despite it's Pre-K appeal, there's something timeless and heartwarming about Sesame Street that always makes a nostalgic trip down memory lane worthwhile.

Until this fucker showed up.

Sometime in the mid-to-late 90s, Children's Television Workshop decided to shift the focus of attention away from an ensemble cast of human performers and various Muppets to the red-felt money machine. Elmo was marketable, and that's it. That's all that mattered. It doesn't even matter his puppeteer and voice actor was accused with multiple accusations of pederasty. Elmo was staying. Elmo was untouchable. Elmo was invincible and eternal.

And that's a shame. Because the simple, kid-focused humor and writing has the spectacular ability to reach adults as well. But the music. By god the music. That's in a class all of its own. Sesame Street has an army of 20, 30 and even 40 year-olds singing infectious ditties by the score (pun intended).

Let's count down ten songs I personally remember, and examine why they were (and continue to be) so great.

10)Telephone Rock

What questions did I ask as a kid? What is a telephone booth? Why does the phone have a dial instead of buttons? What is an operator? Nope. I wanted to know why the background singers were cavemen.

Look at them. They look like cavemen! Shaggy hair, furry clothing, saber tooth necklace. I'm not wrong about this.


9) The Word is No

This one's a product of its era, parodying avant-garde music videos of the time, including Talking Head's And She Was and Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer. I think somebody at CTW learned how to change the frame rate of their camera, and then pitched the idea in a flurry of excitement.


8) You're Alive

For several years, I believed trees and plants were not alive because of this song. Misleading! That'll teach me to trust a Muppet that looks like Sammy Hagar.


7) Put Down the Duckie

Try explaining to a child of three who Andrea Martin or Wynton Marsalis are. Hell, I still don't recognize half these people.

Also, total whiplash switching instantly from Pee-Wee Herman to Ladysmith Black Mambazo.


6) Healthy Food

Yup. That's Frank Oz rapping. The 90s were weird.

This is why the "Sometimes Food" controversy was such malarkey.


5) Dance Myself to Sleep

Bert and Ernie's relationship is hotly debated. Being forced to share my bedroom with a younger brother for many years, I was convinced Bert and Ernie were siblings. With parents who were never seen.

This is why the common urban legend of the duo being gay lovers never sits well with me.


4) Somebody Come and Play

I always remember this song being slower. And acoustic. And performed in a minor key. And I thought Bob McGrath sang it...

Memory's a tragic thing.


3) Mary Had a Bicycle

Don Music: World's best or world's worst plagiarist?

My family inherited a piano when I was six. Guess what running gag I repeatedly re-enacted.


2) Do De Rubber Duck

Sesame Street invented the foam party. With a bathtub that big, it was inevitable.

They are all wearing swim trunks. I will hear no other arguments.


1) Monster in the Mirror

Let's play 'Name That Early-90s Celebrity!'

ELMO SAYS: The law firm of Hooper and Hooper represents the Public Broadcasting Station and Children's Television Workshop. If you are represented by legal counsel, please direct this letter to your attorney immediately and have your attorney notify us of such representation.
      You are hereby directed to:

For a thorough explanation on why Elmo is terrible, read this.


Don't Touch That Dial!

My 25 favorite episodes of my 25 favorite TV shows.

25) Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen (S01E06)
24) The Big Lock-Out (S01E05)
23) Looks and Books (S01E11)
22) Life Time (S08E11)
21) Hush (S04E10)
20) The Day the Earth Stood Stupid (S03E12)
19) The Chicken Roaster (S08E08)
18) Ain’t No Magic Mountain High Enough (S02E13)
17) The Boiling Rock (S03E14 and 15)
16) It May Look Like a Walnut (S02E20)
15) Mr. Wilson's Opus (S05E23)
14) A-Firefighting We Will Go (S03E10)
13) Shell Game IV: Scallops (S09E20)
12) Shooting Fish in a Barrel (S05E22)
11) My Father's Office (S01E03)
10) The Screaming Skull (S09E12)
9) Art (S01E03)
8) Don't Tread on Pete (S01E06)
7) The Heart-Shaped Pillow of Annie Taylor (S02E09)
6) Take Your Daughter to Work Day (S02E18)
5) My Way Home (S05E07)
4) Summer of 4 Ft. 2 (S07E25)
3) The Best Burger in New York (S04E02)
2) Ariel (S01E09)
1) Mr. F (S03E05)

(Technically, The Amazing Race would be my 14th favorite show, but how am I supposed to pick a favorite episode of that?)


The Other Oil Companies

When a movie theater shows a movie, they are distributing a product from a company. The ins and the outs are complicated. I suppose I could do the noble thing and actually research how this process works, but I'd rather watch old episodes of Home Improvement on Youtube.

But I understand a modicum of the process. Upon a movie's opening weekend, movie theaters keep somewhere between 20% to 25% of the box office gross. If the movie theater in question is a franchise/chain, that cut of the cash is split between the individual theater and the home office. The other 75% to 80% goes to the distribution house and the production company.

So where do movie theaters compensate for all that unearned revenue?

It's an oft-forgotten fact, movie theaters generate an overwhelming amount of their profit from the sale of concessions. This leads to three truths of movie theater food:

  • Movie theater food is expensive.
  • Movie theater portions are large.
  • Movie theater food is unhealthy.

Let's examine these one at a time.

Movie Theater Food Is Expensive.

Think about your local cineplex. It's a giant complex, equal in size to commercial warehouses and storage facilities, but located in an area where realty prices favors small stores, shops and businesses. There's also the cost of operating high-powered electric projectors and multiple industrial HVAC units. Plus a staff of two dozen hard-working employees, and the added cost of maintenance and facility upkeep. Running a movie theater is an expensive, expensive job.

Normal restaurants price their menus in correlation with operations. Per meal, a restaurant typically charges three times the food cost, thus covering the cost of overhead and labor. Movie theaters are different. Restaurants are a fraction of the size of movie theaters. A busy restaurant will serve 300 people per night. A busy movie theater will have 300 people per auditorium, per show. Everyone at a restaurant will order food. Only 1/3 of people at a movie theater will order food. More profit per head means better returns.

Those large sodas contain less than 25 cents of sugar water. It's almost no real loss if you get a free refill or not. Theaters are getting a 2300% return on investment. It doesn't matter how big the cups are; the only reason they're not bigger is because otherwise they would not fit in the cup holders. If big is too big for you; get a small. If small is too big, are you really thirsty?
This leads us to point number two:

Movie Theater Portions Are Large.

Movie theaters aren't run by heartless bastards. They know you're getting very little bang for your buck on popcorn and soda pop. They try to soften the blow. At my local chain, a "Small" soda is 32 oz, a Medium is 48 oz, and a Large is 52 oz. A large is just a little over a liter and a half. And it comes with a free refill. A large popcorn and Coke clocks in at 2050 calories. The FDA considers 2000 calories a healthy daily average.

Movie theaters anticipate groups, pairings and families attending together. They predict you will divide these gargantuan helpings between several people. Believe it or not, that 16 cup-sized bucket of popcorn is not a single serving. Split the food, split the cost.

Or, if you'd really like, you can eat and drink the larges all by yourself. This leads us to point number three:

Movie Theater Food is Unhealthy.

Contrary to what American waistlines suggest, it is possible to go two hours without eating. The movie theater concession stand was not designed to provide nutritious sustenance for a balanced diet. It's simply there to provide a quick snack should the want arise. Hence why it's colloquially referred to as "The Snack Bar." It is not a restaurant. Stop treating it like a restaurant. Do not tie up the line because you erroneously believe this is an appropriate place to order chicken fingers and mozzarella sticks.

The Department of Health and Human Services requires my local multiplex to list calories next to every menu item. Many are in the quadruple digits. Soda and candy are pure sugar. Popcorn is cooked in oil and salt, then topped with more butter-flavored oil. What led anyone to believe any of this is remotely healthy? These are not meant to be meals. These are meant to be indulgences.

Consider your options. Consider your desires. Consider your health. Consider your wallet.

That's how a cineplex concession stand operates. Hopefully this has been informative and insightful. Now if you'll excuse me, Tim and Al are about to show off the Man's Kitchen.


It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Flick

We've all said it. "That's a "Bad" movie." But what do we mean by "Bad?" Bad like Al Capone, or bad like the dog that's scooting on your dining room carpet right now? Waitaminute, do you even have a dog? Go stop him!

Really, a bad movie could be bad for any number of reasons. Breaking it down, I've arrived at the conclusion all bad movies fall into one of six categories. The next time you see a bad movie, try and pinpoint what exactly made it bad, and what could have been fixed to make it better.

1) The Poorly Made Movie
This is a rarity in modern-day filmmaking. The movie industry is bigger than its ever been, and its still growing. Studios don't have to take chances on amateurs anymore. The days of Bert I Gordons and Edward D Woods are gone. Digital filmmaking has opened the world of movie-making to the masses, and everybody trying to break into the industry already has an extensive portfolio. If studios think you're remotely unqualified, they'll replace you with one of the 500 others waiting in the wings. There are no amateurs anymore. Just paid professionals and unpaid professionals. 
60 hour weeks. No travel reimbursement. College students only.
Must have 10 years experience. Masters degree preferred. This is a non-paying position.

But therein lies the irony. By opening the door for so many, we left the door open for everybody. People who don't want to learn the necessary skills and techniques. People who thought it looked easy, and assumed it was. People who think White Balance has to with laundry and Lavalier Mic is a French disk jockey. If the filmmakers don't care, why should the audience?
"Good enough" should not be an aspiration.

2) The Poorly Conceived Movie

Not every idea is good, but a good idea can come from anywhere. I've seen spectacular movies based on a board game, a theme park ride, sketch-comedy TV, and game shows. I have also seen bad versions of these same exact things.

As the saying goes, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. There are some projects, licenses, and franchises that are doomed to failure. There are also completely original ideas that stink worse than month old roquefort. You could contact the greatest writers, directors, actors and spin doctors, they'd all tell you the same thing: There's just no substance. But the movie gets made anyways.

At what point did this begin seeming like a bad idea? The answer may surprise you...

3) The Boring Movie

However you choose to define movies (entertainment, art, escapism, culture, storytelling, etc.), they are an act of communication. Communication relies on engagement. It relies on captivation. It relies on a listening and responsive audience. And if the audience is busy checking their watch or playing Candy Crush, you've failed.
Pathos be damned, I want more popcorn. That's exciting!

Movies can be exciting, funny, scary, thought-provoking, fantastical, empathetic, and any number of other things, but they have to be doing something throughout their 90-minute runtime. There's nothing quite as embarrassing as a comedy that doesn't make you laugh, an action film that makes you yawn or a drama that confuses drearieness with seriousness. If you waste the audience's time, they'll let you know.
Yaaawn..... I said, yaaaaawn!

 4) The Unoriginal Movie

Pretend you're a marketing guru with a finger fresh on the pulse of modern society. You know what people want, how they want it, and the fastest way to make a money with it. It's no surprise when Jimmy McMoviemaker wants you to capitalize on the latest fads and interests. So you do. Fast forward to opening night, and...  your new project garners a net loss of $35 million. Turns out, everybody preferred your movie when they saw it the first time, several years ago. Suddenly, you're living in a refrigerator box under the freeway next to the guy who invented HitClips.
Wow! An entire minute of low-fidelity pop music!

Trends come and go, but before they do, they die a slow, painful, agonizing death. What may have been cool and popular ten years ago now seems old and stale. If you can't be fresh, be original. If you can't be original, at least be early. Always move forward with the future. If you stay too long in the past, you'll be passed up.
Here's a freebie: This genre is dead. Move on.

5) The Insulting Movie

People will watch anything, right? Plunk down a couple million bucks, they'll line up like sheep. There's no need to do any research on the film's subject; just reinvent it however you like. It doesn't matter if the characters are internationally renowned, shoehorn in some more accessible character traits. Change the setting away from 1960s Britain to modern-day America. Make the main characters young, thin, attractive, and in love. Cut out just enough of the violence, sex and depravity to earn a PG-13 rating. Have them drinking Dr Pepper. Add a wise-cracking companion and pop songs. And whatever you do, don't follow the book its based on. It doesn't have a happy ending. Besides, most of the potential audience probably haven't read it.

Dictated, not read.

People are not dumb. Actually, that's a lie. But still, people don't like being insulted. Respect the people by respecting the medium. Star Wars: A New Hope was made by a man combining his love of classic westerns with samurai films, adding original elements of fantasy and sci-fi. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was made by a man with a billion dollar special effects studio and contract obligations to Pepsi, Taco Bell. Lego, Lays, EA Games and Colgate.

You think I'm joking about this?

6) The Stupid Movie 

Let's be honest. If you had to produce a new movie on a shoestring budget, knowing full well you had no hope of ever attracting more than a million individual viewers, would you put lots and lots of effort into scripting, only to have absolutely no return on investment? Or would you just accept the carte blanche challenge, create something completely off-the-wall, and have fun while doing it?
Chichen Itza is not in the Grand Canyon.

It's the beloved "So-Bad-Its-Good" movie. A movie that defies all laws of logic and sensibility by pretending they never existed in the first place. These movies aren't good because they never tried to be good. They knew damn well what they were, and they embraced the ever-loving hell out of it. Think late-nite horror marathons hosted by comedians. Think SyFy original films. Think independent cinema. The people responsible for these films are either young professionals cutting their teeth, or seasoned professionals who have a psychotic signature style. Either way, they have a happy-go-lucky energy that's apparent after only a few minutes of viewing... unless it's just a happy accident. Trying to make lightning strike twice results in a poorly made or boring film instead of a "so bad it's good." Or in the case of a remake, a poorly conceived movie.

It's not too late to scrap production. Get out while you still can.


In a Word? Exclamatory

  • Schwing!
  • Adrian!
  • Ni!
  • Inconceivable!
  • Ssssmokin!
  • Excellent!
  • Stellaaaaa!
  • Wolverines!
  • Toga!
  • Maaaax!
  • Squirrel!
  • Dragoooo!
  • Bangarang!
  • Freeeedooooom!
  • Jagshemash!
  • Redrum!
  • Khaaaan!
  • Everyone!
  • Shane!
  • Kitty!
  • Kanedaaaa!


Movies Ask the Big Questions

  • What's the most you've ever lost on a coin toss? 
  • Where does he get those wonderful toys? 
  • What's in the box? 
  • Any of you boys smithies? 
  • You ever been to Poughkeepsie? 
  • Is this toothbrush approved by the American Dental Association?
  • Who is your daddy, and what does he do?
  • Can I borrow your underpants for ten minutes?
  • D'ya like dags? 
  • What are you rebelling against? 
  • What is your major malfunction? 
  • Magic mirror on the wall, who's the fairest one of all? 
  • You wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world? 
  • Are you a good witch or a bad witch? 
  • Hey, where the white women at? 
  • What's "Taters?" 
  • Do you like scary movies? 
  • Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico? 
  • Is this your homework, Larry? 
  • Anybody want a peanut?
  • How much blood would you shed to stay alive?
  • Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling? 
  • Why is there a watermelon there? 
  • How do the machines know what Tasty Wheat tasted like? 
  • I'm Ron Burgundy? 
  • What hump? 
  • Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper? 
  • Shall we play a game? 
  • What's a Nubian? 
  • Why don't you come up sometime and see me? 
  • Do you understand the words that are coming outta my mouth? 
  • What the hell is a jiggawatt? 
  • What is a plethora? 
  • Are you suggesting coconuts migrate? 
  • Have you ever tried shawarma? 
  • How is Elvis, and have you seen him lately? 
  • Why don't you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini? 
  • Now, where was I? 
  • How do I get out of this chickenshit outfit? 
  • How much more black could this be? 
  • Did they send me daughters when I asked for sons? 
  • Ever seen a grown man naked? 
  • Can you dig it? 
  • Are you not entertained? 
  • How many people are having an orgasm right now? 
  • Did I ever tell you I was struck by lightning seven times? 
  • Is the nation ready for two minutes of radio silence? 
  • Dammit, why didn't I concur? 
  • How's that three seashell thing work? 
  • Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast? 
  • Why in pluperfect hell would you pee on a corpse? 
  • I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper? 
  • Do your parents know you're Ramones? 
  • Did you just say, "Meow?" 
  • Remember, Sully, when I said I would kill you last? 
  • Have the lambs stopped screaming? 
  • Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire? 
  • Did he fire six shots, or only five? 
  • Whoever heard of a snozzberry? 
  • Why am I Mr. Pink? 
  • Are they made from real girl scouts? 
  • Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch? 
  • Why so serious? 
  • Hey dad, you wanna have a catch? 
  • Who is sixty-seven? 
  • Have you checked the children lately? 
  • Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? 
  • I know you are, but what am I? 
  • Directive? 
  • It wasn't just a story, was it? 
  • Excuse me, but what does God need with a starship? 
  • Would you like a chocolate covered pretzel? 
  • There's no good sharks? 
  • Did he say, "Funky Buttloving?" 
  • But why is the rum gone? 
  • Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? 
  • Where is my super suit? 
  • Is it safe? 
  • Care for a little necrophilia? 
  • Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe? 
  • How exactly does one suck a fuck? 
  • What do you mean, "I'm funny?" 
  • Where's the rest of me? 
  • Why do they call you Red? 
  • Otisburg? 
  • You know how to whistle, don't you? 
  • Are you here to tell me what a bad eugoogoolizer I am? 
  • Do you know what happens to nosy fellas? 
  • You talkin' to me?


The 50 Greatest Music Movie Moments: 5 - 1

5.) Back to the Future - Johnny B. Goode
Written by Chuck Berry
Performed by Tim May and Mark Hanson

The scene: After inadvertently traveling backwards in time, preventing his parents from falling in love and erasing himself from existence, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has undone all his mistakes and restored the timeline in just under a week. All he has left to offer the world of 1955 is the gift of rock and roll, wrapped and packaged three years premature.

The song: Back to the Future's dance scene is essential viewing for music theorists, demonstrating how music is evolutionary with a clear demonstration on the natural progression from doo-wop and rhythm and blues. This is further emphasized with Marty aping the "futuristic" styles of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, AC/DC and Van Halen. Speaking of which, Michael J. Fox did indeed play and sing "Johnny B. Goode," but both his vocals and guitar were dubbed over in the final cut. Regardless, "Johnny B. Goode" is an iconic rock and roll song; symbolic of it's era, but also timeless. It's a perfect choice for a movie about time travel.

4.) The Karate Kid - You're the Best
by Joe Esposito

The scene: After months of training, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is ready to compete at the All-Valley Karate Tournament. He has his work cut out for him, squaring off against the ruthless and unethical fighters of the Cobra Kai dojo. Luckily, he's been training. He just might be the best around. Nothing could ever keep him down.

The song: Much like "Danger Zone" and "Eye of the Tiger," "You're the Best" is the type of song that could only be bred in the 1980s. With its over-the-top musical and corny lyrics, it's easy to mistake it for a parody. But no, it's real and it's fantastic. So much so, it rightfully earns a place in the top five, of for no other reason than its sheer audacity.

3.) American Psycho - Hip to be Square
by Huey Lewis and the News

The scene: Wealthy, young urban professional Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) has a dark secret. He's utterly insane and likes to kill people in violent, grotesque manners. His latest mark is a fellow investment banker who's no stranger to conspicuous consumption. But Patrick is somebody who enjoys his work; just because it's murder, doesn't mean he can't have a song in his heart.

The song: "Hip to be Square" is literally defined by Patrick Bateman as "(a song) about the pleasures of conformity and the importance of trends." And that's why it fits in so well with the world of American Psycho, a film about a man outwardly displaying an affinity towards the high-end lifestyles of the 1980s. The peppy number serves double purpose by initiating a great bit of black humor; having a brutally horrible murder take place while major chords blare in the background. It's psychotic, but what do you expect? There are no more barriers to cross.

2.) Wayne's World - Bohemian Rhapsody
by Queen

The scene: Local slackers and public-access TV personalities Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar (Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey) are out for a night on the town. Soaking up the local flavor and excitement only Aurora, Illinois can offer, the pair are armed with an AMC Pacer, a cassette deck, and a religious knowledge of the least-likely metal song in musical history.

The song: The operatic and avant-garde "Bohemian Rhapsody" was a risky gamble, being the most expensive single ever made and one of the most elaborate recordings in popular music history. But it was a smash hit right out of the box, staying at the top of the charts for nine weeks in 1975. It re-entered twice, first in 1991 following the death of vocalist Freddie Mercury, and again in 1992 after it's inclusion in Wayne's World. The reinterpretation of the 70s-opera/rock-ballad as a post-metal headbanger is a hilarious postmodern interpretation and a great piece of visual humor. In a film that values rock music as much as Wayne's World, it's quite an honor.

1.) Almost Famous - Tiny Dancer
by Elton John

The scene: William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is a teenage journalist, touring the country and chronicling the rising stars of the rock band Stillwater. Along the way, he meets Penny Lane (Kate Hudson); a fellow lost soul and "Band Aid," (like a groupie, but more admirable). After a few rocky performances, bad trips, and brushes with disaster, the infighting bandmates, the Band Aids and William all realize their place together over an Elton John song. Lost as individuals, but part of a greater whole.

The song: Yes, the number one spot goes to the twee sing-along from Almost Famous. Some call it unforgivably schmaltzy, I call it endearing and magical (barf buckets are located in the corner.) From the technical sense, it matches strong visual imagery with unforgettable musical accompaniment. From a narrative sense, it fits in well with the story; it doesn't interrupt, doesn't drag, and doesn't feel out-of-character for the cast to sing along. From an emotional sense, it's a masterpiece. There's just something about it that resonates on a deeply affecting level. It evokes feelings of camaraderie, inclusion, family and friendship and the rough, rocky roads that occur along the way. It's heartwarming, and reminds you of all the important people in your life. If you're in a bad place, it reminds you of better times and reassures you that things get better. It's not just the best music movie moment, it's therapy on film.

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The 50 Greatest Music Movie Moments: 10 - 6

10.) Magnolia - Wise Up
Written by Aimee Mann
Performed by the entire cast

The scene: Just prior to the climax, the nine main characters and their twisting, turning, intersecting storylines take a moment to breathe. With the world no longer moving, we get a moment of downtrodden introspection. They say it's always darkest before the dawn, and through our shared grief, we're all a little more connected.

The song: How often do we feel like we're alone in the world? How often are we plagued with feelings of helplessness, regrets, and longings? Frequently, as director Paul Thomas Anderson implies. But as Anderson also implies, we're never alone with our loneliness. Aimee Mann's melancholy tune reminds us life is just a series of coincidences, chance, interactions and strange things that happen. And this, this is something that happens.

9.) Say Anything - In Your Eyes
Performed by Peter Gabriel

The scene: With financial and legal stress ravaging the private lives of the Court family, daughter Diane Court (Ione Skye) is encouraged to sever her relationship with Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), a perennial underachiever with no aspirations. With nothing to offer besides his heart, Lloyd refuses to let the relationship end on such a bitter note. Lloyd grabs a boom box, a Peter Gabriel cassette, and lets the power of music speak volumes.

The song: Despite being one of the most cliche scenes in all of cinema history, I'd be lying if I said it had no impact on me. It's racked with cheesiness, but it's enduring legacy is a self-perpetuating feat; it's fascinating because of how fascinating everybody finds it. How enduring is this legacy? It's easier to find reenactment pictures on Google of this famous scene than of the scene itself.

8.) Do the Right Thing - Fight the Power
Performed by Public Enemy

The scene: After a long, hot day on the streets of Brooklyn, tensions flare after an argument erupts between pizza-maker and restauranteur Sal (Danny Aiello) and local residents Buggin' Out and Radio Raheem (Giancarlo Esposito and Bill Nunn), armed with only their ideals and a boom box. The argument evolves into a full-on yelling match, sharply turning violent after Sal smashes the boom box with a baseball bat. And suddenly, the abrupt silence is more piercing than any rap single.

The song: "Fight the Power" is featured so prominently and recurrently throughout Do the Right Thing, it was hard picking a single moment where the song resonated best. But when in doubt, go with the climax. With so much anger and hostility expressed so succinctly, "Fight the Power" is a timeless anthem of racial oppression which still resonates today as much as it did in 1989 (unfortunately, we can't say the same about the members of Public Enemy).

7.) Watchmen - The Times They Are a-Changin'
Performed by Bob Dylan

The scene: In the 1940s, the first superheroes come to fruition. They are The Watchmen. Their presence in this alternate history changes the world, focusing attention on military might and governmental strength. So much so, the Cold War progresses at a rapid pace, putting the entire planet on the brink of nuclear annihilation. 40 years later, the few remaining heroes have been driven into the shadows, working for clandestine government agencies, operating in secret, or retiring outright. What a strange and different world it is, just for the inclusion of supermen.

The song: Bob Dylan's folk classic is as representative of the cold war era as anything else. It is a perfect accompaniment to this montage of revisited, reinterpreted, and re-imagined world history. Sadly, it's use is doubly effective when compared to the other, mishandled musical moments later in the film.

6.) Rocky III - Eye of the Tiger
Performed by Survivor

The scene: Ten years after winning the WBA's Heavyweight title, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is riding the wave of fame. He has fans, adoration, endorsement deals, and he met Kermit the Frog! The only one not happy is Clubber Lang (Mr. T), a young boxer slowly rising the ranks, insulted by Rocky's showmanship. I'm going to say that again: Mr. T is offended by somebody showing off. Rocky and Clubber's twin stories are shown simultaneously, stoking the fire, counting down the seconds until their convergent paths finally come to clash.

The song: "Eye of the Tiger" was written exclusively for Rocky III after the filmmakers were unable to secure the soundtrack rights for "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen. What a stroke of good luck. "Eye of the Tiger" is the definitive encouragement song; no matter what you're doing, it feels a hundred times more important when backed by Jimi Jameson's vocals. You're trying to postulate a new scientific formula? Experiencing heightened anxieties after being inflicted with ghost sickness? Working your way out of a depressive funk by re-embracing your nationality? All you need is some 80s hard rock and pulsing guitar to make everything seem right.

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The 50 Greatest Music Movie Moments: 14 - 11

14.) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Staralfur
Performed by Sigur Rós

The scene: After the death of his apprentice, best friend and possible son, oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) has to come to terms with his life. In doing so, he gathers his friends, colleagues, coworkers, lovers and rivals to accompany him in his personal submarine for his greatest achievement to date: the re-discovery of the near-mystical Jaguar Shark.

The song: Taking place after the climax, Steve Zissou is at an existential crossroads. He no longer wants to find the Jaguar Shark, he has to. This is the culmination of his life's work and adventures. This is his vindication and the culmination of everything. And in that one moment when he and everyone around him lock eyes with the mysterious behemoth of the deep blue sea, it all comes together. The lilting sounds of Sigur Ros' voice, piano and strings brings forth feelings of transcendence, away from the humdrum trappings of life, and towards peace and prescence among the entire universe.

13.) Napoleon Dynamite - Canned Heat
Performed by Jamiroquai

The scene: In the unfairly biased world of high school politics, the strange, young Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) is the only force capable of getting his unpopular friend elected student body president. It's an uphill battle winning over the disapproving hearts of his peers, but Napoleon's been practicing his sweet dance moves for just such an occasion.

The song: There wasn't a high schooler alive in 2004 who didn't know about Napoleon Dynamite. Love him or hate him, he, his trademark diction and his sweet skills were memetics exemplified. And the piece de resistance was his epic dance, both simultaneous goofy and expertly choreographed. Taking something as niche as interpretive dance and bringing it to the masses is a feat in and of itself, but delivered by someone as lanky and awkward as Napoleon Dynamite is worthy of film history.

12.) 500 Days of Summer - You Make My Dreams Come True
Performed by Hall and Oates

The scene: Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is head over heels in love at first sight with the girl of his dreams (and several other cliches). Despite her reluctance towards a romantic relationship, Summer (Zooey Deschanel) eventually gives in to Tom's pursuits. The morning after, Tom sees the world in a strange, new, hyperbolic way.

The song: 500 Days of Summer (which I refuse to type with the stupid parentheses) is not a typical romantic comedy; we're told from the beginning the romance is a failure. While the entire film isn't a flat-out parody of the genre, this particular scene is. Using what is quite possibly the most overused song in film history, 500 Days of Summer knocks over the uptight genre conventions, while also creating an independently memorable movie moment.

11.) Fast Times at Ridgemont High - Moving in Stereo
Performed by The Cars

The scene: After another day in his own personal hell, Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) takes a moment of self-indulgent pleasure, fantasizing about his sister's friend, Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates). More than just a daydream, Brad has a musically charged experience potent enough to launch every adolescent boy in 1982 straight into puberty.

The song: Fast Times at Ridgemont High has such a precisely perfect soundtrack, there are nearly a dozen music movie scenes worthy of attention. But when they're pitted against each other, there's only one true contender. The pool scene is not only one of the most famous scenes in teen-movie history, but arguably the definitive example of gratuitous nudity in film. But not just any song deserves to accompany the sequence; "Moving in Stereo's" ethereal synthesizer and echo-y guitar amplify the dreamscape nature, adding to the feeling that this is all just a wonderful, wonderful dream.

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The 50 Greatest Music Movie Moments: 19 - 15

19.) Revenge of the Nerds - They're so Incredible
Originally by Revenge
Performed by Larry B. Scott, Timothy Busfield, Curtis Armstrong, Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards

The scene: Since their first day on campus, the nerds of the Tri-Lambda fraternity have been bullied, persecuted and tormented to no end. Their only hope for a peaceful life is winning the annual Greek Homecoming Festival. Tied for first against their arch-rivals, the nerds' only chance for liberty and preservation rests on the outcome of the final event: the talent show.

The song: I cannot find any information regarding who is actually playing onscreen, and who is mimicking. I will assume, until proven otherwise, everybody is actually performing. That said, Revenge of the Nerds offers some real social commentary with this one musical number. In the 1980s, new wave reached new heights with synthesizers and other computer-generated melodies. Bands and artists ranging from Devo to Thomas Dolby to Kraftwerk proved that nerdy interests and pursuits were marketable, popular, and not something to be scorned. Maybe, deep down, all of us are nerds. And pretty proud of it.

18.) Trainspotting - Lust For Life
Performed by Iggy Pop

The scene: In a flurry of punk rock drums and guitar, we're dropped into the manic, heroine-filled world of Mark Renton (Ewan MacGregor) and his friends. Interspersed scenes of Renton fleeing from security guards, playing soccer, and shooting up allow the viewer to see and experience life as an addict in the Edinburgh slums.

The song: Every element of "Lust for Life" is a representation of the punk rock movement. The distorted guitar, the heavy bass, the indecipherable-yet-anarchistic lyrics, etc. What better way to get adrenaline flowing whilst expressing a general malaise towards society and rejecting social norms?

17.) Captain America - The Star-Spangled Man
Music by Alan Menkin, Lyrics by David Zippel
Performed by The Star Spangled Singers

The scene: After the success of the Super Soldier experiment, Captain America is destined to become the symbol of the United States and democracy the world over. And how will he achieve this masterful feat? Through massive amounts of marketing and a top-notch USO show!

The song: Simultaneously mocking and paying homage to both WWII propaganda and the golden age of comics, "The Star-Spangled Man" is a phenomenal sequence. It's made even more pleasurable by being unexpectedly sandwiched in an action movie that knows not to take itself too seriously.

16.) Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Twist and Shout
Performed by The Beatles

The scene: Worldly-wise teenager Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) believes in nothing greater than the beauty and mirth that come with a well-executed day off. Passing this knowledge onto his two best friends, Ferris drops a cherry on the sundae by getting the entire city of Chicago to join him in song and dance.

The song: Twist and Shout was recorded by The Beatles with the very intention of being a very rock & roll song. They succeeded admirably. The simple, easy to follow lyrics encourage swarms of people to join in. The drums and bass are infectious and impossible to ignore. The vivacious guitar invites everybody to stand up and dance. Speaking of which, Matthew Broderick originally had a choreographed dance routine to accompany his lip synching performance, but due to a sprained knee, had to improvise on the day of shooting. Considering an entire city is celebrating his musical spontaneity, I'd say he succeeded.

15.) Eurotrip - Scotty Doesn't Know
Performed by Lustra

The scene: Dumped by his girlfriend during his high school graduation, Scotty Thomas (Scott Mechlowicz) tries to cheer up by attending a house party. At that very party is Donny (Matt Damon) and his band, performing their new hit song, "Scotty Doesn't Know," crudely and vividly detailing the elongated and ongoing affair between Donny and Scotty's girlfriend.

The song: I want to like the movie Eurotrip so badly. It has everything it needs to be a comedy hit. It should be on tier with Harold and Kumar, or The Hangover. Unfortunately, for every thing Eurotrip does right, it does two things wrong. The actual funny scenes are sparse, lost among a landscape of tired stereotypes, cringe-inducing sexual jokes, and slapstick performed with really bad timing. But at its peak, it does get things right. Chief among them, the madcap insanity that an alternate-reality pop-punk version of Matt Damon would write a song with the sole intention of mocking a poor schlub by name, explicitly declaring he is taking advantage of the previously mentioned schlub, mocking the schlub for his obliviousness. Then on top of that, the song becomes an international chart-topper that follows and torments the schlub everywhere he goes. That is funny. Punching mimes is not funny.

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