Shake Your Groove Thing @ the Cinema – Fave Music From the Movies

An integral part of any movie going experience is the music that accompanies the film’s action. After the high of the wonderfully-tracked Guardians of the Galaxy, I started to think about some of my favorite soundtracks. I was certain that in digging around my site I would find a post/list. On the contrary, I was frankly quite surprised that a comprehensive post did not actually exist; sure I have alluded to some of my favorite bits of movie music from time to time, but never have I really fully fleshed it out. But no time like the present, eh?

Movie Music

On my list, you will not find much rhyme, reason or a discernible pattern as per my musical tastes, save for a slight penchant for 70’s disco. But overall, this is an eclectic mix of song and score spanning a host of genres. Good music is good music, I say. And when that music bolsters the story to be told on screen, double wow!

Also bear in mind, no particular order was considered; it was whatever came to the top of my head, with an assist of the internet in the event that I missed anything I would want to mention. At the conclusion of the post, feel free to share your faves in the comments section below.

A final note: I know there are a lot of great soundtracks out there for movies that I have not seen. To be fair, it would make no sense if (even knowing those songs) I included them on this list without seeing the completed film. In other words you will not be seeing Help, Hard Day’s Night on this list.

  1. Star Wars: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – the film is an integral part of my cinematic life, and so is the music.
  2. The Sound of Music – 45th Anniversary Edition – an important part of my youth and related school productions. I know all the words by heart and sing/hum along whenever I watch the film (which is not as often as it deserves to be watched).
  3. The Third Man (Original Score) [Bonus Track Version] – that haunting zither ….
  4. The Sting: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – great introduction to the ragtime music that fits the magnificent film to a tee.
  5. Best Of James Bond – from the Barry score to the titular songs sung by the eminent pop artists of the day, this is one where I cannot point to a singular movie but rather the collective.
  6. Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Music From The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1988 Re-recording of 1938 Score) – the compositions of this Errol Flynn classic are as bright and boisterous as the poppy Technicolor film.
  7. Pulp Fiction – the film has not stood the test of time for me, but this soundtrack certainly has.
  8. Walt Disney’s Fantasia – introduced to this film by my dear dad, I was immediately entranced by the use of classical music and animation.
  9. Starter for Ten – a deserves-to-be-seen gem of a film with a fantastic not-to-miss soundtrack, featuring music of Kate Bush, The Cure, and The Smiths.
  10. Psycho/Vertigo – I cannot really decide between the two, but these here are examples of the Herrmann/Hitchcock partnership at their peak.
  11. Love Jones – neo-soul and jazz make for a wonderful musical mix.
  12. Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol.1 🙂
  13. Love & Basketball – a rhythmic musical journey through the 80’s and 90’s.
  14. High Fidelity – a movie essentially set in a record store better have a good soundtrack.
  15. Love Actually – love(ly) music is all around. Sorry, I just had to do it.
  16. Saturday Night Fever – basically a Bee Gees album. A classic.
  17. Boogie Nights – another harmonious time capsule that excellently accompanies its film.
  18. Grease – a sing along favorite of mine and I suspect many others!
  19. Muriel’s Wedding – ABBA sings the songs of Muriel’s life.

Musical Interlude: Happy Birthday, Tina Turner!

Here are a few movie/music videos, in honor of the lady’s 74th birthday.

Goldeneye (Goldeneye)

What’s Love Got To Do With It (What’s Love Got To Do With It)

We Don’t Need Another Hero (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome)

An Interview with Musician Elliott Wheeler

On May 30, I spoke with Sydney-based musician Elliott Wheeler, one of the collaborators who worked on the soundtrack for Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby.


Mr. Wheeler is the founder of Turning Studios. A classically trained musician, he studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Sydney University. Over the years, he has worked as a composer and producer on several films, documentaries, commercials, and theater compositions.

2013 has been quite the year for Wheeler; in addition to the release of the Gatsby soundtrack, he also has the following two projects lined up: soundtrack work for George Miller’s next “Mad Max” film, Fury Road and Rob Conolly’s adaptation of Tim Winton’s The Turning. If that weren’t enough, this past May heralded the release of his first solo studio project, The Long Time.

The following is an abridged version* of our conversation, containing some of the “best bits.”


First, I wanted to talk about your work on The Great Gatsby; I’m curious to find out a little bit more about your specific involvement in the project.


I was approached by Baz (Lurhmann) and Anton Monsted, the music supervisor and co-producer on the film, back in June last year. The job was two-fold – first was to start doing the work that the music editors couldn’t do with the music that was coming in. Being able to do transitions between a certain style of track or getting one of the pieces of music to fit in a particular way that was beyond this normal music editing. The second role was just to help Baz be able to explore some of the concepts of what some of those tracks might sound like in different styles. So, what would it be like if we were to ‘jazzify’ one of the Jay-Z tracks or Lana Del Rey tracks; what would that sound like? And that’s sort of what my role really evolved into – I was really allowing Baz to explore what all these songs would sound like in different incarnations and in 20’s style, as well as going over (to London) and working with Bryan Ferry and his jazz orchestra, or some of Craig Armstrong’s original themes. Craig Armstrong was the headline composer on the score and so we recorded a few things as well in that 1920s style. There were so many people who were involved with the soundtrack, but Craig Armstrong’s original score is absolutely incredible and he recorded that over in London. Craig’s score is integrated perfectly into the film and his scenes for the different characters are so strong and they’ve given such a great particular, which is what an original score should always do. But then you’ve got all the work that Baz, and Jay-Z, and Anton who was bringing the artists in and collaborating. My role is very much to help Baz be able to make all of those different artists weave together and become part of the fabric of the film rather than something that’s “just voices.”


Of all of the tracks that you worked with on the Gatsby soundtrack, which one was the one that gave you the most satisfaction and why?

It is a tough question – of course there were so many different styles. I might name three.

The Florence and the Machine track, which I arranged the strings and we recorded over at my studio. That was a really, really exciting track to be a part of because it was a section in the film that we had been trying lots and lots of different ideas on and then Florence came and got involved and just instantly hearing her voice over the particular scene that it’s used for suddenly brought the entire thing to life. It was one of those beautiful moments when you’re doing screen composition where – it’s just one of the parts that absolutely locks in … and it was just incredibly exciting.

The second one is the Lana Del Rey track (Young and Beautiful). It was a track that we just were living and breathing throughout the process and had to go through so many iterations. Craig had a beautiful version of it and we did a number of different versions. We did a fantastic foxtrot that we got to record with Lana and the track appears in one scene that was really fun to able to get that style. Then having Lana sing back over the arrangement was a real thrill. She’s got amazing vocals and you expect her voice to be absolutely beautiful, because you know what it sound is, but hearing her sing it in a different idiom was really exciting.

And the third one, I’m just going to say that working with the Jay-Z material, which was a number of different tracks that we worked on with Jay, but that was an absolute thrill because his material just sounds so incredible already when it turns up and the production on it is so fantastic. But the level of complexity in his actual production is so superb that when you’re having to put material over the top it’s a conundrum [because] it already sounds so good that you don’t want to put stuff in there that doesn’t need to be in there. But at the same time, anything you add on top just fits so well with the track, because with hip-hop, you’re used to hearing those samples that fit very easily within the language. It was just a thrill to do.



Moving on to other film projects you’re working on. Let’s start with The Turning.

theturningThe Turning is a wonderful book by Australian author Tim Winton and it’s a collection of 18 short stories that the producer Rob Connolly has tried to turn into a film. So, what he’s actually done is got different people to direct each one of those stories in whatever way they want and given the directors some amazing freedom. It’ll be really exciting to see the final result. Cate Blanchett is directing one; David Wenham, Mia Wasikowska, and 15 others. My role on this film was literally just doing the opening sequence with a wonderful friend of mine. A director called Marieka Walsh, who actually did the film clip for my “Baker Man” single. Marieka has done stunning animation; she is amazing. She’s literally drawing every single frame and taking a photo and then moving it on old school animation and the results just look incredible. So, she’s done a really beautiful opening for the entire film and I was scoring her opening.


Let’s talk a little bit about further detail about Fury Road and your role in that film. According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), it’s scheduled for a 2014 release.

My role on Fury Road has been at this stage to work with George (Miller, the director) and Maggie (Sixel), the editor, to really just throw up the initial pallet of music. So, it’s a score composition, but also doing a lot of music editing. Actually in the initial process, it’s mainly music editing and trying different things up against different scenes. Just looking at what sort of music pallet is going to work with the film and then from there. If George wants a certain thing to happen and you just can’t find a way to do that with the additional interesting score then we begin to start writing and coming up with some original score to get through the film. It’s a wonderful film and George is extremely open in the score take. So, it’s been really exciting. The material that he’s provided has been interesting and he’s been very open to a lot of material that we’ve been working on.



We rounded out the conversation talking about his solo project, seven years in the making, The Long Time, an eclectic mix of jazz, neo folk and indie rock; here’s a sample, followed by what he said about working on the album.

It was so fun but also extremely challenging, because with film work, I’m used to collaborating with people and I love having those outside influence that come in and put pressure on the different parts of your creative process; that sort of pressure brings out different responses. I think every musician is curious to hear what they can do when they put a body of work together like that, but what was also fantastic is I would bring all the skills and the people that I’ve met on something that was just purely music based. A lot of those same players and all the singers that appear on the album are people I’ve been working with in my screen work. So, it was great. It was a very different process, but there are so many boundaries that you have with film work that I find extremely freeing. You’ve got a set perimeter and you get to explore your creativity within those set perimeters. [With film work] if you have a particular story to tell, a deadline to meet, or a particular ensemble that you’ve got to work with – I think sometimes limiting the number of choices that you have to make can be extremely fruitful in terms of your actual credit output. With an album you have a blank space of time and contributors and material and where you want to move it. It took me a long time to work out exactly what flavor and what format I wanted the album to be, but it was a wonderful process to do.


The Great Gatsby soundtrack and The Long Time are currently available for purchase. Mad Max: Fury Road is in post-production and tentatively scheduled for release in 2014. The Turning is currently in post-production scheduled for release in August as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival.

*Thanks to Transcript Divas for their services.

A Musical Interlude …

Happy Friday everyone!

I have been listening to a lot of Sam Cooke lately. Currently on my reading list (once I get though the backlog of books) is his biography. I have always been fascinated by his tragically short life. So I am really looking forward to digging into the book when the time comes.

What you may ask does this have to do with the world of cinema?

Well, this week as I was making my journey to work, waiting on the subway platform for the express train, an underground troubadour began to sing Cooke’s classic Wonderful World. And whenever I think about that song, I am transported to this film:

Granted this is not Mr. Cooke’s version of the song (rather it is a cover version by Greg Chapman), but I forever associate his vocals whenever I think about this song …

In case you were curious, here is the Sam Cooke version of the song:

Now back to Witness I absolutely love this film. I will refrain from making this a full on recap/review of the film but the juxtaposing of the two worlds is so wonderfully done, my words cannot do it justice. All I can say is that if you have not seen this film – Forshame! JK, but seriously, Witness is well worth the time to catch this one (and yes that is a very young Viggo Mortensen behind Harrison Ford).



Skyfall by Adele: What Do You Think?

Enjoy and share your comments below.

My take? a very Bond theme that is fit for the occasion. Hopefully the film will live up to (and surpass) this teaser we have been treated with.

Loved the Movie, REALLY Loved the Music (An Appreciation of “High Fidelity”)

Over the past years there has been a spattering of mention of my appreciation for the 2000 Stephen Frears feature High Fidelity here on my blog. Now I would like to pause to mention some of my favorite bits from the film.

For the uninitiated, here is the logline:

When his live-in girlfriend walks out on him, a Chicago-based music store owner with a penchant for top-five lists, goes on a path of self-exploration.

Source: Wikiscreenplay

The ensemble cast, lead by John Cusack, features Iben Hjejle, Jack Black, Todd Louiso, Lisa Bonet, Sara Gilbert, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tim Robbins.

While I have not read the Nick Hornby book on which the film is based (set in London), I look forward to reading it (someday). To date, I have read one of Hornby’s autobiographical books (31 Songs) and am currently reading his most recently published novel, Juliet, Naked, published in 2009.

For me what makes High Fidelity an enjoyable watch is … frankly everything! From the witty dialogue to the effective use of the pieces to camera, I can watch this film over and over again. But above all else, the use of music throughout the movie sends this film to another level for me. In fact, whenever I catch the film, I watch it all the way through to the end credits so I can hear one of my favorite Stevie Wonder tunes (Note: do not watch if you have not seen film — possible spoiler):


As hard as it was to do, I have narrowed down the list of some of my favorite scenes from the film (WARNING: Some clips contains explicit language):







BONUS:Stevie Wonder/Cosby Sweater

Now for the bad news – as with any soundtrack that you may decide to purchase there will be notable and disappointing omissions. Take a look at this Wikipedia entry about the soundtrack, which includes music played in the film, but not on the purchasable soundtrack.

Go ahead; make your own mix tape.

What did you think about this film? Are there any films in your library that resonate the same way for you?


Musical Musings: Love Songs … Actually

If you are a fan of the Richard Curtis School of  (Romantic ) Comedy and its music, you will like this post. Released in 2011, Love Songs … Actually is a compilation of the music from Richard Curtis’ most popular comedies, including:

  • Four Weddings and a Funeral
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary
  • Notting Hill
  • Love Actually
  • The Boat that Rocked (Pirate Radio)
Whatever you may think of the films, this collection contains a varied array of songs that ranges from the some of the classics songs to the ‘latest’ pop confection (truth be told, I tend to steer clear of the latter). But with over 40 songs to choose from, I was bound to  find a couple of faves:

Unfortunately, there are some serious omissions from this two-disk set; most notable for me are:

  • Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ and The Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ (from Love Actually)
  • ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ by The Pretenders (from Bridget Jones’ Diary)
  • And several tracks from The Boat that Rocked.

In this case, your best bet may be to acquire all the individual soundtracks and create your own ‘master playlist’ for your listening pleasure. I have done so myself.

But for folks in the USA who will insist on having this single, abridged version set, please note that Love Songs … Actually is an import title that you will have to order a physical copy of, likely over the internet.

Hitchcock and His Music

Even if you have not seen Psycho, this music must ring vaguely familiar. For me, this is the ultimate example of the importance of musical scoring in the motion pictures. And no more do I feel the impact of the score then when I watch the films of one of my favorite directors, Sir Alfred Hitchcock.

13 years ago (goodness, me!) I had the pleasure of visiting the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City and going to the Alfred Hitchcock exhibition, its arrival coinciding with the auteur’s centenary.

Among my mementos of the trip were a museum print and a compact disk, Alfred Hitchcock: Music from his Films. All these years later, the music from this CD still gets constant rotation on my iPod.

While the composer most closely aligned with Hitchcock is Bernard Herrmann, over his career he also collaborated with the likes of Miklós Rózsa, Franz Waxman and John Williams. Here is a really cool interview in which Williams talks about his collaboration with Hitchcock:

Although this music is not on the disk, I thought it was just lovely; it is a score by Neil Brand, which he composed to accompany the British Film Institute’s restoration of Hitchcock’s 1929 film Blackmail.

I close with the words of Bernard Herrmann himself, talking about music and its importance in cinema.

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Share your thoughts below.