I don’t really know much about any of this Hannah Montana business. I don’t know much about her TV show or her movie, appropriately titled Hannah Montana: The Movie. I know she’s actually the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, I know she’s sweeping the nation, she’s Disney-riffic, and she’s a sing-songy type. I’m not sure if the movie is a musical or not a musical or maybe one of those movies about singers that like to call themselves musicals, but most of them kinda aren’t.
So, inspired by my Hannah Montana confusion, I’ve compiled quite the hefty collection of some great musical segments from films that were not musicals. Normally, I like to do Top Fives, but I just had to share each and every one of these. The full count reaches a whopping eleven, which includes a decent-sized David Lynch addendum at the end. Hope you’re up for some fun. Here we go!
1. The 40-Year-Old Virgin - “Aquarius”
When I decided on doing this list, the first sequence I thought of was this hilariously flamboyant scene that caps off Judd Apatow’s directorial debut, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, showing the entire cast of the film participating in a musical/dance sequence to a song from Hair. I guess I thought of it because it’s one of the most bizarrely out-of-place and joyously musical of all of the sequences on this list. If you hadn’t watched it within the context of the movie, you’d probably assume the whole film was a musical. A really, really, weird musical. Somehow, though, it feels like a totally appropiate ending for this film. And if you don’t already love Seth Rogen and/or Paul Rudd, then this ought to give you a little affection-boost. This clip is from the Spanish-language televised version, but don’t worry, once the music starts, the English kicks in.
2. Adventures in Babysitting – “Babysitting Blues”
“Nobody leaves this place without singin’ the blues.” Chris Columbus’s career peaked very early with this wonderfully crazy little eighties flick where Elizabeth Shue (trying to pass for 17-years-old) runs into a crazy night on the town when her babysitting gig turns into a rescue mission and a chase by gangsters. There’s lots of crazy stuff going on in this movie, a lot of which a movie with the seemingly family-friendly title of Adventures in Babysitting probably couldn’t get away with today. This terrific scene ought to explain it all.
3. The Big Lebowski – “Just Dropped In”
This one’s an obvious choice. How could it not be? The movie is a terrific cult classic from the Coen brothers, starring Jeff Bridges as a lazy old slacker known as The Dude who finds himself caught up in criminal intrigue worthy of a film noir…and all he wanted was a new rug! The film takes a turn for the completely surreal in this outlandish sequence where ladies dance around in giant bowling-pin hats and Saddam Hussein works behind a counter renting out bowling shoes. This clip goes on a bit after the sequence and contains the police station scene which follows. (Warning! There’s some brief nudity and the second scene has quite a bit of salty talk.)
4. Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy – “Happiness Pie”
There are actually two musical sequences in Canadian comedy troupe, the Kids in the Hall’s underseen feature film and both are pretty cheaply-put-together, cartoonishly goofy, and all-around strange. The first one is “I’m Gay,” which isn’t particularly impressive from a production standpoint and the song isn’t exactly catchy, but the second, “Happiness Pie,” is a real gem. The film is about a Prozac-like drug that cures depression for people by locking onto their happiest memories and ends up sweeping the nation and making an instant-celebrity out of its humble inventor. Rewatching this scene, I’m well aware of how insanely bizarre it is, but that’s just the brand of humor required for the film’s full enjoyment. The bottom line is that I just can’t stop laughing!
5. Monty Python’s Life of Brian – “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”
To watch this one, I feel like it requires no introduction. The song isn’t particularly hilarious by itself, but seeing it juxtaposed with a bunch of crucified guys, singing their hearts out and teaching us all a fantastic lesson in always looking on the “bright side of life” is quite funny. Like “Aquarius” in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, this one hits us right at the end of the film and wraps things up with hysterically irreverent gusto. This is a true classic and with good reason.
6. Southland Tales - “All These Things That I’ve Done”
This movie–especially this scene–and Black Snake Moan make me really like Justin Timberlake. That and the fact the he does kinda seem like a pretty nice guy from what I’ve seen. I don’t care for his music, but I guess you can’t win ‘em all. I wrote about this movie about a month ago in my “Five Great Apocalyptic Films” list and I specifically mentioned this scene and its wild awesomeness. It’s pretty out-of-nowhere, but it leaves a hell of an impression. More people ought to see this movie/give it a second chance. It’s so ambitious and creative and funny that you just have to give it at least a little love.
Ok, now’s the part where I get really self-indulgent. In my opinion, no one–and I mean absolutely NO ONE–on this entire planet uses music in film to better effect than David Lynch. Lynch is probably my all-time favorite director and his use of music is one of the major factors of his maddeningly enigmatic films that makes them so absorbing and fascinating. Here are five musical sequences from Lynch films to round this list off that help illustrate my point.
7. Blue Velvet – “In Dreams”
In this sequence from Lynch’s 1986 film Blue Velvet, Dean Stockwell lip-synchs Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” into a worklamp in an absurdly creepy fashion. This movie was my first David Lynch film. I watched it during the middle of the night on Showtime many years ago and was initally sucked in by its intrigue. When this scene came up, it immediately got under my skin and I fell completely in love with the movie and today I’m about as big of a David Lynch fan as there is. Stockwell and Dennis Hopper are both absolutely brilliant in this scene. Give it a watch.
8. Inland Empire – “The Locomotion”
I have a funny story about this movie, but now’s not the time. Let me instead say this: I could’ve used the 30-second clip that shows only the musical sequence, involving a group of hookers dancing along to “The Locomotion,” but to really get the full effect of the scene, it needs to be shown within the context of the movie. Inland Empire was Lynch’s most recent movie and probably the peak of his surrealism thus far. Lynch has a terrific way of exhibiting the dark flipside of classic Americana in the most bizarre and humorous ways and this scene is one of the best examples of that. (Warning again! Contains a smidgen of rough language and a bit of nudity.)
9. Mulholland Drive – “I’ve Told Every Little Star”
Mulholland Drive is my all-time favorite film and this scene is one of my favorite scenes ever. It may well be my favorite scene from a Lynch picture. I love everything about it–the way it’s shot, the way it’s lit, the way it’s cut, and especially the performance of Melissa George as Camilla Rhodes, the girl in front of the mike. It’s really a small role in the film, but she absolutely nails this scene. I love what her eyes are doing–those subtle little glances off to the side as she sings the song and the confident and satisfied bravura with which she finishes up when she knows she’s gotten the role she’s auditioning for. It’s so subtle that you don’t even notice yourself noticing it. Beyond that, I love the song, a charming and dreamy-sounding fifties love tune, and I love the way in which the classic-style recording studio set is juxtaposed with the modern-day movie set. Everything about this sequence is completely hypnotic and incredible and I want to forever bask in every last second of it.
10. Mulholland Drive – “Llorando”
It’s my favorite movie, so of course I’ve got to use another one, right? Does the inclusion of more than one musical scene in the film constitute Mulholland Drive as a musical? Not in this case, no. And I couldn’t write an article on this topic without including mention of this spellbinding scene that is powerful, beautiful, sad and stunning. Rebekah del Rio (who is also featured singing the National Anthem in Southland Tales) does an incredible job of singing the song. It’s the key moment of complete realization for the characters in the film (as well as the audience after maybe the third or fourth viewing) and takes place just before things take quite the peculiar shift. This is a pretty long clip and there’s a fair amount of set-up before we get to the song, but like the one from Inland Empire, it’s best seen within the context of the film. Granted, without showing you all two-and-a-half hours of the movie, you’ll still have no idea what’s going on (and even then you might not, either), but there’s no denying that it’s flawlessly executed and quite moving.
11. Wild at Heart – “Love Me”
For those of you who think Nicolas Cage has a huge Elvis thing going on, I invite you to give Lynch’s Palme D’Or-winning film Wild at Heart a look. Cage plays Sailor, a character who is a complete reflection of Elvis (who he affectionately refers to as “E”), a beacon of the classic American pop-culture which Lynch finds so fascinating. In this scene he defends his girl, Lula (Lynch favorite Laura Dern) from the rude come-ons of a punk in a hard rock club and caps it all off by serenading her with a nice rendition of Presley’s “Love Me.” It’s great stuff! (Third warning! Contains a little bit of the ol’ potty mouth as well as Nic Cage roughin’ up a guy.)
And there you have it. Frankly I enjoy most of these scenes more than any damn musical number from a film that’s actually a musical. And while I’m still unsure of which category the Hannah Montana picture falls into, I think I’m pretty sure that it’s not going to come close to the quality of any of the scenes on display here.
Until next time, friends!