Friday, July 1, 2011

Diversionary Tactics: Recreating Sports Movie Soundtracks To Take My Mind Off The 2011 Lockout Season

I'm just going to ignore the fact that as of 12:01 AM, the NBA has joined the NFL in a state of lockout. If I actually think about it, I'll get cranky, so I will simply keep my focus elsewhere. When I woke up this morning, "For Love Of The Game" was on TV. I won't lie, I freaking love this movie. As a matter of fact, I love all of Kevin Costner's sports vehicles. I wish he'd make more of those instead of churning out stuff like "Water World." Anyway, it's a great movie; not on the level of "The Natural" or "Hoosiers", but absolutely watchable and enjoyable at any time. The one serious problem I have with this flick is the banal, uninspired soundtrack. (I have this problem with a whole bunch of movies. When you're a total music nerd, you spend a lot of time thinking about what songs might have better suited various scenes in film and television than whatever the music director came up with.) That tendency led me to today's post. Time for a little mindless fun.

You may or may not have seen that meme making the rounds on Facebook a few years back wherein a storyline was hypothetically laid out for your life, and the game was to put your iTunes on shuffle and see what a randomized soundtrack for various touchstone moments in your fictional existence would sound like. It was actually kind of entertaining, and given the nature of my music-obsessed friends, we had a lot of fun rehashing the playlists and talking about what worked and what didn't, how certain songs were perfectly aligned with their fake moments, etc. Because we're dorks that way. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to reverse engineer the concept in a sports context.

I decided on the following method: first 10 songs to pop up on my iTunes shuffle will be assigned a sports movie moment. (I like this because it ups the degree of difficulty. You're not just saying "you know what I always thought would be a great song for this scene ...?" You have to take what you're given and apply it effectively.) Rule: the movie moment can't be used if it already has a perfect soundtrack. For example, you can't utilize a song for Costner's drive to Boston in "Field Of Dreams", because the Allman Brothers' "Jessica" is already an exemplary choice. We're gunning for improvement here, not just a different, equally apt song selection. Is this a pointlessly silly exercise? Well, yes, yes it is. But it's also tremendously fun. And off we go ...

1. Look At Miss Ohio - Gillian Welch. When John Lovitz's scout character pulls up to Gina Davis and her sister's farm for the first time in "A League Of Their Own." I realize the movie's time period is well before the song's release, but it works beautifully. You could even fade down to undercurrent levels for the dialogue; it's got the right sort of spacious melancholy for Kit's yearning to follow with Dottie.

2. Feio - Miles Davis. The climactic final game between Denzel and Ray Allen in "He Got Game." This is as tense, funky, and haunting as it gets. As a matter of fact, instead of trying to get cutesy with all the Copeland, Spike Lee should have just used all of "Bitches Brew" as a soundtrack. It would have upped the whole vibe of the film by at least 10%.

3. Enemy Fire - Ryan Adams. When Mox drives out to the field, deeply concerned for Billy Bob in "Varsity Blues." This is an underrated sports movie, in my opinion, particularly this scene. The shotgun blast and shot of the truck absolutely make you think Billy Bob offed himself. The exchange he has with Vanderbeek really explains everything about sports' effect on kids when the pressure gets too big. You could take the dialogue from this scene and apply it to AAU hoops, gymnastics, any scenario that demands too much of young athletes. This track would underpin the scene really nicely.

4. Fine (live) - Edie Carey. After the romantic leads (Moira Kelly and I forget the lead actor's name right now) have the big fight before the finals in "The Cutting Edge." They're still trying to hold it together on the ice, but clearly both feeling hurt and betrayed. "As long as the neighbors think everything is fine ..." Indeed.

5. (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons - Sam Cooke. Annie Savoy could've easily put this on the turntable for any of the dancing scenes with Crash Davis in "Bull Durham." If she dug the gloriously soulful earnestness of Edith Piaf, clearly she'd be into Sam Cooke. However, personally, I'd have had Crash listening to this tune while he's ironing his shirts and drinking scotch as she bursts into his apartment so they can have the "William Blake!" exchange. It's his type of tune, and the lyrical content would have underscored the romantic tension.

6. Pedestal - Portishead. Tough one, here. Portishead: not a band you'd generally stick in a sports flick. I have to go with "Any Given Sunday." This would work for Al Pacino's frustrated/soul-searching moment when he's failed to bring Steamin' Willy Beaman to heel in terms of play calling, and he's unsure what course of action will help the team. His face in that moment is perfect. He knows the game, has his philosophy about how it ought to be played, but he doesn't want to undermine his QB if they're winning. This track is dark enough to pull of the conflict, a good sort of forlorn creepiness resonating. It's not totally ideal, but it works fairly well.

7. The Exhibition - Kaki King. It's like iTunes was trying to make it up to me for the previous track. Instrumental solo-acoustic guitar tracks are incredibly malleable as sonic backgrounds. Gotta go with this, played super low as an augmentation to the "I didn't choose this town, I chose you" scene between Mary McCormick and Russell Crowe in "Mystery Alaska." The right kind of poignancy is in play, and the understated-ness of the piece makes it perfect for a subtle, delicate texture within a touching scene like this one.

8. Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes. Shane "Footsteps" Falco sitting dejectedly on his boat after a tough loss in "The Replacements." Good indie faux-moping track, as droning as the character and the movie itself. 'Nuff said.

9. Mama, You Been On My Mind (live) - Bob Dylan (w/Joan Baez). Any time you get a Dylan/Baez duet like this, it's always going to be good for something. This rattling, bouncy version from the Rolling Thunder Revue tour is particularly choice. For when Dennis Quaid's family shows up for his eventual Major League debut in "The Rookie." Perfect for the hug-and-kiss-the-wife moment, and nestles in well with the film's twangy soundtrack. It would have been a great little snippet of song to slip in there, just a flash of something to cook the moment up right, like adding a touch of hot sauce to a dish.

10. Lucky Day - Morphine. For the opening credits of "Fever Pitch." (Awful, awful movie, I know.) Why? Because it's a song about feeling lucky and eventually screwing it up, (something any pre-2004 Sox fan knows about), it's by a band from Boston, and you don't blow the gritty, anthemic celebration that is "Dirty Water" on the opening sequence. Cliche, rookie move there. Which isn't surprising given how terrible the film is, but still, you gotta save your show stopper for when it counts. Why they don't have any Morphine (or Aerosmith!!!) on the soundtrack baffles me. Anyway, this is what I would have gone with.

Feel free to play at home and post your own results in the comments. Happy 4th of July weekend, kids!!!!

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