YouTube HOF: Musical Interludes
Editor’s note: The a cappella drama (which is totally nothing like Glee, you guys) Pitch Perfect opens this weekend, and some of you may be surprised to learn that at least half of the Grantland staff has Friday, September 28, circled with red hearts and emblazoned with the words “GET PITCH SLAPPED” in their day planners. Tickets have been purchased. Post-show karaoke has been planned. (What else are we supposed to do with all that inspiration — sing “No Diggity” to ourselves in the shower? That is so Anna Kendrick in the first half of the Pitch Perfect trailer.)
One of the nice things about movies that center on vocally proficient youth is that it isn’t that unrealistic for them to break out into perfectly harmonized, choreographed song and dance now and then. But we also like it when it makes absolutely no sense at all, and an otherwise traditional film grinds to a halt for a Broadway-worthy musical sequence. Here are our favorite non-musical musical numbers.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Twist and Shout”
Chris Ryan: There was a long period of my life in which I thought that this was about as cool as one person could possibly be. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I decided that I would not be the kind of guy who could pull off a leopard-print blazer. What are you going to do? Life moves pretty fast. But while I may not long to send St. Pauli Girls into a state of total hair-shaking hysteria while the city of Chicago looks on, I still think this is a pretty great scene. This is due in no small part to the fact that John Lennon’s vocal performance on “Twist and Shout” — which Broderick is lip-syncing along to — might be the best in the history of rock and roll. Up for debate? Not really? I suppose that’s cheating, since this YTHOF was supposed to include “singing,” but what do you want? John Hughes and Matthew Broderick invent Glee and lip-dubs right here, and while we can debate the relative value of that contribution to society, I think it earns this scene an exception.
According to some really light research, this was filmed over two days, and includes legit parade footage, when Hughes slipped his movie float into an actual parade. I really like how Broderick’s performance mirrors the way singing along to a song usually goes: You start out nervous, maybe a little too cool to throw yourself into it. Then, the next thing you know, you’re stomping on the ground and hitting ever-rising octaves of “Ahhhs.” I don’t know that I have ever had this much fun in my entire life. Special shout-out to Kenny Ortega, who directed High School Musical, choreographed Dirty Dancing, and mapped out Broderick’s moves on the parade float. The star apparently busted up his leg and was unable to perform all the steps he had been taught, but I think the window cleaner, Cameron Frye’s Gordie Howe jersey, the step dancers, Ferris’s dad, and, yes, the St. Pauli Girls more than make up for it. I may not actually want to live this fantasy out anymore, but when I see this scene it makes me feel like Richard Edson taking the Ferrari out for a joyride.
Wayne’s World, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Mark Lisanti: Back in 1988, a couple of years before I’d have my own driver’s license, I became a constant backseat passenger in the cars of older friends from my neighborhood. And on one of those car trips — probably to nowhere, because the ability to go anywhere was much more important than having an actual destination — someone popped in a tape [Wikipedia] and “Bohemian Rhapsody” came blasting out of the stereo. I had never heard this song. What was this fucking song? And so the next five or so minutes were spent doubled over in laughter as the Firebird (it was a 10-year-old Firebird, a gold one, because it was 1988) drove way too fast to maybe the mall, filled with headbanging metalhead idiots scream-harmonizing along with Freddie Mercury. This was probably the formative moment of my teenage years, for better or for worse.
So, yeah, four years later, this scene from Wayne’s World spoke to me a little bit. Because it was stolen from my life. Unfortunately, the memory-infringement lawsuit I filed in my mind as I left the theater was poorly prosecuted, and I was never awarded the $5 million with which I planned to hire Queen to ride around in a ’78 Firebird with Mike Myers, mind-burglar, hog-tied to the roof as we all implored Scaramouche to do the Fandango. It should be noted that Mercury had already been dead three months or so by the time the movie came out in early 1992, so full satisfaction was never really a possibility. My case had some fundamental problems, I admit that.
But I do get to bore everyone with this story every time I hear “Bohemian Rhapsody,” so perhaps I did win in the long run.
(I did not win.)
Beetlejuice, “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”
Tess Lynch: Because I’ve already referenced
Tuff Turf, “I Walk The Night”
Emily Yoshida: Apologies to everyone I’ve known in my life ever for finding another excuse to bust out this clip, perhaps one of my top-10 favorite things on YouTube. This is a scene from the little-seen, would-be, should-be ’80s teen classic Tuff Turf, which stars James Spader, Robert Downey Jr., and a gorgeous, radiant Totally Hair Kim Richards, back before this happened. In this scene, fallen-from-grace rich boy Morgan (Spader) takes a crew of his new riff-raffy friends from the valley to a country club where they scam hors d’oeuvre and drinks, dance modern, and generally freak out the upper crust. This culminates with Morgan grabbing the mic while the band takes a break and singing this heartfelt original ballad to his dream girl from the wrong side of the tracks. (You’re right, that is definitely not James Spader’s singing voice.)
I could go full Emily Explains on this clip, but for me the one breakout moment is Kim Richards’s flawless metaphorical shades removal at 0:23, followed by an “I’m pretending to be embarrassed” glance around the room. Ladies, take note. That is the exact correct reaction when young James Spader starts serenading you in public. Later in this movie, she does cartwheels on a bar and Spader gets into an ax fight. I can’t recommend this film highly enough.
The Deer Hunter, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”
[Click here to watch the clip.]
Alex Pappademas: A drink before the war — or, from the looks of things, about a hundred drinks, enough that these tuned-up steel-town dudes can sing along to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” like a bunch of sharkskin-suited Jersey Boys. When Walken starts belting the chorus like he’s leading a parade and everybody joins in, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” briefly becomes the most powerful song ever written — at least for this moment, it can hold the adult world at bay. This is a musical number that feels totally organic and Rolling Rock–fueled, but also elegantly choreographed; I never get tired of the way John Cazale gently and sensibly relieves John Savage of his beer goblet — “No sense in gettin’ too relaxed” — and the Rube Goldberg way that Savage’s other hand immediately falls on another glass.
Saved by the Bell, Zack Attack — “Friends Forever”
Juliet Litman: Musical interludes figured into many Saved by the Bell episodes (Hot Sundae, the glee club, the gang providing music at the dance). But none were as epic as the “Zack Attack” episode. Zack Morris conjured up a proto–Behind the Music (before the VH1 franchise even existed) about himself, and he even had the gall to imagine that Mr. Top 40 Casey Kasem was the narrator. (Although if Casey had been available for the dance contest at the Max, it was probably safe to assume he was free for this too.) The most impressive part is that if I had to guess what Zack Morris would sound like as a pop singer, this is exactly it.
My Best Friend’s Wedding, “I Say a Little Prayer for You”
Sarah Larimer: Gotta be honest, I don’t really love this movie. (My Best Friend’s Wedding is a surprisingly poor representation of best friends, right?) But you know what I do love? Dudes wearing puffy lobster claws, waving their arms to a Dionne Warwick song. I wish this kind of stuff happened at my family gatherings, but two of my three sisters are already married and — much to my disappointment — neither of them hosted a rehearsal dinner that included a spontaneous group sing-along. When I go home for the holidays this year, I’ll just try to lead the table in song whenever we go out to eat. Will definitely keep you guys posted on how that works out.
Billy Madison, Billy’s Musical
Molly Lambert: Tamra Davis has one of the best IMDb pages ever, speckled with music videos for Sonic Youth, Young MC, The D.O.C, and Bette Midler. She directed a flawless quartet of movies I will watch any time they are on television; CB4, Billy Madison, Half-Baked, and Crossroads. She is married to Michael Diamond, better known as Mike D. I’ve always thought of Adam Sandler as the fourth Beastie Boy, Zeppo. Davis knew exactly how to shoot this sequence, which is to treat it like a real musical, playing it straight. It’s the quintessential Disney “I want” song. The clown freaks me out every single time. And of course, it has the perfect ending to anything, “Do you have any more gum?”
Step Brothers, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
Steven Hyden: This isn’t the only musical number in Step Brothers — there’s also the climactic “Por Ti Volare” showstopper during the Catalina freakin’ wine mixer at the end of the movie. But in another sense, this is the only musical number, not just in Step Brothers but in any movie ever.
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, “Hold On”
Jonah Keri: My top three can’t-believe-I’m-admitting-to-sort-of-liking-these-songs songs. Bring on the mockery:
3. Heart, “Crazy on You”: Does this even qualify as a guilty pleasure song, or can we just say it’s unironically really good? Nancy Wilson’s guitar is the best.
2. Wilson Phillips, “Hold On”: Chynna Phillips boyhood crush combined with excellent “drum” break (see also “Baba O’Riley” and “In the Air Tonight” … honestly, Grantland should do a YouTube Hall of Fame for drum breaks) makes this a huuuuuge winner. Was 54 percent too giddy when I saw this scene in Harold & Kumar for the first time.
1. Alanis Morissette, “Ironic”: Pantheon sing-along song when you’re alone in the car. Warning: Do not attempt if you’re not alone in the car.
Gilda, “Amado Mio”
Amado mio, OK.
love me forever. DONE.
And let forever … YES, RITA HAYWORTH?
begin tonight. OH FANTASTIC.
Amado mio, AGAIN, NOT A PROBLEM.
when we’re together … GO ON.
I’m in a dream world … YUP, ME TOO. ABSOLUTELY.
of sweet delight. THAT IS UNBELIEVABLY GREAT TO HEAR.
Many times I’ve whispered “amado mio.” I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU’RE DOING WITH YOUR ARMS BUT PLEASE DON’T LET THAT STOP YOU.
It was just a phrase that I’ve heard in plays. WAIT, WHAT?
I was acting a part. NO!
But now when I whisper “amado mio,” YES??
Can’t you tell I care from the feeling there, for it comes from my heart. JESUS, DON’T TOY WITH ME LIKE THAT.
My one endeavor, my love, my darling, will be to hold you, and hold you tight. OK, PERFECT.
Amado mio. AGAIN, DONE.
Love me forever, I FEEL LIKE YOU’RE NOT 100 PERCENT HEARING MY MESSAGE HERE.
And let forever … YEAH?
Begin tonight! I GUESS WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY IS … WILL YOU GO OUT WITH ME, RITA HAYWORTH?
A Life Less Ordinary, “Beyond the Sea”
Dan Silver: A year after the breakout success of 1996′s Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary reunited that indie darling’s four key members — director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew MacDonald, writer John Hodge, and star Ewan McGregor — for their first Stateside cinematic endeavor. Although the film tanked, I’ve always been a big fan and have tried to sing the film’s praises as much as possible. It’s an endearing and quirky romantic caper comedy, with excellent performances by everyone in the cast. And I’d argue that the subsequent success of both McGregor’s and Diaz’s careers can be attributed to this Bobby Darin musical interlude. Would McGregor have gotten his roles in Moulin Rouge! or Down With Love (another criminally overlooked movie) after such dark roles in Shallow Grave and Trainspotting without showing off his suave and charming demeanor here, much less his singing voice? Maybe, but there’s no doubt this helped make the connection. And despite Cameron Diaz being a terrible singer, you gotta give her a ton of credit for actually piping up and doing her best (it sounds like they’re both singing live on set). With this scene, she clearly showed that even early on in her blossoming career, she was not afraid to “look a fool” onscreen. I’m certain that helped when Peter and Bobby Farrelly were trying to cast a girl who uses semen as hair gel (1998′s There’s Something About Mary was Diaz’s next film, and just so happens to also be produced and distributed by the same studio as A Life Less Ordinary).
Casablanca, “La Marseillaise”
Charles Pierce: This is simply the greatest single scene in the history of motion pictures. Fierce. Unyielding. And utterly un-corny. Between Yvonne’s tears, and the Spanish guitar lady who starts hitting the strings like she’s Pete Townshend, and Ingrid Bergman’s eyes, and Paul Henreid’s face when he gets to “Aux armes, citoyens,” you can only imagine how stirring this must have been to the people who actually were living through the events in 1941. All Bogart has to do is nod and, legend has it, they filmed it at the end of the day, and Bogie was already sockless, and he was a complete pain in the ass about coming to the bottom of the stairs and nodding. Further proof that Casablanca‘s greatness always has been the sense — which is quite accurate — that an awful lot of the movie was being made up on the fly. Formez vos batallions!
Rush Hour, “War”
Rembert Browne: If you ever needed proof that Jackie Chan was an accidental comedic genius, just watch him sing “War” by Edwin Starr over and over again until you have no more tears of joy to cry.
“WHAT IT IS IT GOOD FOR? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. GOOD GOD. YOU ARE.”
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