The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Maybe it’s the time of year—autumn always turns me nostalgic, I suppose—or maybe it’s something else, but I’m listening to more music these days. My playlist is filling up, and not only with new songs, but with a few oldies as well.

I’ve always been a huge fan of movie soundtracks. Some of my first albums were Disney soundtracks from Mary Poppins and the Jungle Book. I listened to John William’s scores from Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark until the vinyl was worn through. As a teen in the ‘80’s, every movie had a defining soundtrack. Songs from Valley Girl, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off take me back to very specific moments in my life as effectively as if I had a time machine at my disposal. (Thank goodness I don’t.)

I recently advised my son on a web-design class project entitled “Back to the ‘80’s”. I suggested he research album covers and movie/ TV art from the decade. Just seeing the covers for ASIA, Duran Duran, and Cyndi Lauper gave me a smile. His project is going to be totally rad!

Last night I downloaded a Led Zeppelin song that I completely forgot about until this week. And this morning my sons and I discussed the iconic (and oft-mocked) title song from the movie Born Free. My family has a huge collection of albums that we actually do play on our turntable. It includes everything from Eubie Blake to Gene Autry to Bay City Rollers to Styx and more. My husband has already set aside several LPs for our Christmas gatherings.

The reality is that music affects our moods, triggers memories and emotions, and encourages our imagination. In film, it is often the muscle that holds the skeleton of the plot together. It’s the part that begs the audience to dance with the characters. It’s the tone that entices you to fall in love, pushes you through the action, and stokes the fire of your anger.

The connection it makes with our emotions is deeper than the story on the screen. It lasts for days, years, even decades later. A good soundtrack is essential to any good movie. In my opinion, it can turn a good movie into a great film.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Where Credit is Due

Do you watch movie credits? Do you watch through the main cast? The key grip,  gaffer,  and best boy? The soundtrack credits? Are you one who hops from your seat as soon as the credits begin?

As a kid, I was completely confused as to why my dad always insisted that we watch all of the credits.  It’s over, Dad. Let’s go.

He used to tell us that he had to stay to see who the key grip was. I had no idea what a key grip did. I thought maybe he was the guy who carried all the keys to all of the important doors on the movie set. You know, the man who locks everything up at the end of the day. Not quite. For the real answers, visit www.wisegeek.com.

What I discovered, much later, was that the reason we stayed through the credits was so that the theatre parking lot could clear out, and Dad didn’t have to wait in a long line just to get home.

As I learned more about movie makers and all of the jobs that go into a film, I became more interested in the credits. I love to see the names of the Foley artists that make all the fun sounds I hear throughout the picture. My boys have taught me tons about animation and computer generated images and editing. I marvel at the lists of names of the people involved in that art form. I enjoy seeing the lists of production babies—the babes born to crewmembers during the making of a film. I also love looking at the locations where the film was shot. I’m a big travel fan, and the world is full of beautiful places.

These lists represent real people working very long, hard hours to make a dream become a reality. They are the people who will never have their faces on a big screen. (They might not even want to be seen on film.) These lists, especially the babies, represent countless hours, weeks, months and even years that people dedicate to a single project. It amazes me.

If a movie really touches me, I like to make note of the soundtrack music. Finding the soundtrack helps me to revisit the moving moments of a beautiful movie.

For a little while, there was a trend with movies to add a little bonus segment after the credits. It was just a few seconds—a minute or two, maybe—of a character doing something or saying something surprising or funny. Maybe it pointed to a sequel.  In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Matthew Broderick reappears in his bathrobe to shoo the audience away. In Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Jack, the undead monkey, returns to swipe a piece of cursed gold.

I surmised that this little extension of story was an attempt to keep audiences in their seats until all of the credits could be seen. The downside to this was that movie-goers could visit a few websites to find out whether they should stay or go. Another problem with which I had first-hand experience, is that if too many people leave the auditorium, the theatre projectionist would stop the picture as soon as the credits end, preempting the bonus material. Boo. I suppose that’s why the trend has faded.

Whether you watch the credits through to the end or beat the crowds to the lobby, take a moment to consider and appreciate the hundreds of people who poured a piece of themselves into the film to give you a few hours away from reality.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.