Soundtrack To My Film Obsessed Life

This was originally published for the Alexandria Film Festival blog, but since writing a solid 800+ of the most reference-heavy words EVER, I thought I’d share here as well.

As a lover of all things pop culture, I like keeping tabs on the sources of my obsessions. Cataloging is a common trait for us obsessives. For example, my dad is credited with introducing me to West Side Story during a late-night telecast when neither could sleep. It was during this viewing I discovered dads had celebrity crushes too: Natalie Wood being my dad’s first. (Though Sade replaced Natalie in the mid-Eighties.) Saturdays afternoons were spent with Bob Ross and his happy little trees. Ross’ posthumous popularity with college kids proves my father was always ahead of his time. The line “What we have here is a failure to communicate” from Cool Hand Luke, in a stretched drawl, was used to diffuse every conflict of my entire childhood. To this day, I can’t look at a hard-boiled egg without conjuring up the eating contest scene. One I’d like to forget, thank you.

My mom, on the other hand, taught me the virtues of Jimmy Buffet on vinyl. She never committed to her obsession like a true “Parrothead,” thank goodness. My preteen self would have been mortified. She did commit fully to night-time soaps as a not-so-guilty pleasure – Dallas, Knots Landing, and Dynasty being the penultimate. My mother was a hairstylist and her hair could rival that of Alexis Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan.  Our bathroom door opposite the mirror felt rough from a constant coating of hairspray. (And yes, I am THAT much of a trivia buff, I memorized the order of husbands.) My obsession with Nancy Sinatra, well that’s all Tarantino.

“These Boots are Made for Walking” is a staple in my karaoke performance, but it wasn’t until Quentin Tarantino included “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” in Kill Bill Volume 1, that I became an obsessed Sinatra completist. The credit sequence of black screen and simple white text layered with that eerie hollow guitar punctuated the intimately violent opening scene of a bloody Uma Thurman. It was both repellent and arresting. It burned the rods of my minds eye leaving a ghostly image long after. I took a scholarly approach to Sinatra discovering her more ethereal work with Lee Hazelwood. I am obsessed with the lyrics, her voice and definitely her 1960′s Valley Of The Dolls hair.

Similarly, Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette included Adam Ant’s “King of the Wild Frontier.” It’s driving beat, sinewy guitar chords, and unintelligible lyrics had me rewinding the DVD to listen again. Okay, so it might have had more to do the eye candy lover, but whatever, the scene works better for having that song. As much as it pains this buff to admit this, I didn’t know it was Adam Ant. It sounded so modern I thought it was Franz Ferdinand.  S. Coppola’s song choices have the appropriate amount of nostalgia without being sentimental toward her generation. Whether it was “Just Like Honey” from The Jesus and the Mary Chain in Lost in Translation or “I’m Not In Love” from 10cc in The Virgin Suicides, Coppola proves, I was born 11 years too late.

If I had been born 11 years earlier, when dreams of owing a record shop was still a viable business model, this next song would loudly greet my customers. It’s called “Impazzivo Per Te” by Adriano Celentano. I spent (I hate to admit this) two hours searching the internet for the title of this unknown rock song. It’s from the 1961 Italian film Girl With A Suitcase directed by Valerio Zurlini. I’ll set the scene: a sexy earth goddess Claudia Cardinale and and cherub faced Jacques Perrin, stare across the expanse of their forbidden attraction and then the music obscenely interrupts their intimacy. At the time, rock was in it’s adolescence and just like Perrin’s character, Lorenzo,  it was finding itself through borrowed influences. Italy’s music scene was emulating American culture, while Lorenzo began seeing women through the eyes of his shiftless older brother.

Now, one could argue these aren’t the best soundtracks or that this list isn’t comprehensive. Wes Anderson has had some gems on his Rushmore soundtrack. Certainly The Big Chill serves as a comprehensive catalog of music from that generation. Pulp Fiction was a better overall soundtrack than Kill Bill, replacing the role of smokey chanteuse Nancy Sinatra for Dusty Springfield. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE Dusty, she’s also a karaoke staple. Dusty in Memphis – get out of town – that’s amazing, but I’ll stop myself from running on a Nancy vs. Dusty tangent. The fact that I can dedicate so many sentences to the songs in Tarantino’s films speaks toward his genius. Tarantino, Coppola, and Zurlini are in good company, along with my parents, for feeding my pop culture obsessions.

Here’s a link to the 100 best movie soundtracks according to Entertainment Weekly. Do you agree? Tell us your favorites in the comments section.

Brandy volunteers as the social media maven for the Alexandria Film Festival. She is the principal photographer of Modern Toile Photography, a sometimes chanteuse, an unabashed novel reader, a lover of Felini & french press, dance music & dahlias. She loves films for the cinematography citing Bruno Delbonnel’s work on A Very Long Engagement as some of her favorite.