January 31, 2009

Underrated MOTM: Boiler Room (2000)

January's Underrated Movie of the Month harkens back to a time when the markets were strong and the crooks were, well, nobody really cared about the crooks because the markets were strong. Remember, 10 years ago, when the Dow was peaking at all-time highs and the internet bubble hadn't yet popped?

Near the end of this fattened-calf period came Boiler Room, Ben Younger's surprisingly still relevant drama that both glamorized and criminalized the free-wheeling lifestyle of a group of sneaky New Jersey stock brokers at the fictional investment firm JT Marlin. Younger (who has unfortunately done little of significance since Boiler Room) was planning a career in politics until he accompanied a friend to a recruiting session (similar to the one lorded over by Ben Affleck in the film) and came up with an idea for his first screenplay.

In an interview for New York Magazine, Younger, then 27, explained: "I walked in and immediately realized, this is my movie. I mean, you see these kids and you know something is going on. I was expecting guys who went to Dartmouth, but they were all barely out of high school, sitting in a room playing Game Boys. I had already run a campaign at this point, but most of these kids were still working at the gas station," says Younger. "Now it's all over the news, but going back five years ago, day trading, the Internet, none of that existed."

Of course today, almost a decade after the film was released, day traders aren't the newsmakers - despite the astonishing rise of "Playing the Stock Market for Dummies"-type manuals. Indeed we've come full circle, and investment firms and executives are once again the big bad bullies of Wall Street, ironic considering that at least in the public eye, Boiler Room seemed to mark the end of greedy stock brokers as we knew them from the Gordon Gekko-in-Wall Street days. Turns out these wannabe Scrooge McDucks lived the extravagant life right up until credit and credibility ran dry over the last 18 months.

And we were all on our way to early retirement with them, borrowing what we couldn't pay back and making risky investments in search of the highest short-term return we could possibly find. Unfortunately for us (and I loosely use the term; I've never had spare change to play around with), Boiler Room primed a generation of hungry brokers just waiting to hook us up with the "easy money". The dialogue from the movie appears to be ingrained in many of the people on the other end of our phone line, or so it would appear based on memorable quotes popping up in a mortgage broker forum I just happened across (from April of 2008, eerily titled "Lehman Brothers going down soon?").

But does a prescient movie make an underrated one? Not necessarily, but for also featuring a tense and believable screenplay and a remarkably talented young cast, Boiler Room rarely gets the respect it deserves. One of the cool things to do, for example, is criticize it as a rip-off of Wall Street or Glengarry Glen Ross. But on closer examination, with dialogue from those two classics deliberately used and obviously referenced (and in the case of Wall Street, actual clips of the movie shown), it would seem to me that Younger clearly knew his audience and acknowledged their influences. And based on the aforementioned fact that his dialogue is now being used by young brokers, I would argue that his material was plenty original.

One of the best scenes comes about halfway through Boiler Room, when Seth (Giovanni Ribisi) has finally gained enough confidence to shrewdly push a sale on a reluctant buyer (Taylor Nichols). It's uncomfortable and nauseating, mostly because we know how easily and often it happens every day. Observe:

Naturalistic conversations like this permeate the movie and are surprisingly well acted by an eclectic cast that includes Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Nicky Katt, Scott Caan, Nia Long, Jamie Kennedy, Ron Rifkin, Tom Everett Scott, and of course Ribisi. How his career has tanked so much in the last five years is a complete mystery to me - can you name his last movie? After a decent 2003 (Cold Mountain, Lost in Translation), he had a bizarre 2004 (Flight of the Phoenix, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) and then...nothing - at least nothing worth mentioning. Hopefully, 2009 will mark a major return for this talented actor. He's currently attached to six projects on IMDb, two of which are among the most anticipated movies of this entire year: Michael Mann's Public Enemies and James Cameron's Avatar.

Ribisi never really blows you away with his acting, but the more you see his work the more you start to appreciate the small things, as is the case with this movie (i.e., the soundtrack). Of course there are missteps here and there, with a meandering father/son storyline and an unnecessarily heroic ending, but on balance Boiler Room is a taut and engaging film that deserves to be appreciated more in the context of our current economic climate.

Best of 2008: Part 5

(overlooked performances, titles, surprises/disappointments, places traveled)

Read The Best of 2008: Part 2
(best scenes, worst movies)

Read The Best of 2008: Part 3

Read The Best of 2008: Part 4


The Best Movies of 2008:

Although there were literally hundreds of movies I didn't see in 2008, I still saw many that will stay in the recesses of my brain for years to come. I just can't agree with the people that continue to argue that this was a "bad year" for movies. While last year was legendary, this year was at least excellent, in my opinion. When I find myself considering upwards of twenty movies for placement in the "best" list, how can I complain?

These are the non-documentary movies that mattered most to me in 2008.

1. Slumdog Millionaire

"Once every few years, a movie comes along that redefines the way you look at cinema. It reminds you that films don't need to be deathly serious in order to be powerful and important, and they don't need to feature Oscar winners in order to showcase impressive acting (especially among the youngest members of the cast). More than anything, they reaffirm your faith in an art form that continues to evolve in ways that you couldn't imagine. Slumdog Millionaire is one of those movies. Like Cidade de Deus before it, Slumdog Millionaire gripped my entire being for two hours, transporting me to another place and another life without allowing for even a moment to breathe."

It currently sits poised to win Best Picture, which has caused the annual backlash by bloggers and, this year, fanboys simmering about the omission of The Dark Knight. I'm usually complicit in backlash against the popular movies (hello Juno), but not this year. Like Crash in 2005, I knew Slumdog Millionaire was tops of the year for me before I even got out of my seat. Sometimes you just know.

The Pool

"...the camera work by Chris Smith himself brings the city and the story to life in vivid detail, making The Pool often feel like a documentary on the Travel Channel. Furthermore, Smith's film feels more delicately and thoughtfully made, like a tasty samosa carefully made with just the right amount of curried spices, then slowly cooked until the full flavor is realized...The Pool sits among the bombastic blockbusters and pretentious indies this year as an unassuming and near-perfect gem that reminds you why you love going to the movies."

No additional comment here - it's just unfortunate so few people saw this movie.

Gran Torino

"Beyond a penetrating introduction and indictment of these Minnesotan cultures - the "Walts" and the Hmong - Gran Torino also delivers provocative commentaries on religion, family, and war... It's not a perfect film, but if you can tolerate non-actors acting and you're willing to look a little deeper than you may be used to, I think Gran Torino truly has the potential to enrich your outlook on the world."

While I fully admit my opinion about Gran Torino is biased because of the local connection to the story (and I have yet to find a Minnesotan of any demographic who hasn't raved about the movie), I still think it deserves a lot more serious discussion than it received. Sure, the decision to cast lead roles through an open casting call may have not have been the best way to mine acting talent, and yes, Eastwood absolutely could have taken more time with the production, but...alright, I don't know what I'm doing here - trying to persuade people to like the movie? That's not my business. Hate the movie for all I care, just don't deny its accuracy in portraying Minnesotans.


"What makes Ballast so extraordinary, aside from the beautiful technical production and arresting performances, is that it allows the viewer to relate so intimately and effortlessly with its characters. It is a coincidence that Hammer's film has come at a time when financial and racial tensions in this country are so high, but this is a timeless story that ultimately speaks more about people than place. Hammer makes no overt statement about power, discrimination, privilege or circumstance (if he makes any political statement, he admits it's toward gun control), and this is not a film about race relations or desperate poverty. It is a film about grief, forgiveness, redemption and hope."

No additional comment.

Boy A

"...this is a movie that needs to be seen, both for the performance by Andrew Garfield and for our collective understanding of this true-to-life story. Jonesboro, as we all know, was not an isolated incident, and there could potentially be several individuals we interact with in our lives who were once known as a letter of the alphabet. Can any insights be gained by seeing their side of the story in Boy A? That's for you to determine."

People will accuse me of giving credit to the whole movie when it should only be awarded to Andrew Garfield, but that wasn't true about Casey Affleck and The Assassination of Jesse James last year, either. Boy A is a thought-provoking and relevant movie in this age of personal information overload and a complete lack of personal privacy. Google yourself if you're not sure what I'm talking about.

Let the Right One In

"it’s a completely engaging 114 minutes of film, and as ironic as it sounds, it’s a story that makes vampires much more human than I ever considered...Oskar and Eli don’t talk to each other as human to vampire, but adolescent to adolescent...They’re not “play friends”, but soulmates from different worlds, who depend on each other not for entertainment but for survival. Innocent and tender, their relationship is ultimately optimistic, even though the last scene foreshadows tragic circumstances on the horizon...I didn’t leave as inspired so much as I left impressed. I was almost shocked, actually, for having seen such a brilliant story told in such an outstanding fashion."

I was shocked then, and I'm shocked now - a "vampire movie" was one of the best I saw all year. I don't think this has broadened my general film interests to include horror and/or darker subject matter from this point on, but let it not be said that all of these movies "are the same".

7. The Wrestler

Unfortunately I haven't had time to sit down and properly write a review for Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, which has slyly been creeping up in my mind's list in the three weeks since I saw it. Buoyed by a once-in-a-lifetime performance by Mickey Rourke, it's one of the most affecting movies of the year and one of the most emotionally poignant of the stripped-down indie dramas that have been released this year (a group which also includes Ballast, Chop Shop, Frozen River, The Pool, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, and Wendy and Lucy). Featuring one of the best endings of the year, The Wrestler ends up achieving everything you never thought it could - and then some.


"Sharply directed and superbly acted, it's the first important movie about the war in Iraq, and the only one I can recommend that isn't a documentary. It isn't perfect, and it's not The Deer Hunter or Coming Home, but it's a lot better than you would think an MTV-produced movie made for teenagers would be. Kimberly Peirce has absolutely nailed her sophomore effort and proven to those unconvinced that a woman can translate the horrors of war as well as a Clint Eastwood or Oliver Stone (and I'm hopeful that she'll help forge a path for female directors behind her)...the film packs an emotional punch because the characters are people that we know exist all around us, and will for the rest of our lives. Stop-Loss forces us to accept this reality as much as we don't want to. We can go back to our TVs and movie blogs and other distractions, but are we going to be ready when the real effects of the war start here? When hundreds of thousands of veterans are going through the same unexaggerated struggles as these characters? That question has been on my mind for about five years now, but Stop-Loss is the first mainstream movie (The War Tapes from '06 is a similar doc) that may wake up the public and start a dialogue about the future. Hopefully we can at least agree on the importance of that discussion in this polarized and partisan culture, and Kimberly Peirce has successfully attempted to initiate it."

No additional comment.

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

"Its technical aspects are masterful and absorbing, from the Technicolor to the costumes to the music. It may not look as good on DVD, but it was a sight to see in the theater...Director Hazanavicius does well in not trying to hammer the plot home, but some of scenes are awkwardly placed and the repetitive gags start to lose their flavor. The good news is that Dujardin single-handedly carries this film all the way through the end credits, and several of the scenes (getting lost in the maze of streets, waking to the Mezzuin's call) are truly hilarious. If not for some awkward humor and poor writing in the second act, I would be talking about OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies as a potential new classic."

Definitely the outlier on this list, I'm including it mostly because I think it was arguably the funniest movie in a year that was pretty lacking in the comedy department. You're probably suspicious that this is some highbrow elitist French comedy, but that could hardly be further from the truth. It's absurd, immature, and the deserving winner of several Cesar Awards for its beautiful production. Heads up for a
sequel on the way.


"I can't imagine being a member of the Pixar team. Your movies are expected to capture children's hearts, warm over the coldest critics, top $300 million domestically at the box office, win Academy Awards, cure cancer, and do my laundry. Pixar's 2008 film, WALL*E, has succeeded on the first two of those tasks. The third and fourth are a foregone conclusion, and the last two, well, we'll see...At the very least, WALL*E is the best animated film and the best romantic comedy of the year. I expect its mention in Best Picture discussions will peak and eventually fade by January, but the fact is, we might want to set the Pixar people loose on some of the world's real problems, because all they do is make magic happen...The animation in WALL*E shocked me for two reasons: 1.) metal is literally brought to life, and 2.) I didn't think I could be shocked by computer animation anymore. Garbage has never looked so beautiful, and WALL*E's curious excitement as he drifted into outer space (above) was not just my favorite moment of the movie, but the one that might make WALL*E my favorite Pixar movie."

Personally, I think the intellectual studies of this movie were pretty unnecessary, but I guess bloggers and critics had a lot of time on their hands in June, a month that included garbage like The Happening, The Incredible Hulk, The Love Guru, and You Don't Mess With the Zohan, to mention only a few. Yes, WALL*E was a "smart" animated movie with some subtle lessons about humanity, but we don't have to overthink it to death, especially when even its most "minor" aspects are so outstanding. Why not just let this be an enjoyable movie for adults and kids alike, instead of trying to take the fun out of it by scolding people who don't appreciate the "lesson" it offers?

The Honorably Mentioned 10:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight: I wrote at least four posts about The Dark Knight (only two of which focused on the actual movie), which was probably three too many. Here I would pose the same question about over-intellectualizing as I did with WALL*E. Why can't The Dark Knight simply be considered a pop culture phenomenon, a much-better-than-average summer blockbuster and an excellent comic book adaptation? Isn't that enough?


In Search of a Midnight Kiss: Really liked this romantic comedy about a blind date on New Year's Eve in Los Angeles (which looks beautiful in crisp black and white). I originally thought this might have squeezed its way into the Top 10, but even though it didn't, it's still a promising sign for the future of American independent film.

Revolutionary Road

Che: Another one I haven't yet found time to review, Steven Soderbergh's epic is a remarkable feat primarily because it holds your interest for nearly four and a half hours. But it also educates and enriches - how did it take this long to bring this story to the screen? Also, Benicio del Toro gives his all in an unheralded performance for the second year in a row.

Chop Shop

My Blueberry Nights

Priceless: If there was an award for longevity, Priceless might win it. I only saw it once last spring, yet I've come to appreciate it more and more as time passes.

The Visitor


And finally, to end out the year in movies in the best way possible, I present you with an absolutely brilliant video by one Matt Shapiro, who's created an exhilarating video montage for the second year in a row. Thanks to Matt Lucas for bringing it to my attention earlier this month.

Best of 2008: Part 4

Read The Best of 2008: Part 2
Read The Best of 2008: Part 3


The Best Documentaries of 2008:
...like 2007 for feature films, 2008 was a year to remember for documentaries...

1. Up the Yangtze
  • "Yung Chang masterfully weaves power, wealth, culture, humility, sacrifice, tradition, national pride, poverty, and environmental concerns into a rich tapestry worthy of the world's attention. The production of the film is unpolished, but the raw footage is extremely potent, and the gray, smoggy feel to it brings an added sense of realism... The unique aspects of Chinese culture are on such brilliant display in Up the Yangtze that we Westerners will have difficulty understanding them with one viewing. What kind of society would allow this to happen? "Sacrifice the little family for the big family," laments one peasant. Chairman Mao would be proud."

2. Surfwise

  • "Surfwise offers a fascinating case study of a typical American family that took the road never traveled. Dorian Paskowicz was the man driving the camper on that road, and he can be equally thought of as a free-spirited and family-focused father of nine, or a paranoid king lording over his subjects and deliberately insulating them from the rest of society, with no plan for helping them assimilate to the outside world. He's both and neither; some of the Paskowicz children resent their father, while at least one of them has set out with his family and a camper of their own."

3. Trouble the Water
  • "...a searing indictment of not only the Bush Administration's mishandling (see: comprehensive negligence) of the Hurricane Katrina victims, but of the United States' long-standing indifference to the suffering of its most downtrodden citizens, a group comprised of but not limited to African-Americans in the Deep South. This weighty charge was made obvious by both the surreal footage of New Orleanians wallowing in the aftermath of Katrina, and also the matter-of-fact conversations had by the victims in Trouble the Water as they eventually accepted their tragic fate: “It's proven to me that, hey, if you don't have money, and you don't have status – you don't have a government.”"

4. Man on Wire

  • "It's a film that captures the best of human ambition and the worst of human selfishness. It's a study of man who needs to walk a tightrope like a fish needs to swim. It's a stylish mash-up of interviews, Errol Morris-like reenactments, and grainy Super-8 footage, all brilliantly synthesized by Marsh to make a film that's as heart-pounding as the latest Bourne installment and as emotionally moving as this year's Young @ Heart. Already the Sundance winner for Best Documentary Feature, watch for Man on Wire to easily receive an Oscar nomination in January.[If I may add to this now, look for it to run away with the win on February 22nd.]...we can look back and laugh with the crew as they recall the impossibly dramatic moments leading up to the morning of August 7, 1974, but I doubt you'll have the mental wherewithal to laugh when Petit takes his first step. Because of the human element and the accompanying music (possibly the most beautiful rendition of Erik Satie's Gymnopédie that you'll ever hear), Petit's performance - and it was a performance, not a stunt - narrowly edges the underwater tracking shot in Encounters at the End of the World as the most visually arresting scene of the year. It's a moment that doesn't just stun you into silence, but one that truly demonstrates what it means to be alive. The most primal elements of the human experience come together in one scene."

Young @ Heart

  • "What makes it a great film - arguably a perfect documentary - is that it's as honest as its own material. Stephen Walker doesn't manipulate us, and, more importantly, he doesn't manipulate his subjects. They don't shy away from exposing their broken bodies, and Walker doesn't shy away from showing us the difficulties of life in its ninth decade. But the film's subjects are beyond all of this, hence the name of the group... The members of Young @ Heart live to sing, but perhaps more literally, they sing to live...That all of this is captured on film so well is an incredible achievement on the part of director Stephen Walker. I didn't grow up with grandparents, so my exposure to this world is somewhat limited, but I don't know that I've ever seen life at 80-something portrayed with such humor, grace, respect, and insight. By the final performance, I felt like I was cheering on my close friends. Maybe it was because it was an empty theater on a late weeknight, but I was plugged in - completely in - like I haven't been in a long time. I wanted to cry, clap, sing, stomp my feet, and, after it was all over, splash my face with cold water.Young @ Heart isn't going to change your life, but it should at least make you appreciate it. No wonder the group members are wearing sunglasses in the poster - they've made the future look a lot brighter for all of us."

Nerakhoon (The Betrayal)

  • "Nerakhoon (The Betrayal), is Thavi's story, and it's unlike almost any documentary you've seen before - not because of what you see, but because of how you see it. Thavi's life, while undoubtedly remarkable, is still just one of countless similar stories from immigrants and refugees from around the world. But how often do you see a refugee's life over the course of 23 years?... a stunning directorial debut and an unflinching look at not just immigrant life in America, but the incredible character of one young man whose life is marked by betrayal at every turn: two countries turned their back on him and his father abandoned the family. Nobody can give Thavi Phrasavath any years of his life back, but, at the very least, he's deserving of an audience for his story."

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*
  • "See Bigger, Stronger, Faster* and marvel at two things: 1.) The honesty with which Chris Bell has made this documentary, and 2.) the true complexity surrounding the implications of, and the reasons for, the use of steroids and performance enhancers in so many corners of American culture...Now, I'm forced to consider - What is "cheating"? And if everyone is using them, where does the advantage begin and end? What about non-sporting uses? How are we as a society enabling and encouraging body manipulation? To explore these questions with an open mind and a lot of humor is an impressive achievement for Chris Bell's first feature-length documentary, and the incredibly positive reviews of Bigger, Stronger, Faster* are well deserved in my opinion. It's honest filmmaking - on steroids."

American Teen

  • "I enjoy documentaries like American Teen because they have the potential to unite people. In the case of this film, we come together to look back and collectively laugh at the trivial nature of high school, at the naive sense of urgency that made us think those four years were so important, and at the countless ways in which we tried to make ourselves "different" while somehow still fitting in to the right social groups....It turns out that, as American Teen amusingly demonstrates, we have a lot more in common with each other - both now and then - than we would like to admit. The American public high school experience is one of the great equalizers in life. Most of us went through the wringer and made it out alive on the other side, and whatever we ended up doing in the years since then, that little bubble of time remains a shared pot from which we can still draw some common insights and perspectives."

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
  • "You have a lot of surreal, "what if?" moments like that during Kuenne's Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. It's one of the most acclaimed documentaries of the year - but it's hardly a documentary at all. It's a tribute, a love letter, a thank-you and an indictment, among other things. Does it document a story? Yes, but unintentionally...I can't say more, but what follows is very likely the most emotional personal tribute you've ever seen on film. Beyond creating a sense of riveting suspense as the story unfolds, Kuenne is stunningly successful at somehow bringing us, the viewers, literally into the story. Andrew becomes our murdered friend, and his parents our grieving parents...has the potential to not only change the world by initiating legal reform, but change our own lives by causing us to take a moment and consider our existence in this world, and what we hope to do with the time we have left."


  • "If there's nothing else you can take from what I've written, know this: Blindsight is not actually about blind kids attempting to climb a mountain. Rather, it's a thought-provoking study of what happens when Western culture, and specifically American ambition, runs headlong into Eastern traditions and a "group before self" mindset. If that was Lucy Walker's goal, and I think it was, then she's succeeded in grand fashion. The structure is a little shifty, but it's an overall beautifully shot film and the drama in the last half hour makes up for any earlier flaws. Although I was at different times frustrated, embarrassed, proud, devastated, thrilled, and shocked, Blindsight never seems emotionally manipulative. It just happens to be both an incredible story of six incredible students, and an important film from which to gather cultural insights."

...to be continued...

January 29, 2009

Best of 2008: Part 3

Read Best of 2008: Part 1
Read Best of 2008: Part 2

NOTE: Because of funky formatting and embedded content, this particular post is best viewed using Microsoft Internet Explorer. Switch now if you can...

The Best Music (That Wasn't In Movies) in 2008:
...the soundtrack that should have been...

By the number of times I've mentioned it, it's obvious I had a great deal of fun picking songs for the "missing soundtrack" of last year, which was simply the best music of 2007 matched up with the appropriate movies of 2007. I didn't mean for it to be a predictor of what songs would show up on soundtracks and/or in movies in 2008, but that's kind of what happened, so I milked it.

Well I'm not trying to do it again here anyway; I'm just having fun with the music that I listened to and the movies I watched in 2008. It was a middle-of-the-road year for music in my opinion. A couple of classic albums and some major singles, but not too much that can be considered legendary.

I celebrated the return of 90's alt-rock (Counting Crows, Lenny Kravitz, Weezer, Ben Folds) and enjoyed the rise of a new mainstream hip-hop superstar (Li'l Wayne), the continuation of the neo-soul/R & B sound (John Legend, Duffy, Ne-Yo, Musiq Soulchild, Usher), a retro throwback or two (The Cool Kids, Al Green, Seal), radio-friendly pop (Robyn, Craig David, T.I., Kanye West), some solid hipster favorites (Kenna, Santogold, Devotchka, TV On the Radio, Beck, Common, The Roots), and more...


(In no particular order, but notable albums are highlighted. These embedded clips are an animal and they just refuse to center in Firefox, but I hope they work. If not, just click on the song title and it will take you a new page to hear it.)

"The Angel and the One" by Weezer from The Red Album

Scene: Solemn scene with steadily building emotion - veterans reflecting on their combat experience.

2008 Movie: Stop-Loss

If I was tech savvy I'd make some mash-up video instead, but I'm not, so just do this: Start the song and then, at the 0:30 second mark of the song, start the trailer - but MUTE it and replay it.


"Fade Into the Background" by Ne-Yo from Year of the Gentleman
Scene: Guy painfully reflects on what could have been when he sees ex with new man.
2008 Movie: American Teen, Made of Honor

"Público" by Orishas from Cosita Buena
Scene: Dancing scene in Latin American city, or montage music for documentary about Cuba.
2008 Movie: N/A

"Tie My Hands" by Lil Wayne feat. Robin Thicke from Tha Carter III
"Soldier" by Erykah Badu from New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)

Scene: Melancholic reflection on coming up through difficult circumstances in New Orleans.

2008 Movie: Trouble the Water

If I was tech savvy I'd make some mash-up video instead, but I'm not, so just do this: Start the song and then immediately start the trailer - but MUTE it.


"The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived" by Weezer from The Red Album
Scene: Montage of arrogant guy acting arrogant (or, guy puffs himself up to regain confidence after a break-up).
2008 Movies: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Role Models, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, RocknRolla

"I'm A Lady" by Santogold (feat. Trouble Andrew) from Santogold
Scene: Independent young woman confidently marches through city streets - lots of frame freezes.
2008 Movie: Priceless

"Delayed Devotion" by Duffy from Rockferry

Scene: Scorned woman rebuffs advances from pathetic ex trying to win her back .

2008 Movie: My Blueberry Nights, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

If I was tech savvy I'd make some mash-up video instead, but I'm not, so just do this: Start the song and then immediately start the trailer - but MUTE it.


"(The Forgotten People)" by Thievery Corporation from Radio Retaliation
"African Problems" by Seun Kuti + Fela's Egypt 80 from Seun Kuti + Fela's Egypt 80
Scene: Opening Credits - aerial and drive-by shots of bustling, exotic urban setting.
2008 Movie: The Pool, Body of Lies

"Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" by Beyoncé from I Am...Sasha Fierce
Scene: Woman lashes out at long-time boyfriend with commitment issues.
2008 Movie: Sex and the City

"Me" or "Guarantees" by Atmosphere from When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Sh*t Gold

Scene: Lonely, depressed young man aimlessly walks streets looking for someone who understands him.

2008 Movie: Boy A

If I was tech savvy I'd make some mash-up video instead, but I'm not, so just do this: Start the song and then immediately start the trailer - but MUTE it.


"New World" by Devotchka from A Mad and Faithful Telling
Scene: Closing Credits - Fade music in at end of quiet, subdued ending scene, possibly at a cloudy beach or in a city at dawn or dusk; begin fading to black at 1:40 mark and roll credits. (oh, and never mind this song was already awkwardly used in an NBA finals ad last June)
2008 Movie: The Edge of Heaven, The Grocer's Son, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Reprise

"What You Thought You Need" by Jack Johnson from Sleep Through the Static
"Love Like This" by Natasha Bedingfield (feat. Sean Kingston) from Pocketful of Sunshine
Scene: Not-too-sappy montage of young couple experiencing new love or sheepishly making up.
2008 Movie: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Yes Man

Scene: Sullen character walks or drives alone on a cloudy morning.

2008 Movie: The Wrestler, Frozen River, Elegy

If I was tech savvy I'd make some mash-up video instead, but I'm not, so just do this: Start the song and then immediately start the trailer - but MUTE it.


"I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time" by Mariah Carey from E=MC2
Scene: Silly romantic ending when the guy and girl finally get together on their way to happily ever after.
2008 Movie: You Don't Mess With the Zohan (you should get this joke if you've seen the movie...)

"Dancin' Til Dawn" by Lenny Kravitz from It Is Time for a Love Revolution
Scene: Sleazy guy eyes beautiful woman in nightclub before moving in to show off disgusting dance moves.
2008 Movie: Semi-Pro

Scene: In slow motion, unlikely heroes get charged up before facing foes in major battle.

2008 Movie: Tropic Thunder, Role Models

If I was tech savvy I'd make some mash-up video instead, but I'm not, so just do this: Start the song and then immediately start the trailer - but MUTE it.


"Freeway" by Aimee Mann from @#%&*! Smilers
Scene: Driving scene, character running away from something with chaotic emotion.
2008 Movie: Rachel Getting Married

"You Don't Know Me" by Ben Folds feat. Regina Spektor from Way To Normal
Scene: Guy and girl meet for the first time, strike up awkward, guarded romance.
2008 Movie: In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

"Lost!" by Coldplay from Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

"Be Still" by Kenna from Make Sure They See My Face

Scene: Montage interlude at 2/3 mark, character lets go of angst and finds new hope.
2008 Movie: Reprise, Paranoid Park

If I was tech savvy I'd make some mash-up video instead, but I'm not, so just do this: Start the song and then immediately start the trailer - but MUTE it.


A few weeks ago I received an interesting email related to these matches (but maybe more so to my Perfect Song, Perfect Scene posts) from the brains behind Soundtrack Guru, a new website dedicated to answering that age-old question: "What was that song that was playing during that scene in that movie?"

As you'll find out, it works like magic for movies that feature a bunch of random songs that sound great in the movie but probably wouldn't comprise a good enough soundtrack to buy. Movies like Anchorman or The Departed. Know that it's a fairly new venture and it's all user-generated (so far as I can tell), so your favorite movie probably won't be listed until you do it yourself. Also, it seems to be fairly TV-heavy at the moment, but I suppose TV viewers have the same questions as we do.

Anyway, it's off to a pretty good start and I'd be surprised if you didn't discover the name of at least one song that you've been thinking about for years.

...to be continued...
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