Six bands from Portland list their favorite movie soundtracks.
The Harder They Come
Until somewhat recently, my opinion of reggae culture has been dictated by the likes of UB40, Ace of Base, Snow, and the theme to "Cops." In retrospect, I can see how that's similar to judging all of hip hop based on the creative output of Limp Bizkit. Watching The Harder They Come and then devouring the official soundtrack made me realize just how ignorant I was.
The film is far from perfect – the graphic violence and awkward nudity border on exploitation – but there are several scenes (i.e. the opening sequence of the colorful bus careening around narrow country roads; the passionately authentic singing and preaching inside the Pentecostal church; Jimmy Cliff recording the title track in the tiny sweaty, smoky recording studio after being publicly whipped for knifing a man's face and banging his pastor's teenage girlfriend - no joke) that almost move me to tears with their beauty.
Harold & Maude
I had a childhood friend named Steve whose parents always referred to the family feline as "Stephen's Cat" while snickering annoyingly to each other. I didn't get the (still rather unfunny) joke until I saw Harold & Maude for the first time. Oh how I love this movie. Cat Stevens' music fits the doomed onscreen romance perfectly. Imagining the film and soundtrack as separate entities is almost impossible. If you can make it through the scene when the gorgeous "Trouble" song starts playing without crying your eyes out, you have no soul.
David Bowie wouldn't allow this movie to use his music, even though the plot was not-so-loosely based on his Ziggy Stardust era. So instead, director Todd Haynes brought together several supergroups to cover the original glammy songs for the soundtrack. One of these bands named themselves The Venus in Furs and contained both Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood [from Radiohead]. They covered a song called "2 H.B." that exposed me to the greatness of Roxy Music.
Velvet Goldmine is chock full of memorable moments. My personal favorite features Brian Eno's "Baby's On Fire" playing at throbbing concert volume with Jonathan Rhys Myers crawling across a big stage on all fours and eventually faux-fellating Ewan McGregor, who is whipping his long hair around while grinding on a Les Paul. Wait, there's more... The camera then slowly pans across a bedroom scene to show that the concert is actually a big sexy fantasy that (holy religious guilt, Batman!) CHRISTIAN BALE IS MASTURBATING TO! Yeah, it's that kinda movie. Amazing.
I don't think I've ever loved anything in life as much as I loved the movie UHF from ages 14-18, although I admittedly haven't tried crystal meth yet. Before finally shelling out $50 for a battered VHS copy of this cult classic on eBay in the early 00s, I singlehandedly kept Blockbuster Video in business by re-renting the movie every five days. The first several times I watched it, I couldn't make it through the "Raul's Wild Kingdom" scene without literally wetting my pants laughing. The doo-wop background music that frames the first appearance of Weird Al and his girlfriend driving in their miniature car (useless trivia: it's a Nash Metropolitan) has been stuck in my head for nearly twenty years.
Vincent Gallo's own hushed songs do a great job at filling out the bleak scenery in his artfully shot directorial debut. Watching Ben Gazzara lip sync to "Fools Rush In" is one of my favorite scenes from any movie in the 90s. Christina Ricci tap dancing to King Crimson in the deserted bowling alley is another. But the best soundtrack moment in the film is at the end, where Gallo storms into a strip club, wild-eyed with a loaded gun, and "Heart of the Sunrise" by Yes starts blaring. It's impossible not to be sucked into the pulsing strobe lights, fleshy overexposure, and imminent bloodshed; all so expertly splayed across the backdrop of frantic drum patterns and howling surf rock guitars. You've been waiting uncomfortably for something tragic to happen the entire movie, and when it hits, it hits hard.