This year, 2013, has no doubt been one of the better years for film during my lifetime; in fact, I’m now in the process of narrowing down my favorites of the year to a firm ten for my Top 10 list, which is proving more and more difficult as late-year releases come to bear. It’s a nice problem to have, but for as great as the year has been, it’s been perhaps an even better year for movie music, from scores, original songs, and entire soundtracks to actual musical moments in film, performances by characters that lend depth, comedy, drama, or entertainment to these great films.
I’d like to take a brief bit of time to highlight just a few of my favorite musical moments in some of 2013’s best releases. This one proved tough to narrow down, too, but there are a few that remain firm memories in my mind; I’ve included six of my favorite musical moments from four of my favorite 2013 films. What is the holiday season if not a time for sharing, right?
Enough jabbering. On we go with the list!
MOMENT #1: ELSA FLEES FOR THE MOUNTAINS
THE FILM: Frozen
THE TALENT: Idina Menzel
THE SETUP: The new Queen of Arendelle, Elsa (Menzel), born with special powers, has just fled her kingdom after accidentally freezing the fjords and unknowingly setting to Arendelle an eternal winter. She retreats high up into the mountains, alone like she prefers, but for once, finally feeling free from the mystical ties that bind her. And to ring in her newfound freedom, she takes to the frozen tundra and belts out a tune, “Let It Go,” perhaps Disney’s finest original song in the last two decades, the performance and animation alone enough to recommend the film. See it above and try to hold back your applause.
MOMENT #2: MARCUS RAPS FOR MASON
THE FILM: Short Term 12
THE TALENT: Keith Stanfield
THE SETUP: In Short Term 12, Keith Stanfield plays Marcus, a troubled youth with just a short time remaining until he turns 18 and must leave behind the at-risk youth center where he has spent his formative years and re-enter the “real world.” In the film’s most emotionally charged and throat-swelling scene, of which it has many, Marcus raps a few verses for Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), one of the center’s supervisors. Mason provides stripped-down accompaniment on the bongos while Marcus raps over top, his words explicit, raw, and real. They reveal the inner turmoil of the typically quiet Marcus, and allow us to connect with a character who is so used to withdrawing from those around him. Watch the video above for a short teaser of the film set to Marcus’s rap; be warned, it contains explicit language.
MOMENT #3: FRANCES RUNS CAREFREE THROUGH THE STREETS OF NEW YORK CITY
THE FILM: Frances Ha
THE TALENT: Greta Gerwig, David Bowie
THE SETUP: Okay, so this one doesn’t involve a character performing a song like the others on this list do, but it’s an example of a scene that perfectly describes the main character as well as the mood and atmosphere of the entire film. The titular Frances (Gerwig) lives her life day to day, paycheck to paycheck, and apartment to apartment as she seeks to find her true place in the world. In one particular moment during the film, featured in the first 40 seconds of clip above, we see the inner joy and irrepressible energy — as the Criterion Collection accurately describes it — of Frances, a twenty-something New Yorker who, despite being forever unsure of herself, can’t seem to be knocked down for more than passing moment. She runs through the streets of New York City, dancing and jumping along the way, as David Bowie’s “Modern Love” plays over top. The same song plays in the first part of the clip above.
MOMENT #4: LLEWYN ACCIDENTALLY RUINS DINNER
THE FILM: Inside Llewyn Davis
THE TALENT: Oscar Isaac
THE SETUP: Near the beginning of Inside Llewyn Davis, the film’s titular character (Isaac) accidentally lets loose and then befriends, loses, and later finds the cat of his good friends, the Gorfeins. When he comes by to return the feline, the Gorfeins invite him to join them and another couple for dinner, wherein Davis is asked to play a song for them. He chooses “Fare Thee Well,”, an “early” song — a reference to a conversation he had with one of the guests before dinner — but becomes annoyed and disturbed when Ms. Gorfein attempts to harmonize with him. It’s a scene that adds a lot of weight and emotion to the film, particularly when viewed in context. You can catch the clip of this dinner scene above.
MOMENT #5: OLAF THE SNOWMAN YEARNS FOR SUMMER
THE FILM: Frozen
THE TALENT: Josh Gad
THE SETUP: In their search to find Elsa and bring summer back to Arendelle, Princess Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and his trusty reindeer Sven stumble across Olaf (Gad), the magical snowman that Elsa and Anna made when they were children. It turns out Olaf has always wanted to know what summer is like, and so he sings about this wish in the fun, funny little tune seen above. It doesn’t amount to much at the time, narratively speaking, but things do swirl back around to Olaf’s desires quite touchingly as the film nears its end.
MOMENT #6: LLEWYN, JIM, AND AL RECORD A HIT
THE FILM: Inside Llewyn Davis
THE TALENT: Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, and Adam Driver
THE SETUP: Llewyn needs money, and he needs it quickly, which is why he is excited to be called in to help Jim (Timberlake) and Al (Driver) record a one-off track that will earn them a quick buck up front and, hopefully, a pretty penny in royalties if it takes off. In one of the film’s funniest scenes, Llewyn, Jim, and Al practice and record “Please Mr. Kennedy,” a satirical novelty number that provides a lot of energy to this otherwise small, scaled-down Coen Brothers drama. Check it out above.
MOMENT #7: RUTH SINGS A LULLABY
THE FILM: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
THE TALENT: Rooney Mara
THE SETUP: When her husband Bob (Casey Affleck) surrenders himself to the police and takes full blame for the couple’s crimes, Ruth (Mara) is left to raise the pair’s daughter alone. Since Bob’s stay in prison began, Ruth has given birth and subsequently raised their daughter into a beautiful little girl attached at mom’s hip from dawn until dusk. One night before bed, Ruth tidies up the room, cuddles up next to her daughter on the couch, and sings a beautiful lullaby about a little bluejay. It’s a very raw moment, one that allows the audience to grasp the connection Ruth really has with her daughter. A teaser containing the lullaby can be viewed above.
Any others you’d like to recommend? Let me know or send a clip my way!