The difference between the songs used in the just released DVD of “Watchmen” and the the just released movie “(500) Days Of Summer” is not that one has a 100 million budget and can therby pay extortionate royalties and the other can’t and certainly not that one has a real sing singer in ZoeyDeschanel who does the same sweet and poignant though a bit trivial cover of the Smiths she did of Smokey Robinson with She and Him it is the producers of 500 have a feel for modern pop and the just obscure enough and Watchmen are way too obvious.
We can certainly forgive Zack Snyder for “The Times They Are a Changing” used during the opening credits because it is used to such effect but Nat’s “Unforgetable” for The Comedians murder? Cmon -at least go with the Nat and Natalie version –thatd have the requisite weirdness. Much worse is “The Sound Of Silence” during a funeral -that isn’t ironic or moving or funny – it is simply a bad idea beautiful handled. 500 uses the same song but it a scene of the titular Summer and her beau watching the ending of “The Graduate” at the movies. the funeral scene appears to be their for the sole purpose of showing the Twin Towers in the distance (it isn’t in the Illustrated novel the movie is based up) and the using of “Sound Of Silence” -a song that has done many things but aged well isn’t one of them- is the low point of the movie. “Watchtower” near the end is much better.”Me and Bobby McGee” and “Hallelujian, ” Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower”, what is this? A TV movie (except they couldn’t afford it).
How can a movie brimming with imagination as it delves into an alternate reality and another America, not delve deeper into songs to choreograph this tale and since it’s 1986 why not the Smiths (Who are all over 500 and could sure yes the bread) is Costello’s “Pidgin English” or Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” and probably anything from Bowie’s “Low” could illustrate a funeral.It seems that since “American Graffiti” reinvented the late 50s, early 60s rock and roll songbook in its own image the world of movies figured how to, or at least too, use pop music. Graffiti used it for nostalgia and as background: it fit the rhythm of the teen High School graduates life and it fit the rhythms of Lucas’ direction (set him up for “Star Wars” constant movement for sure -the car race is the ancestor of the young Anakin’s race in “the Phantom Menace”. Anyway there was a time in the 90s you couldnt throw a brick without hitting a pop rock soundtrack and sometimes, like the “Godzilla 2000″ soundtrack with Puff daddy and Guns N Roses, were much more interesting than the movies.”Watchmen” is the opposite of that, he charges are memories by putting scenes to music: it is an added fillip and when it works it works, about half the time, and when it doesn’t it blows and pulls you out of what to my mind is a much better movie than last years “The Dark Knight”.
500 just plain works, as a movie it rings true to my experience for one and it also rings true to its own story and the music, start with the great Regina Spektor, who is so slighly off base, just like Zooey’s Summer character, they seemed to me meeting somewhere else and though I love the Smiths as much as they do having lived through the Smiths it seems a little self-congratulatory to keep on namedropping as 500 does. Less so the male lead as a boy wearing Joy Division tee-shirts to connotewhat? A damaged romantic? Not a bad idea at all in my book. Almost as smart as using Belle and Sebastian, those other damaged romantics. I sawB&Sat the Supper Club and they were less pretty than pretty loud and the tiny stage so filled with musicians they could barely move which not be the B&S legend as we know it though is possibly what the not in love Summer was more like. Best of all though is Meghan Smith who I don’t know at all though I think she is great and her cover of the Pixies “Here Comes Your Man” is fabulous and I recommend it and I think this may well be the only time a movie soundtrack introduced me to a performer in the last twenty years. By the way the best moment in the movie is Joseph Gordon-Levitt (so great in “Brick”) drunk at a Karaoke bar singing “Man” and the best moment of watchmen was the opening credit to Dylan so it must all mean something about using music to the soundtrack of your life.
When you live your life, when you find yourself in the slits and starts of moments, there is music playing in the background and it is not incidental music, no, no, no, it is the useful point expanding on what you are feeling. You better hope it isn’t Celine Dion