2013 Calvin Awards: Best Use of Music
By Kim Hollis
February 19, 2013
While other people who hand out awards give honors to Best Score, at BOP we think that sometimes there can be more to a film's musical impact than a perfectly orchestrated piece. There are directors who somehow choose exactly the right piece of music to accompany their work, whether it involves a soundtrack with precisely the perfect song to highlight a scene or a fabulous score that creates a lasting mood. Our Calvin Award for Best Use of Music recognizes those films that incorporate music into their very atmosphere.
Our pick in this category is Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson's paean to young love in a 1960s fantasy world. Frankly, I was a bit surprised when I looked back over the voting from past years to see that no Anderson film had ever won this category in the past. The Royal Tenenbaums placed second in 2002, while The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and Fantastic Mr. Fox both managed fourth place mentions. So I think it's safe to say that we consistently find a lot to like about the way Anderson incorporates music into his films. It's impossible to forget Suzy stealing her brother's record player to listen to "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" (a staple of my own music listening as a youth - no, really). Composer Alexandre Desplat provides the perfect complimentary score (just as he did in Fantastic Mr. Fox) and continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of musical scores. There's also a perfectly placed Hank Williams tune, not to mention a lovely selection of classical pieces from the likes of Mozart, Schubert, Saint-Saens and more. He doesn't use quite as much contemporary stuff as usual, but the impact of the selections he did choose is significant.
Second place is practically a no-brainer. Pitch Perfect is a movie about competitive a capella choirs, and the film does an absolutely masterful job of making the viewer smile at every turn. Teams with names like The Treblemakers, The Barden Bellas and the B.U. Harmonics take turns at interpreting contemporary songs such as "Let It Whip", "Since U Been Gone", and "Party in the U.S.A". Anna Kendrick has a fabulous moment in the film when she performs the song "Cups", and there's a mashup that combines "Mickey", "Like a Virgin", "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", "Let's Talk About Sex", "No Diggity", "Feels Like the First Time" and several more. THe Breakfast Club staple "Don't You Forget About Me" plays a key role as well.
Another musical takes third place, but perhaps not the one you'd expect. Yes, guilty pleasure Rock of Ages was that perfect mixture of corny and over-the-top. From love ballads sung back and forth between Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta to mashups of "Juke Box Hero" and "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", we were singing along shamelessly. Of course, Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx surprisingly steals the show with his renditions of "Paradise City", "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and "I Wanna Know What Love Is" (possibly the most hilariously awkward declaration of love ever...until two unexpected characters croon "I Can't Stop This Feeling" to each other). We know this movie has its detractors, but we figure a movie that lets us revel in the awfulness of the 1980s for just a little while can't be all bad.
Quentin Tarantino is another one of those directors whose films frequently get attention in this category, including a win for Kill Bill Vol. 1. and a second place finish for Inglourious Basterds. This time around, Django Unchained mixed original tunes created just for the film along with classic tunes. Rick Ross, John Legend, and the great spaghetti western composer Ennio Morricone, who wrote a tune with Italian singer Elisa for the film. Jim Croce's "I've Got a Name" plays against a gorgeous backdrop, and a James Brown/2Pac mashup is simply fantastic.
Our fifth place finisher takes us back to the '80s once again, but uses a completely different kind of music than Rock of Ages. In Perks of Being a Wallflower, music is critically important to protagonist Charlie's circle of friends, and he agonizes over choosing just the right song for a mix tape he creates for the girl who has captured his fancy. David Bowie's "Heroes" is a lost song that the characters search for together (I know it's impossible to imagine, but back in the '80s, there was no Internet to help you discover a decade old song easily).
Sixth and seventh go to Argo and Cloud Atlas. Set in the 1970s, Argo used such bands as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and Dire Straits to set the mood effectively. As for Cloud Atlas, that film very specifically has a very musical section wherein a composer is trying to write the perfect music. The theme from his "Cloud Atlas Sextet" resonates throughout the film.
Closing out the top ten are Les Miserables, Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street. The reason for Les Miserables' inclusion ought to be clear - even if all of the other songs were completely terrible, Anne Hathaway's rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" would make it worthy of mention. Fortunately, the music in this film is emotional, heartbreaking and compelling. In Magic Mike, strippers aren't gonna take their clothes off without some musical accompaniment, and the soundtrack for this film is, well, hot. Finally, 21 Jump Street has a fabulous remake of the original TV series song from Rye Rye and Esthero, not to mention "Straight Outta Compton" (originally sung by Ice Cube before he became an actor in... 21 Jump Street) and a solid Mark Mothersbaugh score.
A few movies that just missed the cut were Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall, Searching for Sugar Man and The Master.
View other awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
||Rock of Ages
||The Perks of Being a Wallflower
||21 Jump Street