Readers and staffers recommend the most memorable use of songs in movie scenes. To submit your own, with a brief explanation of why it’s so effective and why you love it so much, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Might I suggest the use of the song “Mad World,” originally composed and performed by Tears for Fears [embedded above] but covered by Gary Jules in the film Donnie Darko. The pathos it evokes, while the camera shows faces stricken with grief and confusion, is almost unbearable. I thought the movie was good, but this scene is exceptional:
(The song ends here at the 3:00 mark, and beyond that the dialogue is in French. It’s the only video I could find that shows the scene with the music as it is in the film.)
Thanks for the Track of the Day feature, plus everything the Atlantic does.
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Adam Feiges has a stellar selection for the new reader series on the best use of songs in cinema:
If you are willing to expand the definition to television, I nominate the scene from the pilot episode of Miami Vice that used Genesis’ “In the Air Tonight” to set the mood for the lead-up to the climax of the episode. [CB note: The pilot episode is feature length, so it counts I think.] The song starts about 45 seconds into this scene and it’s really haunting:
The scene has lingered in my memory for over 30 years because it was the first time (in my experience at least) that a popular song was used effectively in the plot of a television show. The mood building, the timing (Tubbs checking the loads in the shotgun and then snapping the breech closed in time with the music), and the fact that Genesis was one of the most popular bands of the era made a visceral impression that this show was something new and different. It has become a cliché to use popular music to advance the plot of a TV show, but in 1984 it was astonishing.
I had never watched that pilot episode until Adam’s email inspired me to, so when he suggested “In the Air Tonight,” I first thought of this scandalous scene from Risky Business, which came out a year before Miami Vice:
Somehow that song works exceptionally well juxtaposed with two very different themes: betrayal and imminent danger in Miami Vice, and sultry subway sex in Risky Business.
I don’t know what this song is about. When I was writing this I was going through a divorce. And the only thing I can say about it is that it's obviously in anger. It’s the angry side, or the bitter side of a separation.
In that sense, the song is closer to Crockett’s mindset in Miami Vice, who’s going through a marital separation and who just discovered his close colleague is a corrupt cop. And the refrain I can feel it coming in the air tonight / oh Lord / I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life is something you could be thinking if you suspect you might be driving to your death. To watch that perilous scene, the one that immediately follows the one above, start at the 31:20 mark here.
The scene that immediately springs to mind is the one in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels when Eddy loses all of his and his mate’s money to gangsters in a rigged card game. As the enormity of this loss sinks into a numbed Eddy, the droning guitar strains that kick off Iggy and the Stooges’ “I Wanna be Your Dog”match up perfectly with the disoriented camera perspective that stumbles out the door with him.
What Eddy feels might not be exactly what Iggy feels, but they share a bleak desperation that makes you really feel the gut-punch of his situation.
Have fun with this new sub-series, cheers!
(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)
It shows a peculiar aspect of 21st-century America: victimhood chic.
I was one of many people who found Jussie Smollett’s story a little off from the beginning. Two white men in ski masks are out in 10-degree weather in the middle of the night, equipped with a bottle of bleach or something like it and a rope that they fashioned into a mock noose. These thugs, who shouted Trump slogans as well as racist and homophobic slurs, seemed to know who Smollett was on sight, meaning they were aficionados of the splashy black soap opera Empire, on which Smollett is a main character. Somehow they were aware that Smollett, prominent but hardly on the A-list as celebrities go, was gay.
Yes, my skepticism made me feel a little guilty. We are justly sensitized to violence against people for being black and for being gay in the wake of incidents I need not name. We are also just past watching legions of people who should have known better refuse to credit Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Maybe fear and trauma distorted Smollett’s memory somewhat? Maybe the media were getting some of the details wrong? Wait and see, I and others thought.
A significant minority seldom or never meet people from another race, and they prize sameness, not difference.
Most Americans do not live in a totalizing bubble. They regularly encounter people of different races, ideologies, and religions. For the most part, they view these interactions as positive, or at least neutral.
Yet according to a new study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and The Atlantic, a significant minority of Americans do not live this way. They seldom or never meet people of another race. They dislike interacting with people who don’t share their political beliefs. And when they imagine the life they want for their children, they prize sameness, not difference. Education and geography seemed to make a big difference in how people think about these issues, and in some cases, so did age.
As winters grow warmer in North America, thirsty ticks are on the move.
We found the moose calf half an hour in. He lay atop thin snow on a gentle slope sheltered by the boughs of a big, black spruce, curled up as a dog would on a couch. He had turned his long, gaunt head to rest against his side and closed his eyes. He might have been sleeping. The day before, April 17, 2018, when the GPS tracker on the moose’s collar stopped moving for six hours, this stillness had caused both an email and a text to alert Jake Debow, a Vermont state field biologist who stood next to me now with Josh Blouin, another state biologist, that moose No. 75 had either shucked his collar or died.
“You want pictures before we start?” Debow asked me. He’s the senior of the two young biologists, both still in grad school, both in their late 20s, young and strong and funny, from families long in the north country, both drawn to the job by a love of hunting and being outside. Debow had always wanted to be a game warden; in college, he “fell in love with the science.” His Vermont roots go back 10 generations. “Jake Debow,” Josh told me, “is about as Vermont as you can get.” It was Debow’s second season on the moose project, and Blouin’s first. This was the sixth calf, of 30 collared, that they’d found sucked to death by ticks this season. They were here to necropsy the carcass, send the tissues to a veterinary pathology lab in New Hampshire, and try to figure out as much as possible about how and why these calves were dying.
How do you offer intelligence to a president who’s not interested—and keep your job?
Dan Coats was nervous. Ahead of his very first threat briefing to Congress nearly two years ago, he was having trouble keeping straight what he could say in the unclassified part and what he had to save for the classified portion. He had retired from the Senate just months before—now he’d been thrust into an entirely different kind of job as the director of national intelligence. In the words of one former colleague, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, he was a “fish out of water,” horrified that he might get something wrong.
What he wasn’t worried about, this person said, was the kind of conflict with the president that erupted after his most recent threat briefing this past January, when he and other intelligence officials gave testimony on issues like North Korea, Iran, and Russia that contradicted statements Trump has made. Trump’s lingering anger about that testimony, ahead of his upcoming North Korea summit, has now revived speculation that Trump might fire Coats. But what Coats wanted to do two years ago, and by many accounts has faithfully tried to do since, was represent the views of the intelligence community to a president not always inclined to hear them. That is at once the key requirement of his job and potentially the one that puts him in the most peril.
For several months, Cara has been working up the courage to approach her mom about what she saw on Instagram. Not long ago, the 11-year-old—who, like all the other kids in this story, is referred to by a pseudonym—discovered that her mom had been posting photos of her, without prior approval, for much of her life. “I’ve wanted to bring it up. It’s weird seeing myself up there, and sometimes there’s pics I don’t like of myself,” she said.
Like most other modern kids, Cara grew up immersed in social media. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were all founded before she was born; Instagram has been around since she was a toddler. While many kids may not yet have accounts themselves, their parents, schools, sports teams, and organizations have been curating an online presence for them since birth. The shock of realizing that details about your life—or, in some cases, an entire narrative of it—have been shared online without your consent or knowledge has become a pivotal experience in the lives of many young teens and tweens.
The federal lawsuit challenges a 1978 law that sought to reckon with America’s history of discriminating against Native Americans. Does it hold up 40 years later?
When Chad and Jennifer Brackeen realized that God was calling on them to help children in their area, they first tried to ignore it. They already had two young children of their own, and foster care isn’t exactly known for being easy. But then they did some research and learned of the great need for foster parents in Dallas. They signed up.
The second foster child who was placed in their care was a nine-month-old boy whom the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services had suddenly taken from his home in an emergency situation. The Brackeens weren’t told what had happened, only that he’d be with them for just a couple of months. Months turned into more than a year, during which time the boy’s parents terminated their parental rights and said that they’d support Chad and Jennifer when they filed a petition to adopt the boy, known only as A.L.M. in court documents. Adopting A.L.M. wasn’t their plan, but again God called, and Chad and Jennifer knew they had to answer. According to the complaint, the boy’s court-appointed lawyer supported their petition, and with the backing of A.L.M.’s birth parents, the Brackeens expected the process to be relatively easy: A loving family wanted to adopt a boy from a troubled home. But a state family court denied their petition. The reason, according to the court, was that A.L.M. was Native American. This, the Brackeens learned, changed everything.
He’s challenging American exceptionalism in a far more radical way than his 2020 competitors are.
The conventional wisdom is that Bernie Sanders is a victim of his own success. His “populist agenda has helped push the party to the left,” declaredThe New York Times in its story about his presidential announcement. But in 2020, he may lose “ground to newer faces who have adopted many of his ideas.”
There’s an obvious truth here: From a $15 national minimum wage to Medicare for all to free college tuition, Sanders’s opponents have embraced policies that were considered radical when he first proposed them during the 2016 campaign. But what the Times misses is that there’s another policy realm where Sanders may find it easier to carve out a distinctly lefty niche: America’s relationship to the rest of the world.
Too little, and people tend to get stressed. Too much, and people tend to feel idle.
Up and down the economic ladder, many Americans who work—and especially those raising kids—are pressed for time, wishing they had more of it to devote to leisure activities (or even just sleeping). At the same time, research has indicated that people who are busy tend to be happier than those who are idle, whether their busyness is purposeful or not.
A research paper released late last year investigated this trade-off, attempting to pinpoint how much leisure time is best. Its authors examined the relationship between the amount of “discretionary time” people had—basically, how much time people spend awake and doing what they want—and how pleased they were with their lives. (Some examples of “discretionary” activities were watching TV, socializing, going to the movies, spending time with family, and doing nothing.)
As Dating Around follows New Yorkers on Groundhog Day–like blind dates, viewers may begin to lose their grip on reality.
Television has treated dating like a game since, well, The Dating Game. Each generation finds an era-appropriate kind of competitive romance. The game shows of 20th-century networks presented the hunt for love as communal, lighthearted, and blessedly straightforward. For the aughts, reality TV made sport of anxiety-producing cultural pressures—courtship is not only battling for the best mate, but also battling to live the great Stepford dream!—via dental hygienists in swimsuits and ex–football players named Colton.
Now it’s apps like Tinder that have gamified romance. But rather than contend in a cheesy quiz show or an overproduced melodrama, singles chase dopamine as they would in addictive video games. This is what Netflix’s refreshing and distressing new show Dating Around nails—both in what it portrays, and in the viewing experience. An elegantly shot entry in a mayhem-filled TV tradition, it might lead watchers of a certain age to yelp “Next!” at their screens. Yet it also extends a headier pop-culture fascination: the suspicion that we live in a simulation. If Dating Around has an eerie tinge of Black Mirror or Westworld or Russian Doll, so too does modern dating.
The number of adults with autism diagnoses is soaring, but there aren’t enough programs and services to meet the demand.
The Medicaid provider had assured her that this was the best option, so Marie Solomonik walked into the day-habilitation center in Queens, New York, with all the optimism she could muster. Marie was with her husband, Eddie, on this rainy March morning to scout out the facility for their son, Anthony, who has autism.
“This place makes my skin crawl,” Marie whispered.
“Just promise me you’ll keep an open mind,” Eddie responded.
In the past, centers like these had been a torment for Anthony. There was the time in middle school when another boy hit him in the face with a metal lunch box. There were the girls in the park who mocked him relentlessly for being nonverbal. And there was the incident during gym class when he tripped on the treadmill and got caught in the conveyor belt. By the time anyone noticed him trying to scream, nearly all the skin had been flayed from his knees.