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.
So I’m going to step out on an unpopular limb with Cliff Martinez’s sublime composition and arrangement for Traffic. His film work is prolific and selections impeccable. Traffic would be a completely different film without Martinez’s score. Even “Helicopter” as an ambient track takes on an almost lyrical quality. Each of the tracks convey a distinct idea and emotion.
But I think his use of Brian Eno’s “An Ending (Ascent)” at the end of the film is the best of the best [full version above]:
You’d be forgiven at this point in the film if you mistake this for Martinez’s work. But it’s a testament to the rest of the original score and getting melody (almost pop) out of three-minute ambient music. Using Eno here is no coincidence; the score is Eno’s progeny. Martinez’s selection elevates the scene and the brutal and violent cynicism that came before it, but he also pays tribute to Eno’s influence.
(Track of the Day archive here. Submit via hello@)
Danny Boyle selected some great tracks for Trainspotting. You mentioned Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” playing when Renton shoots up and survives an overdose. Yet Boyle makes an arguably better pairing when he plays Underworld’s “Born Slippy .NUXX” in the final scene, both for how the song draws you into the scene and how the lyrics reflect the protagonist’s story:
Begbie sleeps, passed out from drinking the night before, hugging the bag containing the profits from a heroin deal. Renton wakes early with “Born Slippy”playing quietly at first. He walks over to the bed, and as he begins to gently move Begbie’s arms off the bag, the drumbeat kicks in. It quickens and syncs with your heartbeat as you watch, building the suspense, as the song and the beat grow louder. Will Begbie wake? Will Spud raise the alarm? Will Renton rip off his friends and escape with the cash?
The song continues as he walks out of the hotel with the money into the open fresh air. Darkness pervades most of the movie, but now we are in the light. Renton speaks his soliloquy promising to grow up and clean up. He promises to achieve a bright, boring, middle-class life. Yet the lyrics do not match Renton’s uplifting statements.
Karl Hyde, who wrote the song, told The Guardian he was recreating how “a drunk sees the world in fragments” and described it as a cry for help when he “was still deep into alcoholism.” Although written about alcohol, the manic lyrics stand in for heroin abuse in Trainspotting. And the song’s refrain of “boy” echoes Renton’s nickname “Rent Boy,” making it sound as if the song is speaking to Renton about his struggles with heroin. It leaves you wondering whether Renton will make a clean break or whether the addiction, like the lyrics, will continue to follow him.
(Track of the Day archive here. Submit via hello@)
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.
(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)
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@)
How to navigate tricky holiday conversations in 2018. Also: Black Friday ideas!
How do you eat a meal with loved ones? Each Thanksgiving, the U.S. media answers that question, distinguishing us from countries without a free press, where people don’t dare celebrate the holiday.1 Everything you need to know is explained in this numbered list of easily sharable tips!
Many families say a pre-dinner prayer. But what if heathens are present? To include them, recite the Pledge of Allegiance too, replacing “one nation, under God” with “… under Trump” so that everyone feels welcome.
Do you freeze up when it’s time to say what you’re thankful for? Pre-write your list on a phone app and read from the screen when your turn comes. Members of oppressor groups will want to begin by noting, “I’m thankful for my white-male privilege,” especially when sharing a table with blue-collar kin, who may not have read Peggy McIntosh’s seminal essay in their cultural competency training.
Nowadays, young people wait longer to get married. And the birth rate is falling, endangering attendance at future Thanksgiving dinners. This is due largely to the failure of laid-back, Baby Boomer grandparents to encourage and cajole their grandsons and granddaughters with pointed questions about their reproductive planning. It’s never too soon to talk to your kids about stopping birth control.
Not all traditions deserve to survive. For example, letting grandpa or dad carve the turkey every year reeks of patriarchy. The task ought to be assigned to the youngest female present, no exceptions.
Politics is the indispensable holiday topic, and the religious separatists who celebrated the first Thanksgiving serve as a reminder that politics need not be secular in nature. In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, a Catholic family might want to debate the merits of breaking with Rome, while Muslims might probe whether Shia or Sunnis have it right. In discussions of U.S. politics, most families will be divided between members who hate America and want to destroy what’s great about this country and members who are irredeemably racist and sexist. Still, converts can be won if folks offer evidence for their claims. Phrases to keep handy include “according to science,” “Sean Hannity reported,” and “because America is and has always been a patriarchal, white-supremacist rape culture.”
Every family has a patriotic duty to debate the most important unsettled political question of our era: Is President Trump a sexually predatory Nazi who praises murderous tyrants while normalizing a Margaret Atwood dystopia? Or is he a latter-day Midas who beds porn stars only with their consent… with the same manly hands he used to romance North Korea’s leader out of his nukes? At my house each faction will nominate a champion to argue its position, those of us who remembered to bring IDs will vote on who won, and absent unanimity we’ll settle the matter by combat.
White women are unusually controversial this year. If you’ve already made the mistake of inviting one, just ignore her.
If talk of politics starts to ruin the meal due to your failure to take the foregoing advice, don't be afraid to bring up something else––there are a few other topics that can lead to engaging conversation. Sex is among the most popular––according to the Huffington Post, “porn websites account for more monthly traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined,” so folks around your table are almost certainly partaking. Money is another national obsession. How much does everyone make? Do they save enough or spend too much? And are there any outstanding debts owed to people at the table?
Then there’s childrearing. Not everyone present will be the parent of young children. But if nothing else, everyone will have been a child before. And that means they have deep insight into how others should raise their children. Indeed, family therapy is so expensive these days that many have never had an open conversation with their kids about their family’s rules and disciplinary strategies. A trusted cousin or aunt willing to raise the subject is likely to elicit memorable comments from mom, dad, and junior.
Other subjects are hugely important but seldom discussed due to a perception that they’re boring. Why not get creative? Take land use policy. Zoning rules aren’t likely to hold anyone’s attention for long. But what if you researched the land on which your gathering was being held, ascertained the indigenous tribe with the most viable claim to it, and asked the property owner if he or she would be willing to deed it over in a magnanimous Thanksgiving Day gesture?
. It is your moral obligation to discuss climate change, as all life on earth is doomed unless everyone leaves your table persuaded of the need to ban the use of fossil fuels. Don’t serve dessert until you’ve reached consensus.
Per The Globe and Mail, “sugar is the new tobacco.” In lieu of pumpkin pie, put demerara sugar into empty tea-pouches and instruct everyone to “pinch” or “dip” them between their lower lip and gums. (In California this must be done outdoors at least 20 feet from any door or window and may require a Proposition 65 placard.)
While it may be tempting to linger at the table, especially if you’ve followed all of my tips, the savvy Thanksgiving participant will depart early to get in line at a nearby Best Buy, Target, or Walmart. If your goodbyes are taking longer than you’d like, borrow a trick from the Academy Awards––put “Black Friday” by Steely Dan on the home stereo and gradually turn the volume louder and louder until everyone stops talking. Then take your exit, and pat yourself on the back as you settle into your zero-degree sleeping bag––you’ve successfully pulled off the best Thanksgiving of your life.
Staffers and aides to party leadership say they love her enthusiasm. But they’re worried her approach will threaten caucus unity.
She came into Washington like a wrecking ball.
Just on Saturday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced that she will be working with progressive activists to bring primary challenges against some of the more conservative Democrats in Congress, her own soon-to-be colleagues.
This was after she joined a protest in the office of Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and after she’d spent a week doggedly documenting congressional orientation on Instagram for her followers and clapping back at her many critics on Twitter.
There are, in other words, several early indications that Ocasio-Cortez will do things differently than the typical legislator, acting as a bomb-thrower and agitator in the People’s House. It’s something her supporters want very much—and something many of her Democratic colleagues aren’t sure how to feel about: According to interviews with a dozen House staffers and aides to members of party leadership, veteran Democrats are happy about the youth and enthusiasm Ocasio-Cortez and her progressive cohort bring to the caucus. But at the same time, these Democrats are worried that their approach might sometimes prove counterproductive.
During a moment of crisis in the 2016 campaign, the future vice president appeared ready to turn on Trump. Some of the president’s allies worry it could happen again.
Is Mike Pence loyal to Donald Trump?
It’s a question that’s apparently been on the president’s mind of late. Last week, The New York Timesreported that Trump has been privately asking aides whether they think the vice president’s loyalty can be counted on—repeating the question so many times that “he has alarmed some of his advisers.”
What’s behind this line of inquiry? Speculation abounds, both inside the White House and out. Is Trump thinking of dropping Pence from the 2020 ticket? Is he worried about Pence’s role in the Mueller investigation? Or is he just asking because, as the Times notes, he’s been thinking about replacing his own chief of staff with Pence’s, and wants to make sure they’re all on the same page?
Priests are fielding more requests than ever for help with demonic possession, and a centuries-old practice is finding new footing in the modern world.
Louisa Muskovits appeared to be having a panic attack. It was March of 2016, and Louisa, a 33-year-old with a history of alcohol abuse, was having a regular weekly session with her chemical-dependency counselor in Tacoma, Washington.
Louisa had recently separated from her husband, Steven. When the counselor asked about her marriage, she said she wasn’t ready to talk about it. The counselor pressed, and again Louisa demurred. Eventually the conversation grew tense, and Louisa started to hyperventilate, a common symptom of a panic attack.
The counselor rushed down the hall to get Louisa’s therapist, Amy Harp. Together they moved Louisa to Harp’s office, where they felt they could better calm her. But once Louisa was there, Harp recalls, her demeanor transformed. Normally friendly and open, she started screaming and pulling out clumps of her hair. She growled and glared. Her head flailed from side to side, cocking back at odd angles. In jumbled bursts, she muttered about good and evil, God and the devil. She told the counselors that no one there could save “Louisa.”
Despite the easing of taboos and the rise of hookup apps, Americans are in the midst of a sex recession.
These should be boom times for sex.
The share of Americans who say sex between unmarried adults is “not wrong at all” is at an all-time high. New cases of HIV are at an all-time low. Most women can—at last—get birth control for free, and the morning-after pill without a prescription.
If hookups are your thing, Grindr and Tinder offer the prospect of casual sex within the hour. The phrase If something exists, there is porn of it used to be a clever internet meme; now it’s a truism. BDSM plays at the local multiplex—but why bother going? Sex is portrayed, often graphically and sometimes gorgeously, on prime-time cable. Sexting is, statistically speaking, normal.
When it comes to dealing with her opponents inside the Capitol’s marble walls, no one in her party even comes close.
A few years ago, the Brookings Institution scholar Thomas Mann said that during her time running the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi had proved the “strongest and most effective speaker of modern times.” To understand why, just look at the way Pelosi has engineered her likely return to the job over the past week.
In August, NBC asked Democrats running for the House whether they supported making Pelosi speaker again. A whopping 58 refused to endorse her. Even more ominous, the abstainers hailed from every wing of the party. They included many of the moderate Democrats with the best chances of winning in Republican-leaning districts: Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania; Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey; Jared Golden in Maine; Gil Cisneros in Orange County, California; and Max Rose in Staten Island, New York. But some of the party’s rising progressive stars—Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—snubbed Pelosi, too. It appeared to be one of the few points of consensus among Democrats of all stripes. “There is widespread agreement,” Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky toldVox in July, “that we need a rejuvenation of leadership.”
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has done what America has asked, and the president has assured him their relationship is safe.
Today the president of the United States released a statement reaffirming his support for Saudi Arabia and its regent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS. The process of separating the substance of the document from its mortifying semiliteracy took me approximately 15 minutes, but I think I managed it without permanent damage to the Broca region of my brain. There lies the seat of the language faculty, easily the most punished neuroanatomical structure of the Trump era. Here’s what close study reveals.
We knew—we always knew—that Donald Trump would never ditch an ally who would always support him as long as he reciprocated with loyalty of his own. MbS is such an ally. Recall that Trump’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia, a curious choice for a president widely believed to hate and distrust Muslims. His love for MbS is a romance that is perpetually new, a cloudless day of picnics in the park, sweet nothings of arms and oil deals, and promises of mutual defense. The affirmation of this relationship should be read not as the product of deliberation but as an exercise in apologetics: an explanation of a decision that was never in doubt, even if the explanation proved inadequate. All of Trump’s romances are like this. That is why his supporters love him; he loves them back unconditionally—whether they are racists or murderers or cretins.
He identifies as African American, but it’s a constant struggle to get his peers and teachers to see him that way.
I recently confessed to my son that I would have to miss back-to-school night for a work trip. Most parents can expect one of two reactions from their children to this news: relief or a guilt trip. My son’s response was of the second variety, but with a particular twist. “You can’t miss back-to-school night!,” he said. “How else will my new teachers know I’m black?”
For me and my husband, back-to-school night is not only about establishing what kind of parents we will be for the coming school year—it is also about establishing our son’s racial identity and sense of belonging.
I am a black woman married to a white man. Our 13-year-old son looks white—blonde-haired, blue-eyed, straight-nosed, thin-lipped, fair-skinned white—but he identifies as black. Our daughter is much lighter than I am, and is often mistaken for Middle Eastern or Latina, but I cannot help but see traces of my paternal grandmother’s high cheek bones and wide nose in her round face.
Trump reportedly sought earlier this year to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey, which one former Justice Department official called “un-American.”
The president of the United States reportedly tried to use the full force of the country’s law-enforcement apparatus to prosecute his political enemies—and Justice Department veterans are calling it everything from “incredibly” alarming to “flat-out un-American.”
The disclosure by The New York Times on Tuesday that President Donald Trump had told the White House counsel he wanted the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey offers a new window into the extent to which Trump perceives the law-enforcement community as his “personal entourage,” said Elliot Williams, a former high-ranking Justice Department official. The counsel, Don McGahn, who has since left the administration, told Trump he could not order an investigation, and produced a memo warning Trump that he could face impeachment for asking law enforcement to prosecute Clinton and Comey, according to the Times.
President Trump sent troops to the border even though they’re prohibited by law from stopping immigrants. He still hasn’t visited U.S. troops in a combat zone.
Nearly four years ago, my colleague James Fallows wrote a cover story in The Atlantic labeling the United States a “chickenhawk nation.” Americans today “love the troops, but we’d rather not think about them,” he wrote. “The American military is exotic territory to most of the American public. As a comparison: A handful of Americans live on farms, but there are many more of them than serve in all branches of the military.”
If those trends were apparent at the start of 2015, they are visible in crisp, high-definition detail in the Trump era.
Nearly two years into his term as president, Donald Trump has yetto visit American troops in a combat zone, thoughthe president is reportedlynow consideringa visit as public pressure intensifies. Trump’s vexed relationship with the military exemplifies and amplifies the vexed relationship that Fallows described: Trump never served, but he is more than happy to use the military as atool—both to solve real problems, and as a political prop for bogus ones. He frequently speaks about the need to keep the military strong. But he is unwilling to actually visit soldiers who are in the field, and often takes shots at those who have served honorably. Trump is the perfect chickenhawk president for a chickenhawk nation.