Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday's Ways... To Musicalize, My Way

Howdy everybody, JA from MNPP here! It's well-documented - even here at The Film Experience - my troublesome relationship to the musical genre. I hem and haw, but there are plenty of musicals I do like... I just tend to be drawn in by the less straight-forward takes on the genre - the self-conscious attempts to deconstruct always seem to draw me in.

Hence my like of Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark, a film which I paid some death-scene mind to yesterday with my Thursday's Ways Not To Die series (as noted by a commenter there, I suppose the post is spoilery if you haven't seen the film... but honestly, I take eight years as being well past the spoiler-expiration-date, and the series is really a celebration of spoilers in itself... I digress). Put together one the most talented, weirdest musicians out there (well two of the most talented musicians, although we're getting ahead of ourselves there) with a fearless button-pusher like Lars von Trier and something interesting is bound to spark, right?

Well it did. And down the You-Tube'd rabbit-hole we go. The inspiration for Dancer was, of course, Bjork's video for her song "It's Oh So Quiet," which was directed by Spike Jonze, off of her 1995 album Post,

Genius, that. So Lars sees that, and wants to make the movie, or so the story goes. Five years later, ta-dah, movie. The stand-out song, the one that gets nominated for an Oscar, is called "I've Seen It All," which comes in two flavors. There's the movie version, where actor Peter Stormare sings the male part:

And then there's the album version, where my personal God, Radiohead front-man Thom Yorke, sings the part:

I don't know the exact politics of why Bjork got Thom to sing on Selmasongs besides the fact that it resulted in a track I've listened to more times than any other single song she's ever produced, but good on her. As a semi-connected, sorta-random side-note, Radiohead recently did a live cover of a Bjork song, "Unravel":

Loveliness. Anyway, one thing that's always bugged me was Thom's absence at Bjork's swan-dress-clad rendition of the song at the Oscars in 2001. I would've melted into a puddle of happy goo if the two of them had taken to the stage... but no:

Not that Bjork didn't give a terrific performance on her own. She most certainly did, and as much as I love the movie Wonder Boys, Bjork deserved the damn Oscar here too. Bob Dylan couldn't even be bothered to show up! Touring in Australia my ass. Priorities, Mr. Dylan.

Of course, that was hardly the largest injustice that evening... that was busy going down over in the Best Actress category...


dean said...

Agreed, Bjork's omission from the best actress nominees is one the top injustices of the Academy's history in my opinion.


and for BINOCHE in Chocolat?!! because Björk actually did have some awards traction.

oh, the humanity.


p.s. love these videos. thanks for sharing. she really is an 8th world wonder

Barry said...

Bjork should have been nominated and Ellen Burstyn should have won.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of musicals, they're making a "Hairspray 2", with John Waters doing the treatment and Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman writing new songs for the film. So yay or nay?

Mariposa said...

I really do love Bjork, but the love for her has kinda swindled since I read an interview with her saying she supports whaling in Iceland.

elevendreams said...

A trillion thank you's for the Thom Yorke cover of Unravel. I'd never seen nor heard of that before and my little mouse click finger was all a-tremble as it hit the play button. Brilliance!

JS said...

I read that they needed at least six minutes for the original plan of Bjork and Thom Yorke at the Oscars but then they were told to cut it in half so Yorke's parts were out. No wonder Bjork seemed so rushed when she was singing.

Please tell me that more than one Winona fought to introduce Bjork on stage?

New World was still the better song though. If only people would remain seated during the credits even if they weren't of a comic book movie. Gifts can also be given through a song. Dancer in the Dark's ending wasn't so heavy once you found out Selma went to heaven.

Or is that a topic to discuss, Dancer in the Dark's visual ending vs. the aural ending?

JA said...

"New World" is a really beautiful song, js, and somehow I never really thought of its lyrics as the cap to Selma's story... probably because I listen to the album so much and have basically divorced it from the movie, which I can't watch very often (far too upsetting an experience). It is an interesting aural spin on the film's downer of a reputation... it's almost as if Bjork was able to get the last word in over Lars von Trier's, erm, aggressive treatment.

barry, I agree with you 100%... but then I've made that clear a billion times voer and my sad-sack routine over Burstyn having been ROBBED has probably grown tiresome...

Honestly, I usually adore Binoche and Joan Allen, but neither of them deserved noms that year. Allen's as good as she always is in The Contender, but the movie's not aging well at all; hell, it was dated when it came out.

Hayden said...

I really, really don't like Dancer in the Dark. Winona Ryder did a better job as Bjork on SNL ("I trow coins inter the oven! Everyting is museeeeek! POP, SHRIEK, CRASH, BANG, BANG!!) than the Bjork did herself.

I'm one of the few people who love Julia Roberts' win, especially over Bjork's snub and Ellen Burstyn's awful, mannered mess of a performance.

JA said...

That hurt me, on the inside.

Glenn said...

See, I love love love the version of "I've Seen It All" on Selmasongs, but it's thematically polar to the film version. It's not just Thom Yorke singing Peter Stormare's part, it's Bjork occasionally singing Peter's part and Thom occasionally singing Bjork's and so on. I don't quite understand it, but I love it nonetheless.

And "New World" is a very very very vveerryy close second to "I've Seen It All".

JS said...

Think about it, Emily Watson occupies the same heaven as Bjork. But Emily got the saint bells to ring and would probably say to Bjork, "Bitch, I started the Golden Hearts Trilogy!"

JS said...

Oh and ja, I held a film marathon on my birthday last year and the theme was "Films To Commit Suicide To." The very first movie I showed was Requiem For a Dream but now I'm sort of kicking myself for sparing my audience the experience of Dancer in the Dark. Oh well.


js for your birthday ??? whatever prompted the theme?

JA said...

js, that's genius. I will steal that idea one of these years, for sure.

JS said...

Nathaniel, that is very odd. I would have thought I would have told you of all people. Must have been those times when I was still afraid of contacting you.

Oh and as to why "Films To Commit Suicide To." I was turning 22.

Here are the posters/invite cards that I had sent out:

Um, yeah, copy paste. Sorry, I forgot how to format a link for blogspot. >_<

Oh and I was only able to show 11 movies because the party atmos got too unsuitable for suicide at the latter stages (people missed the point! *sob* I blame the Doritos.):

1. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

2. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)

3. The Grifters (1990)

4. Oldboy (2003)

5. The Company of Wolves (1984)

6. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

7. M*A*S*H* (1970)

8. Alien (1979)

9. Brick (2005)

10. Death in Venice (1971)

11. Notorious (1946)

Sorry for the long comment!

Chris Na Taraja said...

I still haven't seen Sophie's Choice, so please, don't spoil it for me in future blogs.

But I have to agree, if you haven't seen dancer in the dark, it's too bad. I caught the ending a couple of weeks ago. You know one of those..oh it's this movie...then you're up til 3 totally mesmerized.

The end of this movie still takes my breath away, and maybe a piece of my soul. it's brilliant, but basically a musical snuff film.

I feel as if I will be scarred for life every time I see it.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Oh and thanks for the videos. they were great

Anonymous said...

what a racket!!!!