Choose life.

On my mind

You all know the Choose Life speech from Trainspotting right? Well recently – with the release of the sequel, T2 – I entered a little writing competition, where we were given the task of updating said speech. And whilst I put mine together pretty quickly, I thought it would be worth sharing here, as I quite like it. So here you go.

Choose life. Choose your precious smartphone. Choose narcissism and selfie sticks. Choose Uber, Deliveroo and online dating. Choose FitBits and self-improvement. Choose masturbation. Choose the herd mentality, trolling culture and the turgid crap that is reality TV. Choose giving a damn about your privacy. Choose government surveillance, tracking cookies and facial recognition. Choose the police, kettling and racial profiling. Choose isolationism, alleged protectionism and border patrols. Choose turning our backs on Obama and voting for Donald fucking Trump, walling off Mexico and Islamophobia. Choose Brexit. Choose interfering in the Middle East and Africa. Choose trusting the conniving, supercilious banks. Choose escapism, geek culture and unrealistic heroes. Choose Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom bloody Hiddleston. Choose celebrity and becoming obsessed with each new shocking death. Choose being labelled and marketed to in every possible way. Choose being a millennial. Choose Generation Z.

Choose globalisation and losing our way.

Choose life.

Best use of 80s electro songs in film

Best Of lists, Music

renton and diane

Ok, here are the rules. The songs had to have been released in the ’80s, but could have been used in any films during this time. Whether they introduce or accentuate a scene, or were the film’s theme song, each track is special to me in some way. Here’s my list:

‘Atomic’ by Blondie (1980)Trainspotting
This takes place in the Volcano club where Renton sees Diane and falls in love. Cue spaghetti western style guitar hook with sharp and punchy disco beats and Blondie’s warbling vocals.

‘What A Feeling’ by Irene Cara (1983)Flashdance
Damn Robert Webb’s sexy moves. If you can get past his version this was a great theme song, equally good as a stand-alone track without the dancing. It’s uplifting and empowering and arguably the female ‘Eye of the Tiger’ power song.

‘It’s A Sin’ by the Pet Shop Boys (1987)Bronson
If you’re a fan of Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive you have to ensure you see his earlier film, Bronson, with Tom Hardy. Watch the psychiatric hospital scene. A scene that was expertly lifted by canny use of a killer track.

‘Don’t Go’ by Yazoo (1982)Tango & Cash
In this film we have both Kurt Russell and Teri Hatcher sporting some truly fantastic hair – all framed perfectly by Yazoo’s urgent, punchy track.

‘Together In Electric Dreams’ by Philip Oakey (1984)Electric Dreams
Trying to emulate the success of Flashdance, Oakey of The Human League recorded this in ten minutes. It worked too, becoming a bigger hit than the film it was promoting.

‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division (1980)Donnie Darko
This track gets used in a pivotal scene where Donnie has to abandon his girlfriend in order to save her. One of Gyllenhaal’s best and most intelligent films to date.

‘Push It To The Limit’ by Paul Engemann (1983) – Scarface
Everyone loves an ’80s montage scene right? This one expertly frames Tony Montana’s rise to the top of the drugs world, as he consolidates his wealth and power.

‘Axel F’ by Harold Faltermeyer (1985)Beverly Hills Cop
I almost forgot this film and theme song, for shame! The ‘Crazy Frog’ version nearly ruined my affection for this track, but thankfully it was rekindled by the Peter Griffin rendition.

‘A View To A Kill’ by Duran Duran (1985)A View to a Kill
Peppered with sharp, urgent notes, this epic track perfectly captured the spirit of Bond during his ’80s pomp. For your listening pleasure, here’s the video.

‘Magic Dance’ by David Bowie (1986)Labyrinth
Despite the backing track sounding like it was lifted straight from a Cyndi Lauper record, it’s still a complete classic from a defining coming-of-age film for 80s kids like myself.

I’d loved to have included ‘Nightcall’ by Kavinsky, the theme to Drive, but it was released in 2010. It’s hypnotic, ethereal and very 80s.

So there’s my list. Any I missed you’d have liked to have seen?

My top 10 supercool film soundtracks

Best Of lists, Music
  1. the life aquaticThe Life Aquatic
    (Wes Anderson)
    Two reasons this is my top choice, Seu Jorge and David Bowie. Seu Jorge’s take on Bowie tracks perfectly complemented the film. Standouts for me include his versions of ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Space Oddity and ‘Rebel Rebel’. Oh, and ‘Changes’, it’s beautiful.
  2. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino)
    It’s hard to select just one Tarantino film soundtrack, most of his films have outstanding music to set the scene. If pushed for an alternative I’d probably say Kill Bill 1, then Reservoir Dogs. Pulp Fiction takes this one though, with use of Al Green, Dusty Springfield, Kool and the Gang, and many more.
  3. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese)
    Jimmy ConwayThere’s detail here about how Scorsese only used songs that commented on the scene in question in some way. From Tony Bennett’s ‘Rags to Riches’ in the opening credits, the main character’s story is introduced. An absolute favourite scene is where Jimmy is considering whacking Morrie and Cream’s ‘Sunshine of your Love’ kicks in. Impossibly cool.
  4. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie)
    When this film appeared in 1998, the soundtrack was key to its appeal. ‘Spooky’ by Dusty Springfield, ‘Police and Thieves’ by Junior Murvin, ‘Walk this Land’ by EZ-Rollers, ‘Why did you do it’ by Stretch, ‘The Payback’ by James Brown, ‘Fools Gold’ by Stone Roses. Outstanding.
  5. corey and ginaEmpire Records (Allan Moyle)
    A mid 90s film about a group of slackers who work in a record store. It’s a really sweet film, never fails to perk me up if I’m down. There’s so many songs in it too, from the Gin Blossoms and Cranberries, through to Coyote Shivers and Better than Ezra. Check the playlist here.
  6. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle)
    Killer soundtrack, kicked off with Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ and never let up. Raw, gritty and very 1990s, with Blondie’s ‘Atomic’ for the sexy nightclub scene, and Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ overdose scene; tracks selected helped key scenes pack a massive punch.
  7. Juno (Jason Reitman)
    Super sweet indie film with lovely little songs throughout. Watch the opening credits theme song, with its quirky animation, it sums up the film. Actress Ellen Page – who played Juno – suggested to the Director her character would listen to The Moldy Peaches.
  8. natalie portman zach braffGarden State (Zach Braff)
    Another sweet indie film, powered along by the warm little centre that is Natalie Portman’s character. It also included lovely, quirky music by The Shins. If you don’t like this band then you have a heart of stone.
  9. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
    Despite his body of work, this is the first film to win Scorsese an Oscar. I think the phenomenal soundtrack throughout might have helped. The Dropkick Murphys ‘Shipping out to Boston’ fits perfectly. There’s also the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd, for good measure.
  10. Snatch (Guy Ritchie)
    brad pittI’m going with another Guy Ritchie film. Along with The Stranglers ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by 10cc, this had Madonna, The Specials, The Herbaliser, Oasis and – most impressively – ‘Angel’ by Massive Attack. Watch this scene, powerful stuff.

Looking back through this, I’ve realised it’s a mostly a mix of gangster and quirky, indie films. I’m comfortable with that. It reflects my film tastes, in terms of how music has influenced my love of a particular film at least. There was a lot of films that didn’t make the cut, but it’s a top 10 list, you have to be ruthless.

Use of music in film
I think there’s two routes you can go when using music to complement your film. Either have the music interwoven with the whole theme and tone of the film (think Wes Anderson, Jason Reitman). Or use individual songs to give particular scenes an emotional wallop (Martin Scorsese, Guy Ritchie).

Tarantino the wildcard
An interesting exception to the rule – for me – is Tarantino. Mostly I think he follows the Scorsese approach. However, if you take Kill Bill 1, he uses RZA from Wu-Tang Clan to produce the soundtrack, which weaves perfectly through the film.

‘The Lonely Shepherd’ by Gheorghe Zamfir is such a perfect song for this film. East meets West, pan pipes moving into spaghetti western. RZA heard this eating in a Thai restaurant. Not hard to believe. Similarly Tarantino heard ‘Woo hoo’ by the 5.6.7.8’s just as he was about to leave a shop in Tokyo. He persuaded the shop to sell him the CD and then got the band to appear in the film.

Anyway, I’m going off topic. This probably just proves Kill Bill should really be in my top 10 list. The Hattori Hanzo scene is a true classic and really should have convinced me of this. I humbly beg your forgiveness and ask that it be included as a wildcard.

Kill Bill