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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Today's guest VJ: Cameron Crowe's favorite musical movie moments

May 14, 2009 |  5:28 pm

No one has a better ear for using music in movies than Cameron Crowe, so it's a delight to see that Empire magazine cajoled Crowe into picking his Top 10 movie music moments, though after his old rock writer genes kicked in, Crowe got started and couldn't stop--ending up with his Top 36 music moments  (the "Sorry I Couldn't Stop List"). You'll have to go to his post on Empire to see the whole gallery of choices. But let's just say that he leaves few stones unturned, not only giving props to Wes Anderson for using the Rolling Stones' "She Smiled Sweetly/Ruby Tuesday" in "The Royal Tenenbaums," but making room in the Top 10 for everything from Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into the Fire"  (from "GoodFellas") to Cat Stevens' "Don't Be Shy" from Hal Ashby's "Harold and Maude."

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There are plenty of other inspired choices--only Cameron would remember how great Cheap Trick's "Downed" sounded in "Over the Edge" as well as what a shrewd choice Paul Thomas Anderson made by spotlighting Aimee Mann's "Wise Up" in "Magnolia." But for me, the highlight of the gallery is reading Crowe's fan's notes-style explications of his choices. Here, just as one example, is his mini-essay on Wes Anderson's adept manipulation of our pop music memory banks in "Royal Tenenbaums":

It's said that Jackson Browne, watching ''The Royal Tenenbaums," was so transported watching the "These Days" sequence that he thought wistfully, "This guy plays like I used to play." And then he realized--it is me. Wes Anderson's brilliant use of the Nico original galvanized and reinvented the song even for Jackson Browne, who now plays the song in its original mode at his live performances. All this, because Anderson picked the right song, the right camera speed and the perfect actors to play Margot and Richie Tenenbaum. It aches. And there is another stunning music-in-movies moment just around the corner in "Tenenbaums," when Anderson busts out the Rolling Stones. Margot and Richie have finally escaped to be alone under a tent with a record player. Their music choice is a vinyl copy of "Between the Buttons." Anderson lets the album track in the long unrequited love scene between the two. (Sadly, they're adoptive siblings) ... Many a director has tried to use "Ruby Tuesday," the evocative Brian Jones/Stones classic, and failed. Wes solves the problem by letting you hear it the way you'd hear it in life--devastating and random in the way it pops up, innocently requiring you to remember the moment forever.

Don't take Crowe's word for it. Watch for yourself:

Photo of  "The Royal Tenenbaums" from Touchstone Pictures    

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