Absolutely nothing crazy happened at the 2017 Oscars ceremony, of course, nothing at all, so we made a playlist to spruce up this extremely stuffy, super unsurprising awards weekend that had zero last-minute plot-twists whatsoever.
MOANA — “How Far I’ll Go” — as described by som-mai nguyen
An I-want song that looks for-/backward with equal yearning, “How Far I’ll Go” doesn’t seek to bleach or burn anything. I cried through this movie’s whole first act, and I cried again listening to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s interview on the Dinner Party Download: “It’s not about not liking where she is and wanting to go somewhere else. She loves where she is. […] She loves her community. And there’s this voice anyway. And so, I felt like that was much more complicated and also much truer to my experience growing up […] And yet, there was this impossible distance between me wanting to make movies and write shows. I didn’t know anyone in show business. I didn’t know anyone in that world.” I’m a daughter of immigrants, trying to figure out what relationship my future holds with art; it doesn’t take much projection to cry.
PHARRELL WILLIAMS — “Runnin'” — as described by nikki tran
After watching Hidden Figures, I, a proud English major, spent the next 36 hours planning for a master’s in computer science. I made spreadsheets with 2-year plans, searched for scholarships and sources of funding, looked up grad housing costs. Then, I actually sat down and watched a lecture (for fun) and was reminded why I had stopped after CS 106A. I think I was in love with the sisterhood between these smart women, the way they’re always rooting for each other–run, girl, run.
SEX BOB-OMB — “We Are Sex Bob-Omb” — as described by nick burns
This gleefully, hilariously overdriven song opens high school–era Nick Burns’ favorite movie of all time, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. The Pixies-meets–early White Stripes just captures the goofy soul of the movie as well as garage rock itself, and fifteen-year-old me vowed that if Sex Bob-Omb were a real band, they’d be my favorite. As it turned out, they already were—sort of. Beck, that restless absurdist mastermind of Los Angeles, composed this song in concert with perennial Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. It figures—my love for Beck as picaresque, Pythonesque Angeleno has always known no bounds.
UNIT 4 + 2 — “Concrete and Clay” — as described by katie nesser
I had a real thing for Wes Anderson’s Rushmore in high school, as anyone who knew me well at the time could attest. The sixties rock soundtrack, punctuated by instrumentals from DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh, played in my headphones as I played out a very different kind of high school overachievement stereotype from the movie’s Max Fischer.
FAYE WONG — “Dream Person” — as described by katie lan
Faye Wong’s canto cover of the Cranberries’s Dream from Chungking Express is ethereal. This whole movie is like a dream, loosely connecting two romances in the heart of Hong Kong’s crime epicenter in the nineties. The images of Faye Wong’s character dancing and running around always comes up every time I hear both the English and canto version of this song.
PRINCE – “Purple Rain” – as described by anthony milki
There’s always an asterisk in my mind, whether it be fair or not, when assessing tracks intended for movies. The entire Purple Rain album completely sidesteps that prejudice because it’s just that good.
LA LA LAND CAST — “Another Day of Sun” — as described by alejandra salazar
I had so many conflicted feelings about La La Land. It was a fun, colorful moviegoing experience, but there were some things I could not get over, namely the film’s treatment of jazz music and Ryan Gosling’s insufferable musician-bro character (for all you RyGos fans, do not worry: his other big 2016 performance in The Nice Guys safely redeems him from the two-dimensionality of LLL’s Seb).
Anyway, that being said–this song scores the opening four minutes or so of the film, and while I can’t begin to imagine the effect that filming this scene (a large ensemble dancing on a Los Angeles highway) had on real-world L.A. traffic (yes, wunderkind director Damien Chazelle closed down an actual arm of an actual L.A. highway to film this, and the SoCal road rage from that day is of legend), this opening scene captures a joy and wonderment and musical nostalgia that modern films can usually only dream of. The fact that La La Land’s score taps into that feeling for these four minutes alone is of itself an accomplishment worthy of recognition on Hollywood’s biggest stage. Brava, Justin Hurwitz.
And here are two takes on Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger” from Moonlight, this year’s Best Picture winner:
as described by ena alvarado
Last September, I went to a beautiful Julia Holter concert. Although she mostly sang from her latest album, Have You in My Wilderness, she did revisit a couple of oldies, including her lazy drone cover of “Hello Stranger.” I only realized this tune was not actually written by her when I saw Kevin play it to Chiron in his restaurant’s jukebox. The Oscars generally suck, and I should be pitied if my movie tastes were in any way guided by them, but am I damn happy Moonlight won.
as described by alex cheng
This is one of those songs that invents a new color. It touches an emotion that no other song has thought to look for. It’s strange, and utterly comforting. And now Moonlight has immortalized it as one of the great movie songs. In the same way that Kevin can’t hear it without thinking of Chiron, I can’t hear it without thinking of the beauty of both of them together in that Miami restaurant. The organ floats above the cymbals, and the vocals just above that, and Chiron and Kevin look at each other, the waywardness of life between them.