Netflix

Best of Netflix: Great Soundtracks

Jeffrey Eugenides’ voyeuristic novel (written in the first person plural to often unsettling effect) is given a whimsical and almost nostalgic adaptation by Sofia Coppola, making her debut as a writer-director and proving she’s a lot more than just the daughter of the guy who made The Godfather. Taking place in 1970s Michigan, The Virgin Suicides follows a group of teenage boys who become obsessed with the Lisbon sisters, beautiful and mysterious young women kept under lock and key by their ultra-religious parents (Kathleen Turner and James Woods, both excellent) after one of them kills herself. Coppola turns this bizarre and gruesomely tragic story into a groovy dreamscape, concentrating mostly on soft-focus close-ups of an ever wistfully/seductively smiling Kirsten Dunst set to an ethereal score by French alt-pop duo Air. The excellent soundtrack — which also features the hit single, “Playground Love” — goes a long way in bringing the director’s strange poetic vision to life; the music is melancholy and yet oddly celebratory, as if we should be glad that these girls never had to grow up and deal with the shit the rest of us live with every day.


“Never a dude like this one! He’s got a plan to stick it to The Man!” This landmark 1972 blaxploitation film stars Ron O’Neal as Youngblood Priest, a cocaine dealer cruising the streets of New York in a pimped-out (and we do mean pimped-out) 1971 Cadillac Eldorado who ends up trying to get out the business that’s made him an underworld superstar — albeit one headed straight for either jail or the grave. Funded by two dentists and the guy who directed Shaft, Super Fly is a glorious free-for-all of amoral chaos, filled with guns, dope, girls, freaks and at least one memorable line reading of “Can You Dig It?” that preceded The Warriors by at least seven years; it was also (and continues to be) outgrossed by its amazing soundtrack by soul and funk master Curtis Mayfield, a record bolstered by two mega-selling singles, “Super Fly” and “Freddie’s Dead” and, next to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, considered one of the pioneering soul “concept albums.” Mayfield went on to provide the soundtracks for two decidedly more family-friendly cinematic outings starring Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby, Let’s Do It Again and A Piece of the Action, and released a relatively unsuccessful sequel album, The Return of Superfly, in 1990.


One of director Sam Peckinpah’s most troubled but ultimately most triumphant shoot-‘em-ups, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is famous for the behind-the-scenes battle between the legendary director and the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which ceased control of the film during post production and released a severely truncated cut in 1973 that was largely disowned by the cast and crew. It wasn’t until 1988 that Peckinpah got to release a director’s cut on home video, which inspired a widespread critical reevaluation — it’s now considered one of the best films of its era. Pat & Billy stars James Coburn as Pat Garrett, the outlaw turned lawman who was charged with going after his old pal, the infamous Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson) — besides some terrifically staged Peckinpah violence and great performances by the two leads, you also get Bob Dylan‘s soundtrack containing original songs composed especially for the movie, including the title track and one of Dylan’s most enduring anthems, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (Dylan also appears briefly in the part of Alias, an ally of Billy’s who’s handy with knives). A truly great western, if you’re watching the right version — thankfully, Netflix has the Director’s Cut.


Before you start cracking wise about Prince’s much-reviled cinematic follow-up to 1984’s Purple Rain (which wasn’t exactly a great movie, either), remember that — like Purple Rain before it — its soundtrack happens to be one of Prince’s all-time best albums. Under the Cherry Moon follows the sexual adventures of an American gigolo named Christopher Tracy (Prince, of course) living in Paris with his con artist partner, Tricky (Time member Jerome Benton); together, they swindle rich French women out of their money, a lucrative trade until Tracy actually falls in love with an heiress (Kristin Scott Thomas) and runs afoul of her cranky father (Steven Berkoff). Bonus: it’s all shot in oh so pretentious black and white (even though it was shot in color). A laughable embarrassment as a film, but the soundtrack album happens to be Parade, which features some of Prince’s best singles, including “Kiss,” “Girls & Boys” and “Mountains.” Actually, Parade was largely ignored in the U.S. upon its initial release but has since gone on to become one of Prince’s most popular records; likewise, maybe some day, far, far in the future, Under the Cherry Moon will be considered to be the classic its director-star (yeah, Prince directed it, too) seems to think it is.


For the record, we’re fans of Ralph Bakshi’s misunderstood and sadly underloved 1992 live-action/animation mashup; imagine a gonzo version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and you’re nowhere near close to envisioning this ridiculous but oddly compelling mess, but you’re at least kind of on the right path. Brad Pitt plays a WWII veteran who gets in a car accident about two minutes after arriving home in the States; somehow, this tragedy that claims his parents’ lives opens up a portal to a parallel universe called the “Cool World,” a noirish, all-cartoon plane of existence that takes in Pitt as one of its few human residents. Cut to the modern day and cartoonist Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) is drawn into the Cool World by one of his favorite drawings, Holly Wood (Kim Basinger), a ‘toon looking to get into the real world by having sex with a human (hey, we don’t make the rules). Obviously, Cool World doesn’t make any sense, and Bakshi’s usual runaway creativity and anarchic spirit is severely watered down by a (and we do mean a lot) of studio tampering, but it definitely has something — not the least of which is an awesome, groundbreaking electronica soundtrack featuring tracks by David Bowie, Moby, My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult, Brian Eno, Thompson Twins, The Future Sound of London and many more. Baskshi originally pitched the movie as a horror film in which a human and a ‘toon have sex and their resulting hybrid offspring escapes into the real world to kill the father who abandoned her — this is what we got instead.

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