A million little decisions come into play when making a film. Choosing the perfect song to accompany a key scene is no small feat. Music sets the mood for a scene, cuing the audience into the nuanced, underlying emotions that can’t be conveyed by even the most talented actors and actresses.
MindHandle Mix Vol. 6: Songs that Steal the Scene, created by our multi-talented creative and strategist and resident film guru, Katie Cantu, celebrates the best tunes of cult classic films—and then some.
Katie, how would you describe this mix?
Iconic and familiar. These are songs from some of my favorite movie moments. The selections span multiple genres and generations, but they all conjure up specific movie-centric memories.
What inspired you to choose the theme?
I love music. And I love movies. As a former video editor and film major, the two are always so closely intertwined for me. Music plays such a pivotal part in setting the mood of a scene—so much that sometimes that song becomes synonymous with the entire movie. Nothing can capture a feeling quite like a song.
What is your favorite song on this mix?
Man, that’s a tough one. From Motown classics like “Stand By Me” and Sam Cooke’s “Bring it On Home” to early indie breakouts like “New Slang” by The Shins (the unofficial band of the movie Garden State), this mix contains several songs that make my “Top Songs of All-Time” list. Ultimately, I’d have to go with “Purple Rain,” the epic nearly-nine-minute ballad by the late great Prince, because it mesmerizes me every single time. Though, Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in The Line” has been on repeat in our house lately, because it’s an instant 4pm mood boost, and more importantly, my little girl burns off a bunch of energy dancing to it!
If this mix was a brand, which brand would it be and why?
Lego. There’s certainly a fair dose of nostalgia baked into this mix, but primarily, this playlist allows movie-savvy listeners to reconstruct some of their favorite cinematic moments in their minds; to build familiar worlds they’ve visited. And anyone can play.
What’s the secret to creating a great mix?
It seems fitting (and meta) to answer this question via fictional Rob Gordon, the king of mixtapes, from the movie High Fidelity:
“Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do's and don'ts. First of all, you're using someone else's poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing…it takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick it off with a killer to grab attention. Then, you gotta take it up a notch…there are a lot of rules.”
Do any of the songs bring up a specific memory?
Of course! That’s the whole point. Not only does this playlist include some of my favorite songs of all time, but it serves as a portal to travel back in time to the stories they scored, both on the big screen and in real life.
- When Man on the Moon came out in 1999, I was too young to see it, much less appreciate it. But my older brother was a senior in high school with a sprawling CD collection and a souped-up stereo to match. That year, he had R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People album on-repeat, and I became enamored with R.E.M.’s soon-to-be movie-title-track, “Man on the Moon.” I would lie down on the floor with a flattened black body pillow propped up against a speaker and we’d listen to music, often much too mature for my age. Robert left for college that summer, but before he took off, he made me stacks of cassette tapes with my favorite songs—R.EM.’s “Man on the Moon” included. Shortly after, the movie of the same title appeared, and the song was everywhere. When I hear it now, of course I think of the movie that I grew to love years later, but I also think of the visibly worn spot on the carpet in my brother’s room where I’d camp out for hours at a time, tolerating the faint smells of amphibian aquariums and sour basketball rubber, just to catch “ooone more song.”
- In my early twenties I remember re-watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind after a gut-wrenching breakup—bad (but kind-of-good) idea—and playing Beck’s cover of “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime” on repeat. In the movie’s opening credits, Jim Carey’s character listens to this song as he’s taking this heartbreaking, tear-drenched drive. It was, and still is, a good old-fashioned couch cry.
- Oh. Wait. I feel like I need to give a non-Jim Carey example? …eh, maybe not. Instead, here’s a cheat sheet of the movies I associate with each song:
The Breakfast Club: Don’t You (Forget About Me) - Simple Minds
Almost Famous: Tiny Dancer - Elton John
Back to the Future: Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry
The Graduate: Mrs. Robinson - Simon & Garfunkel
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime - Beck
9 to 5: 9 to 5 - Dolly Parton
Annie Hall: It Had to Be You - Billie Holiday
(500) Days of Summer: You Make My Dreams - Daryl Hall & John Oates
Midnight Cowboy: Everybody’s Talkin’ - Harry Nilsson
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Twist and Shout - The Beatles
Garden State: New Slang - The Shins
The Blues Brothers: Everybody Needs Somebody to Love - The Blues Brothers
Purple Rain: Purple Rain - Prince
Funny Girl: Don’t Rain On My Parade - Barbara Streisand
She’s All That: Kiss Me - Sixpence None the richer
Stand By Me: Stand By Me - Ben E King
Beetlejuice: Jump in the Line - Harry Belafonte
My Best Friend’s Wedding: I Say A Little Prayer - Aretha Franklin
Another Earth: To Build A Home - The Cinematic Orchestra
Sleepless in Seattle: A Kiss to Build a Dream On - Louis Armstrong
Jack Goes Boating: White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes
Adventures in Babysitting: Bring It On Home to Me - Sam Cooke
Love Actually: God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
Vanilla Sky: Everything in Its Right Place - Radiohead
A Serious Man: Somebody to Love - Jefferson Airplane
Man on the Moon: Man on the Moon - R.E.M.
Her: Supersymmetry - Arcade Fire
Celeste & Jesse Forever: Baby - Donnie & Joe Emerson
School of Rock: Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin
Fight Club: Where Is My Mind? - The Pixies
A Quiet Place: Harvest Moon - Neil Young
Pulp Fiction: Flowers On The Wall - The Statler Brothers
Say Anything: In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel
City of Angels: Iris - The Goo Goo Dolls
Groundhog Day: I Got You Babe - Sonny & Cher
Call Me By Your Name: Mystery of Love - Sufjan Stevens
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles: Mess Around - Ray Charles
Thank you, Katie! We look forward to reliving the greatest moments of cinema through your playlist.
Stay tuned for MindHandle Mixtape Vol. 7, available on Spotify next Friday.