Monday, December 4, 2023

Six Great Rolling Stones Needle Drops in Movies

by Patrick Bromley
The Greatest Rock and Roll Band of All Time is also one of the Most Cinematic.

1. "Paint it Black," Full Metal Jacket
I've been on a Rolling Stones kick and Kubrick kick lately, so this first pick is the perfect storm of my current obsessions. Having shown Full Metal Jacket to students twice in the last few weeks, I'm starting to think it's my favorite Kubrick movie, which I know is not an especially popular opinion. I love that he closes the film out with "Paint it Black" from the U.S. release of Aftermath, not just because it's another period-specific song in a movie full of them but because it's a song about grief and loss and nihilism in a movie full of it. The ending of Full Metal Jacket, in which Matthew Modine's Private Joker narrates "I am in a world of shit, yes, but I am alive, and I am not afraid" is a bitter pill, made all the more bitter by the inclusion of "Paint it Black." The song has been used in a lot of movies and TV shows, but never better than it is here.

2. "Out of Time," Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
It's a shame and a real missed opportunity that this song does not appear on the soundtrack release for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as it scores what is perhaps my favorite sequence in the entire movie and the one I'm working towards every time I watch it. Equal parts joyous and melancholy, the montage that accompanies "Out of Time" finds my beloved characters in a state of flux, their friendships coming to an end, their lives forever changing. The song, off of Aftermath, is one of the band's best from this period, but I know that I'm not biased because I will forever connect it with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood even though I know Coming Home got there first.

3. "2,000 Man," Bottle Rocket
Like Martin Scorsese (who appears a little later on this list), Wes Anderson has created some incredibly cinematic moments to the music of The Rolling Stones. I came very close to choosing "Ruby Tuesday" from The Royal Tenebaums, but I think I like the needle drop of  "2,000 Man" from Their Satanic Majesties Request in his first feature Bottle Rocket even better (although maybe that's the recency bias of our Bottle Rocket podcast talking). Played over a sequence of Owen Wilson's Dignan -- one of the all-time great movie characters -- attempting a rescue mission after a heist (contrasted with James Caan and company cleaning Bob Mapplethorpe out), the song is a perfect counterpoint. The song is so good that even KISS covered it on Dynasty. Their cover is great too.

4. "Rip This Joint," The Way of the Gun
Before he was the architect of several of the best Mission: Impossible sequels, Christopher McQuarrie was making his directorial debut with this brutal, bratty noir about two lowlife criminals (Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro) who get involved in a kidnapping that, to no one's surprise, goes very south. The movie doesn't get talked about nearly enough, and when it does it's often to reference the opening scene in which Phillippe and Del Toro pick a fight with Sarah Silverman and her boyfriend, giving way to profane poetry like "Shut that cunt's mouth or I'll come over there and fuck-start her head." McQuarrie wanted to set the tone and push buttons right from the outset and he scores it all to the Stones' raucous and rowdy "Rip This Joint," the second track on the great Exile on Main St. It's seriously one of the best opening scenes in any movie ever.

5. "You Can't Always Get What You Want," The Big Chill
The most obvious pick on this list, but I can't really avoid putting it on here. Lawrence Kasdan's boomer classic is full of boomer music, so the Rolling Stones are right at home on a soundtrack that also includes Creedence, Three Dog Night, and Marvin Gaye. They're "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (off Let It Bleed) isn't just an anthem for the midlife dissatisfaction of the characters; it's also one of the best jokes in the movie, when it plays at the funeral for their late friend (an uncredited Kevin Costner) that kickstarts their reunion.

6. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," Casino
I mean, I'm not going to make a list like this and not put a Stones needle drop from Scorsese, who has done more for putting the band on film than anyone (including directing their 2008 concert film Shine a Light). Scorsese and the Stones are forever linked thanks to sequences like this one from Casino, in which the amazing "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" (from Sticky Fingers, my current favorite of all their albums) plays during a montage (who am I kidding, the whole movie is a montage) of Joe Pesci's Nicky building his own criminal empire in Las Vegas. I won't argue this is the best use of the Stones in a Scorsese movie -- there are almost too many from which to choose -- but it was the one that came to mind first, as Casino has the energy and ferocity of Keith Richards' guitar.

No comments:

Post a Comment