Girls Just Wanna … Take Control of Their Own Lives

Janey and Lynne bond over Dance TV

I’m a lot older now and I still squeal with excitement when this film comes on. When it showed up on Netflix my daughter and I watched the movie over a dozen times. We would take “supreme silly” dance breaks whenever the music would play and when the Netflix purge occurred we found a DVD copy (OK we got two in case one got scratched or lost) of our very own on Amazon so that we could continue this tradition at will.

Watch Me Shine: ‘Legally Blonde’ and My Path to Girl Power


My attachment wasn’t about Elle Woods or embracing hallmarks of traditional femininity that get belittled by western mainstream society (that would come later). I was all about lyrics like, “That’s not the way/ Nice girls behave/ Oh yeah I know/ You told me/ It’s not your choice/ I have a voice/ I guess you just don’t hear me.” It spoke to me on a spiritual level.

‘Love Jones’: The Soundtrack of the Neo-Soul Generation

Love Jones movie poster

‘Love Jones’ does more than captures a moment in time in the late 90s. It creates the point when neo-soul established itself as the music of all of us with artistic inclinations, those of us leaving fantasies of teenage love affairs behind for a more realistic image of making a relationship work. And, yes, for some of us it brought about a sexual awakening that helped us accept that sex could exist outside a relationship if it’s truly wanted that way.

Love It or Hate It, Emotions Served Raw in the Music of ‘Les Misérables’


Pitchy, breathy, raspy, screamy – all the notes are there as A-list Hollywood actors hurl themselves at the camera, relishing the chance to look and sound as ugly as their quasi-operatic characters feel. The soundtrack is probably not going to go on your iPod.

That said, there’s something amazing about the pitchiness / raspiness / screaminess / ugliness that serves to draw us in.

What’s in a Soundtrack? The Sweet Sounds of ‘Romeo + Juliet’

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From the Motion Picture (this CD was--OK is--one of my greatest treasures)

Zeffirelli’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is one told by the older generation. Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’ is one told by “unfaded” youth. When Des’ree was singing “Kissing You” as Romeo and Juliet kiss (and oh, how they kiss), she is singing with deep longing and pain. When Glen Weston sings “What is a Youth?” he sings at Romeo and Juliet, about how youth–and female virginity–fades.

The Sounds of Change and Confusion in ‘The Graduate’


Mike Nichol’s ‘The Graduate’ has one of the most popular soundtracks of all-time. The songs reveal the dynamics of a character, theme, and a moment without the use of dialogue or a backstory, but simply through the lyrics of a Simon and Garfunkel song.

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:’ My Dear Forgotten Cornelia


‘Dawn’ lacks strong female characters. How much more interesting the story could have been if Ellie had taken the lead in negotiating with Caesar and restoring the dam! Likewise, a fighting female ape could have provided interesting contrast while either avoiding or spotlighting appearance-based tropes about violent women.

‘Whale Rider’: Women And Children First


Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance, one of the few successful women musicians who made the transition to film composer (she won a Golden Globe for her work on ‘Gladiator’), wrote and performed the music for 2002′s ‘Whale Rider’–and she didn’t have to date writer-director Niki Caro to do so. Gerrard might seem an unlikely choice: when I briefly worked in a women’s sex shop in the 90s, the store owner told me not to play Dead Can Dance on the sound system because they scared away customers. But Gerrard’s score for ‘Rider’ does what the best movie music is supposed to do: reinforcing the drama of the film without calling unnecessary attention to itself.

The Siren Song of Cartoon Catgirls

Who could guess a cartoon with a woman in combat armor on the front might not be the usual?

As evocative as the scene of the Puma Sisters doing their thing might be, and as culturally-charged a time as the release of ‘Dominion Tank Police’ might have been, much of the success of this scene is owed to the music. “Hey Boy,” by Riko Ejima, is a haunting song that, while seemingly chaste in that it seems to be singing about dancing, captures something deep, deep in the soul.

Running Away With ‘The Runaways’: Sex, Rock ‘n Roll, and the Female Experience

The Runaways movie poster

The music throughout the film deals with the lost and rebellious feelings during coming of age for young women. The movie tells the story of these two individuals and how their lives were affected by fame, but underneath that is the coming of age experience for young girls realizing their power and sexuality within a culture that seeks to suppress them.

Creating the Mythology of Beatrix Kiddo Through Music

The Bride/Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and The Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Tarantino’s vast knowledge of music is clear from the very beginning with ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ However, it isn’t until the ‘Kill Bill’ series when his soundtracks begin to drift away from pop and instead embrace more orchestral sounds like that of Ennio Morricone. Viewers need no knowledge of the genre to instantly recognize that spaghetti western feel. It’s that famous mix of Spanish guitar, orchestra, whistles, cracking whips, trumpet, flute and sometimes chorus that recalls images of Clint Eastwood clad in a green poncho and cowboy hat as the iconic Man with No Name.

Take Away This Lonely Man: ‘(500) Days of Summer’ and Musical Storytelling


We hear the song one more time in a moment that mimics the first, after Tom’s illusion is shattered. Instead of listing what he loves about Summer, Tom lists the things he hates about her, concluding with “It’s Like The Wind,” and yelling, “I hate this song!” The romantic illusions are finally cracked. This isn’t the movie he thought this was.