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The Best Movie Music Moments Of 2013

by The Playlist Staff
December 24, 2013 9:04 AM
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12 Years A Slave

9. “Roll, Jordan, Roll” - "12 Years A Slave"
When we first meet Solomon Northup in Steve McQueen’s wrenching tale, we’re introduced an educated, erudite, and popular man who doesn’t seem to need religion to balance what is already a successful and fulfilling life. But one of the film’s more intriguing thematic undercurrents, and one that seems to have taken a backseat in discussions that tend to center on the unflinching brutality in the drama, is how Solomon sees the absolute worst in humanity and yet still finds solace and hope in the simple act of singing a spiritual. As depicted through Michael Fassbender’s loathsome slave owner/amateur preacher Edwin Epps, Christianity was warped to give permission to and rationalize no shortage of horrors, many of which Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Solomon bears witness to. And yet, through all the abuse, beatings and the breaking of his very soul, Solomon clings desperately to the last scrap of hope that still dwells in whatever is left of the shattered shell of his weary body and mind. And it comes through beautifully in the deeply moving “Roll, Jordan, Roll” sequence, with Solomon first joining in tentatively with his fellow slaves, then wholeheartedly, calling and singing out with everything he’s got because his life depends on it “I want to go to heaven when I die.” It’s a lyric loaded with meaning, in a scene that not only says much about the character of Solomon, but perhaps McQueen’s perspective on human nature, it’s indefatigable ability to withstand even the harshest cruelties and the optimism that there is something nobler, and better, watching over us all.

Inside Llewyn Davis

8. "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" - "Inside Llewyn Davis"
You could probably fill this list entirely with moments from the Coen Brothers' latest masterpiece (and a film that, arguably, comes even closer to being a full-on musical than "O Brother Where Art Thou" did). There's Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan's lovely duet (and who would have thought that would be a combination we'd ever see singing folk music on screen?) on "500 Miles," the gorgeous "Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song)," which even makes Marcus Mumford's off-screen presence into something oddly haunting, and, of course, the unforgettably hilarious "Please Mr. Kennedy." But the one that's really stuck with us is the very first one of the film, as Oscar Isaac's title character performs the track "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" (popularized by folk singer Dave Van Ronk, the loose inspiration for Llewyn Davis) at the Gaslight Cafe.  It's a crucial moment, where we have to see the sheer talent that our hero possesses so that we can still feel for him when he's behaving like an ass, or verging on squandering it, and Isaac absolutely nails it: his rich voice and delicate guitar picking are enough to make you think that he might be some unsung 1960s Greenwich Village folkie frozen by the Coens and unearthed just to make the movie. Shot in smoky close-ups by the Coens and DP Bruno Delbonnel, it might not be the showiest scene here, but it might be the most soulful. There's no clip available of it, unfortunately, but to make up for it, here's Grizzly Bear frontman Daniel Rossen covering the song.

20 feet from stardom

7. “Gimme Shelter” - “20 Feet From Stardom”
Music aficionados probably know this one already. In recent years there’s been a trend towards excavating isolated tracks from classic pop and rock songs—the intricate drum tracks on Led Zeppelin’s “Fool In The Rain” or “Whole Lotta Love” by John Bonham, John Entwistle’s wobbly bass lines from "My Generation,” George Harrison’s passionate solo from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” etc. The list goes on and on. The excellent Morgan Neville-directed "20 Feet from Stardom" shines the spotlight on the often anonymous and (ironically) unsung heroes of rock n' roll: back-up singers. And it features it’s own soon-to-be iconic moment of isolated vocals. In the doc, it tells the story of Martin Scorsese’s oft-used classic, the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and the backup singer, Merry Clayton, who was called into the studio in the middle of the night to sing the chilling siren call of “rape, murder, it’s just a shot away, it’s just a shot away.” In the mix of the song you all know, Clayton’s voice is heard, but its a subtle additive elevating the song in a way you’re probably not quite conscious of. “20 Feet From Stardom” plays the isolated vocal in a studio while interviewing Merry Clayton and holy fucking shit, this moment not only gives you immediate alarming chills, but it blows your hair back. You have to see it in context to truly understand it—especially with Mick Jagger and Clayton describing the vocal cut right before it plays (you even hear Jagger exclaim, “whoo!” in the middle of her take)—but even listening to it just as an isolated track is a transformative experience that communicates the eerie darkness of the song. And Kudos to Neville for finally giving all these ladies their rightful due.

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  • prue | June 23, 2014 5:25 AMReply

    If I could buy the soundtrack I certainly would!

  • mary | February 19, 2014 11:32 AMReply

    Will the film "Gloria" have a soundtrack of its own?

  • vreqrose | January 15, 2014 4:53 AMReply

    very nice...

  • 90fm | January 12, 2014 6:51 PMReply

    Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" was used in the opening scene of "Behind The Candleabra" as well.

  • munakuu | January 9, 2014 1:25 PMReply

    I've watched this film for free, and this film is very good,

  • Joe Coffee | December 24, 2013 12:57 AMReply

    Anyone who's half-listened to 'Gimme Shelter' HAS to be aware of Merry Clayton's vocal contribution. She wails so hard that her voice seems to blow out in one note, but she's right back in control the next second. She also kicks butt on a duet with Harry Nilsson on 'What's Your Sign?' and is part of an eerie choir on a couple tracks on Neil Young's first album. Worth checking out. And I believe that Little Feat's conga player, Sam Clayton, is her brother. That's all for now.

  • WHY? | December 20, 2013 10:24 PMReply

    I wish you would explain your obsession with "Gloria"... nothing more than an OK film, yet you have raved about it every chance (and list) you get.

  • Q_Q | December 20, 2013 1:54 PMReply

    The music from Breathe In is beautiful, but the scene when Felicity Jones's character plays Chopin on the piano is easily better than 3/4 of this list

  • sarcastic racist | December 20, 2013 3:51 AMReply

    paul dano was the best part of the 12 YEARS A SLAVE soundtrack

    ha ha ha

  • Heather | December 19, 2013 9:29 PMReply

    The Battery definitely belongs here! Rock Plaza Central's "Anthem for the Already Defeated"

  • cirkusfolk | December 18, 2013 8:17 PMReply

    I haven't seen the movies yet but are you telling me American Hustle and Wolf of Wall Street don't have a single music moment worth mentioning?

  • Read | December 18, 2013 8:49 PM

    Can you not read? See above on page 1.

  • Anya | December 18, 2013 6:52 PMReply

    I hated Only God Forgives but that scene was fantastic. Vithaya Pansringarm (and Kristin Scott Thomas) were so great in that movie. I didn't like Spring Breakers much either but I could've watched it again just for that scene too.

    The end of This is the End with the Backstreet Boys was the most I laughed in a movie this year (not counting the times I laughed during The Host, because I'm not sure it was their intention), so it'd definitely make my list.

  • Alex | December 18, 2013 4:41 PMReply

    Your take on "Run, Jordan, Run" in 12 Years a Slave is interesting.. to me it showed the point when Solomon's reserved and stoic demeanor has finally been broken.. I remember his face looking tormented, he was letting the burden finally eek through his skin.. he's seeking solace through this song.. the song being necessary to save his soul. I don't see it as proof of the resiliency of the human spirit, but as just how bone crushingly devastating things were.. and how the only solace was a shared song and tears.

  • Jamie T D | December 18, 2013 9:21 PM

    I agree with your view. The scene where Solomon joins in with the singing was after Patsey had been whipped and Solomon had reached the limit of what he could stand. That's my interpretation anyway.

  • Caleb | December 18, 2013 3:34 PMReply

    I'm wondering why The Great Beauty is nowhere to be found on this list....

  • RP | December 18, 2013 3:39 PM

    Look for it in a more appropriate, but similar place tmw.

  • NewYorker | December 18, 2013 3:31 PMReply

    my 10 favorite 2013 movies with music moments are defently
    1-Filly Brown
    2-Spring Breakers
    3-Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
    4-Battle Of The Year: The Dream Team
    6-Black Nativity
    8-The Great Gatsby
    9-The Best Man Holiday
    10-One Direction: This Is Us

  • oogle monster | December 18, 2013 3:20 PMReply

    Lol not one mention of The Great Gatsby. Really? You didn't love the use of LDR "Young and Beautiful"?? I mean... overused, sure. But it's great!

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