Thursday, October 02, 2008

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist: Does your chewing gum lose it's flavor?

Perhaps I'm stating the obvious, but the best soundtracks always take on the character of the movie they accompany -- and vice versa -- and that's certainly the case with Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. The film, which follows the bridge-and-tunnel protagonists Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) on a night of hijinks through the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, is packed full of blink-and-you-miss-it hipster cameos from current faves Andy Samberg, Seth Myers, John Cho and Kevin Corrigan. Likewise, the soundtrack is so chock-full of NOW indie rock, that it can make you feel like you're really trapped in the back seat of Nick's claustrophobic yellow Yugo. (A magical Yugo, it seems, as it's somehow always able to easily find street parking in Manhattan.)

Vampire Weekend, Modest Mouse, The National and Band of Horses are all on board, but in fact, they're impact in the film is felt even less than the five seconds of Andy Samberg's homeless beastiality turn. The song selections aren't all as wasted, though. In fact both the film and soundtrack start off beautifully, pairing the heartbreak of Chris Bell ("Speed of Sound") with the equally devastated Nick. Leaving the pathetic phone message with Bell on in the background (on vinyl, no less) tells us more about Nick in the first few minutes than the rest of the film will

There are more touching moments like this, where the music pairing is thoughtful and not concerned with being hip. A little past halfway through the film, there's a montage that features Richard Hawley's enchanting "Baby You're My Light," and then a little later, the Paul Tiernan ballad "How to Say Goodbye" provides ample goosebumps in a scene between our love birds. All these songs seem more in the spirit of what the book, that the film was adapted from, was aiming for. Co-writer Rachel Cohn recently provided a list of all the music mentioned in the novel, which, in many respects, would've made for a better film, perhaps on par with High Fidelity. Telling that the only artist that made it into this adaptation (Dusty Springfield, albeit with a different song, "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me,") wasn't included on the soundtrack. To that end, here's a playlist of all the music I noticed in the film, including those songs that didn't make the soundtrack:

Playlist: Rssmbld Sndtrck - Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

The original Nick and Nora (Charles, The Thin Man) were detectives solving a mystery, and that's sort of the case here as well, as our protagonists look for clues to hunt down the location of a secret show by their favorite band, the fictional Where's Fluffy. First they find each other, starting the night at a Bishop Allen show, whose opening act is Nick's queercore band We're the Jerk-Offs (the other 2/3 of Nick's band are gay, 3/4 if you count the drum machine, which is so gay). One of the clues they find leads to a bait-and-switch show, featuring the infectious Brooklyn laptop duo Project Jenny, Project Jan as the disappointing Are You Randy? For some reason, their song "Negative" empties the building like a bomb threat. Another search requiring gumshoe is finding the alcoholic Caroline (played by the scene stealing Ari Gaynor,) who has run off after overhearing something about "going balls deep." It's the stoner metal act Scissorfight that provides the phrase with their disturbing song "Balls Deep," and make for one of the more interesting music choices of the film, especially given their name's reference to tribadism. I guess it's just as well, considering there's a gay Lothario involved as well.

Devendra Banhart makes a cameo as well, but his is even more puzzling to me. "This is my song," says Norah at one point, perking up when the Banhart's "Lover" plays in a club (the song's second appearance in the film). Later, though, in an awkward cameo Banhart speaks to her, and she doesn't seem to have any clue (or care) who he is. Maybe it's just that Banhart isn't playing himself, but he certainly dressed the part -- no wardrobe staff required here.

It was towards the end of the film, probably as Nick steered his yellow Yugo into another mythical NYC parking spot, that I found myself flashing back to Martin Scorsese's under-appreciated work After Hours (1985,) which similarly follows it's hapless protagonist Paul (Griffin Dunne) all night through the streets of New York, peppered with a great collection of hilarious cameos. Instead of that film's lost $20 bill loosely tying the film together, though, here we're subjected to Caroline's gum. After awhile, like the film and soundtrack, even puke-laden gum inevitably loses it's bite. In the end, both the film and soundtrack prove to be color-by-number offerings, sprinkled with just enough interesting moments to keep you caring to the end.

More: Heck, I'm a bit more partial to the playlists that actors Michael Cera and Kat Dennings put together for iTunes (Cera, for the record, doesn't own an iPod).
Michael Cera's Playlist
Kat Denning's Playlist


drake lelane said...

Rssmbld Sndtrck - Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
1. "Speed Of Sound" - Chris Bell
2. "Lover" - Devendra Banhart
3. "Nick & Norah's Theme" - Mark Mothersbaugh
4. "Last Words" - The Real Tuesday Weld
5. "Our Swords" - Band Of Horses
6. "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" - Dusty Springfield
7. "Xavia" - The Submarines
8. "Middle Management" - Bishop Allen
9. "Balls Deep" - Scissorfight
10. "Twilight" - The Raveonettes
11. "Fever" - Takka Takka
12. "All the Wine" - The National
13. "Just The Way You Are" - Billy Joel
14. "Very Loud" - Shout Out Louds
15. "Baby You're My Light" - Richard Hawley
16. "Little Motel" - Modest Mouse
17. "Negative" - Project Jenny/Project Jan
18. "You Sexy Thing" - Hot Chocolate
19. "Riot Radio" - The Dead 60s
20. "How to Say Goodbye" - Paul Tiernan
21. "Silvery Sleds" - Army Navy
22. "After Hours" - We Are Scientists
23. "Ottoman" - Vampire Weekend
24. "Silver Tiles" - Matt and Kim

Michael Cera's Playlist
1. My Home Town - Alan Price
2. And It Stoned Me - Van Morrison
3. The Ballad Of El Goodo - Big Star
4. Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea - Boswell Sisters
5. What's Up Fatlip - Fatlip
6. Long May You Run - Neil Young
7. Think About Your Troubles - Harry Nilsson
8. Child Star - The Unicorns
9. Third Week In the Chelsea - Jefferson Airplane
10. Zeldar (LP Version) - Devin The Dude
11. I'm A Fool To Want You - Frank Sinatra
12. If I Had a Hammer - Trini Lopez
13. Basketball Jones - Cheech and Chong
14. Baby (1968) - Os Mutantes

Kat Denning's Playlist
1. Straight Out The Jungle - Jungle Brothers
2. I'm Straight - The Modern Lovers
3. Heartbeat - Annie
4. Start Wearing Purple - Gogol Bordello
5. Love Is Only A Feeling - The Darkness
6. I'm Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman - White Stripes
7. Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours - Stevie Wonder
8. Drive In Saturday - David Bowie
9. When You Were Mine - Casiotone For The Painfully Alone
10. Yard Of Blonde Girls - Jeff Buckley
11. Total Eclipse Of The Heart - Bonnie Tyler
12. Hamman - Megapuss
13. No More Hot Dogs - Hasil Adkins
14. I Don't Feel Like Dancin' (Album version) - Scissor Sisters

Arjan said...

and here I thought CocoRosie dressed extreme haha. Maybe that's why they're good friends with Devandra

Marley said...

The Islands - Where There's a Will There's a Whalebone was also in the film. albeit only the intro to the song. Right before Norah goes to the little store to find (or not find) her friend. just pukey ice cream.

drake lelane said...

Good catch Marley... that might be a Michael Cera contribution, considering he lists Islands' Return to the Sea as one of his all-time favorite albums.

Marley said...

haha thanks! yeah it is a wicked album.
also just remembered Tapes 'n Tapes - Insistor was also in there.
cause that's when i turned to my roomie and said that half the music in this movie was from live shows i've gone to in the last year or two.

Anonymous said...

Hello does anyone know what the song is that's at approximately 50 minutes. It starts off as Norah just leaves the convenience store and the lyrics are: "Smoke, mirrors and lights, I have a feeling like its all an illusion. Tonight, as I panic, thoughts of you, make me manic, brings a tear to my eyes..." and I can't understand the words after that but I've tried to find it and no luck

Anonymous said...

ARMY NAVY - Slight of Hand.


Jocelyn said...

Does anyone know what the song is that's playing in the club when Norah meets up with Tal. It's the scene where he gives her his "Jew Fire" CD.

prakharevich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
prakharevich said...

Hey guys, does any1 know what's the track (min 35-36 of the movie), when they enter the station looking for Caroline? It's a very simple beat, sounds like mario or smth like that

Christian James Calixtro Bueno said...

Its nick and norah's theme by mark mothersbaugh.

prakharevich said...

feels so good to finally get a closure on this =)