I hope the gracious and awesome readers of AM will indulge me because in my world a new Bruce Springsteen album is like Second Christmas and today is the official release of a new Bruce Springsteen album. Thus, I was in a mood to celebrate.
Bruce Springsteen’s music is often labeled “cinematic.” This is because some of his songs have that majestic sweep wherein you can picture the whole romantic vista before you. This is because some of his songs are finely tuned short stories with well drawn characters and actual beginnings and ends. This is because sometimes he rips off real movie storylines - Badlands for Nebraska, Grapes Of Wrath for Ghost Of Tom Joad - and this is because sometimes he lifts movie titles for song titles - Thunderoad, Atlantic City. (The gate swings both ways. Sean Penn liberally borrowed the story of Springsteen’s Highway Patrolman for his film The Indian Runner.) And so often filmmakers turn to the music of Springsteen, whether one of his old standards or fresh material he has written just for the occasion, to underscore and highlight their respective works.
Today, as an unabashed Springsteen fanatic, I attempt to the pin-point the Top 10 times that has happened. We are not counting down the “best” songs, per se, but merely the finest implementation of Springsteen songs within film.
Special Mention: Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) in The Heartbreak Kid
It’s Malin Akerman singing (on certain days) my favorite Springsteen song. What did you expect?
10. The Wrestler in The Wrestler
“Mickey (Rourke) called me in Ireland and he asked me for some music. He told me a little bit about the character, he said some people invest themselves in their pain and they turn away from love and the things that strengthen and nurture their lives. He said this was a guy that hadn’t figured that out. So I said, ‘Well, I know a couple of those guys.’” – Springsteen’s speech upon winning the Golden Globe for Best Original Song in 2009.
9. Secret Garden in Jerry Maguire
Despite the fact this song is a bit more, uh, sexual than you might first realize when Delilah plays it (consider the lyric – earmuffs! – “She’ll let you in her mouth/if the words you say are right”), director Cameron Crowe, who even in his worst films still knows how to employ pop music to fine effect, uses this atmospheric bit of mid-90′s Bruce goodness to counter-balance that coulda-been cheesy bit where Jerry bonds with Dorothy’s son and then Dorothy runs down the darkened street after Jerry.
8. Lift Me Up in Limbo
This John Sayles’ film, without revealing too much, has a humdinger of an open end and this song, sung in Bruce’s later career falsetto, comes in over the closing credits, beautifully fitting right in with what has just happened both musically and lyrically – “I don’t need your answered prayers.” Plus, I just really, really dig this tune. It takes the title track to Dead Man Walkin’ to the woodshed.
7. Stolen Car in Cop Land
This is not a great movie by any means – in fact, it’s probably somewhere south of subpar – but hey, give writer/director James Mangold a little credit. He realized he had the scene of the guy with the girl he used to be in love with who he’s still in love tempting but ultimately resisting temptation and so he slapped a little Springsteen on there and presto! Something exhausted became transcendent.
6. The River in High Fidelity
Rob Gordon has just finished another crappy day of work. His girlfriend has just left him. He’s re-living his All Time Top 5 Break-Ups. It is a cold, dark, lonely night in Chicago. He comes home and before he’s even turned on his apartment lights, before he’s even taken off his coat, before he’s even set down his messenger bag, he puts on The River to mourn because there is no better song to mourn to than The River. Wait……did I just describe Rob Gordon or myself?
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