Category Archives: Sound & Motion Pictures

Sound & Motion Pictures: great duel scenes

As my first entry of 2016 in my Sound & Motion Pictures series I decided to revisit great combination of music with duel/fighting scenes. Sometimes it is the music itself that make all the difference and changes a rather normal fight in something more, other times it just underline the tension of the images or the combination of the two is so perfect that you cannot really tell what makes the scene special. Here’s my list of favorites, hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

 

1) Colonel Mortimer vs. Indio – La Resa Dei Conti, Ennio Morricone (1965)

There are many great duels in Sergio Leone’s oeuvre but this is my all time favorite. The chime is so haunting and from a device of hideous sport becomes a means of retribution. Ennio Morricone strikes again!

 

2) The Bride vs. O-ren Ishii – Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Santa Esmeralda (1977)

This is Tarantino’s version of a Leone’s duel with oriental flavour, on the notes of a very up-beat cover of Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood with a flamenco component… just perfect!

 

3) Neo vs. Morpheus – Leave You Far Behind, Lunatic Calm (1998)

Techno music as soundtrack for a kung fu showdown (even an amicable one) is a radical choice. The Wachowski siblings have changed the way we view things a lot with The Matrix.

 

4) Sherlock vs. hulking guy – Rocky Road To Dublin, The Dubliners (2006)

Guy Ritchie comes up with a lot of inspired ideas in his movies and this fight is a great example: slow-motion and regular speed to show a bare-knuckle boxing match with an Irish traditional song to keep the blood pumping!

 

5) Obi Wan & Qui Gon Ginn vs Darth Maul – Duel of the Fates, John Williams (1999)

Although The Phantom Menace is my least favorite movie of the Star Wars saga, this duel is pretty awesome mostly because of Darth Maul, a pretty cool but very underutilised villain. John Williams’s score is effective and stirring.

 

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Sound & Motion Pictures: endings with a dance scene

In the holiday spirit of good and uplifting feelings I thought that some happy group dance scenes would be the right thing this week. These scenes wrap up good films, some of which are cult classic that live forever in the collective imagination. The music is catchy and light and you can’t help but feeling good. As always this is a list of favorites: enjoy!

Dirty Dancing – (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (1987)

Nobody puts baby in a corner! 

Swayze knows his stuff and it’s memorable! You finally get to see the famous jump.

 

Footloose – Footloose, Kenny Loggins (1984)

A whole school learn to dance and have a good time (very fast and very proficiently!). Kevin Bacon is a hero of the eighties (as Peter Quill reminded us!).

 

Slumdog Millionaire – Jai Ho, A.R. Rahman (2008)

A happy ending to a tale of woes in modern India with… a Bollywood musical number! That’s just perfect. The song stays with you for days.

 

Beetlejuice – Jump In Line (Shake, Senora) Harry Belafonte (1961)

Floating Winona Rider dancing with ghosts to an Harry Belafonte’s song… only Tim Burton could have come up with it. Plus shrinking heads!

 

The Blues Brothers – Jailhouse Rock, The Blues Brothers (1980)

Well, what’s better than making the best of it when you end up in jail with a classic song? Perfect conclusion to an epic film.

 

Shrek – I’m a Believer, Smash Mouth (2001)

The most irreverent fairy tale of them all and the best wedding party in animation history.

 

Bonus for a laugh: Tropic Thunder – Get Back, Ludacris (2004)

Unrecognizable and with a great sense of self-irony, Tom Cruise gives us this pearl of comedy.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: TV Shows nostalgia 4

Here we go again with a blast from the past! There are many hit shows from the 1990s but the following are both emblematic and with an unmistakable intro music. As I have done for the previous decades, they are listed in chronological order.

 

Twin Peaks – theme by Angelo Badalamenti (1990)

We all wanted to know who killed Laura Palmer! This eerie, haunting and occasionally creep series stems from the wild imagination of David Lynch, heralded by an equally spooky music.

 

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air – theme by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1990)

The face that launched a thousand ships… oh no, sorry, I meant the show that put Will Smith on a path to stardom. The hip hop answer to the Huxtables with its memorable lyrics.

 

X-Files – theme by Mark Snow(1993)

I’ve often wondered: why did Scully and Mulder always end up in dark places with tiny flashlights? Another mystery related to this TV cult. The music has an uncanny feeling that stays with you for a long time.

 

Friends – I’ll Be There For You,  The Rembrandts (1994)

Misadventures of a group of twenty-somethings in New York, you know, it’s like Girls but for Gen Xers. The upbeat music of The Rembrandts will always bring a smile to your face.

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – theme by Nerf Herder (1997)

Kickass leading lady that fight vampires and the forces of evil while painstakingly punning and making clever pop culture references: awesome! Welcome to the genius of Joss Whedon. The rock intro just sets the pace… in every generation there is a chosen one…

 

Sex and the City – theme by Douglas J. Cuomo (1998)

The life of four thirty-somethings: their sexcapades and troubled relationships in the Big Apple. All told with humour and style.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: great character introductions

Gentle readers, here’s another post on amazing combination of music and film. This time it’s about how characters (mostly, lead characters) are introduced to the audience and songs that helped making them emblematic and enduring in our collective memory. The following is a top 5 of my favorite intros.

1. Jake and Elwood, The Blues Brothers –  She Caught the Katy, The Blues Brothers (1980)

From a cult movie, this intro to both the film and the characters is iconic. It was James Belushi’s favorite blues song.

 

2. Harmonica – Man with a Harmonica, Ennio Morricone (1968)

Charlie Bronson shows who’s boss from the get-go on the unforgettable notes of Morricone’s music.

Did you bring a horse for me?

Looks like we are shy one horse.

You brought two too many.

Absolute badass!

 

3. Jesus Quintana, The Big Lebowski  – Hotel California, The Gipsy Kings (1988)

Nobody fucks with the Jesus!

Do I really need to add any word to this?

 

4. John Connor, Terminator 2 – You Could Be Mine, Guns ‘N’ Roses (1991)

Sulking teen with a penchant for motorcycles… and future legendary leader of the human resistance against the machines… What can I say? It works very well with the energy and grit of Guns ‘n’ Roses.

 

5. James Bond, Dr. No – James Bond theme, Monty Norman (1962)

That’s how it all began! Suave and wordly Mr. Bond’s first appearance is both charming and intriguing. The memorable theme plays softly in the background. Sean Connery will always be my favorite incarnation of 007.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: TV shows nostalgia 3

Here’s my third foray down memory lane, it’s time for the glam eighties! There are so many TV shows from that decade that I watched and liked but the following are the ones I consider most iconic. As usual they are listed in chronological order.

Magnum P.I. – theme by Ian Freebairn-Smith, Mike Post, Pete Carpenter (1980)

Mustachioed, manly Tom Selleck driving a Ferrari and helping people in Hawaii… what’s not to like?!

 

Hill Street Blues – theme by Mike Post (1981)

The daily life of a police department with its ups and downs. Quirky, relatable characters and interesting stories made for a solid, quality procedural cop show.

 

Fame – Fame, Irene Cara (1982)

“You got big dreams, you want fame? … Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. With sweat.” Lydia Grant is not kidding and all the students at the NYC High School for the Performing Arts know it.

 

Knight Rider  – theme by Stu Philips and Glen A. Larson (1982)

An A.I. on a car that helps the hero fighting for justice… how cool was that!

 

Miami Vice – theme by Jan Hammer (1984)

Another manly man on a Ferrari, no wait… two of them, and in Armani suits, fighting crime… even better! Bonus: an alligator as a pet on a sailing boat.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: great villainous entrances

Great villains are even better and far more memorable with an iconic theme. This is a list of my favorite entrances of Big Bad with amazing personalised soundtrack.

1. Jaws – theme by John Williams (1975)

Two notes by John Williams and you get a panic-inducing appearance of a “sea monster”. We need a bigger boat!

 

2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – Imperial March by John Williams (1983)

Again John Williams works his magic and make the arrival of evil personified in the Star Wars saga foreboding and menacing. Such anger, young Skywalker.

 

3. Once Upon a Time In the West – Man with The Harmonica, Ennio Morricone (1968)

Dusters flapping in the wind, the bad guys show themselves like the four horsemen (after killing a whole family) and then do one more heinous act. All this happens to the unforgettable sound of Morricone’s music.

 

4.The Third Man – Harry Lime theme by Anton Karas (1949)

A nice contrast between the darkeness of the scene and a happy and light music, it makes for a truly iconic introduction!

 

5. The Departed – Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stone (1969)

Scorsese really likes Gimme Shelter, I think he uses it in another couple of films as well. Anyway Nicholson’s monologue and walk to the notes of the Stones is awesome.

 

Bonus for a laugh:

Face/Off – Hallelujah from the Messiah, George F. Handel (1742)

John Woo gives us Handel, white doves and a manic Nick Cage in an over-the-top scene. He’s dressed like a priest and gropes a choir girl…evil!

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Sound & Motion Pictures: TV shows nostalgia 2

Time for another trip down memory lane, this one is back to the seventies. The following intros are from some of my favorite shows of that period (again in chronological order).

M.A.S.H. – Suicide is Painless, Johnny Mandel (1970)

Humour in wartime and Alan Alda: great way to pass the time. The theme brings back so many memories. (The actual song starts at 1:08 of the video)

Kung Fu –  theme by Jim Helms (1972)

Wandering the American West and relying only on your fighting skills still feel pretty awesome, but never forget: patience grasshopper!

Happy Days – theme by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox (1974)

What’s cooler than being cool? The Fonz, of course!

Starsky & Hutch –  Gotcha,  Tom Scott (1975)

Well, for many year a Ford Gran Torino (red with a white swoosh, clearly) has been my favorite car. Clint Eastwood might agree, even if not with the colour preference.

Streets of San Francisco – theme by Patrick Williams (1976)

I was used to a regular dose of car chases on up and down the hills of San Francisco… kind of Bullitt on a low budget.

Charlie’s Angels – theme by Dominik Hauser (1976)

The first time I saw ladies taking the lead and kicking some asses, without ruining their fabulous hairdos I might add.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: impromptu dance scenes 2

Here’s another round of unexpected dance scenes: funny, heart-warming, intriguing or slightly disturbing, to each his own. Again, late sixties/seventies/early eighties music is a very popular choice as perfect soundtrack to these scenes, most of the songs were already quite famous before these films came out but they are now even more so. So, without further ado, this is my second list of favorites.

 

Beettlejuice – Day-O (The Banana Boat song), Harry Belafonte (1956)

Guess what happens if ghosts hijack a dinner party and they have a penchant for Caribbean music? Well, the result is pretty hilarious.

 

Pride – Shame, Shame, Shame, Shirley & Company (1975)

The comment of Jonathan Blake (Dominic West) at the end of the scene says it all: “God, I miss disco!”

 

Little Miss Sunshine – Super Freak, Rick James (1981)

Olive’s (Abigail Breslin) dance routine might be a shocker to the pageant judges but it was a loving effort made by her grandfather… even if it’s not age appropriate. The family joins in to show support and that is what’s important!

 

Michael – Chain of Fools, Aretha Franklin (1968)

After Pulp Fiction it seems that John Travolta has to have a dance number to show off his skills. On the captivating notes of Aretha’s Chain of Fools he shakes, rocks and rolls and become a veritable magnet for all the women in the room.

 

Reservoir Dogs – Stuck In The Middle With You, Stealers Wheel (1972)

Mr. Blonde’s iconic routine before starting torturing the unlucky cop.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: TV shows nostalgia 1

This time around I’m going down memory lane all the way to the sixties. The following are some of my favorite TV shows from that time with pretty memorable intro, the ones that make you feel warm and fuzzy remembering the good old days. They are listed in chronological order.

 

The Saint – original theme, Edwin Astley (1962)

Sleek, suave Roger Moore in an epic role! I’ve always liked him better as Simon Templar (he’s not my favorite James Bond).

 

The Addams Family – original theme, Vic Mizzy (1964)

Fencing, rose pruning, arm wrestling with Thing, watching Uncle Fester with a lightbulb in his mouth… such a fun family to be around! All this introduced by a very catchy tune.

 

I Dream of Jeannie – original theme, Hugo Montenegro (1965)

Light hearted and funny adventures of a genie let out of the bottle with a nice cartoon intro and happy theme.

 

Star Trek – Original Series theme, Alexander Courage (1966)

Who hasn’t dreamt to boldly go where no one has gone before? To be part of the crew of the Enterprise (but not a red shirt!) and visit strange worlds… Good times!

 

Batman – original theme, Neal Hefti (1966)

Well, I don’t think that this one needs any introduction: NA-NA-NA-NA-NA-NA Batman!!!

 

 

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Sound & Motion Pictures: famous running scenes

This week edition of my Sound & Motion Pictures series is about running. As an amateur runner, I love to have a great soundtrack to my daily runs and the following are my all-time favorite scenes.

1. Chariots of Fire – Theme by Vangelis

The mother of all running scenes. On the unforgettable and beautiful notes of Vangelis’ theme, the crème de la crème of British athletes runs on a beach.

2. Rocky – Gonna Fly Now, Bill Conti

A great training montage with an iconic wrap-up! Inspired plenty of imitations and homages.

3. Trainspotting – Lust for Life, Iggy Pop

Renton regales us with his life manifesto on the powerful notes of Iggy Pop and now every time I listen to this song I see him running with a wild grin on his face.

4. Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt) – Running One, Tom Tykwer, Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek

I love how her decision making process is shown and then how she runs against time to save her boyfriend to an anxiogenic  techno beat.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: unexpected singing scenes

Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by an unexpected singing scene in films that are not about singing at all. Usually it ends up being a feel-good moment, on occasions it turns out to be a remarkable bit of the film. Here’s my favorite ones:

1. Almost Famous – Tiny Dancer, cast + Elton John

Although the whole film is about music, the ensemble singing along with Elton John’s song on their way home is uplifting.

2. Ten Things I Hate About You – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Heath Ledger + Frankie Valli

Best way to apologise and win back the girl, it’s a tie with John Cusack holding a boombox under his girl’s window.

3. My Best Friend’s Wedding – I Say A Little Prayer, cast + Dionne Warwick

Effective way to tell a story and charm the audience with a classic song, plus Rupert Everett is at his best.

4. Young Frankenstein – Puttin’ On The Ritz, Gene Wilder + Irving Berlin

How would you present your recently-raised-from-the-dead creature to the wide world? With a vaudeville number, of course!

5. Muriel’s Wedding – Waterloo, Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths + Abba

Show the mean girls that you don’t care and sing some Abba!

6. The Fisher King – Lydia The Tattooed Lady, Robin Williams + Harold Arlen and Yip Armburg

A foolproof method to captivate a quirky girl’s attention is to sing a Groucho Marx’s song.

7. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Space Oddity, Kristen Wiig + David Bowie

The confidence boost that an introverted needs: Kristen Wiig singing a Bowie’s song.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: cool walk scenes

Strutting along like you own the place, walking tall like nothing can touch you while a great song is playing… here’s a short selection of my favorite cool walk scenes:

1. Saturday Night Fever – Staying Alive, Bee Gees (1977)

The mother of all cool walks… Tony Manero shows who’s boss to the undying notes of Staying Alive!

2. Kill Bill Vol.1 – Battle Without Honor or Humanity, Tomoyasu Hotei (2000)

O-ren Ishii is a force to recon with and she definitely owns the place, another music pearl from Tarantino!

3. Jackie Brown – Across 110th Street, Bobby Womack (1972)

Tarantino again… clearly inspired by  The Graduate, he uses the charisma of Pam Grier and the soulful voice of Bobby Womack.

4. Blow – Black Betty, Ram Jam (1977)

When you think you can walk on water, Black Betty is a pretty good soundtrack.

5. The Breakfast Club, Don’t You Forget About Me, Simple Minds (1985)

Raise your fist to the sky as both victory and defiance…

 

Honorable mention to Guardians of the Galaxy – Cherry Bomb, The Runaways (1976)

I like this tongue in cheek homage to the heros’ preparation and badass walk on their way to save the world.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: impromptu dance scenes

When you hear certain songs you just can’t help yourself: you must dance! These are funny, contagious dance scenes that happen rather unexpectedly and it’s impossible not to related to the characters. Music from the late seventies and early eighties gets the lion share, these are some memorable dance tunes used in many films.

Love Actually – Jump (For My Love), The Pointer Sisters (1983)

British Prime Minister blows off some steam when a great song comes on the radio (and the deejay dedicates it to him)

Los Amantes Pasajeros – I’m So Exited, The Pointer Sisters (1982)

Three flight assistants entertain the worried business class passengers dancing and lip-synching with hilarious results.

In & Out – I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor (1978)

Real men don’t dance… or so the self-help audio book “How to be a man” wants us to believe. Kevin Kline will prove it wrong.

Risky Business –  Old Time Rock And Roll, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet (1978)

When the cat is away… iconic scene from the film that launched Tom Cruise’s career.

Full Monty – Hot Stuff, Donna Summer (1979)

Rehearsing their dancing routine while waiting in the unemployment line: priceless!

The Big Chill – Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, The Temptations (1966)

Tidying up after dinner with your friends looks like fun.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: TV-shows titles part 2

Here is the second part of my post dedicated to TV-show titles and their music. This time around the songs are just instrumental, generally written for the show. Once more, these are my favorite opening credits.

1. Mad Men – A Beautiful Mine, RJD2

Stylish and sophisticated as the show.

2. Magic City

The intro song of this show created a controversy since, for season 1, they used an unauthorized version of Henry Mancini’s Lujon, which is beautiful and mixes well the sixties’ atmosphere with Miami settings (watch from 1:03).

To avoid legal battle, they used a song by Daniele Luppi in season 2, which is still intriguing but with more of a Bond flair.

3. Boardwalk Empire – Straight Up And Down, The Brian Jonestown Massacre

A quite smoke on the beach thinking about the business…

4. Southland – Canção do Mar, Dulce Pontes

Fado and seppia images are an effective and  inspired choice.

5. Hannibal – theme by Brian Reitzell

This one is a little macabre but also mesmerizing.

6. Six Feet Under – theme by Thomas Newman

A weird mix of otherworldly and morbid.

7. Dexter – theme by Adam Ben Ezra

The morning routine of a serial killer… it says it all!

8. The Killing (US) – We Fell To Earth, Frank Bak

Melancholic and forlorn, like a day in November in the Pacific Northwest.

9. House of Cards – theme by Jeff Beal

Foreboding, perfect intro to the games of the mighty and powerful.

10. Sherlock – theme by David Arnold

Upbeat and bursting of energy like Sherlock on a case.

 

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Sound & Motion Pictures: TV-shows titles part 1

In this third post of my series on music and motion pictures I’d like to focus on TV-shows titles. However I need to split it in two since, well, there are so many and the quality is outstanding. The following ones are my favorite TV-show intros combined with a song that has vocals.

1. True Detectives – Far From Any Road, The Handsome Family (2003)

The graphics are stunning and the song is the perfect complement.

2. True Blood – Bad Things, Jace Everett (2005)

A promise of good (naughty) things to come with a Louisiana small town flavour.

3. The Wire, Way Down In The Hole, Tom Waits (1987)

I like the fact that a different version is used for each season: The Blind Boys of Alabama (1), Tom Waits (2), The Neville Brothers (3), DoMaJe (4) and  Steve Earle (5). It illustrates the main theme of the season while keeping the general mood of the show going.

4. Luther – Paradise Circus, Massive Attack (2010)

Sleek and intriguing, a nice introduction to Luther’s life.

5. Vikings – If I Had A Heart, Fever Ray (2009)

A little foreboding but it sets the right mood for the show.

6. Underbelly – It’s A Jungle Out There, Burkhard Dallwitz (2008)

Catchy and to the point.

7. CSI – Who Are You, The Who (1978)

The song is a good oldie and an apt theme for the show.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: best James Bond opening credits

Focusing again on great songs/titles combinations, what is more iconic than James Bond’s films? All the songs has been written for the film, usually with the same title, and, especially in the last couple of decades, by famous artists. This is my top five.  Honourable mention for: Live And Let Die (Paul McCartney & The Wings), View To A Kill (Duran Duran) and Thunderball (Tom Jones).

1. Goldeneye – Goldeneye, Tina Turner (1995)

Nothing beats Tina’s voice!

2. Casino Royale – You Know My Name, Chris Cornell (2006)

Speaking of voices, I always had a thing for Chris’ and rock just makes it better.

3. Skyfall – Skyfall, Adele (2012)

Hauntingly beautiful.

4. The World Is Not Enough – The World Is Not Enough, Garbage (1999)

The film was kind of crappy but the intro with Shirley Manson & Co. is great.

5. Tomorrow Never Dies – Tomorrow Never Dies, Sheryl Crowe (1997)

Not a big fan of this film either but the song is pretty amazing.

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Sound & Motion Pictures: opening credits

I asked myself: self, what’s the best way to start a new series about great music and films? Well, to begin at the beginning… with amazing combinations of songs and opening credits. This is not meant to be a top ten, just ten of my favorite opening credits (the ones I manage to find on youtube, alas From Dusk Till Dawn title scene with the great sound of Dark Night is not there!). Some films use songs that were already famous, others made the song known to a bigger audience and, in a few cases, the combination is iconic, so much that it has been quoted, spoofed and imitated in later films, TV-shows and commercials.

1. Reservoir Dogs – Little Green Bag, George Baker Selection (1970)

After an opening scene that introduces the main characters and Tarantino’s trademark penchant for verbal incontinence and silly topics, we get this:

2. The Big Chill – Heard It Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye (1968)

Main characters introduction while the stirring voice of Marvin Gaye sets the mood:

3. Easy Rider – BornTo Be wild, Steppenwolf (1968)

Ultimate badasses… no more comments needed:

4. RocknRolla – I’m a Man, Black Strobe (2007)

Modern badass with the plus of Mark Strong’s heavily accented voice-over:

5. The Departed – I’m Shipping Up To Boston, Dropkicks Murphys (2005)

Celtic punk and American-Irish underworld… match made in heaven:

6. Watchmen – The Times They Are A-Changin’, Bob Dylan (1964)

Visually stunning and an amazing prologue:

7. Shrek – All Star, Smash Mouth (1999)

Irreverent and energising:

8. Guardians of the Galaxy – Come and Get Your Love, Redbone (1974)

Lip-synching using an alien-rat as microphone… this will be remembered for a while:

9. Dirty Dancing – Be My Baby, The Ronettes (1963)

Just tidbits of what’s to come: music and dancing!

10. Juno – All I Want Is You, Barry Louis Polisar (1977)

Half fairy tale style, half everyday life, it sets the pace well:

 

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