I’d typically like this series to branch out from my personal favorites, but I’m in a Wes Andersony mood this week. And thus, the soundtrack spotlight turns to Wes Anderson and his flood of 70s hipster father angst. It’s become vogue in recent years to bust Wes Anderson’s balls for… well, the same things I just busted his balls for, but the reality is that the guy knows how to put together a soundtrack. This list has no shortage of soundtrack moments.
To clarify, father angst has nothing to do with my Wes Andersony mood. My dad’s cool as hell.
Judy is a Punk, The Royal Tenenbaums
Margot was a punk- at least to the group of guys interested in the private eye’s report on her- and this barrage of flashbacks did a brilliant job of illustrating their humiliation. Complete with Futura!
The Hardest Geometry Problem in the World, Rushmore
It’s a bouncy little tune from longtime Anderson collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh. What makes it work so well is that the tune matches the boarding school atmospherics and Max’s narcissistic, ambitious dream.
The Heroic Conditions of the Universe, Moonrise Kingdom
The piece is used throughout the film and manages to fit the movie’s themes like a glove. I have two personal favorite segments. The first is “Thunder, Lightning, and Rain”, which plays when the massive hurricane hits the church. The second, and the one I’m including, is “A Veiled Mist,” used earlier on when the kids first scamper away.
Search and Destroy, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
If you choose Iggy Pop’s electric tune to accent your fantastical tale in which a Jacques Cousteau knockoff goes Rambo for sixty seconds on Phillipino pirates, who am I to argue?
Heroes and Villains, The Fantastic Mr. Fox
There’s something divine about the fusion of Wes Anderson’s nostalgia and misfits and the Beach Boys’ own nostalgic misfit from the SMiLE sessions, Heroes and Villains, especially as the animal crew plies their craft as heroes.
Needle in the Hay, The Royal Tenenbaums
This scene has since been parodied by no less than Kermit the Frog to many laughs. At the time the film was released, seeing Richie Tenenbaum tear apart everything that made him Richie- namely, his beard, sunglasses, and 70s hair- just before slitting his wrists was a gut punch to audiences. Of course, even in a sea of Richie’s despair, we still get a laugh out of Dudley, who finds him.
This Time Tomorrow, The Darjeeling Limited
This time tomorrow, where would this list be without a Kinks song?
The Wind/Oh Yoko, Rushmore
This is a particularly great sequence that combines Cat Stevens during the catharsis, and John Lennon during the retribution- particularly perfect since it involves Max’s acceptance of Margaret Yang.
2000 Man, Bottle Rocket
I have to confess, Bottle Rocket is the one Wes Anderson film I haven’t liked. But there’s no arguing the effectiveness of this song and this scene.
Rebel, Rebel; The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
One of the highlights of the Zissou soundtrack is Seu Jorge’s Brazilian versions of David Bowie songs. You could pick many options for this slot. I chose “Rebel, Rebel” because it’s one of Bowie’s most notable songs. And this list would have to include one of Jorge’s efforts.
Farewell to Earnest, The Darjeeling Limited
Just as Seu Jorge’s Brazilian Bowie played a major role in Zissou, so too did Anderson’s sampling of classic Indian film soundtracks for The Darjeeling Limited. Those songs helped develop a mystical aura around the setting, and introduced western audiences to a whole new world. Again, many choices could have been made. I simply went with a personal favorite.
The Muzak Version of Hey Jude, The Royal Tenenbaums
The opening sequence of Tenenbaums expertly mixes the cheesiness of a muzak version of a beloved song, The Beatles, an Alec Baldwin voiceover, and the humor buried in a montage sequence establishing the Tenenbaums as a wealthy, Rockefeller parody gone afoul.