Discover more from Feature Presentation
The Soundtrack Effect: Rushmore (1998)
A soundtrack can really make a movie.
The irony of me being a writer for Feature Presentation and a movie-history podcast host (The Vince Vaughn-a-thon) is that I never considered myself a movie lover. In fact, up until about two years ago I probably would have even said I don’t particularly like movies.
I’m a TV girl through and through. A true binge-watcher, if you will. But still, I had a couple of movies that I loved and always went back to.
And when I say “always went back to,” I mean for most of my life I watched about five movies on rotation because I felt they were so perfect that no other movie was worth my time and would just lead to complete and utter disappointment.
My two favorite movies of all time growing up were (500) Days of Summer (read more of my thoughts on my Letterboxd) and Juno. When I tell you I could recite these movies word-for-word, I mean it. And I did it. Like, all the time. Sometimes I would just be doing my daily tasks and recite the entire movie until I finished what I was doing. To say I was obsessed was an understatement.
I was pretty stuck in my ways when it came to movies. I didn’t want to watch something new. I didn’t care when people told me they had a favorite movie that I HAD to see. Other movies were meaningless to me for most of my adolescent life.
Then, my wonderful boyfriend (and Founder of Feature Presentation) came along. A lover of movies, he desperately scoured our local video store and streaming services to find things I would like. It wasn’t successful at first. I would watch movies with him, and maybe I’d even like them, but none of them came close to the chokehold (500) Days of Summer and Juno had me in.
And then Patrick took a new approach. He started looking at the movies I loved and dissecting them into quantifiable bits that he could find in other movies. Based on my picks, he could tell that I liked aesthetic and cohesive cinematography and quirky scripts. That’s when he decided to introduce me to Wes Anderson.
The gates of heaven opened up. Angels began to sing.
Not only did I love his movies, but this entire experience made me understand what I was looking for in movies. I had these two movies that I loved but I could never verbalize why I loved them so much until Patrick came along and gave me the vernacular I needed to find more.
I started seeing connections between them all - Midnight in Paris, The Virgin Suicides, they all had something special about them that I could never put my finger on until I started diving deep into the canon, hungry for more must-sees.
Beyond how they looked visually, though, I realized there was one thing above all that I loved them for: an absolutely killer soundtrack.
To this day, I use songs to recall moments from movies. I can’t hear “You Make My Dreams” by Hall and Oates without seeing Joseph Gordon Levitt dancing in an L.A. park after he finally just sealed the deal with Summer.
I could write a tome on Wes Anderson’s soundtracks and how tastefully curated they are, but that would probably bore most of you, so I’ll stick to my all-time favorite Wes Anderson movie AND soundtrack, Rushmore.
Here’s my breakdown of my favorite movie soundtrack of all time:
Hardest Geometry Problem In The World — Mark Mothersbaugh
Let’s get one thing straight - I LOVE the little instrumental ditties that Wes Anderson uses in his movies. I adore them with my whole heart. This one is no exception. I know nothing about the intricacies of music, but this one is so light and fun and is the perfect backdrop to me ogling over Jason Schwartzman as he dreams of being a genius mathemetician.
Making Time — The Creation
This song could pull me out of a coma. I’m obsessed with it. It gives everything it needs to give. Whenever I hear it, I think about the unmatched feeling of teen angst and the way teenagers simultaneously feel like crap and also way better than everyone else. Ahhh, simpler times.
Kite Flying Society — Mark Mothersborough
Another fun ditty. This instrumental is beautiful and charming.
Nothin’ In The World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl — The Kinks
I have always loved The Kinks and this song goes hard as hell. It’s not only great on its own but sounds as though Max has written it himself. It is the PERFECT fit for the movie and Max’s feelings.
A Summer Song — Chad & Jeremy
What a happy little tune about something so bittersweet. Saying goodbye to people in real life wouldn’t be so hard if this just automatically played as you walked away, making you the coolest main character ever.
Oh Yoko — John Lennon
Don’t even get me started on this. I’m already tearing up. My boyfriend and I have had a deeply passionate love affair with The Beatles and, as I’m writing this, we saw Paul McCartney live last night. This is my favorite John Lennon song. I’m not saying it’s his best by any means, but this song is like sunshine and love and hope for the future all wrapped up in one. I know that John wasn’t perfect by any means, but given his untimely fate, I’m happy that he found so much happiness with Yoko. This song gives you a little peek into that love.
Edward Appleby — Mark Mothersbaugh
Mark does it again! Every tune he writes is the perfect backdrop. They are always engaging while never being distracting.
The Wind — Yusuf and Cat Stevens
A short, pretty song about trusting that whatever will be, will be (can you tell I have Beatles on the brain?). Can’t really go wrong.
Ooh La La — Faces
For some reason, My Toyota Corolla, Genevieve, has decided to play this song whenever I turn my car on. You would think after almost a year of this, I would get sick of it. Absolutely not. In fact, sometimes I play it like three times in a row just because once a day is not enough.
Concrete & Clay — Unit 4+2
I love a good love song and this is so fun and hopeful and fills me with sunshine and rainbows and love. ❤
Here Comes My Baby — Yusuf and Cat Stevens
The opening notes of this give me goosebumps. A more realistic take on a classic love song that pokes fun at the things that annoy us about our partner, but that we just can’t get enough of because our person is so special.
Friends Like You, Who Needs Friends — Mark Mothersbaugh
This song is perfect in the movie but is definitely a skip in the car because of how heavy it is. Not the right vibes when you’re driving to work at 7 a.m.
Margaret Yang’s Theme — Mark Motherbaugh
THIS on the other hand is a song I never skip. When I listen to Motherbaugh’s masterpieces I feel like a silly little main character going about my silly little life doing silly little quests and it gives my brain the serotonin that it chemically lacks.
Snowflake Music — Mark Mothersbaugh
The Lad With the Silver Button — Mark Mothersbaugh
You get the gist by now.
Blinuet — Zoot Sims Quartet
When I hear this song I imagine that it’s Christmas time in Paris and I just took a quick little shopping break at Cafe du Flores to get some hot chocolate to give my arms a rest from carrying my heavy gifts for family and friends from Hermes. The vibes are immaculate.
Rue St. Vincent — Yves Montand
I love French music. Even though my French is pretty rusty since my short-lived fluency in high school and college, you don’t have to know what they’re saying for it to feel like a warm hug.
Piranhas Are A Very Tricky Species — Mark Mothersbaugh
This song makes me feel like I’m a professional tap dancer or something. You just can’t help but move your feet.
A Quick One, While He’s Away — The Who
Boy, do I love The Who. This song is a beast at nearly nine minutes and is about five or sixdifferent songs in one. I love this one on the treadmill because by the time I’m done jamming out to it, I’m 1/3 of the way through my exercise!
Sharp Little Guy — Mark Mothersbaugh
Just smiles. :) That’s all. :)
This album is pretty much a no-skip album for me. It is the peak of intentional music used as a cinematic device in films. Every single song, tune, and ditty on this soundtrack moves the plot along with such gentle ease and enjoyment.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go on a long drive and listen to this soundtrack on repeat for the 1,000th time.