Gin & Tonic for the Soul: The Songs that Make the Scenes (Part I)

Interesting Discussion Topics for Happy Hour

It’s been a while since we posted a Gin & Tonic for the Soul, but I got the Oscar season bug (literally – got sick and stuck at home, watching movies!) and rounded out this list. I’m not proclaiming to be a film scholar with the utmost knowledge of every seminal song in every movie. Just having a little fun; hope you enjoy as well!

I see it like this… When song and scene come together just right, onscreen fireworks are palpable – heightening our emotions – whether it’s grabbing us by the jugular, making us laugh until we cry, or causing a rise south of our equator (true story: I knew of someone who identified an erection as “something rising south of the equator”).

There are a million unforgettable songs in movies; below I’ve outlined a handful of my favorites. I’ve also listed the LA Happy Hour that you’re most likely to hear each song at – this is a Happy Hour website after all :)!

– JB

“And Then He Kissed Me” – The Crystals – GOODFELLAS

Mobster Henry Hill whisks his date through the back entrance of the Copacabana, taking her through the kitchen, finally arriving at the primo supremo table laid out just for them. The scene is one glorious Steady Cam shot, brilliant unto itself for the fluidity of the camera movement capturing the exhilaration of a new love, a new fascination.

While the shot is widely known and loved, “And Then He Kissed Me” plays over the entire shot, undoubtedly augmenting the scene – setting the time and matching the excitement of this new enthrallment. As a kid, I of course loved the song when Elisabeth Shue lip-syncs it with all her heart in the opening credits of ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING. But in this GOODFELLAS scene, the visuals add such richness to the song and the song adds such richness to that beautiful shot – you can’t help but forever associate the song with the scene and vice versa.

Happy Hour Match: Jones Café – okay, they don’t really offer Happy Hour. BUT JG & I love Jones for its cool crowd, Italiano décor, and their kick-ass jukebox. Not 100% sure “And Then He Kissed Me” is on said jukebox, but you are sure to find something comparable and Jones’ vibe is just right to have a mobster wannabe sweep you off your feet (or if you’re a mobster wannabe, to do the sweeping!).

Drink: Something with Limoncello – indulge your inner Italian!


“Strong as I Am” – The Prime Movers – MANHUNTER

Michael Mann is the man (bang the gong!). Well, he’s the man who gave us one of the best television theme songs of all time, Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice.” I’m not even being sarcastic; this video will make you yearn for the days of awesome opening TV credits. Watch it, you know you want to!

My favorite Michael Mann film is MANHUNTER, based on Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, the novel that comes before Silence of the Lambs. Brett Ratner remade the film in 2002 with Ed Norton and Anthony Hopkins, but I’d rather watch MANHUNTER any of the week, with its highly stylized imagery and a cute young William Petersen as Will Graham, the FBI agent on the hunt for the mysterious Tooth Fairy Killer, with the assistance of Graham’s own attempted murderer, the one and only Hannibal Lecter (this time played by Brian Cox).

The film’s music choices are basically a main character in the film and my favorite selection is The Prime Mover’s “Strong As I Am” which plays as creepy Francis Dolarhyde (aka the Tooth Fairy Killer) imagines his new lady love, his one chance at any semblance of a normal life, cheating on him. The title of the YouTube clip (also the last line in the clip) sums it up well, “Francis is gone.”

Happy Hour Match: The Woods on a Sunday night when Casper is spinning. He’s always got a delirious mix of songs – some you know by heart and new ones that you don’t know how you lived without. He’s quite knowledgeable about music – I’m sure he could add a killer beat to this killer song!

Drink: Nurse a low-ball glass of brandy to numb your gums… for the Tooth Fairy! Aaaaaaah!


“Faking Death” – Nick Urata / “I Cried Like a Silly Little Boy” – DeVotchKa - I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS

PHILLIP MORRIS is one strange movie with two pretty distinct audience factions, those who love it and those who hate it. I firmly fall in the love camp; I was mesmerized by the unwavering, unrelenting and truly gonzo tone of the film, only grounded by the fact that this was based on a true story.

The film’s musical selections match the tone – Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are” plays as Steven Russell and the titular Phillip Morris fall in love. In prison. While another prisoner masturbates to a classic movie. And another gets beat up by the guards for playing the contraband tape.

Besides the individual song selections, the filmmakers scored a coup with a breezy, lilting score from Nick Urata (who also scored LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE). What I consider to be the film’s main theme, “Faking Death,” plays often in the film, while Steven commits his crazy acts. The melody is sweetly forgiving of this hard-to-despise character that would actually be pretty despicable on paper.

Urata’s band, DeVotchKa, performs a version of the song, complete with lyrics, that plays us into the credits. Ever since seeing the movie last month, both songs have raced up my “Most Played” playlist –perfect jogging companions that remind me of the roundedness and “la dolce vita”-ness of it all – the unabashed joy, the hard times, and the kooky characters we meet.

Happy Hour Match: The Penthouse at the Huntley. Given their alterna-music pedigree (PJ Harvey’s “Down by the Water”) a little DeVotchKa wouldn’t surprise me here! Really though, this bright space is totally right for the bright music. Seriously, just listening to the songs on the elevator ride up would make me my day! Plus, this is totally a Happy Hour that Steven Russell would have taken Phillip Morris for a date! And then skipped out on the bill.

Drink: Something with Rum to make it feel like Steven and Phillip’s Florida getaways! Or a good ole wine spritzer because they’re just so classy!


Check back in next Thursday for Part II of The Songs that Make the Scenes!

In the meantime, watch some movies, go to some Happy Hours, discuss amongst yourself!

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