Song of the Day #2,476: ‘Wise Up (Live)’ – Aimee Mann

magnolia_wise_upThis list is dominated by directors I number among my favorites, which raises the question: Am I listing these songs because I love the films of these directors, or do I love the films of these directors in part because of how well they use these songs?

I’ll argue for the latter. My favorite filmmakers make great use of music, whether it’s Woody Allen’s Gershwin tunes, Spielberg’s John Williams scores or Wes Anderson’s ear for 60s Brit Pop.

The best directors know that film is more than just a visual medium, and that the sounds (and the songs) also matter.

Paul Thomas Anderson is certainly one of the best. He uses music in many ways, from the Scorsese-like wall of pop songs in Boogie Nights to the mesmerizing, spare Johnny Greenwood scores in There Will Be Blood and The Master.

He pulled out a Shelly Duvall performance of ‘He Needs Me’ from Popeye to accompany the most sublime scene in Punch-Drunk Love and he made me love two Neil Young songs used with aching romanticism in last year’s Inherent Vice.

But those songs didn’t make this list.

#4 Song I Associate With a Movie
‘Wise Up’ – Magnolia

Aimee Mann’s music is all over Magnolia. In fact, it was a line from her song ‘Deathly’ that inspired Anderson to write the film in the first place. Mann’s yearning sadness is a perfect fit for this L.A.-based, deeply human melodrama.

In one of the film’s best sequences, the entire cast is alone and searching, and they simultaneously sing along to Mann’s ‘Wise Up,’ a simple piano ballad about the need for redemption.

Anderson is a go-for-broke filmmaker, and this touch of magical realism (topped later in the film by a rain of frogs) is a tightrope walk that pays off beautifully. It doesn’t matter why these people are singing, or if they actually are. This is simply the most direct view into their souls.

[Movie clip here, and a live version down below…]

It’s not
What you thought
When you first began it
You got
What you want
Now you can hardly stand it
Though by now you know
It’s not going to stop
It’s not going to stop
It’s not going to stop
‘Til you wise up

You’re sure
There’s a cure
And you have finally found it
You think
One drink
Will shrink you ’til you’re underground
And living down
But it’s not going to stop
It’s not going to stop
It’s not going to stop
‘Til you wise up

Prepare a list for what you need
Before you sign away the deed
‘Cause it’s not going to stop
No, it’s not going to stop
‘Til you wise up
No, it’s not going to stop
‘Til you wise up
No, it’s not going to stop
So just give up

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,476: ‘Wise Up (Live)’ – Aimee Mann

  1. Dana says:

    Without question, the very best directors know and appreciate the importance of music in film.

    Magnolia is a film that, by all rights, I should have not liked as I tend to eschew this type of arty surrealism. But the movie won me over in spades, in large part because of scenes like this one. I suppose your observation is correct here and in general that, if a director is going to swing for the fences with something this bold, it’s either going to work incredibly well or fail spectacularly. In this case, for me as a skeptic going in, this scene and this movie was a home run.

  2. pegclifton says:

    I think the only Anderson movies I’ve seen were There Will be blood and Boogie Nights–loved Blood did not like Boogie Nights. This is an interesting scene, maybe I’ll catch up with this film some day.

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