Wang Chung

To Live and Die in LA

Los Angeles is a city whose most privileged corners seem to prize youth at any cost against a backdrop of twelve-month sunshine. It is a city in which time moves differently than it does anywhere else, where the passing of seasons simply does not occur in as pronounced a fashion, and traffic replaces weather as the subject of universal conversation. It should come as no surprise, then, that Los Angeles has never been an iconic city for representing the holiday season. Where New York, Chicago, the suburban Midwest, and even Budapest have provided the settings for numerous entries in Hollywood’s holiday film canon, Los Angeles has rarely been used or imagined as a location that produces a distinct image of the holidays, despite the fact that it has provided soundstages for numerous movies revisited this time of year. This fact stands out in William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in LA, the director’s 1985 return to the type of fast-paced, gritty, realist police narrative that he made his name on a decade prior with The French Connection. To Live and Die in LA is known for many things – the launch of Willem Dafoe’s career, a wall-to-wall Wang Chung soundtrack, a crazy good high speed chase scene – but it isn’t known well enough as an odd yet fitting holiday movie for Los Angeles, and perhaps the subtlest Christmas movie ever made.

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Aural Fixation - Large

I am sure the last thing to cross most people’s minds after finding out the world was coming to an end would be music, but for some people, grabbing an armful of records would be as important as grabbing family photos if you were forced to evacuate your home. The poster (and soundtrack cover) for Seeking a Friend of the End of the World shows the film’s leads, Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley), along with dog Sorry, standing in the face of an asteroid set to destroy earth. Dodge and Sorry look like you would expect, knowing a giant asteroid is heading towards you (pensive, scared), but Penny looks nearly hopeful as she clutches a stack of records. While music certainly will not save you from certain fate, it can certainly help pad the landing. Music plays an important role throughout Seeking a Friend, from Penny and Owen (Adam Brody) arguing over who will get custody of which records when they break up to Penny grabbing that armful on her way out of the apartment (potentially for the last time) to the film’s final moments with Dodge laying on the floor, accepting his fate as he lets “The Air That I Breathe” by The Hollies wash over him. When the power officially goes out and the world is rendered dark and quiet, the effect is truly eerie and unsettling with only the sounds of the impending elements remaining. The power of music and the escape it provides is suddenly […]

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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