October 31, 2002

Viewer Discretion Advised

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This week we’re changing things up a little on Viewer Discretion Advised (and for those of you tired of my jokes, rejoice) to bring you something special. All of the following classic films feature either jazz as a primary component to the storyline or a distinctly jazzy soundtrack. So don’t delay: jitterbug on down to your local video store to snag some or all of these films. Trust me, they’re worth it. And that’s no joke.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Alex North composed the soundtrack to this classic film that gives the idea of “touchy relations with the inlaws” a new meaning. Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh both provide great performances backed by North’s sweeping soundtrack — one that earned him an Academy Award nomination.

Taxi Driver (1976)

Bernard Herrmann earned an Academy Award nomination for his soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s intense drama about a crazed taxi driver (Robert DeNiro) who decides to take the law into his own hands in order to save a young prostitute (Jodie Foster) from her controlling pimp (Harvey Keitel). While Herrmann’s music can easily be overlooked in this film, it’s hard to forget some of his other film music, particularly the “shrieking violins” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Chinatown (1974)

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway star in this classic film about a private detective investigating an adultery case who ultimately stumbles on to something more intriguing. This classic movie, with its film noir-ish tone and smooth talking characters is a cool throwback to the stylish and exciting Bogart detective thrillers of the ’40s. And don’t forget the mysterious, jazzy soundtrack.

The Jazz Singer (1927)

1927 was the year Warner Brothers released a film that would revolutionize the way the world watches motion pictures. The Jazz Singer stars Al Jolson as a young man who must defy his father’s wishes in order to become a jazz singer. While the film is in fact silent, featuring only a few “talking” numbers, when Jolson proclaims “You ain’t heard nothing yet” you can’t help but think of the line as hauntingly prophetic.

Some Like It Hot (1959)

Ranked #1 on the American Film Institute’s list of best comedies of all time, this extremely goofy and funny film stars “Marilyn Monroe and her bosom buddies” (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis). Lemmon and Curtis play musicians who must flee Chicago after witnessing the St. Valentines Day Massacre. They decide the best way is to join an all girls jazz band, and this jazzy comedy heats up from there. Definitely a must see