A movie title can be a tricky thing. It has to attract an audience but not give too much away. It has to be smart and punchy but still appeal at some level to the widest common denominator. Some succeed because a writer had an inspired moment, deciding to call his story Jaws instead of Big Dang Shark. Sometimes, however, the title muse just isn't performing up to par. That's when wholesale theft comes into play.
Since the release of The Jazz Singer, movies have looked to popular music for titular inspiration. Most often, it's a case of good songs becoming bad movies - Can't Buy Me Love and Love Potion No. 9 spring to mind. Sometimes, however, things come together and a song title becomes an evocative and appropriate film title. Below are a few films that have worn their song titles well:
BLUE VELVET (1986): Like the torch song, Blue Velvet takes the simple ideas of love, loss and obsession and wraps them in a suffocating blanket of candy-colored Americana. The David Lynch movie features very odd adult themes and scenes and is certainly not for children, but for discriminating film fans it's required viewing.
BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997): Taking its name from a disco classic, this movie about the porn industry in the late 1970s is about much more than sexual congress. Like its title, Boogie Nights is evocative of a time, place and attitude, and uses those cues as the backdrop to a wrenching, righteous story of broken souls seeking solace.
THE CRYING GAME (1992): Although it takes its name from a sad song softly sung, The Crying Game is a hard and sometimes harrowing movie that exploits the human conditions and expectations in surprising ways. Jaye Davidson, the film's star, was never able to capitalize on this performance and vanished from the screen soon after. He was last reported to be working as a fashion assistant in London.
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952): Widely considered to be the finest of American film musicals, this Gene Kelly vehicle was written around a selection of songs that had been floating around for years - including the now-famous title song. Still, when people cast an eye upward toward a darkening sky and start to hum, it's Mr. Kelly splashing through this tune that they think of.
ADDICTED TO LOVE (1997): Taking its title from a Robert Palmer hit, this movie poked holes in the expectations of audiences looking for a Matthew Broderick/Meg Ryan romantic comedy. Instead, this comedy about two disparate and desperate people hoping to tear apart a relationship between former lovers is a pitch-black, but very funny, look at the human condition and the idea that love will make you crazy.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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