Music has always been an important part of film. From the very first "talkie," The Jazz Singer, to the great movie musicals of the 1930's and 40's music was crucial. Since that time music has been relegated to a predominantly background device. Music sets the tome and creates a mood for the dialogue and action on the screen. Of course, there have always been concert pictures, but the audiences for these films is almost always very small. And every few years, some enterprising director will bring a Broadway musical to the big screen. However, those endeavors usually fail financially.
But 2007 may be the beginning of the end. Two excellent films and one pretty good film with music as a central character/theme were well-received and relatively successful commercially. Not only that, they were enjoyable.
August Rush- August Rush was the pretty good film. The movie begins as an accomplished classical cellist and a rock musician have a one night stand. The result is that the cellist becomes pregnant and her son is ultimately given up for adoption. The child, August Rush, turns out to be a musical prodigy. He believes that his music will lead him to his parents. The remainder of the film is about that quest. There is all sorts of music, a nice romantic story and a sympathetic child in this movie. Almost everything you want.
Across the Universe- Across the Universe is revolutionary in terms of modern popular cinema. It is a musical, with characters singing and dancing; breaking into song at odd times and places. All of the music is from the Beatles Songbook re-imagined for the 21st century. Highlights include Joe Cocker singing Come Together, T.V. Carpio singing I Want to Hold Your Hand as a melancholy lesbian ballad.
Once- Once is the story of two aspiring musicians and their almost-romance in Dublin. When the guitar-playing troubadour meets his piano-playing love interest they literally make beautiful music together. The song, Falling Slowly, won the Oscar for best song of the year (as well it should have). The girl helps the boy to realize his musical dreams before personal complications try to destroy their relationship.
I think things look good for the future of music in films. I am excited to see what will come next. Wait a minute, I didn't even mention Juno, which had the best overall soundtrack of the year.