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Movies of 1998 Bracket Game: The Wedding Singer Vs. The Big Lebowski

In the first round of this bracket game, I tended to give some general information about the origins of the movie in question, its overall nature, and the resulting reactions to it both critically and financially. I then included a video of the trailer for the movie, just in case anybody needed a reminder of what the movie was like (or maybe more accurately, how it was marketed). With our list of films whittled down to eight, I’ve decided to take a different tack in this second round. Hopefully, with fewer films to cover, the chances that I’ll find the information and sources I need will be pretty decent.

Unlike in the top portion of our bracket, today’s matchup features two movies whose musical offerings are primarily pop songs carefully curated for use in the flicks rather than created specifically for them. This is obviously a completely different thing, but has been a part of the movie making business basically forever. Who did it better?

We have our first final four matchup set based on yesterday’s vote! For the first time in a few matches, we had a relatively easy win for one of our competitors, with the Disney musical Mulan taking home just over seventy percent of the vote. She will be moving on to face Out of Sight for a place in our championship match!

When you decide to set your romantic comedy in a different decade and your lead character sings other peoples’ songs for a living, well…I’m guessing the appeal of the pop music of that era was one of the big reasons for making those story decisions to begin with. As a person who had lived through the oppressive ’60s baby boomer nostalgia that hung over pretty much all of the eighties, it was kind of surprising to find that we were already doing the ’80s nostalgia thing before the ’90s were over. I wouldn’t fully indulge in it for a few more years, but I had to admit that there was something kind of kitschy and innocent about the decade in my memory, so touching on it here and there was indeed a little appealing. The Wedding Singer did okay at the box office, but it wasn’t exactly a blockbuster. What did seem to pop up everywhere I looked was the soundtrack album. It appeared to be serving as a sort of “best of the ’80s” collection for people who either weren’t buying records back then or who just wanted that little dose of nostalgia. And it’s pretty hard to look at the track listing without marveling at what a drum-tight Reagan era collection it truly is. It was so popular, in fact, that a second volume was released later the same year, picking up some of the tunes that had been skipped in the first part and correcting the mistake it had made in leaving out the better of the two original songs Sandler’s character sang.

Okay, it’s a slight little song, but it’s sweet and it has a decent melody. It’s not unlike the movie itself in leaning full into what it knows is a little hackneyed and sappy and coming out mostly for the better because of it.

It might not be fair to compare an original song written for one movie against something chosen by a director from the entirety of the history of pop music. It would be easy to be biased one way or the other, so I’ve decided in this case to use scenes from the actual movies in both cases and let the chips fall where they may.

Believe it or not, that’s one of the more famous country singers of the ’70s and ’80s, Kenny Rogers singing “Just Dropped In” in this dream sequence from The Big Lebowski. I don’t think there’s any argument that this scene is more cinematically interesting than what Sandler and company were up to on that plane to Vegas, but that’s just the difference between the two movies and their audiences. The scene in question was shot in a converted airplane hangar in the Los Angeles area, but required a bit of computerized jimmying to realize fully. As it turned out, Jeff Bridges’ shoulders were just a little too wide to actually allow his image to fit between the legs of the dancers on the bowling alley at the end of the scene, so the Coens had to shrink his body before compositing it into the shot; just enough to make the effect work, but not so much that he became noticeably small. The dream sequence was imagined in keeping with a tradition in film noir in which the central character experiences visual distortions or dreams after receiving a blow to the head. One other fun piece of trivia about the film’s soundtrack revolves around the rights to the Townes Van Zant song “Dead Flowers” which were only acquired from the Rolling Stones’ notoriously stingy manager Allen Klein after he saw a scene in the movie in which the Dude objects to the Eagles being played. Apparently Klein thought they sucked too.

Okay, just as a reminder, while the music featured here might provide some food for thought over which movie to choose, you should be voting based on the film as a whole. You can do that right here and then tell us your favorite ’80s or Kenny Rogers song in the comments section.

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Posted on January 27, 2018, in Bracket Game, Movies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I am throwing The Wedding Singer a pity vote.

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  2. I went for Lebowski of course.

    In some ways, Lebowski got underrated at the time and today it’s a tad overrated. Just a tad though. The interesting thing is: the weekend it opened the highest grossing new release was US Marshals. I looked on Box Office Mojo and saw that Lebowski was 96 for the year overall while Marshals was 36. 20 years later, Lebowski is a cult classic and cult phenomenon while US Marshals is basically forgotten. Likewise Dark City bombed at the box office (according to BOM, it finished just outside the top 100 for the year). In his review of Lost In Space, Roger Ebert lamented the fact that it would likely outgross Dark City. While it did, 20 years later one of those is a cult classic and one is basically relegated to late nigh TV and DVD cut bins. Of course, we know which is which.

    As far as 80s music goes, there’s quite a bit of it I like. From a pop standpoint, a lot of it is better than what was big in the previous decade* or a lot of what’s big nowadays (give me Duran Duran over One Direction any day).

    *Pop as opposed to rock or soul.

    “Oppressive ’60s baby boomer nostalgia”

    Sadly that’s still out there. A few years ago I heard a radio commercial for a local casino that went like this:

    “Do you remember when Pink was Floyd, the only Idol was in Billy?”

    Baby Boomer nostalgia with a bit of 80s thrown in. After I heard it I was thinking, time for a moratorium on Boomer nostalgia.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Even though The Big Lebowski is not my favorite Coen Brothers film, it’s good enough to get my vote in this round.

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  4. I was dragged to see “The Wedding Singer” by my brother, who LOVED Sandler, and was pleasantly amused, although that is mostly from nostalgia, that soundtrack, the adorable Drew Barrymore, and the surprisingly positive take on Alexis Arquette.(at least I remember it that way.) It’s a fun, cute movie.

    As I said before, I don’t remember “Lebowski” at all, so I should remedy that, especially based on the score right now.

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