Diner: Impact on Movies/TV, Impact on Music

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Great article in Vanity Fair this month about the impact of Diner on the movie scene:  click here.    As always with Vanity Fair, they had a nice little diagram to show Diner’s impact, especially on American TV –  essentially mapping out that it was the first piece of cinema to embrace nothinginess… the joy of useless dialogue, useless discussion.  Seinfield and Curb Your Enthusiasm then mastered the genre of nothingness.  But so did Pulp Fiction (Travolta and Jackson’s discussions of the Quarter Pounders name in France) and so did the Sopranos.   This is a typical ‘nothing’ scene from Diner – everyone wanted to cut the ‘sandwich fight’ but Levison insisted it stay in because this is the ‘nothing’ of real human dialogue:



There’s a separate discussion worth noting about Diner’s impact on Music in Cinema.   Released in ’82, Diner was set in the 1959 as high school friends reunite for a friend’s wedding.   The music is all 50’s, but the real issue of the music is about how obsessed folks are with music. It is not a musical.  Music is not the sound track.  Music is a character that shapes the other characters.    This is the famous, ‘Don’t Touch My Records Scene.’   This is the first of example of what I call the ‘music as my obsession’ scenes in movies:


Nick Hornsby talks about his obsession with this movie and it is no surprise that the music obsession carries over in his books and the film Hi Fidelity.  Here’s the Top 5 Songs about Death, the Laura’s Dad Tribute:


 But for all the directors that followed we had two other genre’s of music as character.  The first Genre’s is the ‘great real bands’ hiding as crap bands in the movie.  The most famous of these is Jonathon Demme’s use of the Feelies in Something Wild.   The Feelies are a fantastic new wave band from New York (The Village Voice called them the best underground band ever), and they get thrown into being a crap reunion band at a hick high school reunion:


Another example of this genre is in Something About Mary, where two musicians keep appearing playing songs – the lead is Jonathan Richman from the Modern Lovers (a ‘pronto-punk band’ influenced by Velvet Underground).   Anyone who thinks the Libertines are original, should listen to what was happening in 1971 – here’s Modern Lovers with “I’m Straight”:


Here’s Jonathan talking Something About Mary during Joey Ramone’s Birthday:


 And here’s Jonathan in the opening scene, singing the same song in Spanish (you can’t make this stuff up):


The second genre that comes out of music as character is THE SONG AND SCENE, where a director so perfectly nails the song to go with the scene (and Demme admits picking the song first sometimes) that the song is the other character … Here’s the best example in movies, from Silence of the Lambs, where Buffalo Bill meets Goodbye Horses, or the Beta Band scene in Hi Fidelity.   

So, its March 1.  Vanity Fair thanks Diner in this months issue.  And so do we.  After all, its all about the Music.



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