CAMERON Crowe's dual loves of music and movies are intertwined and inseparable. He made a mix tape to persuade Matt Damon to star in "We Bought a Zoo," played carefully selected songs to get the cast of "Singles" into the proper mood for a scene.
Many of his defining screen moments as a director combine the union of the two forms - John Cusack's Peter Gabriel/"In Your Eyes" scene in "Say Anthing," the use of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" in "Almost Famous."
Crowe's been at the intersection of movies and pop music long enough to see them heading in different directions. I asked him why movies appear to have survived the Digital Age, while the pop-music industry has been scattered to the winds by peer-to-peer file-sharing and MP3 files.
"I think movies are better able to control the environment of how people receive them. With movies, people still want to sit for the entire experience. Even at home, they like it to be immersive," Crowe said.
"With music, someone missed the boat in letting people understand that it's more than just wallpaper," argues Crowe, who believes pop music lost something when consumers started separating tracks from albums, and 99-cent (or pirated) single tracks became dominant.
"What we lost in music was somebody saying to someone else, 'Hey, you've got to listen to this.' Movies do that naturally. They say, 'Sit! Enjoy!' "
Music fans today have finger-tip access to an incredible array of music, he said, and it's pitched to people at every opportunity, in multiple formats.
"It's not like there's one place to go for the magic of the experience. Everything is avaibable all the time. The other thing is that everything is so cool now. Somebody records a cool song, it's on a TV commercial before you hear it anywhere else."
He said music supervisors have become frighteningly good at buying up good music before it reaches the public through radio or traditional means.
A scary sign of the times, he said. "If somebody came up to Nick Drake right after he recorded 'Pink Moon' and said hey, we'd like to use that for a Volkswagen commercial, I think he would have ended his life even sooner," said Crowe.
Crowe admits that the same thing happens in Hollywood movies, and says there's an art to using songs properly (he says Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson are masters).
"I always say that stuff in movies should always feel earned. The moment when movies and music meet . . . has to feel like a worthy moment."
I cited "Almost Famous" and "Tiny Dancer," and Crowe accepts the compliment, but says not everybody on the set agreed.