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This Week's Trailer: A suggestive glimpse at A Most Violent Year, the new J.C. Chandor film that just stormed into awards season by copping a slew of prizes from the National Board of Review. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain star as a hard-working couple trying not to get consumed by the corruption of New York City in 1981. (The film arrives on New Year's Eve, if you'd care to ring in 2015 with the filthy underworld.)
This Week's Tune: "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)", the closing track from Marvin Gaye's legendary What's Going On album.
How Literal Is It? The title says it all, doesn't it? This is a movie about people's morality being chipped away by the corruption of the big and nasty city, so it only makes sense to score their descent with a song about the desperation of being trapped by the system.
How Emotional Is It? As literal as it is, though, "Make Me Wanna Holler" makes the film itself seem moody and metaphorical. Because it would have been easy to score this trailer with thrashing rock, you know? A few screams from Jimmy Page or Gene Simmons, and we'd have a violent sound to match the violent city. Instead, we get Marvin Gaye's slinky R&B track and falsetto vocals, which make his anger sound inward and mournful. That gives the trailer a haunted quality, underlining how much the lead characters want to avoid corruption. It suggests that A Most Violent Year isn't some slick fantasy of greed, but an agonized parable about moral decay.
Will We Associate It With This Movie? Obviously not. But in this case, the movie benefits from the association.
Overall Trailer Tune Effectiveness: For those who know it, "Make Me Wanna Holler" is a symbol of thoughtfulness and political engagement. By connecting to that legacy, A Most Violent Year positions itself as a meaty drama for adults. And you know what? I'm an adult an adult who likes drama, but doesn't really enjoy shoot-em-up movies. So for me, this is just what I needed to hear.