There I was, sitting in a cavernous multiplex theater at Duluth 10. The movie, The Way Way Back, is one that I had actually chosen by accident. Or chosen erroneously, I mean. The Mrs. and I were on an impromptu date night and picked The Way Way Back thinking that it was actually another movie I had heard about.
A good 30 minutes in I realized both my error, and that the film was not what I had hoped for, a fluffy summertime coming-of-age story, and that it was instead a sort of dark, introspective coming-of-age story that just happened to be placed in a summer setting. At points during the movie I could actually viscerally feel my own awkward teenage summer loneliness flaring up in some deep, dark buried place in my gut. So the film makers nailed that part.
Then it happens. The twist. It spins in a way that seems totally authentic to me, the awkward teenage boy starts to find himself in an unexpected way. And that little mini triumph of the human spirit and individuality is cemented by a song that I realized, after just a few bars, was “Alone” from Duluth’s own Trampled by Turtles.
Today on NPR’s Weekend Edition, host Scott Simon talked to somebody about a kerfluffle with this year’s Oscar nominations. One of the songs nominated may have been tainted by some impropriety and so the Academy rescinded that nomination. I was just hoping that maybe that opened up a spot for our TBT.
It’s probably not even possible as an Academy Award nominee since I don’t suppose it is an original song, per se, and I think it came out in 2012. But for me “Alone” was easily the best cinematic musical moment of 2013. Probably, in part because our hometown boys played a part, sure. But also because the song, which I didn’t like that much before the movie – it’s too sad and lonely – took on new meaning in the artistic and emotional convergence presented in the film. I’m not really an artist or an art critic, but that is an example of great art because it is a case of multiple creations coming together and adding new richness and greater depth within the context. Just as I had felt my own teenage loneliness, I also remembered, and felt, some very sweet catharsis — I could tell all those old feelings that “Hey, I’m sorry that you felt alone, but everyone is alone sometimes — the trick is to not lose yourself.” To say more than that would be a bit of a spoiler, and I encourage folks to rent, stream or buy the movie to have the same moment for yourselves if I haven’t already ruined it for you already.
MPR’s Movie Maven, Steph Curtis did a little blog post about it all back in July when the movie was fresh and it includes a video of a nice little live performance of the song at the Current that is worth a look and listen.
After its initial run at Duluth 10, where it may have been out of place amid the summer tentpole blockbusters, the kids at our sweet little arthouse Zinema theaters picked it for a run or two, so I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who loved The Way Way Back.
Maybe we can give Trampled by Turtles our own little PDD-style Oscar for best song of the year in film. They deserve a medal, no doubt about that.