Sunday, June 27, 2010


It's hard to believe that Paul Thomas Anderson's film Magnolia came out ten years ago. I remember being curious about it because I loved his prior film, Boogie Nights, and this one featured some of the same great actors, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy and the lovely Julianne Moore. And Tom Cruise was in it as a member of an ensemble cast. But the video for Aimee Mann's "Save Me" which included most of the cast really got my interest - at the time I was working at MTV2, and we played that video often.

Anderson knew Aimee because her husband, Michael Penn, scored Boogie Nights and also made a cameo in it (as the guy who owned the studio that Marky Mark and John C. Reilly cut their album in). At the time, she was going through well-documented issues with her label, Interscope, who was enjoying great success with music by the likes of Eminem and Fred Durst. They weren't sure how to market her,  and didn't hear a single on her new set of songs.  One of those songs, "Deathly," included the line "Now that I've met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?" Paul Thomas Anderson heard that line, which inspired one character named Claudia, and he started writing the rest of the film from there. He wrote about this in the liner notes to the Magnolia soundtrack.

The film also provided Aimee's music a better vehicle than Interscope ever could, not only did it find her audience, but it gave her a bigger audience than ever, and helped her launch the next phase of her career as a truly independent artist (she owns her own label, SuperEgo Records). In some ways, her story is a bit Magnolia-like.  Going through crap with at least three major labels for years led to greater popularity as an independent artist.

I was one of the people who became a fan due to Magnolia. I liked some of her old songs, but I wasn't a huge fan, and this film and soundtrack changed that. Her music figured pretty heavily into the film, not just "Deathly" and "Save Me" but also "Momentum" and "Wise Up," which was used in a scene where different characters sang along with it (I remember lots of the Cruise fans in the theater weren't going along with the premise).  I loved that the songs described people who you might say were "damaged," but did so without really judging them  - which is kind of what Anderson did in the film.  Over the last decade, I've listened to her music as much as anyone else's and I'm always struck by that.  She doesn't seem like someone you could take advantage or, she's not an "enabler," in psychological terms. She doesn't suffer fools lightly (particularly if they work at major record labels!).  But she also doesn't judge, and sort of has hope for characters/people no matter what their flaws are. I find that noble, and often try to be more like that. I'm going to be talking about Aimee Thursday night on The Catholic Channel.  I haven't selected which songs yet, but I'm sure at least one will be from Magnolia.

Here's the video for "Save Me":

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