Our Eight Favorite Musical Moments From Texas-Shot Films

If Chainsaws, Slackers and Spy Kids sounds like a titillating title for a book, it's only because the book itself deals with some of the most provocative indie films in recent cinematic history - many of them made by Texas-born filmmakers.

The book is the work of Alison Macor, former film critic for both the Austin Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman. It looks at the 30-plus-year history of filmmaking in Austin and Texas, starting in 1974 with one of the most popular independent horror films in the history of cinema, Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and ending with Austin darlings like Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez.

Macor will speak about the history of independent filmmaking in Texas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., and that got Rocks Off thinking. Some of our favorite Texas directors seem to have an innate way with music in their films. From Salma Hayak's snake-dance to Wes Anderson's vintage indie soundtracks, music and movies are inherently linked in Texas.

So we asked Macor for her take. Her commentary and ours follow some of our favorite examples below.

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Hollywood Shuffle: I was just wondering what your thoughts were on films that come from Texas and their use of music. It seems like there is an uncanny knack for Texas filmmakers to seamlessly weave music into their work so that it almost becomes like another character. I'm thinking specifically about Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater but there are other examples.

Alison Macor: I know for most of the filmmakers I wrote about in my book (Eagle Pennell, Richard Linklater, and Mike Judge, for instance), music is a very important element of their storytelling. It probably has as much to do with the way they create and work as it does with the fact that, at least in Austin, the film and music scenes can have a lot of overlap and intermingling.

In the 1970s, for instance, as Austin music was attracting national attention (Willie Nelson, Armadillo World Headquarters, etc.), the Austin film scene was earning notice for movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

HS: The film that started it all. Texas Chainsaw Massacre also started some of the most well-known tropes in slasher cinema, from the faceless antagonist to the documentary-style filming. But did you know there is also a whole group of people fascinated by the movie's score and the music made by filmmaker Tobe Hooper. This Web site has some excellent information on the unknown bands whose music was used in the flick.

AM: Austin was small enough then (just under 300,00 people in the mid 1970s) that often the same people belonged to each "community," and their was an easy movement between the two groups. Plus, in general, I think creative people tend to be interested in multiple art forms, so filmmakers often are big music fans, and vice versa. Then there's the Texas pride aspect, in the sense that most Texans I've met tend to celebrate Texas culture in all forms.

"The Snake Dance," From Dusk Till Dawn

HS: We're pretty sure Salma Hayek would have made it in Hollywood anyway, but it was her work in Rodriguez' Desperado, and ultimately this film, that helped her get her big break. Umm, you might want to close your office door for this one.

"Judy Is A Punk," The Royal Tenenbaums

HS: We'll admit it. We're fans of Houston's favorite filmmaking son and members of the Margot Tenenbaum Appreciation Society. And here is a perfect example of the leitmotif, where a song entirely espouses a character.

AM: To many of these filmmakers the music is another character. It's important to how they see and hear their story to have the music be as carefully chosen as a particular take of a scene within the film, a character's wardrobe, even a lighting setup.

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