180° South: Conquerers of the Useless–just another regular movie about another bunch of regular guys, right? Not really. And it’s not a soundtrack put together by a regular bunch of guys, either, but we’ll get to that. To sum up, the plot of the movie consists of “adventurer*” Jeff Johnson deciding to venture off toPatagonia and retrace the steps of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, two regular guys who went to Patagonia in 1968, who had their lives “changed,” and decided to put this “last wild place on earth” under protection. You’ll have to take my word on this one, because I, too, have only seen the trailer, but I have the feeling Johnson’s story will probably include beautiful nature shots, overcoming massive setbacks and finding his destiny along the 10,000 mile journey.So what about the soundtrack, the one that you didn’t get to listen to in the trailer because somebody decided to play Animal Collective instead? There’s a little bit of Jack Johnson, a little bit of James Mercer, topped off by a whole lot of Ugly Casanova.
Here’s everything you’ll need to know about Ugly Casanova, ever. In my professional opinion, that’s a great backstory to a band if I’ve ever heard one. It is, however, unnecessary to read that the band is essentially Modest Mouse, because listening to just one song on this soundtrack will give that away–especially if it’s not an instrumental and you can actually hear Isaac Brock’s lisp. The Ugly Casanova tracks on the album sound like back-to-basics, performing-in-your-back-yard Modest Mouse, stripped down and a lot of twang. Jack Johnson has always been performingshirtless in your backyard (in Hawaii), with a lot of twang. James Mercer is harder to place–member of the Shins, and lately Broken Bells, what is he doing on this soundtrack? Let’s take the fact that he was born in Hawaii as well–shirtless twang is, then, in his blood, as is protecting beautiful places, adventures, probably surfing, and definitely making soundtracks for movies about adventurers.
Essentially, these artists have written songs that will complement the film perfectly. Even listening to the soundtrack only once, it’s easy to imagine where each of the stripped-down, restrained indie-rock tracks is going to fit into this movie–an adventure movie with a strong underlying environmental message. Take “Maybe We’re Lost”–here’s where the big plot setback will happen. It’ll get really cold, and Jeff Johnson is going to lose a toe to frostbite, or his tent is going to blow away in the wind, or he’ll be pummeled within an inch of his life by a monster wave. There’s going to be a sweeping panorama shot that shows how small he really is, Man vs. Wilderness, while some muted guitar chords play and Isaac Brock mutters something existential into the microphone. Or take “Here’s to Now“–here’s how the movie will end, on a song that’s probably about living in the moment (though I’m not quite sure), and in a broader sense about appreciating the things you can have in said moment, and trying to preserve them for the future. Man has the power todestroy, man has the power to save. After the thoroughly enjoyable yet predictable (don’t these movies always end the same?) two hour ad made by Patagonia in support of environmental protection (and their clothing), we’ll fade to black with a sense of urgency, impeding doom, and a modicum of hope.
“Man is alright, you can’t beat him” –William Faulkner**