The Art of the Opening: Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: David Simkin
THE SCREEN is black when you are hit by a wall of sound. Title credits roll as a teenage girl leaps into the frame lip-syncing to "Then He Kissed Me" by The Crystals, dancing with wild unabashed glee that you will only see on film. She kneels before a framed photo then holds it to her chest. From his cross-armed stance and preppy attire, you suspect that he's a dirtbag. This is confirmed as he pulls up to the house–Illinois plate reading "SO COOL" –and honks 3 times.
This brilliantly choreographed opening dance sequence–without a word of dialogue– sets the tone of the movie and provides necessary background information about the main character and the setting in the span of 2 minutes. It's a supreme example of visual narrative in film.
The power of a musical opening brings to mind Scorsese. If you're unfamiliar with the opening scenes of Mean Streets (1973), a quick refresher can be found here https://youtu.be/k0KMxLvsvLI. A man (Harvey Keitel) gets out of bed at night and ponders his reflection, exhibiting signs of stress and guilt, followed by some home footage of the actor set to the song “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes, which was also written and produced by Phil Spector. Despite the differences in tone, the song makes the movie. On a side note, Scorsese used it without permission and narrowly escaped an injunction from an infuriated Spector, a crackpot who to this day claims that he held Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro's careers in his hand.
Another opening which bears resemblance to AIB is from the 60s comedy/musical Bye Bye Birdie (https://youtu.be/1t3cBTb3xPc). Here we have a young Ann Margaret with shoulder length red hair (looking a lot like Shue) singing directly to the camera about the object of her desire–preceded by a close up of a photo. Check out the side by side comparisons. This was referenced in an episode of Mad Men, which opened it up to a whole new generation of viewers. I haven’t seen the whole movie, and I doubt I ever will because her voice is more obnoxious than Rebecca Black on her worst day.
Blues is central to the entire film. The next best scene takes place at a Blues Club on the South Side of Chicago. I think this trend started in the early 80s with John Hughes. More about him later.