Video Essay: “The Semi-Obligatory Lyrical Interlude (A Case Study)”


In his Bigger Little Movie Glossary, Roger Ebert defines the “Semi-Obligatory Lyrical Interlude” (or “Semi-OLI,” for short) thus: “Scene in which soft focus and slow motion are used while a would-be hit song is performed on the soundtrack and the lovers run through a pastoral setting.” He notes that the Semi-OLI first came into prominence in the late 1960s, and though it eventually fell out of favor, it soon mutated into the “Semi-Obligatory Music Video” from the 1980s forward; the Semi-OLI or Semi-OMV remained prominent in romantic movies, though usually to show a particularly successful first date, or to compress the process of a couple falling deeply in love.

The Semi-OLI became such a cliché that it seemed had finally disappeared, which is why your correspondent was horrified to see at least three examples of it at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival — and these were in (otherwise good) independent films, mind you, not insipid Katherine Heigl rom-coms or something. Is the Semi-Obligatory Lyrical Interlude making a comeback? We hope not. For this week’s video essay, we’ve smashed together over a dozen egregious examples of this device, along with a couple of parodies for the sake of levity. Check out our latest video essay after the jump.

Video Essay: “The Semi-Obligatory Lyrical Interlude (A Case Study)” from Flavorwire on Vimeo.

CREDITS Edited by Jason Bailey Music by The Carpenters

FILMS Aladdin (Ron Clements, John Musker, 1992) Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (Jay Roach, 1997) Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, 1991) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969) Chasing Amy (Kevin Smith, 1997) Crazy/Beautiful (John Stockwell, 2001) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) The Karate Kid (John G. Avildsen, 1984) The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) Nothing in Common (Garry Marshall, 1986) Play Misty for Me (Clint Eastwood, 1971) Pretty Woman (Garry Marshall, 1990) Say Anything (Cameron Crowe, 1989) Take the Money and Run (Woody Allen, 1969) Yes Man (Peyton Reed, 2008)

Check out our previous video essays: “Encore: More Famous Faces in their Film Debuts” “Watching the Detectives: Our Favorite Movie Private Eyes” “And Introducing…: Famous Faces in their Film Debuts” “The Martin Scoresese Film School” “How to Pull the Perfect Movie Heist” “Being Denzel Washington”