12. Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Jerry Maguire (1996)
Cameron Crowe couldn’t resist tossing a little music nerdery into his 1996 film about sports agent Jerry (Tom Cruise) and his attempts to find meaning in his life again. On the cusp of sleeping with Dorothy, the single mother who left her job to join his fledgling firm, her son’s nanny stops him. A Gen-X burnout named Chad (Todd Louiso), he is a largely extraneous character, one of the many colorful figures in Dorothy’s life. He’s twitchy, spacey, and bald, and he exudes a New Age neurotic-turned-chillness that Jerry finds baffling. At the door, Chad earnestly entreats Jerry to treat her right. Then, struck by an impulse, he presses a cassette into Jerry’s hands: A recording of John Coltrane and Miles Davis in Stockholm in 1963: “two masters of freedom, playing in a time before their art was corrupted by a zillion cocktail lounge performers who destroyed the legacy of the only American art form—jazz.” Crowe wants to poke fun at the sentiment more than anything, and Chad is so hyperbolic in his praise that even though he pushes the tape at Jerry, he has trouble letting go of it. Later Dorothy and Jerry listen to it in bed, and Jerry asks, drunk and amused: “What is this?” It’s a riot of masterful sound, a disjointed, staccato frenzy. In short, it’s jazz, Jerry.