Mozart, Beethoven, Bach…Williams?

Posted on April 3, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings, Trivia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

OK, first, right click here, open in a new tab, press play, and then read while you listen. I wanted to add the track myself but it was the wrong file type and I’m not clever enough to convert it.  Hopefully they’ll appreciate the hits.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll probably have noticed that music is something of a big deal to me.  When it comes to film scores, I’m becoming more and more convinced that composers like John Williams, Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer are the new classical masters.  Modern classical music (oxymoron?)  tends to be the more contemporary Maxwell-Davies style, which is definitely not to everyones taste, while the great sweeping scores seem to be left more or less to the movie composers.

Movie scores are quite often beautiful and I would argue comparable to the greatest symphonies.  (Before you start, I’m expecting to get shot down in flames for that, and I am fully aware that my classical knowledge is limited at best, but I do have some idea what I’m talking about).

Take Howard Shore for example.  I’m a firm believer that a huge amount of the success of Lord of the Rings is owed to his breathtaking score.  The orchestration mirrors the plot so perfectly that you could almost remove the dialogue and still understand what’s going on.  Of course, it helps that he’s also got the stunning New Zealand backdrop to set it off.  Shore’s The Breaking of the Fellowship the final “movement” of the Fellowship of the Ring (to which you are currently listening, I hope) is quite simply one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard, and I know that it forms a big part of why I love that film.

In the case of someone more prolific, John Williams has penned some of the most famous themes in history.  Not every man on the street will be able to hum Beethoven’s 9th or Mozart’s Requiem, but ask him to sing Star Wars or Indiana Jones and he’ll definitely know what you’re talking about.

*Random trivial aside* The Indiana Jones theme is actually part of the Star Wars theme played backwards, an in joke by Lucas and Williams, go ahead, try it.

Williams is responsible for most of my library of movie scores, from Jaws, Jurassic Park, and even Home Alone to Harry Potter (which I hate but still love the score of).  He’s the most famous movie composer of all time, and deserves the respect he has.  In fact, I think he deserves more. Why shouldn’t he sit with Beethoven as a modern classical master?

Other composers I urge you to look out for are Hans Zimmer, the man behind Gladiator and Pirates of the Caribbean (along with Klaus Badelt) who has a particular theme he re-uses in all of his movies as a kind of signature (once you’ve heard it you can’t miss it, its even in Rain Man!) and James Horner, the genius creator of the heart breakingly beautiful score to Braveheart.  Coming second only to LOTR in my favourite scores of all time, he magically combines traditional Scottish themes (and pipes) with sweeping orchestration which undoubtedly plays a major role in the effect that film has on me (read: unecessary floods of tears)

And it’s not just the original scores that can transform a movie.  As Watchmen showed, the re-use of modern or even classical music  can be just as evocative.  The moment in Equilibrium when Christian Bale hears the first movement of Beethoven’s 9th is a perfect example.  Layer Cake also springs to mind, with a soundtrack that brilliantly reflects the action, especially the Ordinary World scene.  Billy Elliot is also one of my favourite films for soundtrack, with songs like Town Called Malice and London Calling perfect reflections of the rioting and conflict on screen, not to mention the iconic opening to Apocalypse Now (This is the End), or the perfect settings of Philadelphia, Good Morning Vietnam, Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate

I could carry on like this for hours. Believe me.  I guess the point of this post is to make you listen as well as look.  I remember once remarking on the beautiful strings in the final scene of Pirates while watching it with a friend, and she was surprised I payed that close attention to the music.  So this is me asking you to open your ears.  The underscore of your favourite film will have already had a big effect on why you love it, you just might not have realised it yet.

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Posted on March 11, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die | Tags: , , , , , , |

Well, after a long wait I finally got to see Watchmen, but with my recent epiphany on hype I decided to try and lower my expectations in advance.  I was also a bit concerned about some bad reviews I’d read, but  excited nonetheless.  I should point out that I saw it in the Odeon Leicester Square, which I reckon makes any film amazing before you start.

Altogether Watchmen is a pretty great movie.  True, there are slower moments, but the plot is good, even if it isn’t full of shocks and twists.  Set in the cold war, it follows a group of vigilante “superheroes” who’ve been forced into hiding (reminding me of Disney’s Incredibles more than it should have).  Unlike your typical comic book film, our heroes don’t have any specific “powers” but they are embibed with a super strength that seems to course through most graphic novel characters.  The plot focusses on the threat of nuclear war and our heroes reuniting to try and stop it, framed inside a murder mystery.  I think I miss out a little in not having read the graphic novel, but you don’t feel like you’re missing a huge chunk of information.

The style is very reminiscent of Sin City, essentially a series of soliquys focussing in turn on different characters who are all interlinked.  Some characters are more interesting than others, my favourites being The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan AKA Denny Duquette to all us Grey’s Anatomy fans) and Rorschach (Jackie Earl Haley).  Dr Manhattan (Billy Crudup) is intriguing at first, but I got tired of his philosophical ramblings, and couldn’t stop myself drawing parallels with The Silver Surfer.

Dr Manhattan

The flashbacks are where the graphic style really comes into its own, making the actors almost seen drawn despite being live (think Scanner Darkly but not as obvious).  There’s also some great American history and pop culture references in the opening credit which are brilliantly stylised as a series of snapshots.  The design is brilliant, especially Rorschach’s ink-blot face, and is probably the most unmissable thing about the film.

What I really loved about Watchmen was the music.  There’s a lot of films who make great use of modern music, but Watchmen does it so perfectly it’s almost funny.  Playing Flight of the Valkyries over a Vietnam scene is a great pop culture reference, as well as appearances by Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence and Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World.  As for the Hallelujah scene, I’m not sure Simon Cowell knew the song’s true meaning when he stole it for X Factor.   Zack Snyder definitely did.

There are some very violent moments in the movie (even I had to look away a couple of times) but what do you expect from the man who brought us 300?  In the context of the stylised graphic novel, he just about gets away with it without being gratuitous.  Although there is one incident with a circular saw which seems somewhat unnecessary…

All in all, Watchmen might not quite live up to the hype in terms of storyline, but it is a masterpiece to look at, which I suppose is really the point with graphic novels.  They’ve always been more about the art than the story, so its only natural that the films follow suit.

Watchmen group

(The eagle eyed will notice this isn’t posted under “movies to see before you die” at the moment, I’m not sure its a survival necessity, but I do recommend)

*Update* I’ve decided to add it to the list

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Guess what I’m going to see today….

Posted on March 11, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: |


Review up asap.

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An apology…(and a mini-plug)

Posted on March 4, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , |

Hey everyone, remember me? Sorry I haven’t posted anything in ages, I’ve been very caught up with work and rehearsals for this years Opera.  Hopefully I’m going to see Watchmen next week though, so I should have something to write about!

I promise I haven’t forgotten about this blog…but while I’m at it, allow me a mini-plug for the Opera. It’s Bloch’s Macbeth and its going to be amazing.  This is the first time its been staged in Britain, and we have a special appearance from Ryland Davies as Duncan so its not to be missed!

Right, back to me essay, but see you in a weeks time at the latest for a Watchmen review. I’m hoping the vaguely negative mumblings I’m hearing aren’t true.

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Date for your diary…

Posted on February 25, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , |

Very excited to see a trailer for Watchmen last night. It’s coming out on the 6th March (that’s next Friday) and, crazy schedule permitting, hopefully I’ll be going to see it pretty soon. Can’t wait. 🙂

Got a mixed revies from Jonathan Ross (via twitter)

“I love it and at same time am unimpressed”

but I reckon it’ll defnitely be worth a watch, especially if I can make it to the IMAX.

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Posted on January 19, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

Watchmen finally has a release date! After much bickering between Warner Bros and Fox about money (what else), the film is finally going to come out on the 6th March 2009. Can’t wait.

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