If My Life Were a Movie

What if your life were a . . .  movie?

OK, I agree . . . that’s a highly implausible possibility, but who says we can’t be dreamers? I’m not one for self-indulgence, but every now and then, it’s fun to imagine what my life would be like if it were a movie . . .

Cast List

Female Lead (playing me)

  • First choice: Emma Stone
  • Second choice: Anna Kendrick
Reason for choices: No actress who is my age has handled dorkiness (House Bunny), drama (The Help), or comedy (Superbad) better than Emma Stone. She’s miles prettier than I am, but I couldn’t imagine anyone else able to play me. My second choice is Anna Kendrick because she’s great at playing awkward. And well, sometimes, I am just awkward.

Male Lead (playing opposite me)

  • First choice: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Second choice: John Krasinski
Reason for choices: Who else but Joseph Gordon-Levitt? I love him in every film he’s in. I think he brings something new and fresh to the table in all of his roles. That, and he’s hot. John Krasinski looks like the everyday guy that almost any girl wouldn’t mind falling in love with. I know I wouldn’t mind.

Dear ‘Ol Dad

  • First choice: Colin Firth
  • Second choice: Steve Carell
Reason for choices:  After seeing Colin Firth in What a Girl Wants, I knew I would be perfectly fine if he were my dad. On the other hand, Steve Carell is an entirely different choice. He can make the littlest things entertaining, yet he still has an endearing side to him that would make him an excellent father figure.

Mother Dearest

  • First choice: Susan Sarandon
  • Second choice: Meryl Streep
Reason for choices: It’s hard to describe what it is about Susan Sarandon that assures me she would make the perfect mom. She just seems like she’d be an awesome, fun mom. Meryl Streep is my second choice–I think I’d like her just for all her cooking in Julie & Julia, even though Julia’s a character. She seems like someone who’d have a lot of wisdom to offer.

Really Strange, But Awesome Sibling

  • First choice: Andy Samberg
  • Second choice: Adam Scott
Reason for choices: Andy Samberg embodies “strange, but awesome,” in my opinion. He has a bit of a douchey side to him in most movies he’s been in, yet he’s hilarious as heck on Saturday Night Live. Between Parks and Rec and Friends with Kids, I could only imagine Adam Scott as the perfect second choice to play a funny, but awesome older brother character.  

Crazy Uncle

  • First choice: Jim Carrey
  • Second choice: Jack Black
Reason for choices: Jim Carrey is known to be one crazy, hilarious dude, although I think he has a great handle on dramas too. He’s great at playing a variety of characters. Is it really necessary for me to explain either of my choices in this category? You tell me!

Villain of the Story

  • First choice: Ryan Seacrest
  • Second choice: Kristen Stewart
Reason for choices: Ryan Seacrest may sound like a nutty first choice for the villain, but one has to imagine he has to have some anger and frustration from hosting American Idol. Plus, I’d love to see the guy let loose and go crazy. Kristen Stewart . . . she already has the face down. She looks angry at the world.

Comic Relief

  • First choice: Aziz Ansari
  • Second choice: Neil Patrick Harris
Reason for choices: Aziz Ansari is hilarious. Few will ever deny this. Although I had a rather late introduction to him (30 Minutes or Less), he is comedy gold. From being an avid fan of How I Met Your Mother, I’ve learned that Neil Patrick Harris is one of the funniest dudes out there. Either making cameos or playing some small role as comic relief would be awesome.

Director

  • First choice: Marc Webb
  • Second choice: Nancy Meyers
  • Third choice: Cameron Crowe
Reason for choices: I’m still really all over the place with who I would choose as director. Hence, why I chose three different people. Marc Webb is responsible for directing one of my favorite movies of all time, and many of you already know what that is–(500) Days of Summer. For someone to incorporate that much reality into a film, with well-developed characters, yet somehow still include a musical dance number and make a film as endearing as it is? I can’t imagine a better director. Nancy Meyers is another fun choice because I’ve very much enjoyed several of her films, especially The Holiday and It’s Complicated. I think she really knows how to make a full, in-depth film with a female protagonist without making it feel too chick-flicky or overly romantic. She seems to be one of the few female directors out there who really has a specific vision, and when you see the film, you know that it’s a Nancy Meyers film. My final choice is Cameron Crowe. He would have been my first choice if I thought he could incorporate more comedy, but I see Crowe as a director who has a lot of heart and definitely some drama. And that’s what I love about him.

Film Composer

  • First choice: Hans Zimmer
  • Second choice: Nancy Wilson
  • Third choice: Henry Jackman
Reason for choices: Hans Zimmer is a master. He’s brilliant at developing new, ear-catching themes that outlast even some of the films he has scored for. Ultimately, Zimmer is my first choice to score a film. Nancy Wilson, although more of a rocker with far less experience, is still a talented musician with the ability to create a beautiful score, such as her work for Elizabethtown. Henry Jackman may sound like a strange third choice–I mean, why shouldn’t I choose someone far more experienced, like James Newton Howard or Alan Silvestri or Danny Elfman, all of whom I love? Jackman may has less experience, but he’s great at what he does. And he’s newer to the film score drawing board, similarly matching myself in that I’m still young. After falling in love with his work on X-Men: First Class score, I decided he would be a great back-up plan.

Theme Song

  • First choice: “Uncharted,” by Sara Bareilles
  • Second choice: “Ironic,” by Alanis Morisette
Reason for choices: I’m not as great as coming up with a good theme song. Instead of thinking long and hard about it, I just picked a couple songs in my library that I like a lot. I think both songs describe a lot of my own feelings about my life, so that’s helpful. I guess I could have chosen “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness. Wahaha.

Genre

  • Primary genre: Comedy
  • Secondary genre: Drama
  • Optional addition: Musical number
Reason for choices: No matter how I look at my life, through the big highs and lows, there always seems to be someone who finds things about me hilarious. I’ve always been attracted to people with a good sense of humor, comedy TV shows and movies, and I’ve even attended a small share of stand-up comedy.

What can I say? Sometimes I think the greatest escape to reality is surrounding yourself with people and media that can make you laugh. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve also had my share of drama. And I mean, honestly, whose life doesn’t at least have a little unwanted drama in it? And just because I love musicals so much, I think there just has to be musical number thrown in, just for good measure.

I tried to think of some nifty titles, but nothing came to mind. So I guess all of THAT will just have to do. I must admit, I had a tons of fun putting this together. So now, it’s YOUR turn, people!

If your life were a movie, who would you cast as yourself? and opposite you? Any specific director or cinematographer or costume designer you’d demand? What kind of genre would it be? Share it, or copy and paste mine and fill it in with your own choices! Add and take away what people you would include. What do you think of my choices? 

Week of Favorites: Composers

In the past few years, I’ve really taken to collecting film scores when I can afford it. It’s amazing to think that I had an even MORE difficult time compiling a favorites list of film composers than I did for actors or actresses. When it comes down to it–and I hope if you haven’t read anything else I’ve written, that you read this–that picking favorite film composers for the average movie lover is something that really comes down to the thought, what do you like to listen to? For someone who grew up playing many instruments and being involved in music frequently, I still lack that intuitive knowledge that would say, This is a good soundtrack because of X reason. At the end of the day, these composers are on this list because I really favor one or multiple scores of theirs.

John Williams

I’m not ranking John Williams on this (even though it is just a FAVORITES LIST) because I don’t think he ought to be ranked. He’s composed some of the greatest scores of our time and is a household name today. He’s absolutely brilliant when it comes to taking a few notes and creating a memorable melody that is remixed decades later for film remakes. On Williams’s 80th birthday, I posted about him in more detail. You can check out that post here.

6. Daft Punk

Since it’s nearly impossible to find a normal picture of Daft Punk, please enjoy this light-up dance routine to one of the tracks from TRON: Legacy.

Again, I struggled having only five composers on my list. It’s ironic that Daft Punk even makes this list considering that they have scored the soundtrack for only one film. The clincher for me is that it is one of my favorite scores I have listened to on repeat constantly, and I can’t find any other scores even comparable: TRON: Legacy. For two years, the duo that makes up Daft Punk–Frenchman Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter–collaborated with Joseph Trapanese, an arranger and composer who lives in LA. The score is performed by an 85-piece orchestra that combines both electronic and orchestral sounds. Daft Punk has released other types of albums, yet I hope that more film scores are in their future.

5. Henry Jackman

Henry Jackman is really a darkhorse pick even in terms of favorite composers of mine, because I haven’t heard a whole lot by him. After learning that he’s actually partially composed several scores, such as being the music programmer for The Da Vinci Code, the music arranger for The Dark Knight, and contributing to the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films, I consider Jackman to be more of an up and comer in the film composition industry. Jackman has worked under the strong direction of Hans Zimmer, who’s been referred to as Jackman’s mentor in the past. Jackman’s also helped write the score for Zimmer’s The Holiday, as well as the scores for the films Vantage Point and Monsters vs. Aliens. He’s recently started to head his own projects, the most memorable being his rich, intense score for last year’s X-Men: First Class. It was one of my favorite soundtrack scores of last year; you can read more about it in this previous post.

4. Nancy Wilson

To many, Nancy Wilson may be considered an odd choice given that she’s known more as a rock musician. According to her IMDB profile, Wilson has performed or written tracks for over 20 films. In terms of film composing, however, her number is quite a bit smaller: four films. Previously married to filmmaker Cameron Crowe, Wilson lended her film composing skills to several of his films, including Jerry Maguire, Almost FamousVanilla Sky, and Elizabethtown. I’m still convinced that Crowe went directly with Jonsi only for the score of We Bought a Zoo because he no longer has Wilson to collaborate with, but that’s just me speculating. Despite only composing for four films (some of which have only one or two tracks), Wilson still makes my favorites list because I’m a big fan of each of her tracks on each album. She mainly works with only acoustic guitar, and there’s a very earthy, deep feel to the sound. My recommendation is to check out her Elizabethtown score. I talk about it a little more in this post. It’s my favorite!

3. Hans Zimmer

This list would be incomplete without the addition of Hans Zimmer. He reminds me of the Peter Jackson of the film composition world because he’s so open and communicative with his fans. Zimmer has collaborated with other brilliant film composers, such as Klaus Badelt on some of the Pirates of the Caribbean scores as well as James Newton Howard (one who barely missed this list!) on Christopher Nolan’s batman films. Zimmer has won multiple awards, although he’s won only one Academy Award in his time (crazy or what?!) for The Lion King in 1994. His award-winning (and nominated) film scores tend to be his most well-known, such as GladiatorThe Last Samurai, and Inception. His colleagues at DreamWorks, who Zimmer happens to be head of the music division there, include both legendary film composers John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams, who composed the memorable, uplifting score for The Chronicles of Narnia films. Zimmer is also known for his collaboration with director Christopher Nolan, having joint-composed (if that can be a term) for Batman BeginsThe Dark Knight, and the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises with Newton Howard and composing for the critically-acclaimed film, Inception. My current favorite film scores of Zimmer’s are for Guy Ritchie’s first Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Inception.

2. Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman has a giant resume of film scores that I’ve never listened to, yet he makes it so high on this list because I’ve very much enjoyed the ones I have heard. He’s clearly at the top of his game right now composing for multiple films almost every year since 1980! Elfman is known for his collaboration with director Tim Burton, having composed for almost every one of Burton’s films. One of the most epic film score themes that earned Elfman a Grammy was the theme for Burton’s Batman in 1989. Elfman has been nominated four times for an Academy Award and has yet to win one. Because of his previous time spent in a rock band, Elfman has suffered hearing loss, which reminds me a little of Beethoven (that is, it’s interesting that great people in music needlessly work in the industry in spite of having poor hearing! crazy!). My favorite scores of his are for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series.

1. Alan Silvestri

The biggest reason Alan Silvestri is in my number one slot is that he composed my favorite score tracks I have heard. It seems that some of the biggest directors and film composers have tag-teamed in their collaborations to make films. Robert Zemeckis is the director who has acted as Silvestri’s main collaborater, Silvestri having scored for twelve of Zemeckis’s films. Silvestri has won two Grammys, one for the song “Believe” in The Polar Express, and one for the theme song to Cast Away in the Best Instrumental Composition category. Silvestri’s been nominated only twice for an Academy Award, once for Best Score for Forrest Gump and once for Best Original Song in The Polar Express. I think it’s a wonder that he can so strongly compose and write for two incredibly different segments of music, be it instrumental scores or writing an original song. You can look forward to hearing the score for the upcoming Avengers film coming out in May of this year. I can narrow down my favorites of Silvestri’s film scores to the Back to the Future series, Cast Away theme song, Forrest Gump, and Captain America: The First Avenger.

OK, who’s your favorite film composer(s)? What do you think of my choices? And most importantly, what tracks/albums/composer recommendations do you have for me? 🙂

15 Writers Who Didn’t Suffer from Writer’s Block

Since the Oscars have passed and there isn’t movie after movie to be discussing, I’ve hit a sort of writer’s block in trying to decide what to blog about next. Writing plays a large role in film, from the screenwriters and editors right down to characters with different writing professions in movies. So I decided to list several different types of writers in movies; this isn’t a favorites list by any means, but just a list of 15 different types of writers played throughout film.

1. The Blogger

– Julie in Julie & Julia, played by Amy Adams

Amy Adams’s character Julie was really searching for her niche, and she ended up finding two: cooking inspired by the famous Julia Child, and blogging about her journey through Child’s cookbooks. It’s interesting and neat to watch as Julie Powell’s blog becomes well-known.

2. The Greeting Card Writer

– Tom in (500) Days of Summer, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I had to include Tom played by the wonderful JGL because there just aren’t that many films about greeting card writers, save Mr. Deeds. Tom’s true passion is to be an architect, but he settles to write greeting cards, and in the process, encounters one of the loves of his life.

3. The Columnist

– John Grogan in Marley and Me, played by Owen Wilson

Midnight in Paris is not the first movie that Owen Wilson plays a writer. In Marley and Me, Wilson played real-life John Grogan, a writer who found his inspiration from a very poorly-behaved but lovable dog. His writing was so well-received, that his boss assigned Grogan his own column to write about whatever he wanted.

4. The Lyricist

– Sophie in Music and Lyrics, played by Drew Barrymore

While Barrymore’s character Sophie doesn’t claim to be any kind of writer, much less a lyricist, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), the man for whom she is “watering plants,” picks up on her ability to effortlessly write lyrics, and convinces her to help him write a song when he’s at a lost for words.

5. The Magazine Writer

– William in Almost Famous, played by Patrick Fugit

It seems like “the magazine writer” is overused in film; it’s almost a cop-out career for a character. But in Almost Famous, William, the semi-autobiographical character Cameron Crowe based Almost Famous around, gets the rare and exciting opportunity to write about an up and coming band for Rolling Stone.

6. The Novelist

– Mort in Secret Window, played by Johnny Depp

Based off a Stephen King novel, Secret Window stars Johnny Depp as a writer suffering from writer’s block. In his own way, Depp plays a rather funny writer–he’s unkempt, living in a trashy, hidden away home, depending entirely on his story to keep himself interested in much less besides eating and sleeping.

7. The Playwright

– Richard in Somewhere in Time, played by Christopher Reeve

Somewhere in Time isn’t a film thought of much for being about a man writing plays, but more of a love story that happens in reverse. Richard, played by Christopher Reeve, is a playwright living in Chicago. He manages to go back in time to meet the love of his life. But can he stay in the past forever?

8. The Biographer

– Jo in Little Women, played by Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder gives perhaps her most-well known (and one of her best) performances as Jo, the most obstinate and independent of four sisters. Jo doesn’t make it far with writing to begin with. Maybe because she hasn’t found the right material yet. But when he sister, Beth, dies, Jo decides to write a biography on her.

9. The Screenwriter

– Griffin in The Player, played by Tim Robbins

The Player showcases the world of Hollywood, specifically honing in on screenwriters. People are constantly pitching stories, searching for that million dollar idea to make into a movie. Tim Robbins stars as Griffin, a screenwriter who gets himself mixed up in some dangerous business, but something that may end up being worth telling a story about.

10. The Journalist

– Steve in The Soloist, played by Robert Downey Jr.

The “journalist” is another often used career for actors in films. I decided to choose a rather less-known film and writer, although Robert Downey Jr. is anything but “not well-known.” RDJ plays Steve, a character based (and book written by) the real Steve Lopez, who meets an interesting person who might change his perspective.

11. The Diary Keeper

– Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Diary, played by Renée Zellweger

Diaries are kept by many historical or well-known people. Bridget Jones is definitely not well-known where she’s from; she really just wants to lose weight and meet her prince charming. Zellwegers plays the hilarious Jones, who really gets in a bind when she meets two men, one played by the debonair Colin Firth, the other by the enticing Hugh Grant.

12. The Copy Editor

– Josie in Never Been Kissed, played by Drew Barrymore

I tried very hard not to include the same person twice, but Barrymore is really in her own element playing a copy editor/ undercover writer in Never Been Kissed. Although she blows her cover in the end, she still writes a memorable article that boosts the news for The Chicago Sun-Times and apologizes to the man she hurt.

13. The Ghost Writer

– the Ghost in The Ghost Writer, played by Ewan McGregor

Ewan McGregor essentially plays the “ghost” character in The Ghost Writer, who ends up writing and completing British Prime Minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) memoirs. The Ghost Writer is actually the only film I have not seen on this list; however, “ghost writer” really fit the need for another type of writer, so it’s added in the group.

14. The Cartoonist

– Robert in Zodiac, played by Jake Gyllenhaal

While I believe cartooning is in its own writing category, I would have included a section for “Code Writer” or “Killer Writer” to describe the character Zodiac in Zodiac; Gyllenhaal’s character Robert not only plays the role of a writer–he’s a cartoonist, but he also investigates the letters written by a killer.

15. The Poet

– William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love, played by Joseph Fiennes

While Fiennes plays Shakespeare in the peak of his play-writing days, I couldn’t think of a better film to include about a poet. Shakespeare wrote many well-known poems over his time in addition to his plays.

AEOS Review: Cameron Crowe and his Elizabethtown (2005)

This post, I’m focusing on director Cameron Crowe, and in particular, his film Elizabethtown, the mediocre-reviewed film considered a flop on the director’s resume.

Similar to the reviews Elizabethtown received, the movie reflects the low points a person must go through in order to learn about a little thing called life. To start this post off, here’s a quote from Crowe himself, published only 3 weeks ago in Vulture magazine regarding the critics’ poor reaction to the film Elizabethtown:

To me, only if something comes from an inauthentic place should you feel vulnerable to the things that anybody might say.

He defends the film insomuch without actually coming across as defensive, a feeling that would have been understandable considering the rough reviews it received.

I’ve read several negative reviews/comments regarding Cameron Crowe and his films since few believe any of his movies have lived up to his most well-known films, Almost Famous (2000) and Say Anything (1989). I have to applaud Crowe for the way in which he has handled the criticism, because as a filmmaker and an artist, he gets it. He goes on in Vulture:

I stand behind it [Elizabethtown] and didn’t feel savaged. It was a little brutal. But I get that people want to express themselves. I express myself, too.

Crowe is one of those filmmakers who makes movies that resonate, even if they don’t connect with a wide audience. Crowe is an autobiographical filmmaker. There aren’t many of those out there–filmmakers who live, write, and then direct a movie that mirrors one’s own life. In a sit-down, unscripted interview with Orlando Bloom, the film’s star, both filmmaker and actor answer questions written in by viewers, and questions each have compiled for one another. Bloom asks Crowe what is the one thing he looks for in an actor, and without hesitation, Crowe replies, “Authenticity.” He goes on to say how he looks for authenticity in a person’s eyes, and that’s how an actor can connect with an audience, because the performance given is not just a performance, but something true and honest that viewers can find relatable.

After watching the film a few times, I started to wonder. . . how the heck did Crowe get Orlando Bloom to sign on to this movie? It’s nothing like Bloom has ever done before, and despite criticism on the Brit’s American accent (which really wasn’t bad!), Bloom sold it. But before he joined, could you imagine Ashton Kutcher filling the role? Well, he was hired until Crowe decided to call up Bloom. It’s amazing to think that James Franco and Chris Evans auditioned for the role too.

When it comes to writing, the old cliche goes, “you should write what you know.” That is what Crowe does, and Elizabethtown is example of that. At the end of the day, Crowe doesn’t care that many people–namely, critics–didn’t like Elizabethtown. And as a big fan of the movie, I don’t care that they didn’t get it either. Yes, there were some cheesy parts, or lines that were a little far out, but guess what I got out of it? A lot of heart, something Cameron Crowe films are filled with.

If you read or watch any interview with Crowe back from 2005, you’ll learn that the movie was a tribute to his late father. The movie, made over a decade after his father passed, was meant to bring to light those moments where you get to know your parents better after they passed because you failed (or in this movie’s case, Drew Baylor failed) to spend that vital time with family before they were gone.

I’ve seen Elizabethtown maybe a dozen or more so times. I always try to put several months between each viewing, because there’s nothing like noticing things you didn’t see the first, second, or eighth viewing, and this time around, it was no different.

Most of my friends that I beg to sit down and watch Elizabethtown with don’t take away what I’ve taken from it. What makes the Elizabethtown stand out to me? Well, the soundtrack, for one. Before Crowe and Nancy Wilson divorced, Wilson collaborated with Crowe on the soundtracks for many of his films. She composed a fitting score for Elizabethtown, combining a lot of string instruments, namely guitar and banjo, to blend with the rich soundtrack including a laundry list of classic artists, from Patty Griffin to Tom Petty to I Nine to Elton John to My Morning Jacket, who posed as the fictional band “Ruckus” in the film. Perhaps my favorite score song of all time is on the score soundtrack, titled “River Road,” by Nancy Wilson. I love how it captures the feeling of the movie and the characters without being boring or just adding sound to the background.

Another aspect I really appreciated was the tone of the movie. There’s a scene where Drew (Orlando Bloom) walks in and is literally bombarded with all these crazy, random southerners who know all about him and his success with his job, while he returns hugs and looks to people he’s meeting for the first time. It’s one of the best movie representations of southern charm and family and the way they express themselves, and Bloom easily portrays a fish out of water in the setting.

I could go on about several different moments that I especially enjoyed from the movie, but I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that Elizabethtown isn’t for everyone. And for those who have already seen the film and disliked it, I’m not going to convince, no matter how great I believe the movie is, or how heartwarming I express Crowe as a filmmaker and writer to be. But for me, Elizabethtown is one of those movies I will watch again and again, because the movie captures little moments in life that I’ve experienced, and it’s a great reminder about what’s important in life–not success, but time spent with the people who matter. About taking life a step future and contemplating who and what is significant to be spending time with.

And this just in . . . 

I tweeted Cameron Crowe about Elizabethtown and got a reply from him! Check it:

Trailer Friday – The Raven

When you hear the name John Cusack, you do not think character role. You do not think historical character, and you most certainly do not think historical character role. Why? Because it’s John Cusack. John Cusack is the guy in the rom coms, holding the stereo over his head to get the girl in Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything (1989) or leaving fate to decide his destiny in Serendipity (2001). Yes, Cusack has filled various roles over his long career, such as a Jewish art dealer in Max (2002) or as a puppeteer in the Oscar-nominated Being John Malkovich (1999). He’s even in dipped his toes in the screenwriting business when he co-wrote and starred in the political film War, Inc (2008).

No matter how you look at it though, his most well-known roles are romantic comedies or thrillers such as the over-the-top 2012 from 2009. Cusack is your everyman who looks and talks the same in just about everything he’s in. He’s usually very likable, but it seems like there’s often an “X-factor” that he’s lacking. Or maybe it’s that most of us are so accustomed to watching him play the underdog, that his talent is far more underrated. Born in Chicago, Cusack has retained a low profile, staying out of the media limelight.

And now we have this awesome trailer for The Raven, which actually came out in early October of last year. Perhaps I was sleeping or completely unaware of its release, but after a viewing, I was immediately pulled in. Now I have to see this movie. From the trailer, one can assume a few things:

–John Cusack is playing the legendary Edgar Allen Poe

–The movie is more of an action/thriller than a drama

–There’s a story being told here that is atypical of what many of us assume Edgar Allen Poe is about

Cusack’s done the thrillers before, as well as portrayed a writer in Stephen King’s adapted book-to-movie 1408 (2008), and now he’s playing the historically dark and edgy writer Edgar Allen Poe. As someone commented on the YouTube video, the movie appears to have a very Sherlock Holmes-like feel and look to it, as well as similar type story line.

Director James McTeigue is no stranger to the action genre, having assisted in directing both Matrix sequels (1999, 2003), V for Vendetta (2005), and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002). Watch for The Raven to open in theaters March 9.

Backstage Spotlight: 2011 Film Scores

To my own surprise, I didn’t find Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo score as interesting as their award-winning score that accompanied 2010’s The Social Network. I felt let down by the second installment of Sherlock Holmes in part due to Hans Zimmer’s lacking, all-over-the-place score. I was especially underwhelmed with Cameron Crowe’s decision to feature only Jonsi on the We Bought a Zoo soundtrack.

With those disappointments in mind, I still found three scores surprisingly well-fit for the movies they served.

  • Michael Giacchino’s score for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

While director Brad Bird was a newbie to live-action film directing until the latest installment in the Mission Impossible franchise, he took with him music composer and collaborator Michael Giacchino, who is known more for his stellar work on animated films such as his Oscar-winning score Up, or Cars 2. Giacchino isn’t a stranger to composing for live-action film, however. His work extends not only to film, but also to the popular show Lost. One of my favorite Giacchino’s scores is the latest Star Trek reboot.

Giacchino did a nice job of subtly blending the well-known Mission Impossible theme while creating new themes for the locations the IMF team traveled, such as the track titled “A man, a plan, a code, Dubai.” The fast-paced, entertaining soundtrack well complemented the adrenaline-pumping film.

  • Alexandre Desplat’s score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2

You don’t need to be a fan of Harry Potter to be a fan of this exciting, beautifully composed score. Well-set theme tracks for certain characters to a gorgeous, sweeping end theme accompanying the epilogue, The King’s Speech composer Desplat pulled out all the stops to deliver one of the better scores for the Harry Potter franchise. With the likes of John Williams (composed for the first 2 films), Patrick Doyle, and Nicholas Hooper to follow, Desplat was given probably an easier opportunity to compose when he was writing for the epic finale in the series. Nonetheless, I applaud him for making one of the more listenable soundtracks that entertains in its entirety, unlike some of its predecessors.

If you buy the soundtrack, you’ll also get a Behind the Scenes music video featurette of Desplat conducting the final song on the soundtrack, “A New Beginning.”

  • Henry Jackman’s score for X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class introduced me to Henry Jackman, who I had never heard of before seeing the film. While I was seeing the film, I couldn’t help but wonder who had composed it, because it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Suitably entertaining, powerful, and emotional, Jackman’s score lends the needed feeling to both the action scenes and the more emotionally-focused moments. He retains a similar theme throughout the entire soundtrack, making it memorable in viewer’s heads. This was easily my favorite score from 2011.

Even one of the trailers for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy featured the track “Frankenstein’s Monster,” from the score:

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Patrick Doyle’s score for Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Patrick Doyle’s score for Thor

Ludovic Bource’s score for The Artist

What film scores from 2011 were you a fan of? Did you like any of the ones I didn’t?

December ’11: Entertainment vs. Oscar Hopefuls

While 2011 hasn’t been an altogether disappointing year for film, it hasn’t entirely sparked a whole new generation of moviegoers to enter the film arena, or blown away even the most dedicated cinefile. Now, that isn’t to say there haven’t been some gems found amidst the crap, or some really decent, fun movies that critics have torn apart for this reason or that, but put it on the month of December to impress viewers the most. The November/December season usually holds the majority of the Best Picture noms as well as many of the other nominations for the upcoming Oscars in February.

For Entertainment Purposes:

1) Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Although the first SH in this series was pretty good, the only hit for it at the Oscars was its score by Hans Zimmer (which was very new and original). Although I’d love to see a movie like this gather some Oscar chatter, I don’t consider it a possibility given RDJ’s askew British accent and the film’s focus on more comedy/entertainment than story line (see either trailer to get a good look at RDJ dressed as a woman for one of his disguises). Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunate) for RDJ, his sarcasm and sense of humor has taken the lead in marketing for the more recent movies he has been or will be in (see both Iron Mans, trailer(s) for Game of Shadows, trailer for The Avengers). The special effects, however, do look pretty incredible, and the cinematography looks similar to the likes of 300, as well as the previous SH.

2) Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol

While I’m tired of hearing the argument–how can there be one, much less MULTIPLE impossible missions–I do respect the point and have to give it a little credit. This fourth movie in the franchise, however, looks promising as well as ending for the series, at least when it comes to Tom Cruise’s role as Ethan Hunt. The story line looks promising and more complex than past movies, and the stunts look even bigger and crazier. My hope is that the series ends after this film without a new start-up starring Jeremy Renner (geez, he’s already started that with The Bourne Series, let’s not do this with MI too!).

3) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

From what I’ve heard, the Swedes have done this series right in every way, and now we’ll see whether America can follow suite with the fictional book series and do it justice. Although there’s possibility for this movie to touch the Academy (past series have done so before–LOTR!), the odds are not in the favor of a fictional book-to-film adaptation unless you’re Peter Jackson. Still, this movie looks entertaining and interesting and different, and it looks like there’s a great cast ready to tell the story.

Oscar Hopefuls:

1) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Now when I call them “Oscar Hopefuls,” I mean that I hope that these films do something at the Oscars. And I think they have a good possibility as well. I wrote more about this movie in this post. I do think its talented British cast and interesting storyline, if well-played out, could possibly touch the Academy. The Brits have been reeling (pun intended) about this movie, and many critics have already awarded high marks to this movie since its earlier release in the UK.

2) The Iron Lady

Of all the movies I have listed, this is the film I have read or heard the least chatter about. For a political film starring Meryl Streep, I’m practically stunned that I’ve heard so little about this film. Streep has phoned in multiple Oscar-nominated (and won) performances, and it’s doubtful that this one will not join her other remarkable and stunning performances. Coupled with coming out during Oscar season and being part of a political thriller genre, it’s setting up all the right moves for gaining it’s own slot in the awards season. Stay tuned and watch out for this movie. I have a good feeling about this one.

3) We Bought a Zoo

I also wrote more about this movie in this post. Although Crowe has yet to get a film talked about at the Academy since Almost Famous, I think We Bought a Zoo has great potential. The Crowe and Damon alliance has happened for the first time, and it could reap great results. Crowe’s real-life, person-centered storytelling honed in, with the right cast, could earn him a spot.

4) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

This is surprisingly my first mention of this film. The trailer for this movie kind of came out of nowhere for me, and having people like Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock head this project makes that especially shocking. A new take and perspective on 9/11, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is already making viewers cry during the preview. I really look forward to this movie and could see it moving critics as well.

That’s my take on December! I’ve certainly seen a share of entertaining and critical films that have already been talked about for the next Oscar season. We’ll see what December holds for moviegoers. What are looking forward to watching the most this month? And do you think any of the films listed (or others not listed) have Oscar potential?

Little Less Known Up and Coming Movies

I boggled my mind to come up with a decent title for this post, but as you just read, it doesn’t really fit what I’m trying to describe. There’s a few movies that haven’t been marketed to death in our theater previews, TV commercials, and various billboards outside. These movies, however, are some of the ones I look most forward to for the end of the year. I might even have to do a little pre-Academy Awards speculation about a few.

  • J. Edgar

This film, in fact, has been marketed some, but primarily only as of late since its release date is Nov. 11. Personally, I think LDC had a fantastic year last year in film (Shutter IslandInception), yet he didn’t receive a nomination for either. Perhaps playing a historical figure (think Colin Firth [The King’s Speech] from last year) will be just what he needs to score a nod this year.

J. Edgar

  • The Descendants

I will admit that this film has already previewed as well, despite it’s later release date of Nov. 18. The main ploy here is George Clooney (yet again this year, thanks for Ides of March, sir) and Shailene Woodley from a little show called The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Since Clooney’s already dipped his toes in a political drama, maybe he’s looking to add some variety and thinks an indie flick will up his chances at the awards this year. I look forward to this movie much more than Ides. Maybe because Clooney didn’t write or direct it.

The Descendants

  • The Artist

The week following the release of The Descendants comes this 1920s film about a romance between a silent movie filmmaker and a girl who plays an extra. Michel Hazanavicius directs, who is responsible primarily for French TV movies and series that came out in the late 90s.

The Artist

  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I have been waiting for this movie to come out longer than the others. Originally, I was expecting it to come out last month, only to discover that the U.K. was going with a September release date; U.S. is waiting until December. Based off a novel and composed of a mostly British cast, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is about an intelligence officer who believes there may be a Soviet mole in the British Secret Intelligence Service. Gary Oldman stars (or you could just look at the poster).

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

  • The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep seems incapable of picking a movie that doesn’t put her in a very interesting position. She has played a world reknown chef, the boss from hell, a mom with no clue who she had her child with (musical . . . you know this one, right?), an object to be fought over between Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, and those are only more recent roles she’s played. I saw an SNL video that had one of the actors playing her, iceskating for the first time . . . perfectly. The joke? Meryl Streep is capable of doing anything perfectly. And this time she plays this interesting person called the Iron Lady, being the first and only female prime minister of the United Kingdom. One of my most-anticipated films this winter.

The Iron Lady

  • We Bought a Zoo

Perhaps it is time for Cameron Crowe to make his comeback at the Oscars and receive some nominations, because it’s been too long since Almost Famous. Plus, this time he has Scarlett Johansson and Matt Damon to help him. We Bought a Zoo is based off a true story of a widower picking up the pieces of his life by buying a rundown zoo in hopes of repairing it, and in return, hoping it repairs him. Crowe is one of my favorite directors. He’s responsible for Jerry McGuire, Vanilla Sky, and Elizabethtown to name a few. He’s in touch with the best of artists out there and knows how to put together an inspired soundtrack (not score . . . ehem) better than most directors, in my opinion.

We Bought a Zoo

The Music That Moves Me

One of my favorite aspects of film, if not my absolute favorite, is the music. I love starting this conversation with my friends. We start talking about film music, and halfway into the conversation, we both realize we’re not talking about the same thing. They’re  thinking soundtrack; I’m specifically thinking film score.

Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to much music. Actually, there were very strict guidelines for what I was and wasn’t allowed to listen to; surprisingly, however, film scores always wiggled their way into my CD player. All the way through high school and mid-college, my likes for film didn’t evolve or grow much past well-known John Williams or Hans Zimmer (two AMAZING composers, though!) albums, but since then I’ve tried to stretch and really appreciate all that is out there. So many talented composers are alive and well and composing for films that are great and films that aren’t, but they’re definitely out there!

Most film score soundtracks I purchase are from films that I’ve watched and was moved by. Marketers know this when hiring certain composers for a type of film. Music bleeds emotion, and when film-goers can exit a theater feeling and experiencing a certain emotion, a composer has accomplished part of his job – leave a lasting memory in the heart of the listener. And while the audience might give all credit to the film itself, the score plays a large role in influencing the film’s audience.

While I’ve also added numerous film soundtracks to my music library, I’m just going to focus on film scores for this post. In no intended order, here is a list of some my favorite film scores:

  1. Eagle Eye – Brian Tyler
  2. The Holiday – Hans Zimmer
  3. 27 Dresses – Randy Edelman
  4. The Wedding Date – Blake Neely (Fun fact [FF]): A physical copy of this record is rare. Only 1,000 copies were ever produced.)
  5. TRON: Legacy – Daft Punk
  6. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Hans Zimmer (Most people assume all three soundtracks were composed by Hans Zimmer. Klaus Badelt composed The Black Pearl. Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt worked together for Dead Man’s Chest.)
  7. Elizabethtown – Nancy Wilson (FF: Wilson is married to the Writer-Director of the film, Cameron Crowe. That’s convenient.)
  8. Dan in Real Life – Sondre Lerche (FF: This film score includes a lot of vocals, which is atypical for a score. Lerche also appears in the film, performing for the wedding reception, at the movie’s end. The director mentioned that even if the film flopped, one of his primary goals was to get Sondre Lerche’s music out there!)
  9. Star Trek – Michael Giacchino
  10. Inception – Hans Zimmer
  11. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Howard Shore

I know Hans Zimmer makes my list three times, but this group holds many of my absolute favorites. For me, the music that moves me often comes from the emotional attachment I have with a film. While Star Trek didn’t exactly have me leaving in tears (sarcastic remark: check!), Dan in Real Life, Elizabethtown, and The Wedding Date are three of my favorite films that I’ve not only watched several times each, but I have also connected emotionally with.

My appreciation for film music comes from the thought of walking into a theater and watching a movie with no score. For all those moments that don’t include a soundtrack playing (and there are MANY of them), a film score quietly and discreetly or very poignantly accompanies what we’re viewing. A film wouldn’t be able to move as quickly as it does or make a certain impact without that music.

So next time you walk into a theater, pay close attention when someone isn’t singing or when someone isn’t talking during the movie. Yeah – that’s the sound of the score moving the film, and then the film moving you.