Not a Review: Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar really is the second film of 2014 to garner this much attention and discussion. Gone Girl struck most people with awe and terrifyingly great casting, performances, and storytelling. Interstellar, however, seems to elicit more conversation, more discussion, more disagreement, more studies, more generated lists of plot holes and questions and subtexts and metaphors linked to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

And that’s all good and grand. Because, folks, even though Interstellar may not be Christopher Nolan’s best film, or considered his best work, it is grand, both on figurative scale to be viewed on seven different possible formats, as well as massive in its ambitious subject matter, as well as tremendous in the spark of conversation and criticism that has quickly followed its release into theaters.

I could continue talking about its reception among film critics, writers, fans, and talkers like myself, who can continue to talk and talk and talk about this film, and yet not really create anything original, or offer any new information that is going to keep you reading beyond this sentence.

It is for that reason I have decided not to review Interstellar for All Eyes On Screen. My common consensus? A great movie. My rating? THREE OUT OF FOUR EYES ON SCREEN. My thoughts in summary? Nothing that hasn’t already been said by so many people.

It’s not that I don’t want to share my opinion, or join the masses of everyone out there who has already graciously and meticulously put into words what I haven’t yet done. It’s that in this case, how I feel about Interstellar truly can’t be put into words in a way that would satisfy me, because it evoked so many feelings, included so many ideas, transcended space and time the same way it transcended my own understanding of what was taking place on screen.

I could talk about about how much I was blown away by the scene in which there is this massive wave, bigger than any wave I’ve ever seen, and how it took over the theater screen the same way it almost took out their space craft.

I could talk about Matthew McConaughey re-entering film fans’s lives with his stellar (pun intended) performance that reminded each of us once again that this man is in the acting business for a reason.

I could talk about how Hans Zimmer has the best relationship with lightning strikes, because he continues to hit them every time he produces yet another electrifying score, yet here he is, still breathing. And this time it features an organ, an instrument capable of sounding so powerful and terrifying as being imprisoned in deep space without a ride home.

I could talk about the actors who seemed like they weren’t given enough to do, or how the heck Topher Grace landed himself a most unimportant role in such an important film with such a popular filmmaker.

I could talk about the “controversy” over who younger Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) looked more like: Jessica Chastain or Anne Hathaway. I mean, I’m all Team Chastain here, but seriously, how did this make it into the top list of questions for this film?!

I could talk about scientific jargon, the plot holes that may or may not necessarily play their role in science fiction, or about how Interstellar was never set on being just a scientific film, but more a study on the science of love’s transcendence that just happened to take place in space.

Then again, I could talk and talk and talk about my observations, but at the end of the day, Interstellar has found its place in critics’s reviews and bloggers’s posts, in discussion and questions swirling around in our minds, begging for more conclusion and understanding.

And a film that could spark that kind of response is a very special film indeed.

So to conclude this totally not a review, but a mixed bag of feelings brought to you by Kristin, I kindly ask each of you who leave a comment to include one to three words to describe your overall description or feelings on this film. Because God knows we’ve all been littering the Internet with our extensive musings on a film that has so much to be said about it. And yet Nolan used only one word: Interstellar.

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Score Spotlight: Spider-Man (2002)

love movie scores, often more so than their soundtracks. I’ve purchased several favorites throughout the years, and one of them that recently came up in my shuffle mode was Danny Elfman’s brilliant score for the first Spider-Man film that came out in 2002.

One of the more interesting facts about the score is that Danny Elfman, who is usually known as a big part of the tag-team of Burton and Elfman for their collaboration in film and scores, had actually already worked with Sam Raimi on a couple of his films prior to Spider-Man, including Darkman (1990) and Army of Darkness (1993).

Elfman’s score for the first Spider-Man film was critically successful, winning numerous awards in 2002, including a BMI Film Music Award, a Golden Trailer Award, a Saturn Award, and a Grammy Award Nomination for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media.

There are several notable tracks on the score, but I think its Main Title is one the strongest themes created for a superhero franchise, with the scores for the remakes often making it onto the cons lists when comparing the old and newer films. One of the things I disliked most about the Spider-Man remakes was the score. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) at least offered some better work from Hans Zimmer along with The Magnificent 6, but for me both scores pale in comparison to this genius work of Danny Elfman in the first Spider-Man film.

 

One of my other favorite tracks on the album is City Montage:

 

Although with enough time passed and more remakes in the works, I think Elfman’s score will stand the test of time, even if the film itself doesn’t.

It’s your turn now. What is your favorite Danny Elfman score? Which score do you prefer of all five Spider-Man films? Please join the conversation below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

Blogathon: AEOS’s Guilty Pleasure Movies

Jenna and Allie over at Chick Flicks decided to start their own blogathon about guilty pleasure movies. I learned about it from Caz over at Let’s Go to the Movies, who included some great guilty pleasure movies in his list. Be sure to check out his post.

The rules were simple (check them out here!), and the only one I broke (but with permission), is that I missed the deadline. Thanks to Jenna and Allie for still letting me participate! 🙂

Most of my guilty pleasure favorites, I must admit, are comedies, many involving romance. The intelligent movie-viewer inside me always seems to poke when I want to watch of these films, exacting that balance of guilt and pleasure that I enjoy indulging every now and then. Without further ado, here are five guilty pleasures movies I occasionally enjoy:

1) The Wedding Date (2005)

The Wedding Date

Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney in The Wedding Date.

Critical Consensus: It’s not a great movie. The plot is thin, the protagonist has security issues, and the overall storyline fails. But no one needs a rehash of what 90% of the Rotten Tomatoes critics thought.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: I loved the chemistry between Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney. The latter is hunky and confident in the film, making him a good lead. Messing plays a somewhat frustrating character at times, but nonetheless, relatable. Outshined by her over-the-top younger sister (played by Amy Adams), Messing’s character struggles with accepting her current status. The story takes place over in London, which was a nice switch from the typical rom-com in New York. The father figure is strong and funny (Peter Egan), and perhaps more than all the above reasons, I loved the soundtrack, which featured 90s Maroon Five and some Michael Buble hits.

Movie Fun Fact: The film score’s composer, Blake Neely, stretched his rookie composing muscles on The Wedding Date, the film being his first solo feature film assignment. The score was first released as a limited edition CD that quickly sold out, but has been repeatedly asked for after its success and popularity.

2) 13 Going on 30 (2004)

Jennifer Garner and Andy Serkis doing the Thriller in 13 Going on 30.

Critical Consensus: Same formula we’ve seen over again, but Jennifer Garner shines as the leading lady.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: The scene when Garner and Mark Ruffalo dance the Thriller. Lord of the Ring‘s (2001) Andy Serkis plays a fashion editor, Judy Greer is the villainous best friend, and Mark Ruffalo is the lovable guy that got away. I always thought Jennifer Garner played her best character as Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30. It’s a movie with a lot of sweet moments, both romantic and also hilarious.

Movie Fun Fact: Behind the Scenes footage on the DVD includes interviews with the main cast who talk about their younger self-portrayal counterparts. It’s always interesting to see who gets cast as the young version of an older, popular actor.

3) Jingle All the Way (1996)

Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way.

Critical ConsensusJingle All the Way received mixed reviews, some scathing, and some hopeful that the movie made the OK mark.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: I grew up watching this movie as a kid, cracking up. It became a family tradition at my parents’ home to watch this movie around Christmas every year, and somehow, we have continued on with this tradition in more recent years. Sinbad’s character, Myron, is so beyond insane at times, that you can’t help but laugh at the guy. Jingle All the Way makes people either laugh or shake their heads. I’m in the former group.

Movie Fun Fact: As of February of 2014, a sequel has gone into production, featuring none of the original cast. Instead, Larry the Cable plays the lead in the project.

4) Happy Gilmore (1996)

Christopher McDonald and Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore.

Critical Consensus: Dividng the critics, Happy Gilmore still managed to receive a fresh tomato on the Tomatometer, and even scored a 7 out of 10 on IMDB.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: Back in the day when Adam Sandler knew how to make people laugh in his movies, the comedian seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. Happy Gilmore is one of those funny entries that make it onto Sandler’s list of “funny movies from ‘back in the day,'” and it remains one of my favorite quotable comedies that I will continue watching if I catch it on TV in the afternoon. His humor isn’t for everyone, but Sandler gave new meaning to the game of golf, and the hilarious work of the supporting cast (Ben Stiller, Christopher McDonald) won me over.

Movie Fun Fact: MTV awarded Happy Gilmore an award for the Best Fight between Adam Sandler and Bob Barker.

5) The Holiday (2006)

The Holiday

Kate Winslet and Jack Black in The Holiday

Critical ConsensusThe Holiday is yet another one of my guilty pleasures that received overall mediocre scores with critics, despite its well-known cast.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: Hans Zimmer’s score is captivating in this film, so much so that I listen to it every year, especially around the holidays. I love the cast, although I enjoy the scenes with Kate Winslet and Jack Black over Cameron Diaz and Jude Law. Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of viewing this film is the small part Eli Wallach (RIP) plays as the old, but not forgotten Hollywood screenwriter Arthur Abbott.

Movie Fun Fact: When watching The Holiday, I just assumed Kate Winslet was older than Cameron Diaz, given Winslet’s established filmography and graceful personality (perhaps her accent had something to do with it too?). I was shocked to discover that Cameron Diaz is actually three years older than the Brit!

It’s your turn now. What are some of your guilty pleasure films? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

AEOS Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Not Avengers. Not The Hobbit. Not the first of The Hunger Games or the last of Twilight produced the most anticipated hype for movies in 2012. I still believe that The Dark Knight Rises was the most anticipated film of the year. You can even add in a Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino flick near Oscar movie season, and I still hold firm in casting Nolan’s ending Batman in that top spot.

And with so much hoopla surrounding a film, only the inevitable seems probable, right? In other words, it’s not really possible for a movie to fulfill the impossible expectations that we, as film viewers, critics, audience, or even your average, everyday film-goers, have placed upon the film and shoulders of one Christopher Nolan, right?

Code language aside, The Dark Knight Rises was faced with an uphill battle the moment The Dark Knight hit theaters back in 2008. With a Batman movie receiving that kind of critical acclaim and love from critics and audiences together, how could the now much-recognized director deliver on an even higher and better level? He still has all the same people in his pockets–his brother, Jonathan, as co-writer; his cast with Christian Bale and Michael Caine leading; his composer, Hans Zimmer; his executive producer, Michael Uslan–the list goes on of course. But can the same team of people create an even better film?

With the unexpected death of Heath Ledger, perhaps there were minor (or major) script changes following The Dark Knight. Regardless, following TDK‘s massive success came the decision to finish the series with a final film, thus creating another trilogy film set–and according to some (and me in that group)–the best film trilogy made yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This Is Not a Summary

I met up with my film buddy, Fredo, from FilmYarn yesterday to record a podcast on the film. When he posts it, I’ll be sure to include a link here. Before recording, one idea we talked about was how oftentimes many film reviews are just pretty summaries of the film. Am I guilty of doing that? Oh yes. Multiple times, in fact. But in order to offer something I hope will be a little fresher, I’m working extra hard with this “review” in order to make it not just a film review reiterating plot points, but something a little different, and hopefully something that will boost some outside-of-the-box thoughts and discussion from you guys.

My Initial Reaction(s)

I forced myself to not write this review until I had seen the film at least twice. Often when I see a film a second time, I have a very different reaction. I’m happy to say that this was the case, even though I didn’t even allow 24 hours between my two viewings.

After I saw TDKR for the first time, I loved it. Thought it was great. But I couldn’t dispose of the nagging feeling in my head that TDK was better, superior, and overall the better film of the two. And that was frustrating, because this was the END! Never again will I get to see a new Nolan Batman film and compare. Regardless, I went back the following day and caught an afternoon viewing with a friend who had yet to see it. The result this time?

Still, I loved it. But my complaints had narrowed considerably. I liked it probably ten times better than the first viewing. Partly, because I caught quite a few more things the second time around, and was able to better relax while watching. Any movie that has a decent amount of depth and plot usually requires me to view it twice minimum in order to get out as much as possible about a film.

Comparison to Its Older Cousin, Spiderman 2

Although this may seem like an odd comparison, I felt like I kept seeing parts of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 while watching. Spiderman 2, was, in fact my favorite of Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy, as well as the best-reviewed of the three. That point aside, consider the plot of Spiderman 2. In the opening scene, Peter Parker loses his job. Mary-Jane is with another guy. Peter gives up being Spiderman for a short time. The guy is picked apart and stripped down. It isn’t until he hits his lowest point that he regains speed, reclaims his title as Spiderman, fights the bad guys, and reunites with the girl.

In TDKR, in an effort to not spoil or give anything away (in this section), I’ll hold off on revealing too much. Essentially, however, the same idea takes place; any person who has viewed the trailer can piece that together. The idea is in the title–the action on Batman’s part, “rises”–implies that he must be low in order to rise. This idea moves me into the next thought I had . . . .

Metaphorical vs. Heavy-Handed

Fredo and I argued about whether TDKR treated its theme as a metaphor in a literal sense, or was it really just Christopher Nolan being heavy-handed in over-exaggerating the theme? I, for one, vote on the side of metaphorical. Picking up where I left off, Batman is in a low place, and therefore must rise. Several parts of the film adopted the idea of being low in order to rise. Various scenes were filmed underground. Bruce Wayne/Batman started off the film in a low place–weak mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even the time of day/weather played a role in literally rising.

Fredo saw this use of emphasizing the theme of rising as more like banging the audience over the head with a hammer constantly. It wasn’t just enough to have Batman rise to the occasion, to rise to the problems of Gotham and put his best foot forward; Nolan had to emphasize the idea of rising in multiple outlets and formats throughout the film. While I very much appreciated the purposefulness of it all, others, like Fredo, did not.

For those of you who saw the film, would you consider the film more metaphorical, or handled far too heavy? For those of you who have not seen it, please take this idea in mind and let me know what you think when you do see it!

It’s Such a Nolan Film

Anyone who has seen multiple Nolan films will agree that TDKR follows the same formula of his other films. Every scene, every piece of dialogue, every action, every tangible and intangible element has a purpose and point for being in its place at its time in the film. Everything is planned out. His films are literally puzzles, and each scene acts as a piece that must be placed at a specific time and place in the correct space.

The element of time, while is important for the film, doesn’t bear the necessity it does in his other films. In Memento, the time functioned in a more nonlinear structure. In Inception, time could be extended in various levels of dream stages, thus elongating itself in order for certain actions to take place. Nolan’s Batman films don’t quite restructure time like his others; however, time plays an essential role in certain actions needing to take place.

The film contained quite a few flashbacks in order to successfully tell the story. Nolan loves him some flashbacks. He makes great use of the device in The PrestigeInception, and Memento. The flashbacks tell a great story that reveals pertinent information in the film. 

Ensemble Cast from Heaven

In his review of the film, Richard Roeper called watching this cast work as “movie heaven.” Even with TDKR‘s flaws, the cast really pulled out all the stops. There wasn’t a weak force on screen. Anne Hathaway was a stand-out just for not screwing up the role. Viewers went into the film with the lowest expectations for her, and she turned around and surprised many of us, including me.

Complaints have been made regarding Tom Hardy’s Bane. I talk more about his motivations in the Closing Thoughts/Queries section, but speaking just on his performance, I’d have to say he was nothing short of excellent. Talking with that device over his face had to be pretty difficult to deal with. He was menacing and expressed himself through his eyes, and while he might not have “stolen” scenes, he certainly took center stage when he was on screen.

The scenes shared between Christian Bale and Michael Caine were some of the strongest. My one big frustration (SPOILER) was Alfred going MIA the entire second half of the film.

Full Circle . . . for the Fans

SPOILERS AHEAD! 

And now I can’t hold back from spoiling parts, because in order to appreciate the idea that TDKR fulfilled Nolan’s Batman in such a satisfying way, one has to point out those lovely gifts Nolan wrote into the film. Getting to see Liam Neeson in a few short scenes as Ra’s al Ghul was such a treat. To learn of his connection in TDKR with Miranda Tate as his daughter, his heir who desires to finish his legacy, really makes it feel like we’re watching a finished, fulfilled version of Batman Begins.

Cillian Murphy returning for a couple short scenes as a crazy version of himself (was he really being Scarecrow?) felt like Nolan just saying to the fans, “Here ya go, fans. Enjoy.” Even when the prisoners were released to run about and eventually engage in battle, I was again reminded of Batman Begins. I felt like TDKR had quite a few parts that mirrored Batman Begins.

Closing Thoughts/Queries

SPOILERS AHEAD!

  • What did you think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robin? Do you think the idea of leaving the Batman legacy to Robin was a smart choice? I, for one, enjoyed the reveal at the end, even though there were little hints dropped throughout the film if you hadn’t already caught on that JGL fit the Robin profile exactly.
  • Did the ending feel like Inception to anyone else aside from me? Two different people afterwards asked me if that end scene was a dream. I’m not sure whether to laugh or consider the possibility! But really, I don’t believe it was a dream.
  • Can someone please fill me in on what exactly Bane’s intention was? He kills, kills, kills. He constructs these nearly flawless plans to destroy Gotham and its inhabitants. You can’t tell me he did this all for the love of a woman. While the fake-out at the end revealing Miranda Tate as the villain was a little surprising, it really makes Bane’s motivations fall apart at the seams.
  • Did anyone else wish that the Joker story would have been closed? Every villain in all three films–except the Joker–was brought up in some way. Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Two-Face/Harvey Dent, and of course the two in the film, Catwoman and Bane, all had a place.
  • So many films end with the hero sacrificing himself by destroying something bad in order to save a place. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo sacrificed himself to destroy the Ring to save Middle-Earth. In The Avengers, Iron Man sacrificed himself to destroy a missile to save New York City. In Captain America, the captain sacrificed himself. Even Jack Bauer in 24 was about to fly a plane down in order to save the world, or something like that. The Dark Knight Rises follows suite: Batman sacrifices himself to destroy a time bomb to save Gotham. Yet all the heroes live in the end. Would it have been a better ending for Batman to die?
  • We have to compare (of course), so did you dig The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises more? Was either one a better film than the other? While in some aspects I consider The Dark Knight the better film, I couldn’t imagine Rises being any better than it was. It completed a trilogy. It brought the series full circle. It even had hints of humor that the previous two films lacked. It pulled out all the stops, was epic in almost every proportion possible.

I’ll really miss this series. I believe it’s the best film trilogy made yet. Although the goodbye is bittersweet, I can’t help but wonder, what is Christopher Nolan going to do next?

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? 🙂

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?

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.

The Man. The Movies. The Memento.

There’s been a lot of hype recently (especially today) about how Christopher Nolan has been snubbed once again – this time, by that warped Academy that makes all the decisions concerning the Oscars. This time around, it’s the 83rd Oscars, and Nolan has been rejected his much-deserved honor of being a Best Director nominee.

So instead of harping on the constant snubbing from said Hollywood Foreign Press Association and American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, let’s remember why we love CNolan.  After all, being snubbed means you must be pretty darn good at what you’re doing in the first place.

Far more than a triple threat. Yes, we all know he’s a fantastic director. But he’s also a screenwriter. And a producer. And a cinematographer and an editor (Following, Doodlebug).

Has a handful of quality A-listing actors to fill his movies with (Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy to name a few).

Created the most popular, and by many, considered the best Batman series thus far.

Established connections with professionals within multiple film fields: Hans Zimmer, composer; Emma Thomas (his wife), producer; Lee Smith, film editor; Jonathan Nolan (his brother), screenwriter.

Takes complex ideas and adapts them for the average film-goer. (MementoThe Prestige, and Inception).

Nolan’s IMDB file and Wikipedia (for what it’s worth) contain a lot of this information, but more and more of it is becoming knowledge among even amateur movie-goers. It was Christopher Nolan’s name, not Leonardo DiCaprio’s that brought people into the theater to see Inception, his latest flick, this past summer.

Check out the textual part of a common Inception poster: 

The words “From the Director of The Dark Knight” stick out. And while Leo’s name is in bright lights as well, it was the obscure, ambiguous trailer and the idea that the director of The Dark Knight could create another film as high quality as The Dark Knight, that made the film compelling enough to go see. Judging by most critics’ and audience’s reviews, it was.

Nolan may not have the nod of the Academy, but he has fans. And their respect.