Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Top 5 Film Scores

The Angry Lurker asked me the other week what were my favorite pieces of film music and songs. Well, I'd answer him by posting a two-part blog on film music. This first part focuses solely on film score. Music has always been an integral part of film even before sound. Film score composers may not have the same cache as, say, classical composers but they have created some of the most indelible tunes in pop culture over the years. I'm going to reveal some of my favorite film scores from my favorite films:

Chariots of Fire
Composed by Vangelis

Why is this just an "honorable mention"? Because shamefully, I have not seen this film in its entirety. Although I do believe nearly everyone knows this because it's often played during sporting events including the Olympics. This theme is far more iconic than the film itself, despite the fact that it won the Best Picture Oscar. Most people know this theme but not everyone know it is from a movie.

5. "Flying Theme" from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Composed by John Williams

John Williams has composed many, many, MANY iconic and memorable film scores throughout the decades from extremely popular films. From Superman to Harry Potter, he is a blockbuster composer. Everyone knows his themes. He's won 5 Oscars and was nominated numerous times. His collaborations with director Steven Spielberg has produced some of his best work (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park, etc. etc.) so it was tough to decide which one to include in a Top 5. But I decided on this, it represents everything that's wonderful about the two of them.

4. "Lux Aeterna" from Requiem for a Dream

Composed by Clint Mansell

Requiem for a Dream is a very haunting and rather bleak film on drug addiction. One of the reasons, I believe, it worked the way it did is Clint Mansell's beautiful score, highlighted of course by the now iconic theme entitled "Lux Aeterna" (It was so awesome that an orchestral arrangement was used in the trailer of the second Lord of the Rings movie). If the theme from E.T. can uplift you, "Lux Aeterna" can bring you down, in the most beautiful way possible.

3. "Tara's Theme" from Gone With The Wind

Composed by Max Steiner

I'll admit that I think Gone With The Wind is a tad overrated as a film. It is an admirable, ambitious effort but it's too much like a bloated soap opera for my taste. One of the things I do love about it is Max Steiner's score, specifically the famous "Tara's Theme" which opens the film as the large title card flashes through the screen.

2. Main Theme from Psycho

Composed by Bernard Herrmann

The collaboration of director Alfred Hitchcock and composer Bernard Hermann is one of the best in film history. There's no better example than the score for Psycho, the film that pretty much started the slasher horror genre. The decision to only use strings for the score is a brilliant one since it helps bring the chill down one's spine. From the main titles theme to the all-too-familiar shower score that helped increase the shock and shrieks from the audience, this score is one of the all-time masterpieces.

1. Main Theme from Once Upon a Time in the West

Composed by Ennio Morricone

I've listened to this piece of music so many times and it does not fail to give me goosebumps or occasionally even move me. Ennio Morricone has done so many great scores both in Italy and in Hollywood. He has done great scores with Sergio Leone and his spaghetti Westerns but this is probably my all-time favorite. You don't even need to see the film to appreciate it. I defy anyone to not have goosebumps once the soprano voice kicks in. The film was in and of itself. The music made it a flatout masterpiece of the genre.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekly Roundup (9/18/11 - 9/24/11)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford) **** - One of the true Western classics of all time and one of director John Ford's flatout masterpieces. This is actually my second time watching this and upon a second viewing, I realize how beautiful and masterful this film is. James Stewart stars as a legendary senator who was "the man who shot Liberty Valance", a notoriously evil and cruel outlaw of the West. The film is about how he came to be known as that. Also starring John Wayne, this film can be called one of the first anti-Westerns as it dissects the legend of the West. An absolute must-see.

Horrible Bosses (Seth Gordon) **1/2 - The film's concept is quite strong: Three guys with three horrible bosses and they decide to off them. Unfortunately, the resulting film is rather uneven. It would've been a much more intriguing had it been a tad more darker and tad less broader. The ensemble cast is strong though and elevates the material especially the bosses (Colin Farrell in particular). There are some good laughs in it but overall, merely okay.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Great Scenes # 8: The Band Wagon (1953)

Directed by Vincente Minelli

In the same time period that saw the release of big, splashy musicals An American In Paris and Singin' in the Rain, Vincente Minelli's The Band Wagon came out and is often overlooked by some film enthusiasts today. It has experienced a somewhat slight resurgence and rightfully so. It's a delightful musical. The plot is simple: A washed-up movie star (Fred Astaire) teams up with his songwriter buddies, a famous ballet dancer and a prominent stage actor to come up with a show for him for the stage. Much of the entire last half hour or so is simply the stage show (SPOILERS) they come up with, culminating in this clever musical spoof film noirs brought to life by the amazing choreography by Michael Kidd helped by the cinematography, sets and costumes (the reveal of the magnificent Cyd Charisse's red dress gave me goosebumps).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Answers to Questions!

This is gonna be a relatively short post. Under the "My job" entry in my blogspot, I asked if you guys have any questions for me and I'll answer them. Well, here's my long-delayed reply. I only received a few questions and I'll answer them here:

1. The Angry Lurker asks: What is your favorite piece of film music/song and why?

This is an excellent question. So excellent in fact, I won't answer this question here. Within the week I shall devote two posts on my Top 5 favorite film scores and my Top 5 favorite film songs. Watch out for them!

2. Mark asks: What would you say is the most well-known movie you've worked with?

We've done a lot of famous movies. The most recent one is, I'm guessing, the Blu-Ray release of Sling Blade and the Region 2 release of 30 Minutes or Less and commentaries for Attack the Block.

3. My 2 Pesos asks: Does God exist?

I don't know but I believe He does.

4. Bersercules asks: What if you are proof reading a comedy's subtitle and one of the jokes in it is a play on words that doesn't translate to english and the subtitle that's there is a funny substitute but inacurate? Do you leave it in or do you go for a more acurate but unfunny subtitle?

Most of my work involves English-English subtitling/close captioning and very little translating, really. However, this issue would arrive if let's say the punchline or joke is too long for the required protocol. I would have to try and shorten it without losing the essence of the line and the funniness of the joke.

Although I did once work for a TV network where they had to have one of their comedy shows subtitled for submission for an international awards organization (The Asian TV Awards) so I had to translate the lines and try as much as I can to maintain the humor of it. I'm Filipino and oftentimes, Filipino humor is very untranslatable. But fortunately, I have a very Western sense of humor so I was able to translate whatever humor is there in the subtitling.

5. George Anderson asks: What is the purpose of you writing this post?

What is the purpose of you asking this question?

6. That Bastard from Bellingham asks: How did you come to learn English?

Filipinos are English speakers since the Americans colonized our country for nearly half the 20th Century. English is actually my FIRST language. My mom and dad thought it would be an academic advantage for me to have English as a first language.

That's all the questions. Feel free to ask me any questions on the comments below.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekly Round Up (9/11/11 - 9/17/11)

Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sanantieng) *** - This is the second film I've seen from this Thai director and it's really something. An outlaw and governor's daughter meet as kids and grew to love each other but fate keeps them apart. This mixes an ultra-violent Sam Peckinpah-esque Western with a romantic soap operatic plot and for me, it didn't always quite gel but when it did, it was quite brilliant. The film is filled with bright colors (even the blood) in its cinematography and design.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (Troy Nixey) **1/2 - Guillermo Del Toro's fingerprints are all over this film but it's not quite as successful as most of his own films. The director, Troy Nixey, does a solid if not that outstanding job in creating a perfectly acceptable horror flick. But that's all it is. Acceptable. The premise is stretched a little thin for a 100-minute film. However, it's miles away from awful. There are some decent scares. It won't win any awards nor is it destined for cult classic status. But it's very entertaining and it does feature Katie Holmes not being godawful.

The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton) **** - This is my second or third time watching this classic film which I own on Criterion DVD. It's one of those really, really great films. So beautiful, terrifying and moving all at the same time. Robert Mitchum is astounding as one of the creepiest, and I must say one of the best on-screen villains, Rev. Harry Powell. If you haven't seen this, do yourself a favor and check it out!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Great Scenes # 7: Persona (1966)

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Persona is one of my favorite films of all time. It has several great scenes in it. This is one of the less obvious choices (those who have seen the film will know the more obvious choice). I think this scene is one of the most erotic scenes in cinema history. Even more erotic than most on-screen sex scenes out there. This film about an actress (Liv Ullmann) who was rendered inexplicably mute is sent to the seaside with a psychiatric nurse (Bibi Andersson) as part of her therapy. And it just gets weird from there. Bibi Andersson basically speaks roughly 90% of all the spoken dialogue in the entire film so she has a lot of long monologues and this is one of them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My job

I've been active at this blog for a couple of months now. I guess some of you would want to know a little bit something about me apart from what I've written in my profile/bio. Well, let me tell you about what I do for a living. Whenever someone asks, what exactly do I do, I just tell them "writer" just as a shortcut. The more accurate answer is a little bit more complicated. It's pretty awesome job though. I work for a production company that does various media-related works (TV shows, documentaries, concerts, even films, commercials, etc.) but the department I belong in is the SUBTITLING department. Yes, subtitles, or more accurately, English language templates/close captioning for DVD, Blu-Ray, cable and satellite.

I'm in charge of quality control, that means I correct already subtitled works for any misheard subtitles, typos or mistakes in protocol. So basically, like movie critics, I actually get paid to watch movies. Not only movies though but also TV series, DVD/Blu-Ray featurettes and occasionally even business/corporate/instructional videos. We receive projects from UK and U.S. so most of my work is in English. We seldom get the big, big latest tent pole blockbusters though. We do get a lot of older movies though so I get to either rewatch old favorites or catch up on some classics, obscure and otherwise, that I may have missed.

Add to that the fact that I have relatively flexible work hours (I can theoretically go to work any time I want to provided I complete an 8 hour a day work week), the office is but a short commute from my work, and there are days where I have enough free time to blog and write side projects and dream passion projects (like screenplays, novels, etc.), it's a sweet deal. Plus I get weekends and holidays off.

There are drawbacks though. The salary though perfectly fine for where I am in my life right now could be higher. Though there are days where I have next to nothing to do, there are also days where I could get stuck doing overtime until 1 or 2 in the morning! The worst projects are audio commentaries. Yes, they need English language templates for audio commentaries too. They can be a bitch because we usually have to start from scratch from them and they can be a bitch to do especially if it's a multiple speaker type where talking is almost non-stop for 90 minutes to two hours. Another thing that pisses me off is having to do audio commentaries for films I wanted to see but haven't yet. Having to do the audio commentary spoils the movie for me way too much. For instance I had to the Attack the Block commentary and that hasn't been released in my country (yet). I tried to minimize the damage by watching the movie out of order (since the subtitles is broken up into files) and trying to avoid watching the movie itself as much as possible.

This was fun. I have an idea. To all those who have read this blogpost and follow my blog, post ONE question for me on the comments. Any question at all. I shall answer as truthfully as I can. The deadline is the moment I post the NEXT blog entry.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekly Round Up (9/4/11 - 9/10/11)

Nosferatu The Vampyre (Werner Herzog) ***1/2 - Werner Herzog's remake of the 1922 classic German horror film Nosferatu, though heavily references the original film is such a unique and strange (in a way that could only be Herzog's) vampire horror film, it's almost insulting to call it a remake. Though the film calls the vampire "Dracula", the film goes to all sorts of directions, different from both the book and the original film (which will delight some and infuriate others) and it's at times quite surreal, lyrical, even sad and romantic at times. Klaus Kinski (with the help of the makeup which emulates the Max Schreck design) is appropriately creepy as the vampire. The cinematography, sets and soundtrack adds to the spooky atmosphere.

Contagion (Steven Soderbergh) *** - I would say this qualifies as a disaster movie (someone pointed out that the huge big-named ensemble cast is reminiscent of the Irwin Allen disaster movies of the '70s) only instead of an earthquake or a tornado, it's a super-virus. This falls in the good-but-not-great category, considering all the talent involved. Everything in the film is solid: The acting, the directing, etc. But the film doesn't quite manage to go up to the next level when it could have easily did. All in all the film is a somewhat better and more realistic and believable remake of Outbreak.

Fright Night (Craig Gillespie) *** - I have not seen the 1985 original film so I'm rating this purely as a standalone film without any comparisons to the original. As it is, it's a pretty darn good horror-comedy that's highly enjoyable. I have no idea how fans of the original will react but the film made me curious to check out the original so I guess that's good news. The cast is terrific. The film is no masterpiece but there are worse ways to kill your time.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Great Scenes # 6: Hero (2002)

Directed by Zhang Yimou

I mentioned Hero in an earlier post. It is one of my favorite films of the past decade and this is probably my favorite scene from the film in a film with A LOT of great scenes. This one actually got applause in the screening I went to, it was that beautiful. I personally think Hero is a better film than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The film is both visually fantastic and exciting and emotionally involving. I don't know why Miramax sat on this film for two years before releasing it to the States. All they had to do was say, "You liked Crouching Tiger? Check this out" then play a few seconds of this and it's sold. Try to see it on a high-quality DVD on the biggest screen you can find, if not in a theatrical screen. This youtube clip does the scene little justice.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

DVD and Blu-Ray Collecting

Does anyone out there still collect DVD's? I still do! It's starting to get weird since a lot of people simply download movies now -- both legally and illegally -- rather than buy the actual DVD. Personally, I still can't afford the equipment to directly download the film and put it on my TV. I'm still struggling to be able to upgrade to Blu-Ray. (NOTE: I don't plan on upgrading EVERY film I have to Blu-Ray. Only those I think will improve the viewing experience like films noted for their visual effects and cinematography)

What kinds of films do I collect on DVD (or, eventually, Blu-Ray)? Well, they're films I'd wanna see at least more than once or twice. Meaning, these are films that I not only like but LOVE. I like my DVD's to have lots of special features because they're like free film school lessons as well. I enjoy listening to commentaries and watching fun featurettes. I believe DVD is one of the best inventions ever for film lovers. Sure, lots of people prefer to download their films in great quality directly into their entertainment centers. But even then, still, I doubt DVD's are going away anytime soon. A lot of people still want something solid to hold on to, something you can just slip in the player to watch anytime you're in the mood.

Oh, here's my DVD collection:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Weekly Round Up (8/28/11 - 9/3/11)

Cars 2 (John Lasseter) **1/2 - The streak of PIXAR's animated masterpieces and near-masterpieces ends with this film. That's not to say this is a bad film. Far from it. It's a colorful, visually eye-popping and very entertaining and solid film but no more than that. I probably would've given this a slightly higher rating had this film been made by lesser animation studio but this is PIXAR. It's like your straight-A student showed up with his first "B" grade. It's still pretty good but a disappointment considering the high expectations. Young kids who are fans of the first film will find little to complain.

Dream (Kim Ki-Duk) *** - I'm actually a fan of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring so I was eager to check out more of Kim Ki-Duk's work. This is not as good as that film, IMO but still a very good one. A man discovers his dreaming is connected with a sleepwalking woman and unexpected consequences happen when they meet. I personally think if Takashi Miike directed an In the Mood For Love-type film, it would be similar to this. Despite the supernatural/thriller/horror elements, these take a backseat to the romance that develops between these two people. It doesn't always work but the film has great acting and is well-made.

Zombadings 1: Patayin Sa Shokot Si Remington (Jade Castro) **** - To put it quite simply: It's one of the best films of the year. This a Filipino film. The title roughly translates to Zombie Gays 1: Scare Remington to Death. It's about a guy who as a little boy liked to mock gays, finds himself mocking the wrong gay and finds himself cursed to turn homo when he grows up. This coincides with a serial killer targeting gays in his hometown. This film is a refreshingly original, infectious comedy-horror flick which is, and I'm not exaggerating here, destined to turn into a Filipino cult comedy classic. It's wonderfully demented, wickedly funny and campy in the best sense of the word with twists and turns that defy explanation. This is really a must-see. Though I hesitate to recommend this to non Filipinos (or those unfamiliar with Filipino society) because in order to fully get and appreciate the film's humor, one must have at least a little knowledge of the gay Filipino subculture.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Great Scenes # 5: Band of Outsiders (1964)

The Cafe Dance

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

French New Wave cinema has produced a bunch of iconic films and made the names of quite a number of directors. One of them is Jean-Luc Godard. This is one of his most famous films. Band of Outsiders is about two crooks who manage to convince a beautiful young student to tag along in their different hijinks. The film goes to all sorts of different narrative directions with generous sprinklings of references in pop culture and literature. One of its most indelible scenes is the impromptu cafe dance by the three main characters. It is arguably one of the coolest scenes ever filmed and still holds up to this day. This scene and the movie itself is influential to this day. Quentin Tarantino, for instance, named his production company after the French title of the film (A Band Apart) and his famous dance sequence is partially inspired by the scene you see above. The film itself also inspired a currently famous clothing line.