Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Movies and Politics

If you want to get to the real substance of this entry, scroll down. I'll handle the lighter topics first.


Tim and I went to Albany on Friday in order to expedite his transfer of license from New Jersey to New York so he can practice nursing here. Hours of driving, and it only took five minutes once he got there. Talk about anti-climactic. The thing should be cleared within a week.

My mother once told me of when she first visited Albany. My grandfather knocked her on her ass for making fun of what a small town it is. I can see both sides of that confrontation. It really does seem strange when you come from New York City that the capitol of New York State would be this relatively one-horse town.

Buffy: The Music

The Florida Democratic Party on November 2

My Buffy marathon hit an unexpected snag as suitboyskin's package for me was returned to him for some reason, so I'll have to wait an additional several days for seasons 4 and 5. Damn.

However, my re-watching the Buffys has re-acquainted me with the music scores for the show, which I mentioned in an earlier entry that I can't seem to locate at the moment. The music for the first season was by Walter Murphy, who basically did stingers and a run-of-the-mill set of horror cues for the Master and whatnot. In fact, I would say that the use of songs in the first season of Buffy was more interesting than the scores.

The second season was a different story. The music for each episode was alternated between Christophe Beck and the team Shawn K. Clement and Sean Murray, who began to write music on a much larger scale. Beck introduced thematic continuity by establishing a recurring theme for Buffy and Angel, which culminated in "Close Your Eyes," to date the only score music from the series officially released (it is the last track on the first TVT album), but also a halting motif for Jenny Calender and Giles, which only flourishes in the scene in which Drusilla goes into Giles' mind in "Passion." Beck then took over the series for the third season, and as the show itself began to expand in scope, so did his music. The Buffy/Angel theme gradually changes over the course of the season, becoming less thematic and more textural. Everything leads up to an astounding conclusion in the final two-part episode "Graduation Day," which features several cues that I am dying to have, the most obvious of which is the Wagnerian "Drink Me."

I found out about two promos that Beck issued of his music for seasons two and three of Buffy, and although I will have access to them, I am chomping on the bit just to get the $30 I'd need for both of them. I'll wait, of course, but almost every cue that is listed is one that I noted as being particularly interesting on the show.

Season Two

01. Resurrection (When She Was Bad) (2'06)
02. Twice the fool (Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered) (0'46)
03. Remembering Jenny (Passion) (2'03)
04. Ampata's Kiss (Inca Mummy Girl) (1'46)
05. Devil Child (Becoming, Part 1) (1'15)
06. What's That Do? (Innocence) (1'07)
09. Angel Waits (Passion) (1'40)
10. Mob Rush (Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered) (1'32)
07. Sledgehammer (When She Was Bad) (1'05)
08. Cursed (Becoming, Part 1) (1'25)
11. Accused (Ted) (2'03)
12. Escape (Surprise) (1'26)
13. Moment of Happiness (Innocence) (2'15)
14. The Buffy Rat (Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered) (1'33)
15. Love is Forever (I Only Have Eyes for You) (1'15)
16. Robot Rampage (Ted) (1'29)
17. Show Me Your World (Becoming, Part 1) (2'31)
18. Waking Willow (Becoming, Part 2) (2'02)
19. Massacre (Becoming, Part 1) (3'54)
20. Vision of Jenny (Becoming, Part 2) (2'39)
21. As Angel Becomes (Becoming, Part 1) (1'54)
22. The Mark of Eyghon (The Dark Age) (1'27)
23. Close your eyes (Becoming, Part 2) (2'48)

Music Scores Composed and Performed by Christophe Beck
Chris Bleth (woodwinds)
Kevan Torfeh ('cello)
Steve Forman (percussion)
Lenny Bloodstein (violin on 'Twice the fool')
Anthony Head (voice on 'Remembering Jenny')

Season Three

01. Deliverance (Anne) (2'49)
02. Tai Chi (Band Candy) (1'18)
03. Sugar High (Band Candy) (1'54)
04. Loneliness of Six (Lover's Walk) (1'52)
05. Bizarro Sunnydale (The Wish) (2'03)
06. Blood Machine (The Wish) (2'30)
07. Slayer's Elegy (The Wish) (1'49)
08. Dublin, 1938 (Amends) (1'10)
09. Dreaming Of (Amends) (1'45)
10. Magic Snow Music (Amends) (3'29)
11. Betrayal (Helpless) (1'10)
12. Kralik's House (Helpless) (3'46)
13. A Father's Love (Helpless) (1'55)
14. Dead Guys with Bombs (The Zeppo) (3'07)
15. Alt. Willow (Dopplegangland) (3'37)
16. Into the Mayor's Lair (Choices) (length unknown)
17. Dearly Beloved (The Prom) (1'48)
18. The Beginning of the End (The Prom) (1'50)
19. Class Protector (The Prom) (1'57)
20. Poison Arrow (Graduation Day, Part 1) (1'53)
21. Faith's End (Graduation Day, Part 1) (3'35)
22. Aftermath (Graduation Day, Part 2) (1'42)
23. Drink Me (Graduation Day, Part 2) (1'23)
24. Little Miss Muffet (Graduation Day, Part 2) (2'41)
25. War (Graduation Day, Part 2) (1'37)
26. One Last Look (Graduation Day, Part 2) (1'07)

Music Scores Composed and Performed by Christophe Beck
Chris Bleth (woodwinds)
M.B. Gordy and Steve Forman (percussion on 'The zeppo')
Evan Wilson (viola on 'Amends' and 'Graduation day')
George Doering (guitar on 'Lover's Walk')
Bobbi Page (vocals on 'The Wish')

Christophe Beck

I can't say much about the music scores from later Buffy seasons because I haven't heard them, but the samples I downloaded from season 7 by Douglas Romayne Stevens and Robert Duncan show that the flavor that was established has been followed through upon. This is fantastic music for television, on a par with Mark Snow's music from The X Files (a show I never warmed up to, although I thought that Snow's musicscapes were excellent for very different reasons).

I have seen seasons 1 through 4 of Angel. The first season Beck established a new, much more strident direction along with co-composer Robert J. Kral, who then took over for the rest of the season and worked throughout seasons 2 through 4. Kral's music is very good as well, although it is somewhat moodier than the more melodic Buffy scores, which works in terms of delineating the very different flavors of the shows. There is a promo that I have access to for that as well, although it is on a disc with music Kral wrote for another series I'd not heard of called Miracle.

While there is no way around the fact that the music from these shows is primarily synthesized, the composers working on them have invested quite a lot of energy into making them sound as grand and expensive as they are supposed to, and the symphonic approach is more sophisticated than that of many feature films. I'd rather Beck or Kral be given any project that Hans Zimmer or one of his Media Ventures slaves are tapped for.



"It is not a question of making political films, it is a question of making films politically."
- Jean Luc Godard

The Insider

I hadn't seen this film, although I had wanted to. I am now quite happy to have caught up with it, as it is arguably Michael Mann's best film since Manhunter. Al Pacino plays Lowell Bergman of 60 Minutes, and Russell Crowe is played a whistle-blower on the tobacco industry in the story that nearly destroyed CBS News, but for Bergman's insistence that the integrity of 60 Minutes outweighed the pressure of the corporate requirements of the network. It is a shame, however, knowing the ultimate fate of network news, which is currently gelded by the administration.

Christopher Plummer does a phenomenal job portraying Mike Wallace. This must have been even more difficult to perform than even playing a President. Wallace has been in everybody's living room for an hour every Sunday night for decades, and the fact that Plummer is able to make one accept him as Wallace is a testament to his talent.

Thirteen Days

How many films are about saving the world, and how many of them have the legitimacy that this one does? Bruce Greenwood and Robert Culp are the Kennedy brothers, and Kevin Costner is scheduler Kenny O'Donnell, and the film has a white-knuckle aspect to it because there of how monumental the situation depicted is. It is perhaps fitting that potboiler director Roger Donaldson would have directed this film. David Self's screenplay draws heavily from the tapes and transcripts that were released recently of the time.

Dylan Baker plays Robert MacNamara, which put me in a mind to rent The Fog of War (see below). Stephanie Romanov, Lilah on TV's Angel, puts in a brief appearance as Jackie. The operatic score by Trevor Jones is absolutely outstanding, his best since Dark City... possibly The Dark Crystal, even, and there is also fantastic and perfectly integrated archival footage. The DVD features a very illuminating commentary track by the filmmakers, and also one that features archival comments by those actually involved in the Crisis, and historians who have studied it. The effect of this latter commentary track is a virtual audio collage on the Cuban Missile Crisis that plays out over the length of the film.

This is a DVD I plan to purchase when I have money again, as the film, the presentation and the extras are all phenomenal, except for Costner's accent, of course, but you have to figure that if that's the biggest caveat that you can have with the film...

The Fog of War

This film consists of twelve points that Robert MacNamara feels is important in the global theater. What director Errol Morris' own feelings about MacNamara, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War are remain a mystery, but rather lets MacNamara speak, often hoisting himself on his own petard. The result is as full of contradictions as the man himself, but there is an air of honesty and coming clean about this film that makes it essential viewing. It is refreshing to hear him say straight up that he has made mistakes.

It is also really nice to see a film that does, in fact, ask you to draw your own conclusions rather than dictate to you what you should feel about the situation, which hasn't happened for a while.

If the sun rises tomorrow,
it is only because of men of good will.

As I commented earlier, Thirteen Days, being a portrait of the inner workings of the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a period of time when our world came the closest to ending, made me think very much about how the Bush administration would have dealt with this problem. I would like to think that there are limits to how far the President would allow the situation to deteriorate, but I feel that if he couldn't keep his cool during as trivial a thing as a debate (and that is trivial in comparison to a national crisis), that I don't see how he would have got the United States through it, which of course would have had global consequences.

There were internal pressures during the Cuban Missile Crisis to attempt the easy “destroy target” reaction that would have led us to the unthinkable. Many of the more conservative elements thought it the only sure way to achieve some form of victory, but the consequences were much greater, and both the American and Soviet leadership of the time realized that an aggressive move would have triggered off events that would have gone... well...

It is difficult for people of my generation to realize what the Cuban Missile Crisis meant to the public in 1962, how helpless it made people feel. To have that much at stake at once was a by-product of having a definite enemy, and a specific target, and the specter of mutually-assured destruction. That does not exist anymore (if anything, the situation is more dangerous as nuclear weapons are now in the hands of many regimes that are a lot less stable than the Soviet Union had been), but the point is that a military action may be as inappropriate in today's as it was then.

The idea of solving problems with the military is also obsolete in the era of terrorism. As I said, there is no definite enemy, nowhere to shoot at. In a world in which there is an enemy that makes no distinction between the populous and what we would consider viable military targets, it is important that we act responsibly in the world forum.

Even worse than the situation in Iraq is right now is how George W. Bush has alienated allies and made new enemies during his time in office, sacrificing the already tenuous reputation of the United States on the world political stage. This is a problem, because while the conservatives would have you believe that a strong, aggressive policy is the only one that would work, the fact is that these ideas are outdated. It is easy to tout diplomacy as being a “touchy-feely” reaction, but the fact is that the United States has practiced decades of irresponsible and sloppy foreign policy in the Middle East, and we have become a target because of those that live there, targets of people who may not even understand the ideological differences between their homes and the United States, only that we are an enemy.

With aggressive action and reaction, the United States fosters this type of sentiment. The world has changed, and now it is not enough to be the strongest kid on the block. We also have to be one of the nicest, or at least one of the most responsible.

I am not saying that the military should be dismantled at all. In fact, I think a strong military is necessary for our country's defense, as a possible deterrent, and for action when warranted. This means that it is imperative that the military be used responsibly, which is not happening. A strong military is not a wasted one, which is what we have now.

Take the petulant child we saw Bush act like in the first debate and place him in the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Pretty scary, huh?

BUSH: I didn't back down in order
to preserve the American way of life!

I said, pretty scary, huh?

Let's face it, the threat of the Soviet Union has been dissolved. Instead, we have terrorists and third-world countries with nuclear weapons. The dangers are no less than they once were, but now it is much more difficult to see where the danger is coming from. This means that it is all the more important to keep people who can't control themselves away from the White House. The President of the United States of America is the most powerful man in the world, and it is imperative that he be a responsible man. Bush has shown that he can not be trusted in pretty much any arena.

That's why it's important to vote for John Kerry.

Sure, I understand that people want to break away from the two-party system, and I understand that more than most. I do, however, feel that it is necessary sometimes to make compromises for the greater good, and as compromises go, Kerry isn't so bad. I certainly would rather have him in the war room should some great catastrophe occur than Bush, who showed his mettle on 9/11... and it wasn't worth a damn.
Tags: cinema, driving, film music, travels

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