Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332

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"Your fate is fixed. Fear profits a man nothing."

BIOLOGY GONE WILD!!!

mals13: If the root of a plant is essentially it's mouth, does that mean we're always seeing a plant's ass?

swashbuckler332: I have a better one for you... considering that fruit is a plant's primary reproductive organ, does that mean we're having oral sex every time we eat an apple or orange?

mals13: Spit or swallow?

swashbuckler332: Swallow the juice, spit out the seed...

mals13: Ha!


FILM MUSIC MUSINGS

I have begun working on tracks for my Jerry Goldsmith Scores the Middle Ages compilation. The cover art is an actual screencap of the Fire Serpent from The 13th Warrior that I modified to look like a painting, as I did with a shot from The Lion In Winter on my recent John Barry Scores the Middle Ages album, but there the similarities between the mixes pretty much end. The Barry disc consists of scores for dramas, and so while there are some action scenes here and there, they aren't dominant in the makeup of the whole. The films included on the Goldsmith compilation are action/adventure movies, and so it will be a much more aggressive listen.

It's also interesting to observe the difference in movies here... the Barry disc compiles scores from films that are classy productions with impressive casts, while workaholic Goldsmith often ended up scoring much more disappointing features. Despite their casts and credentials, neither Lionheart nor First Knight were particularly memorable (neither was Timeline, but since his score wasn't used in the final cut of the film, it doesn't really matter). Popular opinion would also put The 13th Warrior in this category as well, although I personally find the film quite entertaining. (see below).



Meanwhile, FSM has released what is essentially an Instant David Raksin Collection, which I purchased as soon it was announced. In between the time when I bought it and when it arrived, I began to wonder if I had made a mistake dropping money on a box set of music from a composer whose work I was barely familiar with; in fact, my primary exposure to Raksin has been as a film music historian first, and composer second. Sure, Laura and The Bad and the Beautiful were great, but other than the sound samples on the SAE site, I really had no background with this music.

My ambivalence lasted right until I popped the first CD into the player and listened as Across the Wide Missouri burst forth with great energy from my speakers. Raksin's music is glorious! I listened to the very lyrical The Magnificent Yankee on the way to work; a gorgeous score packed full of beautiful moments. I'm not bothered by the monaural sound, which is pretty clean for the most part (and phenomenal when one considers where some of it came from) and I do not now regret this purchase one bit (in fact, I ordered Two Weeks in Another Town, The Revolt of Mamie Stover/Hilda Crane and Forever Amber the very night I received this set). I am only sad that there isn't a greater market for it even among our niche.


...AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF TATTOOED VINYL

Dan and I went to see ...and you will know us by the trail of dead on Friday with his brother and Berkow at the Brooklyn Music Hall. It was, as usual for them, quite an exciting show; they played a lot of music from the new album The Century of Self, which to me feels more like a return to the overall sound of Source Codes and Tags and Worlds Apart. While I was there, I purchased the vinyl edition of their Festival Thyme EP, which has one track different from the CD, a cover of the Replacements' "Within Your Reach" in place of the shorter edit of the album track of "Inland Sea." It is a picture disc with Conrad Keely's artwork on the record itself, which is pretty damn cool, actually.

I'm now interested in seeing if I can't get Source Codes and Tags and Worlds Apart on vinyl as well...


SPEAKING OF TRAILS OF DEAD...



Michael Crichton's novel Eaters of the Dead was inspired by Ahmad ibn Fadlān ibn al-Abbās ibn Rašīd ibn Hammād's account of traveling north with the Rus' people. He fictionally extended Ahmad's journey all the way up to Norway, having him accompany a group of Norsemen investigating a kingdom under siege by what is strongly implied to be a tribe of proto-humans. The concept behind the novel was to present an ostensibly reliable account of the story that would become Beowulf from the perspective of someone who had been there, and so Crichton incorporated Ahmad ibn Fadlān into the book as one would could keep a literate record of what he had seen, and is thus presented (within the fictional framework of the novel) as a historical document.

The film adaptation, retitled The 13th Warrior, gained quite a bit of notoriety for its rocky production, which included Crichton firing director John McTiernan for going overbudget and doing re-shoots, re-edits and jettisoning the original music by Graeme Revell and bringing in his friend Jerry Goldsmith to provide a more traditional score. It was released to mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office, earning less than $62 million, not nearly enough to make a profit on its eventual cost, reputed to be around $115 million. While I do not think the film as released is by any means flawless, I do think that it has been unfairly judged because of these production issues and Banderas' involvement, although he is just fine in the role.

While the movie abandons the 'historical document' approach for obvious reasons, it still tells the story from the more modern (relatively speaking) perspective of Ahmad (Antonio Banderas), observing Viking culture initially as an outsider. Ultimately the film settles into the familiar Seven Samurai template, with the band of heroes defending a village from attack. Ahmad is from the outset a reluctant addition to this band, a poet and ambassador untrained in combat, but the Norse leader Buliwyf (Vladimir Kulich) recognizes that the Arab is quick-witted and intelligent, and Ahmad soon proves himself to be an invaluable addition to their group, and by the end of the film becoming a bonafide hero (indeed, the film is unusual for a large studio production for presenting a Muslim figure as an unambiguously positive protagonist).

The film is not without its weaknesses. Unlike The Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven (or even Battle Beyond the Stars for that matter), no attempt is made to probe the characters of most of the Vikings or the villagers, which makes it difficult to tell some of the thirteen warriors apart and often robs the tension of situations involving secondary characters. In an attempt to 'soften' the film somewhat in the editing suite, one of the thirteen warriors is barely seen because he is a child (Oliver Sveinall). And, most damningly, the extensive re-editing reduced the character of Melchisidek to only a few lines, which was not only an almost criminal waste of Omar Sharif, but also prompted the frustrated actor to take a four year hiatus from film acting.

But the film has strengths as well: it sidesteps most (though not all) of the classic Hollywood "Viking" images; Kulich's stoic performance is extremely effective, as is that of Dennis Storhøi as Herger the Joyous, who becomes Ahmad's closest friend among the Norsemen; the method by which Ahmad's learning of the Norseman's language is depicted is quite ingenious; the Eaters of the Dead are effectively represented through their absence and, of course, Jerry Goldsmith provides a kick-ass score that brings many of the film's more diverse elements into focus.

What the film gives up in character development, it makes up for both in its presentation of the (assumed) Viking society and in its pace and energy. The battle sequences are brilliantly staged and executed; they are grisly but not gratuitous. Peter Menzies Jr.'s anamorphic Panavision cinematography is striking, sometimes even breathtaking, Wolf Kroeger's design work is arresting (and presages the Norse-inspired imagery for the Rohan in the latter two Lord of the Rings films), and the film's sound design is extremely enveloping, all of which add up to an extremely (and appropriately) visceral experience while watching the film.

While one can question the taste of of Crichton's move in dropping Revell's music, there is no question that Goldsmith's replacement score, written extremely quickly, is very effective and makes for exciting listening in its own right. What this score lacks in originality, it makes up for in sheer muscle. The music related to Ahmad is very closely related to some of Goldsmith's material for The Mummy (written the same year) as well as his classic score for The Wind and the Lion, but his central Viking theme is one of his most thunderous. I mean, this theme, with its insistent rhythm, heroic French horn and low male choir, practically has hair growing out all over it and horrible body odor.

Some of the re-editing continued after Goldsmith's initial scoring sessions in London. Some of the cues for the latter portion of the film were revised in Los Angeles, most noticeably "Viking Victory," the film take of which is very different from the original version, which appears on the album. Despite this, the film makes excellent use of the score, and it is often given a healthy showing in the sound mix. The Varése Sarabande CD, which I reviewed over at MovieMusic.com is an splendid representation of Goldsmith's contribution to the film, and a disc no Goldsmith aficionado should be without.


Ahmad's Prayer
Merciful Father, I have squandered my days with plans of many things.
This was not among them.
But at this moment, I beg only to live the next few minutes well.
For all we ought to have thought, and have not thought;
all we ought to have said, and have not said;
all we ought to have done, and have not done;
I pray thee God for forgiveness.
Norse Epitaph
Lo there do I see my father.
Lo there do I see my mother.
Lo there do I see my brothers and my sisters.
Lo there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning.
Lo they do call to me
They bid me take my place among them in the Halls of Valhalla,
Where the brave may live forever.
Tags: audio, cinema, david raksin, film music, graeme revell, jerry goldsmith, lord of the rings, mix workshop, reviews, rock, trail of dead, vinyl
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