Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Flight, BTTF, Glass and stuff


"Buckbeak's Flight" from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a wonderful cue, perfectly evoking a sense of freedom associated with flying. Because I have been enjoying it so much, it made sense then to compile an album out of similar material. There ended up being quite a bit of John Williams on this album, as well as Jerry Goldsmith.

This CD was an extremely smooth creation. Having worked on several complex, production-heavy albums of late, I have developed a workable system that gives me maximum flexibility without being terribly time consuming; first I rip uncompressed wav files from the CD tracks with CDeX. I then edit the tracks to the length and values I require in Nero Wave Editor (I will also sometimes use some other programs for more involved work). When I have finished working on each track, I then proceed to piece together the album in Nero Soundtrax, and then burn a virtual image, from which I draw and place the final track marks and CD Text in Nero Burning Rom. This last step is where the fun really is, because of the different combinations available, and toying with the overlap as I go.

I decided to open the album with a big bang: "The Ride of the Firemares" is a cue from towards the end of Krull, but it opened the original LP, and one can savor the richness and energy of this early James Horner score, as a herd of horses thunder through the air, leaving trails of fire in their wake. I then brought the tone a bit with the more introspective "Night Journey" from Lee Holdridge's epic score from The Beastmaster, in an eagle scouts for the protagonist. I continue in this vein with the gliding "Through the Bamboo Forest" from Tan Dun's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which accompanied one of the most graceful fight sequences ever filmed. "The Ballroom Scene" from The Witches of Eastwick is one of John Williams' best cues (although it is shortened severely in the film), as the three titular witches find themselves flying above a pool.

Things begin to gain a bit more momentum in the next part of the album. The main title from Jerry Goldsmith's classic score from the World War I airplane film The Blue Max presents the primary theme of that film. Laurence Rosenthal brings us back to where we started (that is, flying horses) with "Pegasus" from Clash of the Titans, heard as Perseus harnesses and tames the winged horse. From here we slow a bit down for the more reflective, but no less rousing opening from Memphis Belle, by George Fenton, whose old-fashioned sensibilities have created a lush musical portrait for the World War II bomber. Elmer Bernstein brings us back to a larger scale, with "Flight" from the Taarna sequence in Heavy Metal, a grand accompaniment to the ambitious scope of the visuals.

We then take a step to the side with Basil Poledouris' sprightly "Plane To Vegas" cue from Cherry 2000, which brings us directly into the track that spawned the entire project, "Buckbeak's Flight" from Williams' Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Because of the textural thickness of this cue, I had to follow it with something that had its own deep power, and so I placed "Leaving Home," Holdridge's main title from the film The Tuskegee Airmen, about the first black squadron to fight in World War II. In keeping with this strand of orchestral breadth, I then proceed to "No, Thanks" from Goldsmith's detailed and beautiful The Secret of N.I.M.H., which scores a sequence in which Mrs. Brisby rides Jeremy to the rose bush, which also features a choir.

Michael Kamen's varied score for The Adventures of Baron Munchausen contains many points of interest, one of which is this soaring music for a dirigible constructed from ladies' undergarments. Williams returns with his famous flying theme from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in the cue "The Magic of Halloween," for the iconic sequence in which the alien causes Elliot's bicycle to fly. One of Goldsmith's most intense films scores, Total Recall, is represented by "The Mountain," a Martian exterior, which leads us to the establishing music from Blade Runner by Vangelis, who illustrates "Los Angeles, 2019."

Another short Williams cue, "It's Working" from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace introduces the final portion of the album. John Barry's pretty title theme from High Road to China has a more lyrical sensibility, followed by "The Medjai," the end credits concert arrangement of a major theme in the film (also heard in "Sandcastles" on my compilation The Farthest Reaches) This cue was previously unreleased. The album originally closed with "The Flying Sequence" from Superman: The Movie, here the love theme is presented in a rapturous manner, followed by a more formal arrangement (this was originally "Can You Read My Mind," with Margot Kidder speaking over it, but this is without the vocal track).

I decided, however, that the album was worth expanding after my initial assembly, so I added five more tracks, for a total of ten more minutes. Jerry Goldsmith's take on a similar sequence from the previous track is heard in "Flying Ballet" from Supergirl, heard in the European cut of the film as Kara learns about her powers. "Cropdusting" from Independence Day is another unreleased gem, featuring the first full-bodied presentation of David Arnold's main theme as a soused Russell dusts the wrong crops. The tone gets a bit more sinister with the mysterious "Night Bird" from Basil Poledouris' Conan the Destroyer, which scores an avian kidnapping. We return to Williams with the vivacious "Remembering Childhood" from Hook.

The finale is a bit of a cheat. It is the only band on this album that was not culled from the original soundtrack recording, which is why I felt justified doing what I ended up doing with it. The lack of an official release of Alan Silvestri's modern classic adventure score from the original Back to the Future is a crime, but this decent re-recording works quite well. "The Flying Delorean" is actually a conflation of the finales from both Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II in order to have the build-up of the first and the slam-bang finale of the second, which closes the album on a rousing note.

This was one of the more fun concept albums I had come up with. The music is graceful and pretty, but the whole is not so long as to become tedious. I also like the range of what is available here; although there are some obvious choices (E.T. was a shoo-in, for example), there are also some other inclusions that are not quite as familiar. Due to the different demands of each film, each track has it's own, unique identity, and there are some cases where I could not compensate for disparity of sound quality, but the album flows easily from one cue to the next.


The Ride of the Firemares (Krull) 3:16
Composed and Conducted by
James Horner
The London Symphony Orchestra and Ambrosian Singers

Night Journey (The Beastmaster) 2:05
Composed and Conducted by
Lee Holdridge
The Academy of Santa Cecelia Orchestra and the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Rome

Through the Bamboo Forest (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) 2:49
Composed by
Tan Dun
The Shanghai Symphony and National Orchestras Conducted by Chen Xie Yang
Ma Xiao Hui, Erhu

The Ballroom Scene (The Witches of Eastwick) 4:25
Composed and Conducted by
John Williams

Main Title (The Blue Max) 2:15
Composed and Conducted by
Jerry Goldsmith
The National Philharmonic Orchestra of London

Pegasus (Clash of the Titans) 2:03
Composed and Conducted by
Laurence Rosenthal
The London Symphony Orchestra

The Londonderry Air (Memphis Belle) 3:49
Composed and Conducted by
George Fenton

Flight (Heavy Metal: Taarna) 2:14
Composed and Conducted by
Elmer Bernstein
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and London Voices
Jeanne Loriod, Ondes Martenot

Plane To Vegas (Cherry 2000) 1:00
Composed and Conducted by
Basil Poledouris
The Hungarian State Opera Orchestra

Buckbeak's Flight (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) 1:46
Composed and Conducted by
John Williams

Leaving Home (The Tuskegee Airmen) 4:00
Composed and Conducted by
Lee Holdridge

No, Thanks (The Secret of N.I.M.H.) 1:54
Composed and Conducted by
Jerry Goldsmith
The National Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus of London

The Balloon (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) 1:00
Composed and Conducted by
Michael Kamen
The Graunke Symphony Orchestra

The Magic of Halloween (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial) 1:55
Composed and Conducted by
John Williams

The Mountain (Total Recall) 0:40
Composed and Conducted by
Jerry Goldsmith
The National Philharmonic Orchestra of London

Los Angeles, 2019 (Blade Runner) 2:31
Composed and Performed by

Its Working (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) 0:21
Composed and Conducted by
John Williams
The London Symphony Orchestra

Main Title (High Road to China) 1:17
Composed and Conducted by
John Barry

The Medjai (The Mummy Returns) 2:24
Composed and Conducted by
Alan Silvestri
The Sinfonia of London Orchestra and Chorus

The Flying Sequence (Superman: The Movie) 8:02
Composed and Conducted by
John Williams
The London Symphony Orchestra

Flying Ballet (Supergirl) 4:10
Composed and Conducted by
Jerry Goldsmith
The National Philharmonic Orchestra of London

Cropdusting (Independence Day) 0:49
Composed by
David Arnold
Orchestra Conducted by Nicholas Dodd

Night Bird (Conan the Destroyer) 2:20
Composed and Conducted by
Basil Poledouris
El Unione Musicisti di Roma

Remembering Childhood (Hook) 2:19
Composed and Conducted by
John Williams

The Flying Delorean (Back to the Future) 0:49
Composed by
Alan Silvestri
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra Conducted by John Debney

This album was created for private, home use only, and is not licensed for public sale.

Last night, Darth Vader came down
from planet Vulcan and told me that
if I don't take Lorraine out that
he'd melt my brain!

The Back to the Future trilogy is one of those few pop icons that actually has some substance to it. For one thing, while it is played primarily for laughs, the time-travel element has an internal logic, which makes the films good science-fiction. The films are very clever, all the more so because of how entertaining they are.

What's more, the themes that are brought up are also interesting. Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis' central concept of being a teenager and meeting your parents when they were your age and the discrepancies between what they told you and how they actually were has universal appeal. Over the course of the films, Marty McFly learns about how to take responsibility for his own actions, an idea made all the more apparent by the fact that he has seen the results of his parents' decisions before he saw the causes.

The light and breezy tone of the first film then gives way to a dark mindfuck that is the second. The third film also has a lighter tone, more in keeping with the first, which allows the trilogy a symmetry that is very pleasing when viewed as a whole. The third film is often considered the weakest of the three, which is true, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider that by the time the sequels were being made, the video explosion had occurred, and Gale and Zemeckis had in mind the fact that these films would be scrutinized and even watched in succession*. The tone of the last film is the perfect denoument after the insanity of the second. Furthermore, it is a nice touch that the old west that Marty and Doc travel to is a movie old west, which fits the movie 1955 seen in the first film.

Trivia bit: Elijah Wood is one of the kids who thinks that the video game Marty plays in the 80's cafe in Part II is lame.

While I totally agree with Spike Lee that the idea that Marty McFly inventing rock and roll is a racist conceit, it is one of the few moments that read as uncomfortable today. Bob Gale's excuse that sometimes a cigar is only a cigar doesn't really account for the institutional racism that it implies (although Chuck Berry apparently thought it was pretty funny). There are so many little details that the films support many viewings, particularly after the increased complexity introduced in the second film.

The music scores by Alan Silvestri are fantastic. Unfortunately, there is no official release for the score of the first film (the existing bootleg has distorted sound and switched stereo channels... um... that's what I heard, anyway), which is interesting given that it was this score that basically put him in the big leagues. It is not hard to hear why; despite the intimacy of the film, Marty is acting for his very existence. That plus the era the bulk of the film was set in gave Silvestri carte blanch to write a large-scale, old-fashioned orchestral score. His bold and instantly recognizable theme and frantic mickey-mousing sets an appropriately overbroad tone. The second film tends to be a variation on the music from the first film, but “Part III” introduces a new material for the old west and the love story; Silvestri doesn't do many Westerns (the only ones which spring to mind are Young Guns II and The Quick and the Dead), which is a shame given that this theme is so effective.

* Gale and Zemeckis mention that if they had considered making a sequel to Back to the Future upon its release in 1985, not only would they have put the “To be continued...” card before the end credits (that appeared on the video editions only, but not on the new DVDs), they would not have put Jennifer into the Delorean at the end.

Intestinal Fortitude

I've had the shits something terrible for the past couple of days. You really didn't need to hear that, but if I'm being tortured in such a way, then I – being the vindictive son of a bitch that I am – just burned the information permanently into your brain cells, so now, unless you destroy said brain cells with the proper drug and alcohol abuse, you're stuck with it until you finally shuffle off this mortal coil.

Bwa ha ha ha ha....

...ha ha ha ha...

Anakin the Bullshitter

Anybody looking for an something off the beaten path might want to check out Shattered Glass, about The New Republic reporter Stephen Glass (Hayden Christiansen) whose work turned out to be primarily invention. Peter Skarsgaard plays Chuck Lane, the editor who eventually caught him. The cast, save Christiansen, is uniformly good, featuring Hank Azaria in a dramatic role, Chloe Sevigny, Melany Lynskey, Steve Zahn and Rosario Dawson. Christiansen works perfectly in the film, but his performance is a bit... well... see the film. While there is a slow opening, it is worth staying with to see where it goes. The film establishes the atmosphere of The New Republic and how likable Glass made himself, and halfway through the focus shifts as the extent of his duplicity becomes apparent.

The DVD not only contains the film, but a 60 Minutes interview with Glass, and commentary by writer/director Billy Ray and Lane himself. It is a fascinating talk because in addition to going over production details, logistics and technical aspects, Ray often will ask Lane what it was like to actually live through the events depicted in the film, which is great because it describes a particularly difficult moment in Lane's life. As a result, the commentary not only sheds light on the process of making the film, but also on the actual incidents.

The movie is an interesting rumination on the trust we place in newspersons, and how that trust can be abused by someone who knows the system.

Clone Wars News
That Makes Me Happy

I have learned that a new season has been ordered. Excellent.

Super 35 In IMAX?

While I won't lie and say I'm not intrigued by the fact that there is an IMAX presentation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I have to wonder how good an IMAX blow-up of a Super 35 film would look... and the 35 millimeter prints of Azkaban were particularly grainy. Of course, the Super 35 source offers more information on the top and bottom of the image to project in IMAX, and I know there is a digital grain removal process, but still, a polished turd is still a turd.

It seems that the two hour time limit that was previously placed upon IMAX features has somehow been gotten around (this is why the IMAX versions of Apollo 13 and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones had to be shortened), as reportedly The Matrix Reloaded IMAX edition was unedited, and the running time of the IMAX Prisoner of Azkaban closely matches that of the standard version of the film.

The Super 35 format is a compromise between shooting flat and widescreen.

Anamorphic photography uses lenses that squeeze the image during photography. The same sort of lenses are required during projection. If you've ever seen an old transfer where the credit sequence looked distorted, that's why. You were seeing the squeezed image. The biggest problems in shooting anamorphically are the depth of field (how deep is the focus) and panning-and-scanning (cropping the image to fit television sets). The Super 35 format was developed to provide a widescreen film image but addressing these issues.

The filmed image spreads across the entire film stock. Then the widescreen image is extracted and squeezed so an anamorphic theatrical print can be made of it. This means that spherical (regular) lenses can be used in production instead of anamorphic lenses, and it also means that there is more picture information on the top and the bottom of the screen to play with while making a full-frame video transfer.

So, if I'm such a big fan of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, why do I not like the process?

One of the reasons is purely aesthetic. I like the way that anamorphic photography looks. There are slight distortions that I happen to think look like how a movie is supposed to look, and I prefer the elliptical lense flares one finds in anamorphic films over the circular ones that are seen when shot with spherical lenses.

Another problem I have with it is that theatrical prints have a tendency to look quite grainy, and often have more muted colors than anamorphic sourced prints. This is because what is essentially happening at the printing stage is a blow-up and optical process. While Super 35 prints can look okay, they can never quite get the level of detail and richness of color that is available in anamorphic photography, which uses the entire frame and is a direct 1:1 printing process.

The final problem is one that is a bit difficult to explain. It is something that, as a filmmaker, really rankles me, and it deals with the video transfer element. Now, while I loathe panning-and-scanning, I understand that it is a necessary evil in today's marketplace. Super 35 is supposed to be more television friendly, and it is. With the additional picture information on the top and bottom of the screen, the pan-and-scan process is made much easier, as one can avoid lateral cropping. However, one tends to find that, in order to make the theatrical composition work, there is often a lot of "dead space" above and below the widescreen frame. This means that many times a full-frame transfer of a Super 35 has to be altered just as invasively as if it were shot anamorphically.

This may sound like nit-picking to you, but the you see, as a filmmaker, I see a huge problem with the Super 35 process, one which is echoing throughout the industry as it becomes the standard for widescreen photography, and that is the ultimate question: which frame are you composing for?

This is a huge consideration. A Super 35 frame has to be composed for the widescreen aspect ratio, but that means that nothing of importance can be occurring above and below the central action area. This can sometimes cause unfortunate compromises in the way the films look. James Cameron's films since The Abyss have all been shot in Super 35, and they are often pointed at as being examples of how good the format can look, but one finds that the compositions are often skewed, so that they don't look so great in widescreen, nor in pan-and-scan. There has been an increasing amount of laziness among cinematographers of late, both in terms of their compositions and their use of color (less important with the desaturated colors one finds with the end product).

The format also leads to confusion among the public, who are already confused about what letterboxing is all about. To clarify: letterboxing is not about giving you more, although that does happen with hard-matted flat, 70 millimeter and anamorphic films. Letterboxing is about preserving the original compositions that the director and cinematographer created for the theatrical release (in the case of DVDs, a letterboxed transfer can also offer a more detailed picture on 16:9 televisions). If a film has been properly composed, then it will tend to look better in widescreen than the pan-and-scan edition. This is becoming increasingly rare.

I'm not saying that all cinematographers that use Super 35 are lazy. Darius Khondji, Thomas Newton Sigel and, before his death, Conrad Hall have all used it to great advantage (note how lackluster the full-frame video transfers of films they have shot are, though). So here endeth the tirade.
Tags: alan silvestri, basil poledouris, cinema, elmer bernstein, film music, filmmaking, jerry goldsmith, john williams, laurence rosenthal, lee holdridge, michael kamen, my mixes

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