Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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First class of the term tonight...

...and I must say that I am excited about it.


The Omen

I bought this film on laserdisc about five or six years ago because it had an isolated score track (which actually has two cues that do not appear on the expanded CD released by Varese Sarabande), but I never actually sat and watched the film. After putting so much Omen trilogy music onto They're Here: The Horror Film Music of Jerry Goldsmith, I had an interest in seeing the one film that Goldsmith actually won his Oscar for (no such yen exists for the Rambo trilogy, I should mention). I was surprised at how effective this thriller really was. In addition to the eerie score, which I must imagine must have scared the shit out of audiences in 1976 because of how different it would have sounded from other horror film scores (since then and because of how effective The Omen's score is, perversions of the Gregorian chant have become de riguer for terror pictures). The other element of the film that is so convincing is the performances, which are by such heavyweights as Gregory Peck, David Warner, Lee Remick and Patrick (Doctor Who) Troughton, which goes a long way to selling the situation. The horror moments are quite effective (there is a decapitation that, because of my familiarity with the score I knew was coming - and it still left me agape). The film is shot in a style rarely seen today, in which shots have to be "too perfect," I think. I really did enjoy this one, I must say. The DVD has a series of special features, including a kind of blah commentary by Donner and Stuart Baird, a revealing documentary and a few great pieces on Goldsmth. It looks great, although the stereo remaster doesn't offer much over the original mono mix.

Secret Window

This film was giving me a serious case of deja vu, despite the fact that it isn't really terribly like anything else I had seen... and then I recognized that I had read Stephen King's original short story in his collection Nightmares and Dreamscapes about seven or eight years ago. This, unfortunately, took away much of the fear element of the film, which makes me wonder how much repeat viewing worth it would have were one so inclined. The story, about a disengaged writer played by Johnny Depp being terrorized by a hick played by John Turturro, is pretty good, although the film changes the twist at the end. At times, director David Koepp seems to be taking elements of the short story and literalizing them a bit too much, which undercuts the fact that Depp's performance is quite witty. Turturro, of course, slides seamlessly into the role he's playing and practically oozes menace. Koepp somehow managed to get Philip Glass to provide several cues for the film, and his score sounds like he's having a great time playing with the genre... although the idea of using "Philip Glass" and "fun" in the same sentence does, indeed sound a bit odd... The movie is okay, and worth a view if you're into Depp or Turturro, but as I said, I can't really comment on the effectiveness of the twists, as I knew of them already. The DVD looks and sounds great, and while the commentary is mostly about how Koepp adapted King's written work, there is a fantastic documentary about the making of the film.

Deep Impact

I hadn't seen this movie when it came out, although Tim did drag me to see its godawfully Retard-O-Tastic doppleganger, Armageddon. I recently had a friend mention to me that this film was actually quite good, and so I figured I'd check it out. Mimi Leder's film is less about the disaster itself and more a portrait of a doomed America, and it was really a very effective film. In fact, given the scope of the story, this is one of the few cases where I'll say the film could have been a great deal longer and still held rapt attention. The only real problem I had with it (aside from James Horner's "more of the same" score) was that, with an Extinction Level Event as the central motivating factor, I would like to have seen a greater spectrum of characters and storylines. The performances from the all-star cast were uniformly excellent, and although there are moments that it is clear that Leder is pulling at your heartstrings, they tend to work because of the gravity of the situation and the earnestness of the acting. It isn't perfect, but it was quite good. And it had Robert Duvall in it. Although the DVD features a bold Dolby 5.1 track, it was produced before Paramount began anamorphically enhancing their images, which is unfortunate because the transfer is otherwise excellent.

The Last Valley

This is another film that sparked my interest because of its score. About ten years ago, my old high school English teacher David Izzo sent me a bunch of LPs, one of which was John Barry's score to this film, which I never knew existed. The music was sort of a companion piece to Barry's Oscar-winning The Lion In Winter (they even use the same choir, the Voices of Accademia Monteverdiana), and the power and beauty of this score has made it a cornerstone of my collection since. The film was released on DVD a few years ago, but my BallBuster didn't actually acquire a copy until recently. I finally caught up with it, and when Barry's music kicks in as Trickfilm's portentous title sequence unfolds, one is aware that the experience that follows will be interesting, and I wasn't disappointed. James Clavell's film is an adaptation of a novel by J.B. Pick set during the Thirty Years War, and is a rumination not just of the folly of war, but about why it is that conflict between human beings is difficult to avoid. It also is one of the best treatises for the separation of Church and State I've ever seen... sure the conflict began as being between Catholic and Protestant, but soon it becomes apparent that there are tensions between the Lutherans and the Calvinists as well. The central relationship in the film is between Vogel, a teacher played by Omar Sharif, and the Captain, played by Michael Caine, so one gets an idea as to the level of craft brought to the project by the actors, and the stunning Todd-AO vistas of the Tirol landscape are breathtaking. The movie also features a young (and beardless!) Brian Blessed. The DVD I saw was letterboxed but not 16:9 enhanced, and the sound was mono but clear. I believe, but am not sure, that the disc has been remastered since.

Dancing At the Blue Iguana

Showgirls demonstrated that a hard-hitting drama featuring strippers had yet to be made. Dancing At the Blue Iguana, which is about the lives of the people who, each for their own reasons, have ended up working at a local strip club. The dancing is not titillating, but rather it is an expression of the characters. This is a film created by the director and the actors in collaboration, and so much of the drama came from improvisations by the actors, and the stories they came up with stemmed very much from the inner world of the characters they were creating. The effect is brilliant. Each character has their own set of conflicts and issues, quite discrete from the others, although they are bound by their workplace, and the ultimately dead-end lives they have fallen into. The DVD features a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer but a fantastically enveloping and realistic Dolby 5.1 track. There is also a decent documentary and two commentaries, one a description of the project by director Michael Radford and the other is an outline of the experience of working on the film by several of the actors. It is the latter track that is the most interesting, as many of the ideas were theirs to begin with. It is interesting to see how such a cohesive film could have come from this process, but one can see how a unified vision was able to give all of the artists involved the ability to work towards a common goal.

In Theaters


Michael Mann's new film basically comes across as a long, Panavision episode of Miami Vice (pretty much like any of his other films). Jamie Foxx is fantastic in the film, and Tom Cruise is suitably intense. The film is better in its second half, when concentrates on being more of a straight thriller, but the construction could have been a bit more taught. That said, the film is quite entertaining, even if Mann's musical selections were a little weird (there's nothing wrong with James Newton Howard's score, but several times ill-fitting songs and new age pieces show up for no reason). The print I was very sharp and supersaturated, utilizing grain for dramatic emphasis.


I wondered where the film was going for its first third, though I was fascinated by Christopher Doyle's images and the proficiency of the martial arts. At one point, however, Zhang Yimou's film changes tone and focus, and from then on, it becomes apparent that the story was becoming exactly what the visuals had been promising. There is a profundity that the film achieves that justifies what it looks and sounds like, and once it gets there, it lives up to its epic title. Tan Dun's score is an extension of his work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but it gets more intense and plays a more pivotal role in the unfolding drama as it is the unifying factor in the discourse. Few films are quite as visually and aurally stunning as this one is, and it is worth seeing on the big screen for these pleasures. That said, the action is emormously satisfying as well, and the drama has many layers that are removed over the course of the film.

Protesting A Tyrant

Somewhere between 125,000 and 250,000 activists have amassed all over the city to protest Bush at the Republican National Convention. I myself plan to do some good sometime before the week is up, but I, along with many others, are worried that there are agent provacatuer amongst the earnest demonstrators in an attempt to demonize the proceedings. This is not as Oliver Stone-esque as it may sound...

Elmer Bernstein
1922 - 2004

Film Score Monthly has posted their obituary for Bernstein.

While the public at large didn't even notice the fact that I wore my Bernstein T-shirt yesterday, Dave and Tim were severely perplexed by it... but Tim proved he was surfing in Nebraska when he saw me eyeballing Doors concerts on DVD. Apparently that's just going too far. So I would just say that there are some people for whom music is wallpaper, and other for whom it is a focus. I am of the latter.
Tags: cinema, film music
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