Steve J. Moore

Posts Tagged ‘Film’

Through the Glass

In Film, Music, TV on August 8, 2008 at 1:42 pm

While browsing through the overpriced movie section of Borders a few years ago, my friend Ed and I stopped on one particular shelf. He picked up The French Connection to emphatically remind me how badly I needed to see it as he reveled, wide-eyed, at its box. My eyes were searching the shelves as well for appealing movies I hadn’t seen. What I stopped on was Koyaanisqatsi. What on earth was this I thought. Being a filmhead, Ed could read my thoughts entirely and immediately began explaining why the film was titled after the Native American words for “life out of balance…”

$8 and an earful of explanation later, I was looking forward to watching this important work of cinematic and acoustic art. Ed had explained to me that the entire film was merely 88 minutes of instrumental overture lain upon a cinematic landscape of rural and urban themes. The music takes the viewer through by the hand through a journey from the order of nature to the chaos of the urban and human world. The movie is meant as a meditation on the connection between the natural and artificial worlds where people have become disconnected.

If you would have asked me then, I wouldn’t have been able to explain that because I only watched the first 20 minutes before I was bored out of my mind.

But wait! Steve! I thought you were into art?

Keep reading.

I did glean more than I had first thought from my brief initial encounter with this film. I learned who Phillip Glass was. It was his music that is the foundation of Koyaanisqatsi, the engine by which any message is ferried from screen and speaker to eyes and ears. Hauntingly simple strings of notes are repeated over and over building a melody as one builds a bridge from ten thousand toothpicks with no glue at all.

I immediately went searching for other works by this fantastic composer and artist ( I have a big soft spot for piano music in general) and found that he had a solo album called Metamorphosis, and that Glass’s work could be found in many movies already like The Hours and The Truman Show.

Writing about this has reminded me that music in movies always has a significant effect on me, both in terms of the emotional weight music can add and also of my opinion about a particular film or genre. Another instance of this happened just the year before.

I hadn’t yet left Augustana College in South Dakota for Missouri State (nor the field of chemistry for that of English), but my position as a Peer Advisor (RA, TA, SA, call us what you will) on a freshman floor allowed me ample free time to watch a lot of movies as I was waiting for people smuggle in booze and girls in the wee hours of the morning. Often, I watched movies with my residents ( I call them “residents” but we were all friendly, barring any Halo-influenced rage), and in some cases movies I may not have otherwise watched. This was particularly the case with Spirited Away.

Let me paint you a picture of Myself in 2004: I like a range of movies a bit wider than when I was in high school, but one genre I still don’t understand is Anime. Why not you ask?

[2004 simulated explanation]

“Well besides the fact that it sucks, Anime is mostly centered around retardedly underclad and over-breasted (yes, over-breasted) ladies who also happen to be computer hackers and ninja masters who do karaoke while riding motorcycles into store windows, out of space ship airlocks, and on top of buildings. There is also a lot of blood-spurting and limb-removing going on so the animators, who are all tasteless old Japanese perverts, have something to draw besides breasts. Also, none of it makes sense and I think they all involve some kind of rehashing of Robot Jox

Yes, for those of you wondering, the “jocks” are people who ride inside of giant robot warriors and fight each other.

All of that aside, my conception of the genre was completely reversed when I saw Hayao Miyazaki‘s masterpiece. My heart melted and ran down my leg into a puddle on the floor–ok they were tears, but who doesn’t like a good metaphor? The point is that I was emotionally moved by this film and my eyes were opened to a wonderful new world I was unaware of before.

The music did play a major role in easing me into the unfamiliar (non-Disney) animated landscape and I eventually bought the incredible score by Joe Hisaishi. After being so blown away, I wondered what exactly I had been missing out on. Before watching the movie with my friend and dorm-mate Alex, we would often play chess together in his room while listening to various soundtracks and scores. One I was attracted to in particular was the work of Yoko Kanno for the Cowboy Bebop TV series. It’s basically the best jazz fusion mix I’ve ever heard and so I decided to give the series a chance based solely on the music.

But discussion of that series and its music deserves its own post on another day entirely. Until then, I’ll advise everyone to take a step out of their comfort zone and check out something new in film, music, or both!

Au Revoir, a teut a l’heure

Goodbye, until next time.

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More Westerns? Yes, Please.

In Film on August 6, 2008 at 11:55 am

I’m not sure at what point in my childhood that I decided Westerns were not for me. Perhaps it was somewhere between my taped-off-of-local-TV VHS copy of Back to the Future III and my friend’s mom watching Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman when I was over, but one can only be so sure of such obscure childhood details. What I do know is when I decided that Westers were amazing.

How could I have overlooked this genre of film for so long! Gunslingers were not just dueling, robbing banks, and flirting with lady bartenders for nothing. These epic, and sometimes tragic, heroes were a part of the American literary narrative in film and I’d let them go by the wayside because why? They had no spaceships? They had strange music? I can’t explain what I thought back then, but I can recount the movie that changed my mind:

That’s right.

Clint Eastwood had always represented the genre I didn’t understand and didn’t care for. When I saw him in Million Dollar Baby I thought, “wow this guy is good” and “why haven’t I seen more of him?” I set out on a mission to find Eastwood. Naturally, I have a slew of film buff friends to bother, so I sought out Ed who has a particularly sensitive sweet tooth for Westerns.

I was given the Über Deluxe Magnifico Director’s Cut Limited Collectors Edition (case pictured above) which I think contained some of Sergio Leone’s blood or something as well. With all the begrudging hope of a gold panning 49er, I jumped feet first into the saucy spaghetti western world.

Drunk on Ennio Morricone’s warped and wonderful scores, I arose from my state of shock as the tumbleweeds blew between my ears. My jaw was dropped and I clapped at the end of the movie even though I was watching it alone on my copmuter. How… how… can a Western be so incredible? How did I live before I’d seen this? It was a major revelation for me akin to… well there aren’t many revelations I’ve had as great as this (in terms of art and culture) but I can draw comparison to:

Beautiful. No one quite says it like xkcd. Now I can continue on knowing that you understand the true weight of my revelation.

Yes, Westerns had arrived, in the brain of Steve at least, and life was good. Next I watched Jeremiah Johnson , Unforgiven, and Once Upon a Time in the West. JJ was a suggestion from my father-in-law, and not technically a western per se, but certainly in a similar vein. Robert Redford plays a loner mountain man who catches bears and drifts, not my favorite movie, but an entertaining and manly frontier piece for sure.

Given my new Westernophile status, when I saw the preview for James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma starring Ben Foster, Russell Crow,  Christian Bale, and the great Peter Fonda, I simply could not refuse. I called up my movie fanatic cousin Kiel and said, we’re going to see this right now. It did not disappoint. I won’t ruin any of it for you, but let’s just say that Foster was sorely overlooked for Academy recognition in 2007 for his role as the insane villain, Charlie Prince. I highly, highly suggest that you see this film.

And now, we have Ed Harris directing the remake of Appaloosa starring the gruff-voiced Viggo Mortenson, the gruffer-looking Jeremy Irons, and the epiphetless Renée Zellweger. They’re even pulling the androidish Lance Henrikson out of storage for this one (were there flamethrowers in the Old West?). I think movie makers have been prodding the public timidly for the past few years to find what they want in new films. What hasn’t been done in this new generation? Westerns.

My hope is that, as I’ve seen the comic book film industry boom, we don’t see a few fantastic Westerb remakes of old classics and then thirty drag-me-behind-the-horse failed attempts hoping to break the bank and beat the Sherrif out of town.

That being said, do yourself a favor and go rent a Western.

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