[Movies of the Month] February

February

CINEMA VISITS
Jupiter Ascending
- Interesting plot, stunning effects and beautiful costumes, but the characters are uninspiring and, sadly, the plot is weakened by a convoluted and poor script. ★★½

1ST TIMERS
Beverly Hills Cop 
- Definitely a product of its time, but enjoyable nonetheless with genuine laughs to accompany the groans. ★★★
Birdman – Strong acting but I didn’t connect with the characters, found the music distracting and overpowering, and felt my attention waning several times. ★★★
Arthur Newman – Strong acting from its lead but is let down by an, at time, obvious plot line. ★★★
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Great fun; potentially the first example of a movie ‘bromance’. ★★★★
Tracks - Inspiring story that is superbly executed. ★★★★½
Cuban Fury – Light-hearted Brit flick, with lots of laugh-out-loud moments; Frost is on form. ★★★★

REWATCHES
Jurassic Park – The best in the trilogy; an exciting, immersive look into what might happen when business meets science to create the impossible. ★★★★½
The Lost World: Jurassic Park – Weaker than its predecessor and 30 minutes longer than it should have been but still plenty of dino-thrills. ★★★
Jurassic Park III – Forgetting the politics of film two and taking it back to basics, with plenty of action, excitement and danger. ★★★½
Romeo + Juliet – An interesting modernisation that still uses the bard’s original wording. However, it can be too erratic, but this is, arguably, one of Luhrmann’s trademarks. ★★★½
The Last Unicorn – An enduring favourite, appearing dated now but losing none of its charm. ★★★★
Gone Girl – Still packing punches on my third viewing. ★★★★

DOCUMENTARIES
And the Oscar Goes to… – Interesting docu that reveals the history of the celebrated awards ceremony.

Total: 14

Since 1/1/15 

Cinema visits: 1
1st timers: 15
Rewatches: 14
Documentaries: 1
Total: 31

Part 3: Celebrating Music in the Movies

Whether it’s the ‘duuuun-dun, duuuun-dun, duuuun-dun…’ chords from Jaws or the marching theme of Star Wars, there are certain pieces of film music that are just as well-known or even more well-known than the film they’re featured in.

This got me thinking: what’s the most popular piece of film music and what’s the most recognisable?

In the case of the latter, one suggestion is John Barry’s ‘James Bond’ theme, the signature theme of the James Bond films that has been used in all of the Eon Productions films released to date. This means that it has been heard in cinemas on and off for over 50 years, an enduring legacy to cinema by Barry.

Answering the former, the type of music that you enjoy is a personal choice. Certain parts of The Lord of the Rings scores resonate with me, in particular the beautiful fiddle than accompanies scenes set in Rohan. ‘Promentory’ from The Last of the Mohicans is another – with more use of a stringed instrument – while the much more upbeat and triumphant Jurassic Park theme would round off my top three.

There’s then the question of what the most popular song is.

Mine would potentially be Enya’s ‘May It Be’ from The Fellowship of the Ring. I would hazard a guess that the public vote would be for Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from Titanic, Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ from The Bodyguard or Bryan Adams’ ‘Everything I Do’ from Robin Hood, if single sales are any indication.

Celine Dion, 1997, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ – 15 million+ copies sold worldwide, No 1 in 18 countries

Whitney Houston, 1992, ‘I Will Always Love You’ – 15 million+ copies sold worldwide, 14 weeks at No 1 on the USA’s Billboard chart

Bryan Adams, 1991, ‘Everything I Do’ – 15 million+ copies sold worldwide, 16 weeks at No 1 on the UK’s Singles Chart

Recently, Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ from Despicable Me 2 was extremely successful, becoming the best-selling song of 2014 in the United States with over 6.45 million copies sold. ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen is another favourite, with an overwhelming amount of cover versions and parodies making their way onto YouTube.

What are your favourites?

Previously:

Part 1 – Invoking emotions
Music can stir feelings within you in a unique way. What do you feel when you hear the Jaws soundtrack or Jones’ ‘Last of the Mohicans’?

Part 2 – Industry greats
Looking at such legendary composers as John Williams plus upcoming composers

Part 2: Celebrating Music in the Movies

Industry greats

Many award ceremonies recognise the importance of film scores, with the Academy Awards awarding for the best Original Score and Original Song. At this year’s Academy Awards, Alexandre Desplat claimed his first Oscar for best Original Score for The Grand Budapest Hotel. He also claimed this year’s Bafta.

Looking at the Academy Awards’ statistics database, it’s no surprise to see that John Williams (born 1932) has received the most nominations in the Original Score category, with a staggering 44. Of those, he has won five. In a close second place is Alfred Newman (1901-1970) with 41 nominations and 9 wins while in third place is Max Steiner (1888-1971) with 20 nominations and two wins.

John Williams’ Academy Award success

  • 1971 – Fiddler on the Roof – Best Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score
  • 1975 – Jaws – Best Original Dramatic Score
  • 1975 – Star Wars – Best Original Score
  • 1982 – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – Best Original Score
  • 1993 – Schindler’s List – Best Original Score

The Newman family

  • David Newman, Alfred’s son, has scored nearly 100 films, including The War of the Roses, Matilda and Ice Age
  • Thomas Newman, Alfred’s son, has received 12 Academy Award nominations for film scoring. His filmography includes The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty and Skyfall
  • Randy Newman, Alfred’s nephew, is a two-time Academy Award winner and popular singer/songwriter, also winning various Emmys and Grammy Awards

‘The Father of Film Music’

An Austrian-born composer, Steiner was a child prodigy who would go on to compose over 300 film scores, including Gone with the Wind. He was the recipient of the first Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, won for 1947’s Life with Father.

The next generation

Understandably, at 83-years-old, Williams has slowed down, with his most recent compositions being for 2011’s The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse, 2012’s Lincoln and 2013’s The Book Thief. He has also composed the score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, due for release later this year.

Contemporary names frequently seen in credits and at award shows include Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Inception), Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 and 2, The Imitation Game) and Danny Elfman (Milk, Alice in Wonderland, Silver Linings Playbook).

James Horner also deserves a mention, with his score for Titanic being the bestselling orchestral film soundtrack of all time; Titanic and Avatar (which he also scored) are the two highest-grossing films of all time.

Next time:

Part 3 – Enduring classics
What is the most recognisable piece of film music? Would you say it is Barry’s ‘James Bond’, Williams’ ‘Star Wars’ or something else?

Previously:

Part 1 – Invoking emotions
Music can stir feelings within you in a unique way. What do you feel when you hear the Jaws soundtrack or Jones’ ‘Last of the Mohicans’?

Part 1: Celebrating Music in the Movies

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”
– Plato

Plato’s description is certainly romanticised, but I do agree with it, particularly in relation to film scores. The right music can enhance a scene, adding another level of emotion – be it love, anger or sadness – that might otherwise have been difficult for the actors alone to portray. Equally, the wrong music can detract from a scene, becoming a distraction and taking the focus away from the acting.

Birdman’s score fits into both of categories, in my opinion, with its clever use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound. Thinking about it now, while at the time I didn’t enjoy the sound of the (at times) intense drumming and found that it made it difficult to understand the actors, I do realise that it was an effective way to reflect the mental state of the central character.

Diegetic sound: Sound whose source is visible on the screen or whose source is implied to be present by the action of the film. It can be either on screen or off screen depending on whatever its source is within the frame or outside the frame.

Non-diegetic sound: Sound whose source is neither visible on the screen nor has been implied to be present in the action. It is represented as coming from a source outside story space.
– FilmSound.org

Part 1: Invoking emotion

For Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend bought me a copy of Classic FM’s ‘Movies: The Ultimate Collection’, an excellent gift that has me fired up ready to go watch the CBSO play Friday Night Classics: 21st Century Blockbusters in a few weeks’ time.

Playing the album last night, CD3 proved to be the most popular. My dad favoured such songs as Barry’s ‘Zulu’ and Bernstein’s ‘The Great Escape’ while I was wholeheartedly humming along to Williams’ ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.

Listening to a compilation album instead of a film’s OST made me realise my above point of music stirring up a variety of emotions. Three songs in particular really demonstrated this, conjuring up very different feelings and images.

  • Williams, ‘Jaws’ – A sense of foreboding, uncertainty, danger
  • Jones, ‘Last of the Mohicans’ – Stoicism, strength, hope
  • Moross, ‘The Big Country’ – Excitement, travelling at speed, the outdoors

I’ve seen Jaws and The Last of the Mohicans and know the setting of The Big Country so may have been influenced by this prior knowledge. If you have time to listen to the songs, please leave a comment. Music, like film, is subjective so I’d be interested to read your thoughts.

Next time:

Part 2 – Industry greats
Looking at such legendary composers as John Williams plus upcoming composers

Part 3 – Enduring classics
What is the most recognisable piece of film music? Would you say it is Barry’s ‘James Bond’, Williams’ ‘Star Wars’ or something else?

[Movies of the Month] January

January

1ST TIMERS
The Family 
- Disappointing considering the high calibre leads. ★★★
What Dreams May Come – Touching drama that certainly knows how to pull on your heart strings. ★★★½
Boyhood - Novel concept and strong performances from the leads but let down by an uninteresting plot. ★★★★
The Descent – Zero backstory but does it matter? Certainly edge-of-your-seat stuff. ★★★★
The Big Year – A twitcher movie with a big heart. ★★★★
A Long Way Down – Interesting concept that was very well cast but suffers from being a bit predictable. ★★★★
The Birdcage – Great entertainment; Nathan Lane is fantastic. ★★★★
Housesitter - Sweet film but not quite up to the usual Hawn/Martin standards. ★★★½
The Edge – Action-packed and tense, Hopkins and Baldwin make a good team onscreen, with each fulfilling their designated role superbly. ★★★★½

REWATCHES
The Heat – Entertaining and just a bit silly, a very watchable comedy. ★★★½
National Treasure – Fun, light-hearted adventure that is perfect Friday night material. ★★★½
Guardians of the Galaxy – Threatening to overtake Thor as my favourite Marvel flick. ★★★★½
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Delightfully quirky and classically Anderson, the casting of Fiennes was an inspired choice. ★★★★
Gone Girl - Doesn’t have the ‘shock factor’ on repeated viewings but certainly holds its own as a tense, gripping thriller. ★★★★½
Real Steel – Every minute is enjoyable, from start to finish; a great, feel good family film. ★★★★½
The King’s Speech – Deserving of its Best Picture Oscar, with two fantastic leads, expert direction and a well-adapted script. ★★★★★
TRON: Legacy – Continues to be a favourite, in no small part down to the brilliant score and beautiful visuals. ★★★★

Total: 17

Since 1/1/15 

Cinema visits: 0
1st timers: 9
Rewatches: 8
Total: 17

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