06 November 2008

Gratuitous Self-Promotion

This past spring, I wrote the score for a short film called Nancy Picks & Chooses.

It is a gorgeous film that I am incredibly proud of (both the score and the film itself).

It will be screening this weekend at the Mammoth Film Festival in Mammoth Lakes, CA.

You can get screening information at their official website.

Thanks for reading, viewing, and listening!

21 October 2008

"The Bourne Ultimatum" Review

I finally, after some hilarious Netflix hiccups that were entirely my fault, saw the last installment in the Bourne trilogy. Though only nominally related to the plot of the book from which it takes its name, it was easily the best film of the three, and included some lovely developments of John Powell’s now undeniably iconic score.

The film is beautifully paced — the first hour is non-stop cat-and-mouse chase that is never boring and all of which furthers the meta-plot. Powell is given huge expanses of action and extended dialogue-less sequences that he fills with music. The silences are well-chosen, and the film is overall impeccably spotted. There are about 3 or 4 major themes — all of which have been well-established at this point — that he is given ample opportunity to use to good purpose. It also features new and quite sophisticated developments of the motivic material that compellingly serve the subject matter and contribute in a massive way to the success of the movie. His use of middle-eastern (or ersatz middle-eastern) harmonic structures, and the ever-shifting cello licks and hot (seriously!!!!) guitar vamps are as iconic to me as anything Don Davis or John Williams has done, but in a wholly original way. It was exciting and cool and satisfying, and I commend Powell for making such simple ideas so compelling — even when stretched over three longish films.

Also, Albert Finney!?!?! Hell yeah!!!

All-in-all, an excellent conclusion to the trilogy.

Film: 4.5 stars Rating: ★★★★½

Score: 5 stars Rating: ★★★★★

12 October 2008


(Note: I've been invited by up-and-coming film composer Daniel Vendt to contribute film/score reviews to his new website, filmscorereview.com. My reviews there will also be cross posted here. This is my first one.)

Greetings faithful readers.

I went to see Fernando Meirelles’ ( Amores Perros, The Constant Gardener ) long-awaited cinematic adaptation of José Saramango’s 1995 novel, Blindness, this evening. The trailer was awesome, and with an excellent cast — including Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and Gabriel Garcia Bernal — I was quite excited to see it.

To say that this is a difficult movie would be a huge understatement. This is tough stuff, and is not without controversy. The film depicts unnamed characters in an unnamed country who start falling blind for no reason. The military-political complex starts quarantining the suddenly sightless masses into “wards”, which appear to be little more than rather nasty warehouses. Julianne Moore, as the strangely unaffected wife of a stricken opthamologist (Mark Ruffalo), fakes blindness to stay with her husband, as he is carted off by guys in hazmat suits. Everything then devolves into a violent, nihilistic Lord-of-the-Flies-esque nightmare, including human squalor and rape-for-food scenarios. The subject matter — and the unflinching eye of the director — are excruciating, but, mercifully, the cinematography is stunning and the performances are subtle and focussed.

Unsurprisingly for a film about the loss of sight, the sound design is amped way up. All ambient sound is cranked, and the score frequently is as well. This is an effective narrative device, but it is quite abrasive and unnerving in places.

But so then…

The score by Marco Antônio Guimarães (his first major score) is a nice idea, horrifically executed. He chose glassy timbres — mostly vibes, autoharp, other metals, harmonica, and electronic instruments - to good purpose. Sadly, though, the timbral choices are the best thing about the score, since it seems to have been recorded with a, like, $10 microphone at Radio Shack and mixed by an enthusiastic 7-year-old. Also, there were times when I simply couldn’t discern what he was trying to do — is there happy music as the women march down the hall to be gang raped so that they don’t starve to death there to cushion the blow, or are we supposed to feel jolly about the fact that soon they’ll have food? Still stuck on that one. Everything is hot in the mix with no reverb, and then the mix is cranked up as loud or louder than the sound effects — even in strange places. I think that some of the score would have worked had it been well-mixed and balanced nicely in the sound field, but it wasn’t. I wonder if that was on purpose?

Either way, I felt that the score didn’t work at all, though I did like the sound colours used. The film is pretty brutal, but it sparked an interesting discussion with my boyfriend afterwards, so it might be worth a look-see.

Film: 2.5/5 Stars Rating: ★★½☆☆

Score: 1 Star (for timbral inventiveness) Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(One point of housekeeping: I have no problem with sex and nudity in films. I think that Americans are whack-a-doos about letting people see lots of gratuitous violence, and then being bugged by naked people. I have no problem with fantasy and horror violence for the most part, cos it’s s’posed to be like that, either. So when I talk about a film being disturbing and stuff — and I have a strong stomach — it usually implies that there is quite visceral and brutal violence that feels a little too realistic for comfort. This movie definitely goes to some of these places. Be warned.)

16 July 2008

Doctor Who is now officially #1!

The Series Four Doctor Who Finale, Journey's End, was the number one most watched show in England last week. It's the first time in Doctor Who's 45 year history that it has been number 1 on the charts. At 10.57 million viewers, it was 1.5 million ahead of the number two, which was Monday's Wimbledon coverage. Previously, the highest Doctor Who had ever charted was at number five, in 1975, with the second episode of The Ark in Space.

Doctor Who has -- and a tear comes to my eye as I say this, for I thought this day would never come -- the coolest show on television. My years of geekdom are finally paying off.
Or something.

Seriously, though, Series Four was the best series of Nu-Who yet, and I encourage everyone to see it as soon as possible. The writing is excellent and Catherine Tate is a revelation! It's on Sci-Fi in the US right now, and the DVD's will be out in October.

01 July 2008

On Pride

I feel that the reason Pride (with a capital P) is even a thing -- a commemoration of The Stonewall Riots that triggered the beginning of the modern gay rights movement -- has been totally lost in the marketing of Pride as a commodity. Taken as a heartfelt reverberation from the events that led drag queens and gender-queer people to be beaten and bloodied as they raged against the police who had so unfairly singled them out, Pride is pretty frakking awesome.
Becoming a scantily clad advertisement on a float for a bar that is advertising the alcohol that they serve, has little to do with countercultural political protest or civil rights activism. Or does it? Does the fact that mainstream businesses use Pride as a billboard contribute to the movement in some way? I don't know. I generally think that the sponsors just want people to buy their stuff, and they'll slap a rainbow flag on it if it'll help with a demographic sale.
I hear arguments about the liberation inherent in celebrating the day in the most "free" way possible, stating that this is exactly what the Stonewall Girls were fighting for. (I'm sure Saint Sylvia Rivera would definitely agree.) However, there's still plenty to fight for, and -- despite the always-delightful inclusions of GSA's, PFLAG groups, gay parenting groups, political and social action groups, and, of course, Dykes on Bikes -- much of the festivities surrounding Pride ignore this, or merely pay it glossy lip-service.
If there were a clearer acknowledgment of the reason we have the day in the first place, I might be more pleased to participate in it: Pride as progressive, civil-rights movement. As it is, I do my very best to stay as far away from it as possible.
I'm proud of who I am, who I love, and how my life is. I don't need to wear a silver thong in public to somehow give that relevance or "celebrate" it.
I'm not sure what Pride as political movement would look like, but imagine the cultural impact of everyone who had planned on going to the Pride Parade on Sunday calling all of their elected officials instead, flooding their offices with calls encouraging them to take a stand for our rights. Donating beer and bathhouse money to a worthy cause; fighting for same-sex marriage, taking care of at-risk queer youth, advocating same-sex parenting rights, or working to defeat gay marriage bans, might be a better allocation of resources.
Shouldn't we be carrying the torch for the actual event that we are commemorating on that day? I think there is a historical imperative that we continue to ignore because it's not as much fun.
I think there is strength inherent in showing the world our liberated selves, I just feel like there should be more societal substance attached (and not the substances one tends to stumble over at 2am on Monday morning after Pride).
We are better than that, I would hope.

22 June 2008

Doctor Who News

So, Series 4 has been the best series of Nu-Who yet! Catherine Tate has silenced all of her critics (or made them lavish her with praise), the writing has been superb, and everything about the story arc has been pitch perfect.

Everyone's talking about the return of Rose, which I am looking forward to, but what I am now really looking forward to is the fan-wank-o-rama that the final two episodes look to be. (Highlight the empty spaces below for spoilers, if you are so inclined.)

Not only is Rose returning to fight alongside The Doctor and Donna, but -- as confirmed by the most recent BBC trailer -- we are also getting, Martha Jones, Captain Jack, Gwen and Ianto (from Torchwood), Sarah Jane Smith and Luke (from the Sarah Jane Adventures), Jackie and Mickey, Harriet Jones, and DAVROS!!!Julian Bleach, who is taking over for Terry Molloy (who portrayed Davros in his final appearance in the original series in Remembrance of the Daleks), has the voice down perfectly, if the trailer is any indication. Additionally, he is shown to have a cybernetic right hand -- which fits in with the fanwank-continuity-dar -- as his real right hand was shot off by Orcini in Revelation of the Daleks. They haven't explain how he got back in the chair after he appeared to have been nothing but a head attached to a bunch of wires inside a big Dalek casing in Remembrance, but that bitch had been cloning himself for a while, so that's probably an easy fix.

I am just so excited. Not just because of the ambition and nods to the past that are taking place on the show...but because it appears that Who is undergoing a new renaissance as it continues to be one of the most popular shows in Britain, on SciFi in America, and in Canada and Australia. Also, Stephen Moffat, who penned the brilliant The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, Blink, and the recent Silence in the Library, has been announced as the successor to showrunner Russell T Davies in 2010 for Series 5. This is such brilliant news and I look forward to many more years of Doctor Who being something that people are once again taking seriously as brilliant television.

If you haven't been caught up on Series 4, I suggest you do so immediately. It will be worth it and you will thank yourselves!!!

23 May 2008

Long Time, No Post

Hello lovely netizens,

I have been swamped with work at school for the past 7 months.
It's been amazing, but I've never been so busy.
If you would like to see some of my efforts, please feel free to visit my website.

I'll be posting things of interest very soon.
The fourth season of Doctor Who has been breathtaking.
The final season of Battlestar Galactica more so.
Life is good.

Stay tuned...