It’s that time again to put The Spin your hands! The topic this round: The Greatest Piece of Richard Wagner Music.
As Sam Juliano from Wonders in the Dark so eloquently mused, “Richard Wagner was a racist, an anti-Semite and a bigamist, yet he wrote some of the most extraordinarily beautiful music in the history of Western civilization.” And it was Sam’s chatter on the facebook that spurred this post.
It got me wondering, not only about all that great music (that lends itself so eerily well to cinema) but also, “What the hell was going on in Wagner’s head?” His music has spawned men like Adolph Hitler to score their epic and vile plans for world domination, while it left others rapt and spellbound with fevered dreams of those pearly gates. What did Wagner see when he composed? What inspired him? And what lead him to spew hate while also birthing so much aural beauty, bequeathing to us an unrivaled output of operatic art that will last as long as human beings have ears to listen to his work. There’s something both ominous and serene about his best pieces, moods that swoon to an emotional climax before bringing the listener back down from heaven (or up from hell) to solid ground where the world lays itself out before us in all its mysterious glory. His is the stuff of both the calm and the storm, the worldly and otherworldly.
But back to the music. I’ve left out his most recognizable pieces to the layman…The Lohengrin Bridal March – yes, the wedding march used at almost every wedding – and Ride of the Valkyries – used so devilishly in D. W. Griffin’s hate mongering Birth of a Nation and overused since then to death. And, yes, I’m trying to bias the vote by putting my pick at the top. But without further adieu…the nominees: Continue reading →
In 2009, Hollywood went to war and for the most part blew us away if not with the actual quality of their output, with their audacity at least. In 2010 they took a deep breath and dove back into the shadows and dark alleys of the mind. It was the year of the Neo-Noir Renaissance.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 (2nd movement) is probably one of the most recognizable and widely used pieces of classical music. Filmmakers have returned to it over and over again – Tom Hooper just did for the excellent closing montage to The King’s Speech. But I feel this piece of music represents clearly what the 2010 year in film was all about: dark, brooding, steady, prone to dramatic swells, often formulaic, but very well crafted. Tell me you don’t see a bit of the same madness in Carlos Kleiber conducting that we saw in Scorsese, Nolan and Aronofsky directing in 2010.
Unlike most years, it started off like gangbusters with two masters delivering wildly entertaining larks that owed as much debt to their own past efforts at they did to Hitchcock: Martin Scorsese’s “in your face” Shutter Island and Roman Polanski’s more subtle and refined The Ghost Writer. The trend towards neo-noir continued and reached its zenith in the summer with two polarizingly opposite films: Debra Granik’s independent and devilishly simple Winter’s Bone and Christopher Nolan’s wickedly complex mega-blockbuster Inception. Even some of the heavy-hitters at the end of the year, like Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan or The Coen Brothers’ True Grit owed some debt to noir.
Overall, it was a solid, consistent year for films and a nice way to kick-off a new decade of cinema. There was nothing earth-shattering or revolutionary, but there were plenty of reasons to be entertained in 2010… Continue reading →
It’s summertime! And what comes to mind more than…yup, uh-huh…graveyards!
It might be the summer doldrums for refined film buffs — and if you consider yourself party to such self-inflicted snobbery, then pray your city has been one of the selected cities for Winter’s Bone’s limited release – it’s killer good and the perfect antithesis to summer movie hell. Meanwhile every girl and woman you know is lining up for tonight’s midnight showing and about to go crazy over the latest in the Twilight Saga…dun dun dun…Eclipse! Can you hear Bonnie Tyler now? Turn around…
So, in the most tenuous of ties to the Total Eclipse of the Box Office, I have decided to post a hodge-podge collection of my daylight graveyard photography. Some of these photos have been posted before in travel logs and some have never before seen the light of day. The cemeteries visited span the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.
Ga’head, ladies, use your imagination and picture your favorite vampire or werewolf hunk amidst the trees and the stones. Or better yet…don’t. Continue reading →
And while it’s true, many of the greatest films are also imbued with beautiful original musical scores where the moving images flow in perfect harmony with the composers’ notes…it made me wonder…
What of the artists who take a well-known existing piece of music and create moving images that become married to the music’s rhythm?
It’s been so parodied over the years…but can anyone deny the jaw-droppingly imaginative conceit of Stanley Kubrick using Richard Strauss’ “The Spoke Zarathustra” for the opening to his greatest cinematic achievement (hell, THE GREATEST CINEMATIC ACHIEVEMENT) 2001: A Space Odyssey? Continue reading →
Recently I couldn’t decide if I wanted to write a scathing critique focusing on the banality of the painfully quirky (500) Days of Summer or pen a love letter to The “feel good” Final Destination where we gleefully watched ridiculously good-looking and stupid young people die in unfathomably moronic and elaborate stunt-deaths — in 3D no less! — but neither film really warrants such efforts or talk. In times like these when searching for things worthy of writing about, my thoughts turn to my blog’s old stand-by and most popular feature: The Greatest “Blank of All Time” Lists.
I’ve toyed for quite some time with doing a list of film’s greatest cinematographers — which, by the way would look something like this: Conrad L. Hall, Freddie Francis, Roger Deakins, Sven Nykvist, Caleb Deschanel (Zooey/Summer Finn’s accomplished father), Robert Elswit, Emmanuel Lubezki…but I digress — Continue reading →
Anything can happen; all things are possible and plausible. Time and space do not exist: over a minute patch of reality imagination will weave its web and create fresh patterns…”
–August Strindberg, Preface to A Dream Play (1902)
This spring I arrogantly went through my own self taught film school where I explored critically for the first time some of the defining works of legendary directors like Carl Dreyer, Fritz Lang, Carol Reed, Orson Welles, and Francois Truffaut, among others, many of which I have discussed and reviewed on this blog. It seems foolish now to think I could sample all of the greats of cinema’s past in just a few short months. What I came to realize is that my film school will never end as long as I continue my love affair with movies. For all the careful planning that went into the selection of the films I explored and searched for, sometimes it is the film that finds me before I realize I had been looking for it all this time. Thus is the case with Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander.
Two kids lost inside Ingmar Bergman's head.
My interest in Bergman began with his 1966 classic Persona, which had allured me since first seeing David Lynch’s 2001 masterpiece Mulholland Drive, as it was often quoted as a heavy influence. Continue reading →