Sunday, November 29, 2009

Star Wars Concert in Chicago

The Chicago Tribune has an article on the Star Wars concert playing there next week. The show is a traveling performance that mixes a symphony orchestra with stage effects and clips of the films.

An excerpt from the article:
The roughly two-hour show represents an unusual combination -- for many "Star Wars" fans, perhaps the first time they'll be seeing a symphony orchestra. But don't expect contemplative silence between movements. Every instrument will be amplified (a lot), and in addition to the lasers, you'll see flames and smoke -- the staging is so elaborate, it takes 12 semitrailer trucks to transport the show from city to city.

Belgium's Dirk Brosse will conduct an 86-piece orchestra (including some from the Boston Pops and the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra) and a 60-voice choir performing a "Star Wars" montage that Williams assembled and, in some cases, re-orchestrated.

As the orchestra plays and the choir sings, a giant high-definition LED screen will show clips from all six movies, the footage matched to the music. The footage unfolds in rough chronological order but also is organized around musical themes -- a little romance here, the rise of the dark side there.

For the first time, audiences will be able to see a fully digital Yoda in "Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace," as Lucas recently excised the poorly executed Yoda puppet. Anthony Daniels, who lent his voice to the golden protocol droid C-3PO in all "Star Wars" movies, narrates the proceedings.
Read the full article here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Adapting New Moon

MTV has an interview with New Moon screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg in which she discusses what changes she made to the novel and why. This will probably be of interest to fans of the book and those interested in the craft of film adaptation. Check it out here.

That said, in editing the source material, Rosenberg didn't (and probably couldn't, for fear of angering the Twilight fan base) fix the major problem of the book: that the entire second act of the story bears no relevence on the third act. [SPOILER ALERT] The film could quite literally have skipped from Edward leaving (which concludes the first act of the story) to Bella cliff jumping and her journey to Europe, and removed the entire Jacob storyline. [END SPOILER ALERT] I know Twilight fans will likely point out that wolf-boy and his friends become an important part of the following stories, and while that may be true, it is also nevertheless important for this film to stand on its own and deliver a coherent story.

Monday, November 23, 2009

John Hughes Episode to Re-Run on November 29

Sounds of Cinema will feature a re-run of the John Hughes show (episode #252) on Sunday, November 29th. Tune in to hear music from films such as Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, and Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Film Reviews on Winona 360

You can hear audio of some of my recent film reviews in the "Voices" section of Thanks to Kate Carlson for including the reviews on the site. Check it out here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2012 and 9/11

Mark Harris posted this editorial on on the new film 2012, or more specifically on the trailer to the film, which Harris finds deplorable. Here is an excerpt:
In the ad's biggest high-five moment, his little escape plane zips between two parallel high-rise towers just seconds before those towers collapse into each other, presumably killing thousands of CGI flyspeck humans. Forget the towers! the trailer seems to say. How cool was it that the plane threaded that needle?! Awesome! Cusack lives! I half expected a video-game bonus-point total to flash in the corner of the screen. But about those towers: Eight years after 9/11, Hollywood has apparently decided that not only can we see two giant buildings coming down in a movie but we want to, because it's fun. Yesterday's world tragedy is today's money shot. And make no mistake — 9/11, and your memory of those images, is what that moment is all about.
I have seen 2012 and will have a review of it on the episode of Sounds of Cinema airing on November 12, but, as a bit of a preview, I do think what Harris says is right. What is unnerving about 2012 is not just that it invokes 9/11 imagery, or for that matter that it invokes images of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, but that it uses that imagery so carelessly. The only apparent point of the film is to give us a cheep thrill. There have been a number of dramatic films about 9/11 and most of them are uncomfortable to watch but some are also quite good, such as Paul Greengrass' United 93, because it makes us think about what that day meant.

There have been plenty of horror films over the course of this decade that have resurrected the ultra-gory imagery of the 1970s and 80s slasher genre, and those films also invoked imagery of daily violence. However, the best of those films from the original wave (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street) or the more recent one (Saw, 28 Weeks Later, Hostel Part II) actually have something to say about nature of violence or about our culture. The utter destruction of the body is akin to the destruction of an office building and the people inside of it except--and this is important --that horror films force us to look at the violence and see it not as a joy ride but as a very real act of cruelty. And in that revelation, as ugly as it may be, there is a lot of humanity to be found. Films like 2012 are not interested in humanity at all.

In essence, the problem with 2012 is the larger problem faced by the action and disaster genre: whether deliberately or as a consequence of design, the films often cheapen our understanding of disasters and the loss of human life by turning events like 9/11 into a fireworks display.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Salon Article on "Precious" features this article by Erin Aubry Kaplan on the film Precious, which has been generating very positive buzz since opening last week. Kaplan writes about why she feels the film is important for both black and white audiences and how it undermines comfortable cliches of urban stories. An excerpt:

Hollywood has long favored comedies or "urban" dramas, both of which mine the deprivation and depravity of the ghetto for entertainment (a phenomenon I call "ghettotainment"). Movies like "Menace II Society" and "Barber Shop" sit comfortably atop the Netflix queues of a multicultural audience. And at the opposite end of the spectrum are the uplifting dramas, stories of dignified black folk overcoming oppression and/or segregation, movies often set in a distant, racist past -- "Glory" or "Remember the Titans." But "Precious" is jarring, because it breaks all these rules. The movie is about racial oppression, but it's modern; its protagonist is inner-city but a female, not an archetypal gangbanger or would-be criminal; though she perseveres, Precious is clearly a victim, not a victor.

Perhaps the best thing about "Precious" is how it dismantles the well-honed defense mechanisms of the black audience. As viewers, we tend to be ready commentators, snickering at our own pain; we make fun of these on-screen moments because they're frequently so unconvincing. Movies, among other things, have taught us not to take ourselves seriously. But in drawing black pain so specifically and unsentimentally, "Precious" makes those cavalier attitudes impossible. When Mo'Nique snaps, "Shut the fuck up!" for the hundredth time or Gabourey Sidibe, the remarkable actress in the title role, tearfully confesses to her own sense of nothingness, the largely black audience I sat with was silent; I could feel a rare chill of recognition. In one of the film's most heartbreaking moments, Precious stands on the cold sidewalk with her new baby, looking longingly through the window of a church at a gospel rehearsal in joyous full swing. It's rare to see a black church portrayed as impotent. But it isn't a condemnation so much as an illustration of her isolation -- our isolation.

I have not seen the film yet, so at this point I just hope that Precious plays long enough and wide enough that the rest of us get to see it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The End of Miramax (and Independent Film?)

If you hadn't heard, Disney has all but closed down Miramax, the company formally created and owned by the Weinstein Brothers. This is the studio that created and/or distributed some of the most prestigious films of the past twenty years including Pulp Fiction, The Crying Game, sex, lies, and videotape, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, The Queen, and No Country for Old Men. writer Andrew O'Hehir has written an article about the significance of Miramax to recent film history (comparing it to United Artists in the late 1960s and early 70s) and pointing out how the collapse of Miramax is symptomatic of a larger problem facing independent film. Here is an excerpt:

Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn Bowles, who worked at Miramax in the '90s, sees the company's near-total desiccation as just another chapter in a lengthy and necessary restructuring of the film marketplace. Over the course of the last two years, numerous other studio specialty divisions and small indie distributors have disappeared, including Picturehouse, Warner Independent, Paramount Vantage, THINKfilm and New Yorker Films.

"The landscape has changed a lot since last summer, when all those companies closed down," Bowles says. "The market has gotten back to a more sustainable level. Those companies whose basic M.O. was to chase the Oscar at any cost created an absolutely false marketplace." He suggests that surviving companies like Magnolia, Sony Pictures Classics, IFC and Zeitgeist, who focus on marketing quality films to niche audiences, are now in a stronger position. "Producers are the ones who may be hurt by this, because there are fewer players with fewer resources, and it's a buyer's market. But we've done very well since last summer. It's inherently a more reasonable situation."
Reportedly, the Weinstein's are attempting to buy back the Miramax name from Disney, but there is no telling if that deal will go through, as Disney may want to hold onto the label for appearance's sake and for the impressive catalogue of titles under the Miramax name.

I worry what this means for independent film in the near future. On the one hand there is a re-balancing of the marketplace pointed out in the excerpt above, but what Miramax and specialty divisions of major studios offered was the ability to distribute independent features on a national basis and get them into theaters in smaller markets. Without that distribution mechanism in place, it will be much harder for independent filmmakers to get their movies seen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Veteran's Day on Sounds of Cinema

On Sunday, November 8th, Sounds of Cinema will commemorate Veteran's Day with the music of war films, including scores to Patton, Inglorious Basterds, and The Thin Red Line.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Original Ending to Paranormal Activity

Check out this page for the original ending to Paranormal Activity. It is significantly longer than what appears in the theatrical version, although the theatrical version is much more effective.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Times Online: 50 Biggest Movies for 2010

The Times Online has a look at fifty films to watch for in the next year. Here are some highlights from their list:

  • Clash of The Titans
  • The Green Hornet
  • The Rum Diary
  • Wall Street 2
  • Highlander
  • The Wolfman
  • Gulliver's Travels
  • Predators
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • Tron Legacy
  • Sex and the City 2
  • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Inception
  • The Expendables
  • The A Team
  • Toy Story 3
  • Robin Hood
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
  • Iron Man 2

Check out the article here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sounds of Cinema Halloween Special to Air October 31st

There will be a very special episode of Sounds of Cinema airing at 11pm on Saturday, October 31st on 89.5 KQAL FM. The show will contain a mix of Halloween-related music and movie dialogue, including content from Halloween, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Saw, Psycho, 28 Days Later, and House of 1000 Corpses.
Tune in for the soundtrack to your Halloween.