Friday, June 25, 2010

Top Ten Memorable Film Scores

In compiling this list I was careful to avoid scores that, because they are so well known, are beyond memorable: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws, E.T., Chariots of Fire, Rocky, Braveheart, etc. Yet I wasn't simply wanting to be alternative. I tried to list film scores that are so tied to the images they were composed for, yet which stand on their own in some way; but scores that are for me personally memorable.

They are listed in a somewhat rough order (with an emphasis on rough) of lesser favourites to greater favourites, the lessers beginning with 10:

10. The Untouchables - Ennio Morricone

How about we just get this one out of the way? When I first heard the main theme for The Untouchables it was on tv and it kind of scared me. As the music played while the title of the film slowly began to appear on screen, the music felt somehow paranoid. But then, the theme music for the show Unsolved Mysteries scared me too. Strangely enough, the host of that show, Robert Stack, played Eliot Ness in the original tv series.



9. Predator - Alan Silvestri

I like how it segues from sounding sci-fi to sudden action flick mode. It's nothing special per se, but when people hear it they know what movie it is. Therefore it is special after all.



8. Yojimbo - Masaru Sato

I love the exuberance of this score. It sounds strident, swaggering; like the main character. This score plays during the opening shot where we see Yojimbo, his back to the camera, scratching his head before he sets off walking again. With that shot together with the score, Kurosawa has you. If memory serves, the same theme isn't heard again in the same way until Yojimbo slays the villians at the end - and at that point it's played faster.



7. The Straight Story - Angelo Badalamenti

It's jiggered enough to keep from being saccharine, and it takes its time, like Alvin on his ride-on mower.



6. Crocodile Dundee - Peter Best

Who would really say that Crocodile Dundee is a great film - and who would say it is forgettable? The answer: no one. Same goes for the score. This one is the theme from the ending of the movie. You can hear the Australian theme from the beginning meeting with the New York City theme.



5. Ravenous - Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman

Ravenous is probably well on its way to Cult Status if it isn't there already. What would a film about cannibalism (and about it with gusto) set in the 1840's of Sierra Nevada have as its score? Eerie synthetics? No, more along the lines of this:



4. The Goonies - Dave Grusin

Cyndi Lauper perhaps comes immediately to mind. And hearing her is enough to transport one back to the eighties faster than Doc Brown's Delorean. But the actual composed-to-the-image score for The Goonies is what many other scores in the 80's wished they were. It's totally non-intrusive but fully backs up the story, yet having its own character. The characters from the film are in it; the setting is in it; the adventure is in it.



3. Willow - James Horner

I have this hope, this dream, that someone in the future will make a truly great fantasy film and will get permission to lift the entire score from Willow for it, thus giving it the home it deserves. The opening is just gorgeous. Horner's score for Krull is perhaps better. Horner is the man. Or at least he was, until James Cameron laid hands on him. Here is a medley of the themes from Willow:



2. The Karate Kid - Bill Conti

You can watch Bill Conti talk about his Zamfir-inspired score for The Karate Kid right here.



1. Witness - Maurice Jarre

If I wasn't really playing favourites too much before, I am now. I think fans of this film know deeply that the barn-building scene is not just some happy montage sequence in the midst of a cop thriller. It is a metaphor for the entire film. When the same theme comes back again at the end of the film, like a double affirmation, while Book drives away, departing from Rachel, and Daniel makes his way down the road, one understands on a level other than the conscious: it is all about the matter - fraught with delicacy - of being alive to community, of building, and not tearing down. That a cop thriller, fused with its glorious score, would get this across is a kind of miracle.

Stripped to the Heart of Faith

Update: Sorry, I posted the wrong video. It has been amended.

I agree with Mark Mallett in what he has said in another post of his, that the age of ministries in the Church is coming to an abrupt end: no more false dichotomy between Charismatic, Trad, Marian and so forth. No more Youth Ministry and the thousand and one other outreaches. No more League of Extraordinary Catholic Apolojet-setters. We are instead heading into an era of miracles. Miracles and martyrdom and unity.

When the Catholic Church becomes truly one will be the moment that persecution descends in earnest.

The Prophecy at Rome - Part VIII from Mark Mallett on Vimeo.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Word & Question

Word & Question is a meme hosted at Shredded Cheddar. What happens is you send Enbrethiliel, or potential future host, one word and one question, each of your own choosing, according to whatever strikes your fancy. She then takes everyone's words and questions and randomizes them. She sends back to you a word and question that other people have chosen. You then have to write a poem in answer to the question; the poem must also include the one word in it somewhere.

The Word I received: Legend

The Question I received: Are we there yet?

I really wanted to write the poem as a direct answer to the question, but I got pulled in another direction -er, distraction:

Legend turned to prospect in Pizarro's
steaming brain, and prospect fell to languishing
mid death-smelling flies;
swords of the Spanish court, hacking at vines
like frantic bones warding off demise;
the famished Native and Conquistador train
began to pine.

Brute Gonzalo turned on his men and roared:
"Unless you want my sword plunged in your throat,
I swear, do not ask me one more time!
When you see the gold is when we'll have arrived!"

Fickle Gonzalo gave up, a few hours
after stating the above - that driver, starver,
chewing up men into his jungle dreams:
he who did not have the means, nor know the way;
nor know there was no there at all.

Max Monday


Self-Portrait as a Medical Orderly - By Max Beckmann

"This persistent harping on the 'I', this vision shuttered to all else in war but its colour, was, in fact, a despairing attempt to stay sane. Beckmann shut truth out so as to copy, to do his soldierly duty. Behind the brave brutality of the letters seethed fears of almost insane proportions. He who had always seen the world as 'chaos' and 'grief' (the mad and violent world he tried to control in paintings like The Destruction of Messina) and who relied on his art 'to order this chaos...to give it form', now found himself overwhelmed by formlessness and horror, helpless. It is very much to his credit that Beckmann tried to survive, even at the cost of his inner truth, and failed. After less than a year and a half, he had broken down in mind and body and was invalided out of service.

Beckmann was a man who took all things to heart. The war destroyed something in him, perhaps his innocence, and for several years we find him desperately seeking to find himself again. The self he had 'lost' was a false self or, at best, an unachieved self, the untried self that looks so serenely out at us in Florence. The next self-portrait, painted in 1915 while he battled to pull something together out of his personal failure, reveals the pitiful depth of his defeat. He is hospitalized still, and still wearing his uniform, in Self-Portait as a Medical Orderly, 1915. Years later, looking at this nasty little picture, he commented sadly on the dreariness of its colour, adding, 'I really slaved away at it'. One of his few confessions before collapse had been that he felt '[drawing] protects one against death and danger', and we feel that there is an apotropaic quality to this dismal work. Beckmann was saving himself as best he could, trying to find out who he was, almost if he was, and failing. The body hunches up inside the canvas, constricted and unsure of itself. The chest is too small, the face too large. We are racked by the intense questions in the eyes, hoping to find some confirmation that tranquillity is possible, if not at the precise moment. Light appears to divide the artist from himself; one side, the 'seeing' side, is painfully illuminated, while the other side, the 'painting' side, is in the shadow. He is caught between showing himself in profile and in three-quarter view, a visual contradiction that the cramped, discoloured painting hand cannot reconcile." --Sister Wendy Beckett, Max Beckmann and The Self

Image Source

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vultures

The monstrosity of the U.S. President's ego can be gauged by the fact that he used an Oval Office Address - the first in his presidency - to talk about our addiction to fossil fuels and about a transition to clean energy as though he were speaking from some distant future plane, away from a dire, unresolved present where an underwater geyser is spewing a now estimated 40 to 70, 000 gallons of toxic crude a day (the estimates have done nothing but gone up and up), and which has been spewing that amount or upwards of that amount since day one of the blow-out, into the Gulf of Mexico. And that's just the estimation from the well-head - which, if I understand right, is just a minor distraction from the real oil flow.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought these kinds of addresses to the nation were about getting down to the nitty-gritty business of levelling with the people, about telling them what is really happening - like the oil coming not only through the well-head but through the sea floor (thus making the given estimates way lower than what they really are) - and the precise, bare essential measures that are being taken, and the worst case scenario (though it already is a worst case scenario) measure that would need to be taken, like nuking the sea floor with a small nuclear device. (By the by, I hope that they nuke it sooner than later.)

Obama addressed the "wrenching anxiety" of those whose livelihoods depend on the sea, who are anxious "that their way of life may be lost."

May be lost? This is assured: if they were to stop the oil, and I mean stop every drop this very second, the livelihood of those people in the south is still utterly vanquished, for at least a good few years. They have not been temporarily haulted; it is not something that can be given back in the way of monetary compensation. As of now, short of a miracle and an equally miraculous, speedy clean-up, their way of life is gone.

Yet here this visionary President says, "I refuse to let this happen". Oh, how exactly? It has happened. Are you going to order the hurricanes to not bring the oil to land? What the hell is going after BP going to do? What the hell is blabbering about addiction to "fossil fuels" (we still really don't know the origin of oil) going to do? Why are the workers who are cleaning up the oil being ordered not to wear respirators?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Locus Focus - The Princess & the Goblin




George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin takes place in a sort of castle, midway on a mountain:

There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great country full of mountains and valleys. His palace was built upon one of the mountains, and was very grand and beautiful. The princess, whose name was Irene, was born there, but she was sent soon after her birth, because her mother was not very strong, to be brought up by country people in a large house, half castle, half farm-house, on the side of another mountain, about halfway between its base and its peak.
This home is like a station of the "ordinary" between realms below and above it that are, in contrast, the true realities: the realms of goblins and heavenly great-great-grandmothers.

These mountains were full of hollow places underneath; huge caverns, and winding ways, some with water running through them, and some shining with all colors of the rainbow when a light was taken in. There would not have been much known about them, had there not been mines there, great deep pits, with long galleries and passages running off from them, which had been dug to get at the ore of which the mountains were full. In the course of digging, the miners came upon many of these natural caverns. A few of them had far-off openings out on the side of a mountain, or into a ravine.

Now in these subterranean caverns lived a strange race of beings, called by some gnomes, by some kobolds, by some goblins.
But above, staircase after staircase in the big house-castle lives Irene's great-great Grandmother - without the wrinkles of age you would expect on such a face. To all others, this heavenly mother is non-existent. Once, even Irene has doubts about what is the true reality. But no, the great grandmother has been up there the entire eight years that Irene has been living in the place; just that in all those years, Irene had never gone up all those stairs, and never explored the empty hallways.

One gets the sense of greater places, of everlasting places, just, just beyond those you are familiar with, when Irene stands in the door and sees this woman for the first, and the grandmother simply says, as though there were no need for any introduction:

"Come in, my dear; come in. I am glad to see you."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Garden Sprawl Friday

There were these radishes I sowed last year and I let them go to seed. I found out that you can eat the developing seed pods of radishes and that they are, according to hearsay, actually quite nice, like a mustardy snap pea, or snow pea. But I didn't try them. They dropped the seeds and they sprouted in the same place this year:


When I planted the lettuces in this bed I made sure not to disturb the growing radishes. There are even some that sprouted in the cracks of the paving bricks:


It was overcast and drizzling today, but towards evening it cleared:


Those plastic pots have mints in them. They will be planted in between the two main beds.


You can see the kiwi trellis is somewhat broken. That happened from a hefty branch that was cut from the willow tree.

The shot holes in the outer leaves of cabbages don't matter at all, as those parts aren't eaten.


The shot holes in the outer leaves of lettuces though are always more frustrating:


And those are mild in comparison to some. But it's alright. They make up for it by forming good full hearts that don't get touched.

The scapes are coming out of the garlic.


They grow in loops. Once they do the first or second loop you cut them off and you can eat them. Otherwise you can let them fully develop, then collect the tiny bulbs and plant them. They will eventually, though not in the same season, get to be regular size bulbs, of the same variety.

The leeks that I am letting go to seed:








I have no idea what the seed heads are going to look like when they open.

Here is a cultivar of yarrow that's planted right beside one of the beds.


Yarrow, like many herbs, is just really good to have around the garden. It attracts good insects, helps the plants that it grows beside, and when its composted it helps break things down faster. Yarrow grows along roadsides and in ditches and along railway tracks. In addition to this cultivar, I want to get some of the wild roadside stuff.

Here's that other bed with the potatoes and cabbages (did I say I like a bit of jostling?):




This one is for Christopher:

Jury Duty - Part 2

To those who were looking forward to reading about my jury duty as the [projected] trial went on, accept my apology that this second post will be the last in the series. Talk about quick trial! No, it didn't even get to jury selection. The deputy sheriff called me today and said it has been cancelled.

Prayers do get answered. And it was something I was praying for. Though I suspect it has a lot to do with other people who keep my intentions in their prayers. Yes, I know what you're thinking: of course, yes, because it's all about you, Paul, isn't it?

I had a feeling it wasn't going to take place.

With that, I will leave you with the fine actor, Lee J. Cobb:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Open letter for release date

Dear REAL Karate Kid movie,

You know that no words need be spoken between us.

You are, in all respects - to take the words from Joe Esposito - the best around. You always will be.

Daniel, you're the best.

Mr. Miyagi, you are without a doubt the absolute and ineffable best around.

Alli (0:52), you're the best.

And Johnny (1:07), even you're the best.

(Apologies for the subtitles, but it was the highest quality one I could find)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Copying the Masters


This is a fairly large canvas I started some years back, for fun, and never finished - in fact, probably didn't even get past the start of it. It is a copy of The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault. I used a pretty good quality small print from an art book.

To "learn from the old masters" is a good adage (for any field), even if the old masters are, historically speaking, not all that old. The logical first step in this learning is of course to directly copy the paintings they did. While this is laudable it is also dangerous, insofar that one may be merely mechanically copying, and not fearfully learning.

For myself, I find the greatest thing about copying old paintings (and aside from the one above, I've only copied one other, by Rembrandt - also unfinished) is that it forces your hand to do something it would otherwise not do, and to go over something you thought you did right but which you have discovered is completely wrong in relation to some other part of the painting. In short, it humbles you - in one fell swoop.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another reunion and the rumour solidifies

"It will happen," he [Richard Donner] assures fans. "We've been trying for a number of years."

They reunited - again.

Did you hear that, E?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Nice Tux


"Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile..."



---
Painting: by Max Beckmann, Self-Portrait in Tuxedo
Lines from one of Gerard Manley Hopkins' Dark Sonnets
---

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Beg the Holy Spirit to help you to understand the Eucharist"

I was very moved by this story at Da Mihi Animas.

Jesus' admonition that "you cannot serve two masters" has a way, as with all His admonitions, of dawning on one anew as though one had never heard it before. This dawning can come through the results of sin and also so often comes with Eucharistic awareness, that is, a new awareness of His true presence.

No longer do the words in such case sound like a teaching moment, easily understood yet still abstract, but become a solid interjection in the momentum of your life - albeit an unforced interjection. The presence of Jesus among us under the species of bread and wine is one that must finally become for us our sole inestimable treasure, and not just one presence among many.

The miraculous banquet of the Unfathomable Other must be woven into the regular stream of our life; but then that diffusion, the incarnation of Jesus and His most intimate working in our souls, must be remembered as, and brought back to, the miraculous banquet of the Unfathomable Other again (that our selves not become our ends) - the banquet that can restore a burned infant with new skin and cause a thousand people to give pure praise in the midst of a garbage dump (see story above).

How often devotion gets in the way! (Or, ahem, liturgical talk) For it seems to me that people like to say of others who go steadily to Adoration and daily Mass that they are very devoted, devout; and they say this as a means of dulling the efficaciousness of that person's practises from infesting the regularity (or secularity) of their own lives. (If you're "devout", then I'm safe - from you.)

The great burning question that still faces us who don't live in garbage dumps remains this one: where does your treasure lie? For there also is your heart. When Jesus said that between the two masters you will end up loving one and hating the other, there was also the obvious implication that you will end up cleaving to one and severing ties with the other - a natural outcome.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Garden Sprawl Friday

The greenhouse, half-filled with tall, leggy lettuces and cabbages mixed with equally tall weeds, mocks me, and the slugs have broken me down - as has the persistent rain. I slacked off the past weeks in going out every night to exterminate. The rain has made the grass grow fast and thick (and no chance to mow it), thereby providing sanctuary for the slugs. I haven't cleaned up the old pots, pieces of wood and other miscellania that needs to be thrown out, further exacerbating the problem.

I had thirty melon sprouts up in the greenhouse. Slugs took down close to ten. I sowed three and a half packs of three varieties of beets in the front bed. They were coming up wonderfully. The slugs have mowed them down like they were M&M's. I sowed two kinds of carrots. They were coming up; the slugs took them all down.

This is also due to my fault in not paying attention to the weather. The rain brings on the slugs. I didn't need to sow the beets so early; I was following what a book said. You really have to wait patterns out. Plants can miraculously make up for the "lost time": if they get the perfect warm start they can grow faster and more vigorously than something planted early that had to slog it through cool wetness.

So I've decided not to grow beets, and where the beet seedlings got eaten, there I'm going to plant all the crap from the greenhouse. The pole beans and pumpkins have been lingering in the back of my mind as to where they are going to go.

At this point I've learned simply not to plan it yet, but just deciding that I will plant them is good enough for now.

Sketch for the Month of June


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

They look to spoil everything

June 11th. will indeed be a dark day in the world of film.

The only articulation I can come up with thus far is nest-robbing, dream-gobbling, money-licking, marrow-sucking sons of bitches.

Because that is what sputtering rage does; it causes one to be at a loss for words, as seen here:

Pray Against the News

Having recourse to prayer amid escalating devastations has been besmirched in our minds as a fool's last desperate measure; and more, a fool's giving up; and further, a fool's past neglect in prayer now being remedied, too late, for selfish reasons.

The above quantification only goes so far as a sign of how much credit and trust we are willing to give to prayer itself and the diminution we are willing to give to the media's importance (and all the world characters portrayed therein).

If we regard prayer as just the means of getting a solution, only after our trust in man has failed, then it is perhaps an imperfect prayer. But what if the prayer, the trust that goes into it, is fueled more and more, increased in proportion to the rise in chaos and fear, indeed, increased to the apparent silence one receives in return - when one gets to the point of forking over radical trust where one has never really done so before, and at that, with joy and gratitude?

It is then that even the latest, too-late prayer extends back into the past and becomes the literal prayer of your entire life, your entire being; not your entire being as some emotive collection of your present faculties, but of the being of you that has been in time since conception - you on the swing-set, you stealing some candy, you at a party. It is not something that needs to be imagined; it is already there when we pray. All of one's life, every breathing minute in time past, now being prayed and now all real. (This is obviously not something summoned through one's own powers, for it has nothing to do with one's own powers.) If "love covers a multitude of sins", then think about what prayer covers.

Then one can accept the thought, without a hint of presumption, that it is never too late to repent, and therefore never too late for the world to be completely turned around.

It is to be wondered, whether the ever-present News is nothing more than an ever-deepening, insinuating distraction away from the strongest solution that has been at our disposal since the beginning - prayer.

To be wondered, because there is the subtlest temptation that comes with every single little bit of information we receive through the media. I am not referring to despair, but to something like a horrible blasphemy. The temptation is to be prodded into a kind of awareness that is in fact an insistence on greater separation from God: as our colossal failures and offences stare us in the face through all kinds of unexpected disasters, we do not merely cling to our ways, but increase the arrogance of our ways. It is not a loud arrogance, but a steady, silent one, wearing the face of care.

We have been deceived into thinking we are just reading, or hearing, or seeing facts and events when we heed the News. I refer not to media lies and deception, but to the initial fact of what the News is. To watch the News without detachment is to pretend that you are connecting with facts and events around the world through a channel that is completely inadequate to even the beginning of such a connection. And often the major event that has occurred is the unperceived alteration in one's own mind.

Prayer connects us with our entire past life, in a way that frees us, as our entire being prays in the present; we are ushered into reality. The News - deceptions and spin, agendas and biases aside - the News, just by dint of what it is, ushers us into a dream world.