Archive for July, 2010

29
Jul
10

Best Score – Nobody Fucks with the Jesus

Purpose of Best Score.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tara Reid, Philip Moon, Mark Pellegrino, Peter Stormare, Flea, Torsten Voges, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Jack Kehler, John Turturro, Sam Elliot, Ben Gazzara, Warren Keith, Asia Carrera, Jon Polito

Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Cohen

Directed by: Joel and Ethan Cohen

Music: “Hotel California” performed by The Gipsy Kings, originally written by The Eagles

Rarely has a bit character had a bigger impact in a film in which he did not even substantially impact the central plot than John Tuturro’s Jesus Quintana. We are introduced to Jesus in a bizarre bowling scene in which Quintana licks the ball, then throws a strike and tops it all with a slow-motion victory dance. All the while, the background music is provided by the Gypsy Kings’ cover of “Hotel California”. The Cohen brothers first overlaid the song as music not involved in the story itself but as the characters speak, it fades and turns into the music being played by the bowling alley. In a film defined by the director’s remarkable ability to use prewritten songs in their films , this was best and possibly the greatest the Cohens’ have ever done.   In other instances, the Cohens use another cover to end the film, Townes van Zandt’s excellent take on the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ “Dead Flowers”; Bob Dylan’s “Man in Me” is interspersed throughout the film including the opening credits; “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”, performed by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, served as the perfect background for the Dude’s Logjammin’ fever dream that was parodied to great effect using Yogi Bear (NSFW language).

29
Jul
10

Best Score – Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo

Purpose of Best Score.

Raging Bull (1980)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarity, John Turturro, Martin Scorsese, Michael Badalucco, Sweet Dick Whittington, Coley Wallace, Frank Vincent, Johnny Barnes

Screenplay: Paul Schrader

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Music: “Cavalleria rusticana: Intermezzo” written by Pietro Mascagni and performed by Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna under the direction of Arturo Basile

Another by Martin Scorsese, his first Academy award nominated triumph Raging Bull which included one of the more oft-used scores, Cavalleria Rusticana. Scorsese actually used the music in the introduction where the robed Robert De Niro, playing boxer Jake LaMotta, bounces around the ring and shadow boxing . Cavalleria combines gracefully with De Niro’s fluid movements filmed in slow motion and juxtaposes with the many of the brutal scenes later in the film. This was the sweet science’s golden age but it was also haunted by the emotional turmoil and abuses of one of its main stars.

29
Jul
10

Roundup – Winning School Will Terrify Your Nightmares

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Line O’ the Day:

But I’ve gained about twenty pounds over the past two years, and the more weight I’ve put on, the more success I’ve had. If you drew a diagram of weight gain and me getting more work, a mathematician would draw some conclusions from that.” – Zach Galifianakis, Three of Our Most Serious Minds Confer… [Gentlemen’s Quarterly]

Best of the Best:

The Remains:

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The New York Times Comes Clean About the Commerce Clause

22
Jul
10

Best Score – Mohicans’ Last Stand

Purpose of Best Score.

Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Wes Studi, Johdi May, Russel Means, Madelaine Stowe, Steven Waddington

Screenplay: Michael Mann, John L. Balderston, and Phillip Dunne

Director: Michael Mann

Music: Last of the Mohicans Theme by Trevor Jones

Easily the centerpiece of this film by Michael Mann, whose films are universally characterized by cool and effective use of music, whether original or scored specifically for the film. The original score of this scene made it easier to weave into the production (and thus not quite as impressive of an achievement) but the sheer power and intensity of it pushes it to a higher rating.   Mann achieves a heightening effect with the song without over-dramatizing the scene. The music adds a fluidity and emotional resonance to what might have been a confusingly brutal series of events. It provides the climax of a film marked by harrowing combat scenes throughout.

Easily the centerpiece of this film by Michael Mann, another master at this type of effect.  The original score of this scene causes it to lose points but the sheer power and intensity of it pushes it to a higher rating.  Again, Mann achieves a heightening effect with the song without over-dramatizing the scene.  The music adds a fluidity and emotional resonance to what might have been a confusingly brutal series of events.  It provides the climax of a film marked by harrowing combat scenes throughout.
15
Jul
10

Best Score – Helicopter Assault

Purpose of Best Score.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Larry Fishburne, Colleen Camp, Albert Hall, Scott Glenn, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, Francis Ford Coppola, Frederic Forrest

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Screenwriter: Francis Ford Coppola and John Milius

“CHARLIE DON’T SURF!”

One of the top twenty most memorable scenes ever, music orientated or not, this quickly became the defining scene in one of the 100 Greatest Films of all-time. The half-crazy Colonel Kilgore more or less attacks a Vietnamese village in order to go surfing and, as is the custom for this unit of Air Calvary, they play Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” on speakers attached to their helicopters. Another impressive weaving of music into a scene although this one is made all the more impressive because it is largely unexpected.  Also something that many of the films mentioned in Best Scene do is contrast a sudden halt in the music with the power of the music itself.  Here, the halt comes prior to the attack as the roar of the choppers and the Wagner is contrasted with the idyll of the village that is about to be assaulted.

Also, it accomplishes two things in contrast to most battle scenes: the addition of the song heightens the brutality and senseless of the battle instead of glorifying and over-dramatizing it (as most scores do in war films); it is also possibly the only battle scene to effectively incorporate music within the scene itself rather than as just background music.

The scene is all the more impressive, having been shot live action in a time well before computer generated animation.

This film has another great music scene of somewhat the same ilk: the Naval personnel on the PBR boat go water-skiing while listening to the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” on the radio.

15
Jul
10

Best Score – Stuck in the Middle

The purpose of Best Score.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, Michael Madsen, Quentin Tarantino, Eddie Bunker, Kirk Baltz, Steven Wright ( Voice )

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Screenwriter: Quentin Tarantino

“You ever listen to K-Billy’s ‘Super Sounds of the Seventies’?”

If you’ve seen this film, this scene will practically ruin for you the Steeler’s Wheel one-hit-wonder “Stuck in the Middle”.  Michael Madsen shows just how disturbed his character is by cutting off a defenseless police officer’s ear while dancing to the song.

The song is seamlessly included into both the plot as Madsen turns on a radio show playing the diddy, a showwhich serves to frame the entire film.  Madsen creepily uses the song to guide his action while it provides a background to the most gruesome part of scene (which is not shown).  When it’s suddenly cut-off by Tim Roth gunning down Madsen, the action is all the more unexpected. The near flawless arrangement provides the centerpiece of the film and a signal that the end is near.

15
Jul
10

Best Score – The Gang Gets Whacked

From the old website, here was the purpose of Best Score:

Back when I was a senior in college, I was taking this music appreciation bullshit class to fulfill an arts requirement and it turned out I had to write a paper on some sort of musical trend (or something). I had, since childhood, been adverse to all things musical other than listening to it after an unfortunate incident in my first years of grade school where I was forced to sing in front of the class by the music teacher-this wasn’t something everyone had to do, just me because my singing was subpar. Apparently, my vocalisms were so bad they made baby Jesus weep and moan. But I digress. Needless to say, I was trying to figure out what to write (after my Jimi Hendrix essay was rejected), I went with music in film. And I was off, ended up writing way more than I had to and even got some enjoyment out of it.

Music can be used to enhance a film with stunning effect but it can also heavily detract from scenes by over-dramatizing them or distracting the audience. The ability to weave a memorable song into a memorable scene is a rare talent for a filmmaker. These scenes display the ability to the utmost.

Goodfellas (1990)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino

Director: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay: Nicolas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese

Music: “Layla” by Cream

Martin Scorsese is a master at using existing music in films from Mean Streets to Casino, which almost appears to be one long montage, and it works extremely effectively at covering the extensive narration as well as giving the film a sense of style. This montage from Goodfellas is a perfect example and opens with the piano solo from the Cream song “Layla” and a moving shot of a Cadillac where a gangster and his wife have been shot dead. It continues with other criminals that were involved in a heist getting wacked on Jimmy’s (Robert de Niro) orders. The whole montage is excellent but that opening shot of the Cadillac, a symbol of fallen greed, is unforgettable.




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