Thursday, February 10, 2011

Movies, and scores...

Music is something very important to me when it comes to writing. I find that I write more believably, and with more emotion when I am listening to music. I have spent hours finding music that matches certain moods I am trying to get across in my writing, they are organized into separate playlists, all labeled to match the mood I want to establish. Yeah...sounds crazy, but I'll tell you it works like a dream.

So most of you I'm sure have seen the movies "Inception," and "The Dark Knight." Both were directed by Christopher Nolan, who understands that certain elements in a movie can change the atmosphere for the audience. He uses imagery, dialogue, dark cinematography, very good actors, camera angles, and music to accomplish his atmosphere.

The composer Christopher Nolan uses in his movies is Hans Zimmer, and for the "Dark Knight," Hans Zimmer collaborates with my favorite composer, James Newton Howard. But more about him later.

I've noticed a trend in movies lately (in good movies), that they have departed some from the traditional musical scores for movies. And these two movies are a good example of what they use. Really its brilliant when you understand what they are trying to accomplish.

Here are two examples of what Hans Zimmer did with the movie "Inception."

Track 6: 528491
Track 7: Mombosa

Sadly, these links are from somebody uploading the tracks to youtube, so I can't vouch for the quality. If I had it my way you would have these tracks on a CD attached to a very nice sound system with the volume as high as you would have it while watching this movie. But pay attention to these tracks, especially the end of track 6. I can tell you, when I listened to that track while writing an intense part in one of my stories, I had to take a break because I was becoming overstimulated.

Now Hans Zimmer probably won't be remembered for this soundtrack, as it isn't the most beautiful soundtrack out there, but it definitely gets the job done. The job of the musical score of a movie is to not be noticed. Most movies don't quite accomplish that, but Inception does. The score does exactly what it is supposed to do, it puts you on the edge of your seat, it makes your heart pound, and frankly, it stresses you.

Those are two of the many songs I have on my playlist for listening to intense music while writing intense things. Now I have one very special playlist that is called "Soft Music." This is the playlist I write when I am writing tender scenes shared between two characters, or sometimes during scenes of heartbreak or loss. This is my prized possession; this playlist. It is full of some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard. Most of the music is penned by James Newton Howard. I love his scores because I feel like he knows how to use every section of instruments in an orchestra. Though, he often has a solo violinist with a pianist playing along the orchestra.

I will give you three samples from this playlist, one will be from the movie "I am Legend," another from "The Village," and the last from "King Kong."

I Am Legend: "My Name is Robert Neville" - This is a very cool opening for the movie. While I didn't particularly like this movie that much (I don't feel like it kept the integrity of the story it was trying to create with the ending they chose...that includes the alternate ending on the dvd...but that is a different blog post some other day). It starts off really depicting the atmosphere of the movie, and the trumpet plays out proudly by itself almost as a tribute to Robert Neville. I used to hate the end of the song, but now I often play it while writing for a certain character as it matches him well.

The Village: "The Gravel Road" - I love the soundtrack to this movie. Collectively as a whole it is my favorite movie soundtrack. It has the most amazing score, and the stand out soloist just makes the whole score shine out with a creepy beauty. This song in particular represents a triumphant moment in the character in the movie. This song is good all purpose music for when I'm writing (though I wish I had been the one that got to copy edit the script for this movie, because I think with a few small changes it would have been phenomenal...instead its basically crap).

King Kong: "Central Park" - Although the Village is my favorite soundtrack, this song, and the song entitled, "A Fateful Meeting," are fast becoming my two favorite tracks. What I love about these tracks, and the King Kong soundtrack as a whole, is that they have so much depth. They can accomplish a lot, and can help create many different types of atmospheres for my writing. Again, the emphasis on the strings and piano soloist makes it so that sometimes when writing I find myself leaning back in my chair with my eyes closed envisioning my characters instead of writing (a slightly negative side effect as I get so caught up in the moment I might lose the point I'm trying to get across on the page, but what can I say, its beautiful music).

I highly recommend listening to the rest of those soundtracks, and if you do a lot of reading, listen to that type of music, preferably on a shuffled playlist for best results. I do it all the time, and while your mind will be concentrated on the book your subconscious will do its job for you. You will find that at certain times, natural synchronization will kick in and what you are listening matches perfectly with what you are reading. Trust me, it makes the difference. And when it doesn't match up perfectly, no worries, more often than not with movie soundtracks (which are designed to be invisible), you won't notice.

Now I'd like to do a few little mini movie reviews. The last few days I have been in the mood for some good action thrillers. And I mean good ones, I've seen a lot of not so great ones. But luckily when it comes to these types of movies, you are either looking to have an intense thrill ride, or just a fun ride. Either way there are movies for either mood. The past few days I've been in the mood for some intense thrill rides. So the last three movies I've watched have been, "James Bond: Quantum of Solace," "Terminator: Salvation," and "Taken." All three very good movies in their own right. None of them were amazing movies that will be remembered for how well made they were. But all of them get the job done. I came in looking for an intense movie, that will get my pulse going, and will have a satisfying ending, preferably with lots of action in between.

Normally I'm not a huge guy for the intense action movies, especially ones that don't have a lot of deep character development. But these movies in their own right were well written. The James Bond movie I believe wasn't edited very well. For the sake of pacing they had me at certain points thinking, "what the heck is going on?" Now that could just be me missing something because I'm dense...but being that some of my favorite movies are movies that if you blink you'll miss something, I tend to think it was marginal editing. Other than that, it was lots of fun. Also, I'm loving this new James Bond, he's definitely more of a brute than previous Bond's, but I always thought Pierce Brosnan was a bit of a nancy. So for this guy to be intense, is the Bond I'm looking for. It was a good movie, and a keeper, I already own it which I don't buy a movie unless I plan to watch it again.

Next is Terminator: Salvation. Now...the Terminator movies aren't exactly known for good writing, and even good acting. So imagine my surprise when I got both in this installment of Terminator. I know it got a lot of bad reviews, but heck I went in with expectations of it being every bit as dense and campy as the other ones. If you set the bar low, you will always be overjoyed when you stumble over it. It did take some getting used to having Christian Bale do his "tough guy" voice the entire movie, which seemed a halfway between his "Batman" voice and his regular one (whats with this guy and cheesy voices?). But luckily he's a good enough actor to make up for it. But wow...I enjoyed it, what can I say?

Tonight, I watched "Taken." What a cool movie! It was fun to watch an action movie with an old guy who isn't some super human running up walls and round house kicking guns into people's faces. He just seemed like an old retired spy like he was who could kick some serious butt. I also like that he didn't have any cheesy morals that don't make any sense, and fail to deliver the message. He was a guy who was pissed off trying desperately to find his daughter from people he knew didn't care a bit about him, her, or any other guy's poor daughter that was kidnapped by these people. He did exactly what a person with his experience in law enforcement would do in that situation. Plus, it made for some cool sequences of him getting revenge. Man, Liam Neeson can be scary sometimes, HE does the "tough guy" voice very well, as its his regular voice (I can't remember what this was, but he did voice over work for a scottish sailor in a cartoon, and man, he was awesome).

All in all, listen to good music, watch good movies, and do yourself a favor and set standards of excellence for yourself in terms of media. Don't watch garbage because it has some actor in it, or because its crudely funny. Do yourself a favor and find the things that truly deserve your attention, the things that are excellent, and promote culture and improvement in the arts. We have a very crass society right now because Hollywood has very wisely discovered what our baser instincts want, so for some reason, even though its garbage, we like what they produce. Spend money on the things that speak to you, that help you to feel things that make you want to advance yourself, to be better. Spend your money on the things that are exciting, with well thought out characters designed to resonate with you, with elements that prove this was made because someone cared about the product, and not because they cared about the money.

Entertainment shouldn't be what it is now.

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