Saturday, June 22, 2013

Joel and Alex Discuss World War Z

How do you make a PG-13 zombie movie? By hiring a terrible camera operator, of course!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"Nothing Matters But the Music!"

When people discuss the greatest movies of all time, they tend to point out certain aspects that make them great: the cinematography, the performances, the story and so on.  However, one aspect that is seldom attributed as much importance as it needs is the music.  When one considers the "Top Critically Acclaimed" films of all time, or just the general favorites like Star Wars or The Godfather, think what certain scenes would be like with no music at all.  True, the lighting and camera movement and performances can be compelling in and of themselves, but ultimately, they are stagnant compounds, waiting to be activated by music.  I've found that many people these days say that there aren't any images that stick with you in today's movies.  I believe the reason for this is because there aren't any musical scores that provide memorability.  In the documentary Hollywood, theater musician Gaylord Carter says: "You take the image of the picture, the reaction of the audience to this image, tie it together with the music and you really have a kind of a happening."  This is in reference to silent cinema, but it is what made that era so great, the purest marriage of image and music.  After all, Thomas Edison invented motion pictures to accompany the music from his recordings!  The truly memorable films are made indelible by their musical scores.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)

With so many different documentaries that have been made about the history of film, it's hard to imagine anything being fresh or having new perspective.  I was hard pressed to find such a program, but while looking through Netflix, I found just that.  The Story of Film: An Odyssey takes a very different approach, one that injects some wonder back into the idea of a documentary on film history.

Most documentaries take a brisk walk through the story of film, highlighting some of the obvious, important films that one may be more acquainted with.  Yet, The Story of Film uses in it's opening, the beach scene from Saving Private Ryan (1998) to help demonstrate that this series of documentaries will have more of a thesis on the history of film.  Instead of just outlining history, it delves into it and cross references it, comparing examples from every era at once.  Not only is this the story of Hollywood, but the story of film in Europe, eastern Europe, Bollywood, Japan, even Africa, which often goes unmentioned in film histories.  It even mentions animation and the change Disney underwent at the advent of Xeroxing cels.  All of this gives a much broader perspective to the ideas that are being put forth.  Assisting the many films used as reference is live action inserts shot for the documentary in many places around the world as well as interviews with many important filmmakers.  

This series could have had some kind of pompous narrator and that is indeed what I was expecting to hear, but instead I was somewhat shocked to hear a soft, Irish accented voice talking a most informal, colloquial manner.  The narrator is Mark Cousins, who had written a book on which the series was based.  In some ways his narration is awkward, but only at first, and if you're expecting the traditional.  Yet this is anything but a traditional documentary.  If anything it feels like a college lecture series and that can be a good or bad thing, depending on your tastes.  Also beware, this documentary has an opinion, so it certainly may feel like a college lecture at times.

Personally, I think this is a wonderful documentary.  It exposes one to many many different films you may never have heard about or reexamines ones you were thoroughly familiar with in ways that make you see them in a different light.  It's definitely the best to come out since Hollywood A Celebration of the American Silent Film.  (Speaking of which, this documentary uses some footage and interviews from that series) Go check it out!