Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

One of the suggestions (nominations?) I received for female mad scientist was the inimitable and indomitable Edna Mode.

My first instinct was to defend Edna. She is NOT a mad scientist … except that she totally is.  I was thinking her as more of an eccentric, but she has powers of her own.  She is trusted by the supers.  She knows who they all are.  She knows what their powers are and how they work, and she designs their suits accordingly.

Thankfully for all involved, she uses her powers for good rather than evil.

My favorite Edna moment:

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It’s difficult to say when I stopped paying attention to the annual awards handed out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. I know that I never forgave the Academy for not giving the best actor award to Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver, I remember Bruce Springsteen picking up his award for “Streets of Philadelphia.” Both of those were quite a while ago.

The only information I picked up this year was that Hans Zimmer was given the award for best score, and it is the second time he has won the award. The information came from my favorite classical radio station. I was more than a little surprised to learn that his first award was for the Disney movie The Lion King. Really?!? That fact was even more surprising than the fact that he had only won two.

There was a period of time when I listened to a lot of movie soundtracks and scores. Even so, I didn’t usually pick up on the composer until I saw the name in the credits. Hans Zimmer was one of the exceptions. His style is not only distinctive but uniquely rhythmic, giving each movie its pulse. It’s mesmerizing.

He scored one of my favorite films of all time, The Power of One.

Wow, that’s big. I will have to learn how to make YouTube links smaller.

My other favorite composition of his is The Last Samurai.

I adore The Last Samurai. I am not a big Tom Cruise fan because every movie just felt like I was watching Tom Cruise, Superstar! The Last Samurai didn’t feel that way. Cruise gets top billing because he is the box office draw, but his character’s story, while interesting and redemptive, is not the most important in the film. The scenery and cinematography are breathtaking, and the Japanese actors make you practically forget the superstar in their midst.

But I am supposed to be writing about Hans Zimmer. The other big film of his which came immediately to mind was Gladiator, another favorite. I knew there were more, but gadzooks, there are at least 150 more. That almost puts him in the realm of that other famous film composer who has been working more than twice as long. Okay, not really, but he has still composed a LOT of film scores. He has worked on everything from Sponge Bob to the Simpsons to James Bond to Kung Fu Panda. Thelma and Louise, Bird on a Wire, and Driving Miss Daisy are all his.

I dare you to go look at the IMDB list and not find some of your favorite films.

Meanwhile, I need to go make a decision about backing the Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter campaign.

Happy Wednesday!

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I love learning about the creative process of artists.

I have probably watched the “making of” short films for Chicken Run close to as many times as I have watched the film. (I detest the word featurette.) The Laika studios director commentary and short films for Missing Link are utterly captivating. I even bought the book The Art of Missing Link.

I get less excited about live-action films which have so many computer-generated effects that they might as well be completely animated. (I am sure that there are people who disagree and adore these kinds of films and learning about their process, and that is fine for them.)

New movies have largely fallen off my radar in the last few years, even before the pandemic. A single ticket to my preferred theater had gotten up to about $14, and I decided that it was too much to invest in a dubious 90 minutes of entertainment. There weren’t too many movies which caught my interest anyway, and the trailers for those that sort of did often didn’t provide enough detail (read: any semblance of a plot) for me to make an informed decision.

An article from the gossip magazine Vanity Fair caught my eye the other day. The headline was something juicy about the stars of Mad Max: Fury Road almost sinking the whole production because they couldn’t get along. I had a few brain cells to spare, so I clicked. Come to find out that not only has a book — Blood, Sweat and Chrome — been written about the torturous but ultimately successful production but the film was nominated for 10 Oscar awards, winning 6. A Mad Max film. Hollywood lauded a hard core action film? Seriously? Were there lower standards, or was this something special? My curiosity was piqued. (Note: I have seen no Mad Max films, but I am aware of the ardent following of the earlier installments. I will also quickly say — because the topic could\should be its own post — that I am a fan of what I lovingly refer to as “testosterone movies”: the first Die Hard, the first Lethal Weapon, Tango & Cash, even the first Rambo.)

I watched the trailer. It gave me a sense of conflict between characters and lots of loud vehicles but zero indication of plot. I sought out additional clips on YouTube, but what I found were extensive “making of” documentaries. I was transfixed, especially by the stunts and the vehicle production. This was serious, skilled movie-making on an epic scale. Yes, CGI was an important component, but mostly as background embellishment. Everything had deep roots in practical effects. (According to the IMDB page, 80% of the effects are practical. That feels unheard of in a modern action movie.) Everyone was completely invested, even when they weren’t getting along.

The Oscars that the film received were for craft, but the nominations included best director and best picture. I don’t know which other films were nominated in those categories, but based on what I learned about the process and challenges of making the film, best director was not undeserved.

While I did find a plot summary, I didn’t feel the need to watch the movie, even though Charlize Theron’s description of her character’s motivation made it more tempting. I might read the book, however.

There’s another artist’s creative process that I want to write about, and it is actually the one which was originally planned for this post, but I am going to save it for tomorrow’s post.

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