Soundtrack September: Scoring Paul Thomas Anderson

Fellow film blogger Scott Nye (The Rail of Tomorrow) wrote a wonderful piece for Soundtrack September entitled: “Music Is Cinema: Scoring Paul Thomas Anderson“. Here’s an excerpt:

“At first glance, music and film seem so terribly disconnected, joined together more by the convenience of having to keep an audience entertained on multiple levels than by the feeling that music and images simply belonged together (and just to get our terminology correct, a “soundtrack” for a film is ALL the sound going on in a motion picture, not just the music). Now, of course, the idea of music existing totally separate from a moving image is archaic – any major musical creation requires an accompanying video. Similarly, it’s rare to the point of nonexistent for a major motion picture to exist without music. In our modern conscience, the two are of a piece, though rarely regarded as such.

When Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood came out, a surprisingly large number of critics found fault in the overwhelming nature of Johnny Greenwood’s score. I found that it enhanced the picture tremendously, leaving us teetering on the edge of, ideally, our very sanity, certainly our hold on reality, a struggle familiar to Daniel Plainview. Its dissonance reflected and created the uncertainty and fear Anderson laid the groundwork for. More pointedly, it represented a continuing development in Anderson’s work that is often discussed film-by-film in a sort of throwaway sense (“oh, and the music’s great”), but, to my knowledge, never considered as essential to his oeuvre from Boogie Nights onward – for Anderson, music isn’t there to simply enhance or underline something created separately in the film; music is as essential to the image in the creation of cinema itself.”

Read the complete piece here at The Rail of Tomorrow.

More later…

Oscar Postpartum 2008

So it’s the morning after and I’m looking over my predictions – none of my wild cards paid off and some of my darts didn’t hit the bulls-eye so what do I got? Well, I don’t know whether to feel comforted or disturbed by the fact that I got EXACTLY the same amount right that I did last year – 13 out of 24. So here’s at ‘em:

1. BEST PICTURE: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
2. BEST DIRECTOR: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – Though everybody was saying this was a lock I was still somewhat scared that this was wishful thinking. So glad that it happened – it is definitely the Coen Brothers time. Seeing them on stage – Joel stoic and commanding with Ethan cutely quietly fidgeting made them look like the Penn & Teller of movie directors.

3. BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day Lewis for THERE WILL BE BLOOD.
4. BEST ACTRESS: Julie Christie – WRONG! – Marion Cotillard for LA VIE EN ROSE – As much as I loved Christie in AWAY FROM HER I am not disapointed here. Cotillard’s performance was amazing and the award is well deserved. Besides Christie’s won before.
5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Hal Holbrook – WRONG! Javier Bardem for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – I knew I’d be wrong about this one but didn’t care. Bardem was excellent and his short acceptance (hard to call it a speech)
6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS : Cate Blanchett – WRONG! Tilda Swinton for MICHAEL CLAYTON – This was a real surprise. Still she did a good job in her role and I liked that backstage afterwards she said winning is often “the kiss of death”. Yeah, just ask Cuba Gooding Jr.
7. ART DIRECTION: SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
8. CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins for THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORDWRONG! – Robert Elswit for THERE WILL BE BLOOD – I knew I’d be wrong here but still thought Deakins would win but for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. I loved TWBB so I’m happy it got 2 major awards.
9. COSTUME DESIGN: ATONEMENTWRONG! – Elizabeth Byrne for ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
10. DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: NO END IN SIGHTWRONG!TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE
11. DOCUMENTARY SHORT: SARI’S MOTHERWRONG! FREEHELD
12. FILM EDITING: THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLYWRONG!THE BOURNE ULTIMATUMBOURNE surprisingly swept the technical award categories. Maybe I should see it.
13. MAKEUP: LA VIE EN ROSE
14. VISUAL EFFECTS: TRANSFORMERSWRONG! THE GOLDEN COMPASS – I called it a “no brainer” but I should’ve remember the Academys track record on this category. I mean E.T. won over BLADE RUNNER for this 25 years ago!
15. ORIGINAL SCORE: ATONEMENT
16. ORIGINAL SONG: “Falling Slowly” from ONCE – A nice moment during the broadcast was when Host Jon Stewart quipped “wow, that guy is so arrogant” after Glen Hansard’s humble as Hell acceptance speech. It got a big laugh from the audience and the folks at the Oscar party I was at last night.
17. ANIMATED SHORT: I MET THE WALRUSWRONG!PETER AND THE WOLF
18. LIVE ACTION SHORT: AT NIGHTWRONG!THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS
19. SOUND EDITING: THERE WILL BE BLOODWRONG!THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
20. SOUND MIXING: THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
21. ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: JUNO by Diablo Cody – This was the real ‘no brainer’.
22. ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: ATONEMENTWRONG! NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
adapted by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.23. ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: RATATOUILLE
24. FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: THE COUNTERFEITERS

Okay! So I did no better or no worse than last time out. Sigh. Story of my life.

More later…

It’s That Time Again – Film Babble’s Funtime Oscar Picks 2008!

The Academy Awards is one week away so I am finalizing my predictions. I admit that I’m no expert – I only had 13 out of 24 right last year but it is such a fun process for a film fan so I’m game. In Roger Ebert’s 2008 predictions column he writes “as usual I will allow my heart to outsmart my brain in one or two races, which is my annual downfall”. I hear you Roger! That’s why I decided to say “screw it!” and go with my heart. I went against my heart last year and guessed wrongly that BABEL would win over my true favorite THE DEPARTED so I think I owe it.

1.BEST PICTURE: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – My brain agrees with my heart on this one. It seriously feels like The Coen Brothers time as evidenced by my pick for #2 as well but I have to remind myself that 10 years ago I really thought it was their time for FARGO and THE ENGLISH PATIENT won. Heavy sigh. Please JUNO – don’t split the vote and cause an upset! Please – my heart couldn’t take it.
2. BEST DIRECTOR: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.

3.BEST ACTOR: Daniel Day Lewis – Again heart and brain are on the same page with just about everybody out there on this – he truly did perform the best acting of the year so it’ll be shocking if he’s not rewarded.

4. BEST ACTRESS: Julie Christie – Most are predicting this one for Christie. Her performance was wonderful and like Lewis she’s won before (for DARLING – 1965) and it just seems right. The wild card would be Marion Cotillard in LA VIE EN ROSE but that’s stuck at “very long wait” in my Netflix queue so I can’t appraise yet.

5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Hal Holbrook – This is my wild card; my INTO THE WILD card! Sorry, couldn’t resist that. Seriously though he was the best thing in that movie – he’s 82 and he climbed up a mountain! Somebody else who thinks he deserves it is one of his competitors for the title – Javier Bardem. Read Bardem’s touching comments on Holbrook’s performance. My brain is doubting this pick but I’m still letting it stand.

6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS : Cate Blanchett – Brain and Heart together again. Blanchett is amazing as ’65-’66 era Bob Dylan – actually Jude Quinn – one of 6 different personifications of the said rock star singer in I’M NOT THERE if you haven’t heard. I predict she will dedicate her Oscar to co-star Heath Ledger. Awarding her will honor him so to speak. Also since she was also nominated for Best Actress for ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE this stone kills that bird too. Hey, I’m just blogging out loud here!

And the rest:

7. ART DIRECTION: SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
8. CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Deakins for THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. Deakins is also nominated for NO COUNTRY as well so I hope a DREAMGIRLS-like canceling out doesn’t go down. I will be supremely bummed if Deakins’ amazing work doesn’t get the gold for either film.
9. COSTUME DESIGN: ATONEMENT
10. DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: NO END IN SIGHT – Because SiCKO would seem to be a shoe-in my brain is still pondering over whether the Academy will let Michael Moore back on their stage. I mean, remember last time? That’s not the only reason I think Charles Ferguson’s little seen Iraq war breakdown will win but it’s good enough for now.
11. DOCUMENTARY SHORT: SARI’S MOTHER – Haven’t seen but damnit it looks like a winner!
12. FILM EDITING: THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY – Heart again. I mean the editing was really the show on this one so I can’t help but pick it.
13. MAKEUP: LA VIE EN ROSE – Can you believe NORBIT was nominated? Maybe it did have phenomenal makeup but still – NORBIT – an Oscar Nominated Motion Picture?! I may do the biggest spit-take in history if that Eddie Murphy mess upsets this category.
14. VISUAL EFFECTS: TRANSFORMERS – The definition of “no-brainer”.
15. ORIGINAL SCORE: ATONEMENT
16. ORIGINAL SONG: “Falling Slowly” from ONCE – This has got to happen. People are crazy about that freakin’ soundtrack and this song seems a sure bet.
17. ANIMATED SHORT: I MET THE WALRUS – Didn’t see it but the trailer (that’s right, a trailer for a short film) is pretty cool.
18. LIVE ACTION SHORT: AT NIGHT – Haven’t seen either so I’m just going throwing a dart in the dark here I admit.
19. SOUND EDITING: THERE WILL BE BLOOD
20. SOUND MIXING: THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM – Didn’t see it but it looked like this flick mixed it up soundwise. Yep, another dart.
21. ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: JUNO by Diablo Cody. Consider this category to be re-named “snarkiest script”.
22. ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: ATONEMENT by Christopher Hampton
23. ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: RATATOUILLE
24. FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
THE COUNTERFEITERS (German title: Fälscher, Die) – I haven’t seen it yet but I read good things about this Austrian war drama on the internets and the Academy seems to love World War II so it seems pretty sound.

Okay! I bet I do even worse than last year but I don’t care. I’m just glad the writer’s strike is over and the show is going on. It was one of the best years for movies so I bet whatever the flaws and surprises it’ll be a blast.

More later…

There Better Be Blood!

Been waiting for this one for what feels like forever! I’m a huge Paul Thomas Anderson fan – I loved HARD EIGHT(which he would prefer to be called SYDNEY), BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA, and PUNCH DRUNK LOVE and consider them masterpieces, ignoring that most critics add the word “flawed” to that accolade. The press has been tremendous (it seems to have opened everywhere but here in the last few months) but I’ve worked hard to ignore the banter and bickering from the film world blogosphere about THERE WILL BE BLOOD by not reading reviews, interviews, or articles about said film until I could see it for myself. I succeeded and feel better for it – so here’s my review:

THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

The very definition of an Epic with a capital E, Paul Thomas Anderson’s long awaited loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel “Oil!” is yet another 2007 release that lives up to its hype and redefines the current cinematic landscape. And when it comes to landscapes, the vistas that fill the frames of THERE WILL BE BLOOD engulf from the first shot – a Texas valley in 1898 aided by a jarring wall of cacophonous strings (courtesy of Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead) to the last shot of…oh wait no Spoliers! As oil magnate Daniel Plainview, Daniel Day Lewis owns the film – he’s in nearly every scene and though he seems to be doing an imitation of John Huston, has a sculpted manner that, as just about every critic is exclaiming, has Oscar written all over it. Plainview’s methods in the art of wheeling and dealing are mesmerizing as is his way with words (on acquisition of oil obviously) – “If you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake and I have a straw and my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!”

“Greed versus religion” is what I gather was the driving issue behind Sinclair’s book (which I really should read) and it comes alive in the person of Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), a young preacher whose family’s land becomes entangled in Plainview’s conquest of the “ocean of oil” that he declares is his and more importantly – nobody else’s. Dano practices a form of fire and brimstone evangelizing that Plainview, when first attending his church calls “one Goddamn Hell of a show.” Dano plays twins – which can be confusing because it is the little-seen Paul who first appears and sells out the location of oil to Plainview. Plainview has a child (Dillon Freasier) who he more or less inherited as a son from a man who died in his employment. The boy, who Plainview names H.W., loses his hearing in yet another accident and Plainview admonishes Sunday for being unable to heal him. The clashing confrontations that mount as time moves on form the final acts; I must admit that in the 3rd act I felt that Anderson loses his way a bit but regains for a severely strong finish.

The film is dedicated to Robert Altman but it seems to my eyes to be heavily Kubrick-influenced. The opening sequence, a nearly 20 minute dialogue-free long-form montage in which we see Plainview starting from scratch, digging in fresh earth and slowly building his operation, has the operatic feel and flow from 2001 while the extended real-time pacing and gorgeous studied long shots throughout remind me of the fine tempered fabric of BARRY LYNDON. But Kubrick is only one of the masters in Anderson’s mosaic; I’ve seen comparisons to the grandeur of greed in CITIZEN KANE, the location (the West Texas town of Marfa) is the same as in the classic George Stevens/James Dean classic GIANT (also NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN was filmed mostly there too), and the essence of THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE* is largely felt. THERE WILL BE BLOOD, even with all those obvious inherited influences (or because of them) stands as an amazing achievement for a premiere American film maker and a film to cherish forever. This Epic-scale period movie on a less-than-Epic budget will bubble like the oil in the well before it bursts through Plainview’s derrick in cineaste’s psyches for a long time – regardless of whether or not it takes home the gold come Oscar night. One Goddamn Hell of a show indeed.

* Reportedly while making TWBB Anderson put on his copy of THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE every night as he was going to sleep. I wonder what wife Maya Rudolph (SNL) thought about that!

More later…

Seasons Greetings And Coming Attractions

Happy New Year from Film Babble Blog!

Ah, that’s the stuff – pictured above is my favorite New Year’s celebration movie scene of all time. From THE GODFATHER: PART II it shows Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), having just found out that his brother Fredo (John Cazale) betrayed him, gives him the kiss of death and tells him: “I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!” What a way to enter in the New Year!

I just wanted to make a brief post to wish everyone a good 2008 and to plug some upcoming Film Babble.

Coming soon to this blog:

ATONEMENT (Dir. Joe Wright) This film opens Friday at my hometown theatre and I’ve been plowing through the so far excellent Ian McEwan novel so expect a review very shortly.

BEOWULF (Dir. Robert Zemeckis) I’m heading to the Imax Theatre in Raleigh tomorrow to see this ginormous 3-D retelling of the ancient Anglo Saxon epic poem that I was not a fan of back in high school English Literature class. I’ll tell you know how it goes.

The Top Ten Movies Of 2007 – 2007 ended so why not make a list now? Well, you see, some major 2007 releases haven’t made their way to my area (particularly THERE WILL BE BLOOD which won’t be released here until Jan. 18th) so I will refrain from compiling a list until I’m allowed to catch up. Stay tuned because this being the best year for film in recent memory the list is sure to be a doozy!

More sooner than later…