Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Top 10 Soundtracks from 2009

My pursuit to Top-10-listify my favourite film soundtracks of the past decade has hit the late naughts. Enjoy below in both oral and written formats.

Wizard Wheezes, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Nicholas Hooper
10. 160 BPM, Angels & Demons - Hans Zimmer
9. Logan Through Time, X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Harry Gregson-Williams
8. Dragonball Evolution, Dragonball Evolution - Brian Tyler
7. Jake Enters His Avatar World, Avatar - James Horner
6. Nero Fiddles, Narada Burns, Star Trek - Michael Giacchino
5. New Moon, The Twilight Saga: New Moon - Alexandre Desplat
4. Dumbledore's Farewell, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Nicholas Hooper
3. Married Life, Up - Michael Giacchino
2. Infinite White, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - Steve Jablonsky
1. Welcome to Lunar Industries, Moon - Clint Mansell
A Christmas Carol Main Title, A Christmas Carol - Alan Silvestri

Yours outwittingly,

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Soundtrack Review: World of WarCraft: Warlords of Draenor

Few franchises have musical history as magnificent as Blizzard’s WarCraft. From the very first WarCraft game, 1994’s Orcs and Humans, the series has been producing a powerful, considered soundtrack. Mostly warlike and always brooding, these early scores from the ‘90s lean heavily on marching drum rhythms and repetitive, borderline groovy melodies - a style slowly been left behind as the series progressed. By WarCraft III (2002), the property’s style had expanded to include hauntingly beautiful, ethereal pieces, and an abundance of operatic choir. Not long after that World of Warcraft launched (in 2004) and the series expanded tenfold. And with WoW the sound became more cinematic than ever; big, orchestral and epic. Five expansions later and we bring this introductory overview to a close because we have reached the main subject of my review: World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor by composers Jason Heyes, Glenn Stafford and Tracy Bush.

It seems pointless to wait until the end of this article to say this: Warlords of Draenor is a very good soundtrack. It is truly fantastic. The question is however, how does it stand as a WarCraft soundtrack? Does it contain everything we’ve come to expect from the series, and does it maintain the outstanding musical qualities of past installments? In order to determine these answers, I have devised the five things that I believe make a good WarCraft score a good WarCraft score. I will now tackle each of these in relation to Warlords of Draenor. So without further ado, read on for my five essential elements of a WarCraft score:

Saturday, 22 November 2014

YouTube + 6

My YouTube channel has been very active lately, with six new videos uploaded in the past week. They're all wildly different, from a murder mystery short to a hand drawn animation to a simple conversation with myself. A ton of time and effort from a fair few people went into creating these, and I'm pretty super proud of them.

Take a look by jumping over to Thoroughmas on YouTube.

Now onto the next batch!

Yours platonically,

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Outside The Underappreciated's Studio Episode 4

It's back! This new episode of Bill Lipton's humanitarian radio program does not have any Bill Lipton in it, so get ready to join crass stand-in host Nico Nguyen. Hopefully Bill will be back next time.

The Outside The Underappreciated's Studio podcast is now available on iTunes too, check it out!

Yours swimmingly,

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Top 10 Soundtracks from 2008

Scores of Scores is back after a big weird random unexpected hiatus! Hope you enjoy my favourite film soundtracks from 2008.

Another Way To Die, Quantum Of Solace - Jack White & Alicia Keys
10. EVE, WALL-E - Thomas Newman
9. Watergate, Frost/Nixon - Hans Zimmer
8. Favela Escape, The Incredible Hulk - Craig Armstrong
7. Oil Fields, Quantum Of Solace - David Arnold
5. The Adventures Of Mutt, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - John Williams
4. Bella's Lullaby, Twilight - Carter Burwell
3. Return of the Lion, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - Harry Gregson-Williams
2. Harvey Two-Face, The Dark Knight - Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard
1. Hero, Kung Fu Panda - Hans Zimmer & John Powell
Raider's March, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - John Williams

Yours dancingly,

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A Little Interview

Yesterday I had a little interview featuring myself posted over on this blog over here, check it out! In it a talk a little bit about some of my short films and more.

Well, this was a brief post.
Yours briefly,

Friday, 7 November 2014

Brief Analysis of Reunion Scene from The Truman Show (1998)

In his piece on the effects of music in film, "Corporeality, Musical Heartbeats and Cinematic Emotion", Ben Winters explains that music can illicit emotion in the audience by replicating sounds we recognise our own bodies make. For example, heartbeat sounds are used to create tension and fear in Alien. The following scene from The Truman Show has a soundtrack by Phillip Glass which features slow, drawn string notes which effectively emulate weeping or moping sounds - bringing about a subconscious physiological memory in the audience.

Another thing Winters writes about is the diegisis of the music - where it is thought to be coming from. Sometimes it emanates from a character, like the heartbeat score emanating from the alien itself in Alien. Most often soundtracks are intra-diegetic, which means we imagine the music is coming from a kind of omniscient narrator. But in this scene from The Truman Show we literally see where the music is originating. They're playing it right there in front of us in order to manipulate us, and yet still it works. Even the characters in the studio in this scene, the ones creating the drama, they're clearly getting emotionally affected. Therefore I'd argue that this scene demonstrates that the source of music doesn't have to be mysterious to work, and intra-diegesis is somewhat irrelevant

There are two more brief points Winters writes about that I think are confirmed by this scene. First is the the mimetic hypothesis: the idea that we experience emotion by emulating what we see or hear on screen. This kinda goes back to the wailing strings. We hear something like wailing and on some level we understand how that feels, physically. And after Truman hugs his father, just about every other character in this scene starts hugging the closest person to them - mimicking Truman in order to successfully and totally empathise with his emotion.

But then all this emotion that is felt by both us as the audience and the characters watching Truman in this scene is only what Winters calls 'cinematic-emotion'. It's cognitive. You feel it, but you don't believe it. This is confirmed by that fact that, just as in a horror film you can experience very real fear and not get up and call the police, Truman's audience and creators feel his emotions - longing, sadness - but do nothing to help him. They don't believe in him as a real person, even though he is.

These are a few of the ways in which I believe this scene both creates cinematic drama and demonstrates some of the genre's inner-workings.

Winters, Ben. "Corporeality, Musical Heartbeats and Cinematic Emotion". Music, Sound and the Moving Image. Vol2, Issue 1. Spring 2006. p. 3-25.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Doctor Who Season 7 Soundtrack Review

Doctor Who’s original scores by MURRAY GOLD rank among the most brilliant and rewarding soundtracks of recent years. Time-travelling along at a release rate of annually-at-least, each album so far has been jam-packed with enthusiasm and overflowing with life, love and creativity. You could almost say they’re bigger on the inside.

Does GOLD’s new album from the show’s 7th season match the enormously high bar that has been set? Spoilers! But yes. Yes it does. Granted, with 74 tracks, adding up to well over 2 hours of music, it’s hard not to be at least a little bit impressed.

A significant portion of the fun of a Doctor Who soundtrack is picking out GOLD’s self-references to his previously established themes - of which there are many. Sometimes these reprises are thrillingly subtle, like the return of the Dalek’s theme in “Towards The Asylum” (1-5), and sometimes they are splendidly overt, like the 11th Doctor’s Theme at the end of “I Might Change My Mind” (1-37). GOLD is happy to dance from theme to theme at a rapid pace, often within the same track. This emotional whiplash can make your first listen exhausting. Furthermore this score has many styles sewn imperfectly together; dramatic jumps between disparate themes and genres. This makes it unclear what the central drive is for the album as a whole, probably to a greater extent than any previous Doctor Who score. But in subsequent listens, when you know what formerly unpredictable emotional rises and falls to expect, the journey becomes significantly more enjoyable.

There are some other downsides to having an overwhelming 74 tracks. Many tracks clock in at under a minute, which is hardly enough time to truly immerse yourself in a great piece. Notably, “Bah Bah Biker” (1-35) and “The Speeder” (2-6) are wonderfully energetic new melodies, but they have no room to breathe. Perhaps GOLD will expand upon these in future years, as has been his custom with other motifs in the past.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Top 10 Soundtracks from 2007

Yet another year with a wonderfully diverse selection of film scores. Here are my favourites!

Pretty Women, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - Johnny Depp & Alan Rickman
Hoist The Colours, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - Hans Zimmer
10. Main Titles, Michael Clayton - James Newton Howard
9. Laura Tollins, The Number 23 - Harry Gregson-Williams
8. Farewell, Atonement - Dario Marianelli
7. Eastern Promises, Eastern Promises - Howard Shore
6. Assets and Targets, The Bourne Ultimatum - John Powell
5. Flight Of The Order Of The Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Nicholas Hooper
4. Arrival to Earth, Transformers - Steve Jablonsky
3. Coronation, Stardust - Ilan Eshkeri
2. Wong Chia Chi's Theme, Lust, Caution - Alexandre Desplat
1. Up Is Down, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - Hans Zimmer
Elegy For Dunkirk, Atonement - Dario Marianelli

Yours rousingly,

Friday, 12 September 2014

Review of ABC TV's "The Code" Pilot

Last week I checked out the first episode of ABC's new political thriller series and, in an epihpany worthy of thriller storytelling, I found myself at the heart of a mindbending social media experiment. I realised that the episode had not actually been released, and that only myself and 299 other people were allowed to have an advance-preview. Why? So that they could sucker us into writing a review of what we had seen! They're forcing their viewers to do the dirty selling work for them! Crazy! I love it.

This innovative stunt requires a fair bit of confidence in the product. And I believe the ABC's confidence is not misplaced in The Code. This isn't just another Australian drama for the pile. We all know how the Australian film and television industry can struggle to keep up with the rest of the world, particularly in the drama-series department. The Code is a solid effort to emerge from the mediocrity.

Three paragraphs in. I will actually start reviewing in the next paragraph.
Chelsie Preston Crayford's character only has two names: Sophie Walsh.
I'll start by noting the first thing that struck me about The Code. It's something that I think plays a major role in its so-far success. The show is not overtly Australian. I feel that's a common pitfall of original Australian content - appealing to some kind of Aussie stereotype. As if the only interesting things about our country are the babes, the beer, the barbeques and the bogans. The Code doesn't pursue such cliches, instead diving into storytelling that is set in Australia but not necessarily entirely about Australia. It's reflected in the accents too, which aren't as twangy with the down-under dialect as the common filmic depiction of our big island. Personally I find this refreshing. Maybe sometimes I'm just secretly a bit embarrassed by Australians. Actually, it's not a secret. Put a shirt on.

This accessibility could be a factor in the show's quick sale overseas.
Adam Garcia - that alien translator from Doctor Who - plays a cool Perry Benson.
20 minutes of the episode had passed before I properly engaged with the plot, but that's understandable in a big pilot like this, with many characters. It's clearly also a large story in it's infancy, with a lot of threads to introduce. By the end if this pilot, however, events reach full-stride and, without spoiling anything, it concludes with a satisfying triple-threat cliffhanger involving snatching, sexing and suicide-ing. Careful stepping around my effortless alliteration.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Top 10 Soundtracks from 2006

In ranking my favourite film scores from 2006 I realised this year has a lot of personal favourites. Check out my podcast and/or list below.

You Know My Name - Chris Cornell
10. Fructus Gravis, The Da Vinci Code - Hans Zimmer
9. The Painted Veil, The Painted Veil - Alexandre Desplat
8. The Illusionist, The Illusionist - Phillip Glass
7. Cops or Criminals, The Departed - Howard Shore
6. Blunt Instrument, Casino Royale - David Arnold
5. Rough Flight, Superman Returns - John Ottman
4. The Last Stand, X-Men: The Last Stand - John Powell
3. Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - Hans Zimmer
2. Death Is The Road To Awe, The Fountain - Clint Mansell
1. Eragon, Eragon - Patrick Doyle
The Kraken, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - Hans Zimmer

Yours climatically,

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Top 10 Soundtracks from 2005

There's a lot of musical magic in this list. Also a lot of John Williams. I guess that explains it.

As always, you can experience my list in audio or text form below:

Do The Hippogriff, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Patrick Doyle
Augustus Gloop, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Danny Elfman
10. Going To School, Memoirs Of A Geisha - John Williams
9. The Return To Boston, War Of The Worlds - John Williams
8. Wall Breached, Kingdom of Heaven - Harry Gregson-Williams
7. The River Cruise - Part 2, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Danny Elfman
6. Remembering Munich, Munich - John Williams
5. Evacuating London, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Harry Gregson-Williams
4. Central Park, King Kong - James Newton Howard
3. Myotis, Batman Begins - Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard
2. Golden Egg, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Patrick Doyle
1. Battle of the Heroes, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - John Williams
Hogwarts March, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Patrick Doyle

Yours craftily,

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Top 10 Soundtracks from 2004

One decade after the fact, here are my picks for the best film scores of 2004. As always, presented in both audio and textual formats:

Mr. Blue Sky, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind - Electronic Light Orchestra
Tell Me Now (What You See), King Arthur - Moya Brennan
10. The Temple of Poseidon, Troy - James Horner
9. Main Title, Hellboy - Marco Beltrami
8. Regarding The Incredibly Deadly Viper, Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Events - Thomas Newman
7. He's Back!, Spider-Man 2 - Danny Elfman
6. National Treasure Suite, National Treasure - Trevor Rabin
5. To The Roof, The Bourne Supremacy - John Powell
4. Those We Don't Speak Of, The Village - James Newton Howard
3. Hold The Ice, King Arthur - Hans Zimmer
2. The Glory Days, The Incredibles - Michael Giacchino
1. A Window to the Past, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - John Williams
Mischief Managed!, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - John Williams

Yours unendingly,

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Top 10 Soundtracks from 2003

I'm back with my list of favourite film soundtracks from the year 2003, the top 5 of which I particularly adore.

You can listen to a recording of Scores of Scores here, where I introduce and play a snippet of each score, or if you prefer there is a complete tracklist below.

All You Need Is Love, Love Actually - Lynden David Hall
Wayfaring Stranger, Cold Mountain - Jack White
10. Matchstick Men, Matchstick Men - Hans Zimmer
9. Flying Jolly Roger, Peter Pan - James Newton Howard
8. End Credits, Hulk - Danny Elfman
7. First Day, Finding Nemo - Thomas Newman
6. Sandra's Theme, Big Fish - Danny Elfman
5. Let The Games Begin, Sinbad - Harry Gregson Williams
4. Suite from X2, X-Men 2 - John Ottman
3. Safe Passage, The Last Samurai - Hans Zimmer
2. Barbossa is Hungry, Pirates of the Caribbean - Klaus Badelt
1. The White Tree, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - Howard Shore
Into The West (feat. Annie Lennox), Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - Howard Shore

Yours profusely,

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Review of "Paper Planes" (2014)

This week I got a chance to see this new Australian film directed by Robert Connolly at the Melbourne International Film Festival. It's called Paper Planes, and although it appears to be marketed as a film for kids, I'd argue this move has something for all audiences. But then, now that I consider it, all great children's entertainment can be enjoyed by everyone.
Paper planes are serious business.
For myself, and I daresay most others, the expectation when seeing an Australian film is somewhat lower and more cautious than when seeing a film from any other part of the world. Australian cinema has simply lacked imagination for most of its existence, excluding a brief run of comedy (The Castle, The Dish) and a foray into a dark depiction of suburbia (Animal Kingdom, Snowtown) - a fetish from which we are only just emerging.

So it is with this caution that I sat down to see Paper Planes, but to my delight I found myself totally immersed in this incredibly cheerful film. It was a fantastic experience, no doubt heightened by the fact that each audience member was given a sheet of paper upon entering the cinema, with which to create a plane to toss across the theatre at will. This resulted in a very realistic 3D experience - without the need for big black spectacles - as an assortment of newly-constructed paper aircraft dove above our heads throughout the film (often jabbing an unsuspecting elderly gentleman in the face), making me regret the fact that I deliberately butchered my sheet of paper into a flightless creative mess. Sometimes I worry I'm becoming the kid who jumps on sandcastles.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Top 10 Soundtracks from 2002

Last week I started a brand new show on Swinburne's student radio station. Predictably, it's all about film soundtracks. Each week I'll be ranking my ten favourite film scores from each year, starting with the year 2002 and eventually reaching 2014.

As explained at the start of this episode, I had some audio issues and this recording doesn't sound as great as it will in future weeks.

Every piece of music I played throughout this episode is available in full on this Google Music playlist. You can also see a list of each track after the bump:

Friday, 8 August 2014

Two New Original Teaser Trailers

I have a few fairly wacky short films in postproduction right now, and my casts have bullied me into making trailers for them since I'm taking so long to finish the edit. Here are the results.

Case: Fluff is a spoof on the murder mystery, drawing inspiration from AMC's The Killing and HBO's True Detective.

Then there's Marco, a fairly straight suspense horror.

Both should turn out pretty interestingly. The final cuts will be online by the end of the year.

Yours darkly,

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Two New Video Game Videos - Landmark and Star Wars

Over the past few days I've made my first couple of video game-themed videos. One's a song and one is a monologue. Both are intended to be humorous but are based on truths. And both are here for your viewing pleasure:

The first one is based on my first experiences in the Closed Beta of Sony Online Entertainment's new building MMO, Landmark. It really is a game that requires you to put on your creative hat.

Second is in regards to a game I have spent a lot of time in, EA BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic. The game has many contentious issues, but it's still a bunch of fun, which I explore a little in this light-hearted song.

These videos were fun to make, so you may well see more of it in the future!

Yours criminally,

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Belong (A Short Film)

At la universidad I was given the assignment of creating a short film under the crazy-low length of 90 seconds. At this length the challenge becomes finding a nice balance between making a short with one basic scene, and making something with a true narrative arc.

Well, mine is complete now, and here it is for you to witness. It's about trying to fit in and "Belong", but it's not necessarily optimistic about this universal human desire.

I should warn you, I decided to try some trippy constant-panning which has made some people not only perch on the edge of their seats - but also fall off their chairs. Strap in.

Yours evidently,

Brief Review of "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)

In terms of scope, 2001: A Space Odyssey is difficult to compare. It is one of very few films which succeed at commenting on the big picture of life itself.

The film is structured as a series of seemingly disconnected chapters, or vignettes, each of which take place in a totally different environment and time period. Recurring through these stories however, is the mysterious monolith, which likely represents the involvement of aliens in the narrative.

We see a broad picture of human evolution. From apes to astronauts, from sticks to complicated space age technology. The film’s themes are painted with strokes broad enough that many different conclusions can be derived from the text. For many the film is about how aliens created humanity and guided our entire evolution.

I find the fourth act, which depicts a human expedition to Jupiter, most engaging. It features an artificial intelligence called HAL, which has been copied, sourced and replicated in hundreds of science fiction narratives in modern culture. HAL is still one of the best though, the perfect mix between human and robotic, likeable and terrifyingly sinister. When he is being activated it is intriguing to witness HAL plead for his virtual life.

The film’s special effects are outstanding for the time, and still stand up today - nearly half a century later. Though we may laugh at the men in ape costumes, they still have a practical, confrontingly true quality, which still beats the incredible CGI possible today. And solid as the rest of the film is the score. The use of classical music “Also sprach Zarathustra” has become a cultural icon.

There’s a reason 2001 is still regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, and that is because it goes further than any other Hollywood production dares, sticking it’s fingers deep into mind-twisting themes that no one was previously talking about. It is a perfect discussion film, and will likely be analysed forever, or at least until humanity finds rebirth in the stars.

Brief Review of "No Country For Old Men" (2007)

It’s bizarre, violent, unpredictable and authentically American. Yes, it’s a Coen brothers film.

Written by the Coen brothers but based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men is possibly the Coen brothers’ most violent film, which is saying something. From the very beginning Anton Chigurh, played enigmatically by Javier Bardem, is killing people left and right in brutally creative ways.

The narrative meanders contemplatively, but essentially this is the story of Llewelyn Moss. When Llewelyn happens upon the scene of a drug deal gone wrong and consequently two million dollars, he decides to keep the money for himself - despite the danger he knows comes with it. Said danger comes in the form of Anton Chigurh, a hitman who has been hired to reclaim the money. Very quickly Anton is recognisable as an utter psychopath. In his first scenes he is seen strangling a sheriff’s deputy and stealing a car by killing the driver with a captive bolt pistol.

Carving a trail of destruction through West Texas, these two men play cat-and-mouse through ingenious set pieces involving switcharoos and a lot of spilt blood. Both parties are proficient and practical: good at improvising and even fixing up their injuries after a violent encounter. It’s always refreshing to watch such clever and driven characters on screen.

The authorities trying to keep up with this conflict however, are not so quick on their feet. Or they’re just unlucky. A handful of police die while trying to intervene in the million dollar chase. Perhaps the police fail because they are simply less driven, without the money as an encouraging prize.

The film’s soundscape is a subtle and carefully designed construct which plays a huge role in the success of the production. Dialogue is minimal and music is non-existent, leaving the few sound effects to stand out as powerful and punchy. Every time Anton blows open a door handle the accompanying “bang!” is unexpected enough to make the audience jump.

The film’s style and narrative is unconventional and unpredictable in the usual Coen brothers fashion. You never really know what’s going to happen, who are the lead characters, and how much longer anyone will be alive. But as viewers we are allowed to enjoy this uncertainty, because this is an impeccable piece of filmmaking. The audience is always in the safest of hands with the Coen brothers, despite the terrible danger of their narratives.

Brief Review of "The Hurt Locker" (2008)

The Hurt Locker is a film about Sergeant William James, a daring and reckless explosives disposal expert. The film opens with a quote from the book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” which sums up the central theme explored by director Kathryn Bigelow: “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug”.

James is addicted to the thrill of war. This is revealed through his keen desire to put himself in the middle of dangerous situations, and the fact that at the end of the film, when his service is over, he decides to leave his family and return to Iraq. This interesting character is made totally believable by a steady, focused performance by Jeremy Renner. When the drama escalates in the second half of the film, James deals with the situations both expertly but also with just enough humanity for the viewer to empathise with the character.

Kathryn Bigelow’s filmmaking style is intense to say the least. Scenes build tension with fast cutting between close and wide angles. Unlike typical actions films, however, this cutting is performed with a proficiency that allows the scene to be clear and understandable for the viewer. The film never dissolves into an indiscernible whirlwind of incomprehensible quick cuts, as would be easy to do.

The Hurt Locker is one of the most interesting and accurate depictions of modern warfare on film. It is relevant to our time and morally interesting - and not only for soldiers but for all people and their everyday lives. The film shows that it is possible for one to become addicted to a dangerous or destructive activity without realising. It raises the question for the United States: will they be able to leave the war when they have the chance, or will they keep looking for conflict, because that is what they are used to?

Brief Review of "Beyond The Hills" (2012)

Beyond the Hills is a confronting film about religion, illness and madness. Director Cristian Mungiu has crafted a balanced narrative with a keen eye on the church’s line of tolerance, and the ethics therein.

We enter the convent and learn its systems with Alina, whose character flavours our impressions with caution and uncertainty. But throughout the film Alina becomes increasingly ill, crazy and distant. In some scenes we don’t even see her face, just the back of her and the apprehensive faces of those she is confronting. VoichiĊ£a could then be seen as the protagonist of the film, but as a whole the film follows no one character, but rather the ideas and moral questions at the core of the events.

The film is tremendously dialogue-heavy. There are dozens of scenes with many characters exchanging vast back-and-forths in soft, hushed voices. And there is always drama in the discussion, with characters always requesting, convincing, disciplining or attempting to understand one another. This constant and evolving conflict and debate comprises the core intrigue of the film. These scenes are also exceptional for their length without cuts; many long takes go for minutes in one camera shot.

To pick nits, the film is probably too long. Some shots are too dark and too slow, and could have been trimmed without losing atmosphere or meaning. That said, the filmmaker’s choice to take his ponderous own time is commendable.

The final scenes, in which the priest and several nuns are arrested for the murder of Alina, show a striking twist of power dynamics. Suddenly the priest, who until now has been a sure-minded leader, appears like a child who has been caught doing something naughty, obeying the every instruction of the now-dominant police.

The amount of drama that can be caused by one individual (in this case, the character Alina) is incredible.

Brief Review of "The Piano" (1993)

The Piano is a beautiful and dramatic telling of a tragic romance story. Set in the 19th century, the narrative follows a mute woman, Ada, and her daughter, Flora. Despite her desire to keep a distance from others, Ada finds herself caught between two men in a dark love triangle.

Exquisite cinematography and art design is paramount in the film’s successful world building. The setting of the murky New Zealand coast and its misty woods provides an incredible atmosphere, particularly in some of the rainy scenes towards the end of the film. Director Jane Campion demonstrates a powerful mastery of mise en scene; every shot is interestingly framed, and often has layers of meaning and subjects in both the foreground and background. Furthermore, a remarkably unobtrusive edit lets the drama play out very organically. Scenes are minimally cut, and there is a strong sense that no shot is wasted, or is too long or too short.

The piano at the heart of the film acts as a metaphoric plot device. It is essential to Ada, practically replacing the void her muteness creates. Early on, playing the piano is emphasised as her favourite and most essential activity, as it’s the only time she can express herself. But then in order to get closer to her, Baines and Stewart inadvertently corrupt this haven.

Musically, the piano is brilliantly incorporated. It’s playing within scenes is oft interweaved into the already excellent score by Michael Nyman.

Interestingly, Baines is for some time perceived to be the villain of the piece and Stewart seems the faultless hero, but the drama thickens and their roles are reversed in the second act when Ada demonstrates her affections for Baines.

In a meta-narrative flair worthy of Shakespeare, the play within the movie - which depicts a killer with an axe - effectively foreshadows the end of the film when Stewart, angry and betrayed, wields an axe against Ada. When he dramatically cuts off her finger, removing her ability to express herself through piano, the camera lingers with Ada as she struggles to comprehend her circumstances. Holly Hunter’s performance is wall to wall incredible, drawing in the viewer with a physical and emotional intensity. This climactic moment is heightened ever more by gloomy rain and the use of slow motion. Many powerful moments in the film take on a theatrical, larger-than-life quality which is epic and cinematically appealing.

All of her voices destroyed, Ada attempts to kill herself, but as she is drowning she finds the will to live. Emerging rebirthed from the water, she begins to speak again. A statement not only on the resilience of the human spirit, but the ability for one to change and grow through sincere effort.

Brief Review of "Chungking Express" (1994)

Chungking Express is a wacky romance film in two parts. Both set in the same area of Hong Kong, director Wong Kar-wai tells two similar stories of characters between relationships. In the first, a policeman who is struggling to forget his previous sweetheart, May, goes out to find any distraction he can. As fate has it, he meets and develops a seemingly platonic relationship with a surreptitious drug smuggler. The idea of a policeman and a drug smuggler unknowingly developing a relationship is striking, and speaks to the film’s ideas on the city environment: a place where so many people’s lives bump into each other so randomly and frequently that anything is possible.

The second story follows another policeman in grief after being abandoned by his girlfriend. This officer attracts the attentions of Faye, who works at a snack bar, and the story follows the development of their unclear relationship. Every character in the film is quirky (in a rather realistic way), but Faye is particularly wild. Often dancing carelessly to her favourite song, “California Dreamin” by The Mamas & the Papas, she continuously sneaks into the policeman’s home to tidy and move things around. This could be seen as a gracious or loving act, but it’s also creepy. Most relationships depicted in the film have some kind of bizarre or slightly twisted feel to them.

Filmmaking techniques are used to vividly portray a bustling Hong Kong. Jump cuts keep events lively and musical montages are engagingly wacky. Shaking handheld camerawork is key to the sprawl; our viewpoint swirls around in a constantly-creative fashion, sending us into claustrophobic shops and smoothly following playful characters - notably the child-like Faye. Another regular film effect is that of time manipulation. In several scenes our main character is quite still while crowds bustle past behind them in fast motion. This has an isolative effect, making us appreciate the fact that we are seeing one man’s troubles in an ocean of millions.

Chungking Express provides an original and non-cliche commentary on romantic relationships. Refreshingly, however, it forces no opinions or ideas upon the viewer. The two stories are simply told and are told simply, leaving us to extract our personal meaning from the strange swirl of heartbreak and hope.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Case: Fluff Poster

I've been working on yet another wacky short film lately. Does it have teddy bears, accents and strange costumes? Yes, of course - as always.

The actual film may not be complete for some time yet, but we're all pretty fond of this poster image:

Yours seriously,

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Brief Review of "Grey Gardens" (1975)

Grey Gardens is an understated documentary about the relationship between a mother and daughter. Edith Beale (or “Little Edie”) lives with her mother of the same name (or “Big Edie”) in a large, isolated, deteriorating house. That’s the simplistic premise. It works exceptionally, however, due to the incredible depth and subtext of the uncomfortable relationship between the Beales women.

Thanks to the naturalistic shooting style of directors Albert and David Maysles, the film feels authentic and immersive. With long unedited takes of the Beales living their everyday lives, the audience is allowed complete and objective access to this rather tragic household. It’s like a nature documentary. We get right up close with these interesting specimens in their natural habitat, and we get to observe them for a good long while. It works brilliantly; the Beales are never shy of the camera - bickering unattractively and spilling forth their inner monologues. Without concern for story or plot development, one can easily forget it is a film, truly focusing in on these strange real life characters.

In the isolated, shrub-encircled house, conflict arises naturally between mother and daughter. We learn of tensions between the two, particularly in regards to their respective successes. Big Edie is an accomplished singer who maintains somewhat of her singing voice in old age. However, when Little Edie sings on several occasions, it greatly upsets Big Edie, who spills forth criticisms and objections. Whether ashamed, threatened or just wanting to be appreciated for her talent, Big Edie’s passive aggressive manipulation of her daughter is intriguing social commentary. The film portrays a realistic chunk of family rivalry, up-close and personal.

Cutaways between scenes depict birds and planes flying above the house, a motif that hints at the outside world - free and constantly moving. This contrasts with the two women’s stagnant lives - a situation they are blind to, reflected metaphorically in their terrible eyesight (Little Edie even using binoculars to see short distances).

The depth of material the film reveals in such a small physical area and with a leading cast of only two, is incredible. Grey Gardens demonstrates that interesting narratives, characters and relationships do not have to be scripted.

Brief Review of "Vertigo" (1958)

Hitchcock’s Vertigo is a perfectly paranoid thriller about trickery, fear and obsession. The narrative follows James Steward as John “Scottie” Ferguson, a retiring detective who suffers from acrophobia and vertigo. Through the film’s abstract subterfuge of eerie effects and dizzying (vertigo-inducing, one might say) editing, we watch as Scottie investigates a mystery that makes him lose his mind.

The film’s second act is difficult for the viewer, as events twist about awkwardly and Scottie is plagued by an unrelatable madness, so it is fortunate that the first act introduces us to an exceptionally engaging mystery. We, with Scottie, investigate Madelein, an inscrutable yet beautiful woman who does not seem to make sense. Scottie’s obsession with Madelein escalates dramatically until the shocking moment when she plunges to her death from the tower of a mission. From that point his obsession is thrown out of focus, and he projects his mania into hallucinating that other women around him are Madelein. Editing trickery allows Hitchcock to make us see what Scottie sees: recurring instances of approaching women who appear to be Madelein, then change into a stranger as they come closer.

Scottie fixates on a particular woman who looks like Madelein (whom, fate has it, is Judy, the woman who impersonated Madelein as a part of a murder plot). In his mad attempt to have the unattainable, Scottie works to craft Judy’s appearance into that of Madelein, despite her understandable protests. In this way his “love” is shown to be entirely self-indulgent.

Bernard Herrmann’s score is divine. Punchy and often bombastic, the music punctuates the film’s action and emotional beats from the word go, providing a rather affecting visceral experience. The score is as obsessed with its key romantic melody as Scottie is with Madeleine. It is a beautiful theme which is reprised dozens of times throughout the film to emphasise the heightened relationship. However, as with the reality of the relationship, the melody - when played in its complete form - flows from swirling beauty into a troubled stumbling of emotions.

The question arises of whether or not Vertigo is a romantic film. There are elements of romance, as Scottie is clearly infatuated by Madeleine and he pursues her like a lover. However, particularly in the final act, he is not very loving in his actions. He dominates Judy and drives her into a worked-up state of fear through his desperate madness. There are many instances in the second half of the film where it would feel appropriate for the film to end, but they are glazed by. Instead the characters go all the way into the madness, keeping the narrative alive until Judy dies like Madeleine, and then ending abruptly in that moment of horror. Vertigo can be perceived as an anti-romance film. It’s a story in which love - one of humanity’s most optimistic traits - is twisted into dark, narcissistic obsession.

Brief Review of "Badlands" (1973)

Terrence Malick’s Badlands tells a dark and dreamy legend which explores the psychology of an unemotional teenage girl and the murderous man she runs away with. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek star as Kit and Holly, an unpredictable, offbeat and unconventionally mischievous pair. Both appear somewhat queer at the beginning of the film, but develop into truly confronting characters as they become increasingly desensitised to the violence they bring about. Though their attitudes are always nonchalant, they are undoubtedly the drivers of their journeys. Well, perhaps Kit is the predominant the driver for them both. It is he that first approaches Holly at the beginning of the film and pursues her determinedly, leading him to shoot her disapproving father (the first of Kit’s many “nuisance-removing” murders).

The extroverted soundtrack is loud and intrusive and should by all rights be jarring, but in actual fact it blends well with the film’s themes. The high-pitched repetitive melodies emphasise the “fairy-tale” viewpoint of the protagonists; their whimsical journey of carefree destruction across the American countryside. Similar juxtaposition is key to Holly’s monotone narrations, which - often humorously - completely undersell the gravity of the characters’ circumstances.

Cleverly, the true focus of Badlands is only revealed in the film’s final scenes. While most of the film feels like a plot-driven journey which could easily build into a meaningless final showdown, when Kit shockingly surrenders himself to the authorities his character becomes the primary subject. Malick clearly understands that the audience is intensely interested in why Kit would do such a thing. Kit shifts so dramatically into the centre of the film’s spotlight that it feels like we are seeing him properly for the first time. He is shown to be more charismatic than ever before. It’s a subtle character twist which, similar to plot twist films like Sixth Sense, forces the viewer to see the entire film in a very different light. All of Kit’s motives are thrown into question. One of the most intriguing ideas in storytelling is that of the likeable villain, and Kit is exactly that. In the final scenes the audience is made to struggle with the fact that they are feeling sorry for this psychotic murderer. The film lives beyond its runtime in these unanswered questions of subjectivity, justice and how one should classify psychosis.

Brief Review of "Chinatown" (1986)

Roman Polanski’s Chinatown tells a multi-layered story of small emotional conflicts and large societal corruption. Jack Nicholson stars as private investigator Jake Gittes, a man who is reluctantly pulled into what is at first the simple investigation of an affair. When his target turns up dead, it turns into a murder investigation. As the complex web of mystery continues to build around Jake, he finds himself unsure what he is actually investigating. Still, he is inquisitive enough to follow it to the bitter end. This nosy character trait is reflected in the visual gag of the bandage Jack has to wear on his nose after it is cut early in the story.

Jack Nicholson makes an interesting protagonist as Jake Gittes. He is more gruff and unpredictable than the usual noir detective (fitting that he is a private investigator instead of a true detective).

The film feels intelligently built and firmly crafted. It has a remarkably clear sense of itself and has a confident approach to tropes of the noir genre. These tropes exist in character (Jake’s reluctance to get involved in the case followed by his inability to escape it til it’s bitter end), cinematography (dialogue in cars where all but a sliver of the actors’ faces are in shadow) and, obviously, the dense mystery plot.

One of the cleverest aspects of the film is the interweaving connection of small plot devices. Jake’s most common companion through the mystery is the determined Evelyn Mulwray, played solidly by Faye Dunaway. Subtle, seemingly-incidental references to her left eye are planted throughout the film, such as her rubbing it while driving and Jake noticing a birthmark in it. In the final scene of the film however, these are revealed to be foreshadowing, as Evelyn is tragically shot through her left eye by police as she tries to escape her terrible circumstances. Furthermore, in this final scene Polanski does not even need to show us that Evelyn has been hit. After the police fire at her fleeing vehicle, it slows to a stop and the car’s horn sounds continuously. It is at that moment we remember what had seemed to be an inconsequential moment earlier in the film when Evelyn accidentally head-butts the steering wheel of her car - sounding the horn. This is the primary cleverness of the film: subtly planting devices in the viewer’s head that they do not realise are there until they are dramatically called back to.

Very little is explained translucently to the viewer. We are forced to stay alert through each deliberately slow-paced scene in order to search for any clues to the direction the story is headed. This technique comes at a price of connection to the characters. Since we are never really let in on the characters’ goals - most of all those of Jake - it becomes difficult to relate with their decisions and resulting circumstances. On the whole however, Chinatown is such a solidly constructed film that it’s impossible for this minor lack of emotional connection to diminish one’s appreciation of the film’s many successes.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Top 3 Personalities on the Melbourne Metro

I've spent a fair bit of time commuting by train in Melbourne lately. I always find public transport rather fun, as you're chucked into confined spaces with a random group of diverse strangers. Lately I've seen a few particularly interesting personality motifs repeat themselves again and again, which I'd now like to share.

These are not necessarily the most common or most irritating or most engaging personalities, but the three which have interested me most of late.

#1. The Openly Disgruntled

Stereotype: female, early 30s, dark hair, handbag.

Someone walks in your way for a second. You stop still and pull a face, a HUGE face, to show how absolutely offended you are. No one is looking at you, of course. But no one needs to. It gives you some kind of satisfaction, pitying yourself for your tragic wounds. You give yourself a moment of angry disbelief before moving on with your probably-busy day.

#2. The Jukebox

Stereotype: male, late 20s, sunglasses, jeans.

Those headphones are bigger than your head. And you've turned the sound right up. We're all grooving to your Daft Punk, but you don't know it because you're standing in the corner and staring at the graffiti on the wall like a kid in detention. Are your ears okay? We're all a bit worried for you.

#3. The Old And Nimble

Stereotype: male, early 70s, grey hair, walking stick, old.

You are quite old. You have a bit of a limp. Your back is heavily arched. We give you a bit of way to get through, but we don't need to. Woah, look at you go. You're overtaking everyone. You're practically pushing teenagers onto the train tracks. Are you really old or is that all just make up and acting? Well, I guess we'll never know 'cause you're yonks away already.

Mmm. People are entertaining. More people soon maybe!

Yours disgustedly,

Outside The Underappreciated's Studio Episode 3

Calling a customer service hotline can be a nightmare. In this third episode of my radio show spoof series, our manipulative host Bill Lipton encounters a few interesting personalities as he phones SmallLake Customer Service.

Hope you enjoy,
Yours pontifically,

Friday, 21 March 2014

Brief Review of "Withnail & I" (1987)

Withnail & I is a serious comedy set in the year of 1969. The film follows the characters of Withnail and Marwood - a pair of young, unemployed actors living it rough in their shoddy London flat.

From the opening shot the set design is engrossing. The majority of the film takes place in claustrophobic rooms filled with piles of (mostly ugly) decorative items. Each set is so packed that the actors must dodge and weave through the endless accumulations of stuff. This immediately provides an authentic sense of place; the setting is totally believable throughout the film.

Cadaverous, proudly carried and filled with drunk energy, Withnail is a captivating character in every scene. He shows little indication of truly desiring acting work, turning down an understudy role with his high-horse attitude. He is drawn to the romance and hijinks of this life as an out-of-work actor. It allows him to do no work and blame others for it. And thanks to the safety net that is his family’s wealth, “the unemployed artist” is a life he can afford to live.

Marwood, on the other hand, worries about things (shown to us through his narration of several anxiety attacks). While he certainly likes Withnail and his larks, particularly enjoying their drunken raid of a tea room, Marwood takes life more seriously. He acts as a surrogate for the viewer, allowing us to empathise with his frequent annoyance with Withnail.

The crux of the film follows our opportunistic protagonists on their impromptu holiday to a run-down cottage in the country. Combating unexpectedly harsh conditions, it isn’t long before both we and the characters experience enough discomfort to want to leave, missing the small London flat where they can at least muster a bowl of coffee. But then their plans to leave are buggered - pun intended - by an arrival in the night: Withnail’s Uncle Monty. One would think the line between rapist and romantic to be easily distinguishable, but Withnail & I decisively makes it difficult for us to decide quite how malicious Monty is.

The sexualisation of Marwood is a theme throughout the film. He sleeps in nothing but underwear and his curly hair often appears feminine. When Monty admits his affections for Marwood, it is revealed that Withnail fuelled this unpleasant situation. It’s the final straw for Marwood.

The surprisingly sad final scenes are brilliant in their sense of truth. Marwood decides to grow up and move on, symbolised by his conservative new haircut. All sense of lark is diminished. It is easy to imagine how the rest of these characters’ lives would play out: Marwood working his way towards a stable life, Withnail doing whatever it takes to continue his destructive lifestyle of self-pitying pleasure. The events of the film mark the crossroads where their lives fleetingly intersected. They clung together as long as possible - often quite literally on screen, their bodies pressed together warmly. But Withnail & I’s final statement pierces the excellent comedy with a powerful dramatic core: nothing lasts.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Burying Yourself in The Internet

Today I looked back at some of the things I posted on the internet a long time ago, including some of my early posts on this very blog. How very utterly embarrassing it is.

This is a bit of a new problem in the world today. The internet is such a great platform for sharing your opinion, but what about when your opinion changes? How is one to react to everything they have shared?

I'm sure many will experience such a problem. Let's go through a couple of the resolutions I considered:

Option 1: Delete The Offending Material

Sure, I could simply go back into the archives of my blog and let loose my index finger which is positioned over my mouse whilst the cursor is positioned over the "Delete" button. But if I remove everything I'm embarrassed about, which - let's face it - is pretty much everything older than a few days ago, I'm left with a very flat, shallow, empty blog. In just a few days I'll probably look at this very article and want it gone. But then nothing would ever get written or made.

Your past self has a right to live.

Option 2: Bury The Offending Material

This is a far more positive, productive solution. The internet, and blogs in particular, are designed in a way that features the most recent content. The latest blog post will usually appear at the top of the web page, in prime viewing location. And if you're even slightly embarrassed about what's featured on your website, that can be a great motivator to go ahead and create something better to replace it with. And the more you create and publish, the deeper that old stuff is buried into the deep darkness of the internet where few people go.

So go on, have a look at your past Tweets, Facebook posts or Instagram posts. Feel the embarrassment. Then do something better, something fresh, and continue to improve.

A Fantastic Antidote To The Entire Situation

This all boils down to worrying that others will mistake or misunderstand you in some way. It's self-consciousness on the world wide web. It's about judgement. So what if we all make an effort to judge less? Simply take everything you read with a grain of salt or two, particularly online. In sharing parts of themselves everyone is developing and changing, constantly.

Now I will quote Doctor Who.

"We all change, when you think about it. We're all different people, all through our lives. And that's okay. That's good, you've gotta keep moving. So long as you remember all the people that you used to be." - The Doctor

That'll do it. If you gleamed anything useful from my rambling, congratulations dear reader. And I'll see you on the other side. Of what? No idea.

Have a good one,
Yours indefinitely,

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Outside The Underappreciated's Studio Episode 2

It was over a year ago that I made a little comedy audio sketch called Outside The Underappreciated's Studio. And it is only now that I am releasing the second episode of the series!

It's on Soundcloud. Yay! Everyone likes Soundcloud these days!

Be warned: many silly voices roam uncontrolled.

There's also a third episode on the way soon, and it makes me laugh a lot.

Until then,
Yours prominently,

Ambition And Aversion

Hello. Me again. Sharing my latest videos with you again. This time it's a wacky short film. Oh, isn't it always?

If you'd like to start with the trailer: http://youtu.be/9-wctsPhSMk

Here's the little film itself: http://youtu.be/InfRxHEUCh8

Then, as ever, the bloopers are for dessert: http://youtu.be/slc3oDDF1OI

Tah tah,
Yours bloodily,

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Face The Cliff Face With Your Cliff's... Face? No Wait What?

The title of this short film I made is incomprehensible. As is the plot. But you know you like it.

Yours astoundingly,

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A Serendipitous Short Film

Hola buenos dias,

Pulled together this wacky short film within a couple of weeks. It's pretty groovy if I do say so myself.

I know I have forsaken you for a long time, my dear blog. I feel bad about that. More posts soon maybe. Thinking of you, xoxo!

Yours lovingly,