Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Today's Deep Mythos

There are two archtypal questions that have come to define Western culture in the past 200 or so years:

- Can a man (or woman) intentionally use science to bring the dead back to life?

- Can a man (or woman) survive death and "come back" for an eternal life?

The first question stems from the novel Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley in 1818. The second comes from the novel Dracula written by Bram Stoker in 1897.

Bookending the 19th Century, Shelley and Stoker gave us stories that have reverberated in our imaginations, echoing ancient themes about the boundaries of human innovation and of life itself...and what comes after.

Is it any wonder then that each new generation of filmmakers is drawn to these stories which are rooted in our psyche?

Recently, my son Kevin, a budding filmmaker, asked me what I thought of Branagh's version of Frankenstein with Robert DeNiro as the Monster. While I did not care for the casting choice for the Creature, I did admire director Branagh's over-the-top vision for the film.

Today, I read that film director Danny (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) Boyle is mounting a stage production of Frankenstein, starring Jonny Lee Miller, in the UK.

And as for Dracula, I love what Francis Ford Coppola did with Stoker's tale, casting a highly unlikely Gary Oldman as the Count, but delivering the most ripe and lavish Dracula ever.

Next to zombies, vampires are as popular in film as ever. The Twilight books became successful films. And Italian filmmaker Dario Argento plans a 3D version of Dracula soon.

Should we just put a stake in these stories and put out a moratorium on any more film versions? In my view, absolutely not. These stories reflect questions that go very deep into our wiring. We must explore them. We must ask...and follow where the questions lead us.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday February 23, 2011.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bernard Herrmann's Centennial

One of the greatest American composers of the 20th Century was Bernard Herrmann. As 2011 is his centennial year, I want to celebrate the man and his music.

Here are some favorites from his marvelous music for movies.

Jason and the Argonauts - One of the first films I saw as a kid that featured Herrmann's music.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - One of the loveliest scores ever to come out of Hollywood.

The Day the Earth Stood Still - Can music take you on a ride into outer space? You bet it can.

Mysterious Island - William Stromberg conducts the MSO in this wild track called The Balloon.

White Witch Doctor - Hold on to your pith helmet when you hear this one!

On Dangerous Ground - Brace yourself for "Death Hunt," a ferocious piece performed by Esa Pekka Salonen conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

North By Northwest - Herrmann's fandango for Hitchcock's classic.

Obsession - "Giving it everything he's got" sums up Herrmann's ravishing score for this DePalma thriller.

Taxi Driver - One of Herrmann's final scores featuring a sweeping jazz sax solo.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on February 5, 2011.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's Awards Time

This is the time of year when various film industry organizations hand out awards for the best in movies for the previous year. I love awards season! But an annual frustration occurs too when movies that I really liked get snubbed at the awards. For example, director Christopher (The Dark Knight) Nolan's Inception, which I thought was the Best of the year as an overall film. Second place would go to the Coen Brothers' True Grit for taking a great American story and spinning it beautifully to life. Third place would go to David Fincher's The Social Network which chronicles the birth of facebook.

Will it go the way I'd like it to? Probably not. It's likely that the King's Speech, an historical bio from the UK, will sweep the awards at Oscar time. It's a good little film, the kind that Academy voters tend to swoon for.

So, let me take this opportunity to give out the Terrys, my own award to the movies and the artists who make them.

Best Film: Inception

Best Director: Christopher Nolan (runner up: the Coens)

Best Music Score: Hans Zimmer for Inception (runner up: Carter Burwell for True Grit)

Best Actor: Colin Firth for The King's Speech

Best Actress: Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit

I still haven't seen The Fighter or Toy Story 3. So I have some catching up to do.

By the way, here is an excellent new blog devoted to film music:

This blog entry is dedicated to the memory of legendary film composer John Barry who died a few days ago.