Friday, June 27, 2008

Hey, this movie’s soundtrack sounds like…

Please join on this entry and add your own discoveries. I intend to add to it as I think of new examples – and perhaps gussy up the writing a bit too.

This is music geek stuff so it will either generate nothing, dead silence… or it may end up being something that search engines send a lot of music geeks to.

It is not uncommon to hear classical music in a movie. However, beyond identifying Beethoven or, more frequently – a Russian, like Stravinsky in a soundtrack, it is more fun to recognize a sound cue that is reminiscent of something else.

It's no accident when it happens and might be for any number of reasons.

  1. The guys writing this stuff, the Williams, Korngolds, Hermanns, Newmans – they all know, (or knew) music as well as anyone and so are having musical fun with the job.
  2. When a movie is edited, temporary music is used to demonstrate the mood and final effect desired. Frequently, to the chagrin of many composers, the director falls in love with the temp score and thus asks for, "Something that sounds just like this, but different…"
  3. Face it, there are only so many different ways to score an ominous, or exciting, or (fill in the blank) scene – given a certain type of music. Eventually, something is going to sound like something else.

For people that aren't familiar with "classical music", but who did like a soundtrack score, this is a great way to get turned on to new (old) music.

I'm going to start a list with some easy ones. Please add in the comments and I'll add to the list.

Click on the links in the first example to actually hear the sections. I'll start with three easy ones.

Frequently, Gustav Holst's The Planets is used in a movie. Even though it wasn't that originally, it does make for great movie music. The following however is just a bit of a sound alike. Both scores are "original":

THE PLANETS (Mars, Bringer of War) - Gustav Holst

STAR WARS (Death Star explodes) - John Williams

  1. Basket Chase from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Ballet of the Chicks from Pictures at an exhibition. I'm not picking on John Williams. He just writes so many scores in the classic style that it's inevitable his name will come up frequently. Mussorgsky is also frequently mimicked in film scores.

  2. Erich Korngold "hinting at" Puccini's Tosca. I have always thought that Tosca (and most of Puccini's other operas) are the ultimate Cinematic experience. Even though they aren't cinema, the tenets of cinema are purely there. I just learned that Korngold said the same thing, which makes me happy. If one is to have a thought that is not original, it is at least nice to have it validated positively. Korngold was a serious classical composer so -- he sometimes mimicked himself! I hear hints of Puccini in a lot of what Korngold does. A specific is the Adventures of Robin Hood's "Procession sequence" and the morning mass in the first act of Tosca.

About Korngold, I should note - he was very (practically) a contemporary of Puccini and was called by some, "the Puccini of Austria" - so I hesitate to use the word 'mimic' with him.

I know there are some music fans/movie fans that read this so ... get to work. I want Mahler references, I want obscure stuff!

And finally - I'll end with this clip... what is this music from?
Can you picture it? Is it a Hitchcock film? or maybe a Scorsese movie?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Looping Dialogue – when it doesn’t work

With the L.A. Film Festival in full swing now and with a special connection to free passes, (thanks, B) it makes for a great escape from the HOT – HOT - HOT place that is my house. Yes, we're in a heat wave and it's brutal. There comes a point when the fact that it's a "dry heat" doesn't really matter. 105, 107… those temps are hot no matter what. Even when a person can survive, electronic equipment creaks away dangerously. The keyboard of my notebook computer is hot to the touch. The Ipod shouldn't be used in temps like this. Heck, it's even starting to approach the max storage temp of 113 for a lot of electronic equipment. What does one do in Palm Springs where it did exceed that temp if one isn't home?

I finally saw the new Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull movie last night. I'm sure enough people have seen it that I don't need to review it. It was – okay, it sufficed. I was bothered by a few things: story wise, magnetism was treated in the most ridiculous manner ever – even if you believed it within the context they set it. Surviving waterfalls effortlessly (waterfalls that make Niagara look small) was too much – even if using the Temple of Doom measuring stick. However, something more bothered me that really pulled me from the movie in the beginning, and it's something that probably hasn't been mentioned in any reviews. It's entirely a tech-geek thing, but on a subconscious level, it does affect everyone watching a movie.

Here goes.

It appeared to me that Harrison Ford's dialogue was entirely looped for the first fifteen or so minutes of the movie. Other sections were looped also, but my attention wasn't as obviously drawn to them. Here it was. It wasn't as obvious as the looping in the first Mad Max movie, but to me, still obvious.

To give a quick background for those who might not instantly know what I'm talking about, "looping", or ADR, as it is popularly called now, is when the original dialogue (that was recorded during production) is replaced. This happens for a bunch of reasons – poorly recorded, too much extraneous noise, etc. Sometimes it's done to actually change a line reading. In a controlled environment, the actors (or a voice "double") record new dialogue, matching to the lips on the screen. To do it well, not only do the lips have to match and sync up perfectly, the inflection has to match also. Additionally, we, as an audience, have come to expect a certain 'proximity' to the voice in relation to the distance the actor is from us on the screen. In other words, if the actor is way off in the distance, it would feel unnatural if it sounded like the microphone was three inches from the actor's mouth. This means that doing ADR right is as dependent upon the audio engineers as the actors.

When it's done properly, you can't tell. Most movies – especially larger movies, have looped at least 10% of the dialogue. Sometimes, especially in action movies or movies with a lot of exterior locations 90% or more of the movie has been looped.

Done right, you don't notice it. But somehow, for some reason, it wasn't done right, I noticed it, and it bothered me – pulling me out of the movie before it even got off the ground. I'm not sure I ever got back into it – and I was very aware of the fact that I was watching a movie. In other words, I never quite suspended my belief. Too bad.

And now that I've drawn your attention to it, perhaps when you see the movie, it will bother you too. Sorry.

Other quick note.

Yes, George Carlin died. That's big news and an enormous loss for the world of comedy. Don't need to comment on that much more because it's such big news and others have much better things to say and write.

Did you know that Stan Winston died? That's a major loss for the Special Effects world. Some of the larger movie moments we have collectively said WOW to were created by him and his company – the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, the morphing dude in Terminator, the list is long. It's a big loss.

For me, as I have been in a bit of a news blackout in the last week, the person I'm bummed about most is Cyd Charisse, who died last week. Rather than comment on her passing, I will break copyright law and include a youtube video. Intead of the most obvious clip, her incredible number in Singin' in the Rain - here's something different, though still similar in style: a dance number from a movie called, Party Girl.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Moviemaker Article – on newsstands now

Brief heads up for you filmmakers: an article I wrote about 3D Previsualization is in the current issue of Moviemaker magazine.

This, for anyone following the saga – is not the article that has given me such grief over the last several months. This is a fun tech-geek article about some awesome software I use called Antics3d.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Make ‘em Laugh – I’ll try

I'm working on a couple new stories right now. Eventually, I hope they will become scripts. For now, they are outlines, ideas, and hopes. I can't call them scripts yet.

One of them is the genre I fear the most – comedy. Though I am a fairly humorous person (sometimes just looking at me is enough to make people laugh), writing comedy is damn tough stuff. I have a story, a premise – even a beginning, middle and end – that would lend itself well to being a nice romantic comedy. So now I need to really figure out how to do it right.

There are a ton of theories about what defines comedy. My idea has always been – Drama is the middle of the road. Once you exaggerate any aspect of it, you create a genre. Accentuate the absurd and you have comedy, accentuate the unknown and scary – horror, and so on. I don't know that it is a sophisticated view about story telling, but hopefully it's a start.

Any ideas out there? what do you think is comedy?

Yeah, a pie in the face or farts are funny – but what else is comedy?

Tell me. I can always use a good laugh.

And just in case my blog title made you think of this… here you go. Some of the best cinematic moments of all time.
Guaranteed to make you laugh.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Universal Studios – uh oh.

I awoke this morning to news that part of Universal studios was on fire so, I grabbed my trusty camera and headed up to Mulholland drive to see what I could see.

As I drove up the 101 toward Universal, the smoke was graying the sky, turning what would have been another perfect blue sky day into a smoggy looking gray. Of course, being the valley, that sometimes happens no matter if a studio is burning or not. :)

Thanks to the gas prices and the fact that it's Sunday morning, there was almost no traffic, so I was able to get to what I predicted would be the perfect vantage point in about ten minutes. I wasn't the only one who had the idea as about twenty other people with cameras of all sorts were also looking down at the sight.

No question, Mulholland Drive provided a very good view.

And finally, if stills aren't enough, I shot a little video...

What else…?
Oh, I played the mega millions lottery on Friday. I just checked my numbers and... I WON!

No lie!

Are all my problems solved? Not quite. My ticket is worth a cool twelve bucks.