“A Whole New World”


Some years ago (at least three, but probably more) the Disney behemoth began advertising its Hawaiian resort Aulani with this utterly enchanting version of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.  Even in the little bit they played in the commercial, I was in love with it.

I’ll be the first one to admit I don’t know much about Yuna, the singer who created this song (anyone who does can click here).  But she gives me the general impression of being quite charming.  I also believe she is a Muslim, which means she is persona non grata in Trump’s worldview; all Muslims are terrorists to him.  Even the one’s who sing songs as wholesomely American as Disney songs.  Of course, this particular Disney movie is now suspect in Trump’s vision of the world.  It is, after all, set in an Arab country and features brown people as characters.

I didn’t mean to make this one political at all.  The song is just an innocent romp meant to further the Disney-fied romance between Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.  And this cover is, as I stated earlier, utterly enchanting.  I just wanted to share it with you.  And to remind you that not all Muslims are out to get Westerners.  Some of them just want to create music.


Halloween is Coming


My time away from the blogosphere wasn’t all bad.  Yeah, a lot of crap went wrong, but most of it has been taken care of.  And lest the Universe be listening to my complaints, please remember that I am grateful for all the good that fills my life every day.

One good thing coming up is Josh Ritter on Wednesday at Fingerprints (expect at least a couple Ritter posts in the next few days).  And I made plans to enjoy one of my all-time favorite scary movies at a theater with the lovely and dear Rarasaur at the end of this month.

John Carpenter’s classic Halloween is being shown on movie screens again for one night only on October 29th, just two days before the titular holiday.  Luckily, one of the theaters showing it is literally just down the street from my home (I’m not kidding; I could walk there).  Now I love this movie.  Halloween is probably the best of the slasher flick subgenre of horror, mostly because it basically invented slasher flick.  Oversexed teenagers getting picked off one by one by some faceless, masked killer who seems unstoppable, only to be defeated by the one good girl of the bunch.  (Many years ago, I read a great article for a class about why the heroine of these movies was always sober and virginal, and usually given a boyish name like Max or Sam; if I ever remember where that was from, I’ll add a link.)  Michael Myers was one creepy villain, and the tension of this movie is almost unbearable.  Or it would be if it weren’t so much fun getting scared.  While others of this genre have degenerated into ever more blood and titillation, Halloween set the bar with style and spook.

Part of the film’s success, I think, rests on the limited budget.  John Carpenter made this independent masterpiece for $300,000 dollars.  Because of that, much of the awfulness is kept in the shadows or not shown at all, which heightens the terror Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie feels as she discovers all the bodies and is stalked by Michael.  And like any really good horror movie, it takes some time to build up, so you get to know the characters.  I will always contend that the movies that wait to scare the pants off you work better because you actually have a chance to care about what’s happening.

One other thing the tiny budget for this movie gives us is the unmistakable theme music.  Since he couldn’t afford a fancy score, Carpenter composed and performed the music himself.  It’s one of the greatest scary themes of all time, largely because of its simplicity.  There’s no over-embellishment or Pop star singing some dumb song.  It’s just that same intense series of notes, over and over, coming at you with the same relentlessness as Michael Myers.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

James Horner


Longtime film composer James Horner was killed yesterday in Ventura county when his small plane crashed.  Horner composed music for dozens of films and television programs, but he is most famous for his Oscar-winning work on Titanic.

I’m not a fan of “My Heart Will Go On,” but I was pleased to discover that Horner scored one of my favorite movies, Searching for Bobby Fischer.  If you’ve never seen it, do so soon; it’s charming and sweet with a great cast.  The music isn’t the most wonderful I’ve ever heard, but it was so appropriate for this lovely family drama.

I think that was Horner’s greatest talent: fitting the music to the film.  It didn’t stand out because it wasn’t supposed to; the score of a film should work seamlessly with the story, action, and performances.  For that alone, Horner will be greatly missed.

Repost: The Mission


I’ll be back with new posts next week sometime.  Mom’s doing much better, although still not 100% yet.  I’m just taking a little extra mental vacation.

Time for a little side trip into the wonderful world of film scores.

If you have not seen The Mission, I highly recommend it. It is not a great film, but it is a very good one; there’s a couple of plot points that could’ve been explained better, but it features fierce performances by Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons. (To be honest, it is on my short list of movies that actually could’ve stood to have been a little longer.) The score was done by Ennio Morricone, a marvelous composer and one of the great names in entertainment history.

I’m not entirely sure if I can describe what this music does to me. It is simultaneously heart-wrenching and uplifting. Although I flash on the film whenever I hear it (and knowing what happens in the film does influence my reaction), I am transported to someplace else whenever I hear this. Especially the refrain of “The Falls.” It begins as a series of notes played solo on what sounds like a wooden flute, then swells at the end into full orchestra. I feel some unnameable thing–it is joy and despair, blessing and curse, falling and flying. For the time it is playing, I believe in miracles.

“Vita Nostra” is another track that strongly moves me. “Vita Nostra,” for anyone who doesn’t know their Latin, means “Our Life.” It occurs several times in the score, a reminder that the lives of the priests and natives are at odds with the rest of the world. Their only concern is to protect their home in the rainforest, to live a life that is righteous. It has always seemed to me like an accusation of the world, of the greed and corruption that spells the mission’s doom (oops, that was a bit of a spoiler). I like the way the voices bite off each word, snipping and sniping without quite crossing the invisible line of insurrection.

These are just two of my favorite moments from a sublime musical experience. Please experience the whole thing for yourself. And it’s good even if you don’t see the film.

Oscar Music Picks


I’ve been doing my research for the annual family Oscar party.  Here’s my choices for who should win for Best Original Song and Best Original Score.

Song: Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.”

Yeah, “Glory” is the front-runner, and a perfectly good song to boot.  But Glen Campbell’s last recording made me burst into tears.  It is one of the most heartbreaking pieces of music I’ve ever heard.

Score: The Theory of Everything

All the nominated scores are pretty good, to be honest.  I think The Grand Budapest Hotel is more original, but Johann Johannsson’s score is just so gorgeous.  Really good stuff.  And most of the pundits seem to be picking this one as the front-runner.

I won’t be sorry if I’m wrong on these.  If “Glory” wins, that will be fine; like I said, it’s a good song.  And if one of the other scores get the Oscar, that’ll be okay, too.  But I hope I’m right because there are prizes for the most correct picks.  I won a couple of years ago, and I’d like a repeat.

“Come and Get Your Love”


My only excuse for being absent the last few days is that I’ve been busy.  And it wasn’t even all work.  Saturday night found me over at a friend’s house watching movies.  Now one of these has not been officially released on DVD yet, so the title will go unnamed.  (My friend is not quite as concerned with, um, certain types of downloading, which is why this friend’s name is also going unmentioned.)  But if you know anything about the movie, you already know what it is.

I had totally forgotten that this was a pretty darn good song.  I’d also totally forgotten that Redbone was made up of Native and Mexican Americans.  Well, I’d forgotten there were Native Americans in the band; I had no idea some of the members also had Mexican American heritage.  Makes sense, since they were originally from Coalinga, CA (near Fresno, site of a pretty nasty earthquake back in the 80s).  “Come and Get Your Love” was their only real hit, but it was a good one.

This song was used to great effect at the beginning of Unnamed Movie.  It helped set the tone and establish one of the lead characters.  Music can help make a good movie even better, and I think the soundtrack to this movie really helped it.  Oh, it would’ve been a fun and entertaining film without the music; the music just gave it that extra jolt of pleasure.  (Another awesome tune at the end had me doing a little couch dancing.)  The songs were obviously carefully chosen to complement the story.  So I recommend getting a hold of a copy just as soon as it is officially released.

My Musical Oscar Picks


Well, I ended up getting one of these right.  So, if I were a baseball player, I’d be batting .500 and having an awesome year.


I try to give all the  Oscar song and score nominees at least a listen, even if it’s just the samples on itunes.  I heard U2’s “Ordinary Love” after the Golden Globes, and while it was serviceable, it really isn’t the best song nominated.  At best, it’s third behind Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and what I think is going to win.

I must say I’m a little tired of Disney songs winning almost every time one gets nominated, but this really is the best of the batch.  It fits the movie, the character, and it’s excellent musically.  (There’s the added benefit of being kind of empowering for girls, something I always advocate.)

My pick for Best Original Score is Disney related, too.  And like “Let It Go,” it was pretty easy to choose the soundtrack from Saving Mr. Banks.  Compared to the scores for Gravity and Her, it’s lively and interesting.  And unlike Philomena and The Book Thief, it’s not burdened by too much tradition.  It’s the one score that seemed like something I’d be willing to listen to while not watching the movie.

That’s what I think should win; we’ll see if I’m right in a couple of hours.