Thinking about Game of Thrones

Note: this post may ramble somewhat

So, after several years of “not having time” to get caught up on Game of Thrones (until this past Sunday I hadn’t seen an episode in its entirety since “Mhysa” at the end of Season 3) the long-awaited premiere of Season 7 finally proved enough of a catalyst to get me to pick up with Season 4 and get caught up before we get too far into the current season.

Currently, I have finished season 4 and made it to “The House of Black and White” in season 5. My thoughts? WOW!! Even with watching the recaps, I’d forgotten how amazing this show is. Even though there’s a LOT of differences between the books and the show, Game of Thrones still remains one of the best adaptations of book-to-screen that I have EVER seen (and this is coming from someone who practically reveres Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings films not including the Hobbit trilogy).

I’d also forgotten how much I HATE Ramsay Snow/Bolton. One thing about Game of Thrones is that, just when you think you’ve met the absolute WORST character on the show in terms of morals (or the lack thereof), someone even slimier gets introduced. Though in this case I don’t think we can get any lower or slimier than that sadistic torture-loving creep Ramsay. The only thing that keeps me from screaming at the TV is knowing EXACTLY what’s going to happen to him in season 6 (I can’t wait!)

It was hard to say goodbye to Tywin Lannister. He’s a character I love to hate but Charles Dance played him to perfection. But now that he’s gone Cersei is going to find herself in over her head really fast (I’m somewhat looking forward to the walk of shame).

Over in Meereen, it was downright painful to watch Daenerys chain up Viserion and Rhaegal, mostly because you can tell the dragons have no idea what’s really happening. They’re sniffing around like their mother has given them a new place to play in and explore. It’s only when they turn around to leave with her that they realize they’ve been trapped and their snarls turn to cries of pain and confusion because their mother is leaving them in this dark place. It’s no wonder the next time she tries to see them that they snarl and spout fire at her.

Littlefinger.Needs.To.DIE

Seriously, he needs to die. Slowly. And PAINFULLY. It’s rather mind-boggling to consider that everything that has happened in this show is a direct result of his actions (Think about it: if Jon Arryn hadn’t been poisoned and died, King Robert wouldn’t have asked Ned Stark to be Hand of the King. If Catelyn hadn’t received a letter from her sister implicating the Lannisters, then Ned wouldn’t have grown suspicious of the Queen, he definitely wouldn’t have learned that Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen were the products of incest either. Bran wouldn’t be crippled, all of the direwolves would still be alive and Ned Stark would still have his head, etc.) I swear, if that weasel finds a way to survive all of this and is still breathing by the end of the series, I will scream bloody murder.

I absolutely love watching Varys and Tyrion talk to one another. I can’t wait to see Tyrion meet Daenerys.

The last thing I’d like to talk about has, in my opinion, major ramifications for how Cersei’s story will end. The opening of Season 5 sees a young Cersei and her best friend traveling to see Maggy the Frog (a woods witch) so they can learn about the future. The witch would rather be left alone but Cersei, being Cersei, persists and is then told she may ask three questions concerning what will happen in years to come. If you’ve read the books then you THINK you know what you’re going to hear: Cersei will marry the king (Robert), not the prince (Rhaegar) and she will be queen. Robert will have 20 (illegitimate) children while Cersei will have three (by Jaime). All of her children will die before her. And someday a younger, more beautiful queen will come to replace her (I’m almost certain this is Daenerys). And…that’s it. But that SHOULDN’T be it because the book contains one final line that is rather important:

“And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”

There’s not a WORD about the valonqar in the scene, which for the TV show means that Cersei will likely die by different means than in the books (I’m almost 100% certain that Jaime will kill Cersei in the books). But then how will she die in the show? I have a thought about that, and it’s based on something we saw in the premiere of season 7 (and the end of season 6 for that matter). Remember how Arya first murdered Walder Frey and then “all of the Freys who matter” while using Walder’s face? And then there’s her assertion that she is going to King’s Landing to kill the queen. If the “valonqar” theory is really off the table for the show, could it indeed be possible that Arya WILL in fact be the one to kill Cersei? Possibly, but I foresee a twist that will make show viewers AND book readers happy (I think). Suppose that Arya kills Cersei while wearing Jaime’s face? Cersei could die believing her own twin did the deed and only afterward would we learn that “Jaime” is in fact Arya. Of course that would mean Jaime has to die and I’m reluctant to see that happen.

I can’t wait to see where Season 7 takes us. Hope you liked my thoughts, if you have your own theory on how Cersei will die (because I’m sure she will die before this is over), please let me know in the comments below.

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Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

The pitch black comedy Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) is one of those films you frequently see on lists of “Movies you must see before you die” . I’ve known of this film for years, but would you believe I only saw it for the first time several days ago? It’s true! Allow me to explain: twice a year Barnes & Noble has a 50% off sale for their Criterion film collection. And twice a year I look through the list to find one or two films (sometimes three) to pick up (I don’t have a choice anymore since Criterion pulled their collection from Hulu and I can’t afford the streaming service they started). For this sale, I added Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (bringing me closer to collecting all of his jidaigeki films) and, of course, Dr. Strangelove. I wasn’t going to pick it originally, as my thoughts going in were to pick up Kurosawa’s work only (I nearly bought Kagemusha instead). But then I saw Dr. Strangelove and I decided it would be good to keep collecting films besides Kurosawa. So I brought it home, put the disc in and started watching.

My first thought? Well this is…..different. I knew going in that Dr. Strangelove is a black comedy (that is, it makes fun of very serious subject matter, in this case nuclear war) but that still didn’t quite prepare me for everything I heard.

The plot is as follows: General Jack D. Ripper (Jack the Ripper, get it?) goes rogue and orders the 843rd Bomb Wing of the Strategic Air Command to attack using “Wing Attack Plan R” a plan that is to be used by a general when a prior nuclear strike has taken out his superiors. But in reality, no such strike has taken place and General Ripper is using this plan to conduct a pre-emptive strike on the Soviet Union, betting that once the Pentagon finds out, they will have no choice but to proceed with an all-out attack to prevent the Soviets from retaliating. Instead, the members of the War Room (including the President) meet with the Soviet Ambassador to figure out a way to either recall the planes or shoot them down to prevent them from firing on their targets. To make a long story short: all of the planes are eventually recalled but one (because that plane’s radio was damaged by a missile so they can’t receive the recall order). Choosing a closer target because they are low on fuel, a bomb is launched (with the pilot riding it down like a bronco) and the mushroom cloud is viewed from a distance. This triggers a hitherto unknwon “doomsday device” that the Soviet Ambassador has revealed to the War Room. Once triggered, the device detonates a large amount of nuclear bombs in various locations, bombs that have been tainted with a radioactive element that will encircle the Earth with deadly radiation for 93 years. Vague plans are made to move several hundred thousand people into deep mine shafts (where the radiation can’t reach) to ensure the survival of the human race, but before any firm conclusion is reached, there is a series of nuclear bomb explosions, leaving the fate of the world up in the air.

(Personally, I think the implication is that the Earth is destroyed)

One of the standout performances in this film is Peter Sellers (perhaps best known as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther) who plays no less than three parts in this film, each one with a different accent. His roles are:

  • Group Captain Lionel Mandrake: an exchange officer from the RAF (British accent)
  • Merkin Muffley, the President of the United States (a role played completely straight I should add) (perfect American accent)
  • The titular Dr. Strangelove, a former Nazi and expert on nuclear war (German accent)

Sellers was originally meant to play a fourth role, that of Major Kong, the pilot who ultimately rides a nuclear bomb down to the ground, but with three roles already on his plate, Sellers found himself unable to fully immerse into the Southern-accented role and Slim Pickens (yes that’s really his name) replaced him. Sellers delivers the performance of a lifetime, each character is fully realized and unique, in fact his performance of the President is so different that I had to double-check the credits to reassure myself that it was in fact Sellers playing the role!

Even though he got tricked into it, I love George C. Scott’s performance as the over-the-top General Turgidson. I say he got tricked into it because Scott wasn’t comfortable acting too over-the-top but director Stanley Kubrick got him to do it by telling him the first few takes were “practice takes” that didn’t count. When Scott found out the truth he was furious with Kubrick for a very long time and swore he’d never work with him again (though in later years he admitted this performance was among his favorites).

If you haven’t seen Dr. Strangelove, it is definitely worth the time to grab a copy and give it a look. If you HAVE seen Dr. Strangelove already, let me know what you thought of it in the comments below.

On a side note, though I am back to blogging, I don’t think I’ll be doing so on a daily basis for quite some time anymore. I’m reaching a critical stage of my writing process (that is, I’m very close to beginning my all-important conclusion chapters) and it is imperative I focus on that. So don’t be alarmed if I only blog a few times a week now. Once my draft is finished I will (hopefully) be able to do more, but that’s one of those “wait and see” things.

In the mean time, don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

An Interview with Paul Henning

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Last month I was privileged to conduct an interview with composer Paul Henning where we discussed (in part) his work in orchestrating Star Wars: The Force Awakens, his work as a performer in film orchestras and the ongoing work of the legendary John Williams. I was fascinated to learn about the process that goes into recording a film score and how the process of orchestrating a score actually works. If you follow the link below, you can check out the audio interview I conducted with Mr. Henning. I hope you enjoy!

An Interview with Paul Henning

Film composer and musician Paul Henning’s most recent project was writing the score for the Tribeca Film Festival opening night documentary ‘Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives’. The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Paul had a somewhat unconventional role writing music for this project. While the focus was the cadre of huge music artists Clive has worked with, Paul scored key moments of conflict, loss or emotional gravity that were vital to the story.

Paul also recently released his debut album, ‘BREAKING THROUGH’. The album was crafted with a nostalgic, Americana vibe drawn from Paul’s love of the expanses of the Western US and his love of American History. The album features piano solos performed by the Paul and recorded live with a 48-piece studio orchestra. Here is a link to selections of the album for your review: http://www.paulhenning.com/breaking-through.

Paul has served as Concertmaster for the Golden State Pops Orchestra since 2004. He’s also worked on the score orchestrations for over 50 feature films, including ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens, ‘The BFG’, ‘Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb’ and ‘Chocolat’. In addition to his film writing, he also works on orchestral arrangements that have been performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and London Symphony.

An accomplished pianist and violinist, Henning has performed with the Hollywood Studio Symphony on the soundtracks to ‘Frozen’, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, ‘The Maze Runner’, ‘Furious 7’, ‘Moana’, ‘Storks’, ‘Monsters University’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’, among many others. He has also played violin for artists including Barbra Streisand, Michael Bublé, Neil Young, Aretha Franklin, Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban. Henning has served as Concertmaster for the Golden State Pops Orchestra since 2004.

Achievement Unlocked: 350 followers (and then some!!)

Ordinarily I would have celebrated this achievement the day it occurred, but with my hiatus…well, it just slipped by the wayside. But now that I’m back, I want to celebrate a little bit: my blog has passed 350 followers! I’m over halfway to 400! This is a HUGE number to me, and the fact that it happened while I wasn’t actively writing touches me so much because it shows people really care and are willing to wait for me to come back. What’s even more exciting? The fact that I might be celebrating 400 followers sooner rather than later (I’m at 362 and counting). Once I reach that next milestone, I will celebrate with another “Ask me Anything” like when I reached 300 🙂

Thanks to everyone who continues to invest in Film Music Central, this blog would not be where it is without your support. Cheers!!

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RIP George A. Romero (1940-2017)

I am back to deliver sad news: George A. Romero, grandfather of all zombie films, has passed away at the age of 77 due to lung cancer. It is completely fair to say that without Romero’s work, the zombie film as we know it would surely not exist today. And that in turn would mean no television shows like The Walking Dead or Fear the Walking Dead, and that would be a real shame.

As I said before, Romero will likely be remembered best for the Night of the Living Dead films that consist of: Night of the Living Dead (1968)/Dawn of the Dead (1978)/Day of the Dead (1985)/ Land of the Dead (2005)/Diary of the Dead (2007)/Survival of the Dead (2009) and one final film, Road of the Dead (2018), which is due to be released next year.

I’ve actually seen a portion of Night of the Living Dead (this is after I saw the remake of Dawn of the Dead, which scared me plenty) and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. This is because, as far as I know, the zombies in Romero’s films aren’t the lightning fast flesh eaters we see in today’s zombie films. They’re slower, but just as hungry for human flesh regardless.

Even though I’ve never been a huge fan of zombie films, I cannot deny that Romero had a huge influence on the horror genre. He will be sorely missed. Rest in peace.

Where I’ve been

Hey everyone, so I know I’ve disappeared for a while, just wanted to let you know I’m still here. I got royally burned out right before the 4th of July holiday and I have just been taking some time to focus on some projects and get myself back together.

I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but it will hopefully be this month 🙂

Thanks for understanding 🙂

In theory: Going to a Film Festival

I’m pretty sure my list of “things to do before I die” is close to a mile long. I’ve been fortunate enough to achieve some of the things on the list, and others I’m not sure I’ll ever get to do. But one thing I would like very much to do is attend a film festival (hopefully as a critic, because that would be fun!). In a perfect world (where I could afford to go anywhere at anytime), one film festival I would love to attend is the Anthem Film Festival being held next month (July 19-22) in Las Vegas. Attending this festival would actually kill two birds with one stone as it were, because not only do I want to attend a film festival, I also want to visit Las Vegas at least once in my life. While I can’t actually attend, I thought it would be fun to think about what I would (or would not) do if I did get to go.

For me the most important thing about the film festival would be selecting which films to go see, and that can be pretty overwhelming because film festivals often have a great selection to choose from. But like any festival event, it’s impossible to see EVERYTHING being offered, at some point you just have to miss out on something. So how would I pick? Well, I would start by scanning the list of what’s available to see if there’s anything that belongs in one of my favorite film genres. Failing that, I would do a search by subject matter and see if any of the topics being explored is one I have a personal interest in. In this case, I have a hit with Re-Evolution, a film that is described as “combining V for Vendetta with the philosophy of Atlas Shrugged.” This film would be at the top of my list because I have an interest in subject matter of this type. Other films would be selected based on this choice, with a secondary list made of films I am merely curious about.

I would not actually bring a lot of materials along with me. I travel with the philosophy that the more you bring, the more you have to worry about losing while you’re away. For a film festival, I would probably be content to take a notebook and some pens, to jot down any notes or thoughts regarding the films I’d seen. I would also use the notebook to write down any questions I might have once the film is over.

As for any “Dos and don’ts” regarding what to ask in a Q&A, I confess I can’t think of anything you shouldn’t do (besides asking questions that are inappropriate or in bad taste). I’m sure the best way to spend a Q&A is to listen intently to what is being asked, and if there’s a point in the film that you really want clarified, don’t be afraid to go to the microphone and ask, you may not get the chance later.

For anyone travelling there, it is always good to look up travel deals like those found here. Many times (but not always), airlines and hotels will have discounts available if you are travelling to a big event, especially if you can arrange to be travelling as part of a group.

And that is a small taste of what I would do I went to a film festival. Hopefully I WILL get to go someday and afterwards I’ll get to share about all the wonderful films I saw. Hope you enjoyed!

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