Category Archives: Films

My Thoughts on: Empire of Passion (1978)

I decided to jump into an untouched corner of my Criterion collection by watching Empire of Passion, a film directed by Nagisa Ōshima that I purchased earlier this summer based solely on reading the film’s summary and being intrigued by it. This is one of the most relatively recent Japanese films in my collection, and I don’t think going in that I was completely prepared for how different Empire of Passion would look from a Japanese film that was made, say, in the early 1960s. Because it is certainly different from other period films that I’ve seen before.

To start with, Empire of Passion is set in 19th-century Japan (the story begins in 1895) and tells the story of a wife named Seki and a former Army soldier named Toyoji and how their illicit love affair slowly tears their lives apart. The lynchpin to all of this is the foul murder of Gisaburo, Seki’s husband. From then on, it’s a slow but steady decline into tragedy as the consequences of Seki and Toyoji’s actions ultimately catch up with them.

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It’s fascinating watching the start of the affair between Seki and Toyoji. Even though Toyoji is clearly taking advantage of Seki (including raping her several times in rather disturbing scenes), Seki herself doesn’t seem at all inclined to fight back or reassert control (her denials are half-hearted at best). Indeed, Seki, as far as I could make out, seemed ultimately content for the first half of the film to just let things happen to her. When Toyoji states that Gisaburo must die, Seki doesn’t even blink an eye at the suggestion. It’s unsettling, and that was probably the intention of the director.

If you’re watching Empire of Passion for the ghost story elements, be patient, it does take a while to get there. But once it gets going…oh boy, does it ever. The ghost segments are unnerving, often coming out of nowhere, and one scene (Seki takes a ghostly ride in a rickshaw) had the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. You literally feel pulled into the growing madness surrounding Seki and Toyoji as the story pushes on towards its inevitable conclusion. One of my favorite elements in this whole story is the old well, which has a much larger role in this story than I ever suspected. I liked the shots of snow and leaves falling in from the top of the well, they’re beautiful and more than a little ominous at the same time.

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There’s one moment I didn’t like at all, and that’s late in the film when Seki is unexpectedly blinded. The instant before it happens there’s a split-second take where you see pine needles pressing into Seki’s eyes (but it cuts away before any damage is done). The moment is so unsettling, and for me a little out of left field. I get that Seki is being punished for her part in the murder, but being blinded?? Also, speaking of punishment, I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that most of these ghostly occurrences happen to Seki. She didn’t act alone, shouldn’t Toyoji be tormented just as much? The retribution seems somewhat lopsided to me.

Ultimately, I think I liked watching Empire of Passion, even if the ending did seem somewhat abrupt. I didn’t like it as much as earlier Japanese films in my collection, but I’m still glad I saw it because it’s important to watch a range of films to better understand the genre.

Let me know what you think about Empire of Passion in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Great Escape (1963)

I’ve been a fan of movies about World War II for a number of years, and The Great Escape has almost always been at the top of my list of favorites. When it was announced earlier this year that The Great Escape would be added to the Criterion Collection, picking up a copy seemed like a no-brainer. Today was the first day I sat down to watch this newly restored version of the film and I definitely have some thoughts about it.

First, some context. If you’re not familiar with this film, The Great Escape is based on the incredible true story of how Allied prisoners of war tunneled their way out of a German Luft Stalag in the latter part of World War II. The all-star cast includes Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Coburn, James Garner, and Charles Bronson, just to name a few. It’s an amazing story to sit through and watch, and it becomes even more incredible when you remember that all of this more or less happened.

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The Criterion edition of The Great Escape is certainly an improvement over the previous DVD copy that I owned (and subsequently gave away because of its issues). A glaring problem with THAT copy was that when the film was restored for widescreen, the process was botched, pulling the picture back so far that at times the edges of the sets were clearly visible and, most embarrassingly, in one seen you can clearly see crew members pushing extras along (during the July 4th sequence). I was very curious to see if Criterion had corrected these issues and I’m pleased to report they have. Everything has been restored to its proper aspect ratio, which is good because those errors in the old DVD version drove me crazy.

One thing I was slightly disappointed by was the quality of the picture itself. Considering I bought the blu-ray version of the film, part of me was expecting the image to be…crisper? This could be something to do with the quality of the master print itself (after all, a film can only be restored so far), but I am sad that the image quality wasn’t better than I remembered (I’m not too upset though, this may have been something out of Criterion’s control).

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As for the story itself, watching this film brought back all the memories of sitting down to watch this film while I was growing up. One of the things that makes The Great Escape so awesome is its perfect blend of tones. One minute you have a comedy when the three American POWs (McQueen, Garner, and Jud Taylor) “declare Independence” on the 4th of July, the very next it’s a tragedy when (on the same day), a fellow prisoner commits suicide by guard out of despair when one of the escape tunnels is discovered. It’s emotional whiplash for sure, but it’s done so effectively. Rest assured, you never forget that this is a story set in Nazi Germany, a place where terrible, TERRIBLE things happened.

I also must point out Elmer Bernstein’s fantastic score for The Great Escape. The score has actually become so iconic that many people recognize the music (or at least the film’s main theme) without actually having seen the film itself. Bernstein uses music effectively throughout the film. There’s an ominous strings motif for the prison camp itself (first heard when Ives walks up to the barbed wire barrier at the start of the film), that motif returns throughout the first part of the film, and most tellingly returns when the one escape tunnel is discovered. But I think the musical moment that sticks with me the most out of this entire film comes at the very end when the 50 prisoners are unwittingly being taken away to be shot. Bernstein accompanies the procession of trucks with a downright funereal theme that leaves no question as to what’s about to happen. It’s somewhat heavy-handed, but no doubt Bernstein wanted to avoid any false hope regarding the fates of Roger, Mac, and everyone else who was recaptured.

I highly recommend checking out The Great Escape for anyone who hasn’t seen it before, and you should definitely consider checking out the new Criterion edition.

Let me know what you think about The Great Escape in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack News: ‘No. 7 Cherry Lane’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Available Now

Milan Records has release the original motion picture soundtrack for No. 7 Cherry Lane, an album of music from iconic director & writer Yonfan’s new animated film composed by Yonfan himself, Yu Yat-Yiu and Chapavich Temnitikul. Set in 1967 Hong Kong, No.7 Cherry Lane originally debuted at the 76th Venice Film Festival in 2019, where it was awarded Best Screenplay, and has since toured film festivals around the world in advance of its opening in Hong Kong later this summer.

 

Described by the director as “my love letter to Hong Kong and cinema”, No.7 Cherry Lane is Yonfan’s 14th motion picture – all of which he has written, directed and produced – and his first since 2009. It is also his first animated feature.  The eclectic score of lush orchestral music was composed by artists including Yonfan himself, Yu Yat-Yiu and Chapavich Temnitikul and recorded live in Prague.

YONFAN states that his motion pictures share an underlying theme of passion. A true auteur, his films are entirely self-produced, directed, written, and distributed. Yonfan began directing features in 1984, often for his own production company Far Sun Film, and has worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Japan. He has made a total of fourteen movies, set in various periods and locales, first receiving international notice at the Berlin International Film Festival with the gay-themed drama Bishonen. His subsequent film, the Chinese opera-based Peony Pavilion, was named one of the year’s ten best by Time magazine in 2002, and garnered Rie Miyazawa the Best Actress award at the Moscow International Film Festival. His previous feature, Prince of Tears, was Hong Kong’s selection to compete in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, and was selected for competition at the 2009 Venice Film Festival

The theme song “Southern Cross” was composed by Yonfan and the rapper BOYoung, fusing together a 1940s, Shanghai-style melody sung by legendary Taiwanese singer CHYI YU, with a contemporary style performed by BOYoung and ZOE YU. This bold juxtaposition represents the collision of yesterday, today and tomorrow at the heart of the movie.

No.7 Cherry Lane tells the tale of Ziming, a Hong Kong University undergraduate, entangled between his amorous feelings for a self-exiled mother, Mrs Yu from Taiwan in the White Terror period, and her beautiful daughter Meiling. He takes them to different movies and through a series of magical moments on the big screen, forbidden passions are revealed. And the era coincides with Hong Kong’s turbulent times of 1967.

NO.7 CHERRY LANE (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISTING –

1.          Behind the Cherry Lane

2.          Rhythm of the Breeze

3.          Sunset Whispers

4.          Room at the Top

5.          Into the Red Chamber Featuring Wang Fang, Zhao Wenlin

6.          Night Rider

7.          A Love Story

8.          Southern Cross Featuring Chyi Yu, BOYoung, Zoe Yu, Kenneth Tsang, Zhao Wei

9.          Descending the Stairs

10.       A Dream Charade Featuring Sylvia Chang

11.       Winter Cometh

12.       Last Romance Featuring Chyi Yu

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My Thoughts on: Trolls World Tour (2020)

*warning: mild plot spoilers for Trolls World Tour follow

Well, it took a lot longer than I thought it would, but today I finally sat down and saw Trolls World Tour after picking the blu-ray up this morning. While I am disappointed that I never got to see this one in theaters, I was still looking forward to checking the story out.

Set some time after the events of the first Trolls movie, Trolls World Tour literally expands the world of the Trolls to reveal that their world is actually a LOT bigger than the first film led us to believe. It turns out Poppy’s Trolls are only one tribe of Trolls, each tribe devoted to a specific genre of music, those being Pop, Country, Techno, Funk, Classical, and Rock (with numerous sub-genres also being represented). This diversity is threatened when Queen Barb of the Hard Rock Trolls decides to unite all Troll-kind under the banner of rock by stealing a series of magical strings that will give her the power to control music (and by extension the Trolls). Naturally, Queen Poppy sets out to stop this from happening (with Branch in tow).

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Given how much I enjoyed watching the first Trolls film earlier this year, I was certain that I would love Trolls World Tour (especially once I saw Queen Barb in the previews) and I was right! This film takes everything that made Trolls fun and multiplies it by a factor of ten. I love how each of the Troll tribes are designed, each perfectly matched for their respective musical genres. Queen Barb is especially awesome (although really ALL of the Trolls are great). I really liked how the film didn’t waste much time in hinting that Barb does have thoughts and feelings beyond merely dominating the world through rock music (it was obvious to me early on that she was fighting loneliness).

There’s also a lot of cool voice cameos in this film, one of which didn’t hit me until I saw the end credits. I knew that Ozzy Osbourne was in this film (as Barb’s father, his voice is pretty hard to miss), and I also know (as a classical musician) that Gustavo Dudamel, a famous composer, was in there as well. What I did NOT know was that Anthony Ramos (one of the original Hamilton cast members) is in this film as King Trollex (seen at the opening of the film). Having recently fallen in love with Hamilton, I thought this was really cool.

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Also, I have to mention that I really enjoyed the film’s message about what it means to be a good leader (it’s important to listen to others, even if they don’t agree with you). And it’s message about the importance of diversity felt particularly relevant to me given the current situation in the world. Speaking of diversity, I like how the film ends with all of the Trolls (seemingly) living together. This looked like so much fun, I would honestly not mind if a third Trolls film was made. I’d like to see how all of the Trolls get along together.

In conclusion, if you enjoyed the first Trolls film, I’m pretty sure you’ll love Trolls World Tour as well. It was definitely a lot of fun to watch and I’m already looking forward to watching it again.

Let me know what you think about Trolls World Tour in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Trolls (2016)

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My Thoughts on: Double Suicide (1969)

I’m finally getting back into the swing of watching movies again and just recently I finally sat down to watch Double Suicide, a 1969 film that caught my attention because of the obvious implications of the title, as well as my determination to get my hands on every jidaigeki film I can.

The first thing that comes to mind about Double Suicide is that it is nothing like what I expected. Throughout, there is a motif of puppeteers manipulating the action on stage, almost as if the story is a puppet play brought to life (and indeed, the story starts with puppeteers setting up a show). It’s a little strange at times, to have the masked puppeteers appear out of nowhere or sneak along behind or alongside the characters, but you get used to it after a while. It sort of reinforces the idea that the characters are not entirely in control of their actions, that they’re merely puppets telling a tragic story.

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And speaking of the story….Double Suicide has one of the saddest stories I’ve ever seen. The premise centers around a hapless paper merchant named Jihei (married with two children by the way), who is hopelessly in love with a famous courtesan named Koharu. Jihei is determined to redeem Koharu from her life as a courtesan but can’t possibly hope to raise the amount of money needed to do it. Due to his fixation, his life quickly falls apart until only one course of action is possible.

In a stroke of brilliance, Jihei’s wife Osan is played by the same actress who plays Koharu. I think it’s a great choice because to me it shows that if Jihei would only open his eyes and look at the life he has with his shop, his wife and his children, then he’d see he already has a woman like Koharu in his life (in terms of looks anyway). But while Osan is loyal to an absolute fault, it’s demonstrated several times that Osan will say whatever needs to be said to get out of her situation as a courtesan. But none of this ultimately deters Jihei, he must have Koharu…or life is not worth living.

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It’s also striking to me how honest the film is with how selfish the actions of Jihei and Koharu are. Unlike other tragic love stories, there’s no real attempt made to disguise this love affair as anything close to noble. Jihei and Koharu are unbelievably selfish for abandoning their respective duties to die together and openly state as much several times. And really Jihei is the more selfish of the pair because he’s abandoning his wife and two young children all for a courtesan he can’t possibly afford. His persistence leads to a horrifically sad moment when Osan’s father summarily dissolves her marriage and drags her home (without her children it should be noted). All of that because Jihei wants what he can’t have.

And finally, going back to the title of the story, I almost feel like it’s misleading. Double Suicide implies that the couple willingly kills themselves. But when you watch the scene play out….it’s not like that at all, it’s actually closer to a murder-suicide in my opinion. It just really struck me at the end that it didn’t seem like Koharu really wanted to die.

In the end I think everyone should watch Double Suicide at least once because of the unusual way the story is put together (with puppeteers controlling the story and popping in and out). It’s not my favorite jidaigeki film, but I did enjoy it.

Let me know what you think about Double Suicide in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Hamilton (2020)

Like many, I was beyond excited for the opportunity to check out Hamilton for the first time when it came out on Disney+ yesterday. And why not? It’s been an absolute hit ever since it crashed into our lives in 2015. I knew of the musical pretty much from the start, but never really had the opportunity to check it out, not even to listen to the music….until now that is.

And holy SH*T what music!! I don’t always get into rap or hip-hop and I was briefly worried that this would deter me from getting into or enjoying Hamilton but I was so, so wrong. If anything, the story feels even more relatable when presented in this way. In brief, in case you’re not familiar, Hamilton chronicles the rise (and fall) of Alexander Hamilton in a way I guarantee you’ve ever seen before. What’s released on Disney+ is a filmed production of a show from late June 2016 and features the original Broadway cast.

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I’ve seen filmed stage productions before (Cats from the late 90s, Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall), but they pale in comparison to this performance of Hamilton (not least because Cats and Phantom are WORLDS apart from this show). As you sit and watch you feel like you’re in the best seat in the house, seeing the show from the perfect angle. There are close-ups in the appropriate places, the overall sound quality is amazing, and oh my god I cannot get over all of that amazing music!

Now, I will say that the first time I watched Hamilton (last night), it did take me about half an hour to get into the flow. As I said before, I don’t listen to a lot of rap and hip-hop so I’m not used to that kind of freestyle, free-flowing music. Once you get the hang of listening to it, however, it’s a lot of fun to listen to, even if a few details do get lost in the shuffle (when Lafayette comes back as a general I still can’t tell you what he says). I think my two favorite pieces (really I love them all) are “The Ten Dueling Commandments” and “The Room Where it Happens.” I especially like the former because it lays out everything you need to know about a duel while still keeping it interesting.

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I also love, love, LOVE the fact that Aaron Burr narrates the overall story, that reminds me so much of how Judas narrates the bulk of Jesus Christ Superstar (and according to my reading may have been done in homage to that very show). Let me tell you, when I found out that THAT was Aaron Burr my first thought was “Oh boy, THIS is going to be interesting.” And it is! Watching Burr and Hamilton interact throughout the whole show, knowing how it’s going to end….let’s just say by the time the climax finally comes the suspense will be almost overwhelming.

Lin-Manuel Miranda found this way to take the life of Alexander Hamilton, a story with all the potential to make for very dry reading/viewing and made it cool (and heartbreaking). To be sure, liberties are taken with the facts, but that’s not uncommon when history is adapted for musical theater. I think in the very broad strokes the story Miranda is trying to get across is correct, that Hamilton was this immigrant who did amazing things during his life, but who was also human and made many, MANY mistakes (my jaw dropped upon learning about the Reynolds pamphlet).

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I also have to say that I love King George III. His part is relatively small but he is FUNNY! Watching him comment on the coming war, the aftermath, and John Adams becoming the next president, all of it had me in stitches. He is one of the best parts of Hamilton and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Before I conclude, I learned something about dueling that made my brain explode. In a duel, “throwing away your shot” refers to firing so that you deliberately miss your opponent in a last ditch effort to end the affair once and for all. So when Alexander sings about not “throwing away my shot”, well….it kind of puts the ending of his story in a whole different light, doesn’t it.

In conclusion, I thoroughly loved watching Hamilton on Disney+ and I feel like everyone should sit down and watch it at least once. Given that Broadway is closed for the rest of 2020 (and possibly longer), this is your best chance to watch one of the hottest shows on Broadway (without paying an arm and a leg). I also think that, given the current political climate, this is also a really good time to watch Hamilton as well, and once you see it, you’ll understand why.

As for me, I’m perfectly happy to proclaim myself a Hamilton fan.

Let me know what you think about Hamilton on Disney+ in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: Wonder Woman (2017)

It only took three years but I have finally seen Wonder Woman (in my defense, I was neck-deep in my dissertation at the time the movie came out, so I wasn’t exactly in the mood to go to the movies at the time). And the first thought that came to mind is: this is AMAZING!! You see, part of the reason I avoided this film for so long is I have an instinctive dislike of origin films. Even with a character as iconic as Wonder Woman, I have this thing where I don’t like seeing how the character gets started because they have the bad habit of being awkward (I suffer heavily from second-hand embarrassment). Imagine my delight then, when I sat down to watch Wonder Woman and found…practically no awkwardness at all! We do in fact get plenty of Diana’s early years on Themyscira, but it’s all layered in so much badass action that there’s no chance for early awkwardness to develop.

The bulk of the story is set in the closing days of World War I (1918), and sees Diana leave Themyscira with Steve Trevor to confront and kill Ares (which she believes will end the war on the spot). The story goes from London, to the trenches on the Western Front, to deep behind enemy lines. Patty Jenkins does not hold back from showing you the horrors of the “the war to end all wars” and it only serves to drive Diana even more to fulfill her self-proclaimed quest to kill Ares. Diana’s naïveté regarding Ares is almost painful to watch at times (because you know it can’t be THAT easy), but it’s also endearing because it highlights how sincere the princess of the Amazons is with her intentions.

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And speaking of Ares…it’s brilliant how the god of war’s presence is teased throughout the film. For most of the story in fact, it seems patently obvious who the god of war is masquerading as (in hindsight it’s too obvious). In fact, it’s so obvious it makes the actual reveal of Ares’ identity all the more shocking (I did NOT see that coming). Jenkins does a phenomenal job of weaving into the story how Ares has been present all this time and yet is NOT (directly) responsible for all the wars and death that have been going on. Furthermore, his final confrontation with Diana is amazing to watch, it’s everything you could ever want in a clash between a god and an Amazon.

I was also blown away by the revelation of what Diana really is (something teased throughout the film). I’m a little disappointed the story didn’t go with the traditional “made from clay and brought to life” story, but really this works too.

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Steve Trevor is also the perfect complement to Diana by the way. It’s funny how at first he tries to fulfill the stereotypical “alpha male protecting the weak female” role only to very quickly realize Diana does not need ANY help in that regard. And once he realizes it, he just goes with it, which is awesome to see. I love stories that turn the male/female dynamic on its head like this film does.

As far as superhero origin films goes, Wonder Woman is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I do regret not seeing it sooner, but I’m glad I finally got around to watching it before Wonder Woman 1984 comes out (whenever that happens to be).

There’s so much more I want to say about how amazing Wonder Woman is, but I think this gets the basic point across: Wonder Woman is one of the best films I’ve ever seen, it gives Diana an awesome origin story, and lays the foundation for many stories to come (hopefully).

Let me know what you think about Wonder Woman in the comments below and have a great day!

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My Thoughts on: The Wicker Man (1973)

I’m honestly not sure when The Wicker Man first came to my attention, but the idea of seeing it has been in my head for awhile. While my general aversion to the horror genre is hardly a secret, I heard so many times about how this was one of those films you must see before you die that I finally decided, once I found a copy, that I would sit down and watch it, for better or worse. It also didn’t hurt that Christopher Lee is in this film also (I’ll watch just about anything that has him in it).

If you haven’t seen the original The Wicker Man, the story follows Police Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) as he travels to the (fictional) Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate a complaint about a missing child, Rowan Morrison, that’s been sent to him via an anonymous letter. A simple investigation quickly goes sideways when everyone Howie meets protests that Rowan either a) does not exist or b) died six months earlier. Not only that, but the devoutly Christian Howie is horrified to discover the entire island follows a pagan religion with Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) happily ruling at the top of it all.

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Right away I could feel major Midsommar-vibes coming off this story and indeed they are similar in broad strokes. You have an outsider encountering a pagan culture they do not understand, there’s pagan symbolism everywhere, and oh yes, there’s human sacrifice at the end. I investigated and found out that both Midsommar and The Wicker Man (the original version anyway) both belong to a sub-genre of horror known as folk horror. This sub-genre contains stories that focus on the “old religion” and ritualistic practices. Given I’ve watched and enjoyed two films from the folk horror genre, it might be I’ve finally found a niche of horror that is for me after all. But I digress, back to The Wicker Man

I find it very interesting how Howie is presented to the audience. Given how prevalent Christianity is all over the world, you might think that at least some of the sympathy would be with Howie as he goes about his investigation on Summerisle. But Howie, as Woodward plays him, is so uptight, and so self-righteous, that he quickly becomes unlikable. He has no tolerance for anything that deviates from the norm, and there’s a lot of things on Summerisle that you don’t normally see. Now, to be fair, the police sergeant does make something of a good point at the end of the film when he points out that sacrificing him is tantamount to murder, but it also reveals how little Howie understands life on the island. Except for that little part about human sacrifice, the villagers on Summerisle aren’t hurting anybody by following the old religion, but Howie can’t stand for it regardless.

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The pivotal moment with the titular “wicker man” was just as amazing as I’d been led to believe. I found out that Edward Woodward insisted on not seeing it until the moment of filming, which makes his scream of “Oh God, oh Jesus Christ!” upon seeing it so utterly believable. Also, I will never look at the song “Sumer is icumen in” in the same way ever again.

One thing I keep turning over and over in my head is the sacrifice at the end of the film and what it’s intended to do. You see, the old religion was established on Summerisle over a hundred years ago to help with the growth of the apple orchards on the island. But the previous year was the first year the harvest failed, hence the sacrifice at the end of the film, the idea being that a human sacrifice will appease the gods and allow the apples to grow again next year. Howie maintains that the apples are going to fail anyway because fruit isn’t meant to grow in this region. And yet…I can’t help but wonder….what if the sacrifice works? Or at least appears to work. Even though the results of the sacrifice are never revealed, I have a feeling Lord Summerisle has nothing to worry about even though Howie implied that he himself would be the next sacrifice should the crops fail again. If that was the first time the fruit didn’t grow in over 100 years, it seems unlikely that they would permanently die off just like that. Even if they are slowly dying, it doesn’t happen that quickly, so it’s more likely the fruit will continue for a while longer. I just hate how certain Howie seems that the fruit trees are never going to bear fruit again. I guess I can’t help but wonder “what if Howie’s wrong and all of this works anyway?”

What I’m trying to say in all of this is that The Wicker Man is an amazing film and one that everyone should definitely see at least once. Christopher Lee steals every scene he’s in. I also really loved all of the songs in this film, if I’d known how musical The Wicker Man is I would’ve watched it years ago.

Let me know what you think about The Wicker Man in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack News: ‘Driveways’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Available Now

The original motion picture soundtrack for Driveways, with music by Jay Wadley, is available now from Milan Records. Nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, Driveways is out now and available to watch on demand. Director Andrew Ahn’s Driveways tells the story of Kathy (Golden Globe® Nominee Hong Chau), a single mother, who travels with her shy eight-year-old son Cody (newcomer Lucas Jaye) to Kathy’s late sister’s house which they plan to clean and sell. As Kathy realizes how little she knew about her sister, Cody develops an unlikely friendship with Del (Golden Globe®, Tony® winner and acting legend Brian Dennehy), the Korean War vet and widower who lives next door. Over the course of a summer, and with Del’s encouragement, Cody develops the courage to come out of his shell and, along with his mother, finds a new place to call home.

Jay Wadley is a NY based composer and music producer. Upcoming releases include; Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, The Innocence Files directed by Roger Ross Williams (Life Animated, Apollo), Independent Spirit Award-nominated Driveways directed by Andrew Ahn (Spa Night), and the Sundance NEXT Audience and Innovation award-winning narrative debut, I Carry You with Me (Sony), written and directed by Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp, Detropia).

Of the soundtrack, composer Jay Wadley says:

“In my score for Andrew Ahn’s Driveways, I took an understated, paired down approach with textured analog production on a felted grand piano and chamber string ensemble.  The film is a delicate and subtle piece, so Andrew and I felt the score needed to take extra care not to step on or get in the way of story and character.  As I began the creative process, my way into Cody and Del’s sound was through an attempt to capture the mood of childhood experiences like tooling around in the yard and on the porch during long, lazy, hot summer afternoons. I find a certain dreaminess, comfort, and melancholy to those days that informed the music’s overall tone and character. To echo the simple yet profound nature of Del and Cody’s friendship, I used equally simple recurring melodic and harmonic material that often plays as intimate duets between strings and piano. These melodies thoughtfully blossom and mature throughout the film, deepening their associations, and help us connect to relationships that have shaped us and remind us of the beauty and tragedy of their impermanence.”

Driveways director Andrew Ahn adds:

“Jay’s score for Driveways is so human, full of character and soul. I loved working with Jay because, like an actor, he took the film on emotionally, letting the story and characters become a part of him. There’s a beautiful nostalgic quality to the score that feels so personal and intimate. For this reason, the score never hits a false note; it feels truthful and genuine in such an emotional way.”

DRIVEWAYS (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISITNG –

  1. On the Road
  2. Del
  3. Inside the House
  4. Cleaning Up
  5. Mouse Pad
  6. Can I Borrow a Shovel?
  7. Pretty Good
  8. Get Up
  9. Okay Bye!
  10. Shopping
  11. Thanatopsis
  12. Kathy Goes Out
  13. Invitation
  14. Rogers Team
  15. Wait List
  16. Hardwood Floors
  17. Move, Move
  18. Moving to Seattle
  19. This One
  20. Everything is Different

If you’d like to check out the soundtrack for Driveways, it is currently available.

See also:

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My Thoughts on: Tarzan and the Amazons (1945)

My ongoing journey through the classic Tarzan films took me to Tarzan and the Amazons, released in 1945. The plot, like Tarzan Triumphs before it, focuses yet again on a lost city, this time a city of ‘Amazons’ who live in total seclusion from the outside world. Tarzan’s son boy discovers where the hidden city is located after following Tarzan when he returns an injured warrior, a situation that becomes problematic when an expedition learns of the fabulously wealthy lost city’s existence.

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It’s almost funny to me how many lost cities there are in these Tarzan films. First there was Palandrya in Tarzan Triumphs, now we have a lost city of female warriors that looks like something straight out of ancient Greece. In fact, with their headbands and weapons, the ‘Amazons’ in this story reminded me quite strongly of Wonder Woman and the Amazons of Themiscyra. Still, the lost city is quite beautiful, even if it is completely out of place in the middle of Africa.

I should also mention this is the first film to feature Brenda Joyce as Jane. When she first appears (in regular clothes), it’s a little hard to accept that she’s Jane. But once she changes into her regular jungle attire, it actually becomes fairly believable. It’s still not the same as having Maureen O’Sullivan in the role, but Brenda Joyce does a pretty good job.

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The bulk of the plot, unfortunately, is pretty formulaic. In regular fashion, the greedy members of an expedition (excluding the honorable leader) find out about a lost city that’s full of treasure, decide to loot it, Boy becomes an unwitting (and later unwilling) accomplice, and Tarzan has to rush in at the last minute to save the day. Even worse, most of what happens is Tarzan’s fault if you think about it. Instead of plainly telling Boy that Palmyria (the city of the Amazons) has to stay a secret because of its fantastic wealth, Tarzan talks in riddles and simply tells Boy that it must be a secret without telling him why. If Tarzan had just been honest with his son then a lot of this might have been avoided. Most disappointing of all, the bad guys in the expedition are punished far too quickly. There’s barely a chase, and while their fate is gruesome, it’s over in less than a minute.

Despite these issues, Tarzan and the Amazons is enjoyable, if not completely original. You’ll like it if you’ve gotten this far into the Tarzan series of films, but it might not be the best place to start if you’ve never seen a Tarzan film before.

Let me know what you think about Tarzan and the Amazons in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Escapes (1936)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Triumphs (1943)

Film Reviews

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