Tuesday, May 31, 2011

MUSIC - Friday at Noon Soundtrack Available for Purchase!


Praise The LORD, my first CD release is available for purchase at a two-week kick-off price of $8.00! Buy your own copy at fridayatnoon.com/shop!

This album contains just over an hour of music, including extras not heard in the film, and it ranges from soft piano lullabyes to the weeping of a solo violin to the intensity of orchestral action music. Here's the main theme - Track 1 from the album, entitled "Someone Will Pay."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Resounding Music Commercial

Here it is, a commercial for my work as a composer, which we did over the weekend for a Christian Filmmakers competition (and then re-uploaded later in a better version). Thanks to my sister for filming- and filming well!

I'm trying to do a piece of music weekly- this will count as my piece for last week. :-)

Resounding Music - Your Movie, My Music, Our Story

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

REVIEW: UP

Currently my favorite animated film, I will readily admit that this one usually chokes me up. More than once.

Disney/Pixar's UP is, in my opinion, a masterpiece, beautiful on a number of levels. But behold, I getteth ahead of myself. (Be forewarned- I'm trying to be tactful, but I'm not afraid of spoiling plot points. :-)

The Worldview

The Good

UP is full of good stuff to admire. First and foremost on my list of refreshing worldview points is the portrayal of marriage, children, and family life as a good, fun, and enjoyable thing. How precious and how rare.

We also see in the scene with Mr. Fredricksen and Russell the breakdown of the family in the current generation- but instead of being shown as normative , it's shown as just that- a breakdown, and a sad one at that.

The moral of the film? Maybe that adventure isn't something "out there" that we have to go hunt down. Rather, we should find adventure in (insert my Christianity) obedience to God and in enjoying the life that He has given us.

We can also learn in a similar but separate vein that it is a waste to hold on to the past. Let us say with Job "The LORD giveth and The LORD hath taken away- blessed be The Name of The LORD!" There's a time for weeping, but then we must press on. Mr. Fredricksen does this in the film.

This film almost goes against the standard Disney "follow your dream" stuff. The beginning sets up for this dream of going to Paradise Falls, but by the end of the film that dream has been forsaken in favor of seizing the short time that God has given us to invest in real pursuits.

Ellie's a bit of a tomboy in the beginning, but as an adult, from the little we see, she's very feminine and modest.

And I just want to say again how much I loved the portrayal of family. You can see my favorite 4 minutes of the film here- it's kinda a spoiler, but I hope it will make you want to see the whole thing, if you haven't.

The Bad

There's one semi-crude moment.

Something that isn't necessarily bad but is a stereotype that should be addressed and perhaps exposed is that again the woman has the energetic, go-getter personality, while the man (at first) is a shy introvert. I'd like to see more bold manhood and gentle, quiet womanhood (1 Pet. 3) modeled.

There may be some disrespect for the elderly- making jokes of things that happen in old age. However, it may be said that so much of good, clean humor is simply the exaggeration of stereotypes and common problems of any age group. They do it with kids, dogs- "point!"- and with the elderly. But we must be careful that we remain respectful of our elders- that must weigh in. (1 Peter 5:5)

Also- this might have been my biggest issue with this film- we see a bit of a green-peacey leaning in that Muntz is the bad guy because he wants "the bird". But for a man to desire to capture a beast to clear his name isn't a bad thing- indeed, I would say it's a good thing! Take dominion! Now, Muntz has other character issues that make him truly a bad guy- but that's kinda the point. I'd like to see a good man taking dominion. Yes, he should be a righteous man who "regardeth the life of his beast", but that doesn't mean a man who never catches or kills animals. Beware these hints of environmentalism. Let us steward well the earth that God has entrusted us- because we fear and love and worship Him!- not steward the earth that created us because we fear and worship "Mother Nature".

The Art

The Good

Most of it. The animation? It's Pixar. Some of it I found a bit simplistic compared to other animations, but it's beautiful overall.

The story? It's Pixar. Top-notch. It has been said that "story is king", and I love how Pixar films seem to consistently have a good story, insistently interesting and usually with a touch of sweetness. UP was no exception.

The music? It's excellent. Excellent. The perfect blend of just the right old-timey feel, sounding like something that would be played on a record player, and simply being downright beautiful. The music told the story excellently. Bittersweet, adventurous, small and lonely, bright and shining- and at home in all of 'em.

The Bad

No comment. This was a beautiful film.

Overall,

Like I said, Pixar's UP is my favorite animated film. It's beautiful artistically and refreshing theologically. I'd give it a 5/5, and highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

MUSIC - Goodnight, Sylvia/The Kidnapping

This is track 6 from the score to Friday at Noon.

Interestingly, the kidnapping part is still lonely, semi-improvised piano music. I don't know why I did it this way then, but in retrospect (I think it was Dad who pointed this out) I like how it focuses on the sorrow of the loss and the depth of the dilemma instead of the "make-you-jump" fear of a kidnapper in the house.

Click here to listen on YouTube.

BTW - the CD is now in the duplication/printing stage!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

REVIEW: Inception

"By popular request..."

Inception. A film that has become a cultural phenomenon in my limited experience. This film, a long and wild journey that easily confuses and certainly warrants at least a second viewing, has a poster full of infamous names, from the director Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento) to the star Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, Blood Diamond) to the composer Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Crimson Tide, Prince of Egypt). It's certainly a polished film technically and artistically, and one to be reckoned with in the simple scope of impact that it has had on our culture.

The Worldview


The Good

I really appreciate the treasuring of family that we see in DiCaprio's character, Cobb. His driving desire is to get home to his kids. He loves his wife. His kids love him. And I love it!

Ariadne (Ellen Page) is consistently non-combatant. Her relationship with the hero is refreshingly non-romantic. She looks like a girl (as opposed to looking like a man), and she plays the woman's role- she's the hero's helper.

The film ponders the power of the idea- which is huge. Ideas truly do transform lives.

The film also shows our hero enjoying god-like power in a dream world, but ultimately being unsatisfied knowing that it is all just that- a dream!

My favorite character would be Tom Hardy's Eames. I love his consistent ability to just drop everything and do what needs done. He has a very rugged manliness to his character.

The Bad

The dark side to our hero's love of his family is that he's willing to do whatever it takes- he's willing to be pragmatic, to violate principle to accomplish his goal of family unity.

Ariadne is unprotected and alone, working with a bunch of single guys. Happily, the furthest this goes is when Arthur steals a kiss, a problem in itself, but- of course that's the furthest it goes. It's a movie.

Saito, the man who hires our heroes to perform Inception, gives his reason for wanting to do thus as preventing a company from having "total energy dominance". Sounds good, but it's a lawless way to go about protecting one's business.

The language I would say was pleasantly minimal, even in the unedited version. However, in the scene where Cobb's wife dies, he bellows out repeatedly The Name of Christ, which is Not. A. Good. Thing. It is, however, simply another testimony to the truth of The Christian Faith, but another discussion for another time.

The modesty- could have been worse, but could have been better. Cobb's wife is usually in a dress (very happy!) which is usually rather low-cut (not so happy). And then there's the "lovely lady" that Eames poses as, who I personally thought had a face that looked plastic, but she certainly wasn't modest.

Nihilism is something that I've heard criticized in this film multiple times. I look forward to hearing Mr. Kevin Swanson's take on it from his Generations radio program, however, as it stands right now, I did not see nihilism preached. I can see how it would be taken that way, though: We can't know what reality is. We can't know anything. It doesn't matter. Enjoy what you have.

As far as this issue goes, I took away something more like this: We belong in God's reality, the world He has created for us.

The Art

The Good

The special effects/set creation. This film is stunning visually. The spinning hallway... I'm sure it's been applauded over and over again, but I'm going to applaud it one more time! Very impressive.

The acting was good all-round. There were a coupla parts that I thought could have been improved- maybe. But that is very seriously on an opinion level.

Good directing- Mr. Nolan isn't my favorite director, and I would have enjoyed some more striking and wild shots for such a wild concept, but nevertheless it was all certainly industry-standard. I loved the shot with the line of sinks in the bathroom. Very artistic.

Good sound-design, definitely. Some excellent slo-mos and accompanying audio effects.

And now would seem to be a good time to bring up a concept that I haven't heard of before but I find quite interesting- "the audience character". In Inception, the audience character would be Ariadne. She knows no more about the film or the protagonist than we, the audience, do. And then, as she learns about the dream world and Cobb's past and so on, we get to learn with her- a very effective and enjoyable teaching technique!

The Kinda

Hans Zimmer's score. What can I say? It fit very well, and is a study in epic, tense music. Classic Zimmer. But it's not very musical. It's great for running to, but I don't find it musically rich.

I've come to a point where I consider Mr. Zimmer to be a great sound designer, though there are other composers that I would go to for great music. I think this film is a great illustration of many of the things that I dislike and many of the things that I admire about the works of Hans Zimmer.

EDIT- a comment from Sam Klejwa on my thoughts on the score: "I’m a bit taken aback that you didn’t like the score. Especially when you know that the whole score is meant to sound like a slowed down version of the french song played throughout the film, “Non, je ne regrette rien” (translated, it means “No, I regret nothing”), which is ironic because Cobb (as is repeated through the film) is “filled with regret”. That type of forethought and intricacy is something that cannot be seen in most scores. Plus “Time” blows me away."

This is indeed an amazing amount of intricacy that deserves mentioning. And I do agree that "Time", the 12th track on the Inception album release, is simply gorgeous.

The Bad

"You're waiting for a train..." This bit of dialogue that keeps coming up honestly seems like an attempt at epicness that... well, fails. It sounds like it's supposed to sound good.

The story of Inception really bugs me. It is a fascinating concept, but I found it to have multiple inconsistencies- or at least aspects that I'm not understanding. I would have appreciated "a little specificity", as Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) put it. I also thought the going-back-to-the-beginning-at-the-end, which Mr. Nolan apparently likes to do, was more forced here than in The Prestige.

Overall,
Inception is a film that is amazing artistically and very impactful culturally. The worldview is complex and needs to be seen in light of God's Word. The language is enough that I'd recommend an edited version. It's worth watching for filmmaker, and it's definitely a fascinating ride, but I haven't really enjoyed it, mostly because the story consistently bugs me. Maybe I just need someone to 'splain to me how it works.

3.5/5

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday at Noon - Original Motion Picture Score

We're working on the CD release of the musical score to Timepiece Family Media's Friday at Noon- composed, of course, by yours truly. LORD willing, it will be available for purchase soon- stay tuned! In the meantime, here's track 18 to wet your whistle.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qGFrEzbZ8o

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pictures from April

The two pictures I entered into our Photo Group last month, one illustrating the effects of different apertures on the depth of field- see how the background behind the lights blurs as the aperture gets larger? (Aperture gets larger as the f/# gets smaller)

The other is a shot of a lizard with some intense blur which is straight-out-of-camera, though I messed with the colors and such in PhotoShop.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

REVIEW: The King's Speech

This is one of the better films I've seen in a while.

The Worldview

The Good

The family relationships in this film were beautiful to behold. After a steady diet of films modeling rebellious teens, feministic women, and either tyrannical or weak fathers, this film was a breath of fresh air. The king's daughters treasure him, his wife supports him, and he, speech impediment and all, is still a loving, kind, but strong Dad. There are a couple possible slight hints of feminism, but overall I really enjoyed the relationship between the king and queen. She was an encouraging, supportive, and strong helper to her husband- he was a loving leader who in the end faces his fears and successfully broadcasts.

The speech therapist, too, has a great relationship with- *gasp*- his teenage son! Wow! Indeed, his entire family was again a refreshing model of love and unity as a household. There was one son who had a bit of 'tude, but even he can't help but smile at his father's Shakespeare interpretations.

The older brother of our hero is an immoral and loose man- but he's also portrayed as a confused and weak man, at best. Handsome, yes, dashing, and able to speak much better than his brother- but without anywhere near the depth of character, and the film brings that out well.

I was really happy to see the portrayal of a healthy, close relationship between two men without a bunch of allusions to homosexual perversion. They were not only both married, but they were very much in love with their wives and families. They were just good friends! Refreshing- and it's sad that it's such a rarity anymore.

We also see the simple power of speech being illustrated. "Like apples of gold in settings of silver..."

Again, this film was simply a breath of fresh air from a worldview perspective.

The overall sermon of the film? I guess it would be something like we need to conquer our fears and do what needs to be done, and friends can be very helpful in this- all very true!

The Bad

The swearing is what gave this film its R (which is now a PG-13- apparently an edited version was released?). Looking at a site like Kids-In-Mind the film looks like it must be littered with filthy language. As it is, there is one scene with highly concentrated swearing- the king-to-be is with his speech therapist and the speech therapist starts him swearing, presumably to loosen him up. Colin Firth then rattles off a stream of curse words, with his therapist's encouragement, in a rant that ends with him looking bashful and the boys in the other room asking their dad if everything is OK. There are a few other curse words throughout the film, but that's the main part, and it's cast in a highly humorous light. Definitely not the same as an angry Jason Bourne or Will Hunting swearing throughout the film.

Which brings up a good question that I ponder... would God laugh at that scene? I know I did. I thought it was hilarious. Maybe I shouldn't. May God continue to refine!

Really, without that scene, a few other curse words, and some mild discussion of adult themes, the film could have been PG, easily.

The worldview of modern psychology seeps in through the speech therapist. He seems to blame much of what has happened to the king in his past for what he's going through now. While it is good for us to realize just how much we affect our siblings and children, ultimately the king is responsible before God for living in fear. Be careful lest we say- rightly so!- that his parents, his siblings, his nurses were cruel, and then conclude that it's their fault. It is still his responsibility to respond to life from a God-centered perspective. They did wrong, yes. It's not an excuse for him to shirk responsibility as well.

There were a couple parts that were a bit irreverent to God- especially their line on the poster, "When God couldn't save The King, The Queen turned to someone who could." Not good, not funny. Fear God and tremble before you say that He cannot do anything. (In fact... who are you to say that God didn't save the king by sending the someone who could?)

Probably my biggest issue, though, was that when the king- not the king whom the film centers on, but his older brother, who held the throne for a short time- is living an immoral life, and wants to marry a divorced woman, which as the (unBiblical) head of the Church he is forbidden to do, the comments of the heroes of the film are along the lines of "I don't care who you carry on with at night so long as you do your kingly duties in the morning." That's not OK. What you do at night is just as much a part of you (maybe more!) as what you do in the day. All of it must be submitted to God.

The Art

The Good

Wow. Lots. The cinematography was striking, distinctive, and beautiful- the sets grand and believable. The use of the fisheye lens was very effective and fitting to the story- it made the king look all the more awkward and lonely.

The score by Alexandré Desplat was beautiful and fitting. Much enjoyed by yours truly.

The acting was excellent. Colin Firth really sold his part.

It was definitely a first-class film, artistically.

The Bad

Honestly... there was very, very little about this film, if anything, that I didn't like from an artistic perspective.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film. With cautions as to the language being given, I still heartily recommend it. 4.5/5