Monday, September 30, 2013

Day 666 (oooh, scary!) - The best films I've seen in 2013 - so far (Part one)

For all the hotly anticipated films that were supposed to come out this year, my favorites (with a couple of exceptions) have been some of the smaller films that have been critical hits, but maybe not seen by everyone.

I figure, why not start with a couple documentaries (I mean, nothing's gonna get people to read this like reading about movies they'll probably never watch in the first place. Right? Right?0

Adjust Your Tracking - About people (guys) who still collect videotapes.  Mostly horror films.  Just enough history to keep you on your toes, but filled with wonderful and sometimes hilarious stories from the collectors themselves.

Stories We Tell - Sarah Polley  looks back at her mother around the year that she (Sarah) was born, and tries to find out if her dad is her real biological father.  Fascinating, thoughtful and compelling.  Never has a smile told so much.

And now I'll jump in with the blockbusters that were my my favorites of the year.

White House Down - Die Hard in the White House.  This was an action movie that knew exactly what it wanted to give the audience and made no apologies about it.  This was an infinitely better film than the last Die Hard movie.  the only thing against it (being derivative is not a knock on this film) is that the last 10 minutes are way too schmaltzy.

Pacific Rim - Giant Robots vs Giant Monsters directed by Guillermo del Toro.  Yay!

Furious 6 - These Fast and Furious movies just keep getting better.  Yes, this series adheres to its own line of physics and a mangling of the time/space continuum (yes, that was the world's longest airline runway, and I don't care), but the action is tremendous, The Rock was one of the best additions to a franchise - ever, and when I wasn't cheering at the screen (which really did happen), I got one of the most pleasant surprises ever, with an ending that was shocking and had not been ruined beforehand.  It was a great moviegoing experience.

More tomorrow (maybe even in the morning - we'll see how I feel)...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day 665 - The Alloy Orchestra scores Metropolis, Phantom of the Opera, and HE Who Gets Slapped

I first saw the film Metropolis in either high school or college.  It was the two hour version, which was the only version available at the time.  And I thought it was amazing.  There is a reason why it's considered a masterpiece (set design, striking performances, general awesomeness).  And since they've recovered 25 more minutes of film that had thought to have been lost, it really is even better.  So, now I have a videotape of the 2 hour version, and the DVD of the 2 and 1/2 hour version.  And now I also have a CD of the Alloy Orchestra's score of the extended version, because I got to see them perform it last night.  While I was a little tired during the first hour of the film (it was a long work day), the final hour and a half was one of the most amazing combinations of film and music that I've ever experienced... until tonight.

But first - "ALLOY ORCHESTRA is a three man musical ensemble, writing and performing live accompaniment to classic silent films.  Working with an outrageous assemblage of peculiar objects, they thrash and grind soulful music from unlikely sources."

That's from their website, and it's completely accurate.  Heck, I got to see one of the guys show off his Stradivarius saw!

Tonight was a Lon Chaney double feature - Phantom of the Opera and HE Who Gets SlappedPhantom was just like Metropolis - solid start, but amazing finish.  However, there was a 75 minute break between both movies, and I seriously considered just skipping out.  I'm so glad I didn't.

HE Who Gets Slapped is a fantastic film!  Lon Chaney plays a scientist/inventor who loses both his work and his wife to the same man.  Finding the tragic humor in all of this he becomes a clown whose routine is that he gets slapped.  He finds love again, but other forces, both old and new, keep it from him.

Even if this film had no score it would be tremendous.  The story is poignant, dramatic, and tragic.  The acting is uniformly strong, with Chaney giving a standout performance.

But the real winner was The Alloy Orchestra's score for this film.  It was, in my mind, even better than their score for Metropolis (and like I said, I bought that immediately after watching the film).  I found myself tapping my feet at times, nodding my head to the rhythms, and leaning forward just so I could hear that tiniest of bits better.  It wasn't just a performance, it was an experience.

I really can't recommend these guys enough.  Any lover of great films should at least see them once.  Suffice to say, any time they come back to Cleveland, I'm clearing my schedule so I can see them again (and again).