Monday, November 25, 2013

Film Score Lovers Anonymous: My Healthy Obsession

I would be a much happier (read: saner) person if I could just live in the movies. All. The. Time.

I do this thing where I find a film that resonates for whatever reason -- no matter what the reviews or critics are saying -- and I obsess over it. I watch it again and again, sometimes twice on the same weekend night. In the last year, it's been Pride and Prejudice, The Hobbit, Welcome to the Punch. Past years, Shakespeare in Love, Gladiator, all the Lord of the Rings films. I recognize this is not a healthy habit. But I'm not a drinker or user of substances other than dangerous quantities of sugar, so if movies are my drug, bring on the popcorn.

It bears repeating: our family likes the movies. Pretty Princess blogs (Truly Luminary) and starts journalism school in January toward her dreams in  entertainment coverage. The Other Half of my heart works in the film biz. He's worked on a lot of awesome flicks in the last 25.5 years, including but not limited to The Fugitive, Army of Darkness (for you cult fans out there), Titanic, lots of X-Men films, Tron, Seventh Son, Percy Jackson, et cetera, et cetera. Most recently he did some time on George Clooney's next supersecret project before hopping onto the epic build for a flick based on a VERY popular video game.  When he comes home covered in foam and silicone, it's because he's recreating a world that only exists in our imaginations. Glamorous, huh? Tell that to my washing machine.

In 2012 he worked on Man of Steel. Sculpted the saddle Jor El rides on his winged horse/dragon hybrid (H'raka); built the mushroomy pool where the Codex Skull is kept, the bed/chair structure newborn Kal El lies in when his parents are infusing his cells with the bits and bobs from the Codex. 

Built the EPIC sets we can barely see in the council chambers when Jor El says YOU GUYS THIS IS MADNESS WE'RE DOOMED and naughty Zod storms in and shoots his guns and yells loudly (Michael Shannon, you are the best kind of villain). 

And then there's that awesome spaceship buried in the permafrost where soon-to-be-Superman goes all manly and says to an injured Lois Lane, "I can do things other people can't ... This is going to hurt." All of these incredible sets come from the hands of REAL people. #proudWyfey 

Lately, the object of my obsession has been Man of Steel. I don't even know why. I tear up when Kal El's parents say goodbye and again when -- oh, wait -- no spoilers, in case you haven't seen it. Despite mixed reviews and haters galore, I love this film.

Maybe it's because so much of Husband's sweat went into it. It's special to us.

Ironically, though, I try not to think too much about the reality behind the film. I usually leave the room when the family scoots around to watch behind-the-scenes stuff because I LOVE THE FANTASY of it. When Lord of the Rings was in its prime, and now with The Hobbit and the MUCH-ANTICIPATED Desolation of Smaug, I want to believe that Middle Earth is a REAL place and not just pretty New Zealand, that if I overcome my fear of huntsman spiders, I will go to Mata Mata and see Hobbiton and while there, Frodo and Gandalf and Aragorn (*swoon*) and Thorin (*double swoon*) will appear and we will have wine with fruity bouquets and eat wheels of cheese and sing songs with our pipes puff-puff-puffing away.

Shit, that was a long sentence. Hadley, I'm so sorry.

I want to believe that hunky Kal El is a real guy, that the sonic booms that ring over our neighborhood are him blasting through the atmosphere, that if an oil rig falls on my house, he will -- shirtless and beautifully muscled -- be there to catch it.

Hello, Kal El. Thank you for saving my house from that collapsing oil rig.

I'm not a purist. Hell, I'm not even a FAN of Superman. Never read the comics, didn't swoon over the earlier movies with the late Christopher Reeve. Didn't care a sniff. Not until Zack Snyder gave us Henry Cavill and Russell Crowe in tights.

Seriously. You GUYS.

THIS is why I'm a writer. I was not beautiful/thin/talented/smart/brave enough to make it in Hollywood, though I dreamed those dreams so hard, I would cry myself to sleep after working at one of three jobs to save the money to move to LA. (I tend toward the dramatic. And I really did work at three jobs at one point to save money to move to LA. Then I moved to LA and had to get another suffocating job to pay the rent. I'm not great with planning, I know this.)

Along with these movies, though, is THE MUSIC. Let me set the scene:


Banner made of dot-matrix printer paper hangs haphazardly from wall. In crayon, reads "FILM SCORE LOVERS ANONYMOUS." Chairs set around a table holding docked iPod. Side table with silver coffee carafe; plate overflows with frosted cookies shaped as musical notes.

JENN walks in. Chooses a cold chair.

Today I'd like to welcome our newest member, Jenn.

Yes. Hi. (waves) I'm Jenn, and I'm a film score lover.

(in unison)
(many in costume; looks like ComicCon in here)
Hiiiiii, Jenn ...

And so on and so forth.

Thanks to the demigod we mortals call Hans Zimmer, Man of Steel has a FANTASTIC score. Oh, people, honestly ... if you're not listening to Zimmer, I'm not sure if we can continue this thing we call friendship. The Dark Knight/Rises? Gladiator? Inception? Pirates of the Caribbean? Sherlock Holmes? The DaVinci Code?


It feeds my obsession. The music is the meaty leg warm with pumping blood; I am the leech. I am insatiable. 

And so it has gone for the last months, my thirst unquenchable, as I've labored over yet another draft of Sleight. I quietly turned it in yesterday. No, I do not know what this means. Other than I LOVE it. Other than we wait. This freight train is not under my control.

But the music is. Because when I write, I imagine the actors playing the parts I have breathed life into. I dream about the book being made into a film (we all do) and who we'd get to do the film score. (I have my short list.) Because of this weird obsession, you can see why the movies and music and words are all on one plate for me. Like the bacon with the lettuce and tomato. I cannot have one without the other.

Recently a friend made the mistake of asking for recommendations for music to write by. As a proud film score lover, I answered accordingly:

~ ANYTHING by Alexander Desplat (though Tree of Life is a little odd for my taste); the Twilight Saga's New Moon is arguably one of my top five faves. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is beautiful. Oh, and Zero Dark Thirty. Awesome.

~ EVERYTHING by Hans Zimmer, as mentioned -- but especially Man of Steel

~ Harry Escott's Welcome to the Punch. (I may have peed when Harry Escott followed me back on Twitter. I'm afraid to check if he's still following me. I don't think I can handle any more rejection.) This score narrates brilliant action sequences, stitched seamlessly alongside haunting emotional overtones. (OMG, I love it when the boys cry.)

Now for crying-boy montage:
Mark Strong (my sweetie). Crying because he is a bad good man. (Low Winter Sun)

Cries over dead son. (Welcome to the Punch)
Russell Crowe (Jor El, Man of Steel) almost crying over sending son away to a foreign planet.

Definitely crying here. It's okay, Kal El. C'mere. Let's hug it out.
DAAAAAAAAAAD! More crying. *swoony sigh* If you don't tear up in this scene, you're soulless.
 Something is wrong with me if I like it when pretty boys cry.

~ The score for the film Oblivion (M83 and Anthony Gonzales) is great, as is the score for Disconnect (Max Richter).

Here's a list of brilliant composers to make it simple:
  • Danny Elfman (Oz the Great and Powerful, Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, 9, Silver Linings Playbook, tons more -- he's Tim Burton's go-to composer)
  • Clint Mansell (The Fountain and Requiem for a Dream are my faves)
  • James Newton Howard (most recently Hunger Games: Catching Fire releases 11/29; also Snow White and the Huntsman and a zillion others)
  • James Horner (Avatar, Titanic, Legends of the Fall, Aliens)
  • John Williams -- ICONIC -- Harry Potter, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, et cetera. You know his music.
  • John Debney (Passion of the Christ is beautiful; Elf, Iron Man 2)
  • John Powell (Shrek, Bourne franchise, PS I Love You, How to Train Your Dragon)
  • Andrew Lockington (Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters)
  • Henry Jackman (X-Men First Class, Wreck-It Ralph, Captain Phillips, Kick-Ass 2)
  • Marc Streitenfeld (Robin Hood, Prometheus, Body of Lies)
  • Michael Giacchino (Star Trek / ST Into Darkness, Up, The Incredibles, Super 8)
  • Howard Shore (all the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit films, Twilight Saga: Eclipse)
  • Thomas Wander (Anonymous)
  • Marco Beltrami (The Wolverine, World War Z, I, Robot)
  • Carter Burwell (Twilight fans rejoice!)
  • Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones!!!)
  • Bryan Tyler (Thor, Iron Man 3)
  • John Ottman (Jack the Giant Slayer, X-Men 2)
  • Craig Armstrong (A gorgeous orchestral score for DiCaprio/Luhrmann's Gatsby)
  • Steve Jablonsky (Ender's Game, Transformers)
  • Johann Johannsson (Prisoners)
  • Steven Price (Gravity)
  • Olafur Arnalds (short but powerful score for the BBC's Broadchurch)
Not to be overlooked: video game scores. Assassin's Creed Revelations is awesome. And it's a TON of music for an incredible price. Halo is solid too.

If you're a film score lover like I am, and you think you might need an intervention, we meet twice a week in the church basement on the corner of Angst Avenue and Brokenheart Blvd. Bring your appetite for cookies and inspired tears.

Before we go:

This blog post is a rambling mess. I'm sorry. But today I'm sort of a rambling mess. Turning in a beloved manuscript after yet another round of painful rewrites causes this. Some people cheer when they write the end. I never write those two words because they make me too sad. I've spent most of the day fluctuating between joy and desolation. Giggles and tears. Sunshine and darkness. I did, however, stop feeling sorry for myself long enough to shower and apply makeup. You know, in case that oil rig thing happens and Superman shows up on my porch.

One more for the road:

Hey, Superman ...
Au revoir, mes amoureux ...

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Honor of Veterans in Both My Home Countries

In Canada and other Commonwealth countries, today is Remembrance Day (entries from Wikipedia because I am not a history major):

Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. This day, or alternative dates, are also recognised as special days for war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918. Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month," in accordance with the Armistice, signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning. ("At the 11th hour" refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11:00 am) World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.

It has come to represent a day of quiet reflection and heartfelt thanks to all our veterans throughout all conflicts. Like Ken Young, my wonderful father-in-law, who served as a Merchant Marine in World War II. Love and miss you, Dad.

 And in America ... Veterans Day:

Veterans Day is an official United States holiday which honors people who have served in armed service, also known as veterans. It is a federal holiday that is observed on November 11. It coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect.)
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.

And my oldest son, serving in Afghanistan, now starting his post-Army life as a railroad conductor (so proud of you, Blakey!):

And my cousin ("uncle"), who served in the Air Force:
David W. Moffitt, US Air Force, 1963, Keesler AFB, Mississippi
Uncle Will's daughter followed in his footsteps and served as a US Navy hospital corpsman from 1989 to 1998, including tours in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield:

It started as Armistice Day:
Armistice Day (which coincides with Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, public holidays) is commemorated every year on 11 November to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. While this official date to mark the end of the war reflects the ceasefire on the Western Front, hostilities continued in other regions, especially across the former Russian Empire and in parts of the old Ottoman Empire.
In Canada, we wear a red poppy over our hearts for a few weeks leading up to Remembrance Day in honor of those who served.

"In Flanders Fields" is a war poem ... written during the First World War by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres.

It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. ... Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada, where "In Flanders Fields" is one of the nation's best known literary works.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

 Thank you, veterans, for your service.

Xs and Os ...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Funnies ... and Someone Make Me More Coffee


Go out to your car. If you don't have a car, borrow the neighbor's. They won't mind. 

While still in park, put your foot on the gas pedal and rev. Get the engine just below that red stripe, what, at about 6-7 for some cars, 9-10 for others? Now everyone's coming out of their homes or standing at their front windows to find out why the hell there's an engine revving to the point of explosion -- I guarantee if you've borrowed your neighbor's car to do this, he/she will be watching. So, that SOUND and that FEELING? Shit's loud, hey? (Man, I sound Canadian now.)

That has been my brain for the last two weeks. Which is why I didn't do Friday Funnies last week. (I also didn't vacuum. Please don't invite yourself over for tea.) There was plenty of funny to be had on the Internet, although, in all honesty, I find myself clicking to my last entry with the newspaper-reading cat in the suit and the IKEA monkey (Darwin) in his wee lit'le coat ... oh man, I'm laughing again. ANYWAY, I do like to laugh, and I hope you do too, because there is just so much carnage and yuck going on that giggling is the only way I've managed to stay one step ahead of those guys with the straitjackets ...

On October 29, my split personality released a book (Must Love Otters) and it's going swimmingly with lots of darling reviews on Amazon and it's always interesting (terrifying) to see what folks have to say when you slice off a pound of your flesh and put it up for sale. I also spent the month of October holed up to finish yet another rewrite for the Neverending Book (Sleight, if you care) based on the comprehensive and always fantastic/painful edits from my brilliant editor (yes, I love you, editor mine, and I will be expecting my honorary MFA any day now from Dyer University). What that MEANS is, though, my brain -- it revved. There was one night here at the homestead that went like this:

Husband: How was your day?

Jenn: We should probably make some sauce to go along with ... I think I should kill off that one guy in Chapter Four but maybe ... Did I tell you I heard from one of the teachers today via ... The book order is late again ... Oh, we sold X books today but I'm trying not to ... One of the reviewers said she loved it and spit coffee out her ... I think I may have unwound a major plot knot in ... So I'm having a hard time finding the right socks for ... The cat was eating the headphone cords again but I ... Let me make the scrambled eggs for ...

Husband: [spatula in hand] I have no idea what you just said.

AND WHY IS THAT? Can't he hear the fourteen conversations going on in my head? Can't he hear the REVVING ENGINE?

Evidently not. So I was promptly sent to my room until I could formulate a single sentence from start to finish. I think I fell asleep and dreamed about newspaper-reading cats and IKEA monkeys.

Speaking of monkeys, I should really tell you about my adventures at Sephora. It went something like this: 

  • Jenn walks into Sephora, armed with two-month-old gift card from daughter.
  • Jenn puts on face that says, Don't sell me no nonsense, little missy, the face usually reserved for car salesmen.
  • Jenn sees her face in REAL mirror.
  • Jenn holds back tears secondary to discovering the wrinkles dressing the area around her eyes. WHERE DID THOSE COME FROM?
  • Jenn allows car makeup salesgirl to talk her into All the Shiny Things.
  • Jenn walks out with a nice makeup job but is already concocting stories to tell Husband about the missing funds.
  • Jenn wakes up the next day with the same determination she saves for cooking after putting out yet another fire in the kitchen--I CAN DO THIS--only to try to put the makeup on and FAIL. AGAIN.
  • Jenn throws temper tantrum and takes to Facebook to complain about how she is not a real girl. Friends try to make her feel better.
  • Jenn is still wrinkled and wears stripes on her eyelids that do not look like the smoky-eye demo picture.
  • Jenn retires to her room with cookies.

Now, a singing cat:

Nuit, singing to her babies.
We also had Halloween since our last visit. This was my soccer star's costume:

The Witch King of Angmar. Husband gets CRAZY with Halloween. Sweet, huh?
My favorite Funnies from the last few weeks:

This has been known to happen.

OMG, THIS. Seriously. Someone posted a corn chowder the other day and I had to hide them from my feed so I wouldn't barf on my keyboard. Unless you are Gordon Ramsey or that Nigella Lawson (she's hot), NO FOOD PICTURES. PLEASE.

I would use it exclusively.

Story of my life. My checking account is proof enough.

This happens when Husband calls to ask how my attempts at dinner are going.

Calculate your cougar age: Divide your age in half and add 7. So, for me, if I were lusting after anyone 28 or younger, I am definitely in cougar territory. Then again, if I looked as good as THAT ^^^^^^^, I wouldn't bother with the math. I would just flash my boobies to EVERYONE. P.S. How rough was that tree bark under her ... never mind.

You feel smarter now, don't you ... you're welcome.

Next week, we will have lots to giggle about because I am trading a photography session for an elliptical. I shoot the photos; I get a new elliptical. Which means I have to exercise. For real. If you don't hear from me for a while, I may have pulled all the muscles. Send help.

Have a great weekend. Shout out to all the veterans who have fought for freedom and righteousness, including this hunk of love, my oldest boy. Love you, brat.

Now call your mother. She worries.
Xs and Os ...