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Ennio Morricone, “Un Amico”

Before I launch into several hours of studying, I figure I’ll give y’all what I’m gonna be listening to as soon as I finish. I rewatched Inglourious Basterds today while packing my things and cleaning, and I had forgotten how fantastic a moment it is when this song makes its appearance. I won’t spoil when it shows up, but if you’re acquainted with the song, it makes the moment even better.

An instrumental piece by the father of music for Western films, the song opens with a simple guitar and string bit that would go well with just about any credits sequence- especially when the drums come in. However, at a little after 1:15 comes the most epic strings piece I’ve ever heard. It would not be out of place in some bombastic single by Coldplay or a track by some silly pop group like The Veronicas, but here it’s used in a minimalist fashion as opposed to the typical overproduction. And just as suddenly as the bit shows up, it’s over. It absolutely teases the listener, and Tarantino uses it to awe-inspiring (and even somewhat dissonant) effect in the film.

Enjoy it yourself.

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Bright Eyes, “The Calendar Hung Itself”


So as to not make this week on Wampoholic entirely about dance music, here’s a golden oldie. “The Calendar Hung Itself” was released on the album Fevers and Mirrors in 2000, making this song almost a decade old!

I won’t call myself an expert on the band, but this is the only angry Bright Eyes song I know of. Frontman Conor Oberst plays a very lo-fi and distorted guitar with a woodblock and what sounds like congas backing him up, providing a somewhat Spanish feel to the song. These frantic instruments indicate the hurried and jumpy nature of Oberst’s thoughts and lend power to the real indicator of anger: Oberst’s voice.

He opens the lyrics with a rant asking what his ex-lover’s new man does for her, before collapsing into himself and showing his current despair. The rest of the song is how he picks the pieces back up, but he never once stops gasping with a raw throat at the end of every line because he cannot forget the past no matter where he goes. Finally, the snarl heard at the end of the track in “where I was lain” is beyond intense- but not beyond repair. Somehow some of his friends stay behind and save him.

I think it’s good that Bright Eyes never wrote another angry song like this, because how could it ever compare? Everything about it made sense when I was 14 and it makes sense when I’m almost 20.. I don’t think it will ever stop making sense.

well the clock’s heart it hangs inside its open chest, with hands stretched toward the calendar hanging itself

Avatar

As soon as the credits rolled on Avatar, I exhaled deeply, turned to my roommate sitting next to me, and buried my head in his chest. The simple reason for this is that the film filled me with such love for the world; so I somehow found love for Ellery, where many once thought it an impossible dream.

Ebert, in his review, wrote that walking out of Avatar he felt similar to when he first saw Star Wars, and I think I understand part of the comparison: In both films, the writer/director created a universe from nothing. A mythology, a history, an ecology- all of these things are fully fleshed out and examined through the course of the movie. We understand that the planet of Pandora is home to a humanoid race, the Na’vi, with extensive connections to nature and rituals that show those connections. They have knowledge of the animals, the plants, their own history and more… And all of these were formed from the thoughts of James Cameron. That sort of foresight and creativity is inspiring.

Also worth noting is the remarkable job done by the animators. Never once did I think to myself that the computer-generated characters seemed fake or awkward. I cared just as much about them as I did the human characters, and that says something about the power of the medium and the capabilities of the animation.

As someone who felt sick at the violence-heavy Ninja Assassin, (and even was a little disturbed by the robot vs. robot violence of Transformers 2,) Avatar has an epic war scene at the end of the film that kept me completely invested in the good side winning, regardless of what sort of acts of violence needed to be committed. That said, Cameron does an excellent job of making sure it is never gratuitous and is completely justified- and as minimized as possible.

While the advertisements are pumping this as a movie entirely about war, the true (and rather simple messages) of the film are those of love and environmentalism: a Romeo and Juliet story wrapped up in a Princess Mononoke fight for existence. While it may seem trivial to have such aims, I’d rather see a general take on the ideas than be beaten over the head with any message. It would have been horrible if the environmentalist angle was first and foremost at all times, no matter how much I appreciate and believe in the cause. Cameron knows this is a blockbuster, and so we are coming to see a blockbuster.

It’s a shame that a lot of the dialogue is so forgettable, and some have postulated that this was done to keep the general public invested in the movie. I think that’s a weak reason, and if it is the case, shouldn’t we be actively trying to force the everyone away from the Transformers 2 style of writing instead of slightly pandering to it? The acting does completely overshadow the writing though, and saves the connections and relationships between the characters. Besides, it’s really hard to focus on the dialogue when you’re being assaulted by such beauty at every turn.

Avatar is a fantastic film; the first blockbuster in memory I have spent full price on and not walked out feeling like I got ripped off. Or that I subjected myself to my soul being shattered. (Again, we can thank Transformers 2 for that one.) My one pervading sad feeling about this experience is that sequels are in the talks. This is a complete story. Let it stand alone as a testament to the art.

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Little Boots, “Remedy”

This is a stomping empowerment track, taking on the usual “dancing will make everything better” trope. I am fascinated that it starts out so slinky and dark before opening up right at the chorus into the spectacle that it actually is. I love the background “AYs” that punctuate the chorus as well, mostly cause I’m reminded of rap songs. If the yelling wasn’t so interesting and fitting, it’d be absolutely out of its element.

It’s a shame Little Boots isn’t more popular, because she has a little bit more staying power and a little bit more captivating songwriting than a lot of pop music heard today.

oh, move while you’re watching me, dance with the enemy, here is my remedy.