Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Garden State

The 2004 film Garden State was written and directed by Zach Braff who also stars as Andrew Largeman, the protagonist of the film. Andrew is a wannabe actor whose life is controlled by his medications. He returns home to New Jersey for his mother’s funeral and leaves all his pills behind. He spends his time bumping into old acquaintances and avoiding his father. Andrew is disconnected with the world and emotionally cut off until he meets the character Sam, played by Natalie Portman. Their friendship grows in a romantic way.
Some people would say Garden State is known for its soundtrack above anything else. The 13 songs of the mix were handpicked selections of Zach Braff. This soundtrack aided in pushing “indie” music into the mainstream and started a transition in music culture. The soundtrack went platinum and won a Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack for a Motion Picture in 2005. A great strength of the soundtrack is how it accompanied the film.
One example of how the music goes along with a scene is when Andrew is at his high school friend’s basement and finds himself being offered an assortment of drugs. As soon as Andrew takes an ecstasy pill, the song “In the Waiting Line” by Zero 7 beings playing. During the scene, the other people are playing spin the bottle and having a great time while Andrew is sitting on the couch trying to make sense of what is going on. The background melody of the song seems to fade in and out. The scene has the same effect where it will go fast and then slow down, especially between going to and from different people. The combination of the music and the scene fading in and out relates to how Andrew is feeling after taking the drug. This relates to pathos because the viewer can get an insight into what he feeling. Music can be used to express what emotions characters are feeling internally (Giannetti). The music stops as the bottle is pointed at Andrew. After he kisses the girl, the same song starts playing again. I believe they made the decision to stop the music for that moment because they thought it was important and it needed to stand out. The lyrics of this song demonstrate logos. It was wise to use this song that had the lyrics, “Everyone’s saying different things to me, different things to me” because in the scene, people are talking to Andrew and he is paying no attention to them.
          Another scene where music goes along with it is the ending scene at the airport. Andrew is telling Sam that he has to go home to get better or else their relationship will never work. The song “Let Go” by Frou Frou starts playing as Zach steps on the escalator. The first thing that I noticed is that the lyrics also went along with the scene. The title of this song is “Let Go” and this line is repeated many times. It is logoicial for this scene to have this song playing because Sam is saying bye to Zach so she in a sense has to let go. Music with lyrics that relate to the scene make it more powerful and have a more concrete context (Giannetti 211). At the start of this scene I would say the song gave me a false sense of emotions, or pathos, because it was sad that he was leaving. Sam was crying telephone booth, which didn’t go along not so somber song.  Although you would think that the song that should be played during this scene should be slower with more sad tones, this song works well because they actually don’t say bye. Perhaps this was done for foreshadowing, which would relate to logos.
I would give this film 3 out of 5 pickles. I thought this film did a great job of demonstrating pathos and logos which the choices of the songs. What the music and scene combinations lacked was ethos. Overall,  the way the songs in the film served the scenes enriched viewers watching experience.


Halloween isn't just any other night of the year

           The Halloween franchise is one of the biggest in the world.  It incorporates something for everyone: mystery, escape, costumes, etc.  People get to escape from the real world for a few moments and get to be whoever they want to be.  There are not many opportunities to do this in the real world, so many people take advantage of this opportunity.  In this industry, movies have also been a big influence for many people.  Of them, the Halloween saga is one of the most popular.  This saga is one of my personal scary favorites, for one thing because of the use of the mask the antagonist wears throughout it, but also because of the score of the movie.  It is a classic example of how music can define how a movie will be portrayed and how it will change people’s views depending on what they are listening to.  Many a time this is because the “[director] has you and people like you in mind and is seeking to rouse an emotion” (Lunsford 40).  This is even considered when picking the theme song to the movie: deliberate to raise emotions that scare you.  

This movie is also a great example of ethos, pathos, and logos.  Ethos is showed throughout this movie (nowadays) because it has Jamie Lee Curtis staring in it.  However, back in the day when it first came out, it may not have necessarily had as much credit as it does now because this was one of Jamie Lee’s first movies.  In addition, pathos is showed throughout the entire movie with the emotions that each character exuberates when they are being chased or scared.  This is enhanced by the music that is going on in the background when the characters are expressing emotion, i.e. being chased by the murderer with loud music playing in the background or as Lunsford says, “[that] ‘chill down the spine’ [feeling]” (40) that many people get watching horror movies with a good score.  Lastly, logos is very iffy for this movie.  While it definitely could occur, it is a little bit difficult to assume that this murder situation could happen to the average person.  Yes it has happened in the past, but not enough to justify it being a logical situation to happen.
            Within this blog I would like to focus on the original Halloween movie, and within that I would like to focus on two scenes in particular.  The first is what I like to call the “ominous walking scene".  Or I guess that is how YouTube likes to describe this scene in particular.  In this scene actress Jamie Lee Curtis is walking with her friend home from school (on Halloween, of course).  While they are walking, a certain ominous score starts that makes the viewer think mask on waiting for them.  This makes a difference in the feeling of the scene because it makes the viewer worry about the two as they are walking along.  If there was not this type of music, the scene would not make sense because it would not hint that something important is going to happen.
            The next scene that I want to focus on is a little different.  There is a big finale at the end of the movie when the masked killer goes on one last rampage.   This turns into his little killing spree.  Instead of analyzing the actual music that is taking place, I found a YouTube video that re-scores this final scene, and to be honest is almost better than the original scoring.  The reason that it is better is because it plays off the emotions of the characters.  When a character is quiet and scared, the music gets slower and quieter.  However, as the murderer makes a move to kill Jamie Lee Curtis, the music gets faster and louder (and to be honest a bit scarier).  This just changes the way that the scene is heard and interpreted.  It changes the way that the emotions hit for the viewers.  This emotional change is huge because these horror movies succeed when they hit viewers’ emotions.  This scene change shows exactly what the score actually does for a movie and how important it is. 

I rated this movie 4 pickles on its score because it does exactly what it needs to with pathos and raising emotions in a horror movie, but I think they could have found a few more sound effects / songs that could enhance the movie's score instead of just sticking with the same few (that is where the pickle is taken away from). 

United 93: Never Forgotten

9/11/2001.  It’s a day that will forever be imprinted in the mind of millions of Americans.  I was a young child, barely old enough to understand what was happening and yet I clearly remember most of that Tuesday morning.  United 93 is a movie dedicated to sharing the story of the brave men and women on flight 93, the only high jacked plane that did not reach it's target on 9/11, and the nightmare the passengers faced that day.  Music is used to add to the emotion of the already somber mood but leaves you with an aching heart and haunted feeling as the wordless symphonic music play periodically throughout the film, leaving you filled with the reminder of the anguished cry of the lone vocalist that resonates in the heart of every American as they relive a part of that day in this film.

            The composer of the soundtrack adds credibility to the movie.  John Powell is a well known composer in the movie world, most easily recognized for his work in Happy Feet and Rio according to IMBD.  In 2006, he was nominated for Film Composer of the Year by the International Film Music Critics Association (www.imdb.com). Incidentally, this is the same year that United 93 was released to the public.  John Powell has been successful in creating soundtracks that add emotion and logic to many movies and he is extremely effective in doing the same in United 93. 

The first scene I want to focus on revolves around Flight 93 taking off from the ground.  The lack of music is evident in the beginning of the scene as it shows passengers beginning to board the plane. This was done strategically because at this time in the film, they want the viewer to believe that it is just another day at an airport and that nothing out of the ordinary is occurring.  “Any significant stretch of silence creates an eerie vacuum- a sense of something impending about to burst” (Understanding Movies: Sound 8).  However, if you know anything about 9/11, you know that there was nothing ordinary about this day.  This argument effectively shows logic in the movie because the normalcy of the scene demands no background music as it draws in the viewer and makes you feel as if you could be among the passengers, sending one last email or running to not miss your flight.  In your normal, everyday life you don’t have background music so it would take away from the feeling that the director wants you to get.  Cue the music as the pilot utters the words, “It’s a beautiful day for flying…”  A low symphonic sound begins to play, creating a feeling of uneasiness for the first time since the pilots and passengers have entered the plane.  The music is low and uneasy, filled with a solo drum beat, strategically placed as the plane begins to move back from the gate.  After this, the music goes silence and the scene switches from the plane to the command center. The lack of music in the following scenes has the same significance as it did when the passengers first boarded the plane: it fits the theme of normalcy as the people showed in the command center are just going about their daily work, unaware of the tragic events that the day will hold. 

     The final scene of United 93 is an extremely moving scene, with or without music.  It shows the bravery of the passengers as they fight their captors, trying to regain control of the plane and save their lives.  After having watched the entire film, the viewer has become attached to the passengers and seeing them fight for their lives captivates your attention.  The music is almost subdued during these scenes but it isn’t obvious whether it is because the viewers’ attention is consumed by the action and emotion on screen or the other sound effects in the scene such as the beeping of the plane, the crying of the passengers, or the screaming of the heros fighting.  However, the music definitely plays a significant role subconsciously.  “Moviegoers are not usually consciously aware of how sound affects them, but they are constantly manipulated by the mixer’s synthesis” (Understanding Movies: Music, 12 267).  The tempo of the music increases throughout the scene, subconsciously increasing the anxiety and panic the viewer is experiencing.  Also, it is extremely ominous, increasing in volume as the plane spirals downwards and passengers are heard yelling, “I can’t”.  Suddenly, one last violin note is hit and the screen goes dark.  This is both logical and emotional. The lack of music is immediately felt, especially as the viewer is struggling to accept that the plane has crashed and the fight of the passengers has ended.  In essence, the ending of the music effectively mirrors the ending of the lives on the plane, a compelling strategy that adds to the ominous and tragic theme of the movie.  Logically, the music would stop if it were mimicking the heartbeat of a passenger as soon as the plane crashes and the passengers’ life is lost.

    Overall, I give the soundtrack in United 93 a 5 out of 5.  By not adding lyrics to the soundtrack, they were able to highlight the isolation of the people on the flight and their plight to save their lives.  The symphonic music was both dramatic and suspenseful but they chose not to allow it to over power the pure human emotion the viewer experienced through the screams and cries of the passengers.  Also, the lack of music was just as powerful as the music itself throughout the movie and subconsciously caused the emotions the viewers were feeling to escalate which is not easily done.

Into the Wild

The movie I thought had a very fitting soundtrack to it was Mean Girls. It was all about a girl Kady Herron who moved from Africa and was going to public school for the first time, a far more vicious place then Africa. She found herself struggling with keeping her real friends and staying true to herself, and being a part of the “plastics” –the most popular girls in school.
            The first good song was “Milkshakes”, which was playing when Kady went to Regina George’s (the most popular girl in school and leader of the plastics) house for the first time. This song was very fitting because it is a silly and inappropriate song, and the situation at her house was similar. Her mom walks around wearing a track suit, had just gotten surgery to enlarge her breasts, and gives them virgin drinks but offers to put alcohol in it. She tries so hard to be young and has no rules in her house. This song wasn’t necessarily being used to add a pace to the movie and definitely wasn’t being used to slow it down. But instead, it was setting a mood for that scene and was showing in a way why Regina was the way she was. It especially makes sense when Regina’s little sister is dancing tastelessly to the song. More so, this song sets a mood for the rest of movie. It is a seductive song, and most of the movie is seductive in different ways. When I say seductive it does not necessarily mean sexually, although Kady does try to sexually seduce Aaron Samuels (Regina’s ex-boyfriend) many times. But the movie is also seductive because Kady is trying to seduce the plastics into liking her so that she can get revenge for her friend Janice. And so caught up in the attention she then tries to coax the whole school into liking her.
The next song used is “Jingle Bell Rock”. This song I felt was more an ironic use of music because it is such a happy song that is heard at Christmas time, a cheerful time of year. In this section of the movie Gretchen Wieners is cracking and fed up with Regina cutting her out of the group. She did not get a candy cane from Regina but both Kady and Karen had received one from her, she was kicked out of fixing Kady’s hair one time, and right before the song she was moved from Regina’s left side even though she was always on the left side. Then in the middle of their talent show performance Gretchen messes up the routine and accidently kicks the CD player. The music freezes and in a desperate attempt to fix her mistake she kicks the CD player off the stage. Kady then comes sweeping in and sings the song to save their performance. In a way this happy, cheerful music is used because it is the beginning of how Kady’s plan is coming together. With Gretchen frantic to find friendship she is spilling secrets left and right and now Kady has the right tools to take down Regina.
The last song used is probably the most accurate for the scene it was it. Kady throws a party after she had finally taken down Regina and invites Aaron. Regina walks in on them in the bedroom together and is extremely upset. She then pulls a bar from her purse and begins to eat it. Her new boyfriend tells her that the bar she was eating to lose weight was actually a bar he uses to gain weight for his sport. She loses it, thus “One Way or Another” begins playing. She quickly gets home, still screaming from how angry she is, and pulls out her burn book. Thinking that she is going to put Kady in there, the movie throws in a plot twist and she actually puts herself in the book. Beginning her revenge on Kady, and setting a very evil and plotting mood for the rest of the movie.

Yo Ho -- pirates of the caribbean

Gunnar Nystrom
Ms. Kassia Waggoner
Intermediate Composition
16 September 2014
Yo ho!
            Yo ho! It’s a pirate’s life for me. This song is probably one of the most famous and well-known songs associated with the idea of Pirates. While watching Pirate’s of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, I was able to listen too and dissect the scenes linked with a few other commonly known pirate theme songs. It is important to note that Pirates of the Caribbean is part of the film genre action and adventure. As a result of this, it was pretty easy to recognize the fact that the music was upbeat, high tempo, and exciting.
            Midway through the movie, Captain Barbosa and the crew of the Black Pearl are chasing down Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Elisabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) and their crew of the Interceptor. The crew of the interceptor realizes that they are going to be caught by the Black Pearl and decide to turn around and fight. During this time, the recognizable Pirates of the Caribbean theme song begins to play in the background.
The director chooses to play the song during this action scene in order to stir excitement in the audience. The music is a variety of different trumpet sounds and orchestra noises, but has no words or lyrics. Providing music to a film is an easy way to introduce logos. By introducing music that creates an emotion appeal, in this case excitement, the director and editor are logically persuading the audience that this is an action packed adventure film. However, the exciting music can also establish credibility, because it lets the audience realize, that maybe the directors and editors understand film and know how to stir certain emotions in people.
            As the scene moves on, the same theme song continues to play, but it is often interrupted by certain abrupt beats and similar tunes. When the ship decides to turn, Mr. Gibbs shouts, “Lower the starboard anchor, do it you dogs, or it’s you we’ll load into the cannons”. As Gibbs is announcing this, the music starts to accelerate as the volume increases and by the time he is done talking, a thrilling and fast paced song explodes into the background. The song helps to shape the mood and tone of the scene and eventually the whole movie, by initiating a slight adrenaline rush in the audience. Considering the fact that it’s safe to assume that most people like the feeling of excitement, the director is using this music to persuade the audience that they are enjoying themselves while in the theater. In addition to the music, we find noises of the waves and wind adding to the intensity of the scene. This is also a good time to point out that throughout the movie, the director ascertains his credibility by dressing the set and actors in appropriate 18th century Pirate attire. More credibility is established by the writers of the script in the previous statement by Mr. Gibbs. By having Mr. Gibbs say things like “you dog, or it’s you we’ll throw into the cannons”, it generates the movie’s credibility as a realistic and historical pirate film.  According to Andrea Lunsford in her book, Everything’s an Argument, “before we accept the words (or image) of others, we must usually respect their authority, admire their integrity and motives, or at least acknowledge what they stand for” (55-56). In order for an audience to accept the movie as a pirate action and adventure film, it must be persuaded through costumes, characters, scripts, and even music.
            With the battle raging, the scene starts to come to an end. Will Turner is drowning under a piece of wood at the bottom of the ship while a fuse made of gunpowder is about to cause the ship to blow up. There is a musical buildup as the fuse gets closer and closer. All of a sudden the ships blows up and the music explodes with it. We see the shocked face of Elizabeth Swan as the audience is supposed to sympathize with her and share her emotions. This helps the director create more pathos by persuading the audience that they should feel bad for the character. Directors must learn how to “appreciate legitimate emotions, particularly when you want to influence the public” (Lunsford 40).  In order for the director to influence the public, he has to know how to manipulate certain human emotions. The use of musical buildup and a musical climax allows for a more intense emotional appeal, causing an incredible mixture of exhilaration and empathy in the viewers.  
            Overall, the creators of the film are trying to make the argument that Pirates of the Caribbean is an action-adventure film. The director cannot just establish his credibility by decorating the set and characters in the proper attire and stating that he works for Warner Bros Productions. The addition of music allows for an establishment of authority and ultimately helps persuade the audience that the film they are watching is adventurous. Furthermore, music can help introduce a logical appeal and make the audience understand that this type of film could very well be realistic. Alternatively, Pathos can be manipulated with certain shifts in volume or accelerated musical changes. This movie and its individual scenes were able to create an incredible soundtrack that is both catchy and metaphorically effective. The soundtrack was easily able to establish credibility, apply logos, and introduce pathos and as a result, I think that Pirates of the Caribbean deserves 5 out of 5 pickles! Music is not just used to give us a catchy tune to listen to; it is created and presented to make a point. The whole objective of the film industry is to persuade people that in the end, movies are exciting and enjoyable.

Full From The Sounds of The Hunger Games

Think about the type of music you would play as you say your final farewell to your family, potentially for good.  Or how about when you step foot in an arena of 23 other kids, one in which you know only one will remain standing. Or better yet, how about when you hold a young girl in your arms as she takes her last breath.  This is what the film score composers of The Hunger Games faced. The Hunger Games is a film about Katniss Everdeen, a young girl who voluntarily replaces her sister as the representative for her district in the Hunger Games: a last-man-standing brawl against representatives from the other eleven districts. The soundtrack in this film captures an array of emotions from sorrow and suspense to joyfulness and victory.

Film score composer, James Newton Howard, used a touching lullaby “The Meadow Song” to draw in viewers to the sorrow and pain that Katniss felt as she comforted her sister Primrose from a nightmare of the reaping day and as she stroked through the hair of young Rue as she searched for her remaining breaths.  “The quiet sound strikes us as delicate, hesitant, and weak” (Giannetti, Sound Effects). Katniss sings to Primrose in a soft, gentle voice to provide relief to her vision of being chosen as the District 12 representative.  In this scene, there are no other sounds than the voices of the characters; this draws the attention of viewers to the fear that both characters are feeling as the reaping day draws closer. Later in the film, this same lullaby is sung to Rue; however, similar in sound, the song is accompanied by a different series of emotions. Music is often used to express the internal emotions for characters, and for Rue, this song does exactly that (Giannetti, Music).  Katniss clearly expresses here despair as she sings the song, but Rue conveys her fearful emotions through both the lullaby and her eyes.  Unlike previously sung in the film, the chorus is accompanied by soft, slow background music that builds the grief during the scene. 

Loud sounds create a forceful, intense scene, while a faster tempo increases the suspense (Giannetti, Sound Effects).  When Katniss and Peeta enter the opening ceremony of the games in their flaming clothing atop a chariot the music is powerful and builds suspense as the District 12 representatives link hands.  The music then becomes louder and the beating of drums takes affect, which creates an intense scene for viewers.  The music is complemented by loud clapping and cheers from the crowd of people.  The music in this scene reminded me of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics: each country is represented, the crowd is excited, but the athletes are conflicted with nerves and excitement.

During the game, the music is intense, fearful, and creates uneasiness for viewers. In many of the scenes the soundtrack is used to underline the dialogue (Giannetti, Music).  Because Katniss is often on her own, music is used to avoid creating silence in the film.  It makes the viewer fear for her, building the suspense, as you never know when another character might pop out to take her life. The soundtrack “Booby Trap” does a great job creating a thrilling, fervent scene as Katniss travels through the unknown woods.  The pounding sounds make the viewer fear what might be waiting for her around the corner or behind the next tree. Like in many drama adventures, the music played throughout the film is without vocals, and accelerates as the scene becomes more suspenseful. For instance, when she is looking for Peeta after finding out that there can be two winners, the song is loud and the drum and violin are clearly heard.  However, when she finds Peeta, the music slows down and becomes calmer.

The music in this movie creates a suspenseful, violent, and nervous mood; it left you on the edge of your seat, fearful of what might happen in the next scene. As I watched the movie, I began to feel uneasy and frantic, as I feared for Katniss’ life. The composer for this film, James Newton Howard, added credibility to the soundtrack.  Because of the 144 other films that he composed for, some of which include The Dark Night, I Am Legend, and The Bourne Legacy, he can be trusted to create a soundtrack that is suitable to the scenes and attractive to the viewers. Along with developing ethos for the film, he created a soundtrack that strongly appealed to the emotions of the viewers. When Katniss felt worried, I felt worried. When Katniss feared for her life, I feared for her life too. The music that played throughout the course of the movie drags you along an emotional roller coaster: a roller coaster that goes up with victory and joy, down with worry and fear, and loops around with suspense.  The tunes on the soundtrack created a reaction from the viewer; they made you feel what Katniss or Peeta were feeling in the moment.  The beating of the drums or strings of the violin, the fluctuations between soft and loud, and the variations between fast paced and slow paced music all added to the pathos of the film.  Each song was logically placed to accent the emotions during the scene. Soft, gentle music was played when the characters were feeling sorrow and grief, while loud, powerful music was played for suspenseful and fearful scenes. I think that the length of the songs also added to the logos of the film because they were just long enough to emphasize and never became the dominant effect.  Most importantly, the placement of the array of sounds added the most logic to the soundtrack.  The producers of the film covered silent scenes with background music and they often associated the most sorrowful, suspenseful, and victorious scenes with music. 

Overall, I thought that the film score influenced the variety of the scenes in a positive manner. I think that the composer created a balance of sounds that imitated the emotions of each character.  Because of the credibility of James Newton Howard, because of the convincing appeal to emotions, and because of the compelling timing of each track, I would give this soundtrack a five-pickle rating.