Sunday, July 22, 2012

Top 5 Movie Scores

Hello, everyone!

I have decided to do something countless others before me have dared to do - a list!  I know, it's kind of cliche, but I wanted to do lists of topics that I really love.  Let me know if you think it's a stupid idea, and I should never do it again. I'll listen, I promise (probably).

Anytime people ask me about the kind of music I listen to, I inevitably run into an awkward moment when I mention I listen to more movie scores/classical music than anything else.  At first, they look at me like I am the biggest nerd on the planet, then give me a hihg-pitched, "Oh, ok," and quickly change topics.

Not that I feel the need to justify my listening habits to the world, but there are a few reasons why this is my favorite "genre" of music. 

First, it is easier to work with this kind of music in the background because I am not distracted by lyrics.  For a law student, I find this particularly important.  Second, I am a very visual person, so listening to the music makes envisioning the story in my mind's eye kind of fun, and a retreat from whatever I am working on at the time.  Last, the songs are just plain beautiful and fun. 

So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 favorite movie scores:

1)  How to Train Your Dragon

I may have mentioned a few times that this may be my favorite movie score of all time.  I would list this among my favorite movies as well, but that is a different discussion for a different list.  John Powell did a fantastic job with this score, bringing the kinds of sounds one would anticipate from a film about vikings and dragons without making it into one giant cliche.  The tracks run the range of emotions from happy and fast-paced, to somber and contemplative.  The fact that certain tracks also elicit my favorite scenes from the movie is also a huge bonus.  I would say that my favorite track is the First Flight, where Hiccup and Toothless take to the skys for the first time.  When trapped in an office, or sitting at my desk with a stack of books that never seems to get any smaller, this little audio vacation is most welcome.  Of course, the realization that I have no dragon with which to take adventures is a crashing return to earth...

Download the album here:

2)  Game of Thrones

I instantly fell in love with Game of Thrones the first time I watched it at random.  Little did I know, I would love the score just as much!  I wouldn't say that all the tracks are consistently good - there are always quite a few I skip over when listening to it - but the overall arc of the tracks made this an instant favorite with me.  I think most of it is because the overall progression of the songs is subtle.  Of course, my favorite track is the opening theme, because who doesn't love it?!  Well, let me answer my own question - crazy people.  I haven't picked up the score from the second season yet, but I would expect it to be just as good as the first.  Mr. Ramin Djawadi - I had never heard of you before, but you now have one rabid fan at your disposal.  Well done, sir.

Download the album here:

3)  Up

This one was a challenge.  Not in the sense that I debated about putting it on here.  More in the sense that I didn't want to cop out and list all 5 as Pixar scores.  I have nothing but love for the few composers who have put out scores for the Pixar films.  Michael Giacchino, however, is by far my favorite.  I could probably do a Top 5 list just from the scores that he has brought into this world.  The score from Up really resonated with me, particularly because of all the "old-timey" undertones.  There are tracks that could appeal to all audiences, from the action-packed notes in the chase scene, to the ominous bass from villain scenes, to the forever-classic harmonies showing their life together before the official start of the movie.  It is truly some of Mr. Giacchino's best work!

Download the album here:

4)  Memoirs of a Geisha

For movie score lovers like myself, I think it's only natural to list at least one score from Mr. John Williams.  As with Mr. Giacchino, I think I could do an entire list just going through my favorites of his work alone.  It would be a difficult list, given his work on some of the best movies of all time.  He may be one of the most important composers of history, giving us so many classic melodies it was difficult to choose just one.  But, anytime I find myself in need of some soothing violin melodies, I turn to the soundtrack from Memoirs of a Geisha.  Again, it takes the tones one would expect from a movie set in Japan, while blending them with other instruments and themes to create a true audio arc.  The visuals of the film were so stunning, it is of course only natural to picture them while listening to the soundtrack as well. 

Download the Album here:

5)  Avatar

I will be the first one to admit that Avatar is not the greatest movie in the history of man/woman kind.  That being said, I still saw it three times when it was in theatres and own the Blu-Ray.  It's such a classic story that when I wasn't bogged down with analyzing the plot, I was able to enjoy the more artistic aspects of it, namely the graphics and the score in the background.  There is some really powerful stuff here, and the score does it's job of eliciting certain emotions at certain times quite well.  Ok, that kind of makes me sound like a crazy, but hear me out.  When you watch Hometree fall (spoiler alert?), you feel something as a movie-goer immersed in the story playing out in front of you.  Those same emotions are triggered when listening to that track on the score, which is generally as light-hearted and whimsical as the world of Pandora explored over nearly 3 hours. 

Download the album here:

Ok, so you might still think I'm one of those crazy ones that likes movies WAY too much.  And you're probably right.  But, there have to be people out there that feel the same way I do!  Do you have a movie score that always floats your boat?  Or maybe you vehamently disagree with one of the options above?

Leave a comment and let's talk about it!

Honorable Mentions:
Hunger Games
Pirates of the Caribbean:  Curse of the Black Pearl
All the Harry Potter Scores

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Emmy Nominations

Despite my undying love for everything media, I have to admit that I am not one to really follow awards season.  Of course, this doesn't include the Academy Awards, which I watch religiously every February.  Still, there was certainly some news in the entertainment world today:
Today the Emmy Nominations were announced:

I've made no secret of my love for Netflix, which I watch a lot, epecially now that we have Uverse and I don't have any other way to watch TV in my room.  While the movie selection on Netflix hasn't been the greatest lately, I am more happy that they are expanding the listing of Television shows available through their streaming service.  Old and new, there are always shows that I was just too young to watch at the time, or I've always heard about but never had time to watch when they came on the air.

Because of this expanding interest in TV, I have to admit that the listing on nominations was pretty exciting to me this morning, and I enjoyed reading through the list and seeing who was nominated and who was snubbed.  What's almost more fun is seeing what entertainment gurus have to say about who was, and was not, nominated.  Twitter was abuzz this morning with star after star, media outlet after media outlet, sharing their reactions to the listings.

Here are some of the nominations that I am particularly pleased with:

Best Comedy Series:  Modern Family.

Best Drama Series:  Game of Thrones.  Hands Down.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series:  Glenn Close, Damages.  Still in love with this show!

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series:  Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones.  For obvious reasons.

Miniseries or Movie:  Hatfields & McCoys.  I watched this with my mom, and it was fantastic.  Highly recommend for those that haven't seen it!

We'll see who wins when the show airs on September 23rd, 7 pm ET. 

What do you think of the nominations?  Any that you're particuarly pulling for?  Or maybe you were shocked to not see some names on there?  Weigh in and let me know!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Fourth!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July!  It was a whopping 104 degrees today, and St. Louis county has issued an ordinance banning the igniting of fireworks this year.  Isn't stopping anyone around us, though.  I don't mind it.

My day was spent eating delicious foods, watching America's Funniest Home Videos and staying out of the heat as much as possible.  I got my favorite food in the entire world today - barbeque pork steak.  It never fails to put a smile on my face!

Of course with today being a Wednesday, I have to work in the morning, which means it's time to turn in kind of early and get ready for the week's worth of work that is likely sitting on my desk when I get there tomorrow!

Hope everyone had an enjoyable Holiday, and there will be more from me soon!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Brave - Pixar's Newest Triumph


Those that know me know that I am a HUGE fan of Pixar.  I've seen every Pixar creation, with the exception of Cars 2, as I didn't care much for the first Cars movie.  It wasn't that it was horrible - I'm guessing it had something to do with the fact that I wasn't an 8 year-old boy.  

If you've been living under a rock, and don't know what movie I am talking about, you can pause reading this and go check out the trailer here:  Brave Trailer #4

Then go see the movie immediately. 

You can come back at that point and read the rest of this post, if you don't want to spoil anything.  If you've already seen it - read on!


I was particularly excited for Brave because of the possibility of a strong, red-headed female protagonist who strove for independence not because of a distant prince from the surface world.  Yes, I'm talking about you, Ariel.  On this front, Brave certainly delivers.

I like the fact that there is not a "love story" entwined in Brave, since it really allows for an exploration of a far more fundamental relationship - that between mother and daughter.  The relationship between Merida and Elinor hits closer to home than I thought it would, and I was glad that the previews for the movie gave nothing away as to this storyline.  Sure, the ending was a little cheesy, but let's not forget that this is fundamentally a movie for children, so it was to be expected.  It gave me the strong urge to go home and hug my mother for putting up with me through all those teen years.

There were some darker moments that I could see bothering younger children, particularly with the bears involved.  They are scary, appear out of nowhere, make loud noises and swipe all over the place.  But overall, I think there was enough comedy perceivable to both adults and children that make this a great family film for all.  Again, I expect nothing less from Pixar at this point.  I think this is one of their strongest pulls as a film production company - they can seamlessly integrate adult and child humor into one film, providing various levels of comedy that continue to entertain even after watching the film for the first, second or even third time.

The animation is, of course, stunning.  I'd expect nothing short of visual mastery from Pixar, and I was particularly impressed with how they rendered Merida's hair and the detail with which they got every single curl.  I didn't see this movie in 3D, but I would be interested in it to see if they captured the same detail and made the 3D "worth it."  (if I didn't have to pay $12 for a matinee ticket...)
The score was also fantastic.  I am now a huge fan of Julie Fowlis, who sang the vocal tracks on the soundtrack.  I read a review that criticizes the score for being very similar to Dreamwork's How to Train your Dragon score.  I don't see this as a negative.  To this day, that is my favorite movie score. 

Brave's certainly had some HTTYD-esque notes to it, but you have to remember that we are comparing Vikings to Scotland.  The soundtrack evoked that imagry and feel without succumbing to stereotypical sounds and instruments.  Patrick Doyle (only the 4th composer to work on a Pixar film) took special care, I feel, to integrate the Scottish-themed instruments that we would expect (particularly bagpipes, which I can't get enough of) into the music rather than using the same sounds in each song.  I'd give the score 4/5 stars, only because I reserve 5 for How to Train Your Dragon caliber.

Lastly, let's look at the Pixar Short, La Luna.  I loved it.  It's not the best short in the history of Pixar, but it was really cute.  The tale of a little boy learning his father and grandfather's trade - on the moon.  It's just heartwarming.  The images were beautiful, and it put a smile on my face to say the least.  A great way to lead up to the movie!

Overall, Brave certainly lived up to my expectations.  It's not the caliber of Up, or Finding Nemo, but it's an endearing tale that looks stunning and is just genuinely fun to watch.  Not too shabby, Pixar.  Not too shabby.

I will eagerly await this one on Blu-Ray, and highly recommend to kids and adults of all ages.

4 1/2 out of 5 Stars.

What about you?  Did you care for the movie?  Did it live up to your expectations of Pixar?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ginger Snaps 2.0

Greetings Everyone!

For those of you that have tolerated my disappearance, I am very glad that you’re back to read a few more rants from my mind.  For those of you checking me out for the first time, I’m glad that you’re joining me for this fresh start.  I should warn you that this post will likely be much longer than "normal" posts that will be coming your way, but we have a lot to talk about.  Let's get started.

First, let’s talk a little bit about what happened.  Law school is tough.  I think we covered that in some of the older posts.  When I was in undergrad, majoring in PR, we talked about finding a “hook” – something that would make you stand out amongst a sea of noise on the internet.  So, I decided that my hook would be law school.  But, that’s the problem, and why I think a year long disappearance was destined to happen.  I sit in law school, or clerk for law firms, every day of the year.  The last thing I want to do most nights is come home and take to the blogosphere with stuff about law school or legal careers.

So, I decided that it was time to take Ginger Snaps in a different direction.  I decided that it was time for me to write about something that actually interests me, in the hopes that it will not only make these posts more entertaining to read in the future, but more entertaining for me to write as well.  Hopefully, this will give me some solid material that I can provide to you on a semi-regular basis.  After all, you do things better when you enjoy doing them!

Knowing a little about me may help you understand where this new direction is pointing.  First off, I am entering my third year of law school at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.  I have two degreed from Pepperdine University in Malibu California, one in Psychology, the other in Public Relations.  I hope to specialize in IP law, focusing on trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, but am interested in corporate law as well, because of the obvious connections between the two.  As of right now, I am clerking for a small firm in St. Louis, where I was born, as well as interning in the appellate division of ADP Unemployment Group, also in St. Louis.

I used to think that I didn’t have any hobbies because I was too busy between school, working, sleeping, eating and spending time with family and friends.  However, it has come to my attention that I am kind of an entertainment junky.  I love movies, TV shows, social media and everything that relates to them.  I think that it’s this love that has really influenced my future career aspirations, and now this blog.

My escape from my “professional life,” which is your entire life when you’re in law school, is media.  I’ll say it – I don’t know how on earth I survived before Netflix.  I love the internet, I love finding obscure news stories, I love finding the latest celebrity gossip, and I love sharing these things with the world.  So, it seems natural that this is what I should talk about - my passions.

So, with all that in mind, on to the actual proposal.

I know that there are TONS of entertainment news blogs and arenas out there.  I don’t propose that mine is going to be breaking news, or that it is even going to be new news to anyone.  But, I think that coming from law school and the background that I have gives a unique perspective to a lot of the things that go on in the world.  Undoubtedly, this background will rear it’s head in every post I do, but I am a firm believer in consulting as many opinions as possible if you’re trying to figure out exactly what your own stance is on something.  I encourage healthy debate, and I promise not to shy away from some of the more controversial topics that are on there, chock full of ridiculous public comments showing just how crazy internet anonymity has made us.  So, that’s what I am going to do.

I would like to share my thoughts of movies and current media trends, talk about interesting news stories that might be missed amongst the headlines of each news source.  Share my opinions on current topics, and always keep it entertaining.

Gingers are, after all, natural born entertainers.  We’re on display from the time we are born.

I hope that this is an introduction to me, for those of you that don’t know me, an explanation for where I have been for those of you that do, and an invitation for you to come back and check in once in a while to see what antics I’ve been up to.  You can also follow my twitter feed, @GingerSnapBlog.  I assure you, it won’t be boring around here.