Παρασκευή, 23 Ιουνίου 2017

Blog no. 24: Films & music

Dear, uh, listeners?

  This one's for music (again) so let's just say the greeting makes sense, yeah? Great. Two days ago was international music day as I found out, and I can't simply let that go unnoticed because if you're not gonna celebrate music what the hell will you ever celebrate about? I wrote a piece in greek for an online magazine a year ago, so allow me to slightly plagiarize myself and translate some of it for this one. Oh and since I'm a huge fan of music and I like to consider myself a cinephile, it made sense to write about them both, so here goes.
  You see, those two mediums are so closely intertwined, nowadays even more so than in previous decades, so you can't have one without the other. Even the absence of a soundtrack is, in a sense, an artistic choice some filmmakers use, with the most concrete example being the complete lack of background music for a large stretch of the Coen bro's "No country for old men" duration, which made everything so realistic, grounded, bleak, giving a sense of dread, making us scared of the things the ever-menacing Javier Bardem (and his equally menacing haircut) would do to get what he wants.
  On the other side of the spectrum, there are others that literally hang from their soundtracks as if it were their lifeline. Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Jaws wouldn't be nearly as good as they are without John Williams' incredible scores, "The Lord of the Rings" wouldn't be nearly as epic as it is without Howard Shore's bombastic compositions. Einaudi's score for "Les intouchables" and Tiersen's "Amelie" one are basically front and centre in every "listen while you're studying, start contemplating life instead" playlist. Abel Korzeniowski's score (whose name I definitely did NOT have to Google) made my heart fucking pound during last year's "Nocturnal Animals" and I'm not ashamed to say that I shed a tear or two at the end of the second Pokemon movie, when the beautifully simple ocarina melody was played during Lugia's revival. Hell, even forgettable or mediocre movies like "The Notebook" and "Remember Me" are elevated considerably solely on the merit of their incredible soundtracks.
  Whenever you're listening to Simple Minds' "Don't you forget about me" the image of the criminal's fist from "The Breakfast Club" immediately jumps to your head, "Mad World" takes you back to Jake Gylenhaal's manic laughter from "Donnie Darko", The Do's "Dust it off" makes you gaze into "I Origin's" protagonists' beautiful eyes, and Debussy's "Claire de lune" puts you next to "Ocean's Eleven" and in front of the Bellagio Fountains. More recently Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" made me tear up during the not too shabby Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2 but that might be because it's a really really good song regardless. Tarantino, amongst others, is a master of making a song get stuck in your head and connecting it with his movies and his smug face. Django's "Freedom", Reservoir Dog's "Stuck in the middle with you" and "Little green bag", and Kill Bill's "Twisted nerve" are some of the songs you'll find in my playlist from that stupidly eccentric, brilliant dude's filmography.
  Other directors more recently found some very inventive ways to fit their soundtracks into their movie's narrative. Matthew Vaughn, known for his extremely violent action scenes, manages to blend blood and mayhem with odd music choices in "Kick-Ass" and "Kingsmen", making the scenes jarring, ridiculous and, above all, hella fun. Hans Zimmer uses Edith Piaf's "Je ne regrette rien" as a literal tool for his characters to time their "kicks" in Christopher Nolan's Inception, and utilizes various slowed-down versions of the song in most of the film's soundtrack which is a brilliant way to represent the whole "time slows down in dreams" concept. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross worked together in Fincher's "Gone Girl" in a way that differentiated the dreamy sequences of Amy's diary to the grounded and mysterious scenes of Nick Dunne's attempts to find the truth. In Wong Kar Wai's "In the mood for love", the same song is being repeated throughout the whole movie, but the duration of it is analogous to the closeness of the two main characters.
   There's just so many examples but, being a *cough* responsible *cough* university student, I will spare you the details so I can actually pretend to study for my exams. Either way you can all make me and yourselves a favour and pay attention to a movie's soundtrack, it might just make you understand movies a bit more and make your music collection grow a bit bigger.

Your friendly know-it-all,
Stelios Zesiades.


Τετάρτη, 14 Ιουνίου 2017

One for the road. pt.1: Flight of the navigator

  Jessica was ready to join the others for a few beers at the park. The clock read 4:26, she was melancholic, lonely, and it was a hot summer sleepless night so she figured a beer might have helped all that go away. She jumped out of bed, wore her red shorts and a black sleeveless shirt which had a negative space bunny printed in the middle, grabbed her phone headphones and keys and left as if she was late for something. She wasn't late though, people aren't often late at 4:26 a.m. unless they have a plane to catch or a drunken friend to drive home.
  Walking out of the apartment she stopped at the front door mirror for a second, Pink Floyd's "Fearless" echoing from her headphones. At first she tried to fix her hair, but as she moved closer she just stopped and gave a long, wide-eyed stare. It wasn't a stare to check if she looked good, no, she didn't care if she looked good at the time. It was more of a glare, her eyes fixated at her own reflection. "What the hell are you doing?" she whispered, looking at her sorrowful eyes. "What the hell are you doing." she repeated, her eyes watering up. She took a tissue from her back pocket and wiped the single tear dripping from her right eye, sighed loudly and in one quick motion she opened the door and left while fixing her long black hair underneath her white over-ear headphones.
  Gambino's "3005" queued up in her playlist, but she wasn't feeling it at the moment. She wanted something to fit her mood, the kind of mood you have when you're walking alone in the break of dawn, before the city has even woken up. She chose the same artist's "Flight of the navigator" and kept going, feeling each vibration of the gentle acoustic guitar run through her body. She remembered the first time she heard that song: it was during an exam period a few years back, her future ex-boyfriend was sitting at the studying room in the weirdest position, his feet dangling from the side of the table next to his laptop and his notepad sitting on his legs. He was holding a pen on one hand, fidgeting with his fingers. He suddenly drops his pen, lets out a mild "fuck" and turns around to see if he can reach it without disturbing his sitting position. Jessica picks the pen up and hands it to him, giving him a smile and a nod. He mutters an inaudible "thank you" while smiling back, takes his feet off the table and takes his headphones off to turn to Jessica.
"Have I seen you somewhere?"
"Chemical engineering major?" she asks.
"Nah, electrical" he answers. "Tried that too but was out of my element." he adds
Jessica lets out a genuine laugh, "Oh god you're one of those" she smiles.
"What, an electrical engineer, or a guy with a good sense of humour?" he smiles back.
"Not sure if you'd fit in either category to be honest." Jess says playfully.
"And you're in?"
"Well, chemical engineering if that wasn't so apparent."
He facepalms for a second, and extends his arm to Jessica. "I'm Nick by the way. Wannabe electrical engineer, bad humour specialist and quite stupid to be frank."
"So is it Frank or is it Nick?" she asks while shaking his hand. "I'm Jessica" she adds.
"Well Jess, I see you're ready to join the bad humour club."
Both of them seemed quite into each other at that point, and they both knew it but nobody wanted to make a first move so early after they met.
"So what are you listening to?" asks Jessica to break the bit of awkward silence that had formed in the past half a minute after the handshake.
"Childish Gambino" answers Nick while turning to his laptop to navigate his music files. "You know, the guy from Community."
"He makes music?" asks Jessica, quite surprised.
"Not only that, he's amazing. Wanna listen?" he asks.
Jessica takes her chair next to Nick's and lets him put his over-ear headphones on her head.
  She's thinking how great the song is, while Nick is staring directly at her with a big smile on his face, the kind of smile you have when you introduce someone to something you're sure they will enjoy. After the song ends, she sits there and stares at Nick for a while, not saying a word, and Nick himself staring back and smiling contently.
"Wanna go out sometime?" he says all of a sudden.
Jessica smiles a wide smile and answers playfully "As long as we get to listen to some more of that stuff."
"My headphones are an extension of my head, so you can bet on that." he says. They exchange numbers and facebook profiles and Nick turns back to his laptop to continue studying. "If you have your own headphones we can study together and start listening to my stuff right now," he says. Jessica pulls her red in-ear ones and hands them to Nick, who plugs them into the audio splitter and resumes his studying position, Jessica taking her own next to him. He played "Flight of the navigator" a few more times during that studying session and the song made it to Jessica's own playlist in a matter of a few hours.
  Two years later even though she and Nick had broken up a while ago after dating for half a year, the song was still in her playlist and every time she listened to it she was reminded of him and how much fun they had together at the short period they dated. She checked her phone and scrolled to find her last conversation with him. It was from February, Nick had wished her a happy birthday and they exchanged a few messages before returning to being mostly strangers. She felt sad knowing that a person she shared all those memories with, and who knew her so well was now a stranger. She typed his phone number and put her finger over the "call" button but then she remembered: she was the one who broke up with him, and she was the one that didn't want them to keep in touch. She hoped relationships were easier than that but alas, they're not. She deleted the phone number, changed the song and moved on.