Friday, October 28, 2011

An Alien in Australia

By R. Godfrey Rivers, 1904.
This is my favourite painting ever. I first saw it, acknowledged it, walked around the entire art gallery, then left, then returned an hour later just to look at it again.

Mylo Xyloto no big deal

I want to write a joke here about MX Magazine.
Mylo Xyloto (say "my-lo zy-le-toe" out loud, then marvel at how superfluous it is) marks Coldplay's further attempt to conquer every single instrument known to man. The album has been hyped up pretty much since the release of Viva La Vida back in 2008, and since Coldplay is seen as one of the world's biggest bands the album has a lot to live up to. Overall the album is fairly ordinary of Coldplay with a few great songs, a few lame ones, and a bunch of stupid transitional tracks that last about 30 seconds that should have just been stuck onto their respective tracks.

The album has a few great moments. "Hurts Like Heaven" is a really good album opener, it's high energy and catchy and distinctly feel good, but the best tracks are spread between the album. "Paradise" is hypnotic, boasting these otherworldly strings which pulsate throughout the song in parallel with multi-layered vocals, synths and piano. The song is entrancing and somewhat seductive, make it the quintessential, good, original sound that Coldplay is world famous for. The middle of the album has "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall", which is somewhat obnoxious with its instrumentation domination scheme and the indie-hip lyrics about being original and partying down to music while emotionally crying (or something like that) is really feel-good with the embellishments and guitar rifts at the same time as a bitching drumbeat. The best moment on the album is "U.F.O" - it's sensibly and appropriately short, with Martin's vocals being suitable and tolerable. The single acoustic guitar is glorified by a gorgeous chorus of strings which evokes a sense of nostalgia while continually evolving.

The rest of the tracks are okay but really nothing special. “Princess of China”, “Charlie Brown” and “Up With the Birds” are effectively elevator music to me. "Us Against the World" is pedestrian - it sounds like a B side from A Rush of Blood to the Head, sounding okay but not particularly memorable or special. "Up in Flames" is dreadful, I just deleted it off my computer. It's such a soapy self-indulgent mope which sounds like a combination of a soft-core porn soundtrack and a dirge, created by the usual Coldplay piano, clichéd 80s synths and loops sprinkled with Martin's woeful falsetto. It may only run at 3:13 but it feels like an eternity, I completely tuned out after 30 seconds. The other disaster is "Don't Let It Break Your Heart" which is just a bombardment of high energy drums, fucking stupid synths and yodelling with seriously bizarre mixing. I just can't handle it, and I don't think I can face listening to it again.

The album is extremely mediocre, and although it's not totally unpleasant and has a few decent songs, I've got no desire to listen to it again when I've got a ton of other great music to experience. I'm fairly sure if this didn't have the word 'Coldplay' tied to it, it wouldn't be doing anywhere near as well as it is on the charts. I'm going to wrap this up right now since I'm going to listen to Une Sorcière Comme Les Autres again because it's over 9000 times more interesting. 

Mylo Xyloto is available worldwide for something like $15.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

La Boite's 2012 Season Launch

La Boite's 2012 Season Launch was amazing fun, and I am ecstatic about next year's line up. I think I got an offer to attend because of the ambassador campaign back in May when me, Jordan, and a couple of other people were put in some brochures to raise some money for La Boite's ambassador program. Let's just get the negativity out of the way: I'm not keen on any of the fonts being used for the show titles, but hopefully at this point they're just placeholders until artwork/design is finalised

The night started off with a video that attacks your senses making references to the season before a frenzied Helen Howard talking about all the opportunities in life that have passed her by concluding with an introduction to the first mainstage show, As You Like It. It will be directed by David Berthold (so expect some shirtless people) and opens in February. I can't wait for this show - the cast has 10 primary actors playing the major roles and an additional chorus of actors in training from QUT and... the other place. I think I heard the total number being something like 18, which I am really excited for since La Boite's biggest cast this year was 7. Glad to see that Thomas Larkin, Kathryn Marquet and Hayden Spencer are also returning to the box. I hope there are some trees or foliage in this show.

The next show that will be a mainstage is Midsummer, a loose adaptation on A Midsummer Night's Dream with songs (which was my original pick for David to direct). Looks like La Boite picked up that Brisbane audiences are lapping up musical material, because this has sold out theatres in the UK and the US - we're even being treated to the original duo cast. Cora Bissett and Matthew Pigeon, who are the mains, popped up on video and said how delighted they were to be coming to Brisbane. Providing that the music is good, I am too.

In May we'll be experiencing A Hoax which is the play I'm least looking forward to. It apparently revolves around an Indigenous woman who allegedly wrote a best-seller memoir, and has been offered to write a sequel - however, it turns out the original was written by a white social worker on her behalf. Panic ensures. The world turns upside down, panic ensures, babies eat dingos, etc. La Boite bills it as a "vicious satire on the politics of identity, modern celebrity and the peddling of abuse culture". Sounds heavy, but I guess we had to have one of them.

I lost my shit when it was announced that The Harbinger was making a return, but as a mainstage, in August. I remembered when David gingerly told us that they were re-working the whole thing, and it makes total sense since the season was a total sell out. I think this could potentially be the show where I leave La Boite loving everything, providing it has better music and less pirates. Dead Puppet Society absolutely deserve all the attention they're getting and I really hope I'm mesmerised by it this time.

The last mainstage show which plays in September til October is Tender Napalm which will also be directed by David Berthold. It's billed as just another love story which evolves into a fantasy of 'tales of golden shores, snakes, serpents, kings, queens and blood'. I just can't really comprehend the description at all, it's that bizarre. It will probably have shirtless people, but judging by the artwork I guess it'll be visually stunning (I hope).

There are 5 Indie shows this year. The Danger Ensemble are returning with Children of War directed by Stephen Mitchell Wright, which will undoubtedly be a winning combination. I'm thrilled that Benjamin Schostakowski's ensemble Monsters Appear will be playing A Tribute of Sorts, which is a piece inspired by Edward Gorey's delicious macabre work. The others I don't really have any opinions on because I was too happy for everyone else. Looking forward to them though.

After that we partied til the cows went home and then went home with the cows and partied some more. I walked around hugging and kissing everyone who was badass, thanked a number of people, continually shouted at David Morton, and sang many obnoxious Sondheim lyrics at various people.

It was an incredible night and all I can say is that I would rather be an ambassador for La Boite next year because I can't wait. In fact, I can't believe it was just yesterday - it feels like years ago already. The 2012 line-up looks explosive, vibrant and unbelievably exciting. Mixing the contemporary with the traditional, as always David Berthold's choice of theatre has totally repositioned La Boite as Brisbane's most compelling theatre venue - there's so much new, exciting talent and originality coming from these shows. I just can't wait. Not sure how I'll sneak into the launch next year, but I sure hope it'll happen.

I never want to wash this off... wish it was Season Launch every night!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Today, in This Week

I thought I should probably write something to bump the picture of the Blobfish down because I've had some complaints about how ugly it is (you savages).

I got a copy of Pro Tools which fucking rocks my socks. It comes with over 6000 samples of audio including loops and instruments. I haven't even scratched the surface of the interface yet - it allows you to edit MIDIs, edit audio, record straight into. Like, I am dying here, I have endless possibilities of what to do now. Dying. Right here. Now I can make REAL demos.

I think I'm excited with the new Coldplay CD, but to be honest in the same day I got two new Jorane CDs and I can't handle them either, they're just so good. I haven't even bothered looking at Coldplay beyond a first listen. I also had a listen to Bruno Corlais' soundtrack for Coraline, which is also gorgeous. A nice eclectic blend of acoustic and orchestra instruments in addition to a kids choir that sings in an imaginary language - the style is very similar to Benoit Jutras' way of composing which I guess makes sense since they share French in their roots. Listened to Parade (OLC) again while doing the dishes and I almost killed myself I forgot how sad it was. I'm soooo indie. Too much good music!

La Boite 2012 Season Launch tomorrow which should be awesome. Also volunteering at QPAC on Thursday and Friday which should be good fun too.

Uhh well that's all for now. We'll finish with a picture I drew especially for you, dear reader, inspired by Picasso.
Don't scroll down any further than this, or you'll see the Blobfish! (You bigot) 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Blobfish That Was Beautiful to Me

I've decided that among all my random ideas for pieces to devise, I've decided that the most attractive project would be on the ugliest of subjects:
Oh, just look at it.
For those not in the know, that gorgeous little specimen is called a Blobfish. There are a bunch of fucking weird things in the ocean, but this one takes the cake for me. They are rarely seen by humans due to the fact they live live deep under the water, off the shores of Tasmania and Victoria right here in Australia. How lucky are we!? Dubbed as "the world's most miserable looking fish" by the London's Daily Telegraph, the Blobfish have no bones because they live hundreds of miles under the surface, where the pressure is so great if they had bones they would be pulverized. Shit man, I'm not even sure if they can swim - they're inedible because they're made out of a mass of gelatinous material which has a density that's slightly less than water, which lets them bob along the ocean floor without exerting any energy. This way they can just float along with their mouths open, eating whatever passes in front.

Lest you ever encounter a floating Blobfish, it would simply devour you whole. Apparently they also make an active effort to consume shellfish such as crabs, but looking at their track-record I find this unlikely, probably just a scandalous rumor concocted to besmirch the untainted reputation of the benevolent Blobfish. The pressing matter is that the Blobfish are currently facing extinction due to deep-sea trawling. They're farmed accidentally in the same areas where lobsters, the arguably better looking species, are harvested. I'm not sure what the rate of reproduction between Blobfish are, but rolls of gelatinous mass couldn't be getting it on too often. Numbers are diminishing, and it's not known if these fish live anywhere else except Australia. Our time is running out!

The look, the sadness in his eyes. Unhappiness can be seductive, but probably not in this case.
Yes, okay, on the first impression they're hideous. Disgusting, fuck ugly monsters. But what an assumption to make to say they're all the same! In the comment sections of news reports across the Internet, these unique creatures have attracted a wall of hateful responses. There is so much potential and content to discuss when it comes to Blobfish. Perhaps a good old fashioned allegory on judging based on appearance? An uplifting tale about self-discovery and finding individuality? Just something to raise awareness about their dreadful plight? I know this entire article has a hint of sarcasm, but I'm serious about raising awareness. These may be grotesque creatures, but their threat of extinction is very real.

I don't know how, but this blogpost has convinced me that this will definitely happen (probably for Capillaries next year?). But to end, I noticed this remarkable discovery. Someone get Dead Puppet Society on the phone, I need to point this out. That's a snapshot of the fat version of Victor Blott from Dead Puppet Society's 2009 show Victor Blott - A Desire to Rot. You may not have noticed it quite so quickly, but if stick eyebrows on our charming gelatinous relations... what do we have here?!

My. God.
The resemblance is uncanny; collaboration is imminent.

But seriously, if anyone in the Brisbane region is keen to help get this ridiculous idea moving, send me a message on Facebook. I think we could be on to something.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

'Mind Games' is Cabaret on Steroids

Jo, being the vixen she is.
I am exhausted from all the brilliant art that has attacked me this week, but I wanted to write down some quick thoughts on Mind Games, in the hope that it will inspire some more people to try to catch the show as soon as possible. But anyway, what a week - the Iris soundtrack, then Ruben Guthrie, and tonight was Mind Games. Written, composed, and performed by the versatile Jo Loth, Mind Games is a cabaret that revolves around the theme of depression and mental health. It's probably not the most marketable show, but it's a crime that Mind Games won't be sold out every night.

Jo Loth storms the stage as her German diva alter-ego, the vivacious and hilarious Jolene Mindtrick. Loth's performance is like a prism held up to light a complex delivery that is just brimming with emotion. With great sensitivity and respect to the subject, she guides the audience through a totally unique experience. Mind Games is funny, charming, and engaging - the entire thing just sparkles with brilliance, captivating the audience through the essence of humanity and honesty.

The ingenuity of this production is the way that Loth's songs incorporate separate narratives into the music. They're funny, ironic, and incredibly touching. Any audience member who has experienced or had contact with depression can empathise with a score of characters which are found throughout the stories within the songs. While Loth has intertwined her personal life with the show, her personal stories never become unbearable or totally immersive since the audience is alienated by the fragmentation and interjections of other stories. Not that it stops us from being connected - the scene where Loth describes spending nights alone crying and contemplating killing herself just left me in a silent wreck. I fucking thought I was going to die from sheer excellence - I don't think I've ever connected with anything so heavily in theatre.

The musical score for this show was the center point and was the highlight. Loth, alongside the exceptionally talented arranger and pianist Wade Gregory, has composed songs that stretch over numerous genres, including rap, country, and faux-classical. The music is catchy, with some stand out tunes that are so touching - they're not pandering or boring compositions either, they're memorable and really enjoyable. Like the genres, Loth's vocals are diverse, flicking between dynamic, sultry, soft, raspy, and operatic with ease. She has a formidable but lilting timbre which adapted to fit all her vocal styles, and she was a delight to listen to. Gregory masters the piano, flicking in improvisations and embellishments on the music to add to that sparkling live element of the production. The duo are exceptional performers and I hope a collaboration or recording of this eventually surfaces because the music was great (despite the fact it destroyed me). I've actually been singing 'I'm Fine' out loud since I left the theatre 4 hours ago.

I wish this show could have had a high budget. I sat there wishing Loth could have a score of musicians, and that MetroArts could have had a more complex lighting and sound set up. The only complaint I have was the encore. After this gorgeous ballad, mixed with these unbelievably inspiring and uplifting speeches that separate the verses, there's an encore. Fair enough, the music is well worth it, but the song is a reprise of the opening song. Fair enough, but the opening song has these lyrics which are pretty heavy, talking about exposing our failures and repeatedly reminding everyone of our humiliations. It's an awesome song melodically, but I would have liked to have heard some cheeky new lyrics rather than feeling that we'd run around in a circle. Would have preferred a reprise of 'I'm Fine', but I guess that would have been an even more unsuitable choice.

The most touching part of the show was the reaction it provoked. There was a table at the back with information and brochures on depression, which a good portion of the audience went up to and collected whatever they wanted. I commented that it was a bit sad that it had to happen at all, but Jo said it was a good thing people were trying to help themselves or others. The idea that people have been so moved by the show as to be inspired to change an aspect of their lives is just a testament to how incredible this night was.

It's hard to comprehend we're still in Brisbane with so much incredible entertainment playing around the corner. I loved Mind Games. I'm planning on seeing it at least three times, it's just so worth it. Engaging through its witty script and the connection it establishes, Mind Games is a captivating and touching performance by Jo Loth and Wade Gregory, who glide through music styles and emotions with ease. Please, please make an effort to see it. I guarantee you will not regret it. And if you do, make sure you recommend the show to someone you don't like so they can hate it as much as you do...

ETA (18/10/11): Caught the show again on Tuesday, and Jo's put in an alternative encore. After the fun reprise of the opening song, she says "Now here's attempt #2 at being a Jazz singer". It's a revelation - a symbolic victory that she's overcome all the obstacles and is finally achieving what she loves. The ending is now wonderful. You go, Jo! 

Tickets for Jo Loth's 'Mind Games' range from $15-$20, and is showing until October 22 and is showing at MetroArts Studio. Book by visiting the Metro Arts website or by calling (07) 3002 7100.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ruben Guthrie - Two Thumbs Up

Just looking at that makes you want to drink something.
Just quietly, between me and you, people who sporadically read this blog, there were dozens of times during Ruben Guthrie where I just wanted to grab (or hug) director David Berthold and just say "Nice job". I think blog reviews are over 9000 times more entertaining to write if I had mounds of scathing criticism, but I can't really fault Ruben Guthrie in any specific area. A dark, contemporary Australian comedy, La Boite have indeed gone out of this scene with an extremely humane production. Ruben Guthrie is a drama that's devastatingly emotionally draining, highly relevant and ultimately, extremely relatable to its audience.

Ruben Guthrie is a 29 year-old creative executive of 'Subliminal', the most successful advertising company in Australia. After a celebratory night resulting in drinking way too much, Ruben's loved ones intervene by claiming he has a problem with alcohol, and ship him off to begin AA meetings. From there, his personal and professional life change dramatically to accommodate his new life of abstaining from alcohol, and the support network of Ruben is firmly tested.

Lauren Orrell (Zorya) and Gyton Grantley (Ruben) sizzle with chemistry onstage. Hooray!
The cast are electric, combining to create an ensemble performance that runs the gamut of human emotion. Gyton Grantley stars in the titular role, playing Ruben Guthrie as the cheeky and arrogant, but infuriatingly loveable and obscurely relateable victim. I was originally going to describe Grantley's portrayal of Ruben by comparing it to something like a prism held up to a light that omitted different colours depending on how you looked at it, but I haven't slept in a while so it would be silly for me to try and conquer that. But his portrayal is multi-faceted, easily transferring himself between the comedy and his most profound personal thoughts through his impressive ability to tap into performing with inspiring, vivid realism. The role seems gargantuan, and to communicate such a deeply emotional tale of struggle for an audience each night, and to make it seem original each night, there can only be good things said about Grantley's performance. The remainder of the cast are excellent and are almost perfectly cast in their roles, playing them sensitively and realistically, without falling into any notable clichés. Darren Sabadina, who makes his professional stage debut, plays Ruben's closest friend, a shameless and flamboyantly gay socialite and fellow drinks enthusiast called Damien. Filthy in speech and action, Sabadina adorns the role with sly attributes such as continually encouraging Ruben to give into temptation. The rest of the male cast also attempt to deter Ruben off his new path. Hayden Spencer plays the suave and crafty boss, whose talent for devising advertisements pales severely in comparison to his star pupil Ruben. As Ruben's performance drops due to his creativity diminishing from a lack of alcohol, his advice to Ruben is vague, unhelpful, and occasionally contradicting as he simultaneously works to suppress his own personal experiences. Ruben's father, played by John McNeill, is equally unhelpful. In a state of disbelief, his father awkwardly tries to encourage Ruben to continue his initiative, but constantly becomes a hurdle by insisting that Ruben should drink. McNeill's performance is fascinating to watch, as he embodies the Australian attitude of drinking so spot-on. His feel and actions in the role are absolutely natural and believable.

The stand outs are found in the female cast - they were comprised of such vivacious performances that I feel I'll never tire of watching. Lauren Orrell, who in Ruben Guthrie makes her professional stage debut, plays Ruben's fiancée Zorya in a manner that is utterly charming. As Zorya, Orrell steals the stage with her portrayal that balances a weak attempt to emit an icy callousness, which is fragmented by a lovely tenderness towards Ruben which aches of compassion and naiveness. The chemistry between her and Grately is just explosive, oozing with sensuality and character that's both endearing and ultimately tragic. Kathryn Marquet plays Ruben's sponsor and later fiancée Virginia with an ingenious and sort of unnerving mix of a playful and happy-go-lucky girl that often dramatically jumps between being sportive and being utterly domineering and ferociously controlling over Ruben's actions. Marquet's character is so complex, a very sweet and quirky do-gooder who wants the best for Ruben but communicates this horrible, festering, controlling nature that's delivered in lines such as "I'll tell you when you're different" and "Your life is my life now." I literally shook my head in panic when she said those lines - it was just such an incredible achievement in communicating a subtext. Ruben's mother, played by the supremely talented Caroline Kennison, commands the stage so strongly with an air of maternal caring and wisdom, but also unearthed anguish. There were scores of moments where I was touched by the emotion found in her actions, but her soliloquy in the second act is nothing short of brilliant. I was practically moved to tears alongside her, as she regretfully acknowledges to the audience that the men around her have been slowly consumed by alcoholism while she has silently watched on. The performance that the ladies of the cast portray is simply stunning.

Caroline Kennison (Susan) owning the stage with one of her numerous provoking moments.
The most coruscating moment in the drama is when Ruben, severely intoxicated after an intense relapse, hears a series of attempted interventions from his family and friends. Although it started off in a dangerous manner of Ruben mumbling shit like "Mummy, Daddy" (gross. If anyone is writing theatre avoid using those words at all cost. It's almost as corny as having people singing 'Happy Birthday' in a vapid attempt to create some unnerving tension. Anyway, I'll continue writing positive remarks), I ended up with goosebumps in this scene, which was a perfect balance of interaction from the ensemble with Ruben. Wefts and interjections of pre-recorded dialogue in addition to a low key electrical drones are interweaved with Ruben's breakdown and the active dialogue of the ensemble. It's a moment in the drama which is utterly compelling, a moment of truth where each character reveals their personal fragilities and fears to help Ruben slow his insatiable thirst of alcohol. In a warped way I'd say it's a beautiful scene, which shows alcohol as a luxury which potentially can effect anyone's life.

On a whole the show is excellent. Among the comedy there are so many fantastic, entertaining, and moving moments that resonated with me. What's so wonderful about Ruben Guthrie is that it's totally relatable. Most of its audience can totally identify and empathize with these characters on stage - it shows a facet of humanity that hasn't been attained in the mainstage La Boite shows this year til now.  Since drinking is a gigantic part of our lives, the commentary on the attitude Australians have towards alcohol is fascinating since it's absolutely true - the ridicule Ruben receives from his father and his boss after requesting water rather than wine is totally spot on. The anger that Spencer erupts into, bemoaning how Australia has become infested by metrosexuals is undeniably a topical matter that Brendan Cowell has chosen to question at this point in time, and the acknowledgement of the problems of alcohol have become more prevalent due to organisations such as Alchoholics Anonymous seeking a change in awareness. The ingenuity of the text is found through its purpose to question our own association and moderation with alcohol. Says the boy who drank five beers within an hour after the show. Yewww!

There only aspect I wasn't thrilled with was the portrayal of Ruben's friend gay friend Damien. It comes across as really obnoxious. Loud and shameless, he emits the same persona as the Sassy Gay Friend where you just feel the need to eat some fire to get past how grating it is. I get the feeling if he was directed to tone down the outrageous actions and the chemistry between him and Ruben would have been much more intriguing. The moment where Damien breaks down after being called a 'faggot' seemed totally out of character since someone so flamboyant who regularly refers to himself in that manner... it seemed it would have made more sense if he had processed the thought internally and used his voice to express some disappointment. Anyway, one criticism for a 2 hour and 30 minute play isn't too bad.

Darren Sabadina (Damien) and Gyton Grantley (Ruben) in the penultimate scene.
Lighting and sound was fine. Although the lighting had something like 9000 lights on at once the only moment where I actively appreciated it was during the glorious creation of the Arctic Circle. I don't really have anything to say about the sound, except that I did enjoy the feel of the rock intro/outroduction. Likewise with the costumes, they were so realistic and relevant I can't say anything beyond it being acceptable, and the set was minimalist so I don't have any words on that either. This wasn't something that evoked an incredible mise-en-scène, but I was thrilled that Ruben Guthrie was actually using the theatre-in-the-round format. The layout and direction of the staging was excellent and I really love the idea that each time you view the show you'll be able to find a new point of view and see scenes in a new light.

Overall, Ruben Guthrie is a wonderful play to end the La Boite season. I'm tempted to call it beautiful, but that doesn't seem to be a term that's popular with anyone at the moment. With a top-notch ensemble of actors led by the charismatic Gyton Grantley, Brendan Cowell's text is vividly brought to life to examine the fragility of the human willpower and question our association with alcohol and note the effects of our actions on our surroundings (like David hitting my beer out of my hand and smashing it on the ground). Totally recommended, although prepare to feel emotionally drained and have an annoying inclination to control yourself the next time you reach for your sixth drink. A tour-de-force of emotion and drama that is worth seeing, two thumbs up.

Tickets for 'Ruben Guthrie' range from $28-$48 (or if we're besties, $18), and is showing until November . Book by visiting La Boite's website or by calling (07) 3007 8600. The photos on this page are taken by Al Caeiro  
which I stole from the resources section of the La Boite website, but it should be okay because it's for promotional purposes so they hopefully make some more money, so don't try to make me the bad guy in all of this, but I'll have no problems with removing them.

Cirque du Soleil and Danny Elfman present Iris - Spectacular

The new, shitty cover.
I was NOT prepared for the brilliance of this soundtrack. I hoped on the bus and saw a link to the album, loaded it, and literally teared up. Enter a lamenting, entrancing and gorgeous piano introduction - listen as it builds, swelling with embellishments of a symphonic orchestra, into a flourishing waltz. All at once the piece is powerful and moving, yet subtle and magical. The new Iris soundtrack by Cirque du Soleil is just brilliant! Danny Elfman provides a style that is simply magical. It's incredible, a compelling and generous creation that draws upon ultra, neo-Romantic composing techniques combined with an eclectic mix of world influences all stamped with Elfman's incredible idiosyncratic pallet. There are beautiful piano melodies, exhilarating string arrangements and bold, brassy moments which render the album to be nothing short of phenomenal.

This is Elfman at his best. Working on this project for a solid two years, as opposed to the usual soundtrack deal of three months on a movie, the soundscape of this album is so varied and dynamic it's hard to comprehend the awesomeness on a first listen. A homage to the scores of movies, this soundtrack draws upon references and reinvents popular and stereotypical movie music styles. There are shout outs to jungle blockbusters like Indiana Jones and King Kong ('Snake Women', 'Patterns'), Gothic and magical scores such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands ('Silent Movie', 'The Twins'), the schmooze vibe tones of the trendy 20's ('Film Noir', 'Movie Studio'), and a tour-de-force homage to the syncopated beats of West Side Story ('Rooftops'). Despite their influences, all the tracks inherently original, and the experience is incredible. I'm actually running out of inventive words to use to describe it. The upbeat 'Kiriki' theme is a brilliant fusion of exhilarating rhymic strings with bows on fire in a distinctly circus and Gothic vibe, and 'Scarlett Balancing' is simply heartbreaking - the lyrics have the potential to be corny and pandering but in this case they come across as esoteric and nebulous combined with the luscious arrangement of the orchestra and the ethereal mixing of the choir.

The most coruscating moment on the album is the exquisite and flawless 'The Broom/Flying Scarlett' arrangement. Beginning with a reprise of the opening tune shared delicately between woodwinds and a solo violin while strings flourish softly behind, the piece is utterly stunning. It provokes this incredible but practically indescribable emotion that resembles something like yearning. It's an ephemeral and achingly beautiful piano waltz paired with this forlorn, angelic voice which fragments and harmonies itself, and slowly layers with chimes and glockenspiels which leads into the striking, driving and powerful orchestra accompaniment. The arrangement is sweeping. Fucking oath, I'm listening to this right now and I am covered in goosebumps -  it's just so good.

It's been way too long since a soundtrack, and a Cirque du Soleil one at that, has moved and resonated with me. It's been an absolute joy to discover this wonderful soundtrack. Danny Elfman has managed to bring his own style to Cirque du Soleil without alienating or messing up its typical world flavour, and the melodies and motifs he has crafted are some of the most beautiful I think I've ever heard in a soundtrack. Iris is simply stunning - to all Elfman fans, soundtrack aficionados, and music lovers, you will not regret listening to this. Check out the link below to get a listen to the album in full streaming. Simple worldclass quality - it's good to see that the Machine du Soleil can still produce magic with the right direction.

Cirque du Soleil's 'IRIS' is written by Danny Elfman, and will be available worldwide on November 22nd for $15 and can be pre-ordered on and the Cirque du Soleil Online Boutique. You can hear the entire album in full streaming at the Iris Official Website.

ETA (18/10/11): They've reverted to the new, shitty cover design. Gross. Way to cock up the CD again, Cirque.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Jorane Rocks My Socks

I always enjoy listening to beautiful and talented women.
Really, I bought Evapore by Jorane about 3 years back, and although I've loved it for some reason I never thought to branch out into her other stuff. I found 'Stay' on YouTube and listened to the original over 9000 times. This cover is great too. Watch and enjoy, people. Meanwhile, I want another Jorane CD asap.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Can't Write This Assignment

I have 17 pages of notes, a clear idea of how Robert Lepage makes theatre, and a huge knowledge of KÀ. But I can't seem to write this assignment.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Five Great Movie Moments

In my eyes, obviously. If you were going to pop up and tell me that "SAM, THATS JUST UR OPINION!", stop right there - because we all know that it's my opinion on the basis that I was the one that said it. This is just a list of five moments that pop into my head if someone ever asks "What are you favourite movie moments?" and they usually haven't heard of them.

This blog post contains major spoilers for any of the movies you haven't seen. So read at your own risk I suppose.

5. Hypatia's Last Walk
Rachel Weisz plays Hypatia and Max Minghella plays Davus.
 Movie: Agora Year: 2009 Director: Alejandro Amenábar Actor(s): Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella 

Agora is a semi-fictional historical drama based on the life of Hypatia (Weisz), a female mathematician, philosopher, astronomer and dreamer from 400 CE. Her perseverance in studying and teaching the subject of stars among the religious turmoil of her time resulted her being ostracised by Christians who believe her to be a witch. In the final scene of the film, Hypatia is dragged to an alter, stripped naked, and is to be skinned alive by the Christians. At the suggestion of her long time friend and once-slave Davus (Minghella), who has felt an unrequited love towards her all his life, the Christians choose to stone her alive instead. In their last few moments together, Davus, after receiving consent from Hypatia, strangles her so she won't feel any pain after her death. Hypatia's body is then stoned and dragged around the city.

I was blubbering in this scene since it was so unbelievably unfair. Those crazy Christians! What was breathtaking about this scene was the acting and the dreadful situations the characters found themselves in. Hypatia gives a small nod, and Davus goes ahead and strangles her - and at that moment there are a series of flashbacks to when they were happy together as friends. My stomach lurched when Hypatia starts struggling for air, and Davus starts silently crying, all complimented perfectly by Dario Marianelli's screeching and otherworldy music. It was just absolutely incredible how much this film instills a sense of mis-justice and remorse. I had to go walk Calcifer in the garden to just cheer up afterwards.

4. Empress Wan's Death
Zhang Ziyi plays Empress Wan in 'The Banquet'.
Movie: The Banquet (Ye Yan)  Year: 2006  Director: Feng Xiaogang  Actor(s): Zhang Ziyi

The Banquet is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, and keeping to the story, everyone manages to pop their clogs at the end of the movie. After a dramatic showdown in the Imperial Palace, Empress Wan (Gertrude) is the sole survivor of the imperial bloodline. Believing power to be firmly in her grasp, the scheming Empress' celebrations are interrupted when a flying blade from an unknown source strikes her in the heart. As she is dying, she turns around to face her assailant; her confusion shifts to horror and anguish, as the blade is then dropped into a mossy koi bed, the final shot being of her blood soaking into the water.

I wrote the last few sentences on Wikipedia, so I feel some entitlement to using it on this blog. I love this scene because of the beautiful cinematography, the whole movie is like a moving painting, but this scene in particular because of the wonderful acting of Zhang Ziyi. Her face is beautiful. Sure, she's dying, but the look, which is a mixture of confusion, anger, disbelief, anguish, is just utterly captivating - the emotion just pierces me! Combined with the open work the ending creates, it's very compelling. Paired with the fantastic music of Tan Dun, the scene is like poetry to me.

3. Sophie's Lack of Confidence
Howl (Bale) and Sophie (Mortimer) have a quiet moment in the secret garden.
Movie: Howl's Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro) Year: 2004  Director: Hayao Miyazaki  
Actor(s): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer

Howl's Moving Castle, inspired by the Diana Wynne Jones novel of the same name, is a 2004 animated fantasy film. It tells the story of Sophie Hatter, an 18 year old, beautiful young girl who severely lacks confidence in both her abilities and looks. After accidentally angering the wicked Witch of the Waste, she is transformed into an 80 year old woman, and takes refuge in a magical wizard's tower called 'Howl's Moving Castle'. Through her journey she must learn to break her curse by discovering her own confidence in herself.

There are dozens of scenes in this movie that just take my breath away, but I never feel for Sophie quite so much as I do in this scene. During Sophie's (Mortimer) curse, Howl (Bale) takes her to a secret garden. Lost in her wonder and joy of the garden, Sophie's curse slowly fades away, the old woman becoming a laughing young girl again. After a somewhat serious discussion of the future, Sophie asks Howl if he is going away. When Howl assures her that he is just making sure she has a good future, she pleads with him to let her help, saying "even if I'm not pretty... and all I'm good at is cleaning". Howl is taken aback and insists "Sophie, you're beautiful!" but it's too late - the curse has already kicked back in and the youthful Sophie is replaced by the old woman, who simply smiles sadly and says some remarks on how getting old you don't have to worry about beauty. It's heartbreaking, and a little bit inspiring that Sophie acts the way she does, always kicking herself back down. I love the simple dialogue which creates such a vivid insight into the character's emotions, and the beautiful aesthetic of the scene around them.

2. The Baudelaire Mansion Burns Down
 Movie: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Year: 2004  Director: Brad Silberling  
Actor(s): Emily Browning, Liam Aiken

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a dark comedy film adapted from the widely popular books of the same name. The plot follows the lives of the recently orphaned Baudelaire children, who are being relentlessly pursued by their nefarious guardian, Count Olaf, who wishes to use them to inhered the gigantic fortune their parents left them since their death. After surviving a series of unfortunate events (see what I did there?), the children are taken back to visit the ruins of their beautiful mansion. As they stand in silence, reminiscing the beauty of their old home, the children watch on as their memories are gradually consumed by reality, and they are left standing in the charred remains.

Despite the fact I just explained it above, this scene is just indescribable. The whole thing is led by a chilling and ethereal score by Thomas Newman, with a delicate piano which transforms into the most heartrending and luscious strings I've ever heard in a film score. The children, Violet (Browning), Klaus (Aiken) and Sunny have the most perfect faces - a forlorn look that shows a fusion of misery, disappointment and anguish. The exquisitely effect of the mansion violently fading away to reveal the charred remains is without a doubt one of the most poignant moments I've ever experienced in any movie.

1. The King of the Golden Hall
 Movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Year: 2002 Director: Peter Jackson   
Actor(s): Miranda Otto

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a modern epic, and the second instalment of the hugely popular Lord of the Rings trilogy. Set in the universe of Middle Earth, the races, most notably in this movie the humans, are attempting to repel an assault on their homelands by the armies of Sauron. In this scene, following the death of her brother and a creepy molestation scene by her father's advisor, Éowyn (Otto) storms from the room with tears in her eyes, and steps out through the atrium of the Golden Hall to look at her surroundings. The wind blows her hair all over her face, and she looks on in desperation as the flag of her kingdom rips of a nearby pole, and flies into the wind.

Not gonna lie, the best part of this scene is the music. Howard Shore's best work, this moment is played on a Norweigan fiddle called the Hardanger fiddle, which is probably the ultimate music ever heard in a movie. It's tragic, inspiring, beautiful, expressive, magical, most coruscating piece I've ever heard. And that's enough for me. Huzzah!

Monday, October 3, 2011

FAST was amazing

Just a quick note to say that FAST was incredible. If you missed it, you're a chump.

That's all I have to say! Can't wait until next year! (actually I can and I have to)