RSS

Category Archives: Movies

Sneakers (1992) – The 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon

Sound is important in Sneakers. Not only the soundtrack by composer James Horner, but also the daily sounds of life and conversation.

Sneakers is a comedy/cyber/caper released in 1992 and starring Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Ackroyd, and Ben Kingsley. It’s about a group of anti-authoritarian misfits who make a living by sneaking into businesses to test security and make recommendations for how the businesses can improve their security. As one woman tells Redford’s Martin Bishop, it’s not a very good way to make a living.

But then they are hired to steal a mysterious box, which turns out to be the ultimate code breaker. A box that contains the key to breaking the code of every encrypted computer system in existence. The project is called Setec Astronomy, which is an anagram for “Too Many Secrets” (Wikileaks, anyone?). Needless to say, nearly everyone wants it – Russia, NSA, mobsters, and Redford’s former friend and now turned mad genius Cosmo, played by Ben Kingsley.

I’ve always enjoyed this film and since I’ve recently been watching a lot of Sidney Poitier films, this seemed like the perfect choice for Film Music Central‘s “2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon.”

The score for Sneakers is actually quite unexpected. It has the usual tense, caper music that one expects for a caper, but he does something else rather unexpected. He elicits a sense of wonderment.

Listen to this clip when the group discover that the box is really a code breaker. As composer Nicholas Britell notes, “at first, we hear a simple yet catchy piano theme repeated over and over. As it continues repeating, a second piano line joins in as a partner to it. The music is quiet yet densely populated with short little piano notes. The music feels like a perfect counterpoint to what is taking place on-screen.” When they finally solve the mystery, the music, with its use of choir, takes on a sense of excitement, but also wonderment.

Britell describes it best. I really have little I can add to it.

Horner’s dense texture of uniform repeated notes feels like the “little bits of data,” the “ones and zeroes” that are at the heart of the film’s drama. Listening further to the piece in the “Setec Astronomy” scene, we see the music continue to develop: one, two, then three different pianos playing along simultaneously. As the characters get closer to deciphering the code, more and more musical elements join in: female choir, harp, strings, woodwinds, percussion. We really begin to feel viscerally the newfound power of these “little ones and zeroes.”

But I think there is also that sense of wonderment. Wonder at the world and what makes it up and what people can do. The wonderment and thrill of discovery. Cosmo argues that “it’s not about who has the most bullets. It’s about who has the most information…the world isn’t run by weapons anymore, or energy, or money. It’s run by little ones and zeroes, little bits of data. It’s all just electrons.”

But with Horner’s music, information, little bits of data, ones and zeroes are beautiful. Like wondering at the DNA that makes up the world. I like it because it adds a dimension that would otherwise be lacking in the film if the score had been more conventional.

Of course, once they realize the power of what they have, the music becomes much more frightening. Jumping around, in the lower registers of the piano, agitated, menacing.

But here is the lovely music for when Cosmo and Bishop – friends as young men – see each other last. That lovely, mournful saxophone. Where Cosmo cannot kill his friend. It makes you think how lonely Cosmo has been all these years, in prison, working for mobsters. Only Bishop, he feels, can understand him and what he wants to achieve. And Bishop, who feels partly responsible for getting Cosmo in trouble in the first place.

I mentioned that sound in general is important in the film. One of the group, Whistler (David Straitairn), is blind and so notices sounds and conversation while the others are caught up in visuals. When Bishop is knocked unconscious and stuffed in a trunk and driven somewhere, Whistler later helps him track down where the car went by tracking the sounds Bishop heard. The sounds of a car driving over concrete bumps on a bridge, cackling geese (which Bishop thought sounded like a cocktail party).

And then there’s the wonderful voice of James Earl Jones. We first hear him over the phone, but he makes an appearance at the very end and is marvelous. The tonal shades he can put into his voice never ceases to amaze me. He has presence, but his voice has presence, also.

If you have never seen Sneakers, I definitely recommend it. A great cast – I always liked Sidney Poitier as the ex-CIA Crease, who is extremely security conscious and is always being driven nuts by Dan Ackroyd’s paranoid conspiracy theories. I also enjoy Mary McDonnell, who’s bemused good humor with Bishop and the entire eccentric group and their escapades mirrors our own. As she remarked when Bishop suddenly bursts out with “Setec Astronomy!”

“I just love it when a man says that to me.”

But I also really appreciate the soundtrack by James Horner. It fits the mood of the film, enhances it, but is never just dully predictable.

I want to thank Film Music Central for hosting this great event! It was wonderful to have the opportunity to give the score of a film the attention it deserves….especially a score by James Horner. Be sure to read the other posts from the blogathon for days 1, 2, and 3.

I’ll end with this clip from the film. The music seems to positively delight in the ingenuity of solving what appears to be an impossible task…via sound.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 25, 2017 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Bertram Potts from Ball of Fire

“You’re big and cute and pretty…to me you’re a regular yum-yum type.”

An English professor who looks like Gary Cooper? It’s almost too good to be true, but it is true in Howard Hawk’s 1941 Ball of Fire and not even Barbara Stanwyck’s stripper Sugarpuss O’Shea can resist him.

There are many things to admire about Bertram Potts. Besides the fact that he looks like Gary Cooper. He’s a professor of English, and he’s not a stuffy professor of English. When the film opens, he is working on slang for an encyclopedia and he reveals a lively curiosity and interest in new knowledge, especially what he calls “a living language” filled with the slang of ordinary Americans and spoken by characters like Sugarpuss and the garbage man.

In fact, his interest is right in line with real-life authors (like the actual author of the film’s script, Billy Wilder). Raymond Chandler was greatly interested in what he called American English and thought that for a while (namely in the 1930s and ’40s) it was filled with the kind of variety, color, and flexibility often associated with Shakespeare.

It is very appropriate, then, that Bertram Potts should also quote Shakespeare to Sugarpuss. He gives her a ring that is inscribed with the location of the quote from Richard III (she asks who Richard ill is), “See how my ring encircles your finger? That’s how your heart embraces my poor heart. Wear both the ring and my heart, because both are yours.” 

But not only is Bertram Potts erudite, he is also sweet and adorable. He’s completely bowled over by Sugarpuss (“a little sun on my hair and you had to water your neck”), way out of his depth, but it is the sincerity and sweetness of his response that wins her over. Without guile, he assumes her declaration of love is exactly as it appears. He takes her at her word, takes her seriously and treats her as a person of value.

He is also about as nonjudgmental as a person can be. He is, admittedly, angry when he discovers that she used him, but that is not judgmental. But does he mind that she is a stripper? Or the girlfriend of a gangster? He always sees her as a person and never as an example of a certain type of woman…though Mrs. Bragg, the housekeeper for the professors, certainly does. Sugarpuss is simply the woman he loves…and who knows some “mouthwatering” slang.

Bertram Potts (or Pottsie, as Sugarpuss calls him) even gets to be heroic. But not by the traditional beat-the-bad-guy-up method – though he does get to eventually beat the bad guy up – but via intellectual knowledge. He and his fellow professors are able to outwit the villains using their knowledge of history, literature and science.

And he looks like Gary Cooper. The only wonder to me is that Sugarpuss does not fall for him sooner, though she does comment that he doesn’t know how to kiss (“the jerk!”) and looks like a “giraffe.” But he had me at “skidoo” (which he traced from the word skedaddle).

This has been my post for the “Reel Infatuation Blogathon,” hosted by Silverscreenings  and Font and Frock. Be sure to check back for more screen crush posts in the recaps for days 1, 2, and 3 of the blogathon.

 
14 Comments

Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Great Scott!! The “Movie Scientist Blogathon” is Back!

The “Movie Scientist Blogathon: The Good, the Mad, the Lonely” is back for 2017! I am so excited to be co-hosting this event with Ruth at Silver Screenings.

The blogathon is about movie scientists. The good scientists, the mad scientists, and the lonely scientists. The idea originated from a discussion between Ruth and myself about how scientists get into all sorts of trouble because they insist on working alone (like Dr. Frankenstein) instead of getting an outside opinion that might prevent careless mistakes or unfortunate occurrences. The blogathon is not, however, limited to only lonely scientists.

When – September 8-10, 2017

Each day is dedicated to a different subset of scientists.

Day 1 (8th) – The Good

Day 2 (9th) – The Mad

Day 3 (10th) – The Lonely

How – You can sign up by filling out the form below. If you want to do more than one topic, simply fill out a separate form for each topic. Be sure to choose which day your scientist or film fits in. If you have a scientists that could be put into more than one category, feel free to choose the day that works best for you.

On the evening of each day of the blogathon, Silver Screenings and I will put up a recap of the day’s posts. To send us your post, simply paste the link of your post to one of our comments sections or tweet it to us (I can be found at @_cwehner) and we will include it in the recap. If you have any more questions, please feel free to contact either me or Ruth at Silver Screenings.

Rules – Because there are so many movie scientists to choose from, we are not allowing duplicate posts on any film. Once a film has been chosen by one blogger, it is no longer available, unless you would like to compare it to another film (like comparing the 1931 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with the 1941 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). We are also not including television scientists in this blogathon, but there are no limits on what time period the film can be from, from the silent era to 2017.

To help us get the word out, please feel free to grab one of the banners at the bottom of this post, which I want to thank Ruth for creating!

Sign-Up Below

Movie Roster View Sheet – You can also click HERE to open the roster in another window.

 
35 Comments

Posted by on June 17, 2017 in Movies

 

Tags: , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: