Friday, January 22, 2010

Dies Irae

During college I took a music appreciation class. I am the furthest thing from a musician, but it was an informative class and I really enjoyed it. One of the more memorable pieces we studied was Berlioz' Symphony Fantastique.

My instructor pointed out the Dies Irae melody during that song. Dies Irae means "day of wrath." It is a Latin hymn that was later adopted as a death mass. It is quite old, and I have been surprised how many movies I have heard the basic melody in over the years.

It is not as common as the Wilhelm scream, but once you are familiar with the melody, it jumps out at you. One of the first musicians to use it was Paganini. He was such an accomplished violinist that it was rumored that he sold his soul to the devil in order to play the way he did. He incorporated the Dies Irae into some of his pieces, which only furthered the rumor. Other classical composers who have utilized it in their music are: Berlioz, Mozart, Liszt, Respeghi, Britten, Saint-Saenz, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninov.

Today this theme is often associated with many horror movies and even some not so scary films. After hearing it many times in movie soundtracks, I started to keep a list. (No, not for an any assignment. I'm just a list guy). Here are some of the movies that use the melody or a variation of it at some point in the film.

The Shining
Sleeping with the Enemy
Conan the Barbarian
Groundhog Day
The Seventh Seal
Gremlins 2
The Lion King
The Ring
X Men
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
It's a Wonderful Life
Murder in the First
Nightmare before Christmas

In case you aren't familiar with it, here is an audio clip link where you can hear it. I am always trying to expand my list, but I can only watch so many movies. Next time you hear this in a movie, let me know in the comments section so I can add it to my list.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Food, Inc.

I recently rented Food, Inc. because some friends recommended it to me. The movie highlights how poor America's diet is and how much of our food supply is monopolized by a handful of large corporate producers. I enjoyed this documentary even though much of the subject matter was very disturbing.

I'm the furthest thing from a PETA sympathizer, but after seeing the conditions that animals are raised in and the slaughter house procedures, I lost my appetite and will probably never look at a hamburger the same way again. This film did not convert me into a vegetarian, but I feel more informed now and am much more open minded about organic foods.

What I found most disturbing about the movie, was the legal bullying of farmers over the issue of genetically modified seeds and food patents. I don't think this film is as blatant as a Michael Moore "documentary" although it did paint most of the food giants in a negative light. I think the filmmaker was trying to open people's eyes and educate them about their diet more than he was trying to vilify the food industry.

Some might come away watching this movie paranoid and scared. I don't blindly accept every message in a movie just because it is a documentary, but Food, Inc. is thought provoking and very enlightening. You should see it and decide for yourself. I think you'll like the film and it will cause you to think twice about the food you eat (at least for a couple days). I give it it 8.1 out of 10 stars.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


If I were a professional movie critic, I would have been canned long ago for being such a slacker. I haven't seen a movie for a while. I guess I can blame watching several seasons of 30 Rock on my Netflix queue, but I finally have a real movie review. By the way, I'd like to thank Cheree for helping me create the sweet makeover of my title bar.

Avatar is a highly anticipated movie with a big budget and tons of special affects. I was looking forward to this movie, but after seeing several trailers for it, I felt like I had already seen the entire movie and there would be no surprises. It appeared to be the basic storyline of Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas, or The Last Samurai where the main character switches sides in a military conflict after living with and getting to know his enemy. I knew the villains would be the cold hearted military leaders and ruthless business men.

I saw Avatar in 3 D in an IMAX theater. I was a little reluctant to see it in 3D and wear the silly glasses since I hadn't done so in over 25 years, but I was glad I saw this movie in that format. The enhanced special effects were amazing and it was a visual feast. I have never seen such intense special effects, but it was even a good movie on top of that. I thought all the performances by the cast were good.

This was by far the best movie I have seen this year (sorry, I couldn't resist), but it was good and I give it 8.0 stars. There is quite a bit of skin in the movie, but most of it is the blue CG type. It thought it was funny that when the obligatory romance scene came up, the main characters did not have to rip off their clothes like you see in many movies. Instead they just had to remove a bead or adjust a feather to achieve the same affect.

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