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5 Memorable Uses of Music in Stanley Kubrick Movies

Stanley Kubrick was a master of many things when making movies — direction, cinematography, set direction — but one of the top choices he consistently made was musical. From Dr. Strangelove right down to Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick made musical choices that were insanely memorable. Here are perhaps the five most memorable:

1: We’ll Meet Again, Dr. Strangelove (1964)

The image of countless bombs exploding as this calming music plays is a simply magic use of contrast. If the world were to end as abruptly and annoyingly as it does in Strangelove, this music playing would make it a damn sight more comfortable – and funnier!

2: The Blue Danube Waltz, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1967)

The beautiful outer space has never looked so stunning as when Kubrick portrayed it alongside the amazing music of Strauss. Classical music made a memorable debut for SK as he mixed memorable imagery with insanely calming tunes.

3: The Thieving Magpie, A Clockwork Orange (1971)

That fantastic scene as Alex and his droogs walk down the riveria, frozen in thought, as this classical piece plays and violence breaks out will be forever ingrained in my mind. A scene which uses violence in a manner which makes Tarantino look like butter.

4: Sarabande, Barry Lyndon (1975)

Kubrick’s three hour biopic based on the novel is one of his best, most ingenious films, a sadly underrated film that glows with excellence every time you watch it. And this haunting theme… I never get tired of it.

5: Waltz No. 2 from Jazz Suite No. 2, Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

It’s a little bit inventive, a little bit haunting and a little bit cheeky. One of my favourite classical waltzes (beaten only by #2 on this list), and one which always brings to mind the shocking opening shot of Kubrick’s final film.

Any music from Kubrick I missed? What music (from any director or movie) do you think was particularly memorable or well-chosen? Leave a comment below.


5 Memorable Overtures In Cinema

It’s a shame films don’t have them any more. Some say they’re out of date, but I believe they’re part of what made the cinematic experience in the 50s and 60s (particularly in David Lean films) the best, even though I wasn’t alive in that era. I’m talking about overtures, a fragment of film scores which seem to have escaped us. Some of you might remember when you went to the cinemas a while back and they had that really, blaring triumphant music, before the film had even started. That’s what I’m talking about. Here are five memorable overtures — not necessarily the best, but ones that spring to mind — when I think of those great themes.

1: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

In David Lean’s best movie, we are greeted with the fantastic, epic tale of war and peace that spans an amazing timeline. From breathtaking cinematography to amazing acting and everything in between, it’s impossible not to rejoice when we hear or see the first few frames of this magnificent movie.

2: Ben-Hur (1959)

I have a lot of admiration for the incomprehensible effort that went into the making of this movie, and although it’s not one of my favourites, it sure is beautiful to look at, and a success in my book. And the opening… sublime.

3: The Ten Commandments (1956)

When it comes to historical epics, even if you have an admittedly sub-par movie, as I feel this is, at least you’re likely to have a great soundtrack, and this is certainly no exception.

4: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1967)

Though when many people think of the music at the start of this Kubrick classic, they think of it’s fantastic, epic opening to the tune of Also Sprach Zarathustra, that, technically, is not the film’s overture. The real overture comes before it, but in the interest of sound and satisfaction, I’ll include a clip from that memorable opening scene instead.

5: Dancer in the Dark (2001)

Ah… You’ve got to admire Lars von Trier for putting in an awesome overture for his film long after they had died out. Perhaps the most epic of them all, the amazing emotion I feel when listening to this track will always stay with me.

So those are my choices, now… what’s yours?

What overtures do you cherish every time you hear their notes? What do you think of my choices? Leave a comment and lemme know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

5 Memorable Movie Characters Who Regretted Going to the Toilet!

In movies, there are so many countless ways to die, but one that doesn’t get anywhere near enough attention is toilet-related deaths. It’s amazing how relieving yourself can end up killing you, and in some pretty strange ways. You may remember these five people, whose unlucky experiences with toilets haven’t always killed them, but have made them regret dropping the kids off at the pool.

1: Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction

After a memorable night with Uma Thurman, being saved from death by a miracle and accidentally “shooting Marvin in the face,” John Travolta decides to relieve himself in the former apartment of Bruce Willis’s character Butch. Big mistake. While an earlier toilet trip in a certain restaurant might have saved him, this poor choice of pooping was a regretful decision indeed.

2: The Dirty Old Man, Clerks

In Kevin Smith’s brilliant 1994 debut comedy, an old man decides to retire to the toilet and “relieve himself” in a different way to what you might think. Unfortunately for him, his heart gives out. Fortunately for him, Dante’s girlfriend also needs to use the toilet and the lights aren’t working. Bingo.

3: Roger Murtaugh, Lethal Weapon 2

Thankfully for us, Murtaugh doesn’t die from his toilet incident, but it must’ve been pretty damn scary for him. Imagine it: you get a few quiet moments from the hustle and bustle of being a cop and having a large family, only to sit on the toilet, turn to his side, and discover there’s a bomb on the crapper that will explode if he stands up. Cue Martin Riggs and classic comedy in one of the funniest scenes of this excellent sequel.

4: The Dutch Businessman, Hostel

Okay, well this guy had it coming. Eli Roth’s gloriously violent torture-porn flick may be gratuitous and sickening, but… well, there’s no but… that’s exactly what it is, gratuitous and sickening. (Spoilers) It ends with this gruesome revenge murder on the toilet that easily qualifies for this list.

5: Man Using Toilet, Snakes on a Plane

While I’m certainly not defending this infinitely sucky movie, you’ve got to admit getting bitten on the penis whilst using the toilet must hurt… a lot. And I imagine that would be very regretful, indeed.

BONUS: TV Show Toilet Incident:

Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm

The idea for this list came to me whilst watching an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm in which Larry falls into the toilet because the seat is up because it’s night and the light’s not on because he likes to pee sitting down. Pure Larry. And it’s not his only toilet-related incident. Another time, he learned that when the public bathroom is occupied… “well, then you wait. You wait.”

Are there any I’ve forgotten? What did you think of my choices? Let me know by leaving a comment.

Thanks for reading.

5 Memorable Moments in Ingmar Bergman Movies

Continuing the “5 Memorable” series (now with its own banner :-)) is a selection of five memorable moments (or scenes) in the awesome movies of Swedish legend filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. In no particular order:

1: The Seventh Seal: Death Meets Antonius:

The only clip I can find for this scene is not subtitled, but the iconic image pretty much speaks for itself:

2: Winter Light: Ingrid Thulin’s Letter:

A shockingly extended and beautifully performed monologue, this static, almost unbroken shot of Ingrid Thulin’s character professing her true feelings for a religiously doubtful Gunnar Bjornstrand is timeless, and fantastic.

 3: Persona: The Repeated Scene:

One of many fantastic scenes from Bergman’s best movie is the gutwrenching scene in which we see Liv Ullman listening to Bibi Andersson tell her the truth about herself (well, themselves), only to have, in a sickening twist, the camera turned around as we are forced to hear the entire monologue again, this time with the camera focusing on Andersson. It’s a fascinating technique, and a very effective one. Don’t forget to turn on the closed captions so you know what she’s saying.

4: Cries and Whispers: How You Have Changed

Some great acting here. Cries and Whispers is a film filled to the brim with raw emotion, and this scene manages to capture a lot of it so beautifully.

5: Fanny and Alexander: The Prologue

Largely thanks to Bergman and his cinematographer Sven Nykvist, we have this magnificent epic film, in which every shot and every scene is so beautifully executed that just looking at any of the film’s brilliant scenes is full of so much raw beauty that it’s hard to comprehend how one human being imagined it all to be so perfect.

So those are my five selections. Now I need to know…

Leave a comment with what you thought of my choices. Do you like Ingmar Bergman? What’s your favourite moment, scene or movie from this master? Let me know.

Thanks for reading.

5 Memorable Opening Shots in Movies

When I watch movies, I often look for great opening shots. These are the first things we see when the camera fades in from black and the film begins. A good director will often make a good opening shot to hook the viewer into the film, and here are five of my favourites, in no particular order:

Caché (2005)

The film opens with a deceptively simple stationary shot of the house of a wealthy French couple and their son. We soon release, in a perfectly Michael Haneke manner, that this is a videotape of their house recorded by an unknown person/s, who have then mailed the recording to the couple. A fantastic film which opens in an excellent manner.

Somewhere (2010)

Sofia Coppola’s newest film, and undoubtedly her best, is the excellent indie drama Somewhere. It opens with one of my favourite shots of all time, a shot quite similar to the opening of The Brown Bunny, except this shot is stationary and unmoving, a wise decision. If you find this boring and meaningless, then I suggest you watch the whole movie. If, after that, you still find it boring and meaningless… I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Oh, wow. Who could forget that awesome movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey? Obviously, a lot of people, as I was the only one in my family who didn’t doze off while the movie played on when I watched it when I was twelve after Stanley Kubrick died. From this magnificently epic opening shot and onwards, it catapulted my life into a realm of film and cinema. It’s so simplistic, yet so beautiful:

Boogie Nights (1997)

Steadicam, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Boogie Nights is easily number one. The opening shot actually really made me feel like I was cruising around the disco, checking out all the funky characters. Everything about it is perfect; the timing, the way it moves so rhythmically, and how awesome the seventies looked through the eyes of Paul Thomas Anderson.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video for this, which is sad, because the music is absolutely perfect in this scene, but let me cut it down to the bare basics. This is Stanley Kubrick being cheeky, which is something we very rarely get from the director, and is what makes the opening so unique. No one knew how to get an audience’s attention like Kubrick:

Now it’s time for…

Leave a comment with what you thought of my five choices, and name some of your own.

Thanks for reading.

5 Memorable Spiders In Movies

A couple of months ago, I started a series called “5 Memorable…” The first instalment was 5 Memorable Earthquakes in Movies, which you can read here, and this is the second instalment, which, as the title suggests, reminds us of five times spiders were important to the plot in movies.

This spider doesn't count.

 1: The Radioactive Spider, Spider-Man

I thought I’d get the obvious one out of the way first. One single solitary (yet radioactive) spider changed Peter Parker’s life and etc. etc. Willem Dafoe, etc.

2: The Spider-God, Through A Glass Darkly

My personal favourite of the list, the appearance by God as a malicious stone-faced spider as seen through the eyes of insanity is quite a moving, striking thought. Ingmar Bergman’s film vocabulary is filled to the brim with metaphors, and this is probably one of the most memorable and well-played ones.

3: The Giant Spider, The Incredible Shrinking Man

One of the most daring and triumphant victories of man over beast is a peculiar one, indeed. In this 1957 sci-fi movie, which is quite different to others of its time, the protagonist finds himself shrinking to the point of invisibility, and finally winning a battle against a giant spider.

4: The Spider in the Bathroom, Annie Hall

“Honey, there’s a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick!” It might not play a big part in the overall film of Annie Hall, but then again there are few scenes which actually have recurring references. It’s all like a big jumbled up mixture of random scenes from a relationship, like a series of comedy sketches.

5: Spider, Spider

The only human selection for this list, Ralph Fiennes portrayal of a mentally-secluded man confronting the demons of his childhood is a powerful tale with a great twist. David Cronenberg knows his stuff. This may not be a real spider, but in some ways, it counts.

So those are my five top picks. Can you think of any more? What do you think of the list? Leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading.

5 Memorable Earthquakes in Movies

John Cusack and Woody Harrelson in the big-budget CGI-laden "2012," in a scene shortly before a series of disasters begins the apocalypse...

I live in New Zealand, an island country in the South Pacific that is located southeast of Australia. Recently, in one of our major cities, Christchurch, a disastrous earthquake struck, leaving hundreds dead and many buildings in ruins.

I, being the optimist I am, have decided to take it upon myself to list some of the most memorable earthquakes in movies:

1: Short Cuts (1993)

Robert Altman’s picturesque masterpiece of life in L.A. for cops, jazz singers, phone sex operaters, makeup artists, pool cleaners, waitresses and countless others would be nothing without the films anticlimactic earthquake. Normally in a film, an earthquake or natural disaster at the end would signify some sort of amazing event that changes the lives of all the characters (wink-wink Magnolia), but the quake in this film seems to have little or no effect on the way these Hollywood characters operate, which I’ve come to determine is simply because California has so many earthquakes!

2: The Mist (2007)

Frank Darabont returned to adapting Stephen King novellas for this interesting monster movie which begins with an “earthquake” and sends its characters into a torrent of cabin fever when strange monsters prevent them from safely leaving a supermarket in which they are encapsulated. But is expiation the answer? Or suicide, for that matter? The film’s infamous ending is both brilliant and absolutely lame and stupid. Tacky, Darabont, just tacky. It would’ve been better if he’d stuck to the original ending.

3: 2012 (2009)

Roland Emmerich once again succeeds to scare the shit out of us with this once more very prophetic and very interesting look at how the world will end. Unsurprisingly its extremely pessimistic, even if the ending is a happy one for John Cusack. The pessimism is in the destruction itself, which is a deluge of disasters. CGI earthquakes tear cities apart, while Cusack manages to miraculously escape the disaster with his children. Woody Harrelson also has a cameo as a radio broadcaster with insane predictions, though his character is killed as the chaos begins. Shame. The only thing the film has going for itself is the destruction, which is intense and realistic, thank God. But there is very little else of interest, and annoying questions raised such as: “How could the Mayans predict a solar flare?” and “How come John Cusack survives but billions of other people have to die?” I don’t know the answer to that; all I do know is that Cusack should have died and Woody should’ve survived.

4: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

My favourite disaster movie is undeniably The Poseidon Adventure. There are consistently excellent performances from the all-star cast and it is a masterpiece I can watch over and over again. Though the “earthquake” in this film is an underwater one, that still counts, because it is what triggers the title wave that capsizes the ocean liner. Forget Titanic (1997). While it does have much more stunning imagery, the drama and excitement of The Poseidon Adventure towers over it, alongside what I like to refer to as its “sister film” The Towering Inferno (1974). What’s not to love about Poseidon? It has everything you could want, and more. The drama is vicious and enriching, as is the adventure to the “one-inch-thick” propeller shaft room. Gene Hackman dominates it all with his own terrific acting, and is supported by notable performances from Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters and others. A definite watch for lovers of disaster movies or adventure films.

5: Earthquake (1974)

Directed by Mark Robson (Peyton Place, Valley of the Dolls) and partially scripted by Mario Puzo, this disaster film for the ages is a fun excersize, and even though its not a great one, there are some enjoyable moments. I’m a sucker for films with numerous characters and multiple storylines and, so, I had to see this. It was ages ago and I can barely remember it, but it is an earthquake film and the quake is memorable. A fitting conclusion to a series of five.

So there you have it! Five memorable earthquake scenes, as promised. But… were there any I forgot? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks.