Category - Extras

Analysis: ‘The Mercy’

The Mercy represents how isolation can influence someone’s mentality and perspective on life. Donald Crowhurst was a real amateur Yachtsman whose goal was to compete in sailing around the world in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race 1969. In the opening scene, he becomes curious about this race. He seems lost within himself as a person. Even though he is a man, this could be seen as a curious and lost state that is similar to a baby. He is curious to know about the race and wants to take it on. This also becomes his dream and passion. Having a dream and passion is a part of society in the American culture. Crowhurst had a dream, and he goes after it like society says you should. But he has a wife and three children at home. People in our society think an adult’s dreams is over once having children and getting married. How could he live out his dream and still be a father? The answer is that you cannot do both for long. He tries to, but it gives his dream more attention.

Everyone disagrees he should go but his three children. The children and him being on the same page could be the idea of a man sailing across the world is something a kid would dream. His wife is the one who thinks this is a bad idea. There is a line where she says “[Oh, you were serious about this.]” Crowhurst looks at her in disbelief and as if he has something to prove to her and everyone else. Additionally, he lacked logic about the whole boat adventure. His ambition and perseverance overshadowed this less attention on logic. Crowhurst was not aware of the severity of the trip and the internal effect it would have on him. This contest was extremely bigger than him. To him, it was just proving to the people around him and his family that he could do something. He was already failing with his ad selling company.

People in the film start to label him as a hero while he is freaking out on the boat in the middle of nowhere. Crowhurst had no idea how he started to get seen in the eyes of people. Crowhurst obliviousness is like the isolated mentality someone is in once they are so engrossed in their dream or passion. He represents how a person does not tap into the comments of the world. The internal change someone goes through is never celebrated. It will get overshadow with fame, money, and other notoriety labels.

Crowhurst internal change made him become a new Donald. His new “identity” or “self” is oblivious to the people around him. No matter how many reporters or deep conversation he would have with his wife, they would not be able to capture the change through the words coming from his mouth. He knew this because the change is indescribable. A person like Crowhurst begins to look at the water different, the people in his life differently, and thoughtfully looks at life. It is as if figuratively life is on a wooden table and Crowhurst is sitting in on the outside. He sees all the labels and does not want to be a part of that world. This world includes his wife, children, reporters, and everyone else. The change becomes higher than a rebirth for the husband of three. This is what happens when a person undergoes a journey that is insanely bigger than them. Toward the end of the movie, Crowhurst tells an imaginative figure of his wife “I am something else now.” He does not even say, someone. He objectifies himself as a thing and not classify himself as a person. At this moment in the film, we hear the voice over of his old self and clips of his old self. Crowhurst wants to connect with his old self. He wants to hug his old self. He probably in an imaginative world, would sit his old self down, and ask “Who was I? Explain me to me.” He knows if he comes back, the people around him will throw a camera in his face. The people around him will see him as his old self. He would coin the title famous but will not feel famous. Society’s only response to a person who encounters the new human perspective Crowhurst does is fame. Why should Crowhurst receive fame for something that was just a passion and goal for him? Why couldn’t he just enjoy his new take on life and explore more of his identity? Society would not let him do this.

In one of the closing scenes, Crowhurst’s wife says something that sums up society and life. “If he did jump, then he was pushed. Each and every one of you here had a grubby hand on his back. Every sponsor, every photographer, every reporter, and the sad little man who stands at a newsstand. To feast on the straps of another’s undoing. Once he was in the water, you all held him under with your judgment. Last week he was selling hope. Now you are selling blame. Next week you will be selling something else.” At the beginning of the film, Crowhurst was doing it for the reporters, but then he starts to realize life is not about pleasing people. Did Crowhurst die or did his old self already become dead? Was his body just an empty vessel for new identities to move in and out? What happens when a person like Crowhurst achieves their dream, purpose in life, and goal? Does the only answer have to be to make them famous?

Animal Planet’s ‘Tanked’

Brothers-in-law Brett Raymer and Wayde King have a thriving business with making customized aquariums, which is all of what their show Tanked is about on the Animal Planet channel. Raymer talks with us about the show and how it first got started.

ATM: Did you go to aquariums as a child? If so, then describe a memory.

Brett: As a child, my stepbrother had a lot of aquariums. He was really into aquariums. We always had aquariums growing up because of my stepbrother. I moved out on my own at 21 and had an aquarium in my house. When I moved to Vegas, I did not have any aquariums for a long time. I had an opportunity to get involved in an aquarium service.

ATM: What’s your favorite fish and why?

Brett: My favorite fish is the clown trigger fish. I love the colors of clown triggers. They are aggressive, but they have to get along with all the other fishes.

ATM: What is your dream fish tank?

Brett: I would love to do one either in the White House or at Facebook. Somewhere that it is super visible so everyone in the world can see it. We do it a lot on television. People have to actually see our aquariums to see how amazing that are.

ATM: What would your own dream fish tank encompass?

Brett: I have one right now. I have a huge one in my kitchen. I put it in the wall of my kitchen. Most of us spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I wanted to make sure it was somewhere very visible. I am getting ready to build another one in my house. I am getting ready to build a reef tank. The one I have now is just fish only.

ATM: How do you feed the fish if it is in the wall?

Brett: I have a pantry behind the aquarium. The aquarium is in the pantry. The wall is cut out and you can go into the pantry. You get up on a ladder to feed the fish.

ATM: If someone wanted an aquarium in their basement, then how would they feed the fish?

Brett: The only way to see it would be from the outside. This is possible. We do a lot of acrylic windows where they are in basements. We did one in Canada, where a guy had a swimming pool on one side and his aquarium on the other side. He was able to look from the swimming pool into the aquarium.

ATM: What was the pressure like around the first season?

Brett: Oh gosh, the first season was so long ago. It has been almost ten years. In the first season, we filmed only six episodes. It took us a year to film six episodes. Whereas, now we film anywhere between 20-25 a year. It took us a lot of time to figure out the show. The pressure in the first season was choosing one. You are not actually getting paid. People do not realize this in the reality T.V. business. Your first couple of seasons you do not really make a lot money. We went out on a limb to do this T.V. show with six episodes not knowing where it would take us. Here we are almost 150 episodes later.

ATM: When did it come easy in relation to the famous term practice makes perfect?

Brett: Season three. We went from six episodes to 20 the next year. Then we went to another 20. Season 2 we filmed like 275 days. Then we got it down to 200 days. Now we film the season in about 150 days. We are trying to cut it down.

ATM: At what point in your life did you find out building aquariums was your niche?

Brett: It is funny because I did not go to school for aquarium building. When my brother in law married my sister, and we got into this business together. Once the business took off. This is when I knew the business was going to be good.

ATM: How can this show be a significance?

Brett: We created this show to educate people that fish are pets too and to teach them through all types of aquatic sea life. Before our T.V. ten years old, if you would have gone into a classroom and asked, “Hey, what would you guys like to be for a living?” You hear firemen, baseball player, and football player. Now after our television show ten years later, you actually hear aquarium builders. We hit home to a lot of kids and people who want to be like Brett and Wayde.

ATM: What was your first pet?

Brett: A dog. We had a lot of dogs growing up. We did not have a lot fish when I was really little.

ATM: How do you take care of a fish like you would with a dog?

Brett: Some people are hobbyist. They take care of the aquarium themselves. Then, there are people who are not hobbyist. They do not have a clue about aquariums. They hire a maintenance crew.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Andy Warhol’s Filmography

While some may be quick to criticize Warhol’s films and call them “boring” or “dull,” it must be considered the time period of their creation. Film and television in the sixties wasn’t like the uproarious, explicit media we are so accustomed to consuming. Neither profanity nor nudity were common practice, so for Warhol’s bold films to exist in such a tame time was revolutionary. For Warhol to show half of the subject matters he did was groundbreaking for cinema, regardless of how underground his projects were.1964’s “Blowjob” showed a tight shot of a man’s face while he received oral sex while 1969’s “Blue” was the first sexually explicit, pornographic film in the U.S. to receive a wide theatrical release. The latter went on to inspire Bernardo Bertolucci’s Marlon Brandon-starring “Last Tango in Paris” and Gerard Damiano’s “Deep Throat” with Linda Lovelace.

Warhol’s films are an acquired taste, and some are concretely hit or miss. His filmography is littered with improvised movies of his friends standing around and rambling about nothing, never really pushing the plot into any action and never really serving any purpose. But it is to be remembered that Warhol was a pioneer in not only the art world, but also within the independent film industry. His experimental films broke ground by flirting with societal taboos like homosexuality, drugs, and sex which wasn’t being discussed in the mainstream media.

Without further ado, let’s discuss Warhol’s filmography from best to worst.

 

Women in Revolt (1971)

“Don’t you know there’s something more beautiful than that thing between your legs? Have you heard of women’s liberation?” This satirical examination of women’s liberation three years after radical feminist and author Valerie Solanas attempted to murder Andy Warhol by shooting him in the chest. Solanas is known for her novel, SCUM Manifesto which proposed that women should form a society for cutting up men. “Women in Revolt” plays on the idea of extremist feminism and misandry and stars three trans actresses, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn that form their own political group, PIG – politically involved girls. These three women received an X-rating for its depiction of sex and assault, but easily stands out amongst Warhol’s filmography for its hilariously ironic plot.

5/5: It’s a laugh riot.

 

Andy Warhol’s Bad (1977)

Warhol succeeded in his job of making a film “about evil women and incompetent men” with his last film, 1977’s “Bad.” This X-rated, low budget, slightly tacky soap opera film revolves around a grandmother who uses her beauty salon business as a covert murder-for-hire home, well-equipped with sadistic hitwomen troublemakers who do nothing but cause a stir in the New York City streets. While Warhol may have been a key member of the Pop Art movement, his films are much less abstract than you’d imagine coming from the man who made millions off simple soup can paintings. Warhol’s obsession with commercialism and consumerism pokes its way through “Bad,” and not a scene goes by without some sort of American branding hidden in the frame, whether it be Wonder Bread or Coca-Cola. Throughout the hour and 45 minutes of debauchery on screen, we witness car crashes, toilet-clogging, dog stabbings, and even a baby thrown out of a window in brutal detail, splashing blood onto the face of a passerby civilian. While this campy, borderline pointless film may not be the most polished, the vandalism it depicts does make for a semi-entertaining pastime. Warhol’s style may not be for everyone, but within even the most absurd of technique comes some sort of statement and in this case, some sort of warning of the dangers of greed and vanity.

4/5: It’s kinda bad…ass.

 

The Velvet Underground and Nico: A Symphony of Sound (1966)

Here we see the famed 60s band The Velvet Underground, led by singer Lou Red, rehearsing and performing for an hour. Consisting entirely of instrumental music with no sung word, this film acts as a pseudo-documentary and encapsulates the genius of the band during their heyday. It makes for perfect background music to rock along to and provides a perfect portrait of one of the greatest bands in history.

4/5: It’s rocking.

 

 

Kiss (1963)

Just as the title suggests, this piece of avant garde cinema is a compilation of various couples kissing for about an hour. Tender and romantic, yes, but a worthwhile film to watch in the theaters, maybe not. This is the beginning of Warhol’s dabbling in film and in the same vein as “Sleep,” “Eat,” and “Blow Job,” each consisting of a long-running take of their title’s action, focusing rather on the emotional and physical response to the task being executed. The couples on screen vary from straight relationships to gay ones – woman on woman, man on man – and it does make for a progressive piece of cinema for its period. “This is my favorite theme in movie making – just watching something happening for two hours or so. Hollywood movies are uncaring. We’re pop people,” the famed artist once told the press about his method.

3/5: Too much tongue.

 

Sleep (1963)

On the more experimental side of Warhol’s filmography is “Sleep,” a five-hour “anti-film” of Warhol’s then-lover John Giorno doing just that: sleeping. While unrealistic for the average viewer to indulge in five hours of cinema in any subject matter, the ambition of this film is what matters. Warhol not only watched Giorno sleep for five hours but stayed awake to record the entire thing without the slightest hint of boredom. This is the pinnacle of avant-garde cinema, despite how simple or dull it appears to be, it is extremely influential for a film of its time. Nowadays with live-streamed television shows like “Big Brother” quite literally showing houseguests sleeping and airs it on national television, it doesn’t seem like Warhol’s vision was too far off. “Sleep” was also the first film Warhol had ever shot.

2/5: It’s okay to sleep on this one.

 

Blue Movie (1969)

Here’s one of Warhol films that transcended the art world and found success in the porn industry. The plot was simply just a man and a woman in bed talking, kissing, and copulating unsimulated. It doesn’t have a lot to it, which is very true to Warhol’s agenda, and was shot in New York City with a $3000 budget. “Blue” made history for being the first widely released theatrical film to include actual explicit sex, and went on to usher in the Golden Age of Porn in the seventies in which pornography and its stars were at an all-time high in Hollywood.

2/5: A lack of action on screen may leave you feeling kinda blue.

 

The Chelsea Girls (1966)

Warhol found his first commercial success in this split-screen style movie. Running as a three-hour film with two different events unfolding at the same time side-by-side on screen, the unique format is meant to contrast the good and evil depicted on screen. Instead, the doubled video and audio tracks only make for a haphazard, confusing experience with no plot structure to follow. A film like this would be perfectly displayed at an art museum like the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (and it was last year), but for a typical theatrical release it makes no sense. While a lot is unfolding for the viewing audience to watch, not much progress or any conclusions are reached, and you will only leave the theater with a headache and confusion.

2/5: These girls provide a splitting performance.

 

Flesh (1968)

Humorous with its trashy moments, this film follows the mundane life of a male hustler looking to save up enough money to fund his girlfriend’s abortion. There’s not too much happening on screen, but again, that’s Warhol’s style, and its sexual content made it revolutionary for its era. Much like Warhol’s 1970 film “Trash” and 1972’s “Heat,” it’s a whole lot of nothing coupled with tons of nudity and drug use that contributes virtually nothing to its appeal or intrigue. And while the budget and shooting is very commercial and has potential for theater release, the films run too long without any major plot to hold on to.

2/5: Not as much skin as you’d think.

 

I, A Man (1967)

Released as a response to popular Scandinavian movie “I, a Woman” from two years prior, the film centers around a man and his sex life. When famed critic Roger Ebert wrote of the film, “[It’s] not dirty, or even funny, or even anything but a very long and pointless home movie,” he was right. It seems as if Warhol’s signature technique of ad-libbed dialogue and nudity without reason didn’t score so high with this release.

2/5: I, a man, am bored.

Lonesome Cowboys (1968)

Opening the film with an explicit sex scene sure is one way to grip your audience. Unfortunately, the rest of the film falls flat and fails to prove any purpose or have any concrete plot.

1/5: Skip this rodeo.

 

Vinyl (1965)

A dull black-and-white rendition of Anthony Burgess’ classic A Clockwork Orange comes up short and delivers a bad excuse for the experimental film genre.  There is absolutely nothing remarkable or visually appealing about this horribly acted, lazy attempt at abstract cinema. “Vinyl” plays out like bad high school theater, set on a ten-foot stage too small to hold all seven of its actors. The film itself was recorded spontaneously one day in Warhol’s famed Factory and such spontaneity is evident in its unrehearsed, amateurish quality that is cheap cinema at its worst. Borrowing heavy influence from the gay S&M scene, the weight-lifting, leather-clad, bleached-blonde, cigarette-smoking leading man has as much stage presence as a can of soup. You’d be better off watching Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the novel, at least there is tons of visual stimuli, albeit shocking and controversial, to keep you interested.

1/5: Hard Brillo-pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Still Series #3: “Heathers”

1988’s teen comedy “Heathers” didn’t make an impact upon its release 30 years ago, but now remains a cult classic of 80’s black comedy. Starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater as two teenagers spiraling into trouble and murder, it has since gone on to inspire a musical and even an ill-fated television series.

“Heathers” was truly ahead of its time and even provides a satirical viewpoint on the hotbed issue of gun control and its impact on school shooting sprees. Join us here on At The Movies Online as we discuss ten stills from the film and discuss their importance for the viewer and to cinema as a whole.

Winona Ryder’s character, Veronica Sawyer, belongs to the most popular clique in school, so why is she so unhappy? Well for one, her friends are mean girls who like to rule the school with an iron fist. It’s evident from the start that Sawyer is nothing like the girls she hangs around, proved here by her walking through the halls of school like a ghost. She’s out of place and unhappy with her place in the world, a feeling many audience members can relate to at that age.

Sawyer falls in love with bad boy J.D. (Christian Slater) and become their high school’s new Bonnie & Clyde figures – except, instead of robberies it’s teenage murders…

…Like the killing of Sawyer’s friend and most popular girl in school, Heather Chandler, through poisoning. What began as a sick joke to get Chandler in control actually became a full-fledged murder. Chandler consumed liquid drain cleaner and collapses to the floor, falling through her glass table in the process. Sawyer and J.D. stage her death as a suicide to evade responsibility and conviction for the crime.

The couple then kills their school’s star football players, Ram and Kurt, and again, stage it as a suicide. Except this time, it’s posed as a gay suicide pact because their love was too taboo to pursue amidst their popularity. The blue tones used on screen provide a dark underbelly to the suburbia common in melancholy coming-of-age films like “The Virgin Suicides.”

Sawyer is falling further into trouble and J.D. is nothing but happy about it. The day after Ram and Kurt’s murders, the two sleep in her car and she willingly burns herself in the center of the palm to symbolize a Christ-like martyrdom. J.D. proceeds to use her burn to light his cigarette. These absolutely absurd, comical yet crude scenes perfectly epitomize their violent relationship and Sawyer’s desires to escape it – alive.

When Sawyer’s fellow popular friend, Heather McNamara, attempts a drug overdose in the bathroom during class one day, Sawyer stops and saves her life. While its technically a comedy, the events on screen of “Heathers” bare a lot of weight in real life, as posed here as the threat of suicidal tendencies. McNamara is grieving the loss of her best friend, whether she was evil and manipulative or not, and we are witnessing her struggle with death here.

With Heather Chandler dead, Heather Duke utilizes the opportunity to take her spot as most popular girl in school. Here she is basking in the sunlight of this new opportunity to abuse her newfound power.

In a dream sequence, Sawyer is visited by the late Chandler dressed in Beetlejuice-esque goth couture. Sawyer is plagued by the responsibility of having a role in three deaths thus far, and her inner conscious is using her dreams as a way of coping with this stress and guilt.

Sawyer fakes a suicide by hanging in order to get J.D. to leave her alone. With her out of the picture, J.D. would have to continue in his criminal spree alone, without further implicating Sawyer as his righthand. Sawyer keeps the acting tight until her mother walks in the room and announces it’s dinner time.

In the final act, J.D. attempts to blow up the school but Sawyer saves the day. Instead, J.D. commits suicide by strapping the bomb to himself and exploding in front of their high school whilst standing in a Christ position. Now this time, Sawyer has a cigarette in her mouth and uses his death to light it whereas previously he used her burn wound to light his. It’s these subtle references to the story of Jesus Christ that gives the film a second, more biblical significance. And thus the film comes to a close.

6 Music Videos That Are Also Fine Short Films

While music videos typically are released to garner attention and radio play for a singer’s newest single, they can also be a platform for cinematic, movie theater experiences. Occasionally, some singers and artists go above and beyond when shooting their music videos to craft theatrical experiences for public consumption. These are singers who used their music videos as an art piece or piece of cinema for the viewer to enjoy whether on their laptop or on the big screen.

 

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson

This one is a given. Arguably the most famous music video of all time, this 14-minute masterpiece blends cheesy 80s horror movie tropes with the biggest pop star of the time. The video was so successful that it was the first and only music video ever to be preserved by the Library of Congress in their National Film Registry in 2009 due to it being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant. “Thriller” enlists “An American Werewolf in London” makeup artist Rick Baker and director John Landis, as well as a spoken word monologue from horror film legend Vincent Price and model Ola Ray playing Jackson’s girlfriend.

 

“Marry the Night” by Lady Gaga

While it may seem controversial to list Lady Gaga directly under Michael Jackson, Gaga has proven herself to be a maven for the short film music video. Through elaborate set designs and high fashion ensembles, she proves she is much more than an ordinary pop star mouthing the words on screen in typical music video fashion. Lady Gaga goes above and beyond to make her videos visual-rich visions of glamour and real-life struggles. Through “Marry the Night,” Lady Gaga takes us into her past which is ridden with rape, bulimia, and musical failures. We watch as she is dropped from her record label and spirals into oblivion, only to rebuild herself and paint on a smile to keep fighting to make her dreams a reality. Gaga’s honesty and openness when it comes to her harrowing past and mental health is not only applaudable, but also is delivered on screen in beautifully painful detail. Despite being known for her larger than life antics and flamboyant fashion throughout the years, Gaga is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to commitment to her art and her fans.

 

“All is Full of Love” by Björk

Icelandic sweetheart Björk silenced the world with her breathtaking music video for 1999’s “All is Full of Love” from her third studio album. The video, directed by Chris Cunningham, sees two robots being created by machines and then copulating softly as Björk’s voice whisper sings. Following her 2015 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the music video and its real robots were added to the museum’s permanent collection. Not only was the video groundbreaking at the time for its advanced use of computer animation, it also serves as an example of when a music video transcends into art.

 

“Borders” by M.I.A.

Sri Lankan singer and rapper M.I.A. is known for taking a stand, so it should come as no surprise when she released her music video for her song “Borders” in 2016 which takes a shocking look at refugee crisis. In the video, shot in India, M.I.A. stands in crowds of refugees and sings lines like “Borders, what’s up with that? Your privilege, what’s up with that?” The song and its accompanying video are harsh criticisms of 2015’s European migrant crisis which saw refugees forced out of their homes with nowhere to go. All the hundreds of men in the video are actual refugees who live in tents since their displacement post-immigration. “Borders” humanizes the immigrants so often covered in the media, and by M.I.A. directing hordes of them hanging onto a huge fence at the border, it’s a chilling image of reality for many immigrants who are forcefully relocated yet barred from equal opportunities. Towards the end of the video, M.I.A. wears a t-shirt riffing on popular football club Fly Emirates with the words “Fly Pirates,” giving a pro-immigration stance.

 

“Haunted” by Beyoncé

As part of Beyoncé’s first visual album release, “Haunted” sees the legend walking down the hallways of an eerie hotel filled with sadism, horror, sex, sin and the occult. The singer, dressed in menswear with a short curled, 1920s haircut, indulges in the debauchery herself and dances in one room scantily clad and surrounded by dancers. Artistic videos like these prove her genius and provide stunning backdrops for her talented vocals.

 

“Ride” by Lana Del Rey

Here’s a video that’s so cinematic that it actually premiered in movie theaters. This ten-minute short sees Lana del Rey roam the desert like a nomad with cutoff denim shorts on the back of a motorcycle. Del Rey begins as a prostitute, romantically linking up with various brawny bikers during her hitchhiking adventure but soon runs away from home to live her life on the open road. She lives in motels, sings in bars and sells herself on street corners until one night a love affair turns sour turns Del Rey into a killer. She declares at the end, “I am crazy, but I am free.”

 

TNT Claws: Behind The Music

Jeff Rona is the composer for TNT’s Claws with a long history of composing and continues to express himself through music. He uses different techniques in music to help one understand a scene scene. Hear from the man himself on his love with music.

ATM: Who inspires you to compose?

JR: More than a deadline?  Let me think. There are so many crazy talented composers and artists out there who make music that inspires me. First of all, I have nothing but respect for any musician who takes some chances to do something fresh and new while still maintaining the basic idea of storytelling and emotion.

I suppose I would start with my dear friend Cliff Martinez. He manages to keep things fresh at every point, and he never adds a single unnecessary thing to a score. There are a number of other composers working in film and television who are maintaining a very high level of musical integrity. And there are so many other composers who are mainly working in the electronic field who I adore – Rival Consoles, Apparat, Flume, Eno, Bonobo, many others.

But I get inspired by so many things around me. Working as I do it’s all about the relationship between stories and culture. So, everything in our culture informs everything we do as storytellers, whether it’s writing music, words, making videos, or whatever! I admire anyone with the courage to create something.

ATM: What’s your experience working on TNT Claws?

JR: I think the reason the show has been a breakaway hit is that the producers are so willing to bend many of the conventions of TV, tell a really great story and not take themselves too seriously. On the surface, it seems like good naughty fun, but underneath it’s a particularly dark story dressed up as a comedy.  And from the very beginning, they wanted the music to take a different path than the one expected from a show about a group of women in a nail salon in Florida who are doing all kinds of illegal and immoral things on the side.

The series started off with some very interesting ideas for how music would fit in. There’s a large number of songs in the show on top of my score, and it’s important that my music be as much of a contrast against that as possible. The songs express more of what we see on the surface of the characters and situations while the point of the score is to go inside the story in a way nothing else would. So, we see more of the internal conflict, and maybe a bit of the reason why these people do what they do.

The producers have been really generous with me to explore different ways of approaching the show musically, and where we’ve ended up is a bit different than where we started. I credit them with taking chances and then deciding on what works later. I like that approach. I think we’ve found a great place for the tone and color of the series as the score stays quite set apart from the rest of the music in the show.

ATM: What sounds in your composing should we be ready for this season?

JR: The score this season is mainly electronic, simple, somewhat stripped down but gets to the point very quickly. It has a pace and rumble that matches what these characters are going through in each crisis that occurs. Some deal with what life throws at them with more grace than others, and I think we reflect that.  I try to take aspects of contemporary music and disassemble it in a similar way that the producers take some of the attributes of their characters and disassemble them so that we can look at it in ways you would normally not see.

ATM: Any more stories you remember while composing for this series?

Working with this group of people has been more like a family than almost any other project I’ve done. Getting to know Janine Sherman Barrois and Eliot Laurence, the two executive producers of the show, has been a real joy. In many ways they seem so different, and yet they’ve come together to explore these stories. They’ve been so encouraging from the very start and really appreciative when I deliver something that they feel brings out those elements of storytelling that are important to them.

In an episode of this upcoming season, two of the lead characters unexpectedly go into a full-on musical number. I was asked to write a very bizarre love song they sing in front of a crowded room of recovering alcoholics. So, I wrote the most sincere and loving piece of music I possibly could to contrast against the humor of the situation. Although the show is set in Florida it’s actually shot in New Orleans. They flew me down there and we set up in this wonderful recording studio that was once a beautiful church. Almost every actor in the show has a line or two to sing, so they would show up one or two at a time and we would record. Even though they’re so confident on camera, many had never sung into a microphone before. So, we had a great day helping each actor find a way to get into their part in the song. I’m pretty sure a couple of them hate me now.

 ATM: What makes a great score to you?

Simple, emotional, and thoughtful music that doesn’t do more than it needs to support what the audience sees and hears onscreen. Something that creates a space and defines a world that the story and characters can inhabit and takes the audience inside.

ATM: When did you start composing?

High school a bit. But not seriously until some years later when I began working as a studio synthesizer player on a lot of records, and then eventually on films and TV. It was like school for me and it leads to opportunities to do additional music on a lot of projects before doing my own.

ATM: Why do you feel this job/career was destined for you?

I feel like this job picked me and not the other way around. I just remained open to new experiences and said Yes as much as I could. The rest has just fallen into place in one way or another. It’s hard work, but I feel grateful every day for the chance to do something really satisfying that also touches as many people as possible.

You can catch Claws Sundays at 9pm on TNT.

The 7 Best Scores from “007”

While the James Bond/007 franchise has tapped a huge roster of big names in the music industry to record their themes – including Nancy Sinatra, Sam Smith, Alicia Keys, Sheryl Crow, Carly Simon, Jack White and more – only an elite group of them take the world by storm. Here are seven spectacular songs from the series in order of brilliant to best of the best.

 

  1. “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney & The Wings (Peak: #2 in US)

This noisy rollercoaster ride of pace changes includes some of McCartney’s best vocals. It was the most successful Bond theme of the time, ushering in huge crowds of The Beatles fans to see what the film was all about.

 

  1. “A View to Kill” by Duran Duran, 1985 (Peak: #1 in US)

One of the biggest eighties bands of all time lends their new wave flair to the Bond name with this catchy track. This Golden Globe nominated track is the only Bond theme to ever hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Charts.

 

 

  1. “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey, 1964 (Peak: #8 in US)

A slinky, sultry old school, orchestral pop has Bessey belting about the dangers of Mr. Bond’s charm. Classic, but ultimately cool and fitting for the franchise oozing with Bond’s swagger.

 

  1. “GoldenEye” by Tina Turner, 1995 (Peak: #10 in UK)

The legendary Mrs. Turner didn’t disappoint with this sexy, R&B-style, tongue-in-cheek tune. Bono of U2 wrote the song for Turner to sing to take the series back to its original soul.

 

  1. “Die Another Day” by Madonna, 2002 (Peak: #3 in UK)

Ambitious is an understatement when it comes to the production and music video of Madonna’s addition to the James Bond franchise. The song itself is an electronic, robotic tale of destroying one’s ego in the quest for full control and was later included in her controversial 2003 album “American Life.” The music video to promote the theme cost over $6 million, making it the second most expensive of all time and sees Madonna attempting to escape a torture chamber, fencing her clone along the way.

 

  1. “Skyfall” by Adele, 2012 (Peak: #2 in UK)

The moody theme to 2012’s addition to the James Bond franchise scored superstar Adele an Academy Award (the first the franchise had seen in the Best Original Song category) as well as a Golden Globe and a Grammy. It quickly became one of the best selling digital singles of all time, with Adele’s vocal capabilities captivating listeners worldwide.

 

  1. “The World Is Not Enough” by Garbage, 1999 (Peak: #11 in UK)

Possibly a surprisingly choice for this spot, but it’s the correct one. Easily the best theme the franchise has ever hosted is this nineties hit by Shirley Manson-fronted, 17 million record selling rock band Garbage. With its extremely dramatic vocal performance and glorious orchestra in the background, the symphonic quality paired with lead singer Shirley Manson’s morose ramblings about greed and love. It’s songs like these that successfully weave together music and movies with high art and leave the viewer longing for more.

10 Stills Series #1: “The Virgin Suicides”

Sofia Coppola, filmmaker and daughter of legendary director Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”), made her directorial debut with 1999’s “The Virgin Suicides,” a heartbreaking tale of sisterhood in 1970s suburban Detroit. Based on the novel of the same name by Jeffrey Eugenides, this sweet but sordid tale confronted taboo themes of mental illness, suicide, and virginity with utmost delicacy. Starring Kirsten Dunst (“Spider-Man”), the film is told from the perspective of the neighborhood teen boys who are utterly curious about the Lisbon sisters and end up falling in love with their allure.

“The Virgin Suicides” not only provides fragile yet poignant commentary on teenagerhood its complexity, it also accompanies the tragic love story with beautifully framed visuals. Join us as we examine ten gorgeous still moments from the film and discuss their graphic impact on the audience.

During a dinner scene at the Lisbon home, one of the infatuated neighborhood boys sneaks off to explore the sisters’ bedroom. Here on the door is an example of the spirituality of the girls, who decorate their room with religious iconography and tarot cards. Mysticism is not only enjoyed and practiced by the girls, it also cloaks them in mystery, as their private lives were never fully known or understood to anyone besides themselves.

After youngest sister Cecilia Lisbon attempts suicide by slashing her wrists in the bathtub, the family throws a party for the girls to celebrate her recovery and to boost family morale. Mrs. Lisbon invites the neighborhood boys over and they all drink fruit punch in the basement while she chaperones. During the party, Cecilia asks her mother to be excused, and proceeds to jump out of her bedroom window and impale herself onto the family’s fence, killing herself instantly. This is the last frame in which we see 13-year-old Cecilia alive, and the melancholy on her face is heart wrenching for the viewer to see.

Following the suicide of Cecilia, the sisters fall further into a depressed state. The priest from their church comes by to visit the home and give his best wishes, and it’s clear that mourning had taken a toll on the home and the girls, increasingly impairing their sense of reality.

The neighborhood boys get ahold of Cecilia’s diary and read it together, diving deep into the fantasy world of the Lisbon sisters. Along the journey they discover more tidbits about the girls and learn about their private lives: their likes, dislikes, and past experiences. Because the girls are so sheltered by their strict, religious parents, they are forbidden to leave the house except for school, which means they never get a chance to hang out with the infatuated boys. It’s whimsical, warm, bright shots like this that lend a soft glare to the film’s otherwise tragic tones.

In school, the girls become disillusioned and bored with suburban life. They cut class to smoke cigarettes in the bathroom and hang out together. While it’s obvious they are very angsty teenagers, they are also grieving the loss of their young sister and developing mental illnesses.

Soon, Lux Lisbon falls head over heels for bad boy Trip Fontaine. The two sneak away during school to kiss outside and hold hands. Their romance blossoms and unfolds on screen in a daydream of young love. For the first time, we see one of the Lisbon sisters happy and genuinely enjoying herself amidst the agonizing weight of suburban life under a strict, religious, oppressive homelife.

Uncharacteristically, Mrs. Lisbon allows the girls to go to the Homecoming Dance at school. Trip and Lux ultimately win the titles of King and Queen.

Here, Lux wakes up before dawn in the middle of the school’s football field. The night before was Homecoming, and Trip and her snuck away during it to have sex on the field. Trip had run off earlier, leaving Lux here alone after taking her virginity. Lux is hurt and takes a taxi back home, and her relationship with Trip falls apart. Her anguish and heartbreak play out on screen in this tear-jerking scene following such an intimate experience.

The sisters are punished for breaking curfew at Homecoming and are taken out of school by Mrs. Lisbon in fear that they are being polluted by their morally bankrupt peers. The girls are cut off from the outside world, forbidden to leave the house or have any taste of the real world. They grow restless and bored, disenchanted with the lives they were living cooped up in their house all day every day with nothing to look forward to.

The Lisbon sisters soon reach out to the neighborhood boys and begin calling them and playing their vinyl records through the phone as a way of conversing. Without any means of in-person communication, they rely on music and Morse code light signals to speak to the girls. A plan is hatched for the boys to come over one night, but when the time rolls around, the boys enter their home only to realize each sister had committed suicide. Following the suicides, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon move away from suburbia, leaving the neighborhood without answers.

The Most Amazing Movie Never Made: 1975’s “Dune”

Before David Lynch’s box office bust adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” in 1984, there was 1975’s star-studded, 14-hour version directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. After director Stanley Kubrick found huge success with his sci-fi flick “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it’s no surprise that Hollywood went into a scramble to pitch and produce the next big intergalactic hit.

Originally intended to be produced by Arthur P. Jacobs (the original “Planet of the Apes” franchise), he passed away after attaining the book’s rights for film development. His role was passed to producer Michel Seydoux and filling the directorial role was Jodorowsky, known for his trippy, surreal, saturated style evident in his fantasy films “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain,” the latter of which the Beatles loved.

The proposed dream team for Jodorowsky’s epic vision consisted of visual artists Chris Foss, H. R. Giger, Moebius – who all went on to design the spaceships, special effects, and concept designs for “Alien” respectively – and visual effects supervisor Dan O’Bannon (“Total Recall”).

The other stars that signed on to the project were even bigger. Writer, radio legend, and director Orson Welles (“Citizen Kane”) would be playing a Jabba the Hut-esque obese beast, Charlie Chaplin’s daughter Geraldine (“Doctor Zhivago”) would also appear as well as Gloria Swanson (“Sunset Boulevard”) and David Carradine (“Kill Bill”).

Oh, and also the Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger and surrealist painter and all-around artistic lunatic Salvador Dali would play leading roles. Even better, the film’s soundtrack was to be produced and recorded by rock powerhouse Pink Floyd whose album “The Dark Side of the Moon” sold over 26 million copies worldwide.

Concept art for the film’s setting

Dali agreed to the role, only after he demanded to be paid $100,000 an hour on set and a huge throne that acted as a toilet made from intersecting dolphins of gold. He also insisted that it was crucial to the film’s plot to see him urinate and defecate on screen for the sake of his character’s development. This all comes from the same man who painted melting clocks for a living and declared, “I don’t do drugs, I am drugs.” To cut corners, Jodorowsky crafted a robotic body double of Dali using plastic and Dali was on set for no more than an hour and a half.

“For me, movies are an art more than an industry. For ‘Dune,” I wanted to create a prophet. ‘Dune’ will be the coming of God,” Jodorowsky boasted to the press. The ambition of the film was astronomical, and utterly unrealistic.

The film’s measly $9+ million budget proved not enough to complete the project reasonable. $2 million of that budget was spent in the pre-production stage alone, creating a script the size and thickness of an old school phone book.. Because Dune surrounds opulent dynasties on faraway planets and would require heavy revisions to simplify the dense premise, it would be too difficult of a challenge to reduce the plot to a straightforward $9 million film. Even with all the big names attached to the epic, Jodorowsky wouldn’t have the time or money to execute his grand plan of elaborate, galactic settings and space-age technology.

“Almost all the battles were won, but the war was lost. The project was sabotaged in Hollywood,” wrote Jodorowsky years later, noting that it’s because of the team’s extensive storyboards and conceptual maps that later influenced big sci-fi blockbuster releases like “Star Wars” and “Alien.”

Upon further development, the movie would be translated into a 10-hour miniseries and passed off to director Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Blade Runner”) to save, but even he couldn’t rescue the plans. Soon, production for the film dissolved and it entered the depths of Hollywood’s development hell.

A decade later, David Lynch (“Twin Peaks”) was tapped to direct a version of Dune, and his actually saw the light of day. Of course, critics besmirched it and audiences were disappointed. Lynch’s 1984 adaptation borrowed little from Jodorowsky LSD vision of Dali and Mick Jagger dancing in space, and it took five script rewrites before production began. 80 hugely detailed sets were constructed and the crew on set teetered around 2,000 people. Kyle MacLachlan (also of “Twin Peaks” fame) starred alongside The Police singer Sting in the film, and music was handled by Brian Eno (former Talking Heads producer) and Toto. Ultimately the film flopped and grossed $30 million on its $40 million budget, unable to break even.

Jodorowsky’s grandiose dreams of bringing “Dune” to the masses never hit theaters, and it’s a shame due to all the time and money poured in by dozens of talented names in Hollywood. A documentary went on to be created about the failed film, aptly titled “Jodorowsky’s Dune” in 2013, and the unmade movie forever embedded itself into the folklore of nerd enthusiasts and movie buffs alike.

How Paris Hilton & Nicole Richie Infiltrated & Subverted Reality Television

It’s no surprise that so-called “reality TV” strays far away from reality itself. Even a show with a title like MTV’s “The Real World” is a lot less than realistic when you think about it. The shift in reality television has boomed since the 2000s, and the narrative soon turned to meticulously planned, highly produced, non-impromptu moments playing out on screen with all its participants playing distinctive roles and falling into specific tropes – and you can blame Paris Hilton for that.

Reality television programming has evolved from its totally-true documentary-style origins in 1971’s “An American Family” from PBS that followed an ordinary family of seven during their daily routines. The show’s finale attracted over ten million viewers and brought to life a very Orwellian principle that went on to influence shows like “Big Brother” which watched regular people at all hours of the day.

The noughties saw the rise of reality competitions like the wild “Survivor,” the high speed “Amazing Race,” and “American Idol.” The popularity of this genre of programming led to the emergence of new celebrities stemming from their respective reality shows. Winner of season one of “Survivor,” Richard Hatch, appeared on countless popular game shows like “Weakest Link,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “Dog Eat Dog,” “Celebrity Apprentice” as well as led him to writing a book and appearing in “Another Gay Movie.”

Similarly, reality tv saw the launching of stars like Kelly Clarkson who won season one of “American Idol,” Tiffany ‘New York’ Pollard found internet stardom through GIFs of her outlandish appearances on “Flavor of Love,” Adrienne Curry scored her own show after winning “America’s Next Top Model” and countless others. Reality stars became important facets of pop culture, it was almost formulaic. The platform was ripe for forming new celebrities, or further catapulting the careers of already-made ones.

So when Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s joint attempt at reality television premiered in 2003, it was clear their stardom was only beginning. Hilton came from the $9.1 billion hotel empire and Richie is the adopted daughter of singer Lionel Richie. In the first season, the two wealthy friends lived in Arkansas for a month and worked minimum wage jobs without access to their credit cards or cellphones. They wreaked havoc at a dairy farm as well as a fast food restaurant, ultimately getting fired from every job they held due to their own laziness and incompetence. The show drew great ratings and 13.3 million viewers tuned in to watch.

Hilton and Richie became even bigger stars and tabloid spectacles than they already were. The world began to associate the girls with the ditzy, scantily-clad blondes they saw on screen, when in reality the girls were quite the opposite.

Contrary to popular belief, the girls weren’t acting as themselves on screen, but rather, playing out exaggerated, stereotypes of who the media believed them to be. In 2006, Hilton admitted that the show was mostly scripted, and that she based her role on Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blonde” and Alicia Silverstone in “Clueless.”

“The great thing about ‘The Simple Life’ is that it’s a reality show but not based on my reality. It has nothing to do with my life or my home or my relationships or anything,” Richie confirmed.

By playing polarizing, love-them-or-hate-them stupid girls on screen, the duo got the public talking. Through an easily digestible stereotype, they sold their images and banked out on the unintelligent tropes we see on screen. This method of genius marketing reduced their complex identities to the typecasts we know and love. The blonde with the baby voice and chihuahua in her purse became the billion-dollar woman behind a perfume empire.

It’s much easier to place a high-pitched, promiscuous, irresponsible, spoiled brat in the media than it is to find a home for a multi-dimensional, profound character with numerous facets to their personalities. Hilton could be copied and pasted into movies or Hallmark cards and the general public would get the joke instantaneously, whereas it’s much harder to fathom or understand the scope and depth of South African anti-apartheid theologian and civil rights activist Desmond Mpilo Tutu.

While the show penned them as brain-dead, spoiled brats, the two became multi-million dollar attractions on their own. Paris Hilton went on to be worth an estimated $300 million – aside from the Hilton Hotel enterprise – and her perfumes alone have grossed over $2.5 billion. Richie’s current estimated net worth is between $5-10 million.

By squealing “That’s hot!” on TV for four years, the two became infamous figures in the key development of constructing reality television far attached from reality itself. Nowadays, the casting process for these shows means finding easy targets and stretching their personalities to bombastic, over-the-top stereotypes meant to fit the producer’s narrative.

Across the board, reality television producers and directors strategically pin contestants against each other, painting them as black or white, pretty or ugly. In season four of four-time Emmy winning show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” spooky goth drag queen Sharon Needes was pitted against the pretty pageant girl with a bad temper, Phi Phi O’Hara.

Throughout the season, the two squabbled and spat wherever they were and of course, they both made it to the top three of the competition. Weaving together a narrative of good versus evil made the show enthralling to its viewers. The finale of the show was the highest rated in the show’s history, seeing a 33% rise in viewership since its former season, and overall the season grew the show’s Twitter followers by 77%.

Without the influence of Hilton and Richie respectively on “The Simple Life,” reality television would be constructed a lot differently. “The Hills” with Heidi Montag and Lauren Conrad wouldn’t exist, neither would the manufactured, drunken stupor of “Jersey Shore” or even the success of starlets like Kim Kardashian of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” fame. Hollywood needs to pay its dues to Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, as they ushered in a new era of unreal reality television programming.