Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Most Memorable Film Score? "The Firm" by Dave Grusin

I will never forget the first time I saw The Firm and heard Dave Grusin's amazing score.

I saw the movie at a small cinema in Cushing, Oklahoma when it was released in 1993. All I knew about the film at the time was that it starred Tom Cruise and was a suspense thriller.

Jumpin' Catfish! The film grabbed me at the opening credits. Captivating blues and jazz solo piano against a backdrop of rowing crews at Harvard. The opening credits sequence featured scenes of Boston where Mitch McDeere, a recent grad from Harvard Law, interviews for jobs with the nation's most prestigious law firms.

I like movie openings that start the story and give background to what is about to happen.

This was John Grisham's first best-selling novel, and the first adapted for film. His first novel, A Time to Kill, did not become a best-seller until after The Firm made it big. Then the publishers decided Grisham might be a pretty good writer after all so they went back and published the first novel. I'd never heard of Grisham before this movie, and since then I've read all his novels. He remains one of my favorite authors.

The music in this movie becomes a character. Set in Memphis, the music is blues and jazz at it's finest. Best tunes for me include, The Firm theme, Memphis Stomp, Ray's Blues and Mud Island Chase.

The Firm Theme

Memphis Stomp

Ray's Blues

Mud Island Chase

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Smoke Signals

Several months ago, Smoke Signals (1998) popped up on my Netflix recommendations so I took the plunge. And I am so glad that I did! This movie has become one of my favorite films of all time. I supposed I'm at an age where ancestry has become more important in my life. I am of Cherokee descent, so the Native American flavor of this film definitely struck a chord in my spirit.

I was not prepared for the delightful blend of humor, tragedy and hope that this film presented to me. The poetry of the words, the strength of the characters, and the simple yet profound plot, captivated me from beginning to end.

Stunning cinematography and poetic use of flashback tell this amazing story.

The screenplay was written by Sherman Alexie (poet, writer, fimmaker) and was based on his short story "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," from his book "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven."

Film summary: It is 1998 and Victor learns that his estranged father has died. Victor travels from his home at the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation to Phoenix, Arizona to collect his father's remains with the help of his friend Thomas Builds-the-Fire.

Here is quote from the film's epilogue:

How do we forgive our fathers? Maybe in a dream. Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often, or forever, when we were too little? Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage, or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all? Do we forgive our fathers for marrying, or not marrying, our mothers? Or divorcing, or not divorcing, our mothers? And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness? Shall we forgive them for pushing, or leaning? For shutting doors or speaking through walls? For never speaking, or never being silent? Do we forgive our fathers in our age, or in theirs? Or in their deaths, saying it to them or not saying it? If we forgive our fathers, what is left?

Read more about this film at Unsung Cinema