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Michael S

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Everything posted by Michael S

  1. I'm dispirited by the widespread negative response (might even call it outright dismissal) to this film, which is a relatively modest, small-scale Netflix movie about three astronauts headed to Mars who discover an authorized fourth passenger on their ship and must face the classic moral dilemma about how to value one person's life versus the lives of several (or many) other people. Even though the screenplay is not an adaptation of an existing source, the parallel is a 1954 sci-fi short story, titled The Cold Equations, with essentially the same situation but with the resources changed (a sho
  2. Thanks for posting the Dick Cavett/James Earl Jones video, Ken. I agree that Jones understands the issue at a deeper level than Cavett. I suppose there's a part of me that wishes that politics could be divorced from art; Cavett says something to the effect that art should be art, and that politics should not be part of it (hence his comment about the "silly" letter). The reality is quite different, though -- not necessarily because viewers, readers, moviegoers, critics, et. al. politicize art when they interact with it (though they do that sometimes), but because a significant amount of art is
  3. When the film adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha premiered some time ago, some viewers and critics protested that some of the actors weren't Japanese but, instead, were Chinese. I don't recall what the production company said at the time about this matter (or if they said anything at all), but I wouldn't be entirely surprised if they had defended their casting decisions by saying that Zhang Ziyi is one of East Asia's and, by extension, the world's, greatest box-office draws, so it's "better" to cast her than someone who is Japanese but much less known (translation: less box-office revenue). *If
  4. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Andrew, I'm glad to hear that you like that Ninth that much. Among symphonic music, it's in a class by itself. I can't quite recall when I first heard it, but the melodies and rhythms of the first movement caught my attention right away, and so I was hooked from the get-go, more or less. I can't recall if this is in the article I linked to (or perhaps it's in another article), but the phone's owner apparently explained later than he had been using a Blackberry, and then, coincidentally, the day of the concert his employer had replaced his Blackberry with an iPhone. He hadn't learned how
  5. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Yeah, Mahler's music is more transcendent than Shostakovich's -- or, at least, Mahler aimed more than DS to achieve transcendence, as you point out. Symphony No. 1 has always been my favorite, although my introduction to Mahler began with the famous adagietto in the Fifth. The Ninth is a very, very close second favorite, but in the end I always return to the First. After you listen to the Ninth, you might find interest in this incident that occurred during one of the New York Philharmonic's live performances of the symphony -- during the famously quiet final movement, a man's cell phone
  6. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Andrew, I must give Schoenberg a try again -- it's been a really long time since I last listened to any of his music. I think it's great that you go through composers' works in chronological order, which allows you to experience the evolution of their music properly. My listening habits are more erratic; someone might mention a symphony, and then I'll get excited and go listen to it and maybe others, regardless of where they fall in a composer's oeuvre. I'm the same way sometimes with popular music. When I got into early Rolling Stones albums, I just picked the ones that had songs I already kn
  7. Michael S

    Classical Music

    It's now mid-March 2021, and yet I still have moments when I think about 2020 and wonder "what were my favorite albums of last year?" My music buying and listening were more haphazard in 2020 than you might expect -- because what else is there to do during an ongoing lockdown than read books, watch movies and/or sports, and listen to music? At any rate, I don't have enough in purchased albums or playlists to fashion a "best-of" list, but one thing I will definitely praise and recommend is a set of recordings of Carl Nielsen's symphonies by the New York Philharmonic and conductor Alan Gilbert (
  8. Thanks for posting this, Darrel. I just registered for the Sound of Metal and Radioactive Q&As. I follow the Cinematheque on social media but somehow overlooked any news about these Q&As.
  9. I watched so few new films in 2020 that I couldn't even approximate a best-of list. I'm looking forward to seeing Minari, whenever it happens to hit streaming platforms. Nomadland too. I'm very fond of Sound of Metal. I didn't expect to be. I sometimes find hyped American "indie" films to be too self-conscious, sanctimonious, or superficial (<-- I didn't really plan the alliteration here; it just came out this way ), and therefore prejudge them, whether fairly or not. But Sound of Metal is an interesting character study, with a great central performance, and it offers attention, perspe
  10. Michael S

    The Game

    I've always seen the film as redemptive as well, although I haven't quite thought about it in terms of Christian imagery. I have the Criterion, so I should take some time to listen to the audio commentary. Somewhat related: I saw this film in a movie theater in London when it was released way back in 1997. It was raining heavy that day; the weather outdoors kind of fit the feel of the film. I got so caught up in the story itself that I genuinely did not know what was real and what was part of the game, and, during the climactic scene on the rooftop, I really thought that Nick/Michael Doug
  11. Michael S

    Organ Music

    That's really great, Evan. Music I've not heard before, and you play so well. I like the sound of the organ. I recently took my guitar out of the case it's been sitting in for years, and I'm gradually relearning things -- I hope to achieve the kind of proficiency on my instrument that you've achieved on yours. (Plus, I admire piano and organ players because, in addition to having to master the keyboard itself, they also have to learn pedaling, which requires both coordination and judgment.) Thanks for sharing the video.
  12. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Definitely let us all know what you think of the book, Christian. If you end up really liking it, I might pick it up. Mahler's 4th is an absolutely beautiful piece of music. Glad that you enjoyed it. Each one of his symphonies is a masterpiece in its own right, not necessarily something music listeners would say about other symphony cycles (even Beethoven). I've not listened to a lot of Ligeti (I think, for me, he's a bit too cerebral sometimes) but I really like his etudes for solo piano. This will be a great adventure, Andrew. Some of Chopin's music is indispensable,
  13. A piano is a great idea -- probably the best instrument on which to learn music theory. I've never owned one, but back during my college days I'd use the pianos the music department had to figure out the various things I had learned in class about keys, chords, melodies, meter, etc. I recently thought about getting a digital piano but probably will wait until I've got some more cash on hand, as well as more space (definitely no room for a real piano, but even a digital one would be a tough fit). One of these days ...
  14. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Christian, thanks for posting that link to the Post review. I'll check it out. I've been curious about Ross' book ever since it was released, and have been curious as well about its reception. Like Andrew, I'm personally not keen on Wagner's music (except for some of his overtures and non-vocal music) and never liked the guy himself (based on what little I've learned about him), but Ross is an excellent critic, so I might give the book a try at some point in the future. If I can find an excerpt somewhere (there might be one in a recent issue of The New Yorker), I'll probably try that first.
  15. Andrew, I can only read music notation in a slow, slightly confused way -- not with any kind of proficiency, as I could when I was in college taking music theory classes. Plus, once I was out of college, I never kept it up, so that particular skill just dwindled. If I were to try to read a classical score now, I would need some external references (key charts, scales, etc.). So when I was reading Swafford's biography, I did the best I could with the music, but a lot of it I glossed over and just relied on his descriptions/analysis. I find Beethoven's life to be inherently interesting but
  16. Andrew, I'm pleased that you're enjoying the Harnoncourt recordings! I've not heard the Kremer/Harnoncourt performance of the Violin Concerto (my set of the symphonies is the original one, with the symphonies only), but that sounds dreadful. I couldn't imagine it working well even if Beethoven himself wrote some version with a piano part. Even the best composers make bad decisions sometimes (so do conductors, orchestras, soloists, et. al.).
  17. Andrew, I think that's correct: symphonies 5 and 6 and the piano concerto all in one concert. I doubt any orchestras perform programs of that length today -- everyone in the audience would leave early (or not show up in the first place), no matter how good the music might be. Across the arts, including music of course, it is interesting to think about evolutions in critical reception. Van Gogh, if I remember correctly, died penniless, with much of his work unappreciated. Some movie critics (Pauline Kael being one of them) reacted to L'Avventura and other modernist films and didn't really affor
  18. Very cool, Andrew. Swafford's biography is great. Excellent analysis of the music itself, and also, as you point out, rich context as well. One might say that there really was a point in Vienna's music history when it was a great time to be alive. Just like Salieri says in the film Amadeus: "Vienna, city of musicians!" I hope you enjoy the Harnoncout recordings. I've always loved his recording of the third symphony in particular. I suspect that Harnoncourt has his detractors as much as he has his fans because he's unique, but I always find him thoughtful. Could you imagine what it m
  19. Michael S


    This seems strange to me -- I believe it happens, but "strange" in the sense that any critic's responsibility is to the film/art/book/whatever and to its creators, and so I wouldn't really understand critics who write negatively about a film or work of art to spite someone else. That's too bad. Having said that, studios sometimes won't have screenings for critics because they already know the film is terrible! If the story is true (or even if it isn't, actually), it's a reminder that genuine intellectual honesty is something that can't be overrated.
  20. Michael S


    And I found that it's all one endless wormhole, with my YouTube feed suggesting one video, then another, then another, and of course I couldn't stop myself from basically watching all of them. The funny thing is that I don't really even like the Star Wars sequels and only watched them because of the nostalgia I have for a childhood spent with the original trilogy (my parents took me to see A New Hope in a theater when I was but a very wee lad, and I walked out saying that it was the greatest movie ever made ). I usually trust film critics, but -- and I'm just speculating here and thin
  21. Michael S


    Incidentally, as a way to fill a little downtime this past week or two, I watched a handful of videos by various YouTubers discussing the Disney Star Wars sequels, Mulan, etc., and while I don't think of their content as necessarily solid criticism, I noticed a pattern in their concerns: for the most part, they're very loyal to the original films (particularly the original Star Wars trilogy, not so much the prequels), they feel that Disney doesn't make enough effort to listen to the fans, and that Disney seems to make films by "committee", instead of allowing directors and writers more autonom
  22. Ken, I also noticed that permanent links to Top 100 individual films/write-ups are also not working and only redirect to the forum's main page. Hopefully that'll be an easy fix too.
  23. Ken, I just noticed that the link for the 2020 Top 100 doesn't work, despite it working just a few days ago. I noticed that the forum interface is different, so perhaps that's affected some of the permanent links? When I use this link for the top 100, I'm redirected to the forum's main page.
  24. Michael S


    I've had a difficult relationship, so to speak, with Herbert's novel. I've tried and failed multiple times over the years (decades, honestly) to make my way through Dune. I can't clearly pinpoint why, though -- whether it's the tone, the prose, the subject matter itself, the ideas, the characters, or something else. I've never read beyond the first quarter of the book. I'm not the most avid of sci-fi readers, but I sailed through Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Theodore Sturgeon's More than Human (to take just two examples) easily. I can't imagine giving Dune another try, unless Vill
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