Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Electric Lie

‘Tis the season to be swindled once again by the promise of baby smooth cheeks without the risk of razors. Three pivoting "heads," comforting cream and no irritation is the false prophet's promise blasted on high over the Christmas cavalcade of commercials. Every year more and more unsuspecting chin-scraping fools fall for the Happy Norelco pitch. And every year, more and more stubble free dreams are dashed like puppies at the quarry. We’ve all been there, we have all given the electric razor a try and we have them all jammed in bathroom cabinets, where they collect dust atop the tad bit of beard dust they excavated one week after Christmas. Indeed, in less than a year, a perfectly respectable gift gets swallowed by the mighty mouth of the bathroom sink cupboard. There must be hundreds of them down under there already. And yet every Christmas we are once again drawn by the siren’s silky smooth call of the electric lie -– but be warned and heed the wisdom of wily whiskers; resist these Satanic stubble sirens! Or you shall surely suffer the clattering clutter that these so-called cutters leave in their whisker whacking wake.

The Ninnies of Narnia

So we went under special invitation to the Writers Guild screening of Disney's long-awaited and breathlessly ambitious production of "Chronicles of Narnia: TLTW&TW." Present following the screening was the film's composer, Harry Gregson-Williams, whose previous scores for Shrek, Shrek 2 and Shrek 3-D made him the most unlikely candidate for "The Chronicles of Narnia."

It was a pleasure to hear his accent though (refined to a new height of snobbish aristocracy), and his brief references to his mentor Hans Zimmer is, of course, as ironic as it gets, given neither had formal training to compose film scores in the grand tradition of Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, Miklos Rosza, John Williams - well, just about anyone pre-James Horner who writes film music. Even sans formal training for scoring films, Harry still gets to proclaim in outbursts that are as subtle as master film composer Bernard Herrmann, who told Alfred Hitchcock through the grapevine that the orchestra comes from the same place as the lights, the sets and the director when Hitchcock asked why there should be musical passages in "The Lifeboat," which takes place in the middle of the open sea on a lifeboat. "Where would the music come from?" Hitchcock allegedly said. What? Was Hitch suggesting that music would be an aural intrusion to the sounds of the waves? Gregson-Williams said something similar in concept about dropping out music during the big battle sequence in Narnia. It was more powerful to hear the clanging of swords than some little leitmotif that could speak from an inner sensibility (but how could it, since no such themes were established earlier in the picture?).
Now for those who hear electronica in the Narnia score, Mr. Gregson-Williams declares, "There can be any kind of instrument you can imagine in Narnia -- including electronic violins!" Touché! Having Hans Zimmer as a film composing mentor is like having Tony Danza as your talk show host mentor. Ever since Brian Eno declared he knew very little about music and composing, but proceeded to mentor through the likes of David Bowie, U2 and notable others, it's become rather cool and vogue to tout you know not what you do -- isn't it grand and wild? And people keep hiring me! Ah-ha! So, it was only fitting that a flock of PANGEALS made their way into the screening, if for no other reason than to expose this trend. As for the score itself -- it's no "Metal Gear 3." But then, what is?