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All Time Best Musical Moments

| May 7, 2021 | 0 Comments

In my mind, there is no more powerful artistic experience than the combination of music and visuals. The eyes and ears combine to produce the maximum emotional response…when it’s done right. It’s my favorite part of any movie when the music is perfect for whatever scene is being depicted. It strikes a deep emotional chord, even in movies that are, overall, not so great.

So, I decided to collect my favorites among these moments. In most cases, I’ve been able to find the clips on YouTube, though some have ads and extraneous material. In one case, the embedding doesn’t work and you have to go to YouTube to view the clip. Also, the power of the scenes, in some cases, is diminished when extracted from the movie. In other cases, particularly in the bad movies, it’s actually better when removed from the mediocrity that surrounds it.

With all those qualifications, here are the criteria for choosing clips and I would invite anyone who reads this to contribute to the list.

  • The movie is not a musical, so the musical interlude is surprising, even a bit out of place. The Sound of Music need not apply.
  • The music is a discreet song, not the generalized soundtrack. For instance, The Godfather probably has the best musical soundtrack in the history of movies. But no “musical moments” as defined here.
  • The song is relevant to the action in the movie. It’s not just a good song, but it advances the plot or deepens the emotional content of the scene.

So, with all that in mind, the following are my favorite musical moments in movies. At least those I can currently remember. Feel free to add or criticize.

Fly Away Home – 10,000 Miles

| April 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, where the musical moment was at the beginning of the credits, the scene in Fly Away Home is the last segment of the movie. So, this could be considered a spoiler. But I don’t think so because appreciation of the scene does not require the element of surprise. Rather, the whole movie seems to build to this last scene to the degree that I would not be surprised to learn that the producers of the movie created it explicitly to lead to this awesome final scene.

The movie is about a young girl, maybe 13 years old, whose parents are killed in a car accident and she goes to live with her quirky uncle, the ubiquitous Jeff Daniels, who lives in a rural area of some New England state. Daniels plays an inventor with a passion for individual flying machines, those small motorized wings. Much of the movie revolves around the fraught relationship between the grieving girl and her funky uncle.

At some point, the girl discovers a flock of geese who are apparently orphans, just like her. So, she begins to care for them. The crisis develops when they realize that this flock of geese need to migrate south for the winter. But, since they have no parents, they won’t know how to do so or where to go. The only being they follow is the little girl.

So, Daniels and the little girl concoct a plan in which he will build a flying machine, paint the wings to look like a mother goose and the little girl will fly south with the geese in tow. Predictably, their plan has its ups and downs in the execution. There’s also a subplot in which the pond where they will be taking the geese in North Carolina, I believe, is threatened by a developer.

All of this leads to the actual flight, which also has its ups and downs….literally. The culmination of all this drama are the scenes of the girl flying Daniels’ contraption with the geese flying alongside. And this is where the music takes it into my top ten list. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ethereal song, 10,000 Miles plays in the background in a perfect accompaniment to the flight. If you don’t burst into tears when she clears that final hill, with the violins swelling and the crowd cheering for the final approach, well, I can only pity you for your hard-heartedness.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Come and Get Your Love

| April 16, 2021 | 0 Comments

Is it possible to do a spoiler on something that happens in the first five minutes of a movie? If so, spoiler coming.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a romp of a movie, but it starts off very darkly. It begins with a young boy, maybe 10 years old, whose mother is on her death bed. He’s at her bedside. She gives him a gift, but he refuses to take her hand. Instead, he runs out of the house and is suddenly beamed up, presumably to a spaceship hovering over his house. The mood is very sad.

The next scene takes place in a what appears to be the ruins of some stone structure. Maybe a castle. Foreboding music plays in the background. A robot like figure with red laser-eyes appears in a doorway. The eyes scan the scene and ghostly figures appear within the range of the eyes. The mood is very scary. The robot figure walks slowly forward, pushes a button on the side of his head and the face of Chris Pratt appears. He slowly places wired ear plugs in his ears and reaches to his belt and, with his gloved hand, pushes the play button on an old 1980’s vintage Sony Walkman.

The twangy opening cords of Come and Get Your Love starts playing and he begins to dance across the screen. The title Guardian of the Galaxy explodes on to the screen and the entire mood suddenly changes. Credits begin to pop up at random. And Pratt continues to dance, bop and strut through the ruins, theatrically kicking small alien creatures like footballs. The release from the darkness into the comedic light is almost physical. It’s a perfect overture to a really fun movie.

I’ve concluded that 70’s pop is a much better musical genre than I thought it was when I was experiencing it in the 70’s. It was my coming-of-age decade, so some might argue, it’s nostalgia. But I think there was a lot of junk music in the 70’s, like any decade. But the songs we’re still listening to have, but definition, stood the test of time. And I have to say, I never really appreciated Come and Get Your Love until it was paired with Chris Pratt bebopping through an extraterrestrial ruin.

Mean Streets – Please Mr. Postman

| April 8, 2021 | 0 Comments

M ean Streets, Mr. Postman

Martin Scorcese’s third movie was Mean Streets. It was released in 1973. Two actors who became lifelong collaborators with Scorsese are in the movie and boy are they young, Robert Deniro and Harvey Keitel. Deniro’s character, Johnny Boy is truly maniacal and very scary.

The clip above includes a scene in which the gang, of which Keitel’s character is the leader, are visiting a pool hall to conduct some sort of nefarious business. The “negotiation” is clearly pretty unscripted and also very funny. Things deteriorate when the pool hall owner called one of Keitel’s gang “a mook.”

“A mook???” the gang member says. “What’s a mook?” And the brawl begins, with the song “Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes in the background. The scene includes Scorcese’s trademark tracking shots as he follows the combatants in the various scrums around the pool tables. Deniro is seen swinging pool cues wildly at all comers.

A couple of police officers show up, the music stops and we’re back to comedy. The pool hall owner offers a bribe for the cop to ignore the nail clipper he finds in Keitel’s pocket claiming it’s a dangerous knife. The owner offers to pay for transportation for the cop and asks the cop where he’s going?

“New Jersey,” says the cop. Owner gives him money.

Cop says, “actually we’re going to Philadelphia.” Owner gives him more money.

Mean Streets is my all time favorite movie, in part, because it reminds me of the neighborhood I grew up in in Boston. But this scene is one of my favorites because of the music. While the scene depicts a violent brawl, the music keeps it light and, frankly, fun. The movie overall cycles between comedy, tragedy and violence. This scene hits those notes, as well.

NASA Lands a Car on Mars

| February 18, 2021 | 0 Comments

Today, I watched NASA TV for about two hours while the space vehicle “Perseverance” made its final approach and landing on Mars.

Despite being a huge fan of space travel, I had no idea this mission was even happening. It just popped up on my twitter feed. So, I turned on the NASA broadcast and started to watch. I remain fascinated by the unbelievable brilliance of NASA scientist to pull this off. There is a little sadness though, in that there is now a limit to what I will see in terms of space travel. Will I ever see a man on Mars? Possibly, but doubtful. A different perspective than during Apollo when a movie called 2001 A Space Odyssey envisioned manned flight to Jupiter. I definitely thought I would live to see that.

Still, it was thrilling to watch, even though most of the images were of anxious NASA scientists staring at consoles. But you knew that they were intensely excited. And, by spending an hour and a half watching those images, with periodic animations of the actual landing, it earned me the right to tear up when the landing was confirmed and the scientists erupted.

I find it amazing, but not surprising, that the news coverage was so fleeting. There was no build-up. As noted above, I had no idea it was happening. The cable news broke to the event for the last 30 minutes before landing and maybe 20 minutes after. Then moved on.

Today…nothing. It’s like the later Apollo missions. We had men actually tromping around the lunar surface and people were bored with it. Back in the days of Star Trek I could not have imagined that manned space travel would turn into something from history, not the relentlessly exciting future.

But here we are.

Impeachment Day Plus One

| February 14, 2021 | 0 Comments

Lots of controversy today about the fact that the impeachment managers chose not to call witnesses at the trial that finished with Trump’s acquittal. I’m not sure what to think. Fundamentally, I’m not inclined to second guess Rep. Jaimie Raskin, a true national hero. But the account in today’s Post of how the decision was made does not really satisfy.

It seems the criteria was whether or not it would lead to any more Republican votes. Obviously, it was not going to do that. I wish they had given consideration to the further effect on Trump’s legacy and, frankly, the political impact of having real human beings describing his depravity. I would even give up a few Republican votes if it drove home with the public his utter lack of humanity. He is simply the worst human being I’ve ever known in my lifetime, either personally or through the media. The fact that 70 million people voted to keep him president continues to boggle my mind.

Republicans who know better and continue to enable him constantly make the calculation that he will eventually go away….but he never does. Time after time, he escapes accountability for his crimes. It is never about whether or not he did the thing in question. It’s either the wrong time or not worth the effort or contrary to some procedural norm or whatever. And then, he declares vindication and moves on.

Now, we hear about all the prosecutors that have him in their sights. I find that encouraging, but I wish I had more confidence that one or more of them have the gumption to carry the process through.

In a weird way, I wonder if his acquittal will make him more vulnerable to the criminal justice system. I could imagine that, if he was convicted, his supporters would claim that he has suffered enough. The conviction is worse than any criminal punishment. Or that prosecuting him amounts to double jeopardy.

While we focus on the puzzle of the 70 million, the fact is that 80 million voted against him. And they feel pretty strongly about who he is and what should be done with him. Let’s hope their voices are heard and that these prosecutors know that it is up to them to bring justice, finally, to this terrible, terrible man.

Vaccination Complete

| February 12, 2021 | 0 Comments

I had a 9:15 am appointment to get the second dose of the Moderna vaccine. It was a little more complicated than the first dose, which was extremely expeditious. It was at a facility on Kennedy Street near North Capitol. Looked like an old movie theater. There was a line outdoors, which concerned me a bit, since I didn’t dress for an extended period outside. It was about 28 degrees.

There were actually multiple lines that the people just organized themselves. One line for 9:15 appointments, a different line for 9:30 appointments. I got into the 9:15 line and it moved pretty quickly. We were herded through. Stand here. Fill out this form. Sit here. Now sit there. Now move into the vaccination room and sit here. Finally, go to table 3 to get your vaccinations. Any questions? “No.” Jab. You’re all set.

I have to say the whole experience, the sign up, the first vaccine, the second vaccine, were incredibly smooth and efficient. I keep hearing about the difficulties people are facing. That was not my experience. Frankly, it was an experience of government working the way it’s supposed to.

Welcome to the Biden Administration.

Rozzie and Scooter

| January 1, 2021 | 0 Comments
Rozzie and Scooter, on Bridget’s bed, waiting for her to return from an outdoor New Year’s Eve celebration

One of the unexpected delights of my daughter Bridget’s “home stay” for the holidays, is the relationship that has developed between our dog, Rozzie, a large golden retriever/border collie mix, and Bridget’s new dog, a small dog of undetermined breeds that was rescued from the Navajo reservation. They have become real pals, chasing one another, fighting over toys and even snoozing together.

The relationship was epitomized on a recent walk in Rock Creek Park with the two of them.

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Hillbilly Elegy – The Movie

| November 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

Rita and I watched Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix last night. I didn’t know much about the movie, but was familiar with the book. I had a vague negative sense about it. I know it was a phenomenon when it first came out. Not having read it and just knowing about it from reviews and news coverage, it seemed that, at first, it was hailed as an explanation for the alienation in rural America that explained the election of Trump. Then, I got the sense that opinion changed a bit and the author, JD Vance, had become an apologist for Trump voters, that he down played race and based their support of Trump on economic factors. I happen to believe that race plays a very large role in Trump’s support, so I was not really up for an apologia for the moral standing and victim hood of Trump voters. To be fair, my views of the movie and the author of the book were not based on anything I knew or could point to. Which is another way of saying they could be totally wrong.

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My Favorite Thanksgiving Photo

| November 27, 2020 | 0 Comments

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