Saturday, August 30, 2008

Curtain Call For Baltimore: The Wire

With David Simon's series "The Wire" coming to a close on HBO earlier this year, thus ends one of television's most intriguing and sweeping examinations of an urban American city ever put on the screen (big or small). The verisimilitude it captured- from street level dealers to the corridors of city hall and back- was risky yet it paid huge dividends to its audience, refusing to give any establishment the short end of the stick and remaining intelligent throughout. At times iconic towards its city and many other times embarrassing, "The Wire" was certainly not condescending and I imagine any city in America would've been proud to hold the framework for this fine series. It landed its share of black eyes, but also commended the unique, hard working and diligent individuals within its concrete jungle whether they were crooks, cops, politicians, teachers, dock workers, news writers or bartenders. And above all, "The Wire" understood that these individuals create and give life to the city that it celebrates. You could find wisdom, honor and intelligence in the lowliest of the low and the highest of the high. It had a story to tell each season, of course, but the truth was always in the details and I'm glad that creator Simon was able to allow some people to make it out alive as the curtain fell on Baltimore.

My own personal introduction to "The Wire" came later than some. During the initial airing of Season 3 on HBO, I decided to rent the first disc of Season One and give it a chance. From that first viewing, I was hooked. I think the hook came in a relatively early scene when a drug addicted homeless man named Bubbles (Andre Royo, who would eventually become the graceful figure of redemption in the series and discussed later) was giving undercover police a lesson in how to infiltrate the drug-ridden ghettos of Baltimore's western side. As an undercover cop was gloating on how prepared he was for his deceptive mission on the street, Bubbles quickly pointed out that he was still wearing his wedding ring. A junkie would've already sold the ring for cash. Then Bubbles looked at the cop's sneakers and chided them for not being beaten up enough. A real homeless man would have glass shards and broken vile glass all over his shoes from walking in the streets everyday. A simple observation yes.... but one that echoes the resilient truth in every episode of "The Wire" and one that most cop shows ignore or gloss over. There was always plenty of time for these natural observations in "The Wire" and it made me feel vindicated that I was watching something very close to the truth.

Season One concentrated on the Baltimore drug trade, building an intricate network of dealers, pushers, young kids and devoted cops on Baltimore's western side. The long streets with dilapidated brownstones and short steps out front became the central locale. I have to admit... these images of the brownstones throughout all five seasons of "The Wire" remains the most prescient image in my mind... so much so that when I recently visited Baltimore and we took a wrong turn outside of downtown Baltimore and ended up on one of these identical streets, my heart jumped a little at seeing something in person that had been manufactured continually on-screen. Season Two alternated its locale, jumping from the urban environment to the Baltimore port where a canister of dead Eastern European women turns up on their dock. It may've seemed like a bold move since Season One concluded with a host of loose ends, but it was yet another example of "The Wire" jettisoning the normal expectations of serial television and re-iterating that not everything ends in justifiable measures. Like life, things are messy and unfulfilled. Season Three strayed back to the unfinished business of Season One as the cops re-open their investigation on street level drug pushing. Then, Season Four pulled what could be called the series most effective coup. The cops and drug dealers were pushed to the background and the city's school system and political machine were thrust to the fore front. With the introduction of councilman Carcetti (Aidan Gillan) "The Wire" traded in its brilliant observations of police procedure and morphed into one of the most telling depictions of political campaigning I've ever witnessed. If you get your jones watching obscure documentary features on the political process ("Our Brand Is Crisis", "The War Room" or Downey Jr's "The Last Party"), then Season Four definitely should hold rank in your viewing queue. Besides the political arena, Season Four spotlighted a group of young boys growing up in the ghetto and faced with a collapsing economic school system. Perhaps the smartest aspect of Season Four is showing exactly how urban environments gravitate certain individuals into a culture or lifestyle. These are all intelligent boys, but their options are limited. Season Four slowly exemplifies how even the brightest can turn towards bad choices. And it's in this season that "The Wire" explodes into something greater than serial television. It becomes social realism.

So where to go with Season Five? Back to the streets naturally. Integrated into yet another drug investigation (since the "crown" of the drug dealers is continually passed from weakest to strongest) is the inner-workings of the Baltimore Sun press. With a firm grasp of Baltimore politics in tow from the previous season, Mayor Carcetti faces a whole slew of corruption and back-stabbings within city halls. And then there's lead detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) chasing a serial killer AND a drug kingpin. While Season Five is responsible for juggling three distinct story lines now, it also has the added pressure of satisfying its loyal fan base as the series comes to a close. With the onslaught of criticism and controversy about HBO's other David series (need I mention it?) "The Wire" faced a dicey path. And given the messiness of the series previous history, nothing was certain. Yet Season Five managed to etch out moments of grace and tenderness as each character (close to 50) slowly faded into the background of Baltimore's facade. Some will carry on duties as Baltimore's finest. Some will seek other opportunities and some will rise up to fill the bloody shoes of those lost in the concrete battleground of the brownstones. But, the lingering promise that the city is a little better now than when we found it is hard to shake. If nothing else, "The Wire's" heart and redemptive soul can be found in the lowly character of Bubbles. Situated on the precipice of drug addiction oblivion throughout most of the first three seasons, the last few episodes reveal him as a recovering addict slowly acclimating back into society. The final image of Bubbles, as he sits down to dinner with his sister and her little girl, instills an awesome feeling of complexity and finality to the series. Cases are opened and closed. Political favors are dispensed. Careers are bolstered and finished. But the ultimate experience of "The Wire" is soundly represented in the quiet character arch of this once homeless drug addict who has found a peaceful agreement with his life. Like the looming city of Baltimore- which receives a meditative succession of images from country to city in the closing moments- maybe the bad times are gone. Whatever happens, I'm extremely glad I was able to share in these experiences for over five years.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Laugh Factory

Usually reserved for the dregs of summer blockbusters as a dumping ground akin to the month of February, something unusual has happened this month. Comedies are reigning supreme. First there was "Pineapple Express", followed these last two weeks by not one or two, but 4 comedies- "The Rocker", "The House Bunny", "Hamlet 2" and "Tropic Thunder". Maybe in some weird counter-programming move, the studios have decided that we need a lighter prospect before entering the drama-laden Oscar 'baiters' of September and October. Either way, I'm sure the dregs are still not far behind ("Babylon AD" anyone?).

Though I've yet to see "Hamlet 2", "The Rocker" or "The House Bunny" (which of the 3, only the comedic sexiness of Anna Faris appeals to me), I can say I was delighted and dumbfounded by the other two films mentioned. I loved one and disliked the other. In one corner, we've got the stoner buddy/action parody written by and starring the golden boy of modern comedy Seth Rogen, directed by one of my favorite quirky young independent directors and rolled out to the public by that oh-so popular Apatow camp. In the other corner there lies the broad, satirical meta-movie about film making that stars name brand faces, injects larger than life cameos and wears its smarmy in-jokes brazenly on its sleeve. "Pineapple Express" vs. "Tropic Thunder". And "Tropic Thunder" lands the knock-out blow, becoming the smartest and most enjoyable satire about movie-making since "Bowfinger" (I know... I know... I'm waaay in the majority in my praise for Oz's 1999 comedy but deal with it). So where did the "Pineapple Express" camp go so wrong and the "Tropic Thunder" crew rack up the laughs?

I think part of the problem with "Pineapple Express" lies in the fact that so much of its comedy stems from the fact that these are two guys getting high 65% of the time. It's not funny unless, gasp, maybe you are high. Certain scenes carry on for far too long (namely the first meeting between Rogen and Franco and the Danny McBride character, as well as any other McBride scene) and director David Gordon Green fails to exact any sense of timing in the jokes. "Pineapple Express" is a clear example of a comedy whose best parts are worn thin in the trailer. Outside of that, you're left with dialogue scenes that feel made up on the fly. This improvised feel has served other Apatow produced vehicles well, but in "Pineapple Express" it feels like filler for a comedy that lasts way too long and wears out its welcome. It may be fun to watch these guys freak out in a wooded area at night time if your high like them, but if your sober then the jokes on you. Taking the loosest framework of a plot- guys on the run from drug dealers- "Pineapple Express" is a schizophrenic mixture of stoner comedy and over-the-top action that fails to generate many laughs or thrills in either genre pastiche.

"Tropic Thunder" is just as rambling with the same loose sense of plot. But what holds that film together (outside of the gloriously funny details such as the "Simple Jack" poster which features the 'retarded' Jack happily chasing a butterfly with a hammer) are sharp moments of spoken dialogue, humorous reaction shots mostly from Robert Downey Jr. and an ensemble that understands when to cut the joke short. I certainly feel I owe "Tropic Thunder" a second viewing because I was laughing so hard over certain portions of dialogue that I missed some other comedic nuances. That's always the sign of a good comedy that hits its intended mark. Unlike "Pineapple Express" which loses steam in its characters laborious search for laughs, "Tropic Thunder" feels like a script (and a cast) who understand the natural climax of comedy. For my money, humor isn't found in watching the gears of an actor grind as he improvises on the fly (yes, looking at you Will Ferrell) but in carefully planned and reactionary comedy in which one line of dialogue progresses into another. In "Tropic Thunder", the laughs are precise and furious.

I wrote an earlier post about the degradation of good comedy and the infusion of the Will Ferrell style of generating laughs... comedies full of non-sequiter images and scenes that shuffle on for way too long (and which "The Family Guy" corners the market). "Pineapple Express" is a milder example of this new form of comedy, and if Seth Rogen and James Franco weren't so endearing and genuine in certain scenes, I fear "Pineapple Express" would hover even closer to the bottom of the comedy genre than it already does. That's a hard thing for me to say because so much of my personal favorite talents were involved in its creation. The hype factor very well may have killed the buzz, and in that regard, it was only a matter of time before a sharp, unassuming comedy like "Tropic Thunder" came along and blew me away much like "Bowfinger" did many years ago. Even now, thinking about the almost throwaway line of dialogue in "Tropic Thunder" where Downey Jr realizes that Nolte has hands, it makes me smile. That's the essence of good comedy- it continues to give long after the lights have gone up.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shared Memories

Out of 436 photos taken with my trusty Sony Cybershot, I wanted to share a few of my favorites.

The original recording studio in Memphis (Sun studios) where everyone from Elvis Presley to U2 recorded songs. The tour starts upstairs where you're given a talking head spiel about the history of the studio with glass museum-like cases. 55 people were crammed tight into this small space, jockeying for photos and digital recordings. I noticed a small stairway at the back of the room and stood next to it, not wanting to get entangled with the crowd. The tour then takes its next step and goes downstairs into the actual recording studio, in which I was the first one into due top my (sharp!) observations. Four of five photos of uninterrupted snaps were taken and I felt a small victory as the rest of the losers stumbled downstairs.

The grave of Edgar Allen Poe tucked quietly inside a downtown Baltimore graveyard. Eerie and beautiful at the same time.

Babe Ruth's birth house and museum in downtown Baltimore. There's another picture of the original sale of receipt for Ruth from the Red Sox to Yankees that would melt a few Red Sox fans around here.

The awe-inspiring Camden Yards.

Overlooking Gettysburg. We walked for what seemed like miles around the battlefields, snapping random photos of everything. If you want a real sense of history, this is the place for you.

Part of the Vietnam wall memorial. A very moving experience.

The Capitol building. After seeing it up close, it is one of the most gorgeous looking buildings I can imagine. Movies and TV (of course) don't do the intricacies of the architecture justice.

JFK's gravesite.

And who is this guy throwing up the ubiquitious peace symbol on the steps of the Lincoln memorial? That's me... worn out and suffering from blisters on my feet for walking for 4 straight days. Highly enjoyable, though. I'll take the blisters in exchange for the sights and sounds my family and I experienced. And I decided I definitely want to retire in the area when the time comes. Driving through the small Pennsylvania town of Emmittsburg (where a majority of my dad's family was from) I made the decision. Beautiful country, temperatures in the lower 70's in late August- which I'm sure is just a fluke, but it still sold me- and laid back lifestyle. Who could ask for me. Nothing to do except enjoy life and write the great American novel.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Leave A Message at the Beep

It'll be quiet here for the next ten days or so as I roadtrip to the East Coast with family. I'll be in Washington DC for a few days, driving up to Baltimore for an Orioles-Red Sox game Tuesday night, visiting Pennsylvania and then back to DC. Needless to say, I'll need a vacation from my vacation. I fully expect the blog-o-sphere to continue on without me and I look forward to the 1200+ posts in my Google Reader when I return. Don't let me down!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Second String Actors: Paul Schneider

When I watched "Lars and the Real Girl" earlier this year, I fully expected to be somewhat blown away by Ryan Gosling's performance. I mean honestly, the guy made lawyer dreck like "Fracture" ultimately compelling and wholly watchable. What would he do with a juicy role like that? While I did enjoy Gosling and the movie itself, I was completely impressed by the supporting role of Paul Schneider as the brother to Lars- the older brother, settled with a pregnant wife, bound strictly by the social rules of engagement that hover over the snowy Midwestern town where "Lars and the Real Girl" takes place, and a character that desperately wants his brother to be normal when we all know that will never happen. Lars (Gosling) finds normality in other places. It's the perception of normality within Gus (Schneider) that drives a good majority of the film's emotional resonance. Schneider makes you genuinely feel for his character... the heartbreak at watching his brother carry on with a blow up doll as a real person drives him slowly up the wall, yet there's a sense of gracious acceptance towards the end of the film. Both brothers reach a certain point in their lives, and "Lars and the Real Girl" is just as much about Gus and his new family (wife and newborn) as it is about Gus, Lars and their lifelong relationship as brothers. It's what supporting characters are meant to do, and Schneider knocks it out of the park.

Thinking back, why was I so initially despondent about Schneider's performance? Here's a guy coming off a marvelous supporting turn in Andrew Dominic's "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford" in which he not only holds his own during a startling shoot-out, but also manages to sway across the screen with southern charm as the outlaw ladies man (eventually bedding down with Gretchen Mol, which kindles the aforementioned gun fight). And before that, he served as the lay-about but well intentioned South Carolina male in David Gordon Green's "All the Real Girls" (2003) and more tangentially in his debut "George Washington" (2001). Of the two, "All the Real Girls" was Schneider's major introduction into the film making stratus. It's pretty hard not to get lost in the shuffle when you're acting opposite the lovely Zooey Deschanel (just ask Will Ferrell who she ran circles around in "Elf"), but Schneider manages to hold his own in "All the Real Girls", an emo love story that starts out in mid-croon as he declares his love for Noel(Deschanel) in a dilapidated alley and then turns sour as they deal with real life. Downbeat, yes, but still one of the very best films of its respective year and the film that launched both him and Zooey as viable independent (and now mainstream) faces. Some criticisms against Schneider in "All the Real Girls" revolved around his 'aw shucks' style of casualness, but it's this persona that fits so well around Gordon Green's penchant for inarticulate middle class youngsters. Schneider does hem and haw around most of the time, but he also lets loose with some primal emotions when the times comes around... and his reaction towards Noel's distancing feels perfectly characteristic of this type of inarticulate middle class youth. Instead of cloying, Schneider embodies most of his characters as truthful and sensitive. While the real Paul Schneider may be identical to his on-screen personifications and that similarity is off-putting to some (Tom Cruise, anyone?), Schneider makes it work.

Schneider has led a relatively quiet acting career until the last 2 years or so. After partnering with David Gordon Green on several short films and his debut in "George Washington", Schneider ventured outside the Green canopy in 2005 with supporting turns in Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown" and then "The Family Stone" (I guess I need to check this out now). But it wasn't until the one-two punch last year in the aforementioned Jesse James film and "Lars and the Real Girl" that Schneider's face (and Southern drawl) slowly began seeping into cinematic consciousness. Schneider took his career one step further when he stepped behind the camera to write and directed "Pretty Bird", a film which premiered at Sundance this year and received good reviews. It has yet to land a distribution deal, despite starring Billy Crudup and Paul Giamatti. This is only a natural progression since he wrote the screenplay with Green to "All the Real Girls", and shows incredible talent for dialogue and interaction.

We've already seen Schneider grow up, somewhat, on screen. From his scattershot youthfulness in "George Washington" to the worrisome older brother in "Lars and the Real Girl", it's been a quick seven years for Schneider. There is a moment in "Lars and the Real Girl" where he invites his younger brother to dinner with him and his wife. It's a simple scene with Gus (Schneider) prepared to accept his brother's declined invitation like most other nights. Instead, Lars accepts and wheels out his blow up doll. There's no words exchanged, only a glance between the two of them that suggests something deeper than words. Both actors handle it with understated gestures, but there's something very sad about the way Schneider hangs his head and looks at his brother. It's these little moments that hook me on an actor. And it certainly hooked me on Schneider.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Quick DVD Thoughts

Surfwise- One of the best documentaries to come along so far this year. Like "Capturing the Friedmans" or "Tarnation", Doug Pray's family expose goes to some pretty dark places and is present during some of their most joyous (such as a truly moving family reunion in Hawaii) moments. It's hard not to feel anxious for these kids, and even before I had any idea where this thing was headed, I found it psychologically perplexing that the children all referred to their father by his real name "Dorian", and not "dad".

Sleepwalking- Bill Maher's laborious indie drama is indicative of just how boring independent film has gotten. Dreary settings up north, yep. Emotionally stunted man child? Yes. Big actors taking small paychecks and financing the film? You got it. A journey of self discovery? Oh hell yes. All of this has been done before (and better) without Nick Stahl brooding in every scene and Charlize Theron portraying a lay-about mom who abandons her daughter.

21- Really surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Though I'm sure it's been dazzled up and invigorated with drama from the original story its based on- yes I watch the History channel- "21" is still brisk, sexy film making. Then again, I'm always a sucker for movies about Vegas. And Kate Bosworth.

The Notorious Concubines- More cinema weirdo from Koji Wakamatsu, this time taking place in feudal Japan as a king takes many wives, has orgies, and begins wars. It's actually not as fun as it sounds. Like Wakamatsu did with "Ecstasy of the Angels", this is really a mainstream pinku film where sex is substituted for actual narrative and reasoning. The blood is cheap, the action is even cheaper.. but I'm told it was a huge art house hit back in the late 60's. Go figure.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On "Doomsday" and Broader Themes

The first half of Neil Marshall's "Doomsday" is so fun and so full of creative homages that I almost forgive its second half. Almost. Clearly inspired and dedicated to the camp greatness of John Carpenter and George Miller, Marshall manages to plunder the best of their work in a genre-smashing event that begins like "Escape From New York", plays out like a more technically savvy "Resident Evil" and then falls flat into "Mad Max" territory without blinking. As the heavily armed government agent leading a team into the virus infected 'hot zone' of Scotland to find a cure, Rhona Mitra definitely takes the prize from Milla Jovovich as kick ass babe of the year. It's interesting how the film works backwards. We start out with armored vehicles, laser scoped automatic weapons, then degrade back to homemade machetes and rusted tools when the "marauders" arrive- which are only extensions of the wacked out heavy metalers in Carpenters "Ghosts Of Mars"- and finally end up in spear and arrow territory. Honestly, one could nitpick "Doomsday" apart, but Marshall has such an appreciation for genre (horror and now post-punk apocalypto) that its almost infectious.

But then things took a turn for the worse. My problem is not with "Doomsday" as a whole, but the nauseous way in which its increasingly complex action set pieces are filmed. Things happen in such wham-bam fashion, that I literally became dizzy trying to follow the action. It's as if Marshall felt unable to logically film an action sequence (or any action for that matter), over compensated by filming from three different angles, then scrambled the images together in an MTV state of aggression. We're given a simple action in one scene as a man approaches our heroin (Mitra) and raise his axe towards her. She dodges his advances and hits him in the stomach, running away. This seemingly straight forward action is piece together in 6 different angles, each one lasting a second or less. This drove me nuts. I'm sure Michael Bay has a rule about using any shots for more than one second, but director Marshall must have even less patience. I can take all the be headings and flesh eating virus moments in "Doomsday", but it's the savagery of the artistry that's truly disturbing.

So where did this begin... this action as splintered images? Slate writer Dennis Lim recently wrote a piece on cinema fist fights that charts the stylistic differences from the late 50's to today's treatment concerning this very manly way of settling things. While I would expect that aesthetic and stylistic choices would be vastly different, have we also lost something in the process? The first slide examined by Lim takes place in the 1958 western "The Big Country" in which two men are placed in the foreground as they duke it out. The last few slides look at films such as "Batman Begins" and "The Bourne Ultimatum"... films in which all semblance of logistics and space are imploded on each other in a series of quick edits and handheld cameras. While I'm a huge fan of both films (and believe that the editing of Greengrass is just a few steps away from incomprehensible, yet he still manages to give us enough info to follow the logic course of events), I can certainly see where the action sequence has officially gone hyper-real. Marshall's "Doomsday" is a shining example. The exception to the rule in Lim's piece is Park Chan Wook's "Oldboy", in which we're treated to a 3 minute single lateral pan as our protagonist fights his way down a corridor full of approaching enemies with only a hammer. Some classical examples haven't been totally lost, I guess.

So is this all a sign of oncoming old age on my part? Am I losing touch with the technologically advanced youth weaned on electronics from inception? I mean, hell, I've got an Ipod and I love YouTube.... doesn't that count for something? But when a film like "Doomsday" squanders so much of its energy on ill-conceived and executed action sequences, what do we have to rely on for the future? Will the scenes get even shorter and diced up into surreal oblivion? It's a frustrating topic. Even the films I'm willing to accept ("The Dark Knight") feature some basic ineptitude when it comes to an action scene. If the genuine auteurs like Christopher Nolan can't get it right, we're in serious trouble.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Top 5- The Dark City

August has officially been dubbed "Film Noir" month, and there's no shortage of writings about this genre around the blog-o-sphere. Probably the most famous will be taking place at Movie Zeal wherein they'll write about one noir a day. How's that for dedication?

And if American film noir doesn't float your boat and you live close to New York, then the esteemed Film Forum theater will be displaying 38 "French Crime Wave" films in their five week series. Yes, that's me drooling just a bit. I've seen 25 of the films, but damn it'd be awesome to see them on the big screen.

So, pretty much all I can contribute is a short top 5 list of my favorites. I'll keep it confined to American films, or else Jean Pierre Melville would probably come in with all five. Also, pre-1975 because... well because I can and that post 1975 list is something altogether different.

1. Chinatown (1974)- I've said it before, but the script by Robert Towne and direction of Roman Polanski in "Chinatown" result in a perfect film. I only say that about two films- this one and Hitchcock's "Vertigo". And beyond that, its a noir without the slightest sense of chic or self reflexiveness. Superb on every level.

2. The Killers (1946)- Robert Siodmak's noir starring Burt Lancaster and Edmond O' Brien is the textbook of noir. Shadow compositions, a narrative that works backwards, tense and stuffy camerawork that makes every bit of sweat seep through the screen- if you really wanna know what "noir" embodies, this is it.

3. Out of the Past (1947)- Jacques Tourneur's film is yet another example of the straight characteristics of the genre, but this time with a much more stringent attention to finance. Tourneur was always a B movie auteur, and "Out of the Past" continues his minimalist streak without shirking any of the genre's best details. Robert Mitchum is the schmo this time, reminiscing about how he got to a certain point. Of course, there's a femme fatale who helped. This is a striking work whose mood of corruption is suffocating.

4. Kansas City Confidential (1952)- Yes, I could very easily put another classic heist film on this list- "The Killing" of course or certainly "The Asphalt Jungle"- but I've only seen Phil Karlson's "Kansas City Confidential" once several years ago on TCM and its a film that stuck with me. Maybe it was the documentary style of its aesthetic which seemed groundbreaking for a film in 1952, or the way the film methodically deconstructs the robbery of an armored car, but either way, "Kansas City Confidential" is a highly underrated masterpiece of the genre.

5. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)- A noir with real balls... Robert Aldrich's "Kiss Me Deadly" is popular now for all the wrong reasons (*cough Tarantinoandhisrippedoffbriefcaseidea *cough), but its still a nasty, nihilistic, paranoid noir.

(apologies for such a cut and dry post, but Blogger is not allowing me to upload photos right now.)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Small Tribute to Michael Nyman

I really appreciate the sounds of film composer Michael Nyman. With the vagaries of You Tube, I can share this enthusiasm with sound and image.

His early work served as the musical underscore to the sometimes lyrical, often maddening images of the films of Peter Greenaway. It's one of the few things I truly enjoy about Greenaway's films. Below, "A Zed and Two Noughts".

Nyman's breakthrough compositions came in 1993 with the Jane Campion film, "The Piano". While being a commercial high note for Nyman, the soundtrack fails to move me like other pieces of his work.

It's hard to seperate my admiration for Michael Winterbottom's film, "Wonderland" and the sublime score of Michael Nyman. They both compliment each other so well, but without that longing score from Nyman, I don't see the film having quite as much impact. From "Wonderland", below is the theme for the character named Nadia (Gina McKee).

And finally, the showstopper- Nyman's finale theme for "Gattaca". Wow, I wish more people would discover this film. Even though my belief that director Andrew Niccol was the next Stanley Kubrick has been left in lingo ("Lord of War" and "Simone"??.. anyone...anyone), "Gattaca" is one brilliant debut wrapped up in one lush score. Enjoy but beware of spoilers.