Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Droning

Here's a look (more of a listen, actually) at excerpts from the scores of two movies set in New York. Both passages accompany relatively low-speed street chases and are also similar in their use of what could be described as a drone — an almost constant low note which serves as foundation for subsequent layers of musical sound. In each case, the inexorable quality of these tones complements the motion of the films' characters and builds suspense on the way to each scene's conclusion.

The first example is from Escape from New York (1981, music by John Carpenter with Alan Howarth), when The Duke first arrives and is pursued by Snake, Brain, and Maggie to the derelict train cars where the kidnapped president is being held. On top of the low synth sound is the persistent rhythm of drums and bass, creating a relentless pulse as the protagonists drive through a gauntlet of street people and smash through a barrier of stacked cars, all the while intent on their goal of reaching the train.

Second is an example from Crocodile Dundee (1986, music by Peter Best), from the end scene where Sue runs to catch Mick before he departs for good on the subway. Once again, the drone (ostensibly played on the native Australian didgeridoo) reflects Sue's determination to reach Mick, and then Mick's will to make his way though (and over) the crowd to reunite with Sue.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Green lady down

Today's release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes brings remembrance of the 1968 original and its . . . monumental ending. Here's a look at several films in which the Statue of Liberty is destroyed, damaged, or otherwise dirtied.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Rotted by age and chest-deep in sand, Lady Liberty triggers one of the most memorable revelations (and surprise endings) in all of science fiction when discovered on a beach by shipwrecked space explorer George Taylor.

Cloverfield (2008)

Terrified twentysomethings run for cover when the statue's head is bowled down a city street by a rampaging monster.

Independence Day (1996)

The statue is shown toppled the morning after extraterrestrial invaders destroy many of the world's cities.

X-Men (2000)

The superhero team takes on bad guy Magneto and punches holes in the famous landmark during a battle atop the statue's head and torch.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Global warming brings about a new Ice Age which leaves the Statue of Liberty knee-deep in snow and ice.

Deep Impact (1998)

When a comet slams into Earth, the resultant tidal wave engulfs New York and washes the statue away; its head is later seen floating between newly submerged buildings.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

During a battle with Superman, the evil Nuclear Man tears the statue from its platform and drops it onto a crowded city street; luckily, Superman is close by to save the day — and the statue.

Superman III (1983)

No real damage is done to the statue in this movie, although her crown is undoubtably sullied after a surly and cynical (not to mention dirty) Superman — under the influence of some bad Kryptonite — uses it as a platform (literally) to test pickup lines on the bad guy's girlfriend.

Spaceballs (1987)

The nefarious Dark Helmet's ship, transformed into the vacuum cleaner-wielding "Megamaid", crash-lands onto the beach of a nearby planet, setting up a Planet of the Apes joke complete with apes on horseback.