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Master and Commander Boccherini: 3

Wednesday, 13 December, 2017 0 Comments

All was well in the world of the Italian composer Luigi Boccherini when he was in service to the Spanish Court, until a succession of unfathomable tragedies occurred. The series began in 1785 with the death of his Spanish patron, and in that very same year his wife passed away. The first of their four daughters died that year as well and the remaining three died between 1802 and 1804. Boccherini remarried but his second wife died in 1805. It was all too much and he died that same year. The body of Boccherini lay buried in Madrid’s Pontifical Basilica of St. Michael until 1927, when his remains were repatriated to Italy and buried in the church of San Francesco in his native Lucca.

Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid became famous through its use in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany. Here, Sydney Rae and Stephanie Lyn give us their version.

“The pleasant thing about fighting with the Spaniards, Mr Ellis, said Jack, smiling at his great round eyes and solemn face, is not that they are shy, for they are not, but that they are never, never ready.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, the Master and Commander Boccherini gets the full orchestral treatment with Jaesik Lim conducting.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 2

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017 0 Comments

Luigi Boccherini (1743 – 1805) was an Italian composer whose music was written in a courtly style that quickly became popular in the major European musical centres of the day. His patrons included the French ambassador to Spain, Lucien Bonaparte, and King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, a talented amateur cellist and flautist. Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid (String Quintet in C major, Op. 30 No. 6, G324), became famous through its use in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany. Here, Bellai (10), Gani (12) and their father jam a family interpretation of the piece.

“Where there was no equality there was no companionship: when a man was obliged to say ‘Yes, sir,’ his agreement was of no worth even if it happened to be true.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, a duet interpretation of the Master and Commander Boccherini by Sydney Rae and Stephanie Lyn.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 1

Monday, 11 December, 2017 0 Comments

Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid is a quintettino for stringed instruments written around 1780 by Luigi Boccherini, an Italian composer who was in service to the Spanish Court at the time. The main violin theme from the work was used throughout the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and in the final scene, Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as the ship’s surgeon, Dr. Stephen Maturin, play the piece together in the captain’s quarters.

“I have had such a sickening of men in masses, and of causes, that I would not cross this room to reform parliament or prevent the union or to bring about the millennium. I speak only for myself, mind — it is my own truth alone — but man as part of a movement or a crowd is indifferent to me. He is inhuman. And I have nothing to do with nations, or nationalism. The only feelings I have — for what they are —- are for men as individuals; my loyalties, such as they may be, are to private persons alone.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, Bellai (10), Gani (12) and their father jam a family interpretation of the Master and Commander Boccherini.


Going to Dunkirk

Thursday, 27 July, 2017 0 Comments

Going to the new Christopher Nolan film, that is.

The British retreat to the coastal French town of Dunkirk in late May 1940 was a key moment of the Second World War. Several hundred thousand British and Allied troops were encircled by the Germans. Had Hitler attacked, he would have captured a quarter of a million men, stripping Britain of its army and putting enormous pressure on London to enter into peace talks with Berlin. But the Germans didn’t attack. Their nine Panzer divisions stopped outside Dunkirk. And the British were able to start their evacuation from the beaches with the result that most of the their troops got home. Some 300,000 men were rescued — two thirds British, the rest French.

As the exhausted troops were disembarking along the south-eastern coast of England, the five members of Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet met on 27 May to discuss entering into peace negotiations with Germany. Churchill was passionately against any such move, but the foreign minister, Lord Halifax, was for talks as he felt England’s negotiating position was stronger with France still in the war. He also believed that Britain’s goal should not be to fight Germany, but rather to preserve as much independence as possible in a peaceful coexistence.

During the following day’s Cabinet meeting, however, the tide turned in favour of Churchill when he declared absolutely that there would be no surrender, and that as long as he was in office, he would never negotiate with the Nazis. “If this long island story of ours is to end at last,” he declared, “let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood on the ground.”

He was thinking of the 68,111 killed, wounded or captured British troops at Dunkirk.


Jackie Chan goes to war with the IRA

Tuesday, 27 June, 2017 0 Comments

The Foreigner is an upcoming British-Chinese thriller starring Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Liu Tao and Katie Leung. In the film, Chan plays the role of a humble restaurant owner in London’s Chinatown who’s on a mission to track down the Irish terrorists responsible for the death of his beloved daughter. Chan is forced to push his physical and psychological boundaries beyond the limits to find and bring to justice the shadowy Foreigner (Pierce Brosnan) coordinating the IRA terror campaign. Any resemblance between Pierce Brosnan and Gerry Adams is coincidental, of course, but between now and October, when the film is released, much will be written about Adams, allegedly a member of the IRA Army Council and thus responsible for atrocities such as the La Mon restaurant bombing in 1978.

The Foreigner

Directed by Martin Campbell and produced by STX Entertainment, the film is based on Stephen Leather’s novel The Chinaman. Leather wrote the book while working as night news editor on the business desk of The Times in London. At the time, the Provisional IRA terror campaign was at its height, and the book is loosely based on the IRA bombing in 1983 of the Harrods department store in London.


Chris Cornell: You Know My Name

Friday, 19 May, 2017 0 Comments

Chris Cornell, the influential, forceful singer with Soundgarden, which was one of the founding bands of the grunge rock genre, died on Wednesday night in Detroit hours after the band had performed there. He was 52. The death was suicide by hanging, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said yesterday afternoon. One of Chris Cornell’s finest songs, You Know My Name, accompanied the opening credits of 007’s Casino Royale. Great song, great film. RIP Chris Cornell.

“Arm yourself because no one else here will save you
The odds will betray you
And I will replace you
You can’t deny the prize, it may never fulfill you
It longs to kill you
Are you willing to die?”


Plate and palate and photography

Monday, 8 May, 2017 0 Comments

The food photographer Eric Wolfinger is a cook who has found his vocation via the camera lens. His global travels have led to the creation of Beyond the Plate, a SmugMug documentary for foodies and photographers.


The carnival of Nazaré

Sunday, 5 March, 2017 0 Comments

It is said that that the Portuguese town of Nazaré got its name from a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary brought to Spain from Nazareth by Christians in the 4th century. The statue arrived in Nazaré in 711, carried by a monk named Romano, accompanied by Roderic, the last Visigoth king of what is now Portugal.

Barcelona-born filmmaker Kylian Castells is more interested in surfing than statues. Here, he captures the black-and-white power of the Nazaré Canyon, which creates the “epics” that have made the town a hotspot for big-wave surfers like Garrett McNamara, Carlos Burle and Maya Gabeira. The music is by the Dark Jazz Trio.


The Netflix Irishman of Scorsese, De Niro, Pacino

Thursday, 23 February, 2017 0 Comments

Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel… That’s what a $100 million budget can get you today. The big story, though, is that this star cast will be working on The Irishman for Netflix rather than one of the big studios and this indicates that something seismic is happening in the movie industry.

Anne Thompson of Indiewire, who broke the news of the deal, noted that The Irishman had long been planned as a Paramount Pictures production, but “Scorsese’s movie is a risky deal, and Paramount is not in the position to take risks. This way, he can make the project he wants.” And these projects involve serious money. STX Entertainment reportedly spent some $50 million for the international rights to The Irishman at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, which was very good news for Charles Brandt.

The Irishman The Irishman is based on Brandt’s best-selling book, I Heard You Paint Houses, about Frankie Sheeran, a killer who claimed he played a part in the legendary vanishing of the corrupt union boss Jimmy Hoffa. The book’s title, by the way, comes from the criminal slang for contract killings and the resulting blood splatter on walls.

Charles Brandt befriended Frankie Sheeran, who confessed to him that he’d been involved with the killing of Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975 and has never been seen since. Sheeran was an odious piece of work. He served with the US Army in Europe during World War II and experienced combat during the Italian Campaign, including the invasion of Sicily and the Battle of Cassino. He then took part in the landings in southern France and the Battle of the Bulge and admitted that he had been involved in several massacres of German POWs. He also claimed to have had inside information about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. According to Sheeran, Jimmy Hoffa wanted Kennedy dead, as Bobby Kennedy, the US Attorney General, was “persecuting” him. The killing of Kennedy was a Mafia hit, said Sheeran, who maintained he’d transported three rifles to the alleged assassins. Fact or fiction? Netflix is betting $100 million that people will want to watch, thanks to CGI, a youthful De Niro play Sheeran and Pacino star as Hoffa.


We are all storytellers

Saturday, 18 February, 2017 0 Comments

In its own way, each daily post here, and here and here is a story. A rudimentary story, to be sure, but nevertheless a tale of some kind.

Story: Pixar, the subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company that specializes in computer animation, is partnering with the Khan Academy to offer a series of free online lessons in filmmaking called “Pixar in a Box”. Segments such as “Environment modeling” are fascinating, no doubt, but the most popular section for people of all ages and interests is bound to be “The Art of Storytelling.” What’s the secret? Blurb: “Storytelling is something we all do naturally, starting at a young age, but there’s a difference between good storytelling and great storytelling.” Hmmm. I could have said that. Still, Disney knows how to tell and sell stories so this should be worthwhile.


The algorithm will read your story today, Homer

Wednesday, 15 February, 2017 0 Comments

Modern mythology is created in film studios. There, the stories the global village has come to depend on for its entertainment and inspiration are turned into drama, comedy, action, science fiction, fantasy, thriller, horror, crime, noir, epic, western, war, romance, musicals, blockbusters…

As in the days of Homer, the secret of success is to tell the tale with emotion and imagery that the audience cannot forget. Easier said than done, of course, but if you’ve got $43,000 the American Film Institute Conservatory in Hollywood Hills will take it and, in return, you’ll get some of that old storytelling magic. Blurb: “Tomorrow’s storytellers are placed in a hands-on, production-based environment and are trained by a group of dedicated working professionals from the film and television communities.” In the end, however, it all comes back to Homer: “The AFI Conservatory doesn’t believe there is a formula for making films. Fellows are instead encouraged to find and develop a unique voice as they are trained in the art of storytelling.”

This is all very touching but it doesn’t mention the Epagogix algorithm. Epagogix is a privately-held UK company that “brings together expertise in risk, finance, artificial intelligence and film analysis to create innovative tools and solutions for the hard decisions that senior company directors need to make.” Yes, that’s right, “film analysis.” So, how does it work? Here goes:

Epagogix works confidentially with the senior management of major film studios, large independents and other media companies, assisting with the selection and development of scripts by identifying likely successes and probable ‘Turkeys’; helping to quantify a script/project’s commercial success; and advising on enhancements to the Box office/audience share potential.

Epagogix’s approach helps management of this most critical financial risk by delivering accurate predictive analysis of the Box Office value of individual film scripts, and by identifying and quantifying how and where to improve their commercial value. If requested, Epagogix sensitively bridges the gap between the financial and creative aspects of film production by providing quantified insights and advice to those responsible for script development.

Note the advice “to those responsible for script development.” That’s you, Homer.

Homer