December 21st, 2016

Berthold Run

Why not an entry about "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves"?

I decided to write about the 1991 Kevin Costner Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves:

• Had the Internet Era really gotten going by 1991, people would've called this "ROBIN HOOD: POT."

• I honestly like the movie, as odd and of-the-era as it is. I rewatched it about 10 years ago on DVD (then again with Costner and director Kevin Reynolds' commentary) and still liked it. Soft spot for Costner, maybe: I do also like Waterworld and was even mixed-to-positive on The Postman.

• The dialogue is perhaps the most consistently interesting part of the film's writing. A nice amount of wordplay plus winningly archaic phrasing. Just as we have no idea what exactly music sounded like a thousand years ago — though we have their instruments, some of which Michael Kamen incorporated into the film's fun score — we don't know what Old English sounded like in conversation. We're never going to guess, so it's worth just doing something that sounds good and, when possible, not modern.

• Thank everything for the eccentric-, eclectic-looking cast. These actors look great. I have trouble imagining Michael Wincott (Sir Guy of Gisborne) in jeans or anything else modern; he's well-suited to pretending it's ten centuries ago. There are only a few "pretty people," mainly in the key movie star roles, but we weren't ever going to get 100% eclectic/eccentric in this the way the same year's Delicatessen was.

• Alan Rickman. There. Now you're thinking of Alan Rickman, and the evil sex appeal he had for a lot of people in this.

• Costner did admit in the commentary the problems with (his words) "my dumb-ass accent," and added that he should have just spoken naturally. I wish he'd done more with inflection; Costner can change his voice, when he wants.

• Awkward Editing: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves has the sort of editing that a) doesn't hide what looks like changing or at least inconsistent filming styles during the making of the movie and b) causes continuity errors. The re-edited DVD shows a scribe getting his tongue cut out; the scribe still speaks at the end. Oops.

• Awkward Filming: man, a lot of shots in this film simply don't work on any screen smaller than a movie theater screen. Long shots of the horse chase from Maid Marian's castle to Sherwood Forest almost slam that scene to a halt (just the music keeps it moving) because you can barely see the horses. "Look! Hills! And an interesting rock right at the cameraman's feet."

• The writers, in attempting to make the film more epic, excuse me, Epic!, raised this story's stakes to a level that the Robin Hood legend almost can't support. Stealing from the rich/giving to the poor, in this, is practically an afterthought; this film's Robin Hood is a freedom fighter, and the Sheriff of Nottingham is almost
Saruman. (Army at his disposal. Vain and corrupted. Ready and willing to take over all of England. Awkward hair, wait, that's mainly the Christopher Lee Saruman.)

• Rape. DO NOT WANT. Yep, that's what's in the big action finale, at least attempted by the Sheriff (and assisted by the witch). Costner, in the commentary when the, um, leg-split happens, said "We actually got a PG-13?"

• Kink. Before attempted rape happens, the Sheriff is coded as being kinky. (Though my best guess is, unlike most people I know who are kinky, he doesn't really enjoy it. Maybe it's more a hangup than a kink.) It's a writing/acting choice that looks odd a couple of decades on from when from the film was made, like how the 1960 Spartacus suggested Laurence Olivier's evil Crassus is bisexual. (This is practically stated in the restored version of Spartacus, which put back the "snails and oysters" scene.) It's weird, it doesn't help, and it seems out of place: "he's not just evil, he's kinky evil!," which sounds like a mixed-up (or very specific) D&D alignment. Oh, and heroes and heroines can be kinky, too. I know people who are writing and publishing that. (I would not be good at writing that, so I won't.) Writing this paragraph, by the way, reminds me how much I don't know on this subject, so I will stop now.

• This still has to be better than that 2010 Robin Hood Ridley Scott directed, the one with a very early draft told from the Sheriff of Nottingham's point of view, which would've been...different. And yes, it can never be as good as the Errol Flynn/director Michael Curtiz The Adventures of Robin Hood, which I've had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen, too, sometime last decade.

There. You've read about Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves again.

I decided to write this because I found years-old notes in my desk while cleaning yesterday, so why not use them? I wrote those notes circa 2006, sometime after I'd bought my combo DVD player/TV.
Captain Kris W'lash



I am really, really ready for the daylight hours to start getting longer.

This has already started here in the Northern Hemisphere; I just have to wait to see it.
Whale fluke

Thinking in Music

Bernard Herrmann. One of my favorite film composers, a big personality, an often deeply cantankerous person: he was fascinating and maddening. I just re-read the biography A Heart at Fire's Center: the life and music of Bernard Herrmann, so he's even more at the forefront of my mind than usual, and I once said that my mental soundtrack sounds like "Bernard Herrmann and Danny Elfman yelling at each other." (I'm sure those two would yell at each other.) I've been digging out my CDs of his music; YouTube clips, too.

He was a pioneer in writing original music for radio, then had one of the great film scoring careers, starting with 1941's Citizen Kane and The Devil and Daniel Webster and ending with 1976's Obsession and Taxi Driver. (And he died in his sleep only hours after recording Taxi Driver's last note.) Had he lived a year longer, Herrmann would have scored Carrie for Brian De Palma, the Seven Per-Cent Solution for Herbert Ross and Nicholas Meyer, and Larry Cohen's exploitation film God Told Me To; after he'd had a few fallow years — partly because a lot of studio people found his style old-hat and partly because he'd pissed off so many in Hollywood — young Turks were discovering him and his work.

Music is a language I can appreciate, but I only barely, if at all, understand it. I've never had much training, self-taught or otherwise. I play no instruments (I joke that I play air-guitar — no, I used to, but I retired that joke a while ago). Reading about how Bernard Herrmann thought about music, and instrumental color, and how you can emphasize any emotion with the right notes, makes me wish I did a better job of thinking in music.

I've written lyrics. That's about it. And even I know that poetry-writing (which I've done more of) is similar to lyric-writing but not quite the same. Poetry doesn't necessarily need music; lyrics do. And I hear music in my head, but mostly derivative music; I don't feel any snippets of tunes I think of would be original. (Standard disclaimer that there are only so many melodies and tunes we can write, based on musical scales, but actual-trained composers know how to work within those parameters.)

Now I more admire people who do think in music. I know some of them: Kielen King, a.k.a. Pwn Toney, the PDX Broadsides, the Doubleclicks, S.J. "Sooj" Tucker, Alexander James Adams. I'm also a Portlander, so I'm likely only a couple of degrees of separation away from especially famous composers. I certainly don't pretend I can do their work. My most likely creative work that'd be worth doing is my writing. I know words. I like using them.

"A man's gotta know his limitations," said Dirty Harry, played by Clint Eastwood, who's also a composer...
iAm iSaid

Yes! LJ is back!

LiveJournal's maintenance today, which had the site down for a few hours, is done.

I am still here, and I am glad to see other people here.

Felt like making note of that tonight.