Sunday, September 20, 2009

soul of gold

it was the beginning of 1993. i was 15 years old, in love with a girl called eva, living my last semester in germany, going to 10th grade. at that time, i was quite into radio and mtv, but i had some fixed musical acts i would listen to, as diverse as vangelis, williams costa jr, michael jackson, mussoursky, besides some current hits like dire straits, lisa stansfield, genesis, sinead o’connor and even some guns’n’roses. but my fixed repertoire of music hearing was divided into three main bands: a-ha, herbert grönemeyer, and most of all, simply red.

then came that last semester in germany. and with it, two musical discoveries; they would both change the way i listened to music, and until today, they are both in my top five favorite music acts. one of them is peter gabriel, and the other is today’s special person, gordon sumner. he is known to most as the band leader of legendary rock-punk-raggae band the police, nicknamed sting since his teen years as a bass player, when he once showed up to play with a horizontally striped, yellow and black sweater. “if i ever lose my faith in you” was my first conscious contact with sting’s music, and it is through mtv (where i would watch the clip with great enthusiasm) that i came to by the max-single, and later, the album it was taken from: ten summoner’s tales. by the beginning of 1994, already living in brazil, i’d bought his earlier work (the dream of the blue turtles, …nothing like the sun, the soul cages), including various specials, like a vhs of the recording sessions in his house in england (ten summoner’s tales). after that, sting had three other studio albums: mercury falling, brand new day, and his last effort, sacred love, from 2003. this last album was the only one i didn’t like so far, but i’m looking forward to his new release, which will be next month (if on a winter’s night). he’ll be 58 at the time of the album release, and hopefully back to top form.

the following songs made it to the top twenty: 20º when we dance, 19º everybody laughed but you, 18º a thousand years, 17º the soul cages, 16º tea in the sahara, 15º seven days, 14º when the angles fall, 13º after the rain has fallen, 12º they dance alone, 11º ghost story

here the list of my top ten favorite sting tunes.

10º shape of my heart – from the ten summoner’s tales album, this beautiful song reminds me of “duetting” it with my younger brother. the beautiful guitar melody, deep lyrics and wonderful melody make it a typical songwriting art work by sting.

9º why should i cry for you? – written after his father’s passing, sting puts lots of emotion into this rhythmic anthem. the “dark angles follow me” is one of my favorite sing-along passages in any song.

8º something the boy said – the last of the ten tales, this song describes a dream. i like the lyrics, and love to sing this one along, too. the “food for a crow” sections at the end are one of the best moments in any sting song.

7º if i ever lose my faith in you – the prologue to the ten summoner’s tales is my official favorite song of all time. the chorus, bridge and last verse are real highlights. my intro to sting’s musical world.

6º the wild wild sea – another dream, again as a reaction to his father’s death in the album “the soul cages”. dark, with a great climax in the album version, and a better end in the unplugged version.

5º i was brought to my senses – one of three top songs from the mercury falling album; great opening and intro to main body, great lyrics, great 7/8 rhythm, great sound. typical song that only sting could compose.

4º the hounds of winter – another one from the mercury falling album. one of my favorite sentences ever in any song: “i still see her face, as beautiful as day”. exceptional lyrics, love the guitar and the mood.

3º i’m so happy i can’t stop crying – the third mercury falling tune. just exceptional songwriting, in country-style. sing-a-long at a high level.

2º fields of gold – simply beautiful, perfect sync between lyrics, music and arrangement. sad and emotional, yet hopeful. reminds me of the summer of 93.

1º island of souls – probably sting’s most complete composition. musically first class, great lyrics, totally unorthodox album opener, interesting and 100% emotional.

the best album is ten summoner’s tales, followed by the soul cages.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

big screen specials

i've been a big fan of movies since my early teen years. and since then, i've been fascinated by some of the female performers. over the years, there have certainly been a few of them who have caught my attention for one reason or another, and i'd like to write about five of them quickly, and the movies that made me become a fan.

people who know me know that i used to be a big jodie foster fan. since i saw her in "catchfire", a b-movie directed by dennis hopper, who is great in that movie, i've followed her career quite closley. yes, i loved her hair, smile and wits, but i really thought she was a great actress; one of the rare cases that made the transition form child star to adult star. i think it is not exaggerated to say that she has been great in most of her movies, mostly these: alice doesn't live here anymore (74, at age 11), taxi driver (76, nominated for oscar), stealing home (88), the accused (88, oscar winner), the silence of the lambs (91, oscar winner), little man tate (91), shadows and fog (91), sommersby (93), maverick (94), nell (94), contact (97), the dangerous lives of the alter boys (2002), panic room (02), inside man (06), the brave one (07). my personal favorites are taxi driver, catchfire, little man tate, sommersby, maverick, nell, and contact. quite a few movies to really put into the top, all with the same female lead. i'm still fond of jodie, but her status as favorite actress has been elsewhere since the year 2000.

this is where natalie portman took over. a typical case of younger and more beautiful, one might think. i actually "fell" for her in 99, drinking soda out of a star wars cup, with her perfect face on it. me and my younger brother were asking ourselves who that was; actually, that day, we went to see star wars episode one - disappointing movie, but what a beautiful princess! later, i rented her older movies and was particularly impressed with her performance in "beautiful girls" (96), which she had shot, also as a child actor, two years after her impressive debut in "leon" (known as "the professional" in the us, shot at age 12). she had quite good performances in "mars attacks!" (96) and "anywhere but here" (99), and also got good reviews for "where the heart is" (2000). i really loved the scene she had in "cold mountain" (03), and loved the movie "garden state" (04), directed by her co-star zac braff, from scrubs. the short movie "true" (04), also featured in "paris je t'aime", is another of my favorite nat performances, and she was really strong in "closer" (04), where the whole cast was very strong. "v for vendetta" (05) is another very good movie with another great performance from the straight-a harvard graduate (psychology), born in israel and living in new york. she was again strong in "goya's ghost" (06) and charming in "mr magorium's wonder emporium" (07), and although the movie was so-so, i liked her in "the other boleyn girl" (08), too. i'm already looking forward to her upcoming work. i've seen pictures from her next movie, "love and other impossible pursuits", she's looking gorgeous. my favorite movie from her still is "beautiful girls", though - followed closley by "garden state".

the other three i want to write about and consider to be quite special are kirsten dunst, jena malone and lately kate winslet.
kirsten i just think is incredibly charming and beautiful, and she has been in quite a few good movies, like "little women" (94, ate the age of 12), "the virgin suicides" (99, beautiful at seventeen), "crazy/beautiful" (01, very charming), the "spider man" movies (a fourth and fifth one coming up), "eternal sunshine of the spotless mind" (04, famous dance on the bed), wimbledon (04, movie is so-so, but i love the sport, the tournament and the female lead) and "how to lose friend and alienate people" (08, quite fun).
jena is not as good looking, seemingly, but i find her characters in films very attractive, somehow. not as the younger jodie foster on "contact"(once again at age 12) or in "stepmom" (98), both movies i very much enjoy, by the way. but she was attractive (not only physical, as a character, too) as gretchen ross in "donnie darko" (01), as alyssa beck in "life as a house" (01), and as lydia bennet in "pride & prejudice" (05). i went to see "into the wild" (07) for the first time because she was in the credits, and ended up really loving that movie.
last, but not least, the reigning queen of actresses, academy award winning kate winslet. i remember being excited to see "titanic" (97) long before it became a hit, seeing that it would have leo di caprio (which i had really liked in "what's eating gilbert grape") and kate winslet leading in a movie about a ship and story that had always fascinated me. at the end, the movie was better than its actors, and mostly kate disappointed me a little. she had been really impressive in "heavenly creatures" (94) and "sense and sensibility" a year later. after titanic, i only watched her again in "eternal sunshine", where she went back to becoming one of my favorite actresses - incredible in that role! and what a string of strong movies and performances came after that: "finding neverland" (04), "little children" (06) and even "the holiday" (06). this year, i've seen both her oscar and golden globe movies multiple times. i really loved "the reader" and "revolutionary road", and they are both part of my new blu-ray collection.

just a quick mention of former and current actresses who i consider to be amongst my favorite, during these two decades of movie in my life. in parenthesis, my favorite movie with these actresses. juliette lewis (what's eating gilbert grape, 93), winona ryder (reality bites, 94), evan rachel wood (tv series "once and again", 99-02), katie holmes (pieces of april, 03), jenna fischer (tv series "the office", 05-09), emily vancamp (tv series "everwood", 02-06), demi moore (indececent proposal, 93), tea leoni ("the family man", 2000), and bridget fonda ("singles", 92).