Music

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis: Music from the Motion Picture The Assassination of Jesse James by the Co

Stuart Henderson

Music to get shot by Casey Affleck to.


Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Music from the Motion Picture The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Label: Mute
US Release Date: 2008-02-05
UK Release Date: 2007-11-05
Amazon
iTunes

Nick Cave, a favourite contender for the spookiest-man-in-music award, has recently made a successful jump to spooky screen musician. And while his work here (just as it was on his triumphant soundtrack for 2005’s The Proposition) doesn’t sound much like the growling post-folk of his non-movie music, his longtime fans might still hear some delightful variations on themes he’s been developing for decades. At the very least, this entire film is a Murder Ballad.

These fourteen compositions, which Cave wrote and performed with longtime musical collaborator (and Bad Seed) Warren Ellis, are deeply, and darkly, evocative. By turns dreamy, obsessive, and suffocating, the record is all minor chord tension, offering scant release. Like the film that illustrates these little tone poems, Cave and Ellis’ music pushes the edges of western genre expectations. Minimalist, repetitive, and mournful by any analysis, the music strikes a sweet chord between the dusty soundscapes of Calexico, and the cold austerity of Philip Glass.

Very often, film soundtracks suffer when removed from their complimentary movies (just as most flicks would lose a great deal without their scores). Yet, it is to the credit of these composers that as we listen to this all-instrumental record we actually feel that it is cinematic. All scratchy strings and soft pianos, glockenspiels and field drums, this is cowboy chamber music. There is a quality to this stuff that pushes us to imagine, to conjure up images of dust, of sweat, and of fear. This is no mean feat. Just try driving along a dirt road in mid-summer as the cornfields fly by, your arm perched sun-burning and dust-swept on the window ledge, and NOT hear this music as your soundtrack.

Or, perhaps more fittingly, just try getting assassinated by a bitterly envious Casey Affleck and not hear this music as your soundtrack.

Apart from a few unfortunate (and quite glaring) moments when the melodies veer painfully close to familiar tunes – “Carnival”, for example, borrows from both the “Godfather Theme” AND “My Favourite Things”! – for the most part the record is alive, fresh, and worthy of repeated listens. And, unlike most soundtrack recordings where the film’s themes are repeated in a series of variations over the course of the disc, there is only one repeated tune on the record – the first track “Rather Lovely Thing” is reprised later as “Another Rather Lovely Thing”, both of which sound like they could be outtakes from an Alejandro Escovedo record.

Recommended especially for fans of the Tin Hat Trio, and Calexico’s early instrumental work.

7

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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