Three Thousand Years of Longing

Posted on August 25, 2022 at 5:44 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some sexual content, graphic nudity, and brief violence
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness
Date Released to Theaters: August 26, 2022
Date Released to DVD: November 14, 2022

Copyright MGM 2022
Like most children, I was fascinated by the power of wishes, and by the fairy tales where wishes never seemed to end with happily ever after. I was fond of a poem by Annette Wynne called “I Keep Three Wishes Ready,” which sensibly advised the readers to think ahead of time of what wishes we would want so we would be prepared and careful to avoid impulses and loopholes.

But, as Alithea (Tilda Swinton), a distinguished professor of stories (narrative) who specializes in fantasy, explains, there is no story about wishes that is not a cautionary tale. And thus, when she has the opportunity to use three wishes to fulfill her heart’s desire, she instead sits down with the djinn (genie) who has come out of her bottle, to hear his stories. As they sit, improbably, in white terrycloth robes in a luxurious Istanbul hotel room, he tells her of the wishes he has granted and the people who made them. And yes, they are all cautionary tales. Is wishing itself, the idea that we can escape the reality of time and the laws of physics and the limits of human power, so inevitably doomed by hubris?

Alithea tells us that the story we will hear is true, but that we will better receive it as fantasy. She also tells us that she is a solitary person, and happy to be so. That, in itself may be a fantasy, though she may not be willing to acknowledge it. I note here that the name Alithea is from the Greek word for fact or truth. And that this story is based on The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, the title story in a book of fairy tales for adults by A.S. Byatt. Alithea begins by telling us of magical-sounding wonders, humans hurtling through the air on metal wings or walking under water with webbed feet, with images reminding us of Arthur C. Clarke’s observation that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

On her way to the conference, Alithea sees, or thinks she sees, a small, possibly magical person. And then, when she is on stage, she sees another mythical being. Is she jet-lagged? Is she losing her mind? Or is she opening herself to what the rest of us refuse to see?

She buys an antique glass bottle, telling the seller that it looks like it has a story. Back in her hotel room, she begins to clean it with her electric toothbrush. The stopper falls out, smoke appears, and a giant hand reaches into the bathroom. It is a djinn (Idris Elba), and he has been inside the bottle for a very long time. Alithea would rather hear his stories than make a wish.

George Miller, the visionary writer/director behind the Mad Max and Babe movies, has a gift for wonder. Somewhere between the dystopian world of Fury Road and the endearing charm of “That’ll do, pig,” is this film, with striking, gorgeous images and swoon-worthy stories of passion — romantic, ambitious, angry, jealous, lustful passions.

Three Thousand Years of Longing goes back and forth between the hotel room conversation and the stories of the wishes the djinn has granted, his repeated returns to confinement and how his adventures have forms his view of humanity, The djinn needs Alithea to make three heartfelt, personal wishes to gain his freedom. She insists that she has no wishes and certainly no wish to become ensnared as those who have tried to gain without effort.

The stories are dark at times, but always gorgeously filmed and resonant. And the end is surprisingly tender, perhaps reflecting the one wish all people share if we are brave enough to admit it.

Parents should know that this film has nudity and sexual references and situations, drinking and drunkenness, and violence, some grisly.

Family discussion: What would you wish? What is your favorite fairy tale and why?

If you like this, try: the book by A.S. Byatt, “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm”

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DVD/Blu-Ray Fantasy Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Romance

Interview: Junkie XL, Composer of “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Posted on May 19, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers

It was a treat to talk to Junkie XL (aka Tom Holkenborg), the award-winning, multi-platinum producer/composer who created the sensational soundtrack for Mad Max: Fury Road, ranging from orchestral to heavy metal, and now available for purchase. Coming up next, he is working on the remake of “Point Break,” “Black Mass,” and “Batman v. Superman.”

Junkie XL told me about working side by side with writer/director George Miller and about the unexpected member of his household who is heard on the soundtrack.

I’ve been listening to the score and the track called “Escape” sounds Metallica if its lead singer was a Tyrannosaur Rex.

It’s a part of the movie where Max breaks loose from his capturers but this is a really strange world. It’s so over the top, the scenery is so intense, all the detail that goes into the set and the costumes, what these people looked like, the cars, it’s unheard of. And so the music needed to live up to that standard. I said to George, “Let’s do this insane rock opera where everything clashes and there is like choir and there’s sound design and there’s mad drums and mad electronic sounds and over the top strings and very small strings and very emotional little things and he said, “Yeah let’s do it.”

And so “Escape” was one of the earlier cues that I started on and it needed to be crazy. Max in this case is a very troubled character. He’s not the stable, funny guy that we know from the earlier Mad Max movies in the 80s. He’s been through this so many times and he’s got post-traumatic stress and whatever he has, he’s very troubled. And so the music needed to be very troubling too.

Is that all together electronically? did you have an orchestra?

There’s an orchestra in there but I actually set with the string players and the bass players and we created these really crazy tones that normally do not come out of these instruments. They have to play them in a certain way. They have to get really out of tune. There’s that whole string section in there with a really haunting motif which was very inspired on the great late 40s, 50s, 60s, the golden era of Bernard Hermann and some other classical composers. It’s really like a golden time period and we really have to record it multiple, multiple times to get the right feel and the right tone.

Yes, some of the tracks are very lush and orchestral.

I grew up classically trained and I have a really strong relationship with pieces written, let’s say from 1850 to 1950/1960 and it was played a lot around our house. George is very familiar with that time period too and he loves that style. So that is what we use when there are parts of the film where these characters step out of that dystopian madness and they actually warm up to one another as human beings. That’s when we need to go to that tone. That’s when we need to go to that musical language and again we discuss the 50s, late 20s, 50s early 60s and we took best elements out of that era and we use it in a very modern film score.

Everything in the films looks like it has been assembled from pieces in a junkyard. How do you reflect that aesthetic in the music?

It’s like there’s a lot of sounds used in the score that actually come from a metal cans, oil drums, all kinds of metal objects that I sampled and did some sound design on that are being used. I mean, generally, in music, I come from a world where you sample bits and pieces from other records so you compile it together into what then becomes a dance track. That’s the world that I come from, so when George starts talking about creating objects out of other objects I was like, “Oh I know that world.”

What were some of the more exotic sounds that you sampled in the soundtrack?

Animals. There’s a lot of those sounds are in the score. The sound that you hear right at beginning of “Escape” is coming from my dog. You need some electronic treatment, and then you get it pretty far. He’s the sweetest dog in the planet. But if he bark and you treat that a certain way, yeah it becomes really scary.

The last time we talked it was about “Divergent.”

“Divergent” is quite different. It was this movie about a young girl that grows up and becomes this heroine. In “Mad Max” you get thrown into the film. You see all these really tough characters that tried to survive had to find their own methods of surviving. So we meet Furiosa played by Charlize Theron, who did a stunning job playing this character, and you meet these other extremely tough women. It’s almost like the reverse. We start with all that violence and throughout the film we warm up with these characters as we get to know them. Whereas in “Divergent” we definitely know the characters and then once we know the characters we go through the story and she becomes this really powerful heroine at the end.

How closely did you work with writer/director George Miller?

It was a remarkable process. George and I worked really intensely on this. It was a true collaboration where he got inspired by the music and to change certain things with the scene and then I got inspired because he did that and then I would do something else and we went back and forth like that multiple times. Eventually I packed up my studio with my assistants and my family and music editors and we all went shooting for eleven weeks roughly and worked with George from early morning till late at night until we were really satisfied. He’s fantastic and we have two things in common. One is we’re extremely precise and we put the bar really high for ourselves and we won’t rest until all the details are right. I drive my assistants to absolute madness and when I was in Nerv in my artist era, I would drive my fellow band members completely to madness because I wanted to do it again and I want to make it different, I wanted to try something else and then back and George is exactly the same thing, the same way. So we really admire that with one another, that you can only strive for the best constantly. You constantly have to second guess, “Is this the best I can do?”

And the second thing is we’re both extremely curious. So when certain things work out a certain way we always start wondering why and we want to know why and then when we know why we apply a little theory to it. We try to understand why it’s so great and then we apply that theory on another scene of the film. Could this be potentially as great as we did there? And how should we do that? Constantly being curious is frustrating but it also enriches your knowledge and your work ethic and also ultimately your results.

At Comic-Con last year, George talked about how excited he was to use the Edge camera car. How did that affect the way you thought about the score?

The first thought is how can we make this experience as thrilling for the audience as possible? So the fact that these cameras make the audience almost part of what you’re going to be seeing on screen, and that goes for the music too. When I saw the movie I know there’s no way I can get away with a cello and a flute.

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Composers Interview

Mad Max: Fury Road

Posted on May 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Constant, intense, and graphic violence, guns, explosions, crashes, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: May 15, 2015
Copyright Village Roadshow  Pictures 2015
Copyright Village Roadshow Pictures 2015

Mad Max (Tom Hardy, taking over from Mel Gibson) stamps on a two-headed lizard and then chews its head off. And that’s just in the first minute. That master of apocalyptic junkyard anarchy, George Miller, is back, bigger, wilder, madder than ever with this fourth of the Mad Max movies, all set in a post-apocalyptic desert dystopia of deprivation, chaos, rust, and brutality. In this world, all anyone has ever known is loss and despair. There is no hope, no thought of any possible way to learn or create. At one point, a character points to something completely unfamiliar to him, calling it “that thing.” It is a tree.

The first three films were about the fight for gasoline to fuel the vehicles pieced together from the wreckage. This one is about another, even more precious fluid: water. Other precious fluids come into the story as well, including blood and breast milk.

A brutal dictatorship has taken over, controlling access to all of that. All are the preserve of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, with the right crazy eyes for the role), who lives literally above everyone else in a place known as The Citadel, maintaining control with his army of War Boys, all with shaved heads and powder-white skin and all convinced that their destiny is to die for Immortan Joe and be transported to paradise in Valhalla. Immortan Joe also maintains a harem of impossibly long-legged, lovely young woman. His chief lieutenant is Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a fearless woman with a mechanical arm, so much the central focus of the film that it should have been named for her. When Furiosa escapes with Immortan Joe’s women, including his pregnant “queen,” Joe and his peers come after them, in a convoy of tricked-up vehicles, all made to destroy. Everything is in shades of burnt-out umber except for the bright red suit of a guy shredding an electric guitar to keep everyone angry.

One of the War Boys is Nuz (Nicholas Hoult), who has brought along his “blood bag.” That would be Max, who was captured by Immortan Joe’s troops and kept alive only to serve as a blood donor. Nuz did not want to be left behind but had not yet finished getting his transfusion. So Max is manacled and attached to the front of Nuz’s car. Max ends up with Furiosa and the young women, who are seeing the “green place” where Furiosa was born.

Miller is a master of cinema, and his staging and cinematography on the action scenes are shot through with throbbing, raging, adrenalin that contrasts with the stoicism of Max and Furiosa. Miller has said that the Edge camera car is the most exciting technological innovation in his career. It allowed him (he operated it himself) to put the camera in the middle of the action. He does not like to use CGI, preferring “practical” (real) effects, and the grittiness is so palpable we feel we are inhaling dust.

Hardy is excellent, though, as with Bain, his face is masked for much of the film. Theron is more incendiary than the film’s mountainous fireballs, creating a character with a rich, complicated history in the way she fights, in the determined set of her brows, in the way she looks at the helpless young women, thinking about where she has been and what she has seen. The action makes our hearts beat harder, but Miller’s ability to create characters that transcend the crashes and explosions and themes that resonate all too sharply with contemporary conflicts, are what can make them beat more fiercely.

Parents should know that this film has non-stop apocalyptic action, peril, and violence with many characters injured and killed and several graphic and disturbing images, as well as some strong language, some nudity, and references to domestic abuse.

Family discussion: Why won’t Max tell Furiosa his name? Why did society become so savage? Why was one community different?

If you like this, try: the first three “Mad Max” movies and Welcome to Wherever You Are, A Documentary Celebrating the MAD MAX Mythology

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3D Action/Adventure Fantasy Movies -- format Series/Sequel Thriller

Babe: Pig in the City

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Families who loved the adorable and heartwarming “Babe” need to know that this sequel, co-written and directed by “Mad Max’s” George Miller, is a much darker and more unsettling movie, not suitable for most small children.

Once again, Babe is called on to save the day, as the Hoggett’s farm is threatened with foreclosure. Mrs. Hoggett (Magda Szubanski) and Babe must appear at a fair to raise the money to save the farm. But everything goes wrong. They miss their connecting flight and are stuck in the strange and menacing city.

Then things get worse. Mrs. Hoggett and Babe are beset upon by every kind of predator, and the warm and cozy scenes of redemption and reconciliation we expect never come. Mickey Rooney plays a genuinely creepy clown. A mildly happy ending is almost coincidental and anti- climactic.

The movie is easier to admire than like, which may be why it ended up on several critics’ end of the year “10 best” lists, and was picked by the late Gene Siskel as the best film of 1998. The visuals are wonderfully imaginative. The city is a miracle of production design, brilliantly conceived. There are special effects of breathtaking skill and small moments of genuine charm. Babe and some of his new friends are adorably endearing. Older kids and teens who are not too embarrassed may appreciate the film’s artistry. But younger children should stick with the original.

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Animation Series/Sequel Talking animals
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