Joss and Firefly at Comic-Con on Friday, July 13th
12:30-1:30Firefly 10-Year Anniversary Reunion- Calling all Browncoats to unite! It has been 10 years since the crew of the Serenity took flight in the now infamous show Firefly. Science Channel will reunite, for the first time ever, Captain Mal Reynolds and the crew from the ship. Join Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, and many more for a trip down memory lane, some special surprises, and exclusive Science Channel giveaways. SHINY. Ballroom 20
5:30-6:30Dark Horse: Joss Whedon- Long before directing the biggest superhero film in history, Joss Whedon rewarded fans the world over with some of the most compelling characters and plotlines in the history of comics, television, and movies. Here’s your chance to find out what he has in store for us next, and hear exclusive insight into Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the ever-expanding number of titles in Dark Horse’s line of Season 9 comics. Ballroom 20
“I still believe in heroes.” Nick Fury said that… well, he said it in the trailer. It’s not from the film. But making a trailer means boiling down the essence of a film’s meaning, and that’s mine, with this. Heroes. Flawed, textured, uncertain and often unworthy, but come the main event, ready to give everything. For us, for each other, for the greater good. That’s what superhero stories were about before they were too cool to be about that any more, and it’s part of why we’ve been drawn to them since they were on our newsstands, twenty-two pages printed in four colors and stapled together. The Avengers movie was my chance to talk about the need for heroes, And the best statement isn’t made with words. It’s made with music.
Music tells us, “This matters.” Defines these extraordinary people: look how sad they are. Look how tall they are! Look: they’re all together, standing back to back, enemies (and a circular dolly track) all around them, a team at last. That’s a moment that trilled me twice: once, when I thought of a good enough reason to put it in the movie (because it had to be good enough), and once, much more strongly, when I sat in the room while Alan Silvestri conducted an 80-piece orchestra, playing his Avengers theme over that shot. That’s the moment I turned to Kevin and Jeremy, my producers and friends, and said “I’m experiencing joy. I’m feeling it right now, as it’s happening. That’s rare for me, so make note.”
To say that Alan elevated this film would be to undersell his achievement. He understood it, he subverted it, he influenced it, he smoothed some of its rougher passages and bettered its best… he gave the team its identity. For all my attempts to make such disparate characters into a cohesive entity, it was Alan who made it seem as though I’d pulled it off. He crafted (with hilariously little time) a score both unobtrusive and indelible, that walked beside the story like a parent by its child on their first real bike ride: letting them do the work, but always ready to catch them if they tip, and to sound the cheer when they speed off alone. Considering how wobbly I felt on that bike, I’m pretty grateful.
There is a list of composers who have made a true mark on American film, one that changes and advances it. That’s a short list. There are composers who do that, and then do it again, and then still live for the thrill of finding a new way to do it once more. That list is in the single digits. There’s guys with all that who are delightful, excited, positive, collaborative, unflappable, who make a guy on his sophomore effort feel as though they had come up together, who don’t have a superior or jaded bone in their bodies. That list is called Alan.
But if you’re reading this, it’s not because you want to know if Mr. Silvestri is a stand-up guy. It’s because his music got to you. Maybe because it evokes the film. Maybe you hated the film, but couldn’t get the sound out of your head. Maybe you just wanted to see what he’d do next. If you listen carefully, you’ll see how much he was doing. And the answer is much. In an era of what I call room-tone scores, that just repeat the same heightened sense of there-ness (it’s too distinct to call emotion), Alan has provided a score that is so specific, so narrative-based, but still has the undeniable power and fluidity of those more diffuse accompaniments. You can hear the themes, the moments, but you can spin this disc (what? I’m old) and just bathe in the greatness. But on the subject of themes…
It was Alan’s startling work on Captain America that brought him into Marvel’s clutches, and reminded me of his capacity for non-Zemekis-based-greatness. (Zemekis! Share the wealth, Silvestri-hog!) The theme he built for Cap is in here— exactly when it should be— but I was clear up front that I wasn’t going to ask for themes for every hero. That was absurd. And yet…
If I have one favorite element to this tapestry, it’s the Black Widow. I decided (late in the game) that she did need a theme, a calling card, especially because she’s Russian, and we first see her in Russia, and I hate establishing shots. I told Alan he needed to evoke her background and identity in her first cue. Which he did. A lonely, plucked, soviet scent to define our girl. I heard it. Then I heard it again, battling against Loki’s theme, as they battled for verbal supremacy on the helicarrier. And again, rich with doleful strings, as she revealed to her best friend that Loki had touched her more than she’d shown… And then, as she battles onto an alien chariot, the same minor refrain blossoms into heroic glory, as galvanizing as they team theme itself.
I only asked for the one.
I think you get the picture. (Alan certainly did.) Here’s a piece of trivia to make this all special and put you in the know. “The Avengers”, which you may notice threading through a couple of times before, was an early pitch that Alan threw out, that we all felt was more SHIELD spy movie than Avengers heroic epic (I referred to it as “James Bond meets Zeppelin’s Kashmir”)… but that none of us could shake. (Because Bond should meet Zeppelin, and they should battle! Until they settle their differences and begin a violent, martini-fueled jam session!) We temped it over the end credits for fun— and then had to ask him to establish it earlier, because it was so damn cool. That’s Alan on an off day.
I still believe in heroes. Because, every now and then, I get to work with one of mine.
— Joss Whedon (transcribed from the Avengers soundtrack notes)
[Note: I tried to transcribe it as literally as possible, if there are any glaring errors let me know, but I think I copied it exactly. Misspellings and all. I didn’t want to add any (sic) tags so just go with it.]
Oh my god, I just have so much commentary for this. First of all, I know Silvestri’s work from Van Helsing, which I love, and the music is fucking fabulous. (And a lot of other movies like Forrest Gump, Mousehunt, and The Mummy, but I’m not as familiar with those pieces.)
Two, Whedon is such a fanboy, and I think that’s part of what made this movie successful. It was made by and with people who understand what they would want to see if they were in the audience. Also, the way he writes/talks is awesome, because it’s kind of how I write. I’m actually not a great conversationalist, but when I blog oh lord I do not know how to keep a straight line going. I digress like a motherfucker. And to me, I don’t know, it reads more like a friendly commentary, instead of an essay, or whatever. And I like to know where people’s brains are, and maybe that’s a thing in my family (we are all-fucking-over-the-place when we converse, which can get interesting), but I like to know other people do that too, and actually it makes it more enjoyable to me because I kind of get to see their personality.
Three, the Avengers soundtrack really is a fantastic piece of work. It is incredibly diverse. I don’t know Cap’s theme, but what I did notice is how Silvestri did an amazing job reaching out to the Iron Man soundtracks. There are a few moments where I just know it’s a Tony scene, and I look at the title and I know exactly what’s happening.
In fact, the whole soundtrack is kind of like that. There are so many singular moments that listening to it I can practically picture in my head, action-by-action, the entire thing. Obviously, it’s not quite so long, at about 1:20, so I don’t know how much was cut, but all the big moments are there.
I have a distinct respect for diversity, and for being able to call up other composers’ work, because sometimes you can love a composer but all their work starts to sound the same and it kinda bums you out, musically (Williams, Zimmer… sorry! Love them but kinda burned out on certain themes ifyouknowwhatimean). I also seriously appreciate it because I was sad to see Ramin Djwadi not return for IM2. (I read somewhere people reacted badly to his soundtrack? Excuse me fuck you but it was perfection. If he was just otherwise indisposed then… as you were.) I’m pretty stoked to get the IM2, Thor, and Captain America sountracks (I am awaiting delivery…) so I can see if I can pick out more themes and such.
Okay, Black Widow. The commentary there is a little weird, but I’m also glad Joss is standing up for the only female lead who didn’t get her own movie against four-kind-of-five-kind-of-six-guys who did. Also, the Russia thing… I’ll be honest, the first time I saw it I had no idea they were in Russia. I know he says here he hates establishing shots, and that’s fine, I understand. He put up a Russian billboard and a train car with Russian lettering but to be honest I didn’t really notice. Then again, I don’t know if that’s because how it was edited for 3d? I only saw it in 3d this last (fourth) time, and while I actually thought the 3d was well-executed and not tacky or in-your-face, I also did think there were some times where the 3d greatly clarified what was going on. Basically, all the action at the end. It helped draw your focus a LOT MORE to what specifically was going on in each sequence of the fight. And it was done exceptionally well. And in 3d it was possibly slightly more noticeable that they were somewhere with Russian writing? Anyway, that’s probably the weakest moment for me, but it also could have been me just having a moment being distracted. So who knows. A small quarrel, tbh.
But while we’re talking about small themes, and how incredibly important they are, and how fantastically and fabulously diverse this movie is musically— the Stuttgart gentleman. That guy’s theme. He has it. I know it. It’s just one amazingly, wonderfully, beautifully singular moment in this soundtrack. If I didn’t already love some of the more dramatic moments, I’m pretty sure you could sell the whole soundtrack based on that one moment.
Okay, and lastly, back to Joss’ fandomizing: the Bond-and-Kashmir comment. Kashmir is SUCH A GREAT THEME. I get it stuck in my head ALL THE TIME because we shared a housing site with the Madison Scouts in 2007 and they spent pretty much the entire three days doing their opening over and over and over again. However, the show, and to a certain extent, the song, didn’t/don’t build terribly well, and I think that’s something Silvestri really took to the next level with that emotion.
Also I’m not sure why Bond and Led Zeppelin would be fighting or composing together, but, whatever, I’m not going to question Whedon’s ideas if they’re the kind of fabulous thing that turns out quality ensemble movies like Serenity and Avengers.
And while we’re talking about drum corps, I would love to see someone do an Avengers show now because all of these little theme-moments could add up to a very nice ten-minute piece without too much contrivance. Assuming you don’t try to tell the whole story of the movie in that time, of course. Idk, make it about victory over temptation or something, you’re golden.
Okay enough of my commentary. Read Whedon’s fucking letter again. Because it’s spectacular.
(Um, also? How adorable is it how he’s geeking out over a movie hero? Like I said. Pretty sure fandom runs this whole damn show.)
Joss planned to make his own Buffy movie back in the late ’90s. Details on this are almost non-existent but here’s some blurb from Variety back in June of ‘98.
Whedon, who recently signed a large overall deal at Twentieth Century Fox for both film and TV, is best known for another vampire franchise, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Whedon is also developing a “Buffy” feature, based on the WB netlet’s TV series, which itself was adapted from the original Whedon film of the same name. (X)
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