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ABOUT MOVIE WAVE
All of Movie Wave is written by James Southall, ie me. In a fit of vanity previously unknown even to me, I decided to dedicate a page to myself. Probably nobody will ever read it, so I would be free to insult anyone I don't like, but we don't have room for that so I'll just put some inane ramblings about myself instead.
As you probably know (since it's probably the only way of getting here), I like film music. I have split this page into three sections - one about things other than film music, one about film music and one about Movie Wave specifically. I thought that was quite clever of me.
Section about things other than film music
I was fortunate enough to be born at a very early age in Wolverhampton in central England in 1977 and that's where I spent the following eighteen years, being dragged up by my parents (who can be subdivided into one mother and one father). My time at School was misspent. My main education came at Queen Mary's Grammar School in Walsall, between 1989 and 1996, and The University of Bath, between 1996 and 1999. I have a multitude of "high school qualifications" in addition to my first-class* degree in Mathematics. This is always a great point of conversation at parties. ("James, do you want to get rat-arsed?" / "Only after considering the finer points of the Bernouilli Equation!") At Queen Mary's, my lasting contribution to school life was a series of faked official notices, such as a memorandum sent to all parents regarding Throwing Excreta at the Senior Master ("such excretal extravagance will only be permitted if the Head Master and Captain of School have previously agreed that the excreta is of a sufficiently solid consistency") - what fun we had.
*This is a lie.
I now work in insurance (another great point of conversation at parties), for the world's biggest insurance company*, AXA. Despite being the world's biggest insurance company*, nobody has ever heard of it. I currently work for their UK Life Assurance arm AXA Sun Life in Bristol, in the south-west of England - the birthplace of the slave trade. A note of trivia: since I joined the company, the share price has plummeted to less that a quarter of its highest level. Amusingly, it reached its peak at the precise moment I decided to invest in some shares myself. I could explain what I do at work, but it wouldn't provide a source of too much interest, and besides, it would be difficult to do without reference to actuarial tables, which quite frankly I am unwilling to reproduce in this forum.
*This may also be a lie.
Outside of work, aside from keeping up to date with the latest insurance industry journals, I don't do a fat lot. You are likely to find me engaged in research on the internet, watching television, reading a good book, or drinking beer either at home or at the nearest pub, which I'm sure you want to know is the Beaufort Arms in Stoke Gifford. Whether it is real beer or lager depends on my mood: it also depends on what was on special offer in Sainsbury's this week. Oh, and it's not always a good book, sometimes it's a bad one. But not very often. There's nothing quite like a good book, like Homer Hickam's "Rocket Boys" or David Guterson's "Snow Falling on Cedars" or Bill Bryson's "Notes From a Small Island".
My life is shared by my girlfriend, Kerry, who shall henceforth be referred to only as "Kerry". We got together during early 2001 and she moved in with me about a year later. This was much-needed, since my pile of dirty washing was by then the largest free-standing structure in Bristol.
I don't like much, but one thing I do like is Italy. If I dine out, chances are I will go Italian. If I dine in, chances are I will go Italian. If I drink wine, chances are I will go Italian. If I could live anywhere, I would live in Italy. I like to travel, and my 2000 trip to northern Italy was a definite highlight. We stayed in Milan - the outskirts are horrible, but the centre is outstandingly beautiful - and toured around. Verona was amazing, Parma was nice, Stresa (on the shores of Lake Maggiore) was amazing - and the train journey from Milan to Stresa was undoubtedly the most beautiful I've ever been on.
Another great holiday was my 2001 trip to California and Nevada with my good friend Jonathan Broxton - you may have seen him mentioned in the gossip columns. From our trip up Hoit Tower in San Francisco with the funniest lift operator in the world ("I myself am from Hong Kong. Many people from Hong Kong go to such places as England, Singapore, France and United States to escape Red China"), to spending a whole day in Yosemite National Park worrying the tourists (not to mention the bears) by speaking like Billy Connolly for hours on end, to getting some very funny looks on the way into Disneyland as a result of listening to the score from The Omen at very high volume, to being called a "fucker" by Ford Thaxton, to seeing Bill Conti's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, this holiday provided me with masses of memorable moments.
New York is probably my favourite city and failing Italy, I would love to live there. There's a buzz about the place I find irresistible. I quite like London in a similar way, but these days - apart from the cultural aspects - it's essentially a poor man's New York, only dirtier, with more crime and less friendly people. (And three times as expensive.) I'd love to go to Australia and I'd love to explore Europe more (Talinn, Prague, St Petersburg, Paris, northern Scandinavia, Austria and Switzerland). Part of this exploration desire took me to the Algarve in Portugal last year, much of which remains delightfully unspoiled by tourism. It was possible to find outstanding beaches containing not another soul, and the hire car (a trusty Ford Fiesta, just about identical to the one I drive at home) took Kerry and I to some wonderful places.
For those of you who've been eagerly anticipating finding out what television I watch, you need wait no longer - this paragraph is for you: it's all American imports, and it's Frasier, The West Wing, The Sopranos, NYPD Blue, ER and Six Feet Under. Outstanding, each.
Section about film music
During my first week at University, I met Tom Daish, who turned out to be something of a fan of film music. While I had always taken an interest, it had hitherto been fairly passing. In the time since then, my collection of scores has grown from none to approaching two thousand. (This is not - repeat, not - a joke.)
Of course, to begin with my favourite composer was John Williams - I doubt that there are many people who have been attracted to film music in the last 25 years or so who wouldn't say the same thing. Over time, my tastes have evolved enormously - I went through a very long phase of listening to nothing but John Barry; then moved on to Jerry Goldsmith; and these days like an enormous range of film music, both new and old. If pushed, I would probably still say that the Goldsmith is the best that there has ever been, though the names of Miklós Rózsa, Alfred Newman, Alex North and Ennio Morricone would also enter the equation. I also like the "usual suspects" of the so-called second generation of film music, ie Elmer Bernstein, Maurice Jarre, Barry (still) and Williams (still), and of the "younger" guys, I would rank Michael Kamen, Thomas Newman, Randy Newman, Mark Isham, Christopher Young, Elliot Goldenthal and George Fenton as the ones most worth persevering with. Then there's all the great European composers - aside from Morricone and Jarre, some of the greatest music of the twentieth century was written by Wojciech Kilar, Nino Rota and Georges Delerue.
A film music highlight (in fact a highlight, period) was seeing Ennio Morricone in concert in Parma in Italy. Hearing a suite from The Mission performed live by 250 musicians was a deeply moving experience, and one I hope I have many chances to repeat. To meet Morricone afterwards - given that I certainly consider him to be the most prodigiously-gifted of all film composers - was similarly moving. Of course, I froze and didn't know what to say, but at least I didn't make a stupid comment (like I did with Michael Kamen) or an ill-advised joke (like I did with Terry Gilliam).
What are my favourite scores? The list changes on a daily basis, but I love: Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Avalon, The Lion in Winter, The Omen, Star Wars, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lawrence of Arabia, Under Fire, etc etc etc etc. The best score written in years is Titus by Elliot Goldenthal, also the best film I've seen in years - Anthony Hopkins is breathtaking, as is everything else about that extraordinary film.
Section about Movie Wave specifically
Movie Wave started out in 1996 after Tom started his own film music website, Soundtrack Express, which is still going strong. I had to copy him. Movie Wave may be embarrassingly poor even today, but it seems like a work of genius compared with how it used to be. I think I probably have a slightly different style from other online film music reviewers - I always try to effectively write an essay based around the new score. Most reviews seem to fall into two camps, neither of which I particularly like - either those written by, and for, people who can read and write music; and those that just throw in a load of adjectives that end up making you feel more confused than you were beforehand. Fortunately there are three or four websites that give really great opinions, and I won't say which ones I think they are for fear of offending others, but I'm sure that if you like my site then you already visit them as well.
I'm not really sure why I have the website. I guess that deep down I would love to be a writer, but don't have the guts to go for it properly. Aside from a few (and I mean a few) promo CDs sent to me by record labels, I don't get much out of it personally. Sometimes I like the reviews I write, sometimes they aren't as good as I would like, but frankly I don't have the time to spend writing them and rewriting them until I'm completely satisfied. If someone wanted to give me a lot of money then I could give up work and do this properly, so if there are any wealthy and willing benefactors out there, give me a call. But because I'm not always satisfied doesn't mean I skirt my responsibilities - joking aside, I know that people either do or don't buy CDs based just on what I say, so I make sure I'm fair and always listen to CDs enough times before reviewing them - unlike, I suspect, some sites.
I said I don't get much out of it, but by far the best thing has been the chance to meet some of my heroes. Just through having this website, I've met (among others) Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone, Michael Kamen (funny story associated with Kamen - after a concert once, I very skilfully managed to stick my leg out just at the right moment for legendary conductor Leonard Slatkin to trip over it, falling flat on his face), Randy Newman (who is, without question, the funniest man in the world - "Evian - it's French, but it's nice"), Christopher Young, John Debney (funny story associated with Debney - I met him with Jonathan Broxton at a recording session and he looked at us and said "Oh hi, are you the guys from Silva Screen?" and despite us having nothing to do with Silva Screen, we both eagerly nodded and said "Yes", to which he replied "I loved what you did with Cutthroat Island", so we thanked him and walked out of the room), Don Davis, Zbigniew Preisner, Trevor Jones, Lalo Schifrin, and even Trevor Rabin, who unfortunately had read some of my reviews. Hi, Trev. (I call him Trev.)
Thank you for reading. Sorry if it bored you - it probably did. If you are in one of the pictures and don't like it being here, tell me to remove it. If you aren't, and would like to be, send me a picture of me with you and I'll post it, unless you're Busty Bubba in Las Vegas. I always regretted having those pictures taken.
Now, excuse me while I go on the arduous journey to Bristol Parkway to pick up Kerry. After that, I think I will eat a quick pizza and then have a lie down. I think I deserve it.