Tuesday, March 4, 2008

30 - Answer(s)

Q: Bill Jeffers - I know you hate predictions, but what is going to be the next crappy genre of music? Or is everything all used up and we'll be limited to artists sampling other artists sampling other artists forever?
A: I think that the next "crappy" genre of music won't be a distinct genre, but rather a merging of distinct genres into something new. I spent some time listening to pop tunes on the radio to research this question, and what I noticed was a curious blend of country, rock, and R&B. Often times there was an over-produced feel to the song, especially in the bass and drums, which felt very electronic and processed. I think that this trend is likely to continue, though I'm not sure what you'd end up calling the resulting "genre", if anything.

On a side note, I also felt like all the songs were the same, at least in lyrical content. Angst, anger, "my girl/boy left me", etc. There wasn't anything original or particularly interesting in the lyrics. I know that doesn't really depend on the genre, but it's something I noticed as a songwriter.

If I had to guess about a current genre that will make a breakthrough to the mainstream (like swing did in the late 90's) I would guess bluegrass. Seriously. Country is already very popular, and the bluegrass feel could translate very well into the mainstream of pop music. It's different without being TOO different, and is also very danceable. Keep an eye out for it, folks!

To answer the second part of your question, mathematically speaking there are only a certain number of chord arrangements that can be made. Of course that number increases because of the variability in the length of songs, but when you're talking about a typical three-minute pop tune you're pretty boxed in. The good-sounding chord progressions are often taken, and so some artists solve this dilemma by "sampling". I've never liked the concept of sampling. I feel that it's a very lazy practice. Unfortunately the music consuming public does not agree with me, and so I don't think it's going to go anywhere unless there is a public backlash against it. And I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Q: Brett Gobe - Crimson Tide or The Hunt for Red October?

A: First, this is going to be the longest answer in "Ask Mitssob" history. By a long shot. In fact, I was so inspired by this question that I enlisted Allison's help to ensure a more complete answer. Together we came up with a list of categories that the movies should be rated on, ranging from the serious to the slightly disturbing. Then we went through and watched both films and made notes according to those categories. The results of our work follows. Enjoy!

Title

CT: Crimson Tide. What is "Crimson Tide?" A new variety of the detergent? Is it like the red tide? I don't know.

THFRO: The Hunt for Red October. Simple, direct, descriptive, slightly menacing.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October


Plot

CT: A radical general has taken advantage of tense political situation involving the Russian response to a Chechnian revolt. The US has gotten involved, and a General named Vladimir Radchenko is using this as an excuse to incite conflict. A state of civil war exists in Russia. Against this backdrop the USS Alabama is deployed to the region in case things get out of hand, which they eventually do. The Captain and XO fight for control of the ship when their orders to launch their ICBMs at Russia come into question. (Allison's Plot Summary: The damn printer doesn't work!)

THFRO: At the height of the Cold War a brand-new typhoon-class submarine is taken by a captain intent on defection. The Soviet navy is informed of this by that captain, and send the entire fleet to capture him. Meanwhile a CIA analyst named Jack Ryan, who has studied Ramius, investigates the situation and figures out that Ramius wants to defect. He convinces his superiors of this fact, and helps bring Ramius in. (Allison's Plot Summary: Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen!)

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Cast


CT: Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, and a slew of "That Guys"

THFRO: Sean Connery, Sam Neill, Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Scott Glenn.


Winner: The top two in Crimson Tide vs. the more rounded-out cast in The Hunt for Red October? I'd say it's a tie.

Protaganist - How strong is the lead character? Not the actor, but the character.

CT: Lieutenant Commander Hunter. He has been assigned to be the new Executive Officer (XO) of the USS Alabama. He is described as an "egghead", and that description fits. He seems to be very smart, and is clearly articulate and well-spoken. When it comes time for action, though, he is quite capable of acting. His conflict with the Captain is the center of focus for the movie.

THFRO: Jack Ryan. A CIA analyst living in London, who learns of a new Soviet submarine and brings that information to the CIA. He is clearly smart, and well-versed in theoretical knowledge. He's not very politically savvy, but he is a good detective.


Winner: The character of Hunter seems more to be about Denzel Washington than the character. Jack Ryan, on the other hand, seems to be a deeper character. That gives him the edge, so The Hunt for Red October wins.

Captain(s) - A ship is only as good as her captain. So how did the captains rate?

CT: Captain Frank Ramsey. He is confident, almost to the point of being arrogant. At first, he seems to want to be a true mentor and teacher to his new XO. He clearly cares about his men; his first speeech to his men consists of short cadence, but it is inspiring and even a little funny at times. But then he starts to show a darker side. He looks down on intellectuals, including his new XO. When the conflict occurs between him and his XO, he starts to get a little unglued. He is single-minded, set in his ways, and that comes through in stark form as the movie progresses. In the end he redeems himself almost completely, and ends up resigning in semi-disgrace.

THFRO: This movie offers two for the price of one!

Marco Ramius - He is a very balanced man. He goes from poetic as the ship leaves harbor to a man of action when he kills the political officer. He gives a good, poetic speech to his crew when he announces their (fake) orders, full of inspiring language. He is a cool-headed man who shows little emotion, and is sparing with explanations. He doesn't really change as the movie progresses. He is able to handle stress and difficulty that his defection causes without changing his personality.
Bart Mancuso - More of a man of action than his Soviet counterpart. He is sarcastic and loose but he still commands great respect from his men. His ship is tight and well run without being overly strict and rigid; he is liked and respected, but not feared. He can handle stress, but shows emotion and isn't afraid to share his opinions.

Winner: Captain Ramsey may be stronger than either Ramius or Mancuso, but not both. The Hunt for Red October wins.

Enemy Sub - Both movies feature a battle with a single enemy submarine.

CT: A Russian Akula-class submarine under the control of General Radchenko. It's just sort of there, hovering sinisterly in the background. The Alabama pretty much wants to avoid it, but when the radio buoy winch fails the sub comes after them. Eventually the Alabama wins, but with a high price.


THFRO: It's the classic student fighting master. A Russian Alpha-class submarine called the Kanevelov, captained by a former pupil of Ramius, is sent to destroy them. It's the ultimate fight in the movie, and ends with the Red October killing the Alpha with its own torpedo.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

"That Guy" - Reserved for the category of guys you see in the movie and shout out, "Hey, it's that guy! You know, from that movie/tv show/commercial/porno".

CT:
- General Radchenko (Spurbury police chief in "Super Troopers")

- Viggo Mortensen ("Hidalgo", "Lord of the Rings", etc)
- Ryan Phillippe (starred in "Cruel Intentions", among others)
- James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano in "The Sopranos")
- Ricky Schroeder (former child star, after this he starred in "NYPD Blue" for a few seasons)


THFRO:
- Skip Typer (The Principal in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off")
- Tim Curry ("Clue", "Muppet Treasure Island", and others) Note: I consider him in the "that guy" hall of fame.
- Cook's Assistant Loganov (Gladiator)

- Captain Tupolov (Bootstrap Bill in "POTC: Dead Man's Chest")
- Foxtrot Bomber guy (LOST)

Winner: Crimson Tide

Career Springboard - How many careers did this movie aid?


CT: The sheer number of "that guys" in this movie translates to a large number of careers. James Gandolfini went on to play Tony Soprano in HBO's hit series, "The Sopranos". Ryan Philippe went on to marry (and divorce) Reese Witherspoon, and also play alongside her in "Cruel Intentions". Viggo Mortensen went on to play Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

THFRO: The "That Guy" cast in this movie didn't move on to bigger and better things, unfortunately. Loganov (the cook's assistant and saboteur) went on to play Quintus in Gladiator, but that's about it.

Winner: Crimson Tide

Token Black Guy(s) - What would a movie be without the TBG (token black guy). He is in the background of the film, contributing, but not TOO much.


CT:
- Lieutenant Westergard (the brother with the moustache): He seems like a good guy, but he's an ally of Captain Ramsey and that makes him bad (but not TOO bad).
- The fat guy who sings and dances. As punishment for trying to stand out, he dies in the flood scene later.

THFRO:
- Sonar Officer Jones: He's into classical music, has a sense of humor, and is very resourceful (but not TOO resourceful).

Winner: Based on the definition of the TGB, Crimson Tide takes it.


Production Value - Did this movie look good?

CT:
- The submarine looks like it's a set, but a pretty good one. For the most part it retains that claustrophobic feel, though at times that's lost.
- As the ship dives, you see a lot of the interior of the ship, with men running everywhere.
- Everybody's sweating, which is realistic.

THFRO:
- Actual stunts, with Alec Baldwin actually going out of the helicopter.

- Big settings, like the sub, the aircraft carrier, the helicopter, and the open ocean.
- The three submarines all have unique looks to them.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Pivotal Scene

CT: The fight between Hunter and the captain over Hunter's refusal to concur the captain's launch command. This scene builds up very well. It starts with Hunter showing the captain the incomplete message, and ends with Hunter relieving the captain of his command. It's a pivotal moment in the film; it represents both a character development moment for Hunter, and a character reveal moment for the Captain.

THFRO: When Captain Mancuso decides to trust Jack Ryan and expose his position to the Red October. The actions of both captains drive the movie from that point on.


Winner:
Because that scene is so important to the movie as a whole, Crimson Tide takes it.

Dinner Sequence - Oddly, both movies feature a key dinner scene.

CT: This happens just after the Alabama gets underway. There are stark contrasts and stereotypes of military types shown among the officers. The power struggle between the XO and the Captain starts here.

THFRO: After dismissing the doctor, all of the officers sit down for a meeting over dinner. They are all smoking, but Captain Ramius is the only one eating. He doesn't speak at all until he has to. "There will be no going back." Then he reveals that "I announced our intention to defect."


Winner: Tie

Standoffs

CT:
- Hunter vs. Captain Ramsey (1): Fight over incomplete EAM that comes in during attack.
- WEAPS vs. Captain: WEAPS refuses to unlock the safe containing the firing trigger. The captain threatens to shoot an innocent seaman in order to get WEAPS to unlock it, which he does.
- Hunter vs. Captain Ramsey (2): Final standoff between Hunter and Ramsey regarding orders to shoot, when Ramsey re-takes the bridge.


THFRO:
- Jack Ryan vs. the Joint Chiefs: "Have you ever met Captain Ramius, General?"
- Jack Ryan vs. Captain Mancuso: Jack tries to convince the captain, gets threatened with death, then lies to him in order to get him to cooperate.
- Captain vs. Captain on the Red October: Ramius orders Jack to turn the submarine into the path of an incoming torpedo, which causes Mancuso great distress.

Winner: Since the entire point of the movie is the standoffs, I'll give this one to Crimson Tide.

Submarine Movie Cliches - All submarine movies (or movies that have submarines in them, for that matter) must have certain cliches. Which did these have?


CT:
- Blue/red lights. This is such a cliche that the Simpsons parodied it in their Crimson Tide episode with the line, "We're down to mood lighting here!"
- Holy shit something's on sonar!
- Flooding
- Close hatch, thus dooming a few to save the ship
- Depth/pressure danger
- Launch Countermeasures!

THFRO:

- Blue lights on the Alpha, yellow lights on the Red October, red lights on the Dallas.
- Launch Countermeasures!
- Ping sound from the torpedo.

Winner: Crimson Tide

Death Scenes

CT:
- Early on there is a fire in the galley, and a Petty Officer has heart attack as a result. The medical officer gives CPR, but the Petty Officer dies anyway. The music under the scene is light, and quite effective.

- After the Alabama nearly gets hit by a torpedo, the bilge bay floods. One of the men down there takes a pipe-cover to the face, and shortly afterwards they all drown when Ricky Schroeder seals the section off. Once again, the music is used to great effect.

THFRO:
- Captain Ramius kills the political officer in his quarters after unlocking their orders. It was surprising, both to the audience and to the political officer, who died with a look of shock on his face.
- Just after the torpedo breaks apart on the hull of the Red October, the cook's assistant comes onto the bridge and opens fire. Borodin takes a bullet for Ramius, and dies with the famous last words: "I would like to have seen Montana."
- Jack Ryan finally catches the cook's assistant in the missile compartment. Ryan shoots him in the chest several times, ending that crisis.

Winner: Crimson Tide

Tricks and Strategems (or Best Use of Submarine)


CT:
- Staying hidden from the Russian enemy sub.

THFRO:
- The Dallas staying in the Red October's "baffles", meaning behind the enemy sub so it can't hear.
- High-speed run of the underwater canyons by the Red October.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October


Music

CT: Overall the music is fairly constant without being too distracting. The main theme of the movie is by Hans Zimmer, and is quite moving. Moonlight Sonata is playing when Hunter and Ramsey meet for the first time, which sets an interesting mood for the scene. Finally, the Navy Hymn is used to great effect, both during the ships first dive and when Hunter gives the order that kills three of his men.

THFRO: There is singing in Russian (sorry, I don't know the song) over the opening credits while we see naval studies by Jack Ryan. Later there is an important scene involving the whole crew of the Red October singing the Soviet National Anthem.

Winner: Crimson Tide

Ending - So how did the movie wrap up? Did the ship sink?


CT: The orders to fire ICBMs were called off, and that message finally gets through to the Alabama. Captain Ramsey retires, but not before recommending that Lt. Cmdr Hunter get his next command as soon as possible. Meanwhile the Russian civil war fizzles, and all is right with the world again.

THFRO: Captain Ramius and his officers, with the help of Jack Ryan and the crew of the Dallas, succeed in defecting to America. They hide the Red October in a river in Maine. Captain Ramius and Jack Ryan sing a duet of "Old Man River." OK, that didn't happen. But it should have.

Winner: To be honest, I'm not thrilled with the endings of either movie. It's a tie.

Favorite Quote

CT:

Captain Ramsey: Yeah, horses're fascinating animals. Dumb as fenceposts but very intuitive. In that way they're not too different from high school girls: they may not have a brain in their head but they do know all the boys want to fuck 'em.

THFRO:
Admiral Painter (Fred Thompson): Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan.

Winner: One reason I couldn't take Fred Thompson seriously as a presidential candidate is that every time I saw him, that line popped into my head. The Hunt for Red October wins on that fact alone.

General Humor

CT:

- Captain Ramsey: If someone asked me if we should bomb Japan, a simple "Yes." By all means sir, drop that fucker, twice!
- Captain Ramsey: Their training program is simplicity itself. You just stick a cattle prod up their ass and you can get a horse to deal cards.

THFRO:
- Captain Ramius: "Anatoli? You're afraid of our fleet? Well you should be. Personally, I give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?"
- Navigator aboard the plane Jack flies to the aircraft carrier: What's the matter Commander? You don't like flying, huh? Aw, this is nothing! You should've been with us five, six months ago! Whoa! You talk about puke! We ran into a hailstorm over the Sea of Japan. Everybody's retching their guts out! The pilot shot his lunch all over the windshield, and I barfed on the radio! Shorted it out completely! And it wasn't that lightweight stuff either, it was that chunky industrial weight puke! Here, want a bite?
- Captain Mancuso: "My morse is so rusty I might be sending him dimensions on Playmate of the month."
- At two points throughout the movie Jack Ryan imitates voices. This always cracks me up.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October


Homoerotic Overtones - This is rated on a 1 to 10 scale, 1 being mild innuendo, 10 being "break out the astroglide".

CT:
- Weaps (Viggo Mortenson) says to his fellow officers of Lt. Cmdr Hunter, "We're lucky to have him." The look that he gives is very suggestive. Rating: 4
- "No-where to run to" song, sung by one of the token black guys, dancing and singing into a flashlight, surrounded by smoking and shirtless men. Rating: 6
- WEAPS is ironing a shirt while talking with Hunter. At the end of the scene Hunter asks, "Do you do pants too?" Rating: 2

THFRO:

- Political officer waiting for Ramius in his quarters, reading his diary. Ramius responds by killing him. Kinky... Rating: 3
- Jack Ryan taking a shower onboard the aircraft carrier. Rating: 3
- Borodin and Captain Ramius in Ramius' quarters. Their discussion covers what they wish for in the future. After Borodin claims to want to marry a "round American woman", Ramius responds by saying he has "no such desires." Is he trying to say something? Maybe... Rating: 4
- Just after the Americans go aboard the Red October, there are yellow lights flashing. It reminds me of a discotheque. Rating: 1

Winner: Crimson Tide

Awkward Moments - The moments in the movie where you have to stop and say, "Um, what?"


CT:
- Dog peeing. I thought subs were supposed to be clean and well maintained.
- Captain addressing crew about low morale based on Hunter's comments. He manages to berate them quite well, and probably drives morale further down.
- Captain loudly telling Hunter to "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" on the bridge, after talking quietly and reasonably up until that point.

THFRO:
- Jack Ryan telling Admiral Greer that his daughter suggested that he (Jack) "buy her baby brother." Then he says he'll buy one for Stanley, causing Greer to ask very seriously, "Who's Stanley?" Jack respond's "Stanley's a bear." The whole exchange is very awkwardly done, and feels, well, weird.
- After Jack briefs the National Security Advisor and the Joint Chiefs, the National Security Advisor tells Jack he will be going to investigate his theory. He tells Jack that he can't send any of the Joint Chiefs, partly because they don't believe Jack's theory, and that Jack is "expendable?"
- The long, awkward standoff between Americans and the Soviets onboard the Red October. It goes on for several seconds too long.

- After ordering Jack to turn the Red October into the path of an oncoming torpedo, Ramius then proceeds to tell Jack that his book sucks.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Star Trek Connection

CT:
Just before he is taken into custody by the Captain, Hunter goes and visits the communications room. He has a heart-to-heart with Vossler, who was left in charge when the head officer (who is loyal to the Captain) disappears. Hunter proceeds to put their situation in terms of Star Trek. "I'm Captain Kirk, you're Scotty, and I need warp speed."

THFRO:

- Jack Ryan's wife is Gates McFadden, aka Dr. Beverly Crusher.
- The captain aboard the aircraft carrier plays Professor Moriarty in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- It's also posssible (though unconfirmed) that the guy driving the DSRV plays Data's first officer during Data's brief stint as captain of a starship.

Winner: The Hunt For Red October

Linguistic Fakery - For excellence (or non-excellence) in faking an accent.

CT:

- Rivetti (the sonar officer): Italian/Brooklynese kid on a sub full of Southerners. He may or may not be faking, but it sure is out of place. And annoying.
- General Radchenko: He doesn't have many lines (maybe two), but they're pulled off with typical Russian bombast.

THFRO:
- Jack Ryan's wife has exactly two lines (see the next category). She uses a British accent for the first line, and American for the second. I guess she had to squeeze in her full range.
- The Captain of the aircraft carrier is played by a British guy, but it's hard to tell.
- Sam Neill (another Brit) manages to do a pretty convincing Russian accent throughout the whole movie.
- Sean Connery does not.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October


Get Back in the Kitchen (or They Have Female Singers and Female Motorists) - Women do not play a significant role in either movie. Actually, that's a gross understatement. Between the two films, female characters contribute a grand total of eight sentences. And they suck. Below is the full female contribution for both movies.

CT:
- Hunter's Wife (Nancy?), as Hunter is about to get out of their car and board the submarine: "Just say goodbye."

THFRO:
- Cathy Ryan: "No more of the usual nonsense; two stories, two glasses of water. Jack, you're going to miss your plane."
- Stewardess: "More coffee, sir?" "You know, if you try to get some sleep the flight will go a lot faster." "Pardon?" "Well, try and get some sleep anyway."


Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Suck-ed-in-edness - How likely would you be to stop and watch if you come across this movie on basic cable?

CT: Kinda likely

THFRO: Very likely


Winner: The Hunt for Red October

Best Hair

CT: Viggo Mortenson had a flat top you could cut cheese on.

THFRO: Sean Connery's hair seemed to be an extension of a ushanka, which is a stereotypical Russian hat (also called shapka).

Winner: Crimson Tide


Animal Cruelty

CT: Captain Ramsey had a Jack Russell Terrier named Bear. This dog traveled everywhere with the Captain, and was a constant companion. The dog accepted the new XO, and also growled and barked at certain characters when called upon.

THFRO:
- In the first scene aboard the Dallas, Jones uses whales near the Dallas while training the sonarman.
- Borodin indicated a desire to raise rabbits for the express purpose of consuming them.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October


Best Use of Font

CT: The informational font is a little large, and also a bit sterile.

THFRO: The opening sequence uses a very official-looking typographical font, which gives it a menacing quality. Also, the title is first shown in its original Cyrillic spelling, before blurring into English.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October

MacGyver Moment


CT: Vossler and his men working hard to fix the radio against the backdrop of possible nuclear war and a power struggle onboard the submarine. No pressure or anything.

THFRO: Jones listens to his tape recording of the Red October and determines that the "magma displacement" is actually a Soviet Sub.

Winner: Crimson Tide

Tobacco Company Sponsorship

CT:

- Smoking cigars on deck before submerging.
- Smoking during officer's dinner (both cigars and cigarettes)
- Cigarettes at weapons area

THFRO:
- Smoking at dinner, all over the place on the Red October.
- Jack's first cigarette, coughs, turns green.

Winner: Just for sheer volume, The Hunt for Red October wins.


After watching this movie, will you want to shoot a Soviet/Russian in name of your country? - A basic gauge of your feelings of patriotism after watching the movie.

CT: Not really. You might want to hunt down the General, but the average Russian soldier is portrayed as more of a victim than an active participant in the civil war underway.

THFRO: Yes, sir. Absolutely. Shoot that fucker. Twice.

Winner: The Hunt for Red October


Final Tally:
Crimson Tide - 11
The Hunt for Red October - 18
Tie - 3

My answer? The Hunt for Red October. Thanks again to Allison for all of her help with this answer.