Joyeux Noël AKA Merry Christmas (2005)

I’ve wanted to watch the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël” (AKA Merry Christmas) for years — finally got to and I’m very glad I did!  One could easily say that every piper, every musician, and every person ought to.

We all know the setting…

The Great War, which of course later came to be known as World War I and lasted from 28July1914 to 11November1918.  It is viewed as being the first modern war and the most destructive.

Scottish soldiers in a WWI trench
Emerging from the trenches with Silent Night in the film.

During the first year of the war there were a number of informal and unauthorized “Christmas truces“, where men on both sides of the Western Front line stopped fighting to celebrate the holiday … and in some cases met in the middle to celebrate together.  Joyeux Noël is a dramatization of a group of French, Scottish, and German soldiers.  Having heard Silent Night on bagpipes from trench and the singing of the classic song by a German vocalist in another trench, they rose and met on No Man’s Land in one of these truces.

Maybe I think too much, this gets listed as an anti-war film.  I’m not always sure what makes a song or a film (etc) an anti-war piece — or to say, some are more obvious and direct than others.  What I am clear on is that Joyeux Noël shows that we as different cultures can set aside our differences, meet together peacefully, and share what we have in common.  To me some of the significance of this film has to do with universal languages — among those I believe are math and music.  As musicians we bring people together — in good times, in bad times, and bridging our different languages.  The lyrics may sound different but the music is the same.

Here are my side-notes on this film — in other words, these are the not important things I observed …

To me this film looked great — the costumes were good, there were four languages in this film (so long as you count the priest delivering a sermon in Latin), the acting was good, and so far as I could tell everything was period correct.  According to Wikipedia, Joyeux Noël had a budget of $22 million and brought in only $17,709,155 at the box office.  This happens — a well made film with a beautiful message … clearly it did not go unnoticed, and from when I’ve talked about wanting to see it the film apparently resonates in the collective conscious … but I’m saddened that this didn’t get as much notice in the theater that it profited let alone broke even.

As a musician I of course enjoy seeing when singers and instrumentalists are given focus in a film or in a TV show — especially when pipes are featured in a film.  I’m also accustom to these not actually featuring singers or musicians. In the case of this film the actors-not-singing is glaringly obvious — the lip syncing is painful.  The bagpiping in this film is also synced (pipe-synced?), which is understandable — finding actors who play bagpipes is uncommon (yep, sorry — Viggo Mortensen doesn’t actually play pipes in Captain Fantastic, although the filmmakers did a very good job of making it look like he did and Viggo trained hard to look as-so).  The pipe-syncing is both good & bad in Joyeux Noël.  When pipers start playing and then stop playing but the tune continues … that’s bad.  However, at times in this film the actors-not-pipers are seen playing and they actually do a considerably accurate job of appearing to play … so to some extent these guys actually trained — WOW!

The one other hang-up I had, or call it that if you will — there were four sets of bagpipes in the film.  Four clearly bran new, shiny sets of pipes.  I find it hard to imagine that pipes exposed to such conditions would be in such good shape, but this is a small thing so let’s look past it.

Okay, before I get any more into the weeds, let’s just say this — Joyeux Noël was a heck of a film — see it, it well deserves its time in the sun.

Joyeux Noël AKA Merry Christmas

Make no mistake, this is not a buddy-comedy film

 

World War Z by Max Brooks

I got an audiobook copy of World War Z by Max Brooks sometime … somewhere … and I’ve tried listening to it a number of times but got busy and lost my place.  What I’ve heard I liked.  Lately I was given an e-reader toward my writing/book-publishing work, and with that I’ve been getting a bit into audiobooks … so… hopefully, ideally, I’ll SOON get to finally listen to this in its entirety.  The cool thing though…. when I have listened to it before, I recognized a number of the voices to the character.  If you look on Wikipedia, Max Brooks got quite the cast.

If you’ve seen the 2013 movie, staring  Brad Pitt and a bunch of people who’s names I don’t recognize, this is very different.  Having not read the book, it stands to reason that the audio book is more like the book.  Don’t get me wrong, the film was KICKASS and it’s one of my favourite Z-films.

World War Z audiobook at Wikipedia

World War Z (2013) – IMDb

Affliction Z: Patient Zero by L.T. Ryan

I received a promotional e-copy of Affliction Z: Patient Zero (Post Apocalyptic Thriller) by L.T. Ryan when it was first released.  Frankly, it has taken me a while to get un-busy to where I can read it.  Currently I’m about a quarter of the way in, and I am ENJOYING it!

The short of it — because I’m busy right now and really don’t have time to type a book review (sorry Mr. Ryan) — is that about a dozen top-notch military guys (SEALS, Rangers, etc) get dropped into somewhere without much information.  They have their mission details but what they don’t have is intel on what they’re getting into … and shortly after they arrive they find out they’re in the middle of a zombie outbreak!  Beyond that, I can’t give spoilers (nor would I) simply because I have the other three quarters of the book yet to read …. which may well happen soon as I’ve been having problems putting it down.

Things I particularly like about Affliction Z: Patient Zero…

  • I’m not an expert but I know quite a few things, and the military references seem spot on.
  • The chapters are easily read in chunks — this is good for a person who loves to read yet doesn’t have much time.
  • The situation the military guys are in is palpable!  For me it pops off the e-page.  I feel that I’m there with them in an unclear and unpredictable situation.

L.T. Ryan has quite a few books to his credit — two of which are part of the Affliction Z series, and he says he’s looking to write more.  I’m only 25% of the way into Patient Zero, but I know I want to get my hands on Affliction Z: Abandoned Hope (2013) and Affliction Z: Descended in Blood (2014).

Hey — I just found the AfflictionZ.com home page — L.T. Ryan says he has book 4 on the way!

Affliction Z: Patient Zero (Post Apocalyptic Thriller) available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle editions

AfflictionZ.com home page & book updates

L.T. Ryan’s author profile on Amazon and Facebook

The Devil Wears Prada – Zombie (EP)

Well, I listened to some metal today — Zombie (EP), the 2010 release by The Devil Wears Prada.  Frankly … not my thing. I’m cool with metal but I think Sesame Street is a much better gig for Cookie Monster.  Something a guitarist pointed out to me years ago – he said “I love distortion, but it also hides the poor playing of a lot of musicians.”

This album did feature a few things that I enjoyed – things that switched it up and gave it any redeeming depth and texture …

  • Escape – Thunder at the beginning of track one … some speaking mid-track of a guy on communicating what he’s seeing over a walkie-talkie or a phone … a car (or some such) alarm being used musically … groaning zombies.
  • Anatomy – Starts out with the sound of a nearby chainsaw.  It’s also really sweet when they kick into sound like they’re backed by a late-80s/early-90s boy band.  Way to bring it back guys, right on!
  • Outnumbered – Starts with a report warning of danger (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news agency, etc).  Yeah, that’s about the only good thing I have to say about this track.
  • Revive – There was a little bit of music and singing in here that wasn’t speed guitars and Cookie Monster.  I’m good with metal speed guitars, drums, etc …. but the Cookie Monster thing …. bleh!  Really there is very little good I can say about this track.  Suffice to say, not everything is for everyone.
  • Survivor – I listened to this track three times before typing here.  I can’t tell anything special about this track.  It’s all the noise of the first four tracks and nothing terribly interesting.

In Conclusion… I may listen to this album again for a few of the ‘texture’ ideas, but I don’t see myself listening to it out of interest, inspiration, or especially to feel anything other than frazzled out of my mind.  To each their own, not my thing.

Cookie Monster at Wikipedia and his character profile at IMDB

Cookie Monster Metal at Wikipedia

The Devil Wears Prada and their 23Aug2010 album Zombie (EP) at Wikipedia

Lyrics to Zombie (EP) because I can’t tell what the heck they’re singing … maybe I’m showing my age.