Sunday, July 22, 2007

Around the Internets: 07/22/07

- That Pepsi Girl--who also happens to be Kabuki and Daredevil artist David Mack's muse--loves film scores! (Insert Ice Cube-style "Yay-YAY!" here):
ON MY iPOD: Mostly Soundtracks: AMELIE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, GLADIATOR, GOODBYE LENIN, HELLBOY, The HOURS, The LAST of the MOHICANS, The LAST SAMURAI, PAN'S LABYRINTH
The Trevor Jones half of the Mohicans score (Randy Edelman scored the more synth-heavy and less well-received half) is one of my favorite '90s scores, from one of my favorite Michael Mann flicks. Mandy's got awesome musical tastes--and is one hot-looking geek.

- Speaking of geeks, I'm attending the Nerd Prom for the first time ever this year. I'll be there only on Saturday, the most star-studded day of the weekend. Newsarama has posted a helpful rundown of all the essential movie and TV-related panels at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con.

- Paget Brewster kills yet another show. Harvey Birdman has ended its run after 39 Hanna-Barbera-tarnishing episodes.

Part of the fun of watching Birdman was seeing which wholesome H-B character from my childhood would get skewered and TV-MA-ized that week. From the revelation that Apache Chief likes going commando to the insert shot of a Kama Sutra illustration of Baba Looey and Quick Draw McGraw doing "the Cowgirl," Birdman never disappointed in pissing on my memories of H-B shows. But Birdman pissed on my childhood memories in an entertaining way, as opposed to the Star Wars prequels, which pissed on my memories in a "God, I can't believe a grown man actually wrote this" kind of way.

Birdman was also one of the last of a dying breed--it was a show that had a catchy, old-fashioned opening theme song ("Who is the man in the suuuuuit?/Who is the cat with the beeeeeeeeak?"). So did The Knights of Prosperity and The Sopranos ("Woke Up This Morning" was no old-fashioned Sherwood Schwartz ditty, but it sure was catchy). Now The Knights, The Sopranos and Birdman are all gone--and in the same year too.

Not many people know this--or even care--but Birdman's opening and closing themes used a Sam Spence NFL Films library music cue as the backing music. The brassy cue can be heard during a 1968 New York Jets year-in-review film I once caught on the NFL Network. When the tune started to play in the middle of this ancient Jets highlight film, I was like, "Hey, what's the Harvey Birdman theme doing here? Are the Jets about to feel the power of attorney?"

I'm going to miss the likes of the creepy but hilarious Phil Ken Sebben, Ernie Devlin, Avenger and the Bear, but I'll miss you most of all, Birdgirl, my favorite Paget Brewster character.

- On his blog, David Mills, writer of last season's great Wire episode "Soft Eyes," hates on Rob Schneider's lame yellowface routine in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Mills says, "Are Asian Americans gonna tolerate this bullshit?" Hell no.

A commenter below Mills' post mentions the even more annoying Carlos Mencia and his shrill and unoriginal shtick. I knew Mencia was a hack years before everybody else did, when I saw him do an unfunny impression of "an Asian mugger" on HBO's Comic Relief in the mid-'90s, complete with that favorite prop of every racist '80s stand-up hack, buckteeth. I want to see Joe Rogan lose it again one night and wipe the floor with Mencia's ass like Lovitz did to Andy Dick.

- Oliver Wang looks back at one of my favorite movies, Chan Is Missing, a film us Filipino Americans especially appreciate because Wayne Wang shot Chan in parts of San Francisco that have been ignored by other San Fran movies--particularly the brown part of town--and he gave S.F.'s manong community some rare screen time during one terrific little scene:
Early into Wayne Wang's CHAN IS MISSING, gumshoe detective Jo (Wood Moy) and his sidekick Steve (Marc Hayashi) wander into a Manilatown senior center in search of their wayward colleague, Chan Hung. The movie takes a brief pause here as Wang shoots old manongs dancing to the Mexican bolero, "Sabor a Mi." One shot lingers on an elderly man staring at the camera, collapsing the third wall with his steady gaze. The entire scenes only consumes a minute or so and then Jo and Steve are back on Chan's trail, but the beauty of the moment lingers on...

However well-intentioned, many of the attempts that followed CHAN IS MISSING these past 20 years have either resulted in anemic, feel-good tales that celebrate multiculturalism without tackling the complexities of race and ethnicity seriously, or they reproduce the same narrow, troubled politics of cultural nationalism that have proven untenable as the community grows more diverse and disparate. What both sides lack is a politics and aesthetics of nuance...

It's these many small touches that give CHAN IS MISSING its soul. It's Peter Wang, dressed down in his Samurai Night Live t-shirt, singing "Fly Me to the Moon"; it's the paranoid piano score that stalks Jo around Chinatown; it's the overeager attorney who only speaks in legalese; it's the faces of people at a bus stop.
- Kim Morgan also devotes an entire post to another favorite flick of mine, Mean Streets, the movie that spawned a million hacky Queens Boulevards:
The thumping beat of the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" begins and the scene shifts to a screening of Super-8 films of the young man and his friends. Just as Ronnie Spector breaks into the beautifully sweet chorus of "Be my, be my baby," the film reveals its title in plain, typewritten letters: Mean Streets.

Man, oh man. This opening always gets me right in the gut and even at times, almost makes me cry. Well, not almost. It does make me cry. It's just so fucking brilliant and wonderfully bittersweet. It's reminiscent of a past that isn't mine and yet, Scorsese makes me feel like it could be. It gets me the way Wes Anderson gets me. No wonder Scorsese loves him so much.
- "Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, pissant." Slate asked readers to create the perfect action-movie one-liner, and now the site has posted the amusing and often cheesy results. My personal favorite fake one-liner is a quip intended for some Eurotrash villain: "You shouldn't have said shed-yul, asshole."

A couple of the submissions are on the trendy side, a la Live Free or Die Hard's cyber-terrorism plot ("Consider this negative eBay feedback." "MySpace friend add...denied!").

I've come up with my own trendy catchphrase, to be uttered by some hero after he or she administers a crowdpleasing punch to a baddie's face: "How's that for a Facebook poke, assmunch?"

- Patton Oswalt mocks a douchebag interviewer who recently told him during a press junket that Ratatouille would have been a better movie had it used Coldplay songs on the soundtrack. Fuckin' Coldplay? This loser prefers fuckin' wuss rock over the beautifully crafted original score by composer Michael Giacchino?!:
Later, when I was telling this story to Brad Bird, he said, 'You should've asked him if, when he was Star Wars, if he was pissed that he didn't know any of the music in that."

"Couldn't they have put a cool Jerry Reed song in that?" I whined.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Passin' Me By"

They don't make rap videos like this anymore:



The rap video honeys were classier and a lot better looking back then. The Pharcyde's signature jam--the ultimate "shy guy anthem," as one YouTube commenter calls it--is one of my favorite songs. It's also a great summer song--that is if your summers are often on the angsty side (it was released as a single in March 1993, but was all over the music video channels during the spring and summer). The sample of Quincy Jones' cover of "Summer in the City" lends "Passin' Me By" that summery vibe.

"The only lying I would do is in the bed with you."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Recappin' and yappin'

Because of the Judd Apatow media empire's success with The 40-Year-Old Virgin and this summer's Knocked Up, Alan Sepinwall has been recapping episodes of Apatow's earlier work, the cult favorite Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000), all summer long on his What's Alan Watching? blog. Sepinwall ought to compile his insightful recaps into a book--maybe a Freaks and Geeks Compendium like that Star Trek Compendium tome I bought when I was a kid and was into Star Trek reruns. I recommend checking out Alan's recaps, as well as the interesting fan discussions in the comments section. If you're a Freaks and Geeks fan like I am, you probably already have read two or three of the recaps.

The recaps have made me want to dust off my limited edition Freaks and Geeks yearbook box set and revisit some of the eps, especially one of my personal favorites that Alan has recapped, "Girlfriends and Boyfriends," which features some great non-verbal acting by Linda Cardellini and John Francis Daley. The scene between them at the end of "Girlfriends and Boyfriends," in which Lindsay comes home from her bizarre Styx-scored evening with Nick and watches her brother Sam get stuck on the phone with Cindy Sanders, who's prattling on and on about the jock she's crushing on, is my favorite Lindsay/Sam moment, as well as one of my favorite scenes in the whole series. The way Lindsay and Sam interact in this scene is a lot like how I interact with my older sister.

Alan's posts have even made me want to watch the last three or four eps, including the series finale, "Discos and Dragons," all eps I never saw because I was so bummed about the show's cancellation.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Simpson Tide


SoundtrackNet has posted an early review of Hans Zimmer's Simpsons Movie score. The reviewer says the score is one of the year's most enjoyable ones. Though I can't wait to hear Danny Elfman's opening theme reinterpreted by an orchestra much bigger than the one that performs the music on the show, it's a bit disappointing that TV show score veteran Alf Clausen, the series' clever musical director, got passed over for the Crimson Tide composer, whom producer James L. Brooks has relied on for his film projects. (Some of the NoHomers.net fans are especially pissed.)

Maclean's staff writer and blogger Jaime J. Weinman wonders if there's any validity to the notion that a composer with more film experience like Zimmer is better suited for The Simpsons Movie than Clausen, who's worked more often for TV:
Is it right to assume that a feature film needs someone with "feature experience"? With movies based on TV shows, the truth may be the other way around. Sometimes movie composers can't match the style of the original series; the movie version of Mission: Impossible wrecked the famous theme song by arranging it in the wrong time signature. How Zimmer will do on the Simpsons movie remains to be seen, but his music may not sound Simpsons-esque, because Clausen's music has already defined what's right for the characters and the setting.

But The Simpsons Movie has a problem that most movies don't: its characters are in syndication several times a day. The use of a big-name movie composer may be a way of giving audiences something they can't get for free in syndication.
Weinman is referring to U2 members Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton and their much-maligned end credits version of Lalo Schifrin's Mission: Impossible theme in a 4/4 beat instead of Schifrin's original 5/4, not Danny Elfman's version of the theme, which was faithful to the original. Elfman's score is one of the best scores from a feature film based on a TV show because he paid tribute to Schifrin's jazzy music, which was like a sixth character on the old show (Elfman even brought back Schifrin's bongoes), and he did so without sacrificing his own style.

One fact about Zimmer that Weinman overlooked is that in 2000, Zimmer wrote the score to the extreme sports-ish sequel Mission: Impossible 2. Unlike Elfman, Zimmer mangled Schifrin's timeless theme in a nu metal version that's aged badly, one of the few missteps in Zimmer's career. I can't hear Zimmer's nu metal Mission: Impossible 2 theme without thinking of the "Extreme!" dorks from Harold & Kumar.

Zimmer may have wrecked the Mission: Impossible theme seven years ago, but I think it's unlikely that he's bungled this new assignment. Unlike all those Comic Book Guys out there who have already formed their opinions on the Simpsons fan forums without hearing a single note of the score, I'm a wait-and-see guy (or rather, wait-and-hear guy), so I'll say what I think of this score after I see the movie. The fact that Zimmer wrote a large-scale choral rendition of Homer's "Spider-Pig" theme may be a sign that he gets The Simpsons.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ratatouille leftovers

Even though I usually avoid G-rated movies like the President avoids troop withdrawal bills--or reality--the G-rated Ratatouille is the summer movie I've been looking forward to the most before its release because 1) it stars the voice of one of my comedy idols, Patton Oswalt, 2) it's writer/director Brad Bird's follow-up to The Incredibles, my favorite Pixar flick, and 3) it features an original score by Incredibles and Lost composer Michael Giacchino. I'm not as familiar with Giacchino's filmography outside of Pixar and Bad Robot, but is this Giacchino's first foray into romantic comedy?

Ratatouille is a love story, but it's not your usual one. The main romance of the film is not the Linguini/Colette relationship--it's Remy the rat's love of cooking and fine dining. Giacchino's lush and playful score beautifully captures Remy's optimism and enthusiasm for the art of cooking without getting all overly gooey on us, which is why I'm adding to "Assorted Fistful" rotation four cues from the Walt Disney Records release of Giacchino's Ratatouille soundtrack.

Other things I dug about Ratatouille: the clever casting of Ian Holm, who played a similar "sellout" restaurateur character in the Deep Throat of food porn flicks, Big Night; Bird's jabs at the merchandising tactics of a certain parent company with a name that rhymes with "piznee" (during the scenes in which Holm's villainous Skinner plans to launch an inane line of frozen dinners exploiting the image of his deceased former boss, celebrity chef Gusteau); and the refreshing absence of corny and unsubtle pop culture reference gags that have been abundant in sub-Pixar animated flicks.

Was the casting of Brian Dennehy as Remy's dad Django an intentional nod to one of Oswalt's greatest stand-up bits, his parody of Robert Evans' strange ESPN radio ads ("A heroin-crazed Brian Dennehy burst into my trailer and punched me in the solar plexus...")? It must have rocked Oswalt's world when he found out one of the celebs he name-dropped in his Evans routine was cast as his dad. And it would have been even cooler if the animators threw in a moment in which Django put his arm around his son and then lightly punched him in the solar plexus.

Next on my list of summer flicks I want to see: The Simpsons Movie, followed by The Bourne Ultimatum, Superbad, Live Free or Die Hard, and Sam Witwicky: The Movie (why so much focus on Shia LaBeouf in the commercials?--I understand Paramount wants to create an aura of mystery with the new versions of Optimus, Bumblebee and Megatron, but the LeBeouf-heavy ads are like if someone did a feature film version of The Munsters and gave most of the screen time to Marilyn).

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ripley--believe it or not


I'm between episodes of A Fistful of Soundtracks right now. I recorded the most recent one, "I'll Kill You and Recommend to God That He Put His Foot in Your Ass," in mid-June. The next scheduled show, "Cover-Blinded," an episode that will consist of cover versions of film and TV themes from all over the world, will be recorded on, uh… I don't know when. I don't move on to recording the next ep until someone sends me a response or comment about the program or the station. I find it pointless to be doing a new show if no one responds because then it looks to me like no one's listening. So if you want me to record a new ep, you have to say something, even if it's just along the lines of "Hey, I'm listening."

The other night, I caught USA's new P.I. show Burn Notice, a diverting mashup of The Equalizer, MacGyver and Grosse Pointe Blank. (The hero, an ex-spy-turned-P.I., is played by Jeffrey Donovan, who should have been a star after his bravura and funny turn as the unhinged Creegan on USA's unfairly neglected remake of Touching Evil.) However, the coolest thing about the latest airing of Burn Notice actually wasn't part of the episode. It was a new DirecTV commercial I had never seen before, in which Sigourney Weaver reprises the awesome Aliens battle between Ripley-in-the-Constructicon-esque-exosuit and the Alien Queen. My jaw dropped right when Weaver addressed the camera. I couldn't believe DirecTV got Sigourney fuckin' Weaver to reprise her role as Ripley.

In past DirecTV ads in which a movie or TV character suddenly breaks the fourth wall to persuade cable subscribers to convert to DirecTV, we've seen:
  • Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown.
  • Charlie Sheen as his Major League pitcher character "Wild Thing."
  • Ben Stein reprising his "Bueller? Bueller?" scene.
  • Bill Paxton as his Twister character.
  • Pamela Anderson as C.J. from Baywatch.
  • Verne Troyer as Mini-Me.
  • William Shatner as Star Trek VI-era Kirk in an ad that was particularly painful to watch because the digital airbrushing of the Shat's face made him look creepier than a Wrath of Khan eel.
Unlike the disturbing Shatner ad, DirecTV didn't digitally Botox Weaver's face. They didn't need to. One of the few middle-aged actresses who has wisely stayed away from plastic surgery, Weaver has barely aged since the 1986 release of Aliens. She must have a portrait of herself hanging in the attic.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Cue & A


There's an interesting discussion over at Matt Zoller Seitz's House Next Door blog in which he asks readers if there are any film and TV score cues or existing songs from a movie that they often hear playing in their heads. The post is part of the "Filmmusic Blog-a-Thon" and it's a particularly fun read for me because I host a show about film and TV music.

MZS, a longtime New Yorker, said Bernard Herrmann's brilliant Taxi Driver score often plays in his head, not because he's psycho like Travis Bickle but because the score perfectly captures New York. One reader said he hears the RZA's Ghost Dog score (that brooding main theme that accompanies Forest Whitaker while he's driving is the perfect commuting music). Another guy said John Carpenter's Escape from New York theme underscores his endless hours of driving around in circles in L.A. and his desire to escape that city. (What about Carpenter's theme from his L.A. movie Assault on Precinct 13? Wouldn't that be more suitable music?)

Other interesting choices from the comments section: John Williams' "Planet Krypton" theme from Superman: The Movie, the "Zarathustra"-esque cue that was featured prominently in last year's Superman Returns teaser trailer; Gerald Fried's Star Trek fight music (which I'm sure was being hummed by a lot of gadget geeks while they battled each other for the first few iPhones on June 29); and Georges Delerue's lush "Thème de Camille" from Contempt, forever synonymous with visuals of Brigitte Bardot's sweet booty and Bardot lying on that white rug.

Do film and TV score cues ever get stuck in my head? Actually, they rarely do, but when I was a kid, Danny Elfman's Beetlejuice theme used to get stuck in rotation in my brain a lot. In fact, a classmate once caught me humming it and said, "Isn't that Beetlejuice?" Then a few summers later, I watched A Fistful of Dollars for the first time on TBS and Morricone's main title theme became the Theme That Wouldn't Leave.

Lately, if my brain does start shuffling movie or TV themes, it'll play either an instrumental from Cowboy Bebop or David Shire's main theme from one of my favorite movies, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, which is such an awesome theme I bought Mix Master Mike's "Suprize Packidge" remix as one of my ringtones because it samples the Pelham theme.

One side effect of loving that Pelham theme so much: whenever I hear someone say "Gesundheit," guess what starts playing in my head?

So EC thinks he won't dance

G4's Attack of the Show has a segment called "Around the Net," in which the hosts play the silliest viral videos from YouTube, which are often clips of skaters or extreme sports guys landing on their nuts. Since when did YouTube turn into America's Funniest Home Videos? All that's missing is Bob Saget introducing the clip with some lame pun supplied by some douchebag reject from the Small Wonder writing staff.

While others spend their time on YouTube watching unfunny homemade videos, I enjoy YouTube for its vast collection of clips from TV's past, like some great and rare live music footage.

Here are a couple of music clips I've enjoyed watching over and over on YouTube. The first is Elvis Costello and the Attractions performing "No Dancing" at a live gig that must have taken place between My Aim Is True and This Year's Model. This Attractions version of "No Dancing" is cooler than the version Costello recorded with Clover on My Aim Is True. It's a slightly slower and more menacing-sounding rendition, plus what the Clover version doesn't have is Steve Nieve rocking the '60s-ish organ and Pete Thomas kickin' ass on drums:



The other clip is a bit timely because of the eagerly awaited DVD release of the old This Is Tom Jones variety show. It looks like this clip isn't even included on the box set, which sucks (those godsdamn music rights issues are the culprit again?!). In this clip, everyone's favorite panties collector does an awesome cover of "Treat Her Right" and busts out some wild '60s white guy dance moves that threaten to dispel the notion that white guys don't have rhythm. Well, they don't, but Tom Jones does. Not even Carlton Banks could frug like Tom does during this clip:



My former colleague Todd Inoue is a Jones fan too. Here are some highlights from an ancient Todd article about "Tom Joons and hees puntees," as my mom would say:
What I love about Tom is that he has a laugh at the behest of his wonderful, overwrought persona. It's a shtick that's followed him around since "What's New Pussycat?" and lasted all the way to his gag cameo as himself in Mars Attacks! Look up "chutzpah," and there he is with shirt open, gold chains dangling.

Most of all, the man can sing the hell out of a tune...

Three panties got airborne after the '70s hit "She's a Lady."

I've moved my blog from the chaos of MySpace...

... to Blogspot because MySpace doesn't allow you to post YouTube embeds. Also, nobody reads my blog. The only MySpacers who have lately left comments on my blog are annoying spammers. The kind of readers I want to attract are not found on MySpace, that's for sure.

If you're unfamiliar with A Fistful of Soundtracks, it's a Live365 channel that streams music from movies and TV and airs episodes of the long-running movie music radio program of the same name, which is hosted by me. The eps air Tuesdays and Thursdays at midnight, 2am, 4am, 6am, 10am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm and 9pm and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 9pm.

The channel also airs eps of Morning Becomes Dyspeptic, a 15-minute comedy album clip show that's been called "the morning show for people who are not morning people." MBD airs weekdays at 1am and 8am.

Most of my listeners access the station through the iTunes radio dial, where it's found under "Eclectic."

I hate to use the cliché "We live in uncertain times," but it applies to us Web radio broadcasters these days. I'm trying to come up with a plan B (audioblogging maybe?) in case the Internet radio crisis leaves Fistful without a home. As I've said on my official site, I've witnessed Internet radio's growth over the years, and now it's disheartening to see that this alternative form of radio that allowed Fistful to find its audience may die out, thanks to corporate greed.