Tuesday, March 31, 2009

List habit

Terence Blanchard's 'Fruit of Islam' is one of the few film score instrumentals that spawned a music video for airplay on MTV or in 'Fruit of Islam''s case, BET. 'Duel of the Fates,' 'Axel F' and the Chariots of Fire theme are some other instrumental themes that got video channel airplay.
Matthew from the Culture Kills blog says he would like me to post what my 10 favorite film scores are.

That's too much pressure, Matt! I dig so many of them. Scores come in many different categories or genres (film, TV, synthesizer, 80-to-100-piece-orchestra, blaxploitation, espionage, poliziotto, lederhosen porn...). It's too broad a question, and it'd be difficult to narrow them down to 10.

I don't spend much time on Facebook(*) anymore (mostly because I now prefer the more stripped-down Twitter), but there's one thing I enjoy doing on Facebook: making lists(**) of my favorite pieces of music on Facebook's LivingSocial and iLike apps.

(*) Damn, even Facebook's CFO doesn't like the new Facebook either. He hates it so much he quit!

(**) The title of this post refers to the "List Habit" tag that Kim Morgan uses for her list-crazy posts.

In LivingSocial's case, the app has you post Top 5 lists of your favorite things. So instead of a "Top 10 favorite scores" list, I'll repost the Top 5 lists of favorite score cues (or scores) under certain categories that I've been posting on LivingSocial and Twitter.

Five favorite marches from original film or TV scores
5. John Williams, "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)," The Empire Strikes Back
4. John Williams, "March from 1941"
3. Jerry Goldsmith, "Main Title," Star Trek: The Motion Picture
2. John Williams, "Main Title," Superman: The Movie
1. Terence Blanchard, "Fruit of Islam," Malcolm X

God, the Oscars are a joke. How could they not nominate Terence Blanchard for his 1992 Malcolm X score, which is filled with awesome themes like "Fruit of Islam," the cue he wrote for the film's Harlem march sequence? What was the score that won in 1993? Oh right, Aladdin. Give me a break.

Gene Roddenberry dug the Star Trek: The Motion Picture march so much that he recycled it for Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987. TV composer Dennis McCarthy wrote an updated arrangement of the march, and it was performed by an orchestra that was smaller than the 90-piece orchestra that performed it back in 1979. That explains why the TNG version lacks oomph. I prefer the original 1979 rendition. I like how the brass sounds jazzier.

Five other favorite marches
5. Ennio Morricone, "March of the Beggars," Duck, You Sucker
4. Jerry Goldsmith, "Attack," Patton
3. Elmer Bernstein, "Main Title," The Great Escape
2. Elmer Bernstein, "Stripes March"
1. John Williams, "End Credits," Raiders of the Lost Ark

Five favorite film scores frequently sampled by beatmakers
5. The Mack (Willie Hutch)
4. Superfly (Curtis Mayfield)
3. Trouble Man (Marvin Gaye)
2. Enter the Dragon (Lalo Schifrin)
1. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (David Shire)

Five favorite Danny Elfman film scores
5. Dead Presidents
4. Pee-wee's Big Adventure
3. Mission: Impossible
2. Batman
1. Midnight Run

Five favorite original TV themes
5. It Takes a Thief (third season version) (Dave Grusin)



4. I Spy (Earle Hagen)



3. Barney Miller (Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson)
2. The Persuaders! (John Barry)
1. Cowboy Bebop (Yoko Kanno)



Listeners like Portland film critic and CulturePulp artist Mike Russell have told me they became Yoko Kanno fans after hearing her Cowboy Bebop score tracks on my station.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, what's the crappiest original TV theme of all time? I was going to say Enterprise, but then I remembered the Diane Warren-penned "Where My Heart Will Take Me" wasn't an original work. It was recycled from Patch Adams, of all movies. (In a sketch I wrote for A Fistful of Soundtracks' 2002 Halloween special, gangbangers torture a hostage by subjecting him to the Enterprise theme.)

The worst original TV theme is Joanie Loves Chachi, hands down. Click at your own peril.

Unemployment Olympics

Office Phone Skeeball
There needs to be a West Coast version of these games, which were held for the unemployed at Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan today. I'd sign up for them in a heartbeat:

Four events were planned: "Pin the Blame on the Boss," a "You're Fired" race, piñata-bashing and the highly anticipated fax machine toss, which had to be nixed at the last minute, to much heartbreak. The parks department balked at the idea of having office equipment hoisted aloft ("dangerous," said a spokeswoman) and then smashing to the ground ("which is essentially littering," per the spokeswoman), so Mr. Goddard substituted "Office Phone Skee-Ball," which also involved hurling office equipment about, albeit equipment of a smaller sort.

I have an idea for an Unemployment Olympics event: "Diversion." The competitors have to come up with the cleverest way to get rid of an annoying chatterbox co-worker who won't leave their cubicle.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Maurice Jarre (1924-2009)

Maurice Jarre (1924-2009)The composer of rich and powerful scores for epics like Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Grand Prix(*), the Jesus of Nazareth miniseries and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome has died. Jarre was 84. When he accepted an honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement at the Berlin Film Festival in February, he was confined to a wheelchair and looked very frail.

(*) Besides the awesome racing sequences and Jarre's energetic, if a bit repetitive, score, another highlight of Grand Prix is the eye candy--Françoise Hardy and Jessica Walter. Lucille Bluth was quite a hottie back then.

Though he dabbled in the small screen (Nazareth, Shogun), Jarre told interviewer James Fitzpatrick he didn't enjoy writing TV scores because "everything is too hurried with poor sound and nobody caring about wrong notes." Monsieur Jarre, if only you were still alive because I would have liked you to meet Michael Giacchino, Bear McCreary and Jeff Richmond.

Jarre's most lasting collaborations were with David Lean (Arabia, Zhivago), Peter Weir (Witness, Dead Poets Society) and John Frankenheimer (Grand Prix, The Train). The father of New Age musician Jean Michel Jarre and Glory screenwriter Kevin Jarre told Film Score Monthly he admired Mozart and his music because "The harmony is so perfect, and the orchestration is so simple and natural. You listen to Mozart and you get a great lesson in humility. To me his music is perfect."

So were many of Jarre's film scores.

BicoastalBitchin bitchslaps racist hipsters

The only thing more unsanitary than this skank's tongue is, uh, Tila Tequila's tongue.The best post I read this week comes from the Asian American blog BicoastalBitchin. Their March 27 post about the only kinds of Asians who are represented in Vice magazine ranks with King of the Hill's "Lady and Gentrification" episode, the SuperNews! "Hipsters in Space" short and My Boys' "Douchebag in the City" ep as a great and inspired moment of hipster-bashing:
1. Hot Asian girl.
2. Asian girl of any look, as long as she's coked out and sweaty next to a white guy in an abandoned warehouse party.
3. Asian dude who may or may not be recently Fresh Off the Boat or in some crazy, embarrassing situation. Or an ultra-uber-super hipster dude (see #19 for an "Asian dude rockin' a marching band jacket" DO'S). But mostly losers getting a DON'T.

Please click through each category to get a link to the pic/caption. It won't take you long to figure out that
Vice writers are all mid-twenties, hipster-geek, Asian fetish having, small east coast liberal arts college alumni from New Haven/Palos Verdes with tons of family money wasted away on blow and PBRs in their Williamsburg/Echo Park studio apartment shared by 4, but only until they're sick of NYC/LA and decide to take over their dad's multi-million dollar ad agency.
The Renfrew character in my webcomic The Palace is based on these pretentious, skeevy and yellow fever-afflicted douches who--as the BcB folks note in other posts--enjoy racist hipster eyewear (or tees) that they defend as "ironic" and dress like they don't give a damn.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Why so many damn '80s songs about heartbeats?

Joan Allen's glad it's not Don Johnson's 'Heartbeat' that she's listening to.
I heard King Crimson's "Heartbeat" on Radio Nigel recently, and it got me thinking the above question.

Pop songwriters must have really been out of ideas in the '80s, a decade that gave us such gems as Reaganomics, widespread Asian-bashing humor, crappy sitcoms featuring creepy little girl robots and wisecracking babies who share a roof with third-rate stand-up comics who think Bullwinkle impressions are the height of comedy, and of course, overly earnest power ballads about heartbeats.

Manhunter is my favorite movie based on a Thomas Harris novel, but the one thing that dates that movie is Red 7's very '80s closing credits theme, also entitled "Heartbeat." Michael Mann has great musical tastes (I'm looking forward to the Public Enemies soundtrack), but I don't get his love for Red 7's "Heartbeat," which he used in both the original Miami Vice and Manhunter.

Okay, I somewhat get it. Joan Allen listened to a tiger's heartbeat earlier in the movie, hence "Heartbeat." But otherwise, I'm not feelin' the song.

And somebody at the "Heartbeat" video shoot should have told the Red 7 lead singer, "Dude, the mullet's not gonna cover up the fact that you're balding."

Or "Hey, party in the back, dying lawn up top."

Speaking of things dying, Don Johnson's "Heartbeat"--his attempt to launch a singing career during Miami Vice's run--makes me die inside. It was the lamest of 25 videos Jon Stewart, Denis Leary, Janeane Garofalo and Chris Kattan literally destroyed during MTV's legendary and unlikely-to-be-rerun-again 25 Lame special in 1999. In the case of "Heartbeat," Leary and Kattan destroyed the channel's master copy of the Johnson video by stuffing it in a blender. The four hosts' commentary during "Heartbeat" was one of many highlights of 25 Lame. (What's the difference between 25 Lame and the countless VH1 Awesomely Bad Videos specials it spawned? 25 Lame was funny.)

An agony booth recapper wrote that when they watched "Heartbeat," "the comedians were mostly sitting in stunned silence. Was this post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by the Vanilla Ice [baseball bat] incident? Or were they just completely stupefied and confounded by what they were watching?" Actually, they weren't mostly silent. I remember they got in a few good lines about the Miami Vice star's overdramatic lip-syncing, the constant footage of exploding stuff and the baffling storyline (Johnson as a war photographer who's into dead terrorist chicks? Huh?).

The one '80s heartbeat song I like isn't a power ballad. It's Taana Gardner's funky and frequently sampled "Heartbeat" from 1981. Otherwise, like I said, '80s pop tunesmiths must have really been out of ideas. The fact that I'm blogging about this means I'm out of ideas too.

Jim Gaffigan, the whitest cat u'know

Throughout this year, I'm posting older material--like non-Blogspot stuff from a few years ago, unpublished writing I've kept buried in my computer and transcripts of interviews from A Fistful of Soundtracks' terrestrial radio years.

Here's another one from my archives, an alternate version of a 2006 plug for Jim Gaffigan, who's gotten me hooked on bacon again, and whose latest Comedy Central special, King Baby, premieres this Sunday night.

----------

Jim Gaffigan (l.) and the most beautiful thing on Earth (r.)
The moment you hear the words "airline" and "peanuts," you know you're trapped in a room with a bad observational stand-up (or an ancient Evening at the Improv rerun full of 10 of them). On the other hand, a really good observational stand-up is someone like Indiana-born Jim Gaffigan.

Like other observational comics, Gaffigan fixates on food, but not on exhausted food-related topics like peanuts, Taco Bell or that other '80s classic, Grape Nuts ("What is the deal? It's neither a grape nor a nut!"). His favorite punching bag is Hot Pockets, which are like calzones if they were made by a crackhead and come complete with a jingle that makes "By Mennen!" sound like Kid A ("Hoooot Pocket!").

Gaffigan frequently beats up on his own appearance, like another self-deprecating paleface, Conan O'Brien. He's turned his whiteness into the key gag for a series of cheapo and very funny superhero cartoon spoofs created for Late Night with Conan O'Brien. In Pale Force, a buffed-up Gaffigan and his cowardly sidekick Conan (both voiced by Gaffigan) strike fear into the hearts of evildoers with their pale skin and laser-firing nipples. The next episode of Pale Force ought to be a celebrity deathmatch between the melanin-challenged men of steel and those albino twins from The Matrix, with Powder as the referee.

In an avclub.com interview, Gaffigan said he doesn't curse anymore onstage. "Clean stand-up comedy" are three words that often scare people away, though not as badly as "Kevin Federline rapping." What's unique about Gaffigan is that he got funnier as he did away with the profanity, which is like Richard Pryor in reverse. At about the same time as the F-words vanished, he developed a falsetto "inner voice" character--an unamused, prissy female audience member commenting on Gaffigan's jokes. It's become an audience favorite. With his clever riffs on junk food, religion and Tom from MySpace-style yellow fever ("I only dated one Asian girl, but she was very Asian. She was a panda"), Gaffigan proves that curse-free observational humor doesn't have to suck like, well, a Hot Pocket.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The illest Knight Rider theme cover ever

'Knight Rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man from which hot fire spits.'
Like According to Jim, Knight Rider is a show that just won't die. It's been revived five times: three times in TV-movie form and twice as a weekly series. Not even the presence of the hot Smith Cho from Ping Pong Playa could get me to watch the latest attempt to revive Knight Rider, which everyone agrees was an epic fail.

Knight Rider is an example of Not-So-Great Show, Killer Theme, even though the banter between the Hoff and his lover sidekick KITT made it more enjoyable than most old Glen A. Larson shows. Like on all other Larson shows, the theme was co-written by Larson, who used to sing in the '50s and '60s with an SCTV Five Neat Guys-ish group called the Four Preps, and his regular composer Stu Phillips.

Beatmakers and beatboxers can't get enough of the Knight Rider theme, as evidenced by the year when Busta Rhymes and Timbaland & Magoo both dropped remixes that sampled the theme, as well as Panjabi MC's "Mundian to Bach Ke (Beware of the Boys)" and this sweet little recent cover by Nathan "Flutebox" Lee, whom I first caught on Current TV earlier today (Googling him led me to his Knight Rider theme cover).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Lose This Skin" by the Clash featuring Tymon Dogg

'Fuckin' long, innit?'
One of my favorite tracks on the Clash's Sandinista! album is the Irish-tinged "Lose This Skin," which my set-to-shuffle iPod Nano just happened to land on during this late St. Paddy's night. The tune is more of a showcase for Dogg than the Clash. Dogg isn't a rapper--he's a longtime musician friend of the late Joe Strummer who taught the Clash frontman how to play the ukulele.

Blogspotter TCB Walsh considers "Lose This Skin" a hidden gem, while another Blogspotter, Gary T. Meek, likes how the violinist "sings it with a commitment & abandon that have never ceased to charm & touch me."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm score to get expanded reissue from La-La Land

Batman's got a bad case of propulsion envy.
Dammit, soundtrack labels, you need to stop releasing so many terrific score albums. My depleted-by-the-recession savings account can't take it.

I caught the following exciting bit of soundtrack news on the FSM Board:
La La Land will start taking orders on the following CDs next Tuesday, March 24 at 12 noon PST for the following titles:

BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM - score by Shirley Walker. This is the first release in our new line of EXPANDED ARCHIVAL EDITIONS. This cd features the complete score along with a few bonus tracks. It is limited to 3000 units. Retail Price: $19.98
And while we're at it, can we also get a Mask of the Phantasm special edition DVD with a remastered picture and a Batload of extras, like an Alan Burnett/Bruce Timm/Eric Radomski/Andrea Romano commentrak and the 1993 Mask of the Phantasm HBO First Look special that's currently on YouTube? Batman & Robin got better treatment on DVD for crying out loud.

Related posts:
"Batman: The Animated Series soundtrack: A Walker to remember"
"Five favorite expanded score albums or box sets of 2008"

Williams Street does Blu-ray-less Venture Bros. fans a solid

'It's about love and longing... yes, and hobbits.'
Here's some good news for budget-conscious Venture Bros. fans like myself who want avant-garde composer J.G. Thirlwell's Venture Bros. score album but don't intend to buy either the Blu-ray release of the third season (which, unlike the DVD release, will include the album as an extra) or the vinyl version of the album. Williams Street Records will make The Venture Bros.: The Music of J.G. Thirlwell available on its amusingly retro site (which spoofs the primitive designs of sites like the ones Veronica Belmont and Ryan Block blog about on The Vintage Web). The label will begin shipping the CD on March 24.

The $12 CD version will contain 20 tracks, which are all listed here (no OSI theme song, unfortunately), while the $18 LP version will contain 16 (to accommodate the higher fidelity) and come with a coupon for a free digital download of the album.

Thirlwell's work on The Venture Bros.--particularly that wonderfully over-the-top opening theme--is the craziest-sounding original score music I've heard on an animated show since Yoko Kanno's genre-straddling music for Cowboy Bebop.

I can't think of a salute that's dorkier than this one. Oh wait a minute... now I just did: 'I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty!'
"Go Team Venture!"

Friday, March 13, 2009

About a Pinoy (Part 2)

Previously: Part 1.

Note: This is the second half of a bio I wrote about myself for my user profile at a Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology creators' wiki on Wetpaint.com. I wrote this list a few weeks before I saw The Dark Knight, which would have wound up on the list had I seen the movie beforehand. Watchmen wouldn't have made the list though. I have mixed feelings about that film.(*)

---------------

5 FAVORITE SCREEN ADAPTATIONS OF SUPERHERO COMICS

'Harley and Ivy'
1. Batman: The Animated Series

Highlights: The revamped origins for Mr. Freeze and Two-Face, the early conflict between Batman and the police, the spectacular animation and Shirley Walker score during "Feat of Clay, Part 2," the Gray Ghost, "Harley and Ivy," Batman's hatred of It's a Wonderful Life, Kevin Conroy's performances in "Robin's Reckoning, Part 1," "Perchance to Dream" and "I Am the Night," the "death" of Batgirl, the Dark Knight Returns segment (and Joel Schumacher-bashing) in "Legends of the Dark Knight."

Worst moments: "I've Got Batman in My Basement," most of the episodes that were animated by AKOM (the worst of the many overseas studios that collaboed with Warner Bros. on B:TAS), Nightwing's mullet.

2. Batman Begins

Highlights: Wally Pfister's awesome cinematography, the realization during the Iceland-posing-as-Tibet sequences that this Batman wasn't going to be stagebound like the other films, Christian Bale's acting during the "party's over" speech, the excellent supporting cast, Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow's minimal dialogue, the lack of puns, "Do I look like a cop?!"

Worst moments: Why another love interest? Batman/Bruce has fuckbuddies, not soulmates. His one true love is his work.

3. Iron Man

Highlights: Robert Downey Jr.'s ad-libs, the Altman-esque dialogue, the performances by everyone in the cast, the character interplay, the evolution of the armor, Pepper saving Tony rather than the other way around, the final line before the closing credits.

Worst moments: Yinsen is essentially a rehash of the Magic Negro, despite a good performance by Shaun Toub.

Atom, you lucky motherfucker.
4. Justice League Unlimited

Highlights: The Cadmus arc, the sight of Batman trying to buy a cup of joe inside a coffeehouse to stay awake, the Justice Lords, the jabs at Bill O'Reilly, Green Arrow's evolution from skeptical outsider to team booster/conscience, the guest shots by Joss Whedon alumni, the Question's secret love for teenybopper music, the Ultimen, the sight of Wonder Woman tucking the Atom into her cleavage, the Superman/Captain Marvel battle, the writers' clever way of getting Michael Rosenbaum to temporarily play his own character from Smallville.

Worst moments: The Batman Beyond retcon, the mostly forgettable pre-Unlimited first season, the wonky CGI in the opening titles during the pre-Unlimited seasons, the absence of a B:TAS-style full orchestra.

5. Spider-Man 2

Highlights: Ock's hospital massacre, the fact that Peter has a crappy apartment, the J. Jonah Jameson scenes, the "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" montage, the el train sequence, Tobey Maguire doesn't cry too much in this one.

Worst moments: The Ock character was better fleshed out in Michael Chabon's early draft before it was script-doctored.

---------------

(*) During the sequence in which Dan Dreiberg gets a visit from the beans-craving Rorschach in his kitchen, the IMAX theater where I saw Watchmen experienced technical problems, and the projectionist had to stop running the film for about 15 minutes. The audience went apeshit, but they calmed down when the theater staff apologized and announced that they would offer re-admit passes to everyone at the end of the Watchmen screening. Luckily, the 15-minute interruption didn't ruin my enjoyment of the film.

Here are the things I love about Zack Snyder's adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' anti-superhero comic: the brilliant opening title sequence--the lesbian twist on the "V-J Day in Times Square" photo was the coolest and funniest part--and Jackie Earle Haley's fierce performance as the crazed Rorschach. I also think the film's modified climax works better than the rather screwy psychic squid master plan in the comic.


'Say hurm!'
But the film has pacing problems--it feels rushed, resulting in a film that plays like a two-hour-and-40-minute theatrical cut of a 12-hour network TV miniseries. For instance, you don't get enough of a sense of the impact of Veidt's actions, which Gibbons hauntingly captured in the final chapter of the comic. (Will the extended cut that Snyder has planned for DVD and Blu-ray rectify the pacing problems?) I also don't like the wonky CGI for Veidt's genetically engineered lynx Bubastis and some of the hackneyed music choices, like "Ride of the Valkyries" during Dr. Manhattan's attack on the Vietcong. The lack of Elvis Costello on the film's soundtrack--the comic quoted Costello's "The Comedians"--kind of bums me out.

I like what AICN's Alexandra DuPont says about the Laurie Juspeczyk character. DuPont always thought of Laurie as "Karen Allen feisty--you could see how she was the sort of fiery woman who would attract powerful men despite her '80s-coke-queen exterior." Had Allen been a couple of decades younger, she would have been a better Laurie/Silk Spectre than Malin Akerman, who's too young to be playing a world-weary ex-"costumed adventurer." Also, I would have preferred
Heroes' Jack Coleman as Dan/Nite Owl--he's the right age for Dan, plus Hollywood ought to hire Coleman, the best actor on Heroes, more often. But Patrick Wilson did a fine job and was more subtle than I expected as the washed-up, nerdy Dan.

God, I let this footnote go on too long. The end is nigh.

About a Pinoy (Part 1)

Throughout this year, I'm posting older material--like non-Blogspot posts, unpublished writing I've kept buried in my computer and transcripts of interviews from A Fistful of Soundtracks' terrestrial radio years.

Below is Part 1 of a bio I wrote about myself back in June for my user profile at a Wetpaint.com wiki community that the Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology editors launched as a place for the book's contributors to see each other's scripts and character sketches.

On the profile page, the user had to finish sentences like "I joined this wiki because..." and "My superpower is..." The ability to assume many different accents is indeed a superpower (it trumps the lamest powers on Heroes, like the ability to melt toasters). A convincing British accent can get you some tail.

---------------

Hello, my name is Jimmy Aquino.

MORE ABOUT ME...

I joined this wiki because: I got kicked out of the Hannah Montana wiki for scalping tickets.

The best word to describe me is: lazian

Interests: scriptwriting

Favorite movies: GoodFellas, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Election (1999), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The President's Last Bang, Dog Day Afternoon, Do the Right Thing, Three Kings, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek II, Midnight Run, Cheung fo (The Mission), Anatomy of a Murder, Chan Is Missing, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, The Incredibles, Blazing Saddles, Raising Arizona, Repo Man

Favorite TV shows: The Wire, The Larry Sanders Show, 30 Rock, The Venture Bros., The Soup, Flight of the Conchords, Human Giant, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Keen Eddie, Freaks and Geeks, The Shield, Veronica Mars, Lost, Battlestar Galactica

My hero(es): anyone who supports Asian American comics

My superpower is: the ability to assume many different accents. I can sound like a British actor doing a lousy American accent. They're all over prime-time now. They think they can nail our American accents like Damian Lewis and Hugh Laurie can, but the truth is they're bloody awful. Actually it's not hard to imitate these outsourced actors. Instead of "been," say "bean" and instead of "Los Angeles," say "Los Ange-leez."

If I could live anywhere, it would be: New York City. This reluctant Californian is sick and tired of Cali and wants to move to NYC, where grabbing some Slyders or an egg cream isn't so difficult.

My dream job(s): Writing graphic novels. The creator-owned material of writers like Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka and Gene Yang brought me back to reading comics after I lost interest in them a few years before. Those guys are incredible writers. Then I told myself, "I wanna do what they're doing. I don't care how little it pays."

What else you should know about me:

-I started out in journalism.

-I chose "SamplerCreator" as my account name because on other sites, every time I try to use my own name as my account name, it's already taken. "Jim Aquino" is the Filipino equivalent of "John Smith."

-I like chicks who hate Sex and the City as much as I do.

-My favorite Chinese food is pizza.

-I ghost-wrote most of the rhymes on Nick Cannon's rap album.

-I orchestrated the merger between UNICEF and Smith & Wesson.

-I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

-Other true or fake facts about me can be found at jim.aquino.com or afistfulofsoundtracks.blogspot.com.

---------------

To be continued in Part 2.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Name that tune: Richard Harris' 100 film and TV theme tunes challenge

Nope, this Richard Harris isn't the dude who mangled 'MacArthur Park.'
British composer and piano teacher Richard Harris will give a prize to the first person who can name all 100 film and TV themes that he plays in less than 10 minutes during a video he posted on YouTube. It looks like no one has been able to identify them all so far.



I was only able to identify 74 73 75 82 83 of the 100 themes. It's that difficult. Three of the tunes I couldn't identify are most likely from chick flicks that not even Jack Bauer could force me to watch if he shot me in the leg.

MARCH 10, 2009 UPDATE: Richard e-mailed me to say I'm at second place with 73 75 right. He wrote, "You're a genius!"

MARCH 11, 2009 UPDATE: I listened to Richard's medley several more times and correctly guessed a few more themes, so as of this writing, I'm now in the lead with 82 right. Richard wrote, "I'm very impressed that you got a couple of favourites that I deliberately threw in to make it a tiny bit harder - [COMPOSER'S NAME DELETED]'s superb score for [MOVIE TITLE DELETED], for instance... no-one else has come close to getting that!"

MARCH 14, 2009 UPDATE: Now 83. Still in the lead.

[Via Pop Candy]

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Composer name pronunciation key

"Joy, we're back in Brooklyn, alright? Alright? In Brooklyn, it's Joy, not Joie, okay? It's not Jackée, alright? It's Jackie. It's not Sade, alright? It's Say-dee, alright? Whatchu gonna call me next? Whatchu gonna call me? Spi-kay?"

--Spike Lee (Tommy Davidson), reminding his sister Joie (T'Keyah Crystal Keymah) to stick to Brooklynese pronunciations of names,
In Living Color

The most challenging part of playing film and TV score music on Internet radio is having to pronounce the composers' often baffling-looking names. Over the years, I've Googled the correct ways to read their names and compiled them to create a pronunciation key for myself. Here's an excerpt from it:

Maurice Jarre's Film Score Monthly Composer Collector CardBruno Coulais (Coraline composer): [coo-lay]
Christopher Tyng (Futurama and Rescue Me composer): [ting]
Craig Safan (Cheers and The Last Starfighter composer): [saw-fawn or sawf-on]
Elmer Bernstein: [burn-steen]
Ennio Morricone: [en-yo more-a-cone-ay]
Gustavo Santaolalla: [san-ta-oh-lah-yah]
Jan Hammer: [yahn hah-mer](*)
Leonard Bernstein: [burn–stine]
Maurice Jarre: [jar]
Michael Giacchino: [jah-kee-no]
Mikis Theodorakis (Zorba the Greek and Serpico composer): [thay-uh-doe-rahk-is](**)
Miklós Rózsa: [mee-kloash ro-zha ("zh" as in "leisure")](***)
Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man composer): [rah-meen juh-vaw-dee]
Randy Edelman: [eddle-man]
Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run and The International director): [tick-ver]
Trevor Rabin: [rah-bean]
Wojciech Kilar: [voy-check kee-lar]
Zbigniew Preisner (Three Colors trilogy composer): [zbig-new prize-ner]

And now, here are some actors, singers, filmmakers or music supervisors whose equally challenging name pronunciations I've had to research or double-check before saying them on AFOS:

Alexandra Patsavas: [pot-saw-vuss](****)
Amitabh Bachchan: (uh-mi-taabh buh-chun)
Bobby Cannavale: [canna-vah-lay]
Chris Douridas: [door-ree-duss](*****)
Djimon Hounsou: [jie-mon hahn-soo]
Franka Potente: [frahn-kuh poh-ten-tay]
Krzysztof Kieslowski: [kzhish-tof kee-es-lof-ski]
Nina Persson (Cardigans frontwoman): [peer-son]
Seu Jorge: [say-oo zhor-zee]
Sidney Poitier: [pwah-tee-yay]
Zhang Yimou: [jahng ee-mow (rhymes with "cow")]

---------------

(*) Source: New England Jazz Radio Cooperative

(**) Source: "Once Banned, Now a Hero of Greek Music" by Ralph Blumenthal,
New York Times, October 23, 2000

(***) Source:
SoundtrackNet

(****) Source: "Music of 'The O.C.'" by Cheryl Corley, All Things Considered, April 24, 2004

(*****) Source: "The Man Behind the Music of the Movies" by Michele Norris,
All Things Considered, May 27, 2003

Friday, March 6, 2009

Movie questionnaire

(Source: PopeyePete from The Deuce)

Eelmatic
1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
Star Trek II.

2. Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater.
Batman (1989).

3. Name an actor/actress that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Marisa Tomei, naked edition.

4. Name an actor/actress that would make you less likely to see a movie.
Actor: Steven Seagal. Actress: Zac Efron.

5. Name a movie that you can quote from.
Midnight Run. Hey Tony, Tony. Hopalong Cassidiche. Got your camera? Take a picture.

6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
None.

7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.
Johnnie To's The Mission. That theme music is infectious!



8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
If you're not averse to subtitles, I recommend The President's Last Bang, a hilarious 2005 South Korean comedy about the 1979 assassination of Korean dictator Park Chung-hee. If you are averse to subtitles, I recommend the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three, one of the most underrated action flicks ever. It was Die Hard before there was even a Die Hard.

9. Name a movie that you own.
Chan Is Missing.

10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
Donnie Wahlberg in The Sixth Sense and the Boomtown TV series.

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
The Goonies.

12. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't yet gotten around to it.
Slumdog Millionaire.

13. Ever walked out of a movie?
No.

14. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
None, although Malcolm X nearly made me tear up.

15. Popcorn?
Yes, it is.

16. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?
I never go out to the theater anymore, unless it's an event movie like The Dark Knight.

17. What's the last movie you saw in the theater?
The Dark Knight: The IMAX Experience.

18. What's your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
Comedy.

19. What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
Star Trek II.

20. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
Dancer in the Dark.

21. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

22. What is the scariest movie you've seen?
Audition.

23. What is the funniest movie you've seen?
When I was a kid: Airplane! As an adult: Revenge of the Sith.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

AFOS: "The Inmates Are Taking Over the Asylum" playlist

Airing this week on the Fistful of Soundtracks channel is the 2008 Fistful of Soundtracks: The Series episode "The Inmates Are Taking Over the Asylum" (WEB96), in which I compiled my favorite selections from scores to films that were distributed by United Artists, which turns 90 years old this May.

'We have in effect put all our rotten eggs in one basket. And we intend to watch this basket carefully.'
1. Elmer Bernstein, "The Street (Main Title)" (from Sweet Smell of Success), Crime Jazz: Music in the First Degree, Rhino
2. Adolph Deutsch, "Main Title - Theme from The Apartment," The Apartment, United Artists
3. Elmer Bernstein, "Main Title and Calvera," The Magnificent Seven, Rykodisc
4. Elmer Bernstein, "Main Title," The Great Escape: The Deluxe Edition, Varèse Sarabande
5. The London Studio Symphony Orchestra, "Theme from The Fugitive," The Fugitive, Silva Screen
6. John Barry, "Opening Titles," From Russia with Love, EMI
7. Henry Mancini, "The Pink Panther Theme," The Pink Panther, RCA
8. Ennio Morricone, "L'Estasi Dell'Oro," Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo, GDM
9. Quincy Jones, "Shag Bag, Hounds & Harvey" (from In the Heat of the Night), In the Heat of the Night/They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!, Rykodisc
10. Henry Mancini featuring the Party Poops, "The Party (vocal)," The Party, RCA
11. John Barry, "Midnight Cowboy," Midnight Cowboy, EMI-Manhattan
12. Al Kooper, "Love Theme," The Landlord, United Artists
13. Bobby Womack & Peace, "Across 110th Street," Across 110th Street, Rykodisc
14. Jack Sheldon, "The Long Goodbye," Fitzwilly/The Long Goodbye, Varèse Sarabande
15. David Shire, "End Title," The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Retrograde
16. Bill Conti, "The Final Bell," Rocky, EMI-Manhattan
17. The Gap Band, "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka," I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Arista
18. Mellow, "Seek You," CQ, Emperor Norton

Repeats of A Fistful of Soundtracks: The Series air Monday night at midnight, Tuesday and Thursday at 4am, 10am, 3pm, 7pm and 11pm, Wednesday night at midnight, and Saturday and Sunday at 7am, 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Daft Punk to score Tron 2.0 and give that creepy Tron Guy something to pop-lock to

Sacre bleu! I can't breathe in this thing!
Daft Punk (a.k.a. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo) is switching from robot helmets to Tron helmets. Disney has enlisted the electronica duo to compose the score for the sequel to the other Jeff Bridges movie that flopped during its initial release but turned into a cult phenomenon. I'm not a fan of the original film, but Daft Punk is perfect for this franchise. The score is going to be kickass.

[Via Upcoming Film Scores]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

WonderCon 2009 wrap-up

I'm not into tall blondes, but Yvonne Strahovski--especially when she smiles--is unbelievably hot.
Out of all the comic book cons I've been to, I prefer San Francisco's WonderCon because it's more laid-back than the other cons and Moscone Center South isn't so packed. And yes, there are TV show and movie panels like the Chuck panel with cast members Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski (above), Adam Baldwin and Joshua Gomez and series co-creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak, but there aren't so many TV and movie panels that they cause the programming schedule to be overcrowded, so that gives me more time to talk shop with people and check out their comics. Plus, WonderCon is right across the street from Jollibee and Red Ribbon. Automatic win.

At WonderCon, I ran into an ex-co-worker, an on-and-off Fistful of Soundtracks listener (more on him in the graf after the next one) and Film Score Monthly soundtrack label founder/honcho Lukas Kendall, whom I never met face-to-face before. Lukas used to record a few phoners with me in the earlier years of the college radio version of A Fistful of Soundtracks.

Also, I got to meet some bloggers whose blogs I regularly read, I talked shop with IDW letterer Chris Mowry, I took some career advice from Keith Knight and Stephen Notley (he raised a good point about why Topher Grace would have been a better Spider-Man than Tobey Maguire, whom Stephen finds to be too humorless to play a wisecracking New Yorker like Spidey), and Chris, Keith, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Darick Robertson, Erik Larsen, Keith R.A. DeCandido and Michael Aushenker signed comics or promo materials for me.

You will believe an eight-CD Superman film score box set can look fly.
The AFOS listener I met was graphic designer Joe Sikoryak, who's responsible for the look of Film Score Monthly and its spiffy CD packaging and booklets. FSM's Superman: The Music box set (above) is one of Joe's coolest achievements. I went to see Joe at a panel he was moderating (it was for Super Capers, an indie superhero flick in which Adam West pokes fun at his Batman persona) because before the panel started, I needed him to answer a question that had been nagging me ever since I ran into him on the previous day: Was Joe the cartoonist behind The Daily Show's brilliant "Decider" segments, which reimagined Bush as a caped superhero? (Joe told me his brother R. Sikoryak was the one who produced "The Decider.") It was surreal to be talking to Joe for several minutes while both Adam West--a.k.a. '60s Batman, a.k.a. Lookwell(*), a.k.a. the Gray Ghost--and Sam Lloyd, one of my favorite supporting players on Scrubs, are sitting a few inches from you.

(*) Lookwell, a great unsold 1991 sitcom pilot written by Conan O'Brien and Robert Smigel, features my all-time favorite West performance. West's title character is a pretentious, washed-up star of a '70s detective show who attempts to become an actual P.I.

Shorter, dark and handsome Jimmy Aquino poses with Blair Butler, who was Cheetah to Olivia Munn's Wonder Woman in Attack of the Show's popular Wonder Woman sketch. Like how Heath Ledger was the definitive Joker, Blair is the definitive Cheetah.
Here I am at WonderCon's G4 booth with Attack of the Show's Blair Butler, who reviews comics and graphic novels during AOTS' Fresh Ink segment. She's guested in the past on Joe Gonzalez and Jimmy Aquino's Comic News Insider podcast (where I recently plugged Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology), so I told her both my first and last names to see what her reaction would be. Blair was initially confused because I look nothing like the CNI co-host. I explained to her that I'm Jimmy Aquino the scriptwriter and there are now two Jimmy Aquinos in the comics world.

Blair lit up when I asked her to autograph her own rave review of All-Star Superman in an issue of Geek Monthly magazine. I'm not really a fan of the Superman character or the superhero genre, but like Blair, I've enjoyed Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's clever Supes revamp, which ran from 2005 to 2008 and was the recent focus of an A.V. Club "Gateways to Geekery" post. As Blair wrote in her review, All-Star Supes is "a master class on how to mesh great plotting and great pencils."

Then I said to Blair, "The Eskimo kiss you did with Olivia [Munn] made my week."



Blair said that when Olivia goes off-script or takes shtick like the Eskimo kiss or an impromptu shaving of part of Kevin Pereira's hair into unexpected directions, you can't stop her from whatever she's doing and you have no choice but to roll with it. The Eskimo kiss went way longer than Blair expected, which of course, resulted in great live TV.

Also, Blair and I wondered what is the deal with Olivia's irrational fear of balloon popping noises ("Maybe they sound like gunshots to some people").

Adventureland booth babes
Nice. Miramax had a booth for Adventureland, an upcoming comedy about amusement park workers from Superbad director Greg Mottola.

I wasn't at the Adventureland booth when Freaks and Geeks alum Martin Starr, who has a role in the film, showed up to sign Adventureland posters and tees. I would have liked to have seen how Starr interacts with fans of his old show. The former Bill Haverchuck needs to do more TV or movies. He was terrific on Freaks and Geeks.

R2D2 x 2 = Known Star Wars cutesiness hater Richard von Busack blowing his brains out
Next time, instead of the Star Wars droids, I'd like to see the Daleks roam around the Moscone hallways, so that I'd have some fun watching the giant salt-shakers with toilet plungers harass any of the British WonderCon visitors who used to hide behind the couch during a Daleks episode of Doctor Who. (I mean, c'mon, England. Giant salt-shakers made you shit your trousers when you were kids? Really?)

Would her name be Selina Khan?
Here's an Asian American Catwoman. I always get a kick out of seeing Asian American cosplayers suit up as non-Asian DC or Marvel characters.

Unfortunately, the rest of the photos I took--like a snapshot of a female Robin (the Boy Wonder, not the Witch Hunter) cosplayer--are even blurrier than the ones I've posted. There are a bunch of pretty dope Flickr photo galleries that feature WonderCon snapshots that are better than the ones I snapped.

Here's a word of advice to anyone who attends WonderCon and is actually reading this: Skip the expensive, underwhelming convention food (you're going to have to in this recession) and eat outside. Take your money to Jollibee or any one of the local cheap eateries (or better yet, non-fast food joints). Chickenjoy trumps overpriced Costco-quality pizza any day of the week.