Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chewsday

Chew #11 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Random Chew page of the week (from Chew #11)

The Academy's snub of the Attack the Block score is such bollocks, innit?

In ghettos like the blocks of South London, all that running away from Five-0 will make you better prepared for running away from gorilla wolf muthafuckas.
HitFix's Kristopher Tapley considers the Attack the Block score by Steven Price and Basement Jaxx to be the year's best original film score and is bummed that it's not one of the 97 scores that are eligible for consideration in this year's Best Original Score category. I'm bummed too--the cutting-edge score from British comedian/filmmaker Joe Cornish's enjoyable inner-city-vs.-outer-space thriller is one of my favorites of 2011--but I'm not surprised that the Academy would exclude it.

The Academy rarely nominates the scores I like the most (not one bloody nod for any of Irish DJ/composer David Holmes' Ocean's scores during the '00s?). Plus, Price and Basement Jaxx's (and Holmes') sounds aren't middlebrow and tweedy enough for the Academy. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross aside, cutting-edge things tend to frighten and confuse them.

There's one upside to the snub: I don't have to be subjected to a lame interpretive dance to "The Ends" from Attack the Block.

Basement Jaxx - "The Ends" from "Attack The Block" by Basement Jaxx

Monday, December 19, 2011

You're such a blockhead, Charlie Brown Christmas liner notes guy: Robert Wilonsky clears up (in 1998) some misconceptions about the classic special's soundtrack

The reason why we never again saw those twin sisters on the far left of this photo was because they were spoiled brats who were a pain to work with, and their stage mom/manager wanted too much moolah from Bill Melendez.
In 2009, I unearthed from my Fistful of Soundtracks archives a cassette of a 1998 phone interview about the beloved music from A Charlie Brown Christmas that I recorded with the Dallas Observer's Robert Wilonsky, and I transcribed the best parts of the discussion, which aired on the college radio incarnation of AFOS.

On TV, Wilonsky is best known for hosting the HDNet shows Higher Definition and The Ultimate Trailer Show and for being one of many guest film critics who subbed for a recuperating Roger Ebert when he was unable to resume his co-hosting duties on At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper. In 1998, Wilonsky wrote an Observer article that revealed some little-known background info about the Bay Area-based Vince Guaraldi Trio's pitch-perfect music from A Charlie Brown Christmas (for instance, he said "the album isn't the soundtrack to the special. Actually, it's the other way around: The record was cut before the cartoon was made"). So shortly after his article was published, I called Wilonsky up and had him discuss on AFOS why he loves the Guaraldi tunes from the classic 1965 CBS animated special, which has aired exclusively on ABC since 2001.

Five years after our interview, Wilonsky recorded an NPR piece about both Guaraldi's album (Concord Records remastered and reissued it in 2006, but with--good grief!--a couple of remastering mistakes later corrected by Concord after complaints from fans) and the special itself, which Wilonsky described in his segment as "the perfect Christmas gift, a show that is part Bible lesson, part jazz solo, part psychotherapy."

Here again is that interview from 1998.

Like MC Hammer, Vince Guaraldi hailed from the Yay Area and liked the girls with the pumps and a bump.
Robert Wilonsky: For 30 years, they've listed the wrong personnel on the records for A Boy Named Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas and the Vince Guaraldi Greatest Hits records... Fred Marshall was very unhappy to find 30 years after he made this record that he never got credit for actually playing on the thing... His daughter, whom I've put in my piece, went to a record store to buy the record A Charlie Brown Christmas that her dad played on. She had always had the vinyl version, which never had the listing of personnel. She bought the CD, which said "Colin Bailey: drums, Monty Budwig: bass, Vince Guaraldi: piano," couldn't believe her dad wasn't on the record, took the record back to the record store, said "I'm not gonna buy these records till you fix the credits." He told her dad he wasn't on the record. Dad called Fantasy Records, said "Why the hell am I not on the record?" The label guy got kind of upset because he wondered where he'd been for 30 years if he was upset about the incorrect personnel listing and went about to figure out if they were wrong all these years.

Jimmy J. Aquino: You also say in your article that the soundtrack album is not really a soundtrack.

RW: Right. Both A Boy Named Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas were actually recorded before the Charlie Brown Christmas special was even filmed. What happened was Vince Guaraldi had been approached by Lee Mendelson... He had asked Vince about doing this music for a documentary that was going to be sold to a network--maybe CBS--about Charles Schulz and Peanuts. So they went in the studio and did this music. Something happened, and the documentary never aired. I'm not quite sure what happened. I don't think anybody really knows at this point. Time has erased a lot of memories. But they had this great record, so Vince released it as Jazz Impressions of a Boy Named Charlie Brown, which was what it was called originally.

Around the same time in 1962-63, they also went in to do the Christmas record because Vince had kids that were around the age of Charlie Brown and the characters in Peanuts, and he thought it'd be nice to do a jazz record because he liked the music so much and he liked what he had done and he liked the sound the trio had. He also thought there weren't any Christmas records out there for kids and adults. They were all a little cheesy, a little melodramatic for him, and him being a cool jazz pianist and having played with Cal Tjader and all these guys, that was his metier to do a cool jazz Christmas record. So he did it, and Mendelson liked it so much that he figured they'd maybe go out and get a sponsor like Coca-Cola, which I believe is who ended up sponsoring the show...

When they actually decided to do the Christmas special, Vince Guaraldi had to go to Los Angeles to record cues or shorter versions of the songs he was intending to use on the Christmas special, so he rounded up Monty Budwig and Colin Bailey, who were in his band in the early 1960s and had since moved to Los Angeles, and had them re-record shorter versions of what Jerry Granelli the drummer and Fred Marshall the bass player had done earlier around the time of A Charlie Brown Christmas. But for some reason, Fantasy just thought it was Colin and Monty playing on both those records and not Jerry and Fred...

JJA: How come A Charlie Brown Christmas is so special to you?

Film critic and large-headed bald man Robert WilonskyRW: I remember as a kid all those Claymation episodes--Rudolph and The Year Santa Didn't Come or whatever it was called. I remember thinking, "God, these are kind of silly, but Charlie Brown was a kid, he's your age..." I didn't realize that later in life, I would become a large-headed bald man myself, much like Charlie Brown, so perhaps there were some subliminal messages in there...

One thing I always loved about it as well was the fact that I didn't realize this until later, but I got to be a jazz fan when I was real young, like 12 or 13, which in Texas, is not an easy thing to do. You're either a country or Southern rock fan. You're not a jazz fan. There was a public radio station here that played jazz at night. I used to love it. One day, Vince's music came on, and I'll never forget it. It was A Charlie Brown Christmas... I was a teenager, and it made me just fall in love with it all over again. I fell in love with it this time around for the music because it was so pretty, it was so melancholy and kind of restive. I listen to it 24 or 25 times a day during the holidays sometimes because it just permeates the air like a good smell... It's just this great thing to have around, whether it's for nostalgic purposes sometimes or whether it's for musical purposes because it's just a beautiful, perfect record. It's not overwrought like all these other Christmas records. It's not sentimental. It's just perfect.

Happiness is a wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey Christmas party.
This is a Charlie Brown Christmas/Doctor Who mash-up by Larry Wentzel that's included here for no reason other than it's awesome.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Mr. Sunshine, yay": The five best original TV themes of 2011

Winterfell is currently embroiled in a feud with the neighboring kingdom of Normanfell, ruled by King Stanley Roper, who keeps mugging in front of an unseen camera for some reason.
(Photo source: The Art of the Title Sequence)
5. Mr. Sunshine (Rob Cairns? Matthew Perry's musician dad? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)
The broadcast networks' elimination of theme songs from most of their programming is a trend that depresses veteran TV theme composers like Happy Days and Wonder Woman theme maestro Charles Fox, who briefly expressed his displeasure during a recent interview on the podcast TV Confidential. But when a quick and minimalist theme like the one that opened Matthew Perry's short-lived single-camera comedy Mr. Sunshine makes every one of its five seconds count--it sublimely nailed the sardonic tone of the title character in just three words--maybe these skimpy themes on the broadcast networks aren't so awful (plus non-commercial HBO, which doesn't have to worry about the advertisers that are partially to blame for theme songs becoming an endangered species, is keeping the art form alive, as you'll see later).



4. Lights Out (Thwak! Music)
I'm glad the crew behind this short-lived FX boxing drama didn't go with "Lights Out" by Santigold (a sweet tune, by the way, but it would have been too on-the-nose) and opted for something original and appropriately brash and brassy a la The J.B.'s to open their show.



3. American Horror Story (César Dávila-Irizarry and Charlie Clouser)
If creepy old-timey photos of long-dead babies and creepier split-second images of pickled remains of dead babies or fetuses are your thing, then you're going to get a kick out of the American Horror Story opening title sequence by famed Se7en title designer Kyle Cooper. The rest of us find the titles unsettling to watch. I actually often turn my head away from the screen when the titles begin. They're accompanied by an eerie and effective industrial theme by sound designer César Dávila-Irizarry and Saw series composer and former Nine Inch Nails member Charlie Clouser. Together, the titles and the Dávila-Irizarry/Clouser theme are the only genuinely scary part of American Horror Story.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Roots' final four Undun tracks suggest that ?uestlove has a future as a film composer

?uestlove, photographed by Sears
The Roots' excellent 13th album Undun, which dropped yesterday, is the band's first concept album. The somber Undun is a cautionary--and fortunately, not-so-preachy-and-Afterschool Special-ish--tale that centers on a teen named Redford Stephens (his name is lifted from the Sufjan Stevens song "Redford") who falls into the drug game.

?uestlove has conquered the worlds of drumming, arranging, late-night bandleading and tweeting. Could film scoring be next for ?uesto to tackle? On the cinematic instrumentals that comprise the four-part "Redford Suite" that concludes Undun, ?uesto, who has said he might go completely orchestral on the next Roots album, displays some serious Bernard Herrmann-esque chops.

I second the following graf, despite a couple of annoyingly lofty-sounding and obtuse phrases that are so NPR ("fictionalized into hip-hop"?--what the hell does that mean?):
?uestlove treats "Redford" almost like a piece of movie music, accompanying the action rather than recapitulating it. The result is a cinematic moment waiting to be processed, fictionalized into hip-hop. It's as if the listener zoomed in beyond the safe narrative distance of the song and actually ended up in the movie. This movement of the suite is like a rap track under a microscope, the sample blown up so large that the beats that keep hip-hop as the frame of reference are a horizon enshrouded in fog… Finally, credits roll over a sublime string quartet, mercifully for Black Thought's black thoughts — at least for a moment, before ?uestlove's meticulously arranged strings are silenced by the chilling, deathly growl of a struck piano.
[NPR]

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hell yeah

'Zat you, Santaolalla?
(Photo source: Música Detrás de Cámaras)
The best part of AMC's new western series Hell on Wheels has to be the way-too-short opening title theme by Brokeback Mountain composer Gustavo Santaolalla (san-ta-oh-lah-yah).

Blood will be spilled. Lives will be lost. Men will be ruined. Deadwood fans expecting the next Deadwood will be disappointed.
Santaolalla's theme is my favorite original theme for a Sunday night show since rapper Asheru's declaration that "I'mma remain a soldier till the war is won" during the opening titles of The Boondocks (God, I miss that show).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chewsday

Chew #8 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Random Chew page of the week (from Chew #8)

A track-by-track rundown of the current "New Cue Revue" playlist on A Fistful of Soundtracks

Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor pose with Akon at the premiere of Automan, uh, I mean, Ra.One.
Every Wednesday at 10am and 4pm and every Friday at 11am, A Fistful of Soundtracks streams the most recent additions to the station's "Assorted Fistful" library (or in the case of Akon & Hamskia Iyer's "Chammak Challo," the "Chai Noon" library) for an hour-long block entitled "New Cue Revue." Here's what's currently on the "New Cue Revue" playlist.

1. Akon & Hamsika Iyer, "Chammak Challo" (from Ra.One)
Ever since it was announced in 2010 that R&B artist Akon, best known for "Smack That," "I Wanna Love You" and the hilarious Lonely Island/SNL digital short "I Just Had Sex," was lending his pipes to an original song for a Bollywood film (like another non-Indian singer, Kylie Minogue, had done for the imaginatively titled 2009 Into the Blue clone Blue), I've been dying to hear the Akon track. The end result, "Chammak Challo" from Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan's recently released superhero movie Ra.One, finally dropped in September and is a smash hit in India. (In this latest round of one of my favorite games, Guess the American Movie or TV Show That This Bollywood Film Is a Bizarre Clone Of, Ra.One, which features Khan in the dual role of a dorky video game designer and a heroic character from his game who enters the real world, appears to be a clone of the largely forgotten '80s superhero show Automan.)

Akon acquits himself nicely as he alternates between English and Hindi during "Chammak Challo" (the song title is basically "nice-looking shawty" in Hindi slang). The catchy "Chammak Challo" proves that it's much better when Bollywood soundtrack composers enlist actual R&B or rap artists from America to do their thing on their soundtracks than when they attempt to rap or ape current American R&B trends on their own. The latter has led to several theme tunes that are as painful-sounding as the time when Prince stopped being a hater of hip-hop and attempted to incorporate rap into his Diamonds and Pearls album--for instance, go YouTube "Desi Boyz." Or maybe you're better off if you don't.



2. Howard Shore, "The Thief" (from Hugo)
The former SNL bandleader and Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy composer nicely apes the rhythms of a clock for Martin Scorsese's clock imagery-filled tribute to silent-era filmmakers like Georges Méliès (played during Hugo by Ben Kingsley).

3. Alberto Iglesias, "George Smiley" (from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
The lonely trumpet during Alberto Iglesias' effective score for the latest screen adaptation of John le Carré's 1974 spy novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy announces that "This ain't Bond. This is le Carré. No bloody invisible cars or steel-toothed thugs here."

4. Mike Skinner, "Fernando's Theme" (from The Inbetweeners Movie)
British rapper Mike Skinner has retired his stage name The Streets and entered the world of film scoring with his original music for the film version of The Inbetweeners, the Britcom about a group of Superbad-style dorky teens whose anthem would be the aforementioned "I Just Had Sex." The clubby "Fernando's Theme" is the best example of "Wow, I never knew this pasty white guy had a Latin side and maybe he should express it more often" since Michael Giacchino wrote the awesome "Spanish Heist" for the TV series Alias.

5. Alan Silvestri, "Howling Commando's Montage" (from Captain America: The First Avenger)
This cue accompanies a sequence in Captain America: The First Avenger that's a bit too short: a montage of Cap on his missions with the Howling Commandos. Will the Captain America sequel be a flashback to one of those missions with the Howling Commandos that The First Avenger glossed over? As someone who wanted to see more Howling Commando scenes in the film, I hope so.

6. Quincy Jones featuring Little Richard, "Money Runner/Money Is (Medley)" (from $ [Dollars])
As I've said before, say the following five words--"caper movie score by Q"--and I'm there, baby. This funky theme from the 1971 Warren Beatty/Goldie Hawn heist flick $ (Dollars) would fit right in with the Occupy era, except "Inflation in the nation don't bother me" would have to be changed to "Recession in the nation don't bother me."

7. Ludovic Bource, "1927 A Russian Affair" (from The Artist)
After the arrivals of The Artist and Hugo, is silent cinema making a comeback? This better not mean a return to white people stealing Asian roles from Asian perform... d'oh!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chewsday

Chew #15 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Random Chew page of the week (from Chew #15)

Amen to "Asian American Jesus"

Her slam poetry's so wack the Vogon poets from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy wanted to commit suicide while hearing it.
I've never heard of either playwright/comedian Samantha Chanse or filmmaker Yasmine Gomez before. But now I'm interested in whatever other short films either of them will make after filmmaker and You Offend Me You Offend My Family blogger Quentin Lee posted Chanse and Gomez's amusing mockumentary short "Asian American Jesus," about the making of an Ethnic Studies class project on "Asian Americans and the Arts."

I was Googling any blog posts I could find about comedic Bay Area-based shorts made by Asian Americans--because I'm considering writing and maybe directing my own comedic short, even though my only experience with camerawork and video editing has been through vlogging--when I stumbled into "Asian American Jesus" while reading Lee's post about the theory that YouTube may be more beneficial for Asian American-made shorts like "Jesus" than the film festival circuit.

"From Yasmine, I've also learned that the short, as brilliant as I thought it was, faced some rejections from Asian American film festivals," wrote Lee. "Is Youtube our future? Perhaps Yasmine has done the right thing by putting her short on Youtube whose most bankable personality is nonetheless the Asian American Ryan Higa of Niga Higa fame."

As someone who's had to sit through a lot of Asian American poetry that's so bad Leonard Pinth-Garnell would love those poems, I got a kick out of the Gomez short's dead-on parody of crappy Asian American spoken-word artists through its pretentious slam poet character Truth Is Real, one of six characters Chanse plays in "Jesus." But my favorite of Chanse's characters is Suzette, the artsy Bay Area student who interviews Truth Is Real. Maybe it's because the lisping Suzette sounds like Drew Barrymore.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Batman vs. Wackula

'Master Bruce, why is your Batsuit covered in so much bloody glitter?'
(Photo source: Dean Trippe)
I don't care for Twilight. Neither does the Twitterer known as The Goddamn Batman. And now, here are the best of The Batman's 140-character tirades against a vampire who's so goddamn banal he makes The Count from Sesame Street look intimidating.

God_Damn_Batman from June 24, 2010
June 24, 2010

God_Damn_Batman from June 30, 2010
June 30, 2010

God_Damn_Batman from July 2, 2010
July 2, 2010

God_Damn_Batman from June 5, 2011
June 5, 2011

God_Damn_Batman from November 15, 2011
November 15, 2011

God_Damn_Batman from November 16, 2011
November 16, 2011

God_Damn_Batman from November 17, 2011
UPDATE: November 17, 2011 (this tweet appeared a couple of hours after I first published the post)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eee-O 11/11/11

He's gotta be he.
As someone who's unemployed and has been part of the 99 Percent for a long-ass time, Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Eee-O Eleven" from the original Ocean's Eleven is like the story of my life ("I nearly had me that chauffeur/And that block-long limousine/Eee-O Eleven...").

What does that song title mean? Some people think the phrase is a reference to the game of craps. Hey, Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, the lyricists behind "Eee-O Eleven," would know. Too bad they're dead. Reeeal dead.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tastes like Fresno

If Fresno were a 2011 TV show instead of a 1986 show, the raisins would be heavily Botoxed.
(Photo source: TV Time Capsule)
The craziest damn thing on TV right now is not American Horror Story. It's the funny six-part miniseries The Heart, She Holler, which is airing for six straight nights on Adult Swim until Friday. The Heart, She Holler is the Southern Gothic story of Hurlan Heartshe (Patton Oswalt, looking like a stand-in for Nick Swardson in Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star), a feral man-child who must battle with his poor-white-trash sisters, the devious Hurshe (Kristen Schaal) and the telekinetic Hambrosia (Heather Lawless), for control of Heartshe Holler, the small town that Hurlan inherited from their deceased cult leader father. The inbred yokels who populate Heartshe Holler are so filthy even Cletus from The Simpsons would tell them, "Git yerself a washcloth!"

Because it's from the minds of Wonder Showzen creators Vernon Chatman and John Lee, The Heart, She Holler gets its laughs from nightmarish and meth-y imagery that would cause most of the viewers who made a hit out of Modern Family (a show Schaal once guest-starred on) to puke into their tubs of Häagen-Dazs. A man pulls from an electric outlet intestines that go on forever. Another man French-kisses a glory hole that was carved into the cover of a Bible. If this show had a Baby Lily in its cast, she'd probably be walking around with a rotting piece of roadkill as her dolly.

The Heart, She Holler's nightly miniseries format and Schaal's soapy villainess both remind me of another comedy miniseries that aired over the course of one week 25 Novembers ago: Newhart creator Barry Kemp's not-as-meth-y Fresno. From November 16 to November 20, 1986 on CBS, this spoof of wealth-obsessed '80s CBS nighttime soaps like Falcon Crest and the soon-to-be-revived-on-TNT Dallas followed the nasty power struggle between the Kensington raisin empire, led by matriarch Charlotte Kensington (Carol Burnett), and rival raisin baron Tyler Cane (Dabney Coleman). Caught up in the feud are Charlotte's dickish eldest son Cane (Charles Grodin), his unhappy nympho wife Talon (Teri Garr), Charlotte's demure adopted daughter Tiffany (Valerie Mahaffey), the always shirtless ranch hand Torch (Trapper John, M.D. star Gregory Harrison, poking fun at his '80s himbo persona), gardener-turned-corporate spy Juan (Luis Avalos), country singer Bobbi Jo Bobb (Teresa Ganzel) and her convict husband Billy Joe (Bill Paxton!).

Shot on a bigger budget than The Heart, She Holler (for example, the gowns were designed by a name I became familiar with because I'd see it pop up during so many '70s or '80s opening or closing credits: Bob Mackie of Burnett's Gone with the Wind sketch gown fame), Fresno isn't quite a classic, but it's a fun comedic soap made for viewers like me who avoid actual nighttime soaps like the plague. Maybe if each episode had been 11 minutes long like each installment of The Heart, She Holler or other live-action Adult Swim shows like Childrens Hospital, the current live-action crown jewel of the Adult Swim lineup, and its spinoff NTSF:SD:SUV, Fresno would have been a classic. When I first caught it in reruns on Comedy Central in the '90s--fortunately without the laugh track that CBS reportedly tacked on to the miniseries when it rebroadcast it--Fresno felt like it was several minutes too long at an hour per episode (with commercials).

There are so many reasons to be pissed off at Fox--besides one of its cable channels' unusual definitions of the words "fair," "balanced" and "news"--like the fact that Fox owns the MTM Enterprises library and either butchers MTM properties on DVD or Hulu (worst example: the WKRP music clearance fiasco) or doesn't take advantage of reintroducing via DVD hours and hours of great or good MTM shows like Fresno (does Fox own Fresno?--I'm not quite sure) to younger viewers who'd get a kick out of these shows that were around either before they were born or when they were too young to understand why Dr. Johnny Fever always looks so exhausted. So because of that, YouTube is all we can rely on for little glimpses of Fresno.

As you can see from the YouTube clips of Fresno (hey, it's Kramer), one of the highlights of the miniseries is Mel Brooks film score composer John Morris' original music, from Bobbi Jo's fake country songs ("Just because you're a migrant worker don't mean we got a migrant love") to the main title theme, one of the best obscure TV themes of the '80s. Morris' theme morphs from bullfighting music to Big Country score-style Americana. It's amusingly over-the-top and awesome.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This is not a sequel to "11 songs by fictional musicians from movies and TV that are surprisingly not terrible"

If The Carrie Nations are Daniel-San and Harris Allsworth is Miyagi, then that makes Z-Man the ponytailed douche from The Karate Kid Part III.
After reading my post in which I listed standout tunes by fake bands like "Find It" by The Kelly Affair, a.k.a. The Carrie Nations, from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (catch "Find It" during "Assorted Fistful" on A Fistful of Soundtracks), retroRechercher tweeted to me the title of another standout original Stu Phillips-penned song from the 1970 Russ Meyer flick. It's been a while since I saw Beyond the Valley of the Dolls on the Fox Movie Channel, so I forgot about "In the Long Run."

I'm relieved that the Fox cable channels that aren't Faux News--FX, Fox Movie Channel and Fuel, to name a few--have settled their beef with DirecTV, which I currently subscribe to (and have lately considered ditching for Xfinity). I would have hated being forced to watch the latest episodes of Justified, Louie and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia a year after everybody else would first see them on FX. Also, if I'm not mistaken, Fox Movie Channel is the only channel that airs Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The "In the Long Run" montage makes great use of the wide frame as it details Carrie Nations manager Harris Allsworth's wordless resentment of record producer Z-Man's control over the band. In pan-and-scan, the montage is the victim of a massacre that's as awful as the one during the movie's climax.



A live cover of "In the Long Run" by the Pittsburgh band The Garment District:

Chewsday

Chew #10 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Random Chew page of the week (from Chew #10)

Filipino American History Month Painting of the Day archive

'Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana (Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy)' by Eliseo Art Silva
(Photo source: Filipino American Artists Network)
October 3, 2011: "Tax Dollars Kill" by Mike "Dream" Francisco
October 4, 2011: "Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao, Fighting Pride of the Philippines" by Cristopher Nolasco
October 5, 2011: "Lotus Blossom" and "Dragon Lady" by Allison Torneros
October 6, 2011: "Skeedo" by Leo Valledor
October 7, 2011: "Beachcomber" by Alfonso Ossorio
October 10, 2011: "Why I Hate Europeans" by Manuel Ocampo
October 11, 2011: 1990 graffiti art by Mike "Dream" Francisco
October 12, 2011: "Shannyn Sossamon" by Cristopher Nolasco
October 13, 2011: "How Mali Lost Her Accent" by Pacita Abad
October 14, 2011: "The City" by Allison Torneros
October 17, 2011: "Echo" by Leo Valledor
October 18, 2011: "Five Ways to Exit a Window (Defenestrate)" by Allison Torneros
October 19, 2011: "Red Dress" by Cristopher Nolasco
October 20, 2011: "Four Seasons" by Leo Valledor
October 21, 2011: "The Conception of Bliss" by Allison Torneros
October 24, 2011: "Lou Reed" by Manuel Ocampo
October 25, 2011: "Hello Like Before" by Leo Valledor
October 26, 2011: "Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana (Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy)" by Eliseo Art Silva
October 27, 2011: "Dancing Couple" by Pacita Abad
October 28, 2011: 1990 graffiti art by Mike "Dream" Francisco
October 31, 2011: "Thriller" by Allison Torneros

Friday, October 28, 2011

Filipino American History Month Painting of the Day: 1990 graffiti art by Mike "Dream" Francisco

1990 graffiti art by Mike 'Dream' Francisco
(Photo source: Art Crimes)

"Rich on personality": 11 songs by fictional musicians from movies and TV that are surprisingly not terrible

Listen to the following tracks together on Spotify (except for the selections from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Empire Records, Fear of a Black Hat and 8 Mile).

I haven't seen this much guyliner since that time I plowed through a marathon of Lost episodes about Richard Alpert.
1. "This Is a Low" by Swipe (Tamara Drewe)
In High Fidelity director Stephen Frears' entertaining 2010 adaptation of Posy Simmonds' Far from the Madding Crowd-inspired comic strip-turned-graphic novel, childish drummer Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper) romances Gemma Arterton's title character, a London newspaper columnist and rock music journalist who, unlike most rock music journalists, looks smokin' in a red tanktop and a pair of Daisy Dukes. Ben may be what's known in the U.K. as a git, but the tunes by him and his Britpop band Swipe are pretty damn catchy, especially "This Is a Low," perhaps the catchiest song about a guy getting his ass kicked by his temperamental girlfriend ever written ("This is a call for a domestic dispute/She's got me by the collar and she's going to shoot"), which is why I've added it to the "Assorted Fistful" and "New Cue Revue" blocks on A Fistful of Soundtracks.

Not to be confused with the Blur tune of the same name, "This Is a Low" has an interesting pedigree. In the movie, the song is a source of tension between Swipe and the disgruntled Ben, who wrote "This Is a Low" and is steaming mad that the rest of the band doesn't give him enough credit for his work, but offscreen, it was actually written by Cooper's younger brother Nathan. (In another interesting tidbit, the female vocalist during "This Is a Low" is Sexy Beast star Ray Winstone's daughter Lois, who has a wordless bit part in Tamara Drewe as Ben's female bandmate and ex-girlfriend.)

Cooper's appearance as the younger version of Tony Stark's industrialist father Howard in Captain America: The First Avenger was an amusing bit of casting because in his Tamara Drewe emo garb, Cooper is a dead ringer for the effeminate partyman characters his cinematic son Robert Downey Jr. played in Weird Science and Back to School.


Ho is short for honey! Woops, wrong Black Sheep.
2. "Black Sheep" by The Clash at Demonhead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
One of the best jokes in HBO's Flight of the Conchords TV series was that Bret and Jemaine were nothing like the Bret and Jemaine they imagined themselves to be in the show's fantasy sequences/musical numbers. In those sequences, Bret and Jemaine were expressive, self-confident and brimming with musical ability, while outside those sequences, Bret and Jemaine were inexpressive, socially awkward and sucky as musicians (they were always seen performing the same song, some terrible acoustic clone of Moby's "Bodyrock," and only one person liked their music, Kristen Schaal's child-like stalker Mel). That decision to make Bret and Jemaine untalented musicians that hardly anybody likes is what distinguishes Flight of the Conchords from other shows about fictional wannabe musicians that are filled with elaborate musical numbers but are worshipful of those characters, like The Monkees, Fame and Glee.

A similar joke recurs throughout Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim graphic novels and Edgar Wright's film version of Pilgrim: Scott (Michael Cera) may be someone we're supposed to root for, despite his dickishness, but the Toronto band he plays bass for, Sex Bob-omb, sounds mediocre (and their Mel is Knives Chau). One of the charms of the original music in Wright's film is the way that Beck, who wrote Sex Bob-omb's material (while Metric, an actual band from Toronto, represented Sex Bob-omb's rival, The Clash at Demonhead, whose wardrobes O'Malley patterned after Metric's), purposely downgraded the quality of his own sound to capture how an amateurish band in the Toronto indie scene would sound like (that is until the climax, when Sex Bob-omb starts to gel at about the same time as Scott gains the power of self-respect).

Scott and his Sex Bob-omb bandmates view the glitzy Clash at Demonhead--led by Scott's ex-girlfriend Envy Adams (Brie Larson)--to be evil corporate sellouts, but the ironic truth is The Clash at Demonhead don't sound as mediocre as Sex Bob-omb do, as we discover during "Black Sheep," sung quite nicely by Larson in the film (while sung by Metric frontwoman Emily Haines in the album version).

"I think that it probably is poking fun at pop music and a band that's just so completely commercialized," said Larson about "Black Sheep" to Collider, "but at the same time, you can't deny that the song is the most infectious song."

No wonder "Black Sheep" was the first tune off the Pilgrim song soundtrack that was introduced to the public. And no wonder Heather Morris likes to do what I imagine are butt crunches to "Black Sheep" while she hears it on her iPod.


Yo, look, it's Cowmeo, the new supergroup formed by Reba McEntire circa 1987 and two of the guys from Cameo.
3. "Odyssey" by Andromeda (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, "Space Rockers")
If Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is as accurate about the 25th century as I expect it to be, then in the future, we'll all be dancing with some giant rubber band/hula hoop/glowstick thing wrapped around us like we're some cross between a raver and Tony Randall and Jack Klugman awkwardly doing the Maypole dance in Central Park in the opening credits of The Odd Couple.

You haven't lived until you've heard Jack Klugman sing 'You're So Vain' during the Odd Couple Sings LP.
(Photo source: Gary Dunaier)
The dancing during the Buck Rogers "Space Rockers" episode may be on the lame side, but the music isn't. Scottish composer Johnny Harris, whose other dope contribution to film and TV music is the funktastic score to the 1970 British psychological thriller Fragment of Fear, came up with the proto-Daft Punk synth-pop instrumental sound of Andromeda, the 25th century's most popular rock band.

Bull's got hair!
Twelve years before actor/song-and-dance man Jerry Orbach took on his most famous and final role, Law & Order's Detective Lennie Briscoe (sort of a kinder, gentler version of his crooked cop character in Prince of the City), he was on the opposite side of the law as Andromeda's evil manager Lars Mangros, who plots to use the synth-pop trio's music as a form of mind control on its teen fans.

A late '70s/early '80s TV show ain't complete with a Judy Landers guest appearance. Judy Landers is the Mark Sheppard of late '70s/early '80s TV.
Besides its guest stars (in addition to Orbach, the episode also features a Landers sister and Bull Shannon, or as I prefer to remember Richard Moll because I'm a Batman: The Animated Series fan, Two-Face), "Space Rockers" is my favorite non-Princess Ardala Buck Rogers episode because of the catchy "Odyssey." The Harris instrumental experienced a bit of a resurgence in 2004 when it turned up on the playlist of the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas funk radio station Bounce FM.

Now here's where the technology that George Lucas utilizes to fuck up his first three Star Wars movies would actually be useful. Get someone to replace the dancers in the Buck Rogers 'Space Rockers' episode with America's Best Dance Crew champions like the Jabbawockeez.
"Odyssey" is surprisingly good synth-pop that's aged well. (The opposite of "Odyssey"--a.k.a. the worst synth-pop ever--has to be that wack "I Am America" song in Herman Cain's weird and creepy cigarette-smoking campaign ad, recorded by some right-wing version of Lady Gaga.) The instrumental is ideal popping-and-locking music. Speaking of which, the Andromeda footage in "Space Rockers" would be much more badass if the Jabbawockeez were on the dance floor instead of those whitebread-looking rubber band/hula hoop/glowstick ravers because the Jabbawockeez are what 25th-century dancing will look more like.



'Let's have some action! Let's have some asses wigglin'... I want some perfection!' I know, I know, it's not a line that The Kid said, but it's my favorite line in Purple Rain.
4. "I Would Die 4 U/Baby I'm a Star" by The Kid (Purple Rain)
Actually, every song by Prince's onscreen alter ego The Kid is not terrible. But the one-two punch of "I Would Die 4 U" and "Baby I'm a Star" has to be my favorite part of both the movie's performance footage and the Purple Rain album. As Jeremy Ohmes notes in PopMatters, "If 'I Would Die 4 U' was Purple Rain's spiritually anguished yin, then 'Baby I'm a Star' was its cocky, narcissistic yang... More than any other song on Purple Rain, 'Baby I'm a Star' documents the unbridled energy and graceful sleaziness that was Prince live."



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Filipino American History Month Painting of the Day: "Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana (Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy)" by Eliseo Art Silva

'Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana (Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy)' by Eliseo Art Silva
(Photo source: BakitWhy)
At 145 feet x 25 feet, muralist Eliseo Art Silva's 1995 piece "Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana" in L.A.'s Historic Filipinotown is the largest Filipino American mural in the United States. Author Carlos Bulosan, California farm workers movement leaders Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong, 11th Philippines President Corazon Aquino, her assassinated husband Senator Ninoy Aquino, Renaissance man and political activist José Rizal and Lapu-Lapu--the cat who whupped some colonialist ass in 1521--are among the figures whom Silva depicted in "Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana."

'Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana (Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy)' by Eliseo Art Silva
(Photo source: Filipino American Artists Network)

'Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana (Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy)' by Eliseo Art Silva
(Photo source: Filipino American Artists Network)


Hidden Hi Fi: Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana Mural ("Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy" Mural) from Out the Window on Vimeo.