Friday, May 30, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Archer, "Sea Tunt: Part II" (from April 17, 2013)

'Put that thing away,' says Jon Hamm. 'What I'm packing is way bigger, dude.'
The producers forced Jon Hamm to wear underwear during this role as well.
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS. Beginning this week, "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week" is in reruns. A different older show (from either earlier this year or before) will be revisited each week. "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week" will return in July with all-new reviews. Because this week marks both the end of Mad Men until 2015 and the release of Maleficent, it's time to flash back to an episode that featured both one of Jon Hamm's countless comedic guest shots and Maleficent-esque Malory Archer being her usual Maleficent-esque self. Plus Aisha Tyler mentioned this same episode in a lengthy Q&A Esquire posted this week.

Damn. So Lana Kane is pregnant, via an unspecified sperm donor. Unlike Ray Gillette ending up confined to a wheelchair once again (by the way, a bunch of Sterling/Ray shippers somewhere must be having a field day over the tickling scene that causes Ray's re-crippling), I didn't see that one coming. However, thanks to all that time I spent in TV Clichés 101, when Lana started puking while heading off with the other agents to stop eco-terrorist Captain Murphy in the second half of "Sea Tunt," Archer's fourth-season finale, I knew right there she was with child. It explains her irritability and largely unspoken concern about settling down and having a life outside of ISIS in recent episodes. I appreciate how Archer creator Adam Reed didn't resort to having Lana spell out her concern in dialogue and chose to have her constantly interrupted before she could spell it out during those episodes. It shows how much Reed respects the audience's intelligence, unlike some other animated series showrunners (*cough*Ultimate Spider-Man writers*cough*).

Archer, Lana, Cecil and Ray discover that Murphy was faking his possession of nerve gas missiles, which makes him, along with Malory and Eugene Mirman's Cecil Tunt, one of several characters this season who concocted lies to get more money because they're broke. Killing off Murphy with a soda machine emblazoned with the last name of the late Harry Goz, the actor who voiced Murphy on Reed and Matt Thompson's Sealab 2021, is Reed and Thompson's twisted and oddly affecting way of both paying tribute to Goz and saying that not even Jon Hamm in the role of Murphy can compare to Goz.

The other revelation about Murphy--he doesn't have any personnel with him at Sealab--is Reed's clever way of working around the fact that Cartoon Network's legal department really did a number on Reed and prevented him from using all the other characters from Sealab. The absence of lewd and frequently nude Debbie DuPree, Sealab's precursor to Cheryl/Carol and Pam, is particularly glaring because she would have fit right in with the Archer universe. Maybe Reed should have emulated Murphy, Malory and Cecil and lied to trick Cartoon Network into giving him the rights to the other characters.

Despite the lack of those characters and the rather minimal screen time given to Mirman and Kristen Schaal in the second half, "Sea Tunt" is a satisfying season finale, thanks to the show's always terrific dialogue (especially when the agents argue over undercover personas and when Cyril frequently snipes at Lana because he's pissed that he's not her baby's father) and great character moments like Archer setting aside his usual asshole self for a second to let Lana know that he wants her to be a better mom than Malory was. Another thing I like about "Sea Tunt" is that it's given me an excuse to revisit one of the greatest--but way too short--TV themes of all time, performed by the indie pop band Calamine.


Memorable quotes:
* Murphy, as he dies: "Forgive my candor. I just felt my spleen slip out of what was my anus."

* Murphy's last words: "Crushed by an off-brand drink machine. Oh my God, just like that old gypsy woman sa--"

* Lana, as Archer lets himself drown Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio style to save her and her baby: "Okay, here it comes! You just gotta relax and let it go in your mouth!" Archer: "Phrasing!"

Why don't any of the women in Margaret slap around Anna Paquin's character, and what the hell is an ugly Windows 98 typeface doing on a 1972 movie trailer?

The hero of Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret, ladies and gentlemen.
Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret (Photo source: RogerEbert.com)
Because so many film critics have been in awe of it as if it's that secret Wu-Tang album with the guest feature by Cher, I recently borrowed from a library in San Francisco the three-hour extended cut of playwright/filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret. It was filmed back in 2005--which is so long ago that John Gallagher Jr. (from Short Term 12 and HBO's The Newsroom) looks like an eight-year-old boy in the film--but it wasn't released until 2011 in a slightly shorter cut due to legal squabbling. As former RogerEbert.com editor Jim Emerson astutely noted in 2012, "Sure, [Margaret's] focus is entirely on a certain demographic slice of human beings--mostly middle- to upper-class, educated, New York-dwelling, Judeo-Christian-atheist white people--but these people are alive and ragged and messy in ways few movie characters are allowed to be."

The best performance in Margaret comes from neither the frequently shouty Anna Paquin nor her co-star J. Smith-Cameron, Lonergan's wife. It comes from Jeannie Berlin, who nicely underplays her role as the brash best friend of a pedestrian (Allison Janney) who was killed in a tragic Manhattan bus accident caused by the bus driver (Mark Ruffalo), because he was distracted by a high-schooler (Paquin) who was trying to ask him for directions while he was driving.

Sookie goes looking for a vampire in Manhattan to bang, but all she can find are Goth losers who work the counter at FedEx.
Aside from suffering from sore buttocks while watching it, most of the viewers who don't like Margaret can't stand Paquin's character Lisa because she's one of the most unlikable teenage lead characters in recent memory. But that's precisely what Paquin and Lonergan were shooting for: to make it difficult for viewers to root for or side with Lisa as she tries to process her guilt and pain over this pedestrian who died in her arms by launching a crusade that she manipulates to shift complete blame from her to the not-very-bright bus driver who ran over the pedestrian. (Plus anyone who remembers being a teen should be well aware that teens tend to react histrionically to anything, and Lonergan and the shouty Paquin capture this to a tee.)

The film isn't just about the PTSD of many post-9/11 New Yorkers. It's also about the mindset of a certain kind of teen or college student who claims to be taking some sort of stand like fighting against the oppression of people of color, but she's really making everything all about herself. And throughout Margaret, all I could think was "So this is what Suey Park must be like when she's not on Twitter."

Suey Park and her acolytes' #CancelColbert campaign against a fake racist was the dumbest-looking campaign against a fictional character since Dan Quayle's outrage over Murphy Brown. The ways that Park handled intelligent and rational criticisms of her anti-Colbert Report hashtag, as well as her decision to ally herself with Uncle Ruckus, a.k.a. Michelle Malkin, during #CancelColbert, tarnished all the admirable previous work this hashtag activist had done in addressing issues that are far more deserving of attention, like the treatment of Asian American women and sites like the Huffington Post that exploit writers by not paying them. (#CancelColbert is also yet another hashtag that's tarnished Twitter and helped kill the fun out of that site, proving once again that nuance is the enemy of Twitter, and Twitter is the enemy of nuance, to borrow the words of Hari Kondabolu.)

Both the fact that #CancelColbert took attention away from the issue that The Colbert Report satirized on its March 26 show (the exploitation of Native Americans) and Park's immature and bizarre responses to any form of rational criticism showed a lot about Park's youth and inexperience. It's much like how the Paquin character's youth and lack of self-awareness of her privileged life (her divorced parents are a wealthy TV ad director who lives far away in California and a self-absorbed New York stage actress, portrayed respectively by Mr. and Mrs. Lonergan) play a huge part in how poorly she handles her crusade.

As part of this crusade, Lisa gets in touch with the deceased's best friend and talks her into pursuing a civil suit against the bus driver's employers to seek justice and get the driver fired. One reason why Berlin's performance as Emily is such a standout is because Emily, who gradually sees the manipulative and self-serving Lisa for what she really is, gets to give the extremely slappable Lisa the kind of verbal smackdown that most of the other female characters in the film are too timid to give her.

Maybe it's because I'm still amazed by the bone-dislocating prison yard fight scene in The Raid 2 and I wish that scene showed up in every movie, no matter what genre (think of all the unwatchable tearjerkers that could be improved by inserting that shot of Iko Uwais breaking the inmate's leg with his bare hands), but Margaret could have used at least one brutal slapping scene. Emily's terrific smackdown of Lisa to her tear-stained face ("This isn't an opera! And we are not all supporting characters to the drama of your amazing life!") is as close to a "Sidney Poitier slapping the white off the racist landowner during In the Heat of the Night"-style slap as the film gets. The middle-aged Berlin character's calm and snarky demeanor in the face of Lisa's adolescent histrionics is proof that if you want to win an ideological argument--or a freestyle rap battle--you should always be the calmer one.

***

Margaret has made me want to see what other acting work Berlin has done. The daughter of legendary comedy writer Elaine May, Berlin hadn't acted on film in 15 years before Lonergan cast her in Margaret. I IMDb'd Berlin, and it turns out that her most notable role was an Oscar-nominated turn in a film her mother directed, The Heartbreak Kid--the original 1972 Charles Grodin/Cybill Shepherd version that Neil Simon adapted from a Bruce Jay Friedman short story, not the Farrelly Brothers remake with Ben Stiller in the Grodin role, Michelle Monaghan in the Shepherd role and Malin Akerman (R.I.P., Trophy Wife) in the Berlin role.

The prude who placed a 'Recommended for Adult Entertainment' sticker over Cybill Shepherd's thighs as if it's a beaver shot is an enemy of succulent thighs everywhere.
I've seen neither version of The Heartbreak Kid, but the trailer for the original looks amusing--up until the part where a Windows 98 typeface shows up at the end of a trailer that was apparently made in 1972.

Sure, Impact was created in 1965. But that ugly typeface you might be familiar with from either college flyers for some lame drum circle or open mic, countless Internet memes, trailers for terribly acted Web comedy shows or parodies of lousy furniture store ads during sketch comedy shows didn't become commonplace until Win 98. So it's extremely weird to see this very '90s, "I get knocked down, but I get up again"-ish typeface turn up in a '70s movie trailer during Ed Wood co-screenwriter Larry Karaszewski's Trailers from Hell audio commentary for the trailer.



The version of the Heartbreak Kid trailer that Trailers from Hell found and used for its Heartbreak Kid discussion was clearly remastered by whoever currently owns the rights to the film. Whoever those current rights owners hired to remaster the trailer had to redo and reinsert the typefaces but was in a rush to call it a day and head home. Way to make them look convincingly 1972, whoever remastered it.

I suspected that an older print of the Heartbreak Kid trailer must be on YouTube, and it probably doesn't contain Impact as a typeface, and lo and behold, I was right. There it was on YouTube, without ugly-ass Impact to depress my eyes.



Eddie Albert warns Charles Grodin to never host a talk show where he'd be doing nothing but droning on about the O.J. trial, or else he'll go shoot a puppy.
Not a good change.
There are two typefaces that should never be used in a movie trailer: Comic Sans and Impact. It's like Fran Drescher narrating a TV spot for X-Men: Days of Future Past: it doesn't belong.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Waiting to see what comes next": Louie's current "Elevator" arc is a great example of the brilliance of the band SweetPro

Here we see Charles Grodin and Louis C.K. starring in It's Midnight, and I'm Getting the Runs!
"Look at his face: perfectly happy, belly is full, just looking, waiting to see what comes next. Do you know the only thing happier than a three-legged dog? A four-legged dog. Now if you'll excuse me, this dog would like to get some air."--Dr. Bigelow (Charles Grodin), Louie

Louie, which is now in the middle of its fourth season on FX, is currently one of my favorite comedic cable shows, mostly because it's expanding the horizons of what a scripted half-hour comedy can be. The show follows a fictionalized version of Louis C.K., who stars as himself, as he awkwardly navigates his way through both the dog-eat-dog world of stand-up and the difficulties of single parenting. In most episodes of Louie, there are long stretches that go without any humor, which makes Louie difficult to classify as a sitcom or dramedy or Drambuie or whatever.

But it's not a completely serious show either, because of the often profanely funny stand-up segments that conclude most episodes. Louie's largely melancholic tone is also disrupted by the show's dips into surrealism, which bring to mind C.K.'s prior work as a director of comedic short films (one of my favorite recent examples: the absurdist gibberish that's overheard from one of the show's fictional news channels, which reports of a hurricane that killed LeBron James and the rest of the Miami Heat). There's also the presence of comedic side characters like the hilariously unprofessional physician Ricky Gervais portrayed in the first season (a character who's so hilarious that during the naked medical check-up scene in the episode "Gym," you can see C.K., whose face is kept off-camera, breaking character and trying not to laugh because C.K.'s man-boobs are shaking while Gervais ridicules his dick).



Louie is less like a standard single-camera sitcom and more like a pair of different short films each week--or in the case of the third season's three-part "Late Show" arc and this season's six-part "Elevator" arc, a feature film divided into, respectively, three or six 22-minute fragments. C.K. writes and directs every episode of Louie, and he often edits the show by himself. What might surprise some viewers is that he doesn't score the show like how John Carpenter would score his own movies. That task actually belongs to the Brooklyn band SweetPro, led by Matt Kilmer and featuring Maxfield Gast, Adam Platt, Ryan Scott, Mike Shobe and Benjamin Wright. Kilmer prefers to call himself the show's "music coordinator" rather than "music director" because of the collaborative and jigsaw nature of SweetPro's work, "where all of the band members, and even Louis himself, write their own parts and we put them together," as Kilmer described it to The Hollywood Reporter.

The band's original score music on the show is either primarily jazzy or influenced by the sounds of whatever location Louie finds himself in, if the episode takes place in an ethnic part of New York or if it ventures outside New York. The music screams out urbane and ethnically diverse New York in much the same way that Joseph Vitarelli's jazzy score to 1994's The Last Seduction screams out New York.

SweetPro layers over many of its Louie score cues some sort of audio filter that makes them sound like ancient library music or old vinyl. As a result, the warm-sounding end credits instrumental that concludes every Louie episode feels like it's straight out of a '50s Blue Note album. It's the perfect accompaniment for all those excerpts of C.K.'s act that are filmed inside the place where his on-screen alter ego feels most at home: on-stage at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village.

The band's cues are the best kind of cues: they don't heavy-handedly dictate how the viewers should feel, and they're distinctive without calling attention to themselves. ("As of now, there are no plans to put out the music but we want to do it and Louis wants it... There are issues that have to be resolved legally," said Kilmer to The Hollywood Reporter in 2012 about the possibility of a Louie score album, which would be fantastic to see; Kilmer hinted that the score album is in the works on Twitter earlier this month, but the release itself has yet to be confirmed.)

The image quality of this photo is in mono.
SweetPro (Photo source: The Last Best Page)
The most baffling thing about SweetPro's outstanding work on Louie is that it receives no attention from the film and TV music press, specifically online publications like Film Score Monthly, Film Music and Tracksounds. I think it's because Louie doesn't feature any gangsters, sword fighters, zombies, vampires, serial killers, monsters, robots or superheroes. It's not the kind of show Bear McCreary, a frequent subject in the articles and album reviews on those film and TV music sites, would be seen scoring. Neither is it the kind of show that would appeal to the Film Score Monthly crowd.

But Louie is a huge deal among comedy nerds like myself. And what the show is doing right now with its often unpredictable and philosophically minded "Elevator" arc is remarkable--comedically, dramatically and musically. Even at an advanced point in this arc (there's only one "Elevator" episode left), I still have no idea where the arc is going, but I remain riveted.

I had to rewatch a few times Todd Barry's seemingly incongruous "Elevator (Part 5)" monologue about the pleasures of being a single man without kids, in order to understand what exactly Barry's oddly captivating description of a typically mundane day in his life has to do with the thread that's tying all these slightly obtuse "Elevator" episodes together. That would be Louie's difficulties in communicating with nearly all the females in his life, particularly his ex-wife Janet (Susan Kelechi Watson); his temporary neighbor and new girlfriend Amia (Eszter Balint), a polite single mom from Hungary who speaks barely any English and is spending only a few weeks in America; and his 10-year-old violin prodigy daughter Jane (Ursula Parker). (I've noticed that the woman he's had the least trouble communicating with during the "Elevator" arc is Amia's elderly aunt Ivanka, who's played by Ellen Burstyn. During his first encounter with Ivanka, when she's distraught and stuck inside the titular broken elevator in their apartment building, Louie calms her down by getting her to pretend she's in "a little waiting room with no chairs and no windows, like on purpose." The "waiting room" advice sparks his friendship with Ivanka, which leads to his romance with her niece. It also may have saved Ivanka's life.)

I often prefer cold pizza over bacon and toast for breakfast. I'm still waiting for that diner that serves cold pizza for breakfast to fucking open.
(Photo source: Warming Glow)
The centerpiece of "Elevator (Part 5)," Barry's enjoyable five-minute monologue goes into precise, GoodFellas-like detail about the little victories of Barry's previous day (a free donut; a free bowl of ramen; getting the Poughkeepsie club owner to correct the misspelling of his last name on the sign of his dressing room door, an act that absurdly and amusingly garners applause and cheers from everyone in the bar who's listening to Barry's story, except a puzzled and typically cranky Nick DiPaolo). The monologue is left open to interpretation. Are those little victories some sort of message from the universe to Louie that he should stop obsessing over the things that keep him miserable and take it easy, just like the three-legged dog from cranky Dr. Bigelow's bit of romantic advice to Louie about deciding to "pick a road"?



Or is Barry's life a sign to Louie, who's afraid of being lonely and is so worried about losing Amia, that a life without women or kids to challenge him would be a pathetic, empty and lonely one? (A few viewers in the A.V. Club's Louie comments section have been pushing towards Barry's story as being on the pathetic side, while others view Barry's life as perfect. Not waking up until 10am is indeed the shit.)

Whatever the case, SweetPro's score during the monologue--as C.K. masterfully cuts back and forth between the bar where Barry's recounting his day and Barry's odd journey to Poughkeepsie, the same town where the dog lost his leg to a coyote--is a little treat to behold. It shifts from loungy to Latin to bluesy and upbeat, and of course, each movement in SweetPro's monologue suite is layered over with that filter that makes the cues sound mono instead of stereo. The monologue suite brings to mind the Beastie Boys' "B-Boy Bouillabaisse," the extraordinarily structured 12-minute Paul's Boutique track that consists of nine movements, "each a distinct little world that could stand on its own," as PopMatters describes it in its analysis of Paul's Boutique.

Here we see Louie inviting Amia to join him for a morning of being one of those annoying sign holders who always stand behind the hosts of The Today Show.
The "Elevator" arc is full of similarly good musical choices from SweetPro, whether's it's the Hungarian folk motif that represents Amia or the source cues at the bars or diners where Louie is frequently seen struggling with communication. SweetPro's country-western source cue at the diner where Pamela (Pamela Adlon) has a one-sided talk with Louie ("No one wants to be with you, Louie, stop lying!") amplifies, in a bizarre but somehow fitting way, Louie's discomfort with the sudden return of this single mom he was in love with two seasons ago, but he now finds to be obnoxious, immature and less attractive. C.K. also experiments with not using any SweetPro score music at all for one entire "Elevator" episode: "Part 4," which contrasts present-day Louie and Janet with young, childless Louie and Janet (played respectively by Conner O'Malley and Brooke Bloom, who, unlike Watson, isn't black, which is yet another odd and intentionally silly touch in which C.K. doesn't give two shits about continuity on his own show).

The arc also contains superb musical moments that don't involve SweetPro, particularly my favorite scene of the entire arc: the "Elevator (Part 3)" violin duet. In the hallway of their apartment building, Amia and Jane communicate through music and demonstrate how much better they are at communication than Louie is with, well, practically everybody (I especially like the genuinely nervous expression on the face of Parker, who actually started playing the violin when she was only three, while she's dueting with Balint).



What separates C.K. from Woody Allen, a filmmaking idol and influence of his who recently cast C.K. in Blue Jasmine, is that unlike Allen, who would often give the best lines to himself whenever he starred in his own movies, C.K. is devoid of such movie/TV star vanity. He makes the off-stage self of his on-screen alter ego frequently inarticulate and not very verbose. The violin duet doesn't feature C.K. reacting to the amazingness of the duet with a crowd-pleasing one-liner or two. That's how Allen, particularly Annie Hall-era Allen, would do it. C.K. just lets the duet breathe. Or as we hip-hop heads are fond of saying, he just lets the beat ride.

The duet is a rare moment of genuine beauty in the scruffiness and frequent ugliness that both define Louie. It's also one of many moments in the arc that have made Louie viewers like myself feel like Dr. Bigelow's three-legged dog: eager to see and hear what comes next.

Friday, May 23, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Bob's Burgers, "World Wharf II: The Wharfening (or How Bob Saves/Destroys the Town, Part II)," and The Boondocks, "Freedom Ride or Die" (tie)

Louise teaches Teddy how to read.
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

So special guest star Kevin Kline's ad-libbed attempt at beatboxing while voicing Mr. Fischoeder, the eccentric owner of both the Wonder Wharf and the Belchers' apartment building, didn't quite make the final cut of "World Wharf II: The Wharfening" like I had expected. But plenty of hilarious bits of business made it into the conclusion of Bob's Burgers' two-part fourth-season finale. My favorite running joke in "World Wharf II" has characters being able to find time, even when Bob's life is in danger, to make the usual potshots at either Bob's age ("It's not your time, Dad! I want to put you in a nursing home next year!") or his hirsute, sad-looking body ("Your butt... Up here, you're okay, but down here, it gets bad.").

Throughout "World Wharf II," which marks the first time the show has ever placed Bob in such peril (the camping episode doesn't count), I was reminded of how often Diff'rent Strokes and its mid-to-late-'70s misery-porn precursor Good Times would subject their characters to cliffhanger situations that were as perilous as Bob and Mr. Fischoeder getting kidnapped and tied to the pier together by Mr. Fischoeder's greedy brother, but were much more depressing. Kidnapping was a favorite dramatic device of the Diff'rent Strokes writing staff (Arnold and Kimberly were kidnapped by a rapist who attempted to sexually assault Kimberly, and Sam was later abducted by an insane dad who wanted Sam to replace his dead son), while on a very special, chroma-key-heavy two-parter of Good Times, a deaf kid almost fell into an elevator shaft because he couldn't hear the Evanses' warnings about the shaft and was too busy trying to entertain them with an impression of the crappy chroma-key flying FX from The Bugaloos.

Bob's Burgers is so much better than those older shows and their misguided and wildly inappropriate (especially when they're accompanied by studio audience laughter) attempts to raise the stakes and be taken seriously by the press (I'd like to know what sort of drugs were involved in the decision to place Kimberly in danger of being raped as if she were Edith Bunker, during a family sitcom that's meant for little kids). If there's anything that's serious about last week's "Wharf Horse" and "World Wharf II," it's the issue of gentrification (Felix's scheme to get his brother to sell the wharf is a comedic take on a not-so-funny real-life matter), but Bob's Burgers never feels the need to preach about the evilness of gentrification or go down a completely somber path regarding the issue. It's sort of the same approach King of the Hill brought to gentrification in my favorite late-period King of the Hill episode, "Lady and Gentrification" (an episode that gets extra points for giving guest star Danny Trejo the following line to say: "They put salmon in the fish tacos, Hank! Look at it! It's salmon! They're ruining everything!").

Even when Linda panics after realizing Bob's been kidnapped or when Teddy starts weeping over Bob's disappearance, the writers keep things light, hence the characters' comments about Bob's weird body. It helps that those writers are the sister duo of Lizzie and Wendy Molyneux, my favorite writing pair on Bob's Burgers (they were behind series highlights like "Art Crawl" and last year's "Boyz 4 Now," as well as a bunch of jokes in episodes they didn't receive on-screen credit for, like Gene's line about Linda's apron in "Lindapendent Woman"). I feel like the Molyneuxs remembered what those lurid Very Special Episodes of Diff'rent Strokes were like and thought, "Those shows were awful. Let's not be like those shows during this two-parter."

The Molyneuxs' skills with funny rat-a-tat-tat dialogue make "World Wharf II" such an enjoyable mock-dramatic experience (while "Wharf Horse" is credited to Nora Smith, who wrote "Mother Daughter Laser Razor"). "World Wharf II" is also noteworthy for being the first time the Belchers say "I love you" to each other. Of course, when Bob's Burgers finally gets them to say "I love you" after Bob's rescued, the Molyneuxs and the other writers undercut the potentially sappy moment with offbeat touches like abrasive Louise's slightly standoffish version of "I love you" ("I love you all. But that's just between us.") and the Belchers saying "I love you" so repeatedly that Mr. Fischoeder groans in disgust, a noise that Kevin Kline must have also made while skimming through the script of Life as a House. They're great examples of how Bob's Burgers gets the characters to express their affection for each other without becoming too goopy. There's only one thing that's corny about Bob's Burgers, and it's all those genuinely funny puns.

Other memorable quotes:
* Tina: "I have a great new nail polish I've been dying to try. It's called Clear." Gene: "Sure, if you want to look like a prostitute."

* "Quit squirming around, Bob. Do you have worms? 'Cause I do, and you're making them crazy."

Here we see Donald Sterling taking his mistress out for a racist night out at the wharf.
* Fanny (Jordan Peele): "Hey, what are you looking at? My boobs are up here."

* I like how John Roberts, as Linda, can be heard breaking character and chuckling when Tina's able to identify Mr. Fischoeder's butt in the picture Bob sent to Linda: "How do you know what Mr. Fischoeder's butt looks like?" "I have photographic butt memory."

* Linda attempts to decipher Bob's garbled cry for help in his text: "Could it be... 'I tried blow'? We were gonna do that together. Just once."

* "You have to pull yourself together! You have two children and a Louise to take care of!"

* Teddy suspects a waiter (Paul F. Tompkins) of kidnapping Bob and proceeds to channel Mel Gibson in Ransom: "Let me at him! Give me back my son!"

Like all other viewers of Game of Thrones, Bob and Mr. Fischoeder experience excruciating pain while having to remember all those boring scenes of Ramsey torturing Theon.
* "And now I'll never know who wins Game of Thrones/Oh, things are bad!"

* "No, no, we need your dad. You kids are a two-adult, two-bottle-of-wine-a-night job."

* Fanny: "Shut up! I can't think!" Mr. Fischoeder: "What else is new?"

* "You saved us, Linda. Thank God we live in a time where women can learn to swim."

***

An equally irreverent approach to a serious issue also distinguishes The Boondocks' latest episode, "Freedom Ride or Die," which flashes back to 1961, when a young Robert Freeman became part of the Freedom Riders movement--against his will, of course (this time, young Robert's voiced by a digitally sped-up John Witherspoon, instead of now-absent ex-showrunner Aaron McGruder, who previously voiced young Robert during a non-canonical flashback to Rosa Parks overshadowing Robert's attempt to make civil rights history in 1955 Montgomery in "The Return of the King"). While trying to hide out after getting caught starting a different kind of movement inside a whites-only bathroom in a segregated bus station ("It was a dump for freedom. A stinky load for the dignity of the black man."), Robert accidentally hops onto a Freedom Rider bus headed for Birmingham and immediately wants to get off because of all the violence down there. Rev. Sturdy Harris (special guest star Dennis Haysbert), the leader of the protesters, believes that Robert, who's uninterested in getting himself killed and finds Sturdy's non-violent form of activism to be completely insane, is born to be a Freedom Rider and continually prevents him from jumping off the bus.

Robert answers the call of dookie.
No Boondocks episode involving historical figures from the civil rights movement could ever top the quality of the Rev. Al Sharpton-angering "Return of the King," especially when McGruder's no longer involved. "Freedom Ride or Die" doesn't even try to revisit the highs of "The Return of the King" or outdo them. But thanks to the solid satirical writing of Boondocks veteran Rodney Barnes, as well as the fact that it's not burdened with the fourth season's inane "Granddad in debt" arc, "Freedom Ride or Die" is easily the funniest episode of this underwhelming McGruder-less season (however, there was no need for present-day Uncle Ruckus to explain the Speed reference; that just killed all the funny out of the bomb-on-the-bus gag).

"Freedom Ride or Die" even contains the reliable laugh-getter of Robert taking out his belt (the same belt he'll later use to frequently punish Riley with), a sign that this Boondocks episode's a solid one. The sight of Robert attacking racist rioters with his belt makes me wonder why neither Wesley Snipes nor Michael Jai White have ever made a martial arts flick set during the civil rights movement. Who gives a shit what Sharpton would say? A '60s black activist martial arts flick would be brilliant.

Other memorable quotes:
* "Take that, you cracker-ass cracker! That's why I shit in your bathroom and used up all your special white people quilted toilet paper!"

* "I noticed she was reading Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, a book I had meant to read many times."

* Young Robert to Sturdy: "You want to know how to end Jim Crow? Get out of the fuckin' South!"

Monday, May 19, 2014

"I'm making a motion picture, not a jukebox": Excerpts from the five best recent articles involving film music

Reese Witherspoon's face after seeing the opening weekend grosses for This Means War
The following recent articles related to film music are must-reads.

"Pick Flick: An Oral History of Election, 15 Years Later" by Matthew Jacobs (May 7, 2014)

"[Alexander] Payne and [writing partner Jim] Taylor manage to fully develop their characters without sacrificing the cynicism and venom of their satire," I wrote back when Payne's 1999 cult classic Election was first released (Wayback Machine, I'm not going to like it, but take my ass back to an age of ugly HTML design!). Payne recalls battling with MTV Films to keep some of Rolfe Kent's original score from being ousted from Election, as part of a fascinating HuffPo oral history about the making of the Matthew Broderick/Reese Witherspoon political satire, still one of my favorite movies from the legendary movie year of 1999.

"I wanted some degree of Morricone in that score, and indeed we used some actual Morricone. Tracy's mental scream is stolen from a spaghetti Western. Even Quentin Tarantino told me later, 'Oh, I always wanted to use actual spaghetti-Western music.' You hear stolen spaghetti-Western music earlier than you do in any Tarantino film. I got there first. But it was a bit of a difficult situation with the record company that gave us a bunch of the rock songs that are in the film. Between MTV and the record label, they wanted a lot more. I remember the fight I had to go through to have the opening credits have score, not a rock song. It was de rigueur for movies to have some kind of rock song in the opening credits and end credits. I had to tell them I'm making a motion picture, not a jukebox."


***

It's basically the Species movies, but artsier and with lots of ugly-looking dongs!
"How indie musicians are reinventing film music" by David Ehrlich (May 12, 2014)

Over at The Dissolve, David Ehrlich deftly examines the growing wave of indie musicians bringing their talents to film scoring, and how it's resulted in either remarkable, experimental-sounding work (Daniel Hart's Ain't Them Bodies Saints score and Mica Levi's truly alien-sounding Under the Skin score) or unhappy work experiences like the Oblivion score, a collabo between Tron: Uprising composer Joseph Trapanese and a reportedly dissatisfied Anthony Gonzalez of M83. But I don't think the Oblivion score sounds as terrible as Ehrlich makes it out to be. Selections from the Oblivion score can be heard on "AFOS Prime" and "Hall H" on AFOS.

"Movies are challenging musicians to rethink how they write their music, and musicians are challenging movies to rethink how they use it. Now that projectors in most theaters hum with a quiet digital buzz rather than the stampeding clatter of celluloid, it sounds as if scores have finally begun to embrace a new purpose."



***

"Richard Ayoade's The Double, Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Movie Music That Cranks Up the Crazy" by Matt Patches (May 2, 2014)

Another smartly written piece of film writing praises recent cutting-edge score music, but this time, the article emanates from an unlikely source: the sexy sex advice site Nerve.com. Matt Patches explains at length why composer Andrew Hewitt's score for The Double, actor Richard Ayoade's latest directorial effort, excels at taking risks musically. Then Patches briefly points out why a similarly risky approach that Hans Zimmer and "the Magnificent Six" (a collective that included Pharrell Williams and Johnny Marr) brought to the Amazing Spider-Man 2 score doesn't succeed as effectively as Hewitt's effort does.

The risky element of the ASM2 score I'm referring to isn't the Kendrick Lamar guest verse at the start of "It's On Again," the sequel's Zimmer/Pharrell/Alicia Keys end title theme, a Kendrick guest feature I like, of course, because I'm a Kendrick fan. I'm referring to the love-it-or-hate-it, kind of dumb-sounding Electro chanting ("He lied to me/He shot at me"). But Patches gives the Magnificent Six some credit for trying something different.

"Zimmer's attempts to enliven the background with vocalization ultimately fails. Movies need more of failures like that. Spastic horror movies with hyper-editing and lighting of every color prove audiences can stomach directors maximizing each element of filmmaking. So why not music? The 21st century deserves cinematic tunes worth obsessing over (and if they're turned into disco tracks, so be it)."


***

"10 Things I Learned: Thief" by Curtis Tsui (January 14, 2014)

Ever wondered why at the end of Michael Mann's Thief, one-man killing machine James Caan mows down a bunch of mobsters to the tune of a ripoff of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb"? Mann wanted to use "Comfortably Numb" but was unable to clear it, so he asked composer Craig Safan, who later became best known for writing the Last Starfighter score and all the incidental music on Cheers, to write and record a "Comfortably Numb" soundalike (it's called "Confrontation" on Tangerine Dream's Thief soundtrack album). The shootout music tidbit is one of 10 pieces of trivia about the making of the classic 1981 crime flick that Criterion Collection disc producer Curtis Tsui posted in a slideshow article to promote Criterion's recent Blu-ray release of Thief.

I hate slideshow articles, but I dig Thief so much that the slideshow format didn't bother me this time.

"As iconic as Tangerine Dream's electronic score has become, Mann himself still sometimes wonders whether it was the right choice for the film. He appreciates the abstraction of the music from a formal perspective, but his more intuitive inclination was toward the blues."



***

"John Powell on Five of His Notable Scores" by Steve Chagollan / "Billion Dollar Composer: John Powell Ranges from Action to Animation" by Jon Burlingame / "John Powell Plans Sabbatical from Movie Music" by Burlingame (April 23, 2014)

John Powell, who wrote perhaps his best score for How to Train Your Dragon (which can be heard on AFOS) and recently returned to DreamWorks Animation's popular franchise to score the upcoming How to Train Your Dragon 2, was the recent subject of a huge Variety profile. He recalled to the magazine why the score to John Woo's still-entertaining Face/Off, his first major credit, was both a good experience for him as a then-newcomer to Hollywood and one of his five favorite film music projects.

"The premiere was at the Mann Chinese; Hans (Zimmer) got me a limo. There was a big crowd, and as I got out of the limo, there was this sigh of disappointment when they realized that it wasn't John Travolta. I recommend this to all Hollywood composers. Within a small group of people, we may be well known, but it's not why people go to the movies."











Friday, May 16, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Bob's Burgers, "Wharf Horse (or How Bob Saves/Destroys the Town, Part I)"

All that's missing from this title sequence is Tina doing gymnastics atop the carousel horse she's trying to save from being demolished.
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

"Wharf Horse," the first half of Bob's Burgers' fourth-season finale (and the show's first-ever two-parter), would have been perfect as a feature-length Bob's Burgers film a la The Simpsons Movie. In fact, the episode plays a lot like Bob's Burgers: The Movie. "Wharf Horse" skips the show's usual opening titles, which is what most blockbuster movies do these days to keep ADHD-addled moviegoers from bailing during the first few minutes. The episode's big musical number is even more ambitious than the song Gene wrote for Louise's science fair project in "Topsy," a highlight of Bob's Burgers' third season. The climactic rollercoaster scene is full of beauty shots of the beach town that prove how much the show's animation quality has grown since the now-primitive-looking first season (rewatch "Art Crawl," the show's first great episode, to see how much the animation has improved since those early episodes). Last but not least, Linda gets to sing an enjoyable 007-style end credits song about Bob, Felix Fischoeder (Zach Galifianakis), the shady developer brother of landlord Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline), and Felix's plot to tear down the town's beloved Wonder Wharf (complete with minimalist graphics that are reminiscent of Maurice Binder's 007 opening title sequences).

Felix hands Bob the opportunity to open up a new burger joint next to a bunch of condos he plans to replace Wonder Wharf with, and Bob takes it. But by the end of "Wharf Horse," Bob listens to his kids' concerns about the fate of the wharf, realizes that he'd rather sacrifice the chance to be more successful than assist in the wharf's destruction and changes his mind. Felix isn't pleased, and he pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot Bob and Calvin in the episode's faux-soapy cliffhanger.

If there's any storyline that suits the scope of a Bob's Burgers film, it's Bob's dreams of making his family's modest burger joint more popular, a recurring thread that, outside of the Super Bowl commercial shoot episode, has become less of a thing this season, so that's mainly why this current season of Bob's Burgers hasn't been as interesting to me as the previous two. The small business aspect of Bob's Burgers was what first drew me to the show (other than the involvement of Dr. Katz and Home Movies veterans Loren Bouchard and H. Jon Benjamin), which is why I'm glad to see the season finale going back to that core of the show and building some light drama out of the future of the restaurant.

Bob's business isn't some one-episode venture like Hayley selling fake IDs on American Dad or Homer growing and selling "tomacco." The restaurant is central to the show's premise of a chef who, like the Tony Shalhoub Big Night character who inspired much of the show, considers himself an artist and is always grasping for greater success but is doomed to never reach it. That's why the show's opening titles, which I sort of hated seeing being cut out of "Wharf Horse," are so great: they amusingly elucidate the business anxieties of Bob and other small businessmen like him in the age of economic downturn. Bob's relatable struggles to keep his business afloat, whether they're when he's competing with Jimmy Pesto from across the street or when he's dealing with Felix in "Wharf Horse," have helped distinguish Bob's Burgers from the increasingly formulaic dumb-dad hijinks of the other Fox "Animation Domination" shows. Plus what other animated Fox show contains the beatbox stylings of Kevin Kline, the moment I'm looking forward to the most in next week's conclusion, "World Wharf II: The Wharfening"?

Mr. Fischoeder and Bob try to entertain the two or three musical theater geeks in the audience who still watch Glee.


Stray observations/memorable quotes:
* The synopsis for "World Wharf II" hints that Linda and the kids will come to the rescue of Bob, Calvin and the wharf itself in some sort of suitably cinematic fashion. Hopefully, we'll also get some more of the hilarious Jordan Peele as Fanny, Felix's vapid trophy girlfriend and Linda's new shopping buddy, even though Peele's basically reprising his Meegan voice from Key & Peele.





* "Does putting a Band-Aid on a fart make it go away?" "That doesn't make sense." "Yes, it does."

* "A lot of memories on that wharf. I told Bobby I was pregnant with Louise on the Ferris wheel. He just kept screaming." "I did."

* "You can tell your developers that I'll sell." "Yah mo B there!"

* "I'm gonna die and I never got to see Hall & Oates live!"

* "Look, Mr. Fischoeder, I thought I wanted nice things, but I don't even like nice things. I mean, look at this shirt. This is my favorite shirt." "Ooh. That is so sad."

* Mr. Fischoeder, after riding his first rollercoaster in ages and being reminded of the appeal of rollercoasters: "Papa always said people like things that go up and down and side to side and jiggle all their stuff around. And Mother sewed that on a pillow."

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: The Boondocks, "Breaking Granddad"

The biggest difference between Bryan Cranston and John Witherspoon is that Witherspoon would never have trouble saying 'badonkadonk.'
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

You can tell it's been a mediocre week for animated TV shows when the strongest piece of animated TV is an episode of The Boondocks' fourth and final season, the only season that was completed without Aaron McGruder's involvement. For those who forgot that The Boondocks is still on the air, McGruder exited his own creation under circumstances that still remain mysterious, even after he posted on his Facebook account in March an unusually benign message of thanks to Sony Pictures Television and Adult Swim for the show's first three seasons. A writer from The Root compared hearing the news of McGruder's departure to "buying tickets to a Public Enemy show only to find out that Chuck D is no longer with the group." Sony claims McGruder exited because he and the studio couldn't come to an agreement over the fourth season's production schedule.

Getting the full story behind the tight-lipped McGruder's departure is about as likely as Dr. Dre dropping Detox. I bet we won't know the full story, perhaps due to legal reasons, until a few years from now (which would be much longer than the amount of time it took for Dave Chappelle to address his fans after he quit Chappelle's Show because he was dissatisfied with sketches that he felt were making white people laugh for the wrong reasons, the same issue that's currently fueling the debate over whether or not Leslie Jones' controversial SNL monologue about slavery is "coonery").

For now, what McGruder's departure has left us with are episodes that mysteriously don't contain any writing credits (the "Created by Aaron McGruder" credit has also been erased from the opening titles, just like when Matt Groening took his name off a Simpsons/Critic crossover episode he despised) and have so far been mostly limp rehashes of earlier Boondocks episodes, with very little of the effective social commentary that distinguished past McGruder-scripted gems like the Peabody-winning "Return of the King." The Boondocks is the latest show that's stumbled creatively after the creator who was so essential to crafting most of the show's greatest hits went ahead and bounced (exhibit A: the departures of Gene L. Coon and Gene Roddenberry from the original Star Trek; exhibit B: Dan Harmon's Sony-related absence during what's come to be known as the "gas leak year" of Community).

Tom looks like Tim Meadows as Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner.
Though "Breaking Granddad" is another example of how much the gas leak year of The Boondocks pales in comparison to the seasons when McGruder was involved and was proud to leave his name on the product (the episode is another one this season that doesn't contain a writing credit), it's easily the funniest of the three fourth-season episodes that have aired so far. That's not due to the Breaking Bad gags, which mostly fall flat and are riffs on just the events in the Breaking Bad pilot episode and no other episode in Breaking Bad's history (spoofs of network or cable dramas have never been The Boondocks' strong suit; the third-season finale, which aired 120 years ago, was an underwhelming 24 spoof that showed signs that maybe it wasn't a good idea for McGruder to agree to a fourth season). What redeems "Breaking Granddad" is all the genuinely funny satirical material about hair-care products for black people, a subject that's never really been satirized on an animated show before (the plot has the Freemans inventing and selling a gel that both relaxes and lengthens hair). Even though "Breaking Granddad" is watered-down Boondocks, it's still more daring than late-period Simpsons, even when the latter experiments with CG animation for one episode (which it did this week with the okay-but-still-not-up-to-classic-Simpsons-level "Brick Like Me," a story set mostly in a Lego world fantasized by Homer).

This whole fourth-season arc, in which Robert Freeman (John Witherspoon) winds up so broke that, like pre-cancer-diagnosis Walter White, he's taken a job at a car wash owned by Uncle Ruckus (Gary Anthony Williams), is straight-up character assassination. Sure, Robert's always been a loser, but he's never been as dumb as Riley (Regina King). It's hard to buy that Robert would be so clueless that he'd lose ownership of his house and be forced to sell both himself and his grandsons into slavery. I'm getting the feeling that McGruder left because the storyline wasn't his idea and even he thinks it's inane.

Or maybe it was McGruder's idea and he felt burnt out from both the show and dealing with Sony (he's since moved on to creating a live-action Adult Swim show called Black Jesus), and leaving The Boondocks was the only thing that would make him happy. McGruder has a history of sometimes appearing to be bored with his own creation, especially back when it was a comic strip. Too many of the strip's post-9/11 weekday installments were lazily drawn rehashes of the same scenario--Huey sits and watches some idiotic soundbite on TV--and towards the end of the strip's run, McGruder stopped drawing it and left the illustrating duties to an uncredited artist.

Fortunately, "Breaking Granddad" doesn't rehash material like how the strip would recycle that same damn pose of Huey parked in front of the TV or how the season premiere (with special guest star Michael B. Jordan as a Chris Brown-esque celebrity) laughlessly recycled the much more hilarious "Tom, Sarah and Usher." This week's episode is the first (and judging from King's comments to the press about behind-the-scenes infighting over the direction of her show's writing, most likely to be the only) time I've ever felt like The Boondocks' fourth season wasn't a complete mistake.

Memorable quotes:
* "Well, you see, I'm a little short on cash. [Sound FX of the woman on the other end of the phone line hanging up.]"

* "Oh, thank you, Jesus! Always knew if I pretended to believe in you, it would pay off someday!"

* Boss Willona (special guest star Jenifer Lewis): "Don't you get it? These bitches would put napalm on their hair if it would make it straight. Put a warning label on it!"

* "The ironically named hair gel is the hottest-selling on the market, but experts claim a single jar contains enough high explosives to destroy a small plane or a Prius."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Benji B's "Movie Soundtrack Special" is from last year, but where else can you hear Jon Brion and RZA in the same hour (other than AFOS, of course)?

I never liked how my college radio station studios looked less like the Starship Enterprise, which is how the best and most professional radio station facilities frequently look, and more like an unclean, antiquated pig sty that reeked of Phish fan body odor.
One of my favorite hour-long mixes last year made me take notice of BBC Radio 1's Benji B, who, in January 2013, spun tracks by the likes of Flying Lotus, Kanye West and Raphael Saadiq while a 16-piece string ensemble led by conductor Grant Windsor played along. FlyLo's "Do the Astral Plane" and Drake's "Headlines" sound incredible with a full string section. I still can't get enough of the Benji B string ensemble mix.


Plus there are some really lovely-looking female violinists in the ensemble.

Jan-Michael Vincent's cello playing on Airwolf was so random and fucking weird, but I'm glad that character was into that and not karaoke like the annoying, always-singing cast of Ally McBeal.

Jan-Michael Vincent's cello scenes on Airwolf were supposed to let the viewers know that he's a sensitive soldier, much like how Jack Bauer biting into someone else's neck and ripping out his throat with his teeth denotes that he's a sensitive neck-biter.

Later in the year, Benji B put together a two-hour movie soundtrack special that I first stumbled into earlier this week. The show was part of Radio 1's July 2013 "Movie Week," which had Daniel Radcliffe dropping by the BBC for a live interview and film score music nut Edgar Wright doing a stint as a guest DJ. Benji B's mix combines classic original score cues like Jon Brion's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind themes with existing songs that were prominently featured in films, like Kanye and Rick Ross' "Devil in a New Dress," which turns up in Kanye's 2010 short film Runaway, and Ryuichi Sakamoto's 1995 instrumental "Bibo no Aozora," which was used in 2006's Babel.

I have a feeling that Jay Electronica heard Benji B play the Eternal Sunshine cues, which Jay sampled in 2007's Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), back-to-back with "Bibo no Aozora," and that must be where he got the idea to drop verses over "Bibo no Aozora" for his recent single "Better in Tune with the Infinite." But whatever the actual reasons were for him picking "Bibo no Aozora," Jay has great taste in soundtrack albums.

I like how Benji B opens with John Barry's lesser-known secondary theme for 007 instead of the much more famous "James Bond Theme," which an uncredited Barry rearranged from material composed by Monty Norman. I also like the inclusion of both Barry's Goldfinger score cue "Golden Girl," which beatheads are familiar with from the Sneaker Pimps' "6 Underground," and Herbie Hancock's Blow-Up tune "Bring Down the Birds," which beatheads are also familiar with because Deee-Lite looped it in "Groove Is in the Heart."

Many of the rest of the cuts in Benji B's mix are tracks that can be currently heard on AFOS or were formerly in rotation on AFOS, like the instrumental "Polaroid Girl," from Massive Attack's original score to the 2005 Jet Li/Morgan Freeman/Bob Hoskins flick Unleashed (better known as Danny the Dog outside America). The inclusion of "Polaroid Girl," one of my favorite Massive Attack joints, makes me want to retrieve my copy of the Danny the Dog soundtrack, which I stupidly misplaced, and go put "Polaroid Girl" back into AFOS rotation.

Bob Hoskins' hipster-ish appreciation for antiquated Polaroid photography will sure as fuck endear him to the douchenozzles in Williamsburg.
R.I.P. Bob Hoskins.
The mix also contains the 1976 Rocky instrumental "Reflections," Bill Conti's ripoff of "Summer Madness," the Kool & the Gang tune that Rocky director John G. Avildsen clearly temp-tracked for Rocky's first scene in his apartment. Benji B erroneously ID'd "Reflections" as a Rocky III instrumental, one of a few mistakes he made while backannouncing. He also ID'd and listed the Blow-Up track as "The Naked Camera" instead of "Bring Down the Birds" and mistook For a Few Dollars More's pocket watch theme for a theme from A Fistful of Dollars, the installment that preceded For a Few Dollars More in the Man with No Name trilogy. Despite his errors, Benji B's movie soundtrack special is a worthwhile film music mix that's on a par with Paul Nice's classic Do You Pick Your Feet in Poughkeepsie? mixtape, and I wish I had heard it sooner.


Those explosions are Angelenos' asses exploding from the food truck tacos they just ate.
Blade Runner
Correct tracklist
1. John Williams, Alfred Newman's 20th Century Fox studio logo music
2. John Barry, "007 Takes the Lektor" (from From Russia with Love)
3. David Shire, "End Title" (from The Taking of Pelham One Two Three)
4. Alain Goraguer, "Maquillage de Tiwa" (from La Planète Sauvage)
5. Bernard Herrmann, "Diary of a Taxi Driver" (from Taxi Driver)
6. Lalo Schifrin, "Scorpio's View" (from Dirty Harry)
7. John Barry, "Golden Girl" (from Goldfinger)
8. Roy Budd, "The Diamond Fortress" (from Diamonds)
9. Nino Nardini, "Tropicola" (needle-dropped in Black Dynamite)
10. Geinoh Yamashirogumi, "Kaneda" (from Akira)
11. Vangelis, "End Titles" (from Blade Runner)
12. Giorgio Moroder, "Chase" (from Midnight Express)
13. HAL 9000 soundbites from 2001: A Space Odyssey
14. Chromatics, "Tick of the Clock" (needle-dropped in Drive)
15. Angelo Badalamenti, "Laura Palmer's Theme (Instrumental)" (from Twin Peaks)
16. Massive Attack, "Polaroid Girl" (from Danny the Dog)
17. Forest Whitaker, "Samurai Quote 5" (from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai)
18. Cliff Martinez, "Don't Blow It" (from Solaris)
19. Barry Forgie, "Mindbender" (from the album Mindbender)
20. Bill Conti, "Reflections" (from Rocky)
21. Roy Ayers, "Coffy Is the Color" (from Coffy)
22. Herbie Hancock, "Bring Down the Birds" (from Blow-Up)
23. Grand Wizard Theodore, "Military Cut" (from Wild Style; opening soundbite only)
24. Curtis Mayfield, "Little Child Running Wild" (from Superfly)
25. Jon Brion, "Phone Call" (from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
26. Jon Brion, "Collecting Things" (from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
27. Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jaques Morelenbaum & Yuichiro Gotoh, "Bibo no Aozora" (needle-dropped in Babel)
28. Ry Cooder, "Paris, Texas" (from Paris, Texas)
29. Ennio Morricone, "Carillon" (from For a Few Dollars More)
30. The Complexions, "I Only Have Eyes for You" (from A Bronx Tale)/The Flamingos, "I Only Have Eyes for You" (needle-dropped in A Bronx Tale)
31. Kanye West feat. Rick Ross, "Devil in a New Dress" (needle-dropped in Runaway)
32. D'Angelo, "She's Always in My Hair" (needle-dropped in Scream 2)
33. RZA, "Samurai Showdown" (from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai)
34. Crooklyn Dodgers '95, "Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers" (from Clockers)
35. Dr. Dre, "Keep Their Heads Ringin'" (from Friday)
36. The Fearless Four, "Rockin' It" (needle-dropped in Style Wars)
37. Fab 5 Freddy, "Down by Law" (from Wild Style)
38. Public Enemy, "Fight the Power" (from Do the Right Thing)
39. Method Man & Redman, "Da Rockwilder" (needle-dropped in How High)

Forest Whitaker demonstrates his sandwich-slicing technique.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Friday, May 2, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Bob's Burgers, "The Kids Run Away"

Tina's elaborate plan involving hunky zombie basketball players doesn't seem to be helping alleviate Louise's toothache.
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

Bob's Burgers' latest episode, "The Kids Run Away," takes an old story that's been done before in similarly small-scale family sitcoms like The Cosby Show and Leave It to Beaver--a kid becomes afraid of dentists--and manages to outdo all those previous dentist's office episodes, thanks to Bob's Burgers' winning blend of warmth and Adult Swim-style weirdness. Instead of the comedic one-two punch of Peter, the Huxtables' silent kid neighbor, and special guest star Danny Kaye in an accent that's as zany as Bill Cosby's "obeekaybee" dental patient shtick, "The Kids Run Away" soars due to inventive writing by Rich Rinaldi (who transmogrifies an entertaining dentophobia story into an even more entertaining story about the craziness of fanny pack-wearing Aunt Gayle), as well as a return visit from Megan Mullally as Gayle, a nicely subdued additional guest shot by the usually not-so-subdued Ken Jeong as Dr. Yap and an incomprehensible homemade board game that somehow makes Cones of Dunshire look like Candy Land.

"We've been playing this game for six hours, and no one has even made it past the Cliffs of Huxtable!," groans Louise during Gayle Force Winds, Gayle's homemade board game, while hiding out in her aunt's apartment to avoid being taken by Bob to another appointment to Dr. Yap's office. The Huxtable reference is, besides Louise's fear of the dentist, a sign that "The Kids Run Away" is an homage to The Cosby Show, particularly its characters' love of dressing up or playing pretend (whether those characters were the Huxtables or friends of the family like the Danny Kaye dentist character). It's the one major trait that the Belchers and their friends inherited from The Cosby Show.

Bob's dramatic acting achieves Shatnerian levels of hamminess.
The comedic centerpiece of "The Kids Run Away," in which the Belchers, Gayle, Teddy and Dr. Yap role-play as characters in an imaginary spy thriller in order to help Louise overcome her dentophobia, takes a page from one of The Cosby Show's funniest episodes, "Theo's Holiday." If you haven't watched "Theo's Holiday" in ages (it's currently available on Hulu in the form of a badly truncated syndicated edit, but none of the episode's best gags were sliced out), it had Cliff, Clair and their daughters pretending to be apartment landlords, bankers, businesswomen and modeling agency employees, as part of Cliff's elaborate lesson to teach aspiring male model Theo about how money works in the real world.

But in "The Kids Run Away," the game of make-believe to ease Louise's fear and get her toothache treated isn't Bob's idea. Instead, it's Gayle's idea, and I like how the climax of "The Kids Run Away" gives the crazy cat lady, whose attempts at art, poetry and board game creation tend to puzzle and confuse her sister Linda's husband and kids, a chance to shine and prove how great an aunt she can be. The combination of invisible-gun-toting absurdity and low-key sweetness elevates "The Kids Run Away" from obeekaybee to excebeellentbee.

Stray observations/other memorable quotes:
* The animation for Gayle's self-absorbed cats is brilliant, as is the little background touch of Gayle's computer looking like she first bought it back when CompuServe was still a thing.

The last time I saw a computer like that was when Sharon Stone fucked the AOL mascot in bed.

* Tina, trying again to flirt with an uninterested Dr. Yap: "You know, we don't always have to make this about business. I'm more than just a mouthful of perfect teeth."

* "I was only seven when I packed this go bag. I guess I was just a kid back then."

* "Wagstaff was my platoon in 'Nam. Oh, man, they said there'd be people like you when I came back. Serving my country, protecting your ass."

* "Louise, what a surprise! I'm so glad it's you and not a murderer."

* "Hello?" "Gayle, it's Linda." "Hey, Lin, it's me, Gayle!"

* "Oh, good thinking, Lin. You're the smart one, I'm the hot one." "No."

* "Happy Things We Should Send Into Space: A jar of mayo, magazine clippings of Scott Baio..."

* "Hmm. Hey, Aunt Gayle, I wish there was a board game that we could play that stimulates the imagination but that was too good for the major board game companies to even touch." "*GASP* I made a board game that stimulates the imagination but that was too good for the major board game companies to even touch!"

Nielsen releases an infographic that lists how much of your life you've wasted watching Sheriff Rick brood in a spotty Southern accent

The Rickster
Nielsen is an evil company. Because broadcast networks still rely on Nielsen's horribly outdated ratings diary system for deciding which shows to cancel instead of measuring a show's popularity on streaming video services (which are where viewers like me prefer to access shows these days), a lot of shows I like that were more popular with viewers at streaming video services than with Nielsen families have been cancelled.

I'm still not over ABC's cancellation of the hilarious but low-rated Happy Endings (which starred Damon Wayans Jr., who might end up edging out Elisha Cuthbert as the most well-known name from that show if his upcoming--and promising-looking--hard-R comedy Let's Be Cops becomes a hit). I resent Nielsen so much for its role in the cancellation of so many great shows that when I attended V3con in L.A. last year and was handed a goodie bag containing a free T-shirt from one of V3con's 2013 sponsors, which happened to be Nielsen, I felt like tossing the Nielsen tee into the garbage. It's currently lying in a pile of clothes I've set aside for Goodwill.

But they're sisters, identical sisters all the way!
Orphan Black
Occasionally, Nielsen does something that's actually beneficial to the public, like posting an infographic that displays how much time viewers would spend watching the entire runs of shows like The Walking Dead, 24 and "¡Escandalo!" (Sherlock takes up the least amount of time, of course, because it produces only three 90-minute episodes per season or series). It's an interesting chart--although I wish it would include Orphan Black, the most recent show I Netflixed from start to finish--and it's quite useful for someone like me who hasn't watched a single episode of House of Cards and wants to know how much time it would take to stream both seasons of House of Cards on Netflix.

But I still dislike Nielsen. For example, in the infographic, they use the term "binge-watch" to try to be hip. I hate that term. Along with terms like "shippers," "squee," "bromance," "amazeballs," "the feels" and "reverse racism," "binge-watching" should be taken out back and shot and then buried in a ditch. "Binge-watching" makes watching TV sound like an eating disorder. I prefer the term "marathoning" because it sounds more proactive, and it makes you feel like you've accomplished something special, like sitting through three days and two hours of Ted Mosby's obnoxiousness without strangling somebody.

6 days and 2 hours of the show 24 = 6 days and 2 hours of Dick Cheney having an orgasm, the most disgusting image I've ever slipped into these alt attributes.
Who are these nutcases who like to "binge-watch" things? Ingesting an entire season in one sitting is crazy. Even after two episodes, I start to get antsy. Three is my limit for a marathon, whether those three episodes are from a half-hour comedy or an hour-long drama. To get caught up on Orphan Black in time for its season premiere, I marathoned its first season on a disc-by-disc basis over the course of one week, and I found the three-or-four-eps-per-disc marathoning pattern to be perfect and not-so-exhausting.

Next, I'd like Nielsen to post an infographic on marathoning really old ABC sitcoms like Family Matters and Mr. Belvedere, an atrocious show that comedian Ken Reid reveals himself to be an expert on--I never knew about the Belvedere writing staff's bizarre fixation on rape--during Hari Kondabolu's entertaining guest shot on Reid's podcast TV Guidance Counselor. Would sitting through Belvedere's overly preachy Very Special Episodes about date rape or AIDS be a two-day ordeal or a three-day ordeal? (And who knew that one of the most progressive stand-ups of color around is also a Perfect Strangers/Family Matters nerd? There are side characters from Family Matters whom Kondabolu brings up that I never knew existed. I didn't realize that there are layers to the Urkelverse that rival the layers of the Tommy Westphall Universe.)


I'd also like to see an infographic that looks at when viewers start to lose their patience while marathoning the one-hour Republican Party commercial for the torture of suspected criminals that was 24. I've been wondering if more viewers start yawning when the cougar shows up or when the show runs out of people for Jack to torture and decides that "Hey, let's have him torture his own younger brother! That should be amazeballs!"

Original score cues from Arrested Development, Game of Thrones, 30 Rock, Battlestar Galactica and The Wire, which are among the shows listed in the Nielsen infographic, can be heard during "AFOS Prime" on AFOS. Two of those cues are "Balls in the Air," an original David Schwartz/Gabriel Mann song from Arrested Development, and "The Fall," Blake Leyh's end title theme from The Wire.