Sunday, November 29, 2009

AFOS: "Collabs" playlist

Tim Burton and Danny Elfman
Airing this Wednesday at 10am and 3pm on A Fistful of Soundtracks is the Fistful of Soundtracks: The Series episode "Collabs" (WEB43) from June 28-July 4, 2004.

The instrumental bed that plays during WEB43's opening segment is "Bolero" by Jazzelicious, from the Masterworks Reworked CD. I first heard the Jazzelicious cover of Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" during an episode of Nip/Tuck--back when the show was actually watchable--and I dug it so much I wanted to use it as a bed. The Jazzelicious track can also be heard during "The F Zone" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on AFOS.

You're about to get sleepy... and dizzy... and pukey.
1. The Paramount Studio Orchestra, "Prelude and Rooftop," Vertigo, Varèse Sarabande
2. Nino Rota, "La Dolce Vita," Fellini & Rota: I Film, Le Musiche--Movies & Music, CAM
3. Ennio Morricone with Franco De Gemini and "The Modern Singers" of Alessandroni, "Man with a Harmonica," Once Upon a Time in the West, RCA
4. Henry Mancini, "Main Title from The Pink Panther Strikes Again," The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Rykodisc
5. Jerry Goldsmith, "Car Trouble," Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Varèse Sarabande
6. Carter Burwell, "Way Out There" (from Raising Arizona), Varèse Sarabande: A 25th Anniversary Celebration, Varèse Sarabande
7. Joe Hisaishi, "The Legend of Ashitaka," Princess Mononoke, Milan
8. Danny Elfman, "The Growing Montage," Big Fish, Sony Classical/Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax
9. Danny Elfman, "Main Titles" (from Beetlejuice), Music for a Darkened Theatre: Film & Television Music--Volume One, MCA
10. Angelo Badalamenti, "Twin Peaks Theme (Instrumental)," Twin Peaks, Warner Bros.
11. Howard Shore, "Finale" (from The Fly), Varèse Sarabande: A 25th Anniversary Celebration, Varèse Sarabande
12. Terence Blanchard, "Fruit of Islam," Malcolm X: Original Motion Picture Score, 40 Acres and a Mule Musicworks/Columbia
13. Cliff Martinez, "Mr. and Mrs. Cliff," King of the Hill, Varèse Sarabande
14. John Williams, "End Titles," Raiders of the Lost Ark, DCC Compact Classics
15. City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, "End title," Henry V, EMI

The composer/director partnerships that were spotlighted in this ep are: Bernard Herrmann/Alfred Hitchcock; Nino Rota/Federico Fellini; Ennio Morricone/Sergio Leone; Henry Mancini/Blake Edwards; Jerry Goldsmith/Joe Dante; Carter Burwell/the Coen Brothers; Joe Hisaishi/Hayao Miyazaki; Danny Elfman/Tim Burton; Angelo Badalamenti/David Lynch; Howard Shore/David Cronenberg; Terence Blanchard/Spike Lee; Cliff Martinez/Steven Soderbergh; John Williams/Steven Spielberg; and Patrick Doyle/Kenneth Branagh.

Reruns of AFOS: The Series air Wednesdays at 10am and 3pm. To listen to the station during either of those time slots (or right now), press the play icon on the blue widget below the "About me" mini-bio on this blog.

The why of fly: Michael A. Gonzales' "Gangster Boogie" details the making of the Superfly soundtrack

If you still got 8-tracks lying around the house, you might be a Pinoy.
(Photo source: Michael A. Gonzales)
I got my first taste of the late Curtis Mayfield's Superfly soundtrack when I watched a tape of a faded-looking print of the 1972 blaxploitation flick in either 1996 or 1997. Three elements of the movie stood out for me: the late Ron O'Neal's Shakespearean performance as a coke dealer who wants to quit the game, Sheila Frazier's nice body during the bathtub love scene and Mayfield's exceptional original songs, which are more insightful than the screenplay itself (Elvis Mitchell noted that "Mayfield's score rebels against the movie's insidious mythologizing of Priest"). Any piece of music Mayfield wrote or produced for movies just plain sizzles, whether it's any of the tunes in Superfly, the Let's Do It Again theme he produced for the Staple Singers or the Claudine theme "On and On" by Gladys Knight & the Pips.

Superfly fan Michael A. Gonzales has written what has to be the definitive chronicle of the making of the Superfly soundtrack, "Gangster Boogie," the must-read cover story in the latest issue of Wax Poetics magazine (what an issue it is: Mayfield! David Holmes! Roc Raida! Do the Right Thing! Black Dynamite! Funkdafied '70s European library music!). The Superfly soundtrack's influence on R&B and hip-hop shows no signs of waning (I didn't notice "Little Child Runnin' Wild" was sampled in Kanye West's "Flashing Lights" until it was pointed out by

Freddie's dead. So are oversized headlight covers.

What makes Michael's piece stand out from other writings I've read about the 1972 soundtrack is that it doesn't neglect the importance of the sidemen and arrangers who helped Mayfield craft the soundtrack. Michael has said he wanted to avoid writing about Superfly through the lens of the auteur theory like other writings about classic albums he's read, hence the substantial interviews with Superfly guitarists Craig McMullen and Phil Upchurch and arranger Johnny Pate, who composed a terrific instrumental score for Shaft in Africa after Superfly.

"Gangster Boogie" also sheds light on the tensions between rock musicians and traditional film scorers that arise from projects like Superfly. I wasn't aware of Mayfield's lawsuit against his former friend Pate, who claimed he was solely responsible for writing Superfly's "Junkie Chase" and "Think" instrumental cues. It's one of many juicy tidbits in a fly article about the flyest of '70s movie soundtracks.

Friday, November 27, 2009

You're such a blockhead, Charlie Brown Christmas liner notes guy: Robert Wilonsky (from a 1998 AFOS interview) chats about the classic special's soundtrack

Hey ya, Charlie Brown!

My year-long postings of past or long-buried writing conclude with a partial transcript of a chat with Dallas Observer pop culture editor and HDNet Ultimate Trailer Show host Robert Wilonsky from a 1998 Christmas episode of the college radio incarnation of A Fistful of Soundtracks.

That year, Wilonsky wrote an Observer article that revealed some little-known background info about the Vince Guaraldi Trio's pitch-perfect music from the classic animated special 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 I called Wilonsky up and had him discuss on AFOS why he loves the Guaraldi tunes from the 1965 special, which airs on ABC on Tuesday, December 8 (President Obama's address about Afghanistan pre-empted ABC's originally scheduled December 1 airing).

Five years after our interview, Wilonsky recorded an NPR segment about Guaraldi's music and the special itself, which he described in his segment as "the perfect Christmas gift, a show that is part Bible lesson, part jazz solo, part psychotherapy."

Vince Guaraldi is kind of Duke Silver-ish in this photo.
Vince Guaraldi

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...

Film critic and large-headed bald man Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

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

RW: 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.

The Fistful of Soundtracks: The Series rerun schedule for the next five months

Meraviglioso sounds like the name of that skin disorder Michael Jackson suffered from.December 2: "Collabs" (WEB43) This episode of AFOS: The Series centers on classic composer/director partnerships (Bernard Herrmann/Alfred Hitchcock, Nino Rota/Federico Fellini, Danny Elfman/Tim Burton). From the week of June 28-July 4, 2004.

December 9: "Zero Churn" (WEB69) Selections from scores to movies that aired on L.A.'s legendary Z Channel, the subject of the 2004 documentary Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession. From the week of November 28-December 4, 2005.

December 16: "Four-Star Playlist" (WEB83) All the tracks during this ep were given four or more stars by Live365 listeners. From the week of January 1-7, 2007.

December 23: "Yule Log" (WEB71) Music from holiday-related movies and Christmas TV specials. From the week of December 19-25, 2005.

December 30: "Sleazy Listening Revisited" (WEB84) This ep rehashes all the tracks from the 2003 AFOS: The Series ep "Sleazy Listening" (WEB27), which focused on groovetastic scores composed for B-movies and sex comedies during the '60s and '70s. From the week of February 12-18, 2007.

January 6: "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster" (WEB85) Original themes from films and shows about gangsters (The Departed, Deadwood). From the week of February 19-25, 2007.

January 13: "We Want Sleazy" (WEB86) This sequel to the 2003 "Sleazy Listening" ep features selections from the scores to The Liquidator, The Hanged Man, Ocean's Twelve and "poliziotteschi" movies (High Crime, Violent Naples). From the week of February 19-25, 2007.

January 20: "Kids Come Running for the Rich Taste of Samples" (WEB87) Blaxploitation-era theme tunes that have been sampled by hip-hop artists (Shaft in Africa, Black Belt Jones). From the week of February 26-March 4, 2007.

January 27: "Bad Things Come in Threes (Alright, Maybe Not Always)" (WEB88) Selections from scores to movies that are threequels (Ocean's Thirteen, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). From the week of June 18-24, 2007.

February 3: "I'll Kill You and Recommend to God That He Put His Foot in Your Ass" (WEB89) A batch of score cues from obscure spaghetti westerns like Viva Django and Life Is Tough, Eh Providence? (The ep's title is a play on the title of the 1968 spaghetti western I'll Kill You and Recommend You to God, a.k.a. Dead for a Dollar). From the week of June 18-24, 2007.

February 10: "Around the World in 60 Minutes" (WEB90) Selections from scores to movies that were shot all over the globe (The Bourne Ultimatum, Dhoom 2). From the week of July 30-August 5, 2007.

February 17: "The Wonderful World of Covers" (WEB91) Film and TV theme covers from around the world, including a '60s instrumental rock-style take on the Get Carter theme from Finland and a funkdafied cover of Beyoncé's Austin Powers tune "Work It Out" from the U.K. From the week of July 30-August 5, 2007.

February 24: "Funk in the Trunk" (WEB92) Selections from funkdafied scores to movies like Superbad, Superfly and The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion. From the week of April 7-13, 2008.

March 3: "All This Has Happened Before" (WEB93) The most memorable season finale cues from Battlestar Galactica, as well as selections from scores to other remakes that outstripped their predecessors like Galactica did (Casino Royale, Buffy). From the week of April 14-20, 2008.

March 10: "Galloping Around the Cosmos" (WEB94) Music from the original series era of the '80s and '90s Star Trek feature films. From the week of April 21-27, 2008.

March 17: "Bottomless Party" (WEB95) Selections from scores that were written for comedies (Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, The Simpsons Movie, Stripes). From the week of April 21-27, 2008.

March 24: "The Inmates Are Taking Over the Asylum" (WEB96) Selections from scores to films that were distributed by United Artists (which celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2009). From the week of April 28-May 4, 2008.

March 31: "A Better Class of Criminal" (WEB97) Villain themes from the Batman feature films (five of the six animated Batman features are excluded because they weren't theatrical releases and the Joel Schumacher movies are excluded because they suck). From the week of October 6-12, 2008.

April 7: "Monsters Lead Such Interesting Lives" (WEB98) Selections from scores to monster movies, including cues from Byeong Woo Lee's score to The Host and the iTunes single release of Michael Giacchino's "Roar!," the closing credits theme from Cloverfield. From the week of October 13-19, 2008.

April 14: "Spirit of '99" (WEB99) The penultimate ep of AFOS: The Series consists of selections from scores to the most noteworthy and inventive films of the year 1999 (Election, Fight Club). From the week of December 15-21, 2008.

April 21: "Dance Into the Fire" (WEB100) The final ep of AFOS: The Series contains all 22 official 007 opening title themes in chronological order, from the Dr. No instrumental theme to Quantum of Solace's "Another Way to Die." From the week of December 29, 2008-January 4, 2009.

April 28: "Super Groover Mama Dalai Lama" (WEB09) The rerun cycle goes all the way back to "Super Groover," the earliest of the AFOS: The Series eps that doesn't make me cringe. WEB09 features 10 original opening theme songs that are either quirky, out-of-place or incomprehensible. From the week of April 21-27, 2003.

Reruns of AFOS: The Series air Wednesdays at 10am and 3pm. To listen to the station during either of those time slots (or right now), press the play icon on the blue widget below the "About me" mini-bio on this blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"You happy now, bitch?": 100 great quotes from The Wire

'Fuck!' 'Fuck.'
This sweet 10-minute montage of classic and uncensored (and therefore, NSFW) lines from all five seasons of my favorite TV series of all time is strictly for Wire fans only. Everyone else should skip this montage because it makes no sense without prior viewing of the episodes the clips were culled from, and it contains spoilers.

I wish the montage included a clip from Bunny's speech to the troops during "All Due Respect" ("There's never been a paper bag for drugs. Until now."), but it does include one of my favorite exchanges in the entire series--Omar pwns the Barksdale crew's slimy lawyer while being cross-examined by him in court. The scene boils down the series' primary theme of broken institutions so well in that terse manner that was such a trademark of The Wire:
Levy: You are amoral, are you not? You are feeding off the violence and the despair of the drug trade. You're stealing from those who themselves are stealing the lifeblood from our city. You are a parasite who leeches off...

Omar: Just like you, mang.

Levy: ... the culture of drugs... Excuse me? What?

Omar: I got the shotgun. You got the briefcase. It's all in the game though, right?

Reason to Dig Aziz Ansari #2: Earlier this year, he amusingly pretended to tweet to (or retweet) characters from The Wire as if they were on Twitter.

[Via Entertainment Weekly]

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Fistful of Soundtracks glossary of terms I've used on this blog that not everyone understands

The Palace: In the Shadow of the Bat, Chapter 2, 'Hush'

Back-announcement: A terrestrial radio term for the moment when the DJ identifies a song's title and performer.

Boutique division: The art-house movie division of a Hollywood studio, like Universal's Focus Features subsidiary or Fox Searchlight Pictures. In The Palace, a character complains about "lame releases that the studios or their boutique divisions always think will attract female moviegoers during opening weekends like TDK's."

ChunyChune: A tune that's amazing. Pronounced "choon." Has nothing to do with the Latina nurse on ER. Her name is pronounced "choo-nee."

Diegetic: An adjective that describes any piece of music that characters in a film or TV show are performing live or blasting from a radio. Score music is non-diegetic.

Janky: An adjective from the streets that Michael Steele hasn't co-opted yet in his cringe-inducing attempts to relate to hip-hop heads like myself and recruit African Americans into the GOP. Steele is like that dad on Modern Family whose idea of hip is High School Musical.

Komiks: Comic books from the Philippines.

Ligyrophobic: Afraid of loud sounds like balloon pops. See Munn, Olivia.

Motif: A fancy way of saying "theme."

Podcast: A downloadable pre-recorded radio show, intended for playback on an iPod or an mp3 player, although it can also be played on a computer. The Fistful of Soundtracks channel has been erroneously referred to as a podcast by some bloggers. AFOS isn't downloadable, so it's not a podcast.

Terrestrial radio: 1. The opposite of Internet radio. 2. A dying medium that's caused listeners to flee, thanks to corporate control, annoying and racist morning personalities and umpteenth airings of "Freebird."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Asian action filmmakers: Nobody does it better

Mad men

I finally saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen via Netflix last week because I wasn't interested in watching it in the theater, where I would have been subjected to Devastator's testicles and the close-up of John Turturro's naked asscheeks in IMAX. Michael Bay's six-hour orgy of military hardware porn, incomprehensible action sequences, overdesigned CG characters and unfunny gags about dogs and black people makes both the mediocre first live-action Transformers film and 2009's other Hasbro-inspired blockbuster, the equally mediocre G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, look like Shakespeare. (Film Freak Central's Walter Chaw put it best when he said Revenge of the Fallen, which includes an inane swipe at Obama, is "so last administration.") Revenge of the Fallen was so unentertaining and racist I had to seek relief in a Johnnie To flick, even though it's a film To only co-directed (with Wai Ka-Fai, whom To generously credited as being the primary mastermind): 2007's Mad Detective, which made its American TV premiere during the Sundance Channel's "Asia Extreme" block last weekend.

The incredibly prolific To, who often directs two or three films per year, is my current favorite action filmmaker. Like most other Asian action filmmakers, To shoots action coherently, favors stillness over fast-cutting and hyperactive camerawork and makes me invested in the characters in his set pieces. He's the anti-Michael Bay. When I'm watching a To action sequence, I know I'm not going to be ever saying to myself the following words like I did during any of the live-action Transformers movies' robot fights: "Hold up. Is that supposed to be his foot or his elbow?" To is more consistent than John Woo (whose latest joint Red Cliff I'm looking forward to seeing because many reviewers have said it's his best work since Face/Off) and as skilled at tackling various genres as Howard Hawks was. Unlike Woo, To hasn't made the jump to Hollywood. I'm glad he has stayed put in Hong Kong because the Hollywood suits would most likely attempt to dilute To's work, tinker with his preference for long takes and dark, understated humor and throw him off his game.

Satires about cops and criminals manipulating the media have been a tired genre (Natural Born Killers, 15 Minutes), but To's Breaking News, from its amazing single-take opening shootout to its beautifully drawn characters (especially during the dinner cooking sequence), made the genre interesting again. Just when I thought I was out of the gangster genre after the demise of The Sopranos, To's Election movies pulled me back in. My favorite To flick, The Mission, a tersely written actioner about a group of bored and bickering Triad bodyguards, and its unofficial sequel Exiled are what the Mission: Impossible feature films should have been in the first place: great ensemble pieces in the mold of Seven Samurai, The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen.

Even when To isn't working in total action mode, like in the cerebral Mad Detective, where the gunplay doesn't erupt until the end of the movie, the result is a more exciting film than the tepid, bloated and uninvolving Revenge of the Fallen.

Lens flare porn

I don't want to give too much of Mad Detective away for those who have never heard of it because the movie, which I highly recommend, is best enjoyed by knowing very little about it in advance like I did. All I can say is it's about a Hong Kong police detective (Andy On) who partners up with a mentally ill ex-profiler (Lau Ching Wan) to track down a missing cop. Lethal Weapon-esque hijinks do not ensue. Mad Detective is more reminiscent of small-screen whodunit procedurals like Life, the American version of Touching Evil, Monk and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, where the genius detective also happens to be a bit of a nutcase. But in Mad Detective, ex-Inspector Bun, who keeps his shirts buttoned all the way to the top like Monk, is even more batshit crazy than the heroes of those procedurals. The way Mad Detective visualizes Bun's powers of observation is the film's cleverest touch and a great example of why Asian action directors like To continually surpass their testicle joke-loving American counterparts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trailers from hell (yeah)

How shagadelic.A Tumblrer recommends listening to A Fistful of Soundtracks if you need to get your screenwriting mojo back. His favorite part of my channel is the movie trailer clips I've inserted into the "Assorted Fistful" block:
The coolest thing is that every now and then it plays a random old movie trailer. I just heard one for an old kung-fu flick. It sounds like the ones you’d hear on an old VHS tape before the feature presentation.
There's a reason why I included trailer clips during "Assorted Fistful." Four years ago, the names of the tracks during "Assorted Fistful" weren't being posted on iTunes Radio's ticker for some inexplicable reason, which made the block a difficult listening experience for iTunes listeners who wanted to know the track names. So to help those folks out, I started attaching audio clips of trailers or radio/TV spots to tracks from the movies that were promoted in those trailers or spots because I didn't want to go through the trouble of switching on both my mic and GoldWave and recording a back-announcement for every single track.

First, I experimented with attaching the vintage radio spots for Black Caesar and Foxy Brown to the themes from those movies and liked how the old ads sounded as intros (any old ad or trailer that features the voice of either the late, great Adolph Caesar or the equally late and great Percy Rodrigues is always fun to listen to). Then shortly thereafter, the Batman Begins soundtrack came out, and I was looking for an effective and ominous way to announce "This next track is from the Batman Begins score" without having to say those words. I found it in an audio clip of the Batman Begins TV spot that consisted solely of the bat swarm graphics from the film's opening titles and thought that was an even niftier intro than the blaxploitation radio ads, so from then on, I attached trailer or promo clips to almost every single "Assorted Fistful" track (in another example, each score cue from Battlestar Galactica seasons two, three and four that's in rotation during "Assorted Fistful" opens with the TV spot for the Galactica episode from which the cue was taken from).

Here are two trailers that can be heard during "Assorted Fistful"--the trailers for two of my favorite flicks, the original Assault on Precinct 13...

... and Heat. I like the Hugh Morgan-voiceovered Heat trailer so much that I didn't shorten it for broadcast (unlike other trailers I've shortened because either they don't translate well to radio or they're too lengthy), so the trailer airs in its entirety before the Kronos Quartet's Heat suite begins. The trailer includes a couple of deleted scenes, which are a bit of a treat for Heat fans like myself (footage of De Niro's crew at what appears to be a dinner celebration and additional dialogue between De Niro and Jeremy Piven):

In June 2007, iTunes finally got its act together and started posting my channel's track names in the ticker, so I was thinking of getting rid of the trailer clips, but because listeners have told me they always enjoy hearing those clips, I haven't removed them. (I'm surprised AFOS listeners enjoy the trailer clips because people on the Film Score Monthly boards always complain about the movie dialogue clips that XM's Cinemagic channel intersperses between tracks.)

However, one listener once wanted me to get rid of the Black Caesar radio spot because he was offended by the clip of Fred Williamson referring to himself as a "jungle bunny"--and this listener was clearly a white guy. Listena please. I'm not going to censor or remove something from my channel just because one listener can't stomach it. That's such a stupid request. I hate censorship in any form.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shows I Miss: Phil Ramone's The Score

A pantsless Brando was nowhere to be found in Phil Ramone's The Score.
I usually don't enjoy listening to musicians talk in interviews because most of the ones whom I've heard gab at length about themselves have tended to be inarticulate or boring (no wonder they're more at ease when they express themselves through their music), but film composers like Danny Elfman and Quincy Jones are an exception. They're always great interviewees, which is why another show I miss seeing on the air is The Score, an insightful interview series about both film scoring and pop song soundtracks that esteemed record producer Phil Ramone (Frank Sinatra's Duets, Michael Sembello's "Maniac" from Flashdance) hosted and produced for the now-defunct Trio cable channel in 2002.

In front of a studio audience, Ramone interviewed directors like Rob Reiner and Taylor Hackford together with composers they've frequently collaborated with (Marc Shaiman in Reiner's case, James Newton Howard in Hackford's case). The directors and composers discussed the craft of film music and played on piano a few themes from their scores. Other guests on The Score included Elfman, Lalo Schifrin, Christopher Young, Dave Grusin, the late Sydney Pollack, Matthew Sweet, Darius Rucker and singer Monica Mancini, who performed a few of her late father Henry's movie theme songs.

Not much of The Score has been archived online, other than a lengthy promo for the show on Ramone's site and a CNN transcript of Ramone talking briefly about The Score with then-CNN anchor Kate Snow. No clips of The Score have been posted on YouTube. Ovation TV currently airs reruns of a similar show about film music, the British-made 2001 documentary series Music Behind the Scenes, but The Score was a little less stuffy about its subject, and it benefited from the involvement of film/TV music historian and frequent soundtrack album liner notes writer Jon Burlingame, who wrote incredible booklets for Film Score Monthly's Man from U.N.C.L.E. score CDs.

Because The Ref is my favorite Christmas movie, The Score was also noteworthy (no pun intended) for featuring a Ref mini-reunion between Kevin Spacey, who discussed his favorite scores, and his Ref director Ted Demme, who made what ended up being one of his final public appearances on Ramone's show before his death.

The Score was basically Inside the Actors Studio for film composers, but without the pretentiousness or the creepy, funereal Angelo Badalamenti theme music. Speaking of Badalamenti, he would have been a great guest on Ramone's show because I bet he's full of colorful anecdotes about working with a guy who defines normal, David Lynch.

Aaron Takahashi and his golden pipes

Aaron Takahashi's tryna get to U and dat booty.

Improv comic Aaron Takahashi (Yes Man, Reno 911!) is turning into Madison Avenue's go-to guy for pop song reinterpretations that are entertainingly embarrassing (but not in a cringe-inducing William Hung minstrel show kind of way). Last night, a World Series commercial break contained this amusing State Farm ad in which Takahashi goes buck wild over a Kansas song:

Takahashi is the same guy who got caught singing the E-40/T-Pain/Kandi Girl chune "U and Dat" to himself in an office men's room in an equally funny Amp'd Mobile ad a few years ago:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Community, "Introduction to Statistics": I don't know what a Mexican Halloween is, but I bet it's lewder than an Alabama Hot Pocket

'Wherever there are masks, wherever there's tomfoolery and joy, I'm there. But sometimes I'm not 'cause I'm out in the night, staying vigilant. Watching. Lurking. Running. Jumping. Hurtling. Sleeping. No, I can't sleep. You sleep. I'm awake. I don't sleep. I don't blink. Am I a bird? No. I'm a bat. I am Batman. Or am I? Yes, I am Batman. Happy Halloween.'

I would have raved about Community's Halloween episode on Twitter or here on Blogspot on the night it aired, but I wasn't able to post about it until now because I was computerless all last week (thanks, creaky old PC--which stands for Piece o' Chit--for dying on me the week before and causing me to look like yet another Filipino who's late for everything, like this Halloween ep). "Introduction to Statistics" is so terrific it'll be staying in my DVR for a while. It's the funniest of the four Halloween eps NBC aired last Thursday night, as well as my favorite Community ep so far, thanks to elements ranging from Danny Pudi's side-splitting impression of Christian Bale's Batman to a B-plot about Shirley's divorce that allowed Yvette Nicole Brown to shine both comedically and dramatically.

In fact, everyone in the ensemble--including "Star-Burns"--got a chance to shine during "Statistics," which was written by Jon Pollack and Tim Hobert. I especially liked seeing Ken Jeong dial it down a bit as Señor Chang in this ep (shouting at the top of his lungs at his students every week was getting old). Did Donald Glover's Troy get his Delirious-era Eddie Murphy costume (complete with fake mic) from the same shop where J.D. and Turk copped their Eddie Murphy: Raw jumpsuits during Hobert's earlier series Scrubs? Gillian Jacobs looks so tiny inside the dowdy squirrel costume that Britta amusingly wears as a statement against slutty costumes (during the Community pilot, I was surprised to learn she's petite--I thought she was 5-foot-10 when I first saw her appear as a stripper in the TV spots for Choke). Too bad frequent guest star John Oliver was missing from the proceedings because I would have liked to have seen him somehow work in his Daily Show impression of a Long Island Guido.

The biggest surprise about "Statistics" was that it was directed by Justin Lin, whose indie work (Better Luck Tomorrow, Finishing the Game) I find way more interesting than his Fast and the Furious sequels, which I've never bothered to watch. One thing I've dug about Community as a single-camera comedy is that it has eschewed the mockumentary format of The Office and Parks and Recreation and opted for a more cinematic approach, particularly in sweeping crane shots of the Greendale Community College campus that would have made Johnny LaRue cream his pants. Because of Lin's involvement, "Statistics" is the most cinematic ep of the series so far. The strapping-a-camera-to-an-actor's-chest-to-simulate-a-bender trick during the Chevy Chase "tripping balls" sequence is reminiscent of Better Luck (I know, it's a camera trick that's been around since Mean Streets). And just when I thought I had my fill of Dark Knight parodies, "Statistics" pulled me back in. The director perfectly aped cinematographer Wally Pfister's camera angles from the film (I don't know who writes Community's original score music, but whoever does it nailed the essence of Hans Zimmer's Batman theme). Lin is a great addition to the series, so I was jazzed to find out from his You Offend Me You Offend My Family blog that he's slated to direct another Community ep. I'm always up for seeing more Asian Americans direct comedy so that Jay Chandrasekhar isn't all by his lonesome.