10/30/2009

The war of the Batman voice

Imitating Christian Bale's ridiculous Batman voice is never-ending hilarity, but somehow I never thought that anything could beat Sheldon's imitation from episode 1 season 2 of The Big Bang Theory (stick to the end of the clip):



And then that little sitcom that brings joy to my life every week, Community, tops it when Abed, dressed as Batman, saves Jeff and Pierce from a falling fort of chairs. And then when Troy sounds tries the voice:



Never. Ending. Hilarity.

10/29/2009

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

1968's The Thomas Crown Affair is gorgeous to look at. You have the very attractive Steve McQueen sporting a three-piece suit while leading the perfect bank robbery:


Then Faye Dunaway comes in as an insurance investigator to help solve the crime and make some money:


The two get intimately involved all while they're both plotting each other's downfalls. :


Then there's a lot of editing and multiple screen flare:



And Mr. McQueen showing that short shorts can be manly as long as you're in a dune buggy you helped design:


And one sexy game of chess:

With numerous telling close-ups:


Fun, breezy, stylish, sexy, lovely.

Well, besides this awkward theme song, "The Windmills of Your Mind":


10/27/2009

The Audacity of Rock: Part 32

Tone it down and build it up.

A surefire way to make any song way more exciting: drop out some instruments, either in volume or entirely, and then bring 'em back in with a vengeance. Also, I won't complain if you have some sweet vocal harmonies to add to the mix.


"Feelin' Satisfied" by Boston (1978)

Brad Delp works it out vocally to an epic guitar riff and claps-only percussion at the beginning of the chorus (see :54 and again at 2:30). Boston always knows how to up the ante.




"Girlfriend" by Phoenix (2009)

French sensations Phoenix display this timeless technique by blending it with modern rock's penchant for a continuous driving beat. The band tones down all the instruments, but keeps us interested before building to the glorious "girlfrieeeend" (see 1:21 and more obviously at 2:28 and 2:57).



Questions:

1. What's with bands being named after places (if Phoenix is referring to the city and not the mythical bird)?
2. Is there any Boston song that doesn't make you want to a) have a spontaneous dance party, b) go outside and loudly greet strangers, or c) take a joy ride in your car?

10/25/2009

The Sleeper has Awakened, Whatever That Means: Dune (1984)

This is my part of the Class of '84 Blogathon hosted by This Distracted Globe.

David Lynch's Dune is what it is. It's an attempt to adapt an epic novel into a 2 hour 16 minute film, which contains a complicated world created out of various religious and literary heritages. Also, it's set in the year 10,191. Some the film comes off beautifully, some of it cartoonish, but I was entranced the whole way through.

The context is within an Empire with two dueling houses, the Harkonnen and the Atreides. The biggest fight is over the planet Arrakis, which harvests the life lengthening and mind/time/space bending spice, melange. However, a messiah, or Kwisatz Haderach, is foretold by the Bene Gesserit sisterhood to save the planet Arrakis (also known as Dune) from empire rule. This messiah and our film's protagonist is Paul Atreides, son of the Duke Leto Atreides and his concubine Jessica who also happens to be a member of the Bene Gesserit. Also, there are sand worms.

Anyway, watching Dune is a pretty ineffable experience. I understand why it was poorly received: it's confusing and campy. But it can also be mystical and lovely. I guess that's what you get when you have a soundtrack by Toto, but also a cast containing Patrick Stewart. So let me take you through my experience with Dune with some screenshots.

This is our narrator, although we hear the interior thoughts of other characters as well that help orient the viewer. This is kind of successful. I think I mostly knew what was going on because the 1965 book was assigned summer reading for AP English one year.


I think I could watch sand dunes forever, thank goodness this movie has a lot of that.


I loved that this translating microphone looked like an olde timey press conference mic.


Here we have a combination of Catholic and Islamic religious influence.We see the Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood (nuns, much?) excused out of the very Islamic architecture inspired room (look at those ceilings!) where the Emperor hangs. Way to sneak in some subtext, set design.


Victorian military uniform, octopus-like alien thing in a tank + entourage, all in that Islamic architecture again. I just love this combination.


Patrick Stewart and Dean Stockwell would later go on to become television scifi legends. I don't know what the big eyebrow guy would go on to do.


Somehow, this super-stylized personal block-shield thing didn't age too badly. (FYI: there's a one-on-one fight going on.)


I wish I had visions of Sting, even if it was the creepy Dune-villain Sting.


Here's the Victorian inspired costuming again. It anchors the story in an idea of a noble class that viewers can relate to. Is it that this is the most recent representation of monarchy that we have? Or have we not strayed from these fashions too much to make them look ridiculous? This is just to say, costume design did a good job of making the costumes relatable.
Also, it reminds me of my favorite Hamlet adaptation.
Also, how much more awesome would this movie had been if Kenneth Branagh were in it?


The Reverend Mother testing Paul Atreides to see if he is the one. The bald head gives her such a sinister and alien look.


Hey look! It's Sting with a knife.
(P.S. This was the cartoonish I was talking about. Do you see the begoggled scientist at the left?)


Hey look! It's the grossest villain ever. Baron Harkonnen is floating around with some sort of machine because he's too fat and unhealthy to move on his own. In this scene, he will feed on a beautiful and healthy young man. The ambiguousness of it contributes to its disgustingness.


The whole family, from left to right: dog, son, father, concubine.


Instead of aliens, creepy looking people with glowing blue eyes.


They have special suits on that preserve and convert a body's sweat and waste to water in order for a person to survive the harsh desert planet of Arrakis. I'm pretty sure they forgot to put on their helmets, but I'm glad their feathered hair is doing okay.


Beardy fremen, the inhabitants of Arrakis. Notice their spice-addled blue eyes.


Fetus in a womb.
You're welcome.


This setting indicator looks like a mouth.


I like that this dissolve involves water, sand, and young love. The elements of a successful empire overthrow.


Proving his manly leadership skills, Paul goes out to tame a sand worm. By this point he goes by the name Muad'Dib, which in the Dune world means desert mouse, but in real life means educator in Arabic. Fun fact!


The close up shots with the worm look really good. Great job, FX guys.


Paul's sister, formerly the fetus, doing her part to destroy the Harkennons. It mostly involves her being unsettlingly perceptive.


It's scenes like this that I'm impressed no one was giggling the whole time. The lines are cheesy and completely expository, but the actors are almost too sincere to mock.

Honestly, they're talking about the most ridiculous things (like sand worms and spice and the Bene Gesserit) that make sense in a huge novel, but come off hokey on film. Good effort, guys.


The film really succeeds at the mystical/trippy stuff, which is to David Lynch's credit. It doesn't have to look real or make that much sense. It just has to create a feeling and make basic impressions. These scenes translated better to me, as a first time viewer in the year 2009, than all of the outdoor space shuttle scenes.


I would like to take this time to point out that the brilliant Patrick Stewart has a skullet.


You can't say Sting isn't dedicated to this job. He goes full psychopath and literally bites that hand in the final knife fight. This screenshot alone may revive The Great Sting Obsession of 2006.

Anyway, people die, Paul's little sister says this:



Fin.

Roll credits.

And then I discovered this:

Kyle MacLachlan is so young and that hair is so big, I just didn't realize that Paul Atreides was also Special Agent Dale Cooper! This improves my opinion of the film exponentially.


And because you've made it to the end of this, I will reward you with the best subplot in the whole film. (Click pictures for a better view.)

Oh no! The family dog is wandering with nowhere to go!


Captain Picard to the rescue!!!
Seriously, they took the time to save the dog. I honor that.


I also honor this:

Gratuitous Sting.
You're welcome.

10/20/2009

To Have and Have Not (1944)


I wish I had the kind of sexy that Lauren Bacall had at age 19 in To Have and Have Not. Apparently the secret of character of Slim was this:

We discovered that she was a little girl who, when she became insolent, became rather attractive. That was the only way you noticed her, because she could do it with a grin. So I said to Bogey, “We are going to try an interesting thing. You are about the most insolent man on the screen and I’m going to make a girl a little more insolent than you are.”

“Well,” he said, “you’re going to have a fat time doing that.” And I said, “No, I’ve got a great advantage because I’m the director. I’ll tell you just one thing: she’s going to walk out on you in every scene.” So as every scene ended, she walked out on him. It was a sex antagonism, that’s what it was, and it made the scenes easy. (Howard Hawkes, via Old Hollywood)

And also a little of this:

I used to tremble from nerves so badly that the only way I could hold my head steady was to lower my chin practically to my chest and look up at Bogie. That was the beginning of The Look. It became my trademark. (Lauren Bacall, via Old Hollywood)

I might also add that lovely low voice and the way Humphrey Bogart looks so amused at her antics. The pairing might have been creepy (Bogart was 45), but instead seems like a perfect match. And it certainly worked out for those two, anyway.

10/19/2009

The Audacity of Rock: Part 31

Rock and the spoken word.

I'm a fan of random words inserted in songs. It's haunting and confusing all at once.


"Us and Them" by Pink Floyd (1973)

The spoken part is taken from an interview with a Pink Floyd roadie named Roger the Hat (according to the wikis). "I mean, they're not gonna kill ya, so if you give 'em a quick short, sharp, shock, they won't do it again. Dig it? I mean he got off lightly, 'cause I would've given him a thrashing, I only hit him once. It was only a difference of opinion, but really, I mean good manners don't cost nothing do they, eh?" (4:55)

Also according to 'pedia, "The phrase 'short, sharp shock' is a phrase meaning 'punishment that is quick and severe.'" Which also might describe how you feel after being forced to repeat the phrase that appears in Gilbert and Sullivan's classic The Mikado in the song "I Am so Proud."
To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison with a life-long lock
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big, black block.
You can hear it at minute 2:20 of the following clip:


You're welcome.


"Nantes" by Beirut (2007)



The speaking part in this song (2:12) is taken from the French film La Bete Humaine (1938). I thank awesome YouTube user peskasker for providing the clip, synopsis of the scene, and the translation. So here's the info:

"In this scene, the husband (Séverine Roubaud) is trying to caress his wife (Flore), but she has no intention of doing so."



Le French:
- "Oh non je t'en prie, nous ne sommes pas chez nous."
- "Oh je t'assures que ce n'est pas grave."
- "Non laisse moi!"
- "Mais qu'est-ce que tu as aujourd'hui?"
- "Je sais que les hommes me dégoutent. Vous ne pensez qu'à ça..."

English translation:
- "No, not here."
- "But I assure you, it doesn't matter."
- "No! Leave me!"
- "What's wrong with you?"
- "Men disgust me. You only think of that (sex). You're all the same..."

Consider yourself enlightened.


Questions:

1. Do these spoken words enhance your listening pleasure, or detract from it?
2. How awesome is the name Roger the Hat?

10/16/2009

Song for a rainy evening.



"Flamenco Sketches (Alternate Take)" by Miles Davis

The view out my front window. The gutters are overflowing.

Meldey of the Day: Elephant Love Medley edition

In my continual fight against second-hand references (they're a danger to pretentious people everywhere), I aim to learn where every line of Moulin Rouge!'s "Elephant Love Medley" is from.

So the source:

"Elephant Love Medley" Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman (2001)


How does this song flow together as well as it does?


And it's inspirations:

"Love is Like Oxygen" (The) Sweet (1978)


70s rock...yes!

"Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" the Four Aces (1955)


Cheesetacular.


"Up Where We Belong" Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes (1982)


I jammed on a simplified version of this song on the piano as a kid.

"All You Need is Love" the Beatles (1967)


George looks great in that mustache. Why do mustaches look so creepy now?


"Love is Just a Game" Arabesque (1970-something)


Honestly, this one may or may not be where this phrase is from, but German disco is hilarious.

"I Was Made for Lovin' You" Kiss (1979)


This song isn't that bad. Does that mean I need to investigate more Kiss songs besides "Rock and Roll All Nite"?

"One More Night" Phil Collins (1984)


Although I'm pretty certain this is the referenced song, I'm so disappointed this isn't it.

"Pride (In the Name of Love)" U2 (1984)


Have you seen It Might Get Loud? It will endear you to the Edge forever.

"Don't Leave Me This Way" Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (1975)


I told you no second-hand references, so here's the original. BTW, love it.

"Silly Love Songs" Wings (1976)


Oh, Paul. You're so corny on your own, but you're totally right.

"Up Where We Belong" repeats again.

"Heroes" David Bowie (1977)


Is it too weird, or just weird enough?

Okay, I'm not sure if the "we should be lovers" interjections are from anything, but here is the result of my google/wikipedia/youtube searching. (Please let me know if any of you know anything about this line. I will put a virtual feather in your cap if you do.)

"We Should Be Lovers" Rick Smith (1981)


"We Should Be Lovers" Phyllis Hyman (1983)


End of the ridiculous R&B section of this post.

"I Will Always Love You" Dolly Parton (1974)


I love you back, Dolly.

"Your Song" Elton John (1970)


Good thing there's a chandelier to set the mood.

Well, there you have it, "Elephant Love Medley" deciphered. Now go forth with the comforting knowledge that you know way more about this song than is probably necessary.

10/12/2009

The Audacity of Rock: Part 30

Why leave on really awesome song alone when I can tack on a clearly inferior second half?

Do you ever listen to songs and love them, but then it goes into a second movement that you are completely underwhelmed by? WTF?

"I've Seen All Good People" by Yes (1971)

This song consists of two parts: the brilliant and inspiring "You're Move" and the mediocre and boring "All Good People." Seriously, the song climaxes exactly halfway through with a build up of organ, vocal harmonies, and folky guitar--and then pseudo-Southern rock meh happens. It's not bad so much as a let down. Anyway, I just wish the two parts weren't played together.

video


"I Belong To You (+ Mon Ceur S'ouvre A Ta Voix)" by Muse (2009)

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a Muse binge where I discovered the band is one part brilliant songwriting, one part overindulgent pretentiousness, and a mixed sprinkling of Queen, Radiohead, and My Chemical Romance. In other words, I still have no idea how I feel about the band, but sometimes they create things of beauty. In this case, a fun, piano-heavy rock piece. But then that takes a hideous turn toward the psuedo-operatic and untrained vocals worst. But then it wins you back with a clarinet solo. All I can say is, WTF, Muse?




Questions:
1. Do you have any songs you wish would have ended instead of kept going?
2. Is operatic kitsch dead?


Side note: On the topic of operatic allusions, here's Klaus Nomi performing the piece"Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix" from Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saëns . Opera camptastic!

10/11/2009

Let's talk about how I view scary movies

I'm possibly the worst person to take to a horror movie. My opinion is usually that they're not actually scary, and/or they're just gross. Last night I viewed Paranormal Activity. It had some good scare moments, but for the most part, I was just mildly curious as to what would happen next. I say this having viewed it in a fairly full theater full of people whispering and screaming. This pretty much killed any real fearful mood for me, since I was hyperaware of other people's reactions to a work of fiction. In all honesty, I have to be alone, in absolute silence, with the lights off, and at night for the mood of a scary movie to work on me.

In fact, I usually just watch horror movies to laugh at them. Even better if it's an intentional horror-comedy: it has all the weird horror elements and violence, but I don't have to feel like I'm reacting to it the wrong way. I can laugh and not be scared all I want.



Last night, I kept trying to think of things that really wigged me out. I concluded the worst I've been freaked out by watching something was about 6 months ago, coming home from class and sitting down to watch some PBS. I came in a few minutes into some documentary about some cool religious congregation that turned into a commune that advocated equal rights and loving each other. That congregation eventually moved to Jonestown. Coming in with no context, I didn't know the end of the Peoples Temple until the end of the documentary, and I was chilled. For whatever reason, I had never heard of Jonestown and the events that happened there. I had no idea, and I it was terrifying.

Moral of the story: Give me a real life horror, and I will be so scared, even as my roommates walk in and out of the room and the lights are on. Give me some fictitious story of unexplained phenomenon, and I will most likely just laugh in your face.

And for those interested, you can find Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple trailer here and the full thing here. You'll need a hug afterward.

10/07/2009

Contempt (1963)

Contempt is distant, but fascinating. I guess that's what you get when you watch a metacinematic Jean-Luc Godard film. You're never unaware of the fact that you're watching a movie. They talk about the movies, they're making a movie, the beginning scene that could be intimate is interrupt by color overlays of red, yellow, and blue. In other words, distant seems to be the point.

It's mostly about the dissolution of a marriage, but it's done so subtly and common place that it's easy to think the couple in question is just having a usual fight. A huge portion of the film takes place in Paul and Camille's flat where they argue about Prokosch, the producer of the film Paul is writing the screenplay for. And when I say argue, I mean real people argument, where you say vaguely hurtful things, but aren't yelling. Honestly, it feels like the scene lasts forever playing out in real time, but it's also fascinating to watch. How rare it is to watch actors do boring stuff like setting the table, taking short baths, or turn a lamp on and off and have that be where your concentration is on. But that's pulls your focus as you watch these characters discuss, but mostly evade, what's going on between them.

Doing every day stuff, vaguely fighting.

In the end, it's not an emotional film. It's filled with long takes and silences, only broken up by a clinical, but beautiful and melancholy score:



There are no histrionics. Just a slow fading relationship. The only thing we do know about how the characters feel is how they interpret the relationship between Ulysses and Penelope in The Odyssey. When the only levity in the film is the stark pragmatism of Fritz Lang's director character, you're not in for a fluffy cinematic experience.

10/06/2009

The Audacity of Rock: Part 29

90s R&B never goes out of style.

It's nice to know that emo is carrying to torch of drum machines and synth. Wait, they're actually playing instruments? What follows is based around Push Play's "Midnight Romeo.

First, what the song reminds me of most:

"You Make Me Wanna" by Usher (1997)

Usher truly is the master of the tender strings and drum machine topped with too many syllables per line of music.


Also seen here.

To be more accurate in my comparison with a white boy band, let's use some whited out R&B.

"Quit Playing Games with My Heart" by the Backstreet Boys (1996)




So here's the song in question.

"Midnight Romeo" by Push Play (2009)

It's mostly the beginning of this song that sounds totally 90s R&B, but the lyrics throughout are basically the white boy version of the unabashed "I want to get in your pants" song.


Also seen here.

Wait a minute, is that banjo I hear in the chorus? Maybe not, but Push Play is also trying to use the phrase "Midnight Romeo." If that's not trying to be country, I don't know what it is.

But please, Push Play, don't even try to compete with country music for sexy.

"Hello Darlin" by Conway Twitty (1970)




Questions:

1. Usher makes me wanna to avoid middle school ice skating parties. What does he make you wanna do?
2. How much do you love this song?
"I'd Love to Lay You Down" by Conway Twitty (1980)


I know it's 80s country and cheesy, but you're kind of smiling, aren't you?

10/04/2009

Taking advice from the media: How to make friends 2

By popular demand, even more helpful advice:

1. Do a fun cultural tradition with people assigned to welcome you to a new area. (Three Coins in the Fountain)


2. Leave a cryptic note on the windshield of someone who catches your eye. (Unbreakable)


3. Come over uninvited during inconvenient hours. (Northern Exposure)


4. Adopt a new acquaintance and form them into your dream friend. (Emma)


5. Get someone out of an awkward situation. (Veronica Mars)


6. Ring a random person's apartment to get into your building--be sure to personally thank them! (Breakfast at Tiffany's)


7. Walk around in the nude. (A Knight's Tale)


8. Ask a blunt and unexpected question. (Love, Actually)


9. Use complicated stratagems to meet up. (Amelie)


10. Barter a mutually beneficial agreement. (Howl's Moving Castle)