Thoughts

Star Wars and Kings Row theme songs are quite alike

When we watched Kings Row (1942) recently, I couldn’t help noticing a marked similarity between its theme song, written by Erich Korngold, and the main Star Wars (1977) theme song, written by John Williams.

I doubted I was the only one to hear it, and sure enough, a quick internet search revealed many others talking about the same thing. See Wikipedia, or this YouTube video comparing the two theme songs.

Sixty-eight years after the release of Kings Row, and 33 years after the release of Star Wars, this isn’t as big a deal as it probably was back then. In my opinion, Williams’ remaking of the Korngold theme is much better suited to its movie than Korngold’s was for its intended vehicle — and it is a re-making, not a plagiarized copy. Korngold’s theme sounds much too dramatic for a coming-of-age movie set in a turn of the century provincial American town, but it’s perfect for a futuristic sci-fi movie that was (and is) one of the biggest box office successes of all time.

Still, it’s an uncanny resemblance, isn’t it?

Images used courtesy of Amazon.

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Thoughts

Luna by Malajube

Cool music video that involves synchronized swimming and hallucinations induced by a near-drowning experience. I’m making it sound weird, but it’s very nicely done. The band is Malajube, and the song is called “Luna”. With Nicolina Tokic and the Synchronized Swimming Club of Montréal-Nord, Aquana.

Malajube || Luna from Dare To Care Records on Vimeo.

You can download the full HD video if you click through. And there’s also a “making of” video.

Malajube || Dans les coulisses du vidéoclip de Luna from Dare To Care Records on Vimeo.

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Reviews

United Airlines breaks guitars

In addition to stranding people in foreign cities, lying to them, and making them pay for their own stay, thereby breaking the rules of the Star Alliance, United Airlines now also breaks guitars.

In March 2008, musician Dave Carroll flew with United Airlines through Chicago, where a fellow passenger witnessed his $3,500 Taylor guitar being thrown into the hold of the aircraft by one of the UA employees. Upon arrival, Dave filed a complain with UA, asking them to reimburse him for the repair to his guitar, which came to the hefty sum of $1,500. For over a year, letters and emails and phone calls went back and forth, until UA, true to their lying form, denied responsibility for the damage and refused to pay for the repair. In return, Dave promised to release three music videos, to shame them publicly. The first, entitled “United Breaks Guitars“, is already out.

Kudos to Dave Carroll! I hope tons of people see this video and decide to do their flying with other, more customer-friendly airlines. UA deserves all that’s coming to it for the way it treats people.

[via Gulliver]

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Reviews

Why music doesn't sound great any more

Growing up, I listened to music on vinyl records. I had a huge stack of mostly classical music at home, and it was a real treat to put on a record, sit the needle on it, and hear music come out of the speakers. It was never tiring. It was always enjoyable, and I could listen to music while doing homework or reading.

As I got older and moved to CDs, and more recently, MP3s, I kept wondering why I couldn’t do the same. I kept getting headaches from listening to music for prolonged periods of time. Even while driving, too much music was stressful. I found that when I turned off the radio, it was as if I’d break down a wall of sound that would constantly barrage my ears. I put it down to changes in my personality and tastes in music, though I’d read some articles in the past that suggested music recording practices were changing.

It turns out those early grumblers were right. The Rolling Stones have a great article called “The Death of High Fidelity“, and it explains very well what’s going on. Now that I’m aware of these practices, I call them the bastardization of music as we know it, and I don’t think I’m mincing words.

It’s no wonder most music just plain stinks when we listen to it. And it’s also no wonder that certain recordings resonate with us if they’re done correctly. Norah Jones is one famous example. Another, more recent one, is Yael Naim. You may not know her name, but you’ve probably heard her song, “New Soul”, in the MacBook Air commercial.

While I’m on the subject, I’d like to ask music producers to stop putting police sirens and telephone rings in songs. They hide these sounds behind the normal tracks, but they make them stand out just enough to be noticed. Seriously, it’s very disturbing to drive on a road minding your own business and hear a muted police siren, then freak out because you don’t know where the sound is coming from. I understand the reasoning behind it: jog the listener’s short attention span, get them to listen to the music, subconsciously trigger an emotional response, etc. The way I see it, it’s disingenuous, it’s manipulative, and it cheapens the song. Stop doing it, please.

Here’s hoping things get back to normal. Or if they don’t, that at the very least, recordings using preferable sound mastering methods are labeled accordingly, as some people suggest.

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Lists

Funny videos

Here’s the classic “Who’s on first?” routine from Abbot and Costello. Must-see comedy — still funny after all these years. It’s interesting to see how they distilled bits and pieces from their earlier routines into this.

Graham Chapman was part of that seminal group of British comedians known for “The Monty Python”, and other wonderful pieces of comedy. He died in 1989. Here is a segment from his funeral service. (Yes, it’s funny.)

Richard Pryor, on kids telling lies.

Have a look at how authorities respond to perceived terrorist threats in Australia. Not much different from the US, really.

Weird Al Yankovic’s “eBay” song, mashed up with a user-made video:

Here’s Bill Cosby on dentists (absolutely hilarious):

… and on natural childbirth:

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Lists

Funny videos

A college professor reviews funny comments from his students on a class survey. Great fun!

This is a stop-motion “seduction” dance, performed by two camcorders.

Want to learn how to speak “body”? Look no further than this hilarious instructional video.

When Bill Gates announced his retirement as CEO, David Letterman wanted to put together a tribute. Here’s the result.

I love the Mah-Nah song, and naturally I enjoyed this Star Wars mash-up.

Michel Gondry, the French director, solves a Rubik’s cube with his nose.

Have you ever wondered what the Chartered Accountant Dance looks like? Wonder no more, here it is!

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A Guide To A Good Life, Reviews

Easter Parade (1948)

Easter Parade“Easter Parade” is a veritable showcase of talent: Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Irving Berlin, Ann Miller… need I say more?

There are many memorable scenes in this movie. One such scene is at the opening of the movie, where we see Fred, who plays Don Hewes, a famous dancer of his time, strolling through the streets of his town and buying gifts for his sweetheart, who is also his dancing partner. Happy as can be, he loads the arms of his gift carriers, while unbeknownst to him, his sweetheart is signing a contract and leaving their act. In this particular scene, Fred sees a rabbit he really wants to buy. Unfortunately, a little boy has sighted that same rabbit. Fred has to dazzle the boy with his dancing, and manages to draw his attention away to other toys – namely, drums. One can’t help thinking the boy’s mother would have preferred the rabbit! Nonetheless, Fred dances amazingly here. The absolute ease with which he dances still leaves me speechless.

To this day, I have not seen anyone dance as gracefully and as effortlessly as Fred Astaire, and this scene shows why. Every other tap dancer I’ve seen struggled through difficult movements, while Fred lightly tosses them at the viewer, nonchalantly, as if to say, “Look, it’s no big deal, I’m just enjoying myself…” Wow!

Ann Miller plays her usual role of hard-working girl, and her legs take center-stage in one of the movie’s big numbers. I think she manages to show her legs in most, if not all of the movies where she acts, but nowhere as prominently as in Kiss Me Kate (1953). I wonder if she wanted to do that, or the directors pushed her to do it. Peter Lawford also reprises his usual role of the time, that of the English pal, and does a great job at it, too.

Check out the trumpet player in the scene where Judy sings “That’s why I wish-igan I was in Michigan”. He can’t help smiling as Judy stands next to him. He’s starstruck, and it’s pretty funny.

In the scene where Fred tests out Judy as his dancing partner, Judy quips “I’m never sure” when he asks her whether she knows her left foot from her right, then goes on to explain why. When she was little, her doctor advised her family to force her to write with her right hand, even though she was left-handed. You might think that’s just a funny line, but it’s true, and it really wasn’t that funny for the children who were beaten and forced to use their right hands.

Another truly funny scene is when Fred asks Judy (the future “Juanita”) to walk ahead while on the street, so he could see whether men would notice her. The poor Judy tries saying hello to them, only to be ignored ruthlessly, until she makes the funniest face! Suddenly, everyone takes notice of her! To me, this is one of the most hilarious movie moments ever, and ranks right up there with the face that Cary Grant makes in the ending scene of Charade (1963).

Their first dance together as Hewes and Juanita is a disaster, and is worth watching for the wonderful counterpoint that it presents. There’s Fred, being truly professional, looking great, and thrown constantly off balance and out of poise by Judy’s confused prancing. And let’s not forget the flying feathers! The stage is filled with them. Judy ends up looking like a mad mother hen, turning out and looking for her chicks, while Fred, the elegant rooster, is ignored and stepped on. Wonderful, just wonderful!

I couldn’t find out the name of the frustrated head waiter at the restaurant featured in the movie. He’s snubbed not once, but twice, by Fred, Ann Miller and Peter Lawford, when they leave the restaurant without dining. His facial expressions and gestures are great fun to watch.

Fred’s “Steppin’ Out” number is the most interesting and difficult one in the movie. Besides the coreography, which is complicated enough, Fred does something amazing here. When you watch the scene, you wonder why it’s raised by about 2 inches halfway down its depth. Fred and the dancers have to watch out for that ledge, and it just doesn’t make sense, until something amazing happens at its end. The camera angle changes suddenly, and Fred starts moving in slow motion while the dancers in the background continue through at a normal pace. It is then that we realize the raised floor was used to delineate between the two shots, which were superimposed to create this wonderful effect. Today, this might not seem like much, but back then, this was amazing stuff. It’s similar to the special effects used by Fred in the Bojangles dance of Swing Time (1936).

Finally, it’s wonderful to watch the Fred and Judy’s vagabond dance. They’re dressed in the funniest outfits, and they play the roles of two “well-to-do” tramps who would like to make it to the town’s upper crust social events, but have no transportation. Ligia and I were rolling in laughter on our couch as we watched this. Judy’s got the ugliest wig, and they both have one of their front teeth blacked out. Come to think of it, it reminds me of Cary Grant’s wig in I Was a Male War Bride (1949). It does my heart good to see a number like this. It’s just wonderful!

Easter Parade is a wonderful movie, made memorable by the amazing coreography, music, and the chemistry between the actors who play in it – all true masters of their craft.

(This review has also been published at BlogCritics.)

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Reviews

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

I saw Gold Diggers of 1933 last night. It’s a great musical from – you guessed it – 1933. It was part of a series of Gold Digger movies that WB put out during those years. This was the second in the series. It, and the first, Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), were very successful, due in large part to Busby Berkeley‘s choreography. An interesting tidbit about the 1929 Gold Diggers is that it was the second full-length color sound feature film ever made.

Back to the 1933, version, which as I said, is made memorable by Busby Berkeley’s choreography. One of his trademarks was the chorus girl close-up. Well, you’ll get an eyeful of that right at the start of this picture, when he zooms into Ginger Rogers’ face so much you’ll think he’s going to go into the nose. I kid you not, the movie’s worth watching just for this uncomfortable shot. At the very least, you’ll be startled. Now, imagine how Ginger must have felt when she saw her teeth gracing the entire screen…

Incidentally, she has a supporting role in this movie, popping in and out of scenes here and there. The main roles are held by Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell. If you want to see real plaque in action on the big screen, watch for Guy Kibbee’s teeth on the close-ups. Yuck! How often did they do dental cleanings in those days? Ned Sparks plays the role of Barney Hopkins, the shows’ producer, in his own cranky, yet lovable way. Remember him from One in a Million? Well, he’s thinner in this movie.

A memorable quote from the movie occurs when Joan Blondell reconciles with Warren William: “Cheap and vulgar!”, she quips sarcastically and repeatedly, as he kisses her.

What’s interesting to me is the way they could squeeze glamour out of the everyday muck that was the 30’s, in particular during the depression. Let’s face it, they didn’t have the modern conveniences and hygiene that we now take for granted, yet they managed to make people, in particular women, look great. And when people like Busby Berkeley choreographed, people and things looked even better. The songs were better, the movie was better, because someone’s talent was allowed to shine. To me, that’s just amazing.

Nowadays, we’ve got a reverse trend. Instead of wanting to make things look better in the movies, directors and script writers choose to make them look worse. Take Spanglish (2004) for example. How does Tea Leoni look through most of that movie? Sure, you can argue that the realism adds to the role, but I think we’d have gotten the message without debasing her. If you don’t believe me, take a look at My Man Godfrey (1936). Carole Lombard gets the point across about her character without looking horrible in the process.

(This review was also published on BlogCritics)

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Events

Yesterday in 2003, iTunes Music Store passed 1 million download mark

Chris Seibold of Apple Matters has a great series of posts going on at his site — to which one can subscribe — called “This Day in Apple History”. For May 5, he had a post about the iTunes Music Store, which on 5/5/03, less than one week after its launch, announced it had passed the 1 million download mark for songs. I hadn’t known about this, and the information shocked me. If something bespeaks of popularity through sheer numbers, THAT does. I say this because when it launched, the Music Store was only for Apple computers, and its collection was approximately 200,000 songs – a mere fraction of today’s collection.

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Thoughts

RIAA sues family that doesn't own a PC

This is funny, but in a very sad and surreal sort of way. The RIAA has now filed suit against a family that doesn’t even own a computer. (!) They maintain the family shared songs illegally online, and they even published a list of those songs. I have to wonder how they shared the songs… telepathically, perhaps? Boing Boing has the details on this.

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