Music Video Saturday Vol. 2 [music]


I started a weekly column where I highlight a music video that I vividly remember or just recently discovered. Last week I tackled the weirdness that is Bjork as directed by the great Spike Jonze. This time we are going way back in time to the first memory of a music video I ever had. I was 7 years old and my sister (a music freak) was staying with us briefly, staying up all night watching MTV. I was familiar with The Cars since my dad played their debut record constantly. They had just released a new album called Heartbeat City which he purchased on cassette. I can’t recall which video came out first “Magic” or the one that has stuck with me to this day featured below. “You Might Think” is one of my favorite songs of theirs, which is featured on a less than stellar outing from the band despite hit singles like “Drive.” Suffice to say, the record as a whole doesn’t hold up as strongly as their debut, but this landmark video (at least in mind) is still well worth a look. Yes it’s uber-80s in terms of content and effects, but it’s goofy and groundbreaking for its time. The reason I chose it for the simple fact that Ric Ocasek as a fly haunted my dreams just as much as Freddy Krueger did at the time. I had nightmares of being stalked by fly-Ocasek and watching it now, I can’t help but laugh at the fact that seeing that animated fly actually scared me as a kid. What memories of music videos do you recall from your childhood that made an indelible impression — good or bad? Here’s the very first for me, and I’m not ashamed to say that I still like this song despite what the video did to me as a kid. Stay tuned next week for an “I Love The 90s” edition of Music Video Saturday!

The Force Awoke Almost 40 Years Ago

So it’s Saturday and I can post whatever I want. Those are the rules. When the Star Wars VII trailer was first unleashed to the world a couple of weeks ago, people all over the place were sighing and pooh-poohing the thing. It’s too fake and glossy looking they said. The lightsaber doesn’t make sense they said. There’s too much CGI they said. I, on the other hand love the trailer – especially the more I watched it. In my comments I mentioned that the trailer actually looks a lot like scenes from the original movies. It’s very minimal and open when it needs to be, detail oriented and claustrophobic when it needs to be.

I found this trailer today which kind of proves my point. It even shows moments that I specifically mentioned in my comments.

What this mock trailer also proves of course, is that it’s ludicrous to judge a movie based on six or seven 3-second shots from a movie; context is imperative. But I think in terms of visuals, from what I can see, Abrams has nailed it.

George Clooney goes on epic rant tearing into hedge fudge founder.


A few days ago, Daniel Loeb, the founder of hedge fund Third Point, a major investor in Sony, sent a letter to his investors stating how fed up his was with Sony and their recent box offices failures (e.g. White House Down, After Earth).

In a recent interview with Deadline, George Clooney, had a few things to say about Mr. Loeb.

Here is the rant in its entirety and, I assure you, it’s well worth the read, particularly for anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes studio nonsense that goes on:

I’ve been reading a lot about Daniel Loeb, a hedge fund guy who describes himself as an activist but who knows nothing about our business, and he is looking to take scalps at Sony because two movies in a row underperformed? When does the clock stop and start for him at Sony? Why didn’t he include Skyfall, the 007 movie that grossed a billion dollars, or Zero Dark Thirty or Django Unchained? And what about the rest of a year that includes Elysium, Captain Phillips, American Hustle and The Monuments Men? You can’t cherry pick a small time period and point to two films that didn’t do great. It makes me crazy. Fortunately, this business is run by people who understand that the movie business ebbs and flows and the good news is they are ignoring his calls to spin off the entertainment assets. How any hedge fund guy can call for responsibility is beyond me, because if you look at those guys, there is no conscience at work. It is a business that is only about creating wealth, where when they fail, they get bailed out and where nobody gets fired. A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments, and he is dangerous to our industry.

[Loeb] calls himself an activist investor, and I would call him a carpet bagger, and one who is trying to spread a climate of fear that pushes studios to want to make only tent poles. Films like Michael Clayton, Out of Sight, Good Night, And Good Luck, The Descendants and O, Brother Where Art Though?, none of these are movies studios are inclined to make. What he’s doing is scaring studios and pushing them to make decisions from a place of fear. Why is he buying stock like crazy if he’s so down on things? He’s trying to manipulate the market. I am no apologist for the studios, but these people know what they are doing. If you look at the industry track record, this business has made a lot of money. It creates a lot of jobs and is still one of the largest exporters in the world. To have this guy portraying it that Sony management is the bad stepchild and doesn’t know what it is doing and he’s going to fix it? That is like Walmart saying, let me fix your town, putting in their store, strangling all the small shops and getting everyone who worked in them to work for minimum wage with no health insurance.

“It’s crazy he has weight in this conversation at all. If guys like this are given any weight because they’ve bought stock and suddenly feel they can tell us how to do our business — one he knows nothing about — this does great damage than trickles down. The board of directors starts saying, ‘Wait a minute. What guarantee do you have that this movie makes money?’ Well, there are no guarantees, but if you average out the films Will Smith and Channing Tatum have made, you will take that bet every time, even if sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

Hedge fund guys do not create jobs, and we do. On the movie we just made, we put 300 people to work every day. I’m talking about nice, regular people, and when we shot in a town, we’d put another 300 people to work. This is an industry that thrives; there are thousands of workers who make films. You want to see what happens if outside forces start to scare the industry and studios just make tent poles out of fear? You will see a lot of crap coming out.

What do you think about what Clooney had to say to Deadline? Do you think he makes valid points? Do you think Loeb is correct in his view of trying to please investors? Chime in with your thoughts!

Listen: Sound City – Real to Reel

If you haven’t heard of the Sound City documentary, directed by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana fame, turn Ke$ha off on your iPod and buy it now. If you have heard of it, you probably read our reviews by Marina (click here) and Carlos (click here).

Simply put, the film is awesome and for anyone who loves rock and who loves people who ooze with passion about music, this goes down as one of the great music documentaries.

Now, inspired by the documentary, the coolest-guy-in-rock Dave Grohl has put together an album inspired by his love of Sound City Studios, bringing together artists such as Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, Lee Ving, Chris Goss, Robert Levon Been, and Rick Springfield to collaborate on some seriously awesome songs.

Even better? You can listen to the entire album for free on NPR’s website.

If you’re not familiar with Sound City Studios and their legendary analog mixing console, they are responsible for recording albums not only by Nirvana, but also artists and bands including Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Rick Springfield, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, Santana, Blind Melon, Tool, The Black Crowes, Weezer, Queens of the Stone Age, Tonic, Wolfmother, Nine Inch Nails, Elton John, and Rage Against the Machine – among others.

Listen to my potentially favorite song from the album, the one of two songs which has Dave as lead vocals. Titled “If I Were Me,” Dave is accompanied by the always awesome Jessy Greene, as well as Rami Jaffe and Jim Keltner.

Newman’s Own: 30 years, 350 million dollars

As legendary of an actor as Paul Newman was, he always hoped he’d be remembered for a little more than Cool Hand Luke or his big blue eyes. He was many things: a director, a racecar driver, a businessman, a husband, and a father. He was also an incredible food enthusiast and philanthropist.

He decided to combine those two passions in 1982. After years of making homemade salad dressings and pasta sauces at home, often giving them away to friends as Christmas presents, he and his good friend A.E. Hotchner established Newman’s Own. Initially, he was hesitant about having his face plastered on all of his products, but decided to do it. And not only would the ingredients for every product have to be all-natural, but 100% of the profits would be given to charity. No exceptions. It was unprecedented (and still would be today) for a movie star to lend their image and name without any sort of direct monetary benefit. But that was Paul.

As the popularity of his high quality foods – which included not just salad dressing and pasta sauce, but salsa, iced tea, lemonade, pizzas, popcorn, pretzels, cookies, cereal, coffee, wine, and condiments – increased, he once quipped: “The embarrassing thing is that my salad dressing is out-grossing my films.” In 2003, he and Hotchner co-wrote a book (alternating chapters) about their endeavors, titled humorously and not-so-ironically Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good (you can buy it used on Amazon for a penny… it’s an awesome read).

In August of this year, Newman’s Own marked its 30th year and, as the Stamford Advocate wrote, $350 million has gone to fund human services, health programs, education, arts, culture, and Newman’s passion, the Hole in the Wall Camps, which were residential summer camps for seriously (and often terminally) ill children, of which he helped out every summer until his death after its establishment in 1988.

In all, they help support 750 charities. While Newman died in 2008, he has ensured that the legacy of his company would live on, with all profits still going to charity, with his family and Hotchner still running the business, and with his daughter’s “spin off” company, Newman’s Own Organics, promoting other healthy foods.

For the company’s 30th anniversary, they have a goal of giving away $30 million this year. That would be the largest amount of any single year, but the company is confident that the quality of their product will make it possible. I am also. If I’m buying jarred pasta sauce, it’s usually Newman’s Own Sockarooni Sauce. My go-to salad dressing at home is their Olive Oil & Vinegar. If I’m dipping chips into salsa, it’s almost without exception their Hot, Mango, Chunky Roasted Garlic, or Tequila Lime. They are even kind enough to have dozens of recipes (many of them Paul’s) on their website.

So, if you feel like buying some Ragu or Tostino’s salsa or a DiGiorno, take a look down the aisle a ways. Look for that bright, smiling face of Paul. Not only will you be eating a great, all-natural product, but your extra pennies will be going to a good cause.

Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

The Raid: Redemption

2012 indonesia. Director: Gareth Evans. Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy.

Imagine, if you will, the heart-pounding action of the very best of John Woo. Combine said action with the quickness, brutality, and sheer awe inspiring talents of Tony Jaa. Take, perhaps, Woo’s Hard Boiled, replacing the gunfights with knives, and the cast with several martial artists that may well give the aforementioned Jaa a run for his money. From this, trim the fat (e.g. story), and extend the final forty minutes into a 101-minute orgy of visceral and incredibly well-choreographed violence and bloodshed. That is The Raid: Redemption in a nutshell. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the works of Messrs, Woo and Jaa … well … you’re missing out, and you need to rectify that immediately. No need to even read the rest of this post – get to it.

Red Dawn

1984 USA. Director: John Milius. Starring: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, Harry Dean Stanton, Powers Boothe.

If it weren’t for the acting and some really horrible dialogue, this film might still hold pretty well as a history flashback on the American perception of The Soviet Union in the 80’s.

The propaganda never really struck me much as a kid – always just liked watching kids blow shit up real good. But the world that is set-up with the opening credits and then carried on throughout the movie is pretty terrifying and realistic in many ways.

But yeah, the kids are awful awful awful.

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“American Graffiti’s” Budget was Exactly $777,777.77 [Universal Turns 100]

In 1912, Universal Film Manufacturing Company was incorporated in New York. Founder Carl Laemmle said he got the name for the studio after noticing “Universal Pipe Fittings” written on a passing delivery wagon. In honor of the studio’s 100th anniversary on Monday, the studio released 100 interesting trivia facts about some of its many many films they’ve released over the years. Some of the centennial facts are kind of neat, others not so much. Check out the full list below…

1. Universal Film Manufacturing Company was officially incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912. Company legend says Carl Laemmle was inspired to name his company Universal after seeing “Universal Pipe Fittings” written on a passing delivery wagon.

2. The only physical damage made during the filming of National Lampoon’s Animal House was when John Belushi made a hole in the wall with a guitar. The actual Sigma Nu fraternity house (which subbed for the fictitious Delta House) never repaired it, and instead framed the hole in honor of the film.

3. The working title for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was “A Boy’s Life.”

4. In the movie All Quiet on the Western Front, the Greek writing on the blackboard in the schoolroom is the beginning of Homer’s Odyssey: “Tell me, oh Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide.”

5. In 1969, a then 22-year old Steven Spielberg was assigned to direct the Universal Television series pilot, Night Gallery. It’s safe to say things went pretty well for Steven after that.

6. The word “dude” in The Big Lebowski is used approximately 161 times in the movie: 160 times spoken and once in text (in the credits for “Gutterballs” the second dream sequence). The F-word or a variation of the F-word is used 292 times. The Dude says “man” 147 times in the movie—that’s nearly 1.5 times a minute.

7. The first feature filmed at Universal City was Damon and Pythias in 1914.

8. President Ronald Reagan starred in the 1951 Universal feature film, Bedtime for Bonzo.

9. Back to the Future’s DeLorean time machine is actually a licensed, registered vehicle in the state of California. While the vanity license plate used in the film says “OUTATIME,” the DeLorean’s actual license plate reads 3CZV657.

10. The film A Beautiful Mind was shot in sequence in order to help Russell Crowe better develop his character’s emotional and physical arc.
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Question of the Day: Teasers for Trailers


While it seems to be a sci-fi only thing at the moment, I have no doubt that it will soon be the new normal in terms of online film advertising. Prometheus, Total Recall and now Looper all have teasers leading up to the debut of only the films trailer. Arguably, the Stephanie Meyer non-Twilight property, The Host, had a power-point level ‘teaser’ was effectively a teaser for the trailer, albeit the presentation was not quite that explicit in communicating a ‘trailer premiere date’ as the former three, so you might just call that one a traditional ‘teaser.’

Advertising for advertising is a strange beast born of the 21st century. Especially, considering that it is likely only hard-core film nerds are ‘excited to see a trailer’ to the point where they will seek it out on their own. And like the “Ain’t It Cool News is a populist-baromoter to every thing pop-culture” fallacy of the late 1990s (*Cough* GODZILLA *Cough*), the studios seem to think that advertisements for their advertisements is the way of the future. Personally, I’ve got no beef with the director of the film making a personal pitch to the audience, dropping a heady concept into the audiences lap in a more intimate and personal way (from the horse’s, mouth so to speak), rather than the ‘visual-and-audio-overkill’ that many trailers are these days. I would still rather this method be done attached to the online trailer, as if the director or star introduces it followed immediately by the trailer itself. But the preference, at this particular cultural moment, is to trickle things out rather than plant a flag and shout from the hilltops.

What are your thoughts on this. Does it bother you? Are you completely indifferent to this trend? Do you like to be teased about the arrival of more marketing? Or do you merely skip all these trailers and teasers (and teasers for trailers) for films that you want to see, particularly those easy-to-spoil plot-twisty sci-fi films?

Sorry Weinsteins. Rules are Rules.

Just wanted to weigh in quickly on this latest controversy between the Weinstein Company and the MPAA. If you’re not aware, the short of it is that the MPAA slapped the Weinstein’s documentary Bully with an “R” rating. Really wanting to show the film in schools and have kids come to screenings as much as possible, the studio appealed the decision but by a very small margin (one vote I think), the MPAA stuck to their guns and said, sorry guys: R.

Now the internet is up in arms about it. Twitter is a flood with cries of bullshit and pleas to the MPAA to change their minds. I’ll be honest, I’m no fan of the dunder-heads over at the MPAA. And for the most part I’m in agreement with the protestations. But allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment.

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Fighting for 35mm…and Our Cinematic Heritage

There’s no doubt that the future of cinema is going to be digital rather than film (as a physical format). Theatres are converting to digital projection right and left, with fewer and fewer 35mm film prints struck all the time, and the major camera manufacturers are ceasing production of film cameras to focus solely on digital cameras instead. It’s where the demand is. But this shift to digital doesn’t only affect new films, which are likely to be shot, edited, and projected digitally, never spending any phase of their creation on physical film – it also affects older films, which were shot on 35mm and meant to be projected on 35mm. Many Hollywood studios have declared their intention to stop producing 35mm prints of older films for use in repertory cinemas, museums, film forums, universities, etc, instead presenting those films only in digital formats as well.

On the one hand, it’s easy to see why this makes sense to them. Digital copies are much easier and cheaper to store and transfer to theatres than bulky 35mm film prints. And many people will argue that digital looks better anyway, or at least consumers won’t be able to tell the difference. I heartily disagree with that – I love the tactile, physical look that 35mm has vs. the sterility of digital. But my point of view is quickly labeled romantic and old-fashioned in a world where cinema is a business and 35mm is antiquated technology. To some degree, it is a romantic perspective. I certainly get a rush of emotion every time I walk into the Silent Movie Theatre and see the film canisters sitting there, ready to be lovingly threaded through the projector by the seasoned projectionist for the evening’s screening. I smile when I see the cigarette burns signalling a reel change. I feel a connection to other audiences when a print is flawed through its many uses in other cinemas, screened for other audiences in other places. But what do my emotions, certainly the emotions of a minority of cinemagoers, matter in this equation?

I’m definitely not alone in my love for seeing films projected on 35mm (or 70mm or whatever format was originally used to shoot them) – Julia Marchese of Los Angeles’s New Beverly Cinema, one of the foremost repertory cinemas in the country and one that would certainly feel the loss of 35mm prints, has started an online petition to Fight for 35mm. It currently has nearly 6,000 signatures of a hoped-for 10,000. Here’s the bulk of her plea:

I firmly believe that when you go out to the cinema, the film should be shown in 35mm. At the New Beverly, we have never been about making money – a double feature ticket costs only $8. We are passionate about cinema and film lovers. We still use a reel to reel projection system, and our projectionists care dearly about film, checking each print carefully before it screens and monitoring the film as it runs to ensure the best projection possible. With digital screenings, the projectionists will become obsolete and the film will be run by ushers pushing a button – they don’t ever have to even enter the theater.

The human touch will be entirely taken away. The New Beverly Cinema tries our hardest to be a timeless establishment that represents the best that the art of cinema has to offer. We want to remain a haven where true film lovers can watch a film as it was meant to be seen – in 35mm. Revival houses perform an undeniable service to movie watchers – a chance to watch films with an audience that would otherwise only be available for home viewing. Film is meant to be a communal experience, and nothing can surpass watching a film with a receptive audience, in a cinema, projected from a film print.

I feel very strongly about this issue and cannot stand idly by and let digital projection destroy the art that I live for. As one voice I cannot change the future, but hopefully if enough film lovers speak up, we can prove to the studios that repertory cinema is important and that we want 35mm to remain available to screen.

Would you like to know more…?

The Year’s Just Getting Started: Most Anticipated Movies Still To Come

Summer is no more. Gone are 2011’s big summer blockbusters and as much as I enjoyed them (the likes of Super 8, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the last Harry Potter flick really impressed) now is the time when the heavy hitter, Oscar-ish films start to hit screens. The serious films we can all really sink our teeth into.

Since there’s a lot of noteworthy films still to come out between now and the end of the year (although some won’t hit screens in my British neck of the woods until early January/February next year) I thought I’d make up a list of what I’m most looking forward to checking out before year’s end, from 15 on down to 1.

I decided in order to qualify the films have to have a theatrical release scheduled (i.e. festival showings don’t count) somewhere in the world, whether that be in the US, the UK or anywhere else.

So without further ado, let’s get to the list, shall we?

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