Friday, February 27, 2009

The Love's To Love To Love The Love The Love's To Love

"If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dream
Where immobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again"

And so it began.

Van Morrison's Astral Weeks album remains to this day one of my consistently played and enjoyed works of musical art (yeah, that's right..I'm calling it art). I wore out three vinyl copies, and am on my third copy of the CD. From the upbeat opening number 'Astral Weeks' to the epic 'Madame George' to the hypnotic closer 'Slim Slow Slider', the album is a R&B jazzy folk-rock head to tail bonafide classic.

“Astral Weeks” songs...were from another sort of place — not what is at all obvious. They are poetry and mythical musings channeled from my imagination...[They] are little poetic stories I made up and set to music. The album is about song craft for me—making things up and making them fit to a tune I have arranged. The songs were somewhat channeled works—that is why I called it “Astral Weeks.” Van Morrison 2008

There's an excellent recent interview HERE in the UK Telegraph where Morrison discusses at length the making of the album in 1968, and his decision to rerecord it live last November. The resulting effort (with the addition of songs 'Listen To The Lion' and 'Common One') was released on CD this week. And I can't stop playing it.

The same but different...faithful to the originals yet contemporary in its sound and vibrancy...Astral Weeks Live at the Hollywood Bowl somehow manages to take you back and take you forward at the same time, while always triumphing in the here and now...being 'the moment'.

The tracks on the live CD are performed or presented at least in a different order than how they were listed on the original lp, but the end result is still magic.

Friday Fun is Astral Weeks revisited.

"Dry your eye for Madame George
Wonder why for Madame George
The love's to love, the love's to love, the loves to love
Say goodbye, goodbye
Get on the train, the train, the train
This is the train, this is the train
Say goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
Get on the train."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why I Suck, And Why Making A Great TV Series Is So Hard

Apologies for the recent series of random, bordering on the incoherent, posts....but I haven't really been 'sparked' by much to write about of late. And I'm tired of thinking about CRTC and the major television networks in this country and speculating on what they won't do as opposed to what they are doing or want to do. And to be perfectly honest, I get sick of my own voice every now and then. I'm going through some 'now and then' these days it seems.

Blogging is a funny thing. It comes with a lot of just write whatever is on one's mind, and to write regardless of whether anyone else cares or not, or is even reading for that matter, without repercussion or consequence...but you have to at least be enjoying what you're saying and why you're saying it. Not been feeling it that much lately,

But then again, I seem to say this once, or even twice, a year at least. So will pass.

That said, go read Mr. TV Guidance Jaime Weinman's thoughts on serialized and non-serialized television series...and what you're up against trying to make them great.

With TV, then, particularly non-serialized TV, a lot of the usual ways of judging a work of art don’t completely apply. We cannot judge a TV episode by whether the character is in a different place or learned something (part of the reason “lessons” on TV are often so fake is that we know they’re meaningless; if the characters really learned anything, half the story ideas would be gone). The only obstacles the protagonist can overcome are external ones, like catching the murderer.

And though TV can and should aspire to the status of a great novel, the way TV shows are made — episode by episode, season by season — makes them inherently incoherent; the best of them are incoherent in a lovable way, like The Pickwick Papers. Television is a medium that can theoretically develop characters at great length and with great complexity, but practically finds itself rooted in forms and styles where characters cannot really be developed at all.

A great television series figures out how to do the impossible, which is to create a sense of an unfolding world while dealing with the need to keep that world essentially static.

Read the rest of this great post's what I might say if my head was in the bloggin' game right now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'll Be Durn

Mountain talk is gradually disappearing. Its demise is largely the result of education and the influence of television and radio. This page was created so that the language would not be entirely lost. I hope you git a kick outta this here page.

I see a TV series...a sitcom probably, inspired by the Dictionary of Mountain Talk Website, which you can peruse HERE. Created by Judy Henley Phillips, she vows to keep the mountain and backwoods word alive...or something.

I'm telling you, a show's here for the taking. If you go to Exclamations, for example, you can find perfect titles for the first 18 episodes:

Bite yore tongue!
Consarn it!
Dad blame!
Dad burn it!
Dag nab it!
Dog gone it!
Good gosh!
Gosh almighty!
I declare!
I'll be diddly dad burn!
I'll swear!
Land agoshen!
Land's sake!
Of all things!
Oh, my goodness gracious!
Shoot far!

Damn you education and influential TV and radio! Even if it hair-lipped the Governor (what does that even mean?), damn you all to hell!

Mountain talk...I will not forget you.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Credit Crisis, Sub-Prime Mortgages, and Bad Leverage (not the TV's excellent!)

This post is essentially a public service announcement, since the credit crisis really doesn't have anything to do with the entertainment/TV/movie biz (though our industry's are certainly being affected by it).

I hate not understanding shit...not getting why things happened or how they this Electric Company-style short video explaining the financial meltdown we're in was just what I needed to see.

Because Beavis needs things spelled out for him sometimes.

Part One:

Part Two:

Once you've screened those videos, take a look at Frontline's 'Inside The Meltdown' episode from last week (WATCH HERE). Then scan this Globe & Mail interview with financial guru Niall Ferguson, and see if your head doesn't want to melt. Reading this article and viewing these two programs won't make the mess any easier to deal with, but should help you understand why and how the mess happened.

All I know is I'm really looking forward to the sequels: 'Solving The Credit Crisis' and 'After The Meltdown'...they couldn't arrive soon enough.

One Thumb Down

Oscar night. Just not what it used to be. I blame TMZ.

As for the nominated films, I enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire a lot, but abhorred The Curious Case of Benjamin Button even though both films use a similar flashback storytelling technique. The Wrestler was very indie but solid drama, whereas Milk was predictably effective but not near as powerful as The Life and Times of Harvey Milk documentary. More The Dark Knight should've been nominated...never saw The Reader, Frost/Nixon, Doubt, Revolutionary Road, Rachel Getting Married, or Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

As for the telecast? I dunno. Despite Hugh Jackman putting his best song and dance shoe forward, the awards ceremony left me kinda...meh.

Friday, February 20, 2009

California Sunlight, Sweet Calcutta Rain...

Another year has come and gone. My kids keep telling me: "You aren't getting any older, you're getting...well, um...yeah, you're getting older."

I believe I've told you this before - first rock concert I ever saw was Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains The Same.

Well, technically, t'was the first concert film I ever saw...(first actual rock concert concert was The Stampeders at the Centre of the Arts in 1976).

It was a weekday matinee screening down at the Coronet (billed as Regina's first triple auditorium theatre! And long since torn down). I went with my school chum Bart Habermiller. We took the bus to get there. There was one other person in attendance, an older gentleman. Bart was a little creeped out. I didn't care.

The lights dimmed. The movie began.

It's a long film, and the extended fantasy sequences starring the band members interspersed between musical performances did make it feel even longer. Bart fell asleep halfway through, around the same time the one other patron eased themselves up out of their seat and walked out, muttering about being sooooo bored.

But I sat through it all. Entranced. Mesmerized. Awed. All those kinds of words. C'mon! It was Zep, man! One of my musical idols! Rock n' Roll gods!

And a band I would never have a hope in hell seeing in Buttkick, butcept on a movie screen.

Anyway, I woke Bart up as the tail credits rolled, and we shuffled back out into the late afternoon sun. Not California sunshine mind you, but I still did feel enlightened in some way...more informed and inspired and connected even to an exciting world that existed beyond the city limits of a small prairie town.

With all the internets and the youtubes today, all short bursts....clips and excerpts...from everywhere, I often wonder if such a singular seminal viewing experience is ever possible for our that opens their eyes and ears to the power and pleasure and possibilities of the rest of world.

Ohh it makes me does.

The Song Remains The Same

I had a dream. Crazy dream.
Anything I wanted to know, any place I needed to go

Hear my song. People won't you listen now? Sing along.
You don't know what you're missing now.
Any little song that you know
Everything that's small has to grow.
And it has to grow!

California sunlight, sweet Calcutta rain
Honolulu starbright - the song remains the same.

Sing out Hare Hare, dance the Hoochie Koo.
City lights are oh so bright, as we go sliding... sliding...
sliding through.

If you discover what you're missing, even now, it's always possible to find it.

Now where's my cake.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Sound Of Hysteria...

No, this isn't a post about the financial meltdown (great doc on Frontline the other night btw), or about Canadian broadcasters or our ISP's, it's just me and one of my occasional rock n' roll rambles.

There's a musical artist or band's 'sound', like the The Stones, U2, Radiohead, David Bowie, TV On The Radio...and then there's the 'sound' the record producer brings to the table, or in this case, the studio.

But what is a record producer exactly? Well, Wikipedia says:

A record producer has many roles, among them controlling the recording sessions, coaching and guiding the musicians, organizing and scheduling production budget and resources, and supervising the recording, mixing and mastering processes.

The music producer could, in some cases, be compared to the film director in that the producer's job is to create, shape and mold a piece of music in accordance with their vision for the album. Unlike in film, the music producer is seldom responsible for raising the funds to create the record – more like the film director, the record producer is hired by those who have already obtained funding (typically record or publishing companies, though occasionally the artists themselves).

That's what the best record producers are known for...creating, shaping, and molding the music into a cohesive vision or concept album. There have been several notable record producers in the pop music industry over the past several decades: 'Wall of Sound' Phil Spector (The Righteous Brothers); George Martin (The Beatles); Brian Eno (U2, Talking Heads, Robert Fripp); Timbaland (Justin Timberlake); and my personal fav: Robert John "Mutt" Lange.

Lange's resume is pretty impressive...from Graham Parker's Heat Treatment to AcDc's Back In Black to Bryan Adam's Waking Up The Neighbours to Shania Twain's Come On Over and Up! (say what you want against Twain, but her songs and cd's were really well produced)...Lange has been the mastermind and guiding force behind many of the most popular and successful albums of the past three decades.

And in the mid 80's, he produced Def Leppard's Hysteria, which still to this day remains one of my fav 'sonic' experiences. I really love the way that album 'sounds'.

Lange began working towards a signature multi-tracking musical design during Lep's previous release Pyromania, and specifically "Photograph", but he aced the sound with flying colours on Hysteria. Yes it took more than three years to complete, but proof was in the pudding.

Also from Wikipedia:

While Pyromania contained traces of heavy metal, "Hysteria" removed them in favor of the latest sonic technology available at the time. As with Pyromania, every song was recorded by every member in the studio separately instead of the whole band. The multiple vocal harmonies were enhanced by Lange's techniques, even pitching background vocals on all tracks. Guitar parts were now focused more on emphasising melody than hard rock's more basic and cliched riffs.

I'm not surprised the band used the Rockman amplifier, developed by guitarist Tom Scholz, since Boston's Boston album feels like it could be Hysteria's predecessor.

Listen to "Animal" and you'll hear why:

Or "Love Bites":

Other masterful soundscapes from the album: Women, Rocket, Armageddon It, and of course Pour Some Sugar On Me. Actually, one of the episodes of VH1's Classic Albums profiled "Hysteria". Unfortunately, Mutt Lange doesn't make an appearance, but there's plenty of interesting insight into the songs and how they achieved the sound. Here is Part One. You can watch most of the rest of it HERE.

I don't really have a point, other than to say how much I still enjoy the experience of 'listening' to this album. And I'm not talking about lyrics or song meaning or any of that...just the way the sound...the 'production'... hits my ear and reverberates around in my head. It pleases me. Sort of like the CSI franchise...not a lot of substance, but it sure has a great appealing signature 'look'.

Robert John Mutt Lange made sound 'look' good with Hysteria.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Friendly Jesus Musical Interlude

He is like a Mountie...he always gets his man!

Don't you all feel better now!

H/T to Joe via Hart

Monday, February 16, 2009

Studios, Stars, And (No) Money..and Listen To This!

Just some good reads this Family Day holiday...Variety's Editor-In-Chief Peter Bart writes a sobering tale in Vanity Fair about Hollywood's over reliance on the star system has resulted in poorer and poorer movies. But Bart's happy ending is how the economic crisis may end up having a positive effect on the quality of films coming out of LaLa Land.

All this said, to paint Hollywood as an all-out war zone with the artists fighting the bean counters would be an absurd oversimplification. The fraternity of filmmakers embraces a growing number who are themselves corporate players and who are in the game for the big paydays. And the ranks of the studios contain many executives who have sophisticated tastes and who, left to their own devices, would make art-house films. “It’s my ardent wish that I could create more movies that I’d actually want to see,” confessed the production chief at one studio, who obviously did not want to be named.

So here’s the discomfiting reality that makes studio executives squirm: It’s cable television, not film, that’s generating audience excitement today. Tune in to the typical watercooler chatter (or what passes for it online), and the titles you hear are more often Entourage or Weeds or Dexter or Mad Men, not Doubt or The Reader.

Ask Hollywood’s top filmmakers what forces may pull the community out of its current slough and you often elicit the following answer: The malaise itself is the key. The system needed to be shaken up. The creative community needed a reality check.
“I don’t want to sound like the dopey optimist,” says Paramount’s Brad Grey, “but I think good things will emerge from all this angst and turmoil. We may find ourselves replaying the 60s or some form thereof.”
I find it interesting that he mentions cable TV land as the place which gets all the buzz these days. It's a good essay, read it HERE.

And Linda Holmes at NPR's Monkey See blog waxes eloquent about the art of the DVD commentary HERE, with special consideration given to the first episode of the 2nd Season of This American Life - the Showtime TV version.

Host Ira Glass and director Chris Wilcha offer genuine insight about why a shot was chosen, why a sequence was or wasn't used, and how they got Johnny Depp. (Philips(the character in the episode) is a prolific writer despite the fact that typing is a very slow process for him, and having the voice of Depp -- who Philips names as one of the guys he'd want to play him in a movie -- suddenly appear to read his words gives the entire episode a floaty, dreamlike quality that utterly defies the physical limitations of Philips' world.)

It's rare that the insights offered in a commentary are so good that they're almost as rich as the episode itself, but this is that rare case.

That sounds like a show and a commentary worth taking a look at, and a listen to.

Fun's done...back to work.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's All In The Wrist

Must be the Beavis in me, but Alec Baldwin and 'The Wii Guys" sketch on SNL last night....bahhahahahhahahaha!!!!

Watch quick before NBC takes it down.

Because it made me laugh my head off...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I've Got A Bad Feeling About Dollhouse

I know that post title sounds harsh - I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon and his writing, and really want nothing more for Dollhouse to be a commercial and critical success. But I'm kinda worried about it with really nothing to base my feelings on other than my gut, and TV viewers time-honoured tradition of avoiding or abandoning much-hyped shows.

Look back at nearly every TV series that was a hit...they pretty much all became hits. TV fans are funny that way...they like to discover a series and fall in love with it, not be told to love it.

Whedon's first TV effort Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn't a smash out of the gate. It arrived with little fanfare, but slowly and surely grew into one of the most acclaimed and influential TV series of all time. That said, it still never achieved CSI-like 'hit' numbers. But fans found it and fell in love with it and stuck with it. That's usually how it works, especially in genre television. The X Files, Battlestar Gallatica, Charmed, Supernatural, Smallville...some may have been quicker out of the gate than others, but it was the slow yet consistent growth of the fanbase that ultimately elevated them.

Look at the most of the recent or current hit North American TV programs on the tube --- The Sopranos, The Shield, Mad Men, House, Bones, CSI, NCIS, Grey's Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, Two And A Half Men, The Office, even Corner Gas --- they all began somewhat quietly and slowly grew into what they became or are today. Sure, Lost started on somewhat of a bigger note...there are always exceptions to the rule...but I still don't remember it being touted as 'the next big thing!'

That said, I can't turn around these days without seeing an article or an ad for Dollhouse: premiering this Friday night on FOX! And I know its important to market and promote new shows...hell, it's better than no promotion at all! But there seems to be a fine line between creating interest and awareness for a program...and touting it as 'must see TV!' Strangely enough, unlike hyped movies, most people will resist if they are told they 'must' watch and 'must' love a TV show. But they are cool with it if a series becomes must see on its own.

Firefly, Whedon's last TV series before 'Dollhouse', was touted as the next big thing. It was expected to rocket out of the gate and keep going up. It never did...didn't even last a whole season. A lot of factors contributed, including network meddling and too-high expectations, but I will go so far as to say that it just never felt like I was watching something 'special' as much as I was watching something that thought it was special. Dollhouse is looking like it may also have that lack of 'specialness' working against it.

For starters, I feel I've already seen it before...either a show called Alias, or a show called Dark Angel, starring Jessica Alba.

Dark Angel: A genetically enhanced, 9-year-old female super-soldier who calls herself Max Guevara (also known as X5-452), escapes along with eleven others like her from a secret government institution where they'd been created and subsequently raised and trained to be soldiers and assassins. The series picks up ten years later as it follows the life of the now 19-year-old Max (Jessica Alba) as she searches for her missing 'brothers and sisters', and tries to live her life, evade capture, and learn to trust and love.

Okay...and the basic premise of Dollhouse?

Dollhouse: The show follows an organization that employs mind-wiped DNA-altered humans known as Dolls who are implanted with false memories and skills for various missions, fantasies, assassinations, and tasks. When they are not 'at work' they are living in a real life Dollhouse which gives the show the name. One of those mind-wiped humans, a young woman named Echo (Eliza Dushku ), is slowly starting to become aware of herself and what's going on - and wants to stop it and escape while helping the other 'Dolls'.

And then there's some of the posters:

Now maybe its just the same photographer at FOX who only knows how to take one pose (see also Fox's Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles)...

...but Dollhouse and Dark Angel sure look and sound the same. And 'Dark Angel', with all it's hype (brought to you by James Cameron), never really connected with viewers and thus fans in a big way. I'm worried that 'Dollhouse' may suffer the same fate.

And now, these new pics of Dollhouse's Eliza Dushku have swept across the net...

...and I fear when a show starts releasing tasteful but nude pictures of your star before the first episode has even aired...well, it smells of desperate.

Series TV fans want to discover the sexy (and the drama, and the funny), not have it shoved down their throats.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'll Buy Pretty Much Any Stupid Thing I See In An Ad

Still on the subject of why people buy stuff and how companies sell stuff, check out this hilarious 'story' from the Onion News Network about Sony's new stupid box thing.

Watch and laugh HERE.

Definitely NSFW

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Why People Buy Stuff?

Weinman at TV Guidance has already covered this product and its creepy advertisement campaign in several amusing posts, but when I read that the Snuggie recently passed 4 million in sales I had to watch the commercial again and try to figure out..what's the attraction?

CNBC's Squawk On The Street's Erin Burnett even went so far as to proclaim the success of the Snuggie as proof that television (or TV advertising) as a medium isn't dead. I don't know if I'd go that far...what Allstar Products Groups President Scott Boilen had to say makes a little more sense:

Scott Boilen, president and CEO of Allstar Products Group, the company that conceived and markets the Snuggie, credits pop culture for some of its success and not necessarily the resurgence of TV.

"Every once in a while, a product transcends advertising to become part of pop culture," Boilen said to USA Today in an article by Maria Puente.

Puente also pointed out the Web phenomenon the Snuggie has become.

"Indeed, Snuggies seem to be everywhere. See them on Facebook - nearly 250 groups, pro and con; one fan club lists 5,999 members," Puente wrote. "Watch them on YouTube - nearly 300 parody videos posted, including one titled ‘The Cult of the Snuggie,' with 146,000 views as of Tuesday."
But then again, they seem to be saying that mocking a product can lead to people wanting the product. What the huh?

I still don't get it. The Snuggie is fugly, and that shot of the family in their cultish-looking Snuggies at the baseball game makes me want to run so far away from these things, and yet...they're making someone a killing.

Are the makers of the Snuggie really giving people what they want? Or do people just want what we give them. Maybe we do overthink all of this making quality shows and products. Maybe it is really only about keeping it simple, or stupid, or both.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Animating Standup

Been a week of trying to get caught up but still feel behind...maybe less is more. Right. Yeah, keep telling yourself that, Will. So a little bit of now and then shall constitute Friday fun... stand up routines that have been animated.

First some then...Woody Allen is lucky it wasn't a cello:

And some now...Dane Cook warns us not to drink the kool aid (even though a lot of young-uns seem to be drinking his):

Dane Cook. Um...yeah.

Because they both made me smile, but for very different reasons.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Good Actors Gone Wild

I know by posting this I'm encouraging people to listen to it...but I do have a point to make. The following is an audio excerpt of actor Christian Bale losing it and yelling at the DOP during the filming of Terminator: Salvation last summer. Yes it's NSFW, but I did enjoy Bale dropping the F-bomb effectively and with just the right amount of emphasis, over and over and over again. Hear the rant HERE.

What's most surprising to me isn't what's said or fact it was said on the floor of a film production (believe me, I've heard worse), but that so many of the commenters rip a strip off Bale for being an ass and a prima donna and so on. I suppose most would rather tear down stardom and celebrity than hold it up on high, but there's lots of missing context to consider here.

Bale could've just been in the middle of a very emotional scene that he'd spent days preparing for, and then gotten distracted at the worst possible time. The DOP could've been an arrogant tool who behaves like all actors are sheep and his disruptive behavior may have been going on for weeks and this was the time Bale went off on it. Or the DOP could be a sweetheart and just moved to the wrong place at the wrong time. Or Bale could be a completely dickwad and treats everyone like shit.

We don't know, we'll never know...but like the Alec Baldwin phone message to his daughter of a couple years ago, it's really none of our business and wasn't meant for public consumption... so, in fact, we shouldn't know.

A film set is an extremely intense and volatile environment. You've got upwards of sixty people moving about constantly, all with very specific and important job descriptions, all with their job on the line if they screw up. And then, for a few brief moments every half hour or so, everyone has to freeze after a director calls 'Action!', and wait for one or two actors to do something or say a few lines of dialogue.

Is that really so bad? A few minutes of stillness and silence an hour is all we're talking's not unreasonable.

Actors are a funny lot. And yes, some do get a big head about themselves and what they're doing...but the reality is they are the ones physically putting themselves out there whenever they step in front of the lens. It's an incredibly vulnerable position to be in. They're also usually the most sensitive and insecure, with the most to lose and least to gain in their minds...and thus, as a crew member, you need to be cognisant of this truism. Yes it's a collaborative medium, and every job done well is crucial to a movie's success. But so much rides on the actors performance...that's something that will get seen and noticed by movie viewers. Whereas the dappled light across the back wall of the set that may be a half stop over, probably not so much.

I'm not condoning being a dick, or treating people like scum...professionalism and mutual respect should always the first priority. But in the high stakes, big-money tension-filled, ego-driven, very loud world of life on a film set...a little quiet now and then isn't too much to ask.

EDIT: And there's already a remix...very Colbertian

Sunday, February 01, 2009

August Rules

Screenwriter/blogger extraordinaire John August posted his speech to a recent graduating class of a film school, and all I can say is 'wow'.

An excerpt:

You may think you’re going to be a screenwriter, a director or an editor, but the odds are you’ll be all of those things on different projects at different times.

The one thing you won’t be is an amateur. I want you to banish that word, because you need to treat everything you do from the moment you walk out the door as a professional. This is now your job.

That means doing your best work at all times, even when it doesn’t seem to matter. You may feel like you’re not getting graded. You are. It’s just that no one is telling you what score you got.

And let’s talk about your classmates. You probably have some good friends and some people you kind of hope to never see again. While you were in the program here, you had to rely on them. Your professors put you in teams. You got along, you fought, whatever. That doesn’t stop. No one makes a movie by himself. So if by next weekend, you’re not reading one of their scripts, or helping on something they’re shooting, something’s wrong. Trust me that five years from now, the most successful person in this class will be the one who worked the hardest for other people.

My last piece of advice is probably the one most likely to induce insomnia. Every night when you go to bed, ask yourself: What did you do today to get closer to your goals? That’s a hard question to ask. Feel free to beat yourself up, because no one else will anymore. That’s the best and worst thing about graduating — it’s the end of the systematic evaluation of your progress.

Go read all of John's speech HERE. All I can say is it seems to take me an entire semester to impress upon students everything he said so eloquently in just a few well-worded paragraphs.