Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Scott's Links February 2012

For those who don't know, Scott roams the internet far and wide. Because of this, he supplies interesting links to Big Hollywood every day. I've asked Scott to give us a list of the best links he finds each month and a quick synopsis of what's behind each one. Check these out. . . share your thoughts!

How Stanley Kubrick shot his own Newsweek cover

No director will ever have greater control over his films, his marketing, or his image than Stanley Kubrick. This article tells the story of how, in the winter of 1971, Kubrick managed to get his Newsweek cover photo shot by his own people on his own terms in his own house. Lucky guy.

The physics behind your favorite sci-fi theme songs

I'm always interested in people's favorite songs (or films, novels, etc.) and what, if anything, they have in common. It turns out that many of our geek-friendly film scores - including many of my favorites - have something in common: "the perfect fifth." (Sorry, Andrew, they don't mention The Black Hole!)

Looking back at The Phantom Menace rumor mill

Remember 1999? Bill Clinton was president, we were all fearing Y2K, and Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace was released. Needless to say, rumors of a Star Wars prequel had been circulating for years and this article revisits some of the more outlandish predictions. Charlton Heston as a Jedi?

61 things we learned from the Armageddon commentary

Take it away, Ben Affleck: "I asked [director] Michael [Bay] why it was easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers, and he told me to shut the f--- up, so that was the end of that talk."

10 undervalued Woody Allen movies

I've seen almost every Woody Allen movie, though this list is not complete without his wonderfully charming 1996 musical Everyone Says I Love You. The ending sequence, which features a group of all-singing all-dancing Groucho Marxes and Woody Allen and Goldie Hawn dancing along (and above) the River Seine is magical.

5 reasons Firefly was lucky to get cancelled

Interesting article which I totally agree with. Had the show lasted, the studio execs no doubt would've ordered Joss Whedon to make it more "accessible" for mainstream audiences, thus alienating the fans who would've made it a hit to begin with. It's quite the paradox.

From 2009: The hidden conservative streak of 30 Rock

Yes, I'm a huge fan of this show and I realize it's a big target, considering who stars in it and the network it airs on. But the show can be surprisingly even-handed when it wants to be. One of my personal favorite episodes makes a complete mockery of NBC's "Green Week" and another episode guest stars Carrie Fisher as a 70s-era comedy writer who: a.) is still fighting "the man" after all these years, and b.) is a poor trainwreck.

5 NC-17 films that wore their rating proudly

It's a shame the NC-17 rating is frowned upon, especially since there are plenty of R-rated movies that get away with graphically torturing people, but if you have too much nudity, it's the end of the freaking world!

Movie special effects you won't believe aren't CGI

As I'm fond of saying, CGI is just a tool and it should be used wisely. Many directors don't know any better but the culprits are usually the studio execs who are convinced that's what people want. This article looks at some awesome FX sequences that were done sans CGI.

Hedy Lamarr: "most beautiful woman" by day, inventor by night

I still think this is the coolest story: I've never seen a Hedy Lamarr movie but in the 40s, she helped develop a technology for the war effort that became the precursor for today's wi-fi and cell networks. "That's Hedley!" [smile]

Last night's listening:

The late Leonard Rosenman's score for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is definitely the odd one out in the Trek musical canon and many fans (including me) have always had mixed reactions to it. My opinion improved last December when Intrada released the complete score, remastered with extensive liner notes and alternate cues, including two long sought-after pieces: an alternate version of the main title in which Rosenman reprises the theme to the original series, and the complete version of "I Hate You" which blasts from the punk's boombox during the bus scene, making this the first Trek soundtrack album with an Explicit Lyric warning! (You don't hear it in the film but the F-word is used at the end of the song.)

36 comments:

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Thanks for the link article! Some of these are pretty cool. The Firefly article is a little depressing as I think it's right.

DUQ said...

Scott, Thanks for the links. So many to look at! LOL! What's your favorite soundtrack?

DUQ said...

Also, I don't believe 30 Rock has a conservative streak. I really don't.

Doc Whoa said...

Scott, Thanks for the links. Sadly, I can't comment at the moment as I don't have time to follow them all up. I will look at them, however. :D

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I agree. Here's my question... when it comes to studio execs, are they complete idiots or are they genuinely trying to make the best product they can? Or is it simply a question of expectations?

ScottDS said...

DUQ -

Your welcome! Re: scores, I can't possibly name my favorites. To borrow the cliche, it's like a parent trying to choose his favorite child. Sadly, given my young age, I'm not as well-versed in the Golden Age guys like Waxman, Newman, and Rozsa.

On the other hand, being a child of the 80s, many of my favorite scores are your classic sci-fi/fantasy/adventure stuff: Star Trek, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, etc. My favorite composer is Jerry Goldsmith and I also like John Williams, James Horner, Danny Elfman, Elmer Bernstein, Bernard Herrmann, and some of the younger guys working today, like Michael Giacchino (love his Medal of Honor video game scores!) and Bear McCreary.

Re: 30 Rock, "streak" is Slate Magazine's word, not mine. Truth be told, 90% of their humor is apolitical but when they do get political, oddly the conservative stuff is often funnier than the liberal stuff.

ScottDS said...

Doc -

Thanks. Take your time!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I honestly can't answer that. I suspect they are doing what they think will work to maximize the viewing audience. So they do what the marketing tells them to do. That's really the only answer I have?

ScottDS said...

Fair enough. It's something I think about now and then.

When it comes to genre and niche programming, I cringe whenever I read a story about Hollywood and the San Diego Comic-Con. The word "co-opted" comes to mind and for every filmmaker or executive who gets it, there are two who don't.

But you mention marketing and I think that's the big problem: most marketing departments are run by business people, not "movie people" and I've heard many horror stories of filmmakers who went in to see the posters and the trailers that the marketing flunkies came up with for their films and the filmmakers are horrified.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Sadly, most of these events get co-opted.

What happens is that their popularity brings in the people who see the event as a way to make money. Those aren't people who love the topic, they just love the prospect of milking the audience. And they don't understand or care what was created, they just see the potential to market. So they muscle their way in with sponsor dollars and soon they end up running the show, and not in a way that bares any resemblance to what was created originally. That's why all the film festivals start with an idea of being "indie" and end up showing Pirates of the Caribbean.


Television shows probably go the same way. Because they have small audience, they largely get ignored. But once they start to build an audience, "the suits" notice and they step in to make sure the show is done right. Often this means a bigger budget, but more often than not it means a rejection of anything that doesn't fit the Return on Investment equation. And since there are a bunch of tricks which work to pump up audiences, that's what they turn to. The idea is to create the largest possible audience, not the most passionate audience.

I think that's a huge mistake, but that's how they do because it's safer to hope 10% of a million people buy your product than it is to hope 10,000 loyal people buy it ten times.

ScyFyterry said...

I have to say I'm not a fan of Woody Allen. I know he's considered a genius, but I've just never seen it.

I love the Ben Afflek quote! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, Young Ben raises an excellent point! LOL!

I'm not a Woody Allen fan either. To me, his biggest sin is that he's just not very original. He's done almost nothing that made me say, "wow, I've never seen that before!"

ScottDS said...

ScyFy and Andrew -

I don't like every single one of his films (Whatever Works is one of the worst movies I've ever seen and I'm perfectly happy having seen many of his films only once)...

...but I'm a fan. I won't say it's because I'm Jewish and have my own neuroses but I wonder sometimes. :-) I started watching them in 2002 or so when I first started my Netflix subscription - I watched every film, for the most part in order, and yeah, there isn't tons of originality in terms of ideas or themes but there are gags and set pieces and other things which are totally original. I can also appreciate that he can go from drama to comedy and back, albeit not with 100% success.

As for Affleck, I know he gets a bad wrap but he seems like a good guy. I appreciate that he's found success as a director now.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I've disliked Affleck for a long time and I doubt anything will change that. But that's neither here nor there.

My problem with Allen is that I just never felt there's any substance to his work. There's nothing I haven't seen before. I don't find his stories or characters gripping. In effect, to me, he's just a generic director. He's had some ok moments, but nothing that makes me want to see his films. So I've never been sure why he gets all of this acclaim as a great director?

ScottDS said...

I like Allen's stories and concepts though I admit I don't always find his characters engaging, more so in his melodramas than his comedies which are more accessible. I'll continue to see his films and I do think Midnight in Paris was his best movie in years, but that's mostly because of the novelty value and the nostalgia factor (and the scenes with Ernest Hemingway).

However, I disliked the movie he did before that, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which wasn't dramatic enough to be a drama but wasn't funny enough (or at all) to be a comedy. It came off as "Woody lite" or rather someone else's vision of what a typical Woody Allen movie is.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The one film of his that I enjoyed (and do enjoy) is What's Up Tiger Lilly. BUT there again, I think the joke is ultimately rather flat. In other words, it was a funny idea and worked mostly, but could have been so much better.

I also enjoyed a couple lines in Bananas. But all the rest really left me flat.

T-Rav said...

Interesting stuff, Scott!

I'm not a fan of 30 Rock, as I think Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan are best taken in small doses, but I think there is a case there. I remember one of the few episodes I watched, where David Schwimmer was playing a really hard-core green activist, and basically spent the whole time assaulting everyone who wasn't environmentally friendly enough to suit him. It was fairly funny.

LawHawkRFD said...

Loved the piece on Firefly. "Balkanization of nerds." Hilarious.

AndrewPrice said...

You know who he reminds me of? Robert Altman. He's another guy with a big reputation and a couple good ideas, but his execution has always left me underwhelmed. I feel like he thinks he's doing something scathing, but he's really just gently poking holes in very tired cliches.

Tennessee Jed said...

Scott - The Hedy book looks quite interesting. To quote Garth: "Babelonian." lol
Kubrick - back in the day before Newsweek completely sucked.
Woody: I have a movie review of "Match Point" hanging around on the computer.
30 Rock - maybe, but the show is now and will always be 100% neglected by me.

Ed said...

Scott, I can't image a Star Trek Soundtrack with an explicit lyric warning? Lol!

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I've seen it twice but for the life of me, I can't remember a thing about Bananas. I don't get it! I know there's a trial scene at the end and that's about it. When it comes to his "earlier, funnier" films, my favorite is Love and Death.

ScottDS said...

T-Rav -

The Schwimmer episode you refer to is the same "Green Week" episode I mention in my blurb. And it's funny because it's all (probably) true.

I like Fey but I agree about Morgan being tolerable in small doses only. If you want to sound like his character on the show, just add "Liz Lemon!" to the end of all your sentences. :-)

ScottDS said...

LawHawk -

The weird thing is even the hardcore Joss Whedon fans (Whedonites?) are looked at by other sci-fi fans as some bizarre cult. :-)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I've only seen a few Robert Altman films (and I was probably too young to appreciate MASH) but when Shapiro did his overrated director's list (ugh), I felt he should've included Altman. I just can't connect to his stuff, though his films certainly feature some great performances in them.

tryanmax said...

I dunno how to respond, so I’ll just respond to everything:

Kubrick - Very cool, though I would expect nothing less.

physics - I’ve always been fascinated by the way music seems to be the perfect convergence between art and science.

rumors - I don’t remember any of these. I remember that at some point we all got excited that we would finally learn what the Clone Wars were. What a letdown!

Armageddon - So all I have to do to get my dentistry paid for is to be a half-rate actor with a dubious screenwriting credit? I guess I’ll just keep paying the insurance company.

Woody Allen - "I'm sorry I took so long to finish." "It's okay I'm just starting to get some feeling back in my jaw." Um, yeah. That’s all I’ve got.

Firefly - Sad, but hard to argue against. I will say, Firefly and Serenity have left me with a sense of satisfaction that no other series or franchise ever has.

30 Rock - The analysis is a bit strained, but I get it. I think Rock is a precursor to Portlandia in that both shows are basically liberals poking fun at themselves for their childish beliefs and attitudes. Each gives me some hope because part of growing up is recognizing that you have to.

NC-17 - Somehow I’ve seen Pink Flamingos. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. But some things cannot be washed away. And if I can get in on the link action, that article led me to another that I thought was interesting enough to share: Five Actors' Siblings We Secretly Like Better

not CGI - I think the LOTR effects are the most impressive, but I learned something I didn’t previously know about Dracula that gives me a deeper appreciation for the movie. Seriously, if it weren’t for Keanu and Winona, that movie would be amazing! What a shame.

Hedy Lamarr - Impressive! I wish there were more stars like her today. I don’t think there’s any rule that says actors must be vapid. But then again, I don’t hold a SAG card, so I really couldn’t say…

tryanmax said...

...continued.

film scores - I’d have to say, hands down, my favorite musical scoring is the work of Carl Stalling. For those who don’t know, he’s the guy who put Bugs Bunny et al. to music. His orchestra also contributed to the SFX, as did voice artist Mel Blanc, revealing why the integration of sound in that era of Looney Tunes shorts is so seamless. Stalling drew from everything and was not shy about outright borrowing much of his material. Verily, he’s single-handedly responsible for establishing several musical clich├ęs. (Ever wonder why sunrises are always set to Morgenstemning?) The genius lies in how he wove the various themes and styles together into a seamless but madcap tapestry perfect for the zany animated characters they helped bring to life.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

I've always found the Hedy story interesting. It's certainly not something you read everyday. Now I just need to see one of her films one of these days.

No comment about Newsweek but I'd love to see what Kubrick would do with the Internet. [sigh] Probably nothing. He enjoyed his privacy and his secrecy and I doubt he'd be blogging or anything like that.

I'd love to get your take on Match Point. I enjoyed it and I know many people who saw the trailer and when Woody's name came up, they were like, "Wait, what?!"

As for 30 Rock, different strokes for different folks. :-)

ScottDS said...

Ed -

It's the only Trek soundtrack with a warning like that! Again, the film is rated PG; you only hear it on the album.

The song itself was written specifically for the film by Kirk Thatcher, associate producer, who also plays the punk on the bus. For the CD, they managed to get the original source which has survived all these years.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

Re: Kubrick - ditto!

Re: music - while I'm a fan, I know nothing of how music is actually written or performed so I can't really get in-depth with it. I had trouble following the article.

Re: rumors - I vaguely remember some stuff. Back then, I was much more in tune with the geek rumor mill than I am today. But I was always more interested in the behind the scenes stuff: what would the ships look like, etc.?

Re: Armageddon - If you ever do become a half-rate actor, be sure to work with more scientifically-inclined directors! :-)

Re: Woody - "The universe is expanding!"

Re: Firefly - I got into the show a few years after the fact but I enjoy it very much. I'm constantly amazed at the efforts of the fans, whether it's charity events with the Browncoats or simply fan-made artwork and fiction.

Re: 30 Rock - Interesting take. Oddly, I couldn't make it through more than two episodes of Portlandia. I found the characters more annoying than funny. (And this is coming from someone who leans a little more to the left than anyone else on the blog!)

Re: NC-17 - I've only seen one NC-17 film: David Cronenberg's Crash. Uh... interesting movie.

Re: effects - it's amazing what filmmakers used to accomplish without CGI. I'm a fan of the old-school cloud tank stuff myself (the nebula in Trek II for example). I used to read tons about FX but it got boring to read about "texture mapping" and other CGI terms.

Re: Hedy - No, there's no rule about being vapid but, yeah, it'd be cool to see something like that today.

Re: scores - I, too, am a fan of Stalling and I have a couple of the Stalling compilation albums though the sound quality varies. I also recommend a CD titled Cartoon Classics which features a lot of the famous classical pieces featured in cartoons, WB and otherwise. I also like Raymond Scott's Powerhouse which was featured in many Looney Tunes shorts.

tryanmax said...

Scott, I have both volumes of The Carl Stalling Project. I wish they would have continued. I also have a few Raymond Scott albums. To say he was a demanding jazz composer would be like saying Remembrance of Things Past is a long book.

T-Rav said...

Scott, I watched a couple episodes of Portlandia a few weeks ago with some friends who were into it. They made me want to bomb the whole Pacific Northwest and call it a day. I guess maybe they're poking fun at themselves, but I just find it annoying.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, We have a club for that -- Bombing Portland! :)

The password is "die hippie scum!" ;)

ScottDS said...

A friend of mine told me about it so I checked it out. I always give a new series at least 2 episodes before I give up. My reaction was: "Does it get funnier?"

I seem to have a better batting average when it comes to recommending cult shows to my friends (like Party Down and Black Books; it never seems to work when they recommend stuff to me. I tried two episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia before I gave up but I might try again one day.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

How many clubs and passwords do we have around here?!

It reminds me of this exchange from Newsradio:

Dave: "Why does every solution to every problem around here involve some covert plan?"

Joe: "It's a secret." :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Really it's just two lines that I enjoy.

First, the dictator declares that there will be only three laws. 1. The driving age is 16. 2. Underwear will be worn on the outside. 3. All children under the age of 16... are now 16.

And the second is when Woody says, "yay though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death... no, make that run. Yes, run. Yay though I RUN through the valley of the shadow of death."

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