Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Thought I'd squeeze in a few posts before I take off for a mostly computer free Christmas break, but it ain't looking likely. So consider this a belated light-to-no posting notice, and I'll see you all in the New Year.
Monday, December 17, 2007
The greedy part of me wins. Much as I know I should prefer the way of patience, and wish that ABC had waited until a full season was ready, I'm happy that they will be giving us the 8 episodes of Lost we'll be getting. It starts on January 31.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
The opening credits to Sweeney Todd have been released:
- I was convinced they would abandon the pipe organ, but right there, after a few preliminary spooky and deep bass sounds, it is
- No factory whistle, but given that they probably won't maintain the device of having the whistle blow after every murder, that makes sense
- Love the device of seeing the blood flow through London, to Sweeney's chair, into the meat, into the sewers, and back out to see. One can easily imagine the transition to the first scene of Sweeney and Anthony arriving in London
- The use of the Ballad as the scoring is perfect, with a wonderful Tunick orchestration that sounds suitably filmic and big without veering too far from the sounds that make the piece of music so good to begin with
I also see this morning that the film got several Golden Globe nominations, including Picture (Musical/Comedy), Actor (Musical/Comedy), and Actress (Musical/Comedy).
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
- I had forgotten how good the movie is - most importantly, what a real character they made Kong, and how empathetic he was. That near-final shot, when he falls off of the Empire State building, and we see him lock eyes one final time with Ann, was heart-wrenching.
In terms of the special features, a couple of things stood out:
- There's a bit in one of the first two discs with Peter Jackson telling a story about taking Naomi Watts to meet Fay Wray. Wonderful anecdote, and Peter's enthusiasm for the project, and for the original film and its creators and stars is probably never more evident. That Wray died a month or so after that meeting (and that she, after saying she wouldn't do a cameo, whispered to Jackson, "never say never" as he left,) makes it extra-poignant.
- There's another bit in those first two discs with Jackson, Watts, and some of the producers visiting the real Empire State Building. Very cool, especially when the guide breaks protocol and allows a few of them to the very top. The sense of vertigo is palpable.
- In the main documentary there's a segment in which the crew recalls how they constructed their digital Manhattan. Fascinating. They apparently bought a digital map of Manhattan from a company that sells that kind of thing (including 3-D models of every building on the island), but the map was modern. So they then bought a database of info that detailed when every building in Manhattan was built. And went in and deleted every post-1933 building from their current-day map - leaving vast swaths of empty space. That they built an A.I.-infused computer program to fill by building buildings appropriate to the time, neighborhood, and location. Astonishing stuff.
- The Empire State itself they built by hand, using the original blueprints.
- The material on Andy Serkis' work as Kong is great. Serkis, after being told by Jackson that he couldn't go to Rwanda to study gorillas in the wild, that the insurance would never cover it, bought his own ticket and went. Lived up close and personal with gorillas for a while.
- They went into a lot of detail on how Serkis played Kong during principal photography, so that the actors - and later, Naomi Watts in her many solo scenes with Kong - would have someone to act of of. They show very effectively, how critical Serkis' work was to Watts, and how well they fed off of each other and how much she appreciated his presence and dedication. You can really see how her remarkable performance wouldn't have been half of what it was were it not for Serkis' work opposite her. She never was acting by herself in front of the blue screen. He was always there, whether "on screen" or not.
- Which made it seem somewhat hypocritical - and sad - that Serkis had to do all of his motion capture work by himself. In other words, after principal photography wrapped, and he went off for weeks to do all of the motion capture work, she wasn't there for him to act off of. They don't acknowledge this in the documentary, but it stuck out for me.
I get the vague sense that Kong is being forgotten in a way the Rings films aren't. It shouldn't be.
Monday, December 10, 2007
From the homebound-for-the-day Samurai Frog:
1. Favorite traditional Christmas song:
"Silent Night" boasts, for my money, one of the best pure melodies ever written.
2. Favorite contemporary or modern Christmas song:
"Christmastime Is Here" By a wide, wide margin. I do find it odd that I'm unable to find aversion to love alongside the Guaraldi original though.
3. Christmas song that makes you cry
To the best of my recollection, no Christmas song has ever made me cry.
4. Real or artificial tree:
Real. That smell and tactile feel just can't be replicated.
5. Favorite Christmas edible treat
Egg nog. I'm a bit crazy for egg nog. (I prefer the Southern Comfort brand, diluted heavily with milk, but when laziness abates I also enjoy making the stuff fresh. I don't drink alcohol, so mine is naught but milk, egg, sugar, and vanilla. It's really cake batter minus the flour, isn't it?
6. White lights or multi-colored:
White for decorating outside, colored for the tree. Colored lights on a house are too much for my taste, while white lights on a tree are too spare and cold.
7. How many Christmas parties will you go to this year:
None. I'm not a fan of parties.
8. Favorite act of kindness to perform during this season:
Buying new toys to give away.
9. Favorite sounds of Christmas:
The squeals and exclamations of little kids opening presents early in the morning.
10. Favorite things to wear:
I do not have a Christmas wardrobe of any kind.
11. Favorite Christmas movie/TV special:
Laurel and Hardy's Babes in Toyland. Hilarious.
12. Eggnog or hot chocolate:
13. Favorite Christmas book:
When I think about it, I really don't have one.
14. Christmas books on my "to read" list:
15. Peppermint or cinnamon:
Both, depending on the context.
16. What's on the top of your tree:
A knit angel.
17. Traditional Christmas meal growing up:
Turkey and trimmings. Not much different from Thanksgiving, really.
18. Online shopping or traditional "go to the store" shopping:
The store, mostly. CDs and books are easy, but for most things I need to see and touch them.
19. Something you received as a Christmas gift as a child that you still have:
I don't know that I still have any childhood gifts. I still I have a Curious George from when I was about three, but I don't know if that was a Christmas gift or not.
20. How many Christmas cards you have mailed so far:
None. Wed don't do Christmas cards.
21. Favorite source for Christmas ideas:
Not sure what this means.
22. Coordinated/themed or hodge-podge tree decorations:
Hodge-podge. Ornaments from when we were kids, our kids' ornaments, ornaments we've received as gifts or given each other, all mixed up.
23. What's on the top of YOUR Christmas wishlist:
Alex Ross' The Art of Noise. Dying to read this book.
24. Roles you've played in Christmas plays/programs:
25. Wrapping paper or gift bags:
Wrapping paper for kids, gift bags and paper for adults depending on the type of gift and time.
26. When do you put up the tree:
Two-three weeks before Christmas.
27. When do you take the tree down: A few days after New Years.
28. Do you have a nativity scene:
One in the living room and one in the kids' room.
29. Hardest person to buy for:
30. Easiest person to buy for:
Sister. We share a lot of tastes.
31. Worst Christmas gift you ever received:
32. When do you start shopping for Christmas:
33. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present:
34. Travel at Christmas or stay home:
With three-year olds we are no longer travelling. Used to travel at least an hour and a half all the time.
35. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer:
I can not.
36. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning:
37. Most annoying thing about this time of year:
Nasty people in over-crowded stores.
38. What I love most about Christmas:
Christmas morning with kids. Pure magic.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Yawn. I'm really out of touch with contemporary music. My very limited-due-to-ignorance reactions of the nominations:
- Very surprised that Bruce didn't get an album of the year nomination.
- "Before He Cheats," which I heard all summer for some reason (while I've never heard "Umbrella") is actually a solid bit of songwriting, and I'm cool with its Song of the Year nomination. Ditto for "Hey There Delilah" and "Rehab." I'm kind of shocked that I know three of the five!
- Best Male Pop Vocal Performance - I actually think McCartney's Dance Tonight is a pretty bad performance
- Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals - Bono's vocal on "Window in the Skies" is gorgeous, actually, and very deserving.
- Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance - Bruce and "Radio Nowhere" vs. John Mellencamp and "Our Country" for me. Got to give it to Bruce.
- Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals - U2 gets the nod for their "Instant Karma" cover. Bet you know where my vote is going.
- Best Rock Song - Go, "Radio Nowhere!"
- Glad that Bruce got a nomination for Best Rock Album.
- Neon Bible gets a nomination for Best Alternative Album. I'll take it.
- Best Comedy Album - Steven Wright has a new album?? Must. Get.
- Best Musical Show Album - Grey Gardens is pretty good, but Spring Awakening is better.
- Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media - Dreamgirls has to win this, no?
- Best Score Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media - Babel already won the Oscar, but I did think Ratatouille was pretty fine.
- Best Classical Crossover Album - A quick listen at iTunes shows that bass/baritone Thomas Quastoff's jazz album might actually be pretty good!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
A few weeks ago, as we watched How I Met Your Mother, the wife commented about how much she hated Lily's new haircut. First off, she's right - Alyson Hannigan dying that beautiful red hair is kind of like Paul Newman putting in brown contacts. Why? But her comment got me to thinking. Others have pointed out that this silly, sweet, frothy sitcom can get kind of dark about the realities of that transitionary period from young adults to real adults, when for the vast majority of us whatever dreams we had about our lives start to get whittled down, bit by bit. So we've seen idealistic Marshall sell out to corporate law for money, Ted's idealized version of Robin and their future together crash around them, and Lily realizing that her dreams of being an artist will never be realized. Here's my thought. While we may have assumed that the "Lily can't let go of her dreams" storyline was tied up neatly last year, with her break up with Marshall and summer of art school, isn't it possible they'll go back there? That we'll see Lily do something else drastic to try and shake off her inevitable future as the kindergarten teacher wife of the successful corporate lawyer? And if so, wouldn't a hairstyle change that very vividly recalls her college freshman, height of optimism and idealism, goth hairdo be a subtle way for the writers to foreshadow that storyline?
Seriously, I think about this show way too much.
A quick and silly meme taken from Samurai Frog:
1. Put your music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER WHAT(this is in capital letters, so it is very serious).
1. IF SOMEONE SAYS “IS THIS OKAY” YOU SAY?
"I Want to Hold your Hand" - The Beatles. Kind of creepy.
2. WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
"This House Is Empty" - Elvis Costello. Harsh.
3. WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
"Anthropology" - Charlie Parker. Sounds sophisticated, but not.
4. HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
"Our Time" - Stephen Sondheim. How optimistic.
5. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE?
"Pretty Paper" - Roy Orbison. As a writer, that kind of makes sense?
6. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
"Getting in Tune" - The Who. I love that! I just might make that my actual motto.
7. WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
"Keep the Car Running" - Foo Fighters. Could go either way.
8. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR PARENTS?
"Merrily We Roll Along." - Stephen Sondheim. Pretty accurate, really.
9 WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
"Sooner or Later/"I'm Calm/Ah, But Underneath" - Stephen Sondheim. I'm a schizophrenic.
10. WHAT IS 2+2?
"Bartender" -Dave Matthews Band. ?
11. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
"Ooh Child" - Jeanine Tesori. Now I'm a stereotypical black woman on a bad sitcom.
12. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
"Road to Chicago" - Thomas Newman. ?
13. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
"I Want to Break Free." - Queen - Nice!
14. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
"Love Is Sweeping the Country" - Ella Fitzgerald. Hm.
15. WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
"Beautiful" - Mandy Patinkin. Come on!
16. WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
"Golden Slumbers" - The Beatles. I guess they think I'm lazy?
17. WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
"Beyond the Horizon" - Bob Dylan. That could actually work very well as a wedding song. Better as a 50th anniversary song, but still.
18. WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
"With this Love" - Peter Gabriel. This track from his score for The Last Temptation of Christ could actually work.
19. WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
"Imaginary Love" - Rufus Wainwright. Now I'm really creepy.
20. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
"I Had Myself a True Love" - Barbara Cook. Sad.
21. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
"Love Rears Its Ugly Head" - Living Colour. Apropos of nothing, but that is one of my favorite song titles.
22. WHAT SHOULD YOU POST THIS AS?
"Pug" - Smashing Pumpkins. Hee.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Just a quick note to highlight the survey on the right - trying to get a sense of what the folks who stop by here like and don't about Tosy and Cosh. Feel free to comment here as well.
Last week, having been reminded by something or another of how damn good a song "The Rainbow Connection" is, I did a search on iTunes to see if there were any covers out there worth checking out. And, boy howdy did I hit paydirt.
This Willie Nelson version is simply astonishing. (Willie's own video is here, (and well-worth checking out) but it's unembeddable thanks to paranoia at Universal Music; the video below is a home-made thing set to the Nelson version by some YouTube denizen.)
It's just Willie and his guitar, and he plays with the melody and accompaniment some, eliminating the key change and revising the ending, but this is easily equal to the Kermit the Frog version. This is another song that I never really read as "sad" or "melancholy" but that, when you listen to the melody and lyric you realize is.
But more than that, Nelson's version kind of hits home for me how the song is about dreams and about how they sometimes, nay, often, do not come true. I know the song is ostensibly about the opposite - dreams do come true! - but something in what Nelson is doing here, in the way he sings it in such a resigned, weary voice, make me think that he's trying to tell us that dreams don't come true - but that they are well worth having anyway.
"Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide/So we've been told, and some choose to believe it/I know they're wrong, wait and see."
The implicit meaning of the lyric there is that the cynics are wrong and that dreams do come true, that there is magic in the world, and that miracles are real. But, and call me crazy, if you listen to Nelson sing those words, he seems to be signaling that he knows as well as you and I that rainbows are illusions - but that they are worth believing in anyway. Which, to me, is a much more powerful message.
"Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices?/I've heard them calling my name/Is this the sweet sound, that calls the young sailors?/The voice might be one and the same?"
I never caught the reference to sirens before, or the resulting inference that faith in something larger than us mere mortals ("hearing voices") might have tragic implications. But it's hard to deny that interpretation - especially after hearing how Nelson phrases those lyrics. Even in the lines "I've heard it too many times to ignore it" I get a sense of knowing subtext - he's heard the voices, the pull of something larger, and so he can't, and won't ignore it, but that doesn't mean he believes it either.
It's not just in the lyrics either. Listen to the way he plays with the phrases, subtly changing the melody in spots to prevent the phrases from being completed as neatly as they are in the Williams' original. That, to me, signals the ambivalence, and resignation that I hear in this rendition.
Lastly, I love his decision to end the song, not by singing, but by having a guitar play the melody as a kind of coda. The elimination of the closure the original ending provides - that "la da da da " stuff - fits in with this more shaded interpretation. Very effecting.
Monday, December 03, 2007
This year I'm handing out mix CDs along with my gifts. Here's the Christmas Mix I've come up with:
1. Christmastime Is Here (Instrumental) - The Vince Guaraldi Trio
To my mind, the most lasting and welcome addition to the stable of Christmas songs of the last 50 years. I like opening this mellow mix with an instrumental, soft and jazzy piece.
2. "O Holy Night" - Tracy Chapman
Chapman seems an odd choice for this carol, famous as it is for those lung-busting glory notes, but her hushed, reverent take is actually quite beautiful. I ended up with three versions of this song, so I wanted to kind of bookend them, with one as the second song, one in the middle, and one as the penultimate song.
3. "The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth" - David Bowie and Bing Crosby
I just heard somewhere on-line the story that the "Peace on Earth" part was written in the studio when Bing and David were unhappy with the way the duet of "Drummer Boy" was going. I love that.
4. "Whatever Happened to Christmas?" - Aimee Mann
The melancholy mood continues with this pretty, wistful ballad off of Mann's very good Christmas CD from last year.
5. "Happy Christmas" - John Lennon
The mood picks up a little here with all those kids and the somewhat spirited guitar chords.
6. "Baby, Please Come Home" - U2
And it gets pretty joyous with this spirited, rocking cover, one of the great U2 covers (as opposed to a crappy one - they tend to come in one of those two flavors).
7. "Christmastime" - Aimee Mann 3:21
Needing to take the tempo and mood down a touch, but not wanting to get away from the pop/rock stretch we're in, I turn again to Mann, with this more upbeat number.
8. "What Child Is This?" - The Vince Guaraldi Trio
Time to shift into some jazz, and this uptempo number from the seminal Charlie Brown classic works great.
9. "Sleigh Ride" - Ella Fitzgerald
We go a bit deeper into cool jazz with Ella Fitzgerald doing some cool swing.
10. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" - Band Aid 3:43
We take that energy and push it forward with the 80s charity classic. I get chills every time Bono bellows his solo line.
11. "Silent Night" - Sarah McLachlan
Time to slow things down a bot with this stately, clean version of what may be my favorite Christmas melody ever.
12. "This Little Babe" - Benjamin Britten
And into some classical stuff with this excited, anticipatory carol.
13. "O Holy Night" - Luciano Pavarotti 4:13
And we dive deep into classic tropes - full orchestra and a very traditional, very gorgeous and full-throated rendition of "O Holy Night," replete with huge money notes.
14. "My Little Drum" - The Vince Guaraldi Trio
After so much glorious excess, we need to back things up again, and so we turn again to Charlie Brown and my favorite take on Drummer Boy (sorry Bing).
15. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - Judy Garland
Time to bring back some of that melancholy. "We'll have to muddle through" indeed.
16. "The Christmas Song" - Nat King Cole
We keep the laid-back mood but get a bit brighter with the awesome Cole.
17. "Skating" - The Vince Guaraldi Trio
Let's work with that happy feeling by indulging in a joyous, child-like piece dominating by beautiful falling piano lines.
18. "Winter Wonderland" - Tony Bennett
The joy moves forward with some swinging Tony.
19. "Jingle Bells" - Ella Fitzgerald
And takes a quantum leap with a bursting, fast-scatted, double-time "Jingle Bells."
20. "O Holy Night" - The New Orleans Jazz Band
As we come into the homestretch, we keep the jazz sound, but slow things down some with this beautiful horn version of 'O Holy Night" as featured on Studio 60 last year. Kind of funny that this song may be the most lasting thing to come out of that show.
21. "Christmastime Is Here (Vocal)" - The Vince Guaraldi Trio
And, because I do dearly love my symmetry, we end with the vocal version of the now-classic song.