Sunday, February 28, 2010

February 28

Today's standard for visual spectacle is Michael Bay's Giant Robots and James Cameron's Hallelujah Mountains, but there's another way that film (when the term was not an anachronism) has offered images that captivate. It's the rare director that adopts the language of dreams. I don't even know if David Lynch work in that realm anymore. And that's why I say 'thank goodness' for Guy Maddin.
Out in the winter wonderland of Winnipeg, Canada, Maddin has repurposed the look of films of yesteryear (mostly German expressionist, but he does work in color, too) to create some of the most challenging and memorable movies out there. Plus, he gives as much love to his short films as to his feature lengths.
His work has one high-profile fan: Isabella Rosselini. Besides "Saddest Music in the World", they also collaborated on a century tribute to her father, director Roberto Rossellini. This film, I haven't seen yet: "Send Me to the Electric Chair."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

February 27

Another birthday reminiscence for the late David Ackles, a songwriter's songwriter. From 1968 to 1973, he only released four albums, but his lyrics inspired a generation of songwriters, including Elvis Costello, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, and Phil Collins. I found this fan video for Ackles' 1968 song "Road to Cario"; the music holds up pretty well, I think. I'm hearing Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

February 26

And now for something completely different; a birthday rememberance for an unforgettable amnesiac. HM, born in 1926, suffered from epileptic attacks as a child. At the age of 27, he underwent brain surgery to combat his seizures; a side effect of the surgery was retrograde amnesia, the inability to create new long-term memories. He lived to the age of 82, but couldn't remember anything after 1953.
He spent the rest of his life as a professional test subject, the case study known in research circles as "HM". HM would become the cornerstone of modern neurological research; the study of his dysfunction obliterated old theories on how the brain works, and inspired new ideas. His life offered physiological evidence of a subconscious- that alone deserves a place in history.
In 2008, he passed away, and his brain was sliced up and preserved for further research. Upon his death, his birth name was finally revealed to the world: Henry Gustav Molaison.
Today's video is a fanvid for the Foo Fighters' "Everlong," using clips from the Christopher Nolan film "Memento," which is most people's exposure to retrograde amnesia.
(BTW, the editor used some of the R-rated plot points, so this video is NSFW and SPOILERY.)

"Memento" isn't the only movie to use retrograde amnesia as a device; I can think of a few comedies that tried to milk laughs from it. I figured it was worth sharing that such a thing as retrograde amnesia actually exists, and somebody lived with it, in front of the world. Happy Birthday, Henry, and thanks for the memories...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February 25

On to Daniel Powter, and one-hit wonders, part 2. Matter of fact, he was voted "One-Hit Wonder of the Decade" by Billboard Magazine, because "Bad Day" was a top 10 smash in a dozen countries, and none of his songs in the last five years have even come close to that success. What's the problem? Is everybody waiting for "Good Day" from him? (Or would "Bad Night" be the more proper sequel?) Will Daniel Powter always be a one-hit wonder?
Well, let's find out. Here's a fan video for the first single off his follow-up album:

On second thought, let's remember the salad days...

February 24

I thought I was going to offer up a video of "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" in observance of Rupert Holmes birthday, but I just can't. Not because of the song; it's such a great, witty-yet-schmaltzy song that I just can't leave it off my playlist. It's a karaoke must. I assumed that "Escape" was all there was to Rupert's story. Boy, was I wrong.
That's because he's not a mere musician in a cardigan; he's a writer. He wrote songs for all kinds of musical acts in the 70's and 80's (remember that song "You Got It All" by the Jets? Britney Spears?) He won an armful of Tony awards for his first musical, based on the final and unfinished novel of Charles Dickens, which started his playwright career that's still in high gear 25 years later. He's also an Edgar-award winning mystery novelist, and the movie based on his first novel("Where the Truth Lies") won the Canadian Oscar. He even created an Emmy-award winning series, "Remember WENN".
Meanwhile, he's got a love-hate relationship with the song that consumed his recording career. (He doesn't even like pina coladas; says they taste like Kaopectate.) After "Escape" became the only song to go to #1 in the 70's and the 80's, people stopped paying attention to his Randy Newman-esque lyrics, and kept waiting for another round of songs about mixed drinks or something. This frustrated Rupert to the point that he quit making records to concentrate on theater and everything else.
No, the song that best encapsulates Rupert Holmes' career is "Timothy," a one-hit wonder recorded by the Buoys in 1971, and a Stephen King fave. The Buoys were an up-and-coming band who managed to sign a record contract - for one single, with no budget for publicity. Holmes figured a song so controversial that radio stations would start banning it would be great publicity, and he wrote the song "Timothy" for just that purpose.
The song was a slow starter. Then, like clockwork, people started figuring out the song's subject matter, and clamored for it; radio stations started banning it; competing radio stations would play it; the song made its way to #17 on the charts; the label signed the band to a full-album contract.

The Buoys never recovered from the success of "Timothy"; besides a song that got big in Europe, they never hit the charts again until their breakup in 1985. "Timothy", meanwhile, was the lightning bolt that began Rupert Holmes' recording career, until it was eclipsed by "Escape."
A final thought: does Tarantino know about this song?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February 23

Happy Birthday to Michael Wilton; as far as I'm concerned, he's the reason there's still a Queensryche. Geoff Tate may be the voice, and Chris DeGarmo may have the guitar geeks' attention, but founding member Wilton has kept the band alive for almost 30 years. When DeGarmo left the band after '97's "Hear In The Now Frontier" album (and all the misfortune that followed,) that should have finished the band off. Instead, co-guitarist Wilton learned all DeGarmo's solos and became the band guitarist. In return, we got Mindcrime II and American Soldier.
The band members seem to have micro-brewing on their minds (Wilton's developed an Ale, while Tate's launched some wines) but they tour later in the summer; then, more, please?
I'm hopeful that the band's best work is yet to come; meanwhile, here's some 'Ryche:

Monday, February 22, 2010

February 22

This one's for Thomas Jane, converted geek. Right now, he's the guy you get when you can't get Aaron Eckhart: blond, talented, chinny, leading man potential. He stars in the HBO comedy series "Hung" (not about American Idol auditioneers) and is developing another series for the SyFy channel.
But in 2004, he was offered the part of The Punisher, opposite John Travolta. He'd turned down superhero roles before (including a part in X-men; Cyclops?) but got interested when he learned how much of an anti-hero the Punisher was. After the Punisher, he jumped feet first into genre films like Mutant Chronicles, Steven King's The Mist, The Devil's Commandos... He even did a makeup test/audition for the Jonah Hex movie. On top of that, this self-described 'fanboy' started making comic books himself, writing Bad Planet and co-writing another with 30 Days of Night creator Steve Niles.
Here's an upcoming project of him that should add to his cult hero status; check out the NSFW trailer for Give 'em Hell Malone:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

February 21

Today has to be a two-fer. I'm finally finding the spaces in my week where I can disappear for a mo, and scribble something for the blog. But how can I pick one?
Am I supposed to feature people like Rue McClanahan? Who'd have thought she would be the Ringo of the Golden Girls? Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty are gone, while Betty White's the Queen of the Super Bowl. What about Rue? What about Blanche DuBois, the Samantha Jones of the 80's? Where's her love? Let's send a Happy Birthday wish to Rue, let her know we're thinking about her.
Well, I don't know when I'll have a chance to post this (Hulu's going to start charging any day now), but here's MST3K alumnus The Film Crew talking during a screening of the 50's flick Hollywood After Dark, starring Rue McClanahan - as a stripper. That's all the reason you need.

Or am I supposed to post about people like Seo Tai Ji? His Wikipedia page describes him as something akin to the Michael Jackson of South Korea (sales and popularity wise), which means (according to the music videos I found) that South Koreans love their alt-rock. New Found Glory must be like gods there. Seriously, the music's not bad, and the videos are just plain weird. (Can I say there's so Japan without sounding racist?)

I got lucky enough to get some research done. But which way should I go? Email or comment me, let me know. Let me say thanks in advance:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

February 20

I know, I know. Less Pauls and more Ringos, I know. But I can't help mentioning Joel Hodgson birthday, even if he is the pater familias of Mystery Science Theater 3000. He's got plenty of love; what about J Elvis Mitchell or Bridget Nelson? Well, Joel's just too big a deal to me personally. Not just in his style of humor, but in his philosophy about commericalizing his art...
...for the most part. I have to admit, I'm still on the fence about Cinematic Titanic. On the one hand, it's the old masters re-engineering the comedy routine they created, with a better compensation plan for themselves. On the other hand, if it didn't seem derivative enough of MST3K, they're also a few years behind RiffTrax, which had been up to that point, the resumption of the MST legacy. They're oranges and clementines for most, but still...
Aw, heck, I'd still go see them if they were in town. Here's a clip from "East Meets Watts", before a live audience:

Friday, February 19, 2010

February 19

I'm categorizing Falco in the "Unknown Genius" department. Sure, he's one-hit wonder material for most people, thanks to "Rock Me Amadeus" (if I was a professional wrestler, I'd want that for my entrance theme.) Technically, he's a two-hit wonder, although "Der Komissar" made the US charts via two other music acts (After the Fire used the music, Laura Branagan translated the lyrics.) And I, for one, am curious what music he had cooking up for his comeback, before his fatal bus wreck.
Anyway, just trying to make the point that there's more to him than "Amadeus". For example:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

February 18

If you like your artwork straddling the line between cute and creepy (as opposed to just playing the two against each other for irony's sake) check out the work of Gahan Wilson. His doomed, chubby-fingered everymen faced everything from werewolves and vampires to space aliens and tentacled creatures lurking in the kitchen sink. I look at his work, and see the straight line to Rick Geary, Gary Larson, Jhonen Vasquez...
He's stuck to print, mostly, but here's a brief foray into animation, featuring Wilson's character designs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February 17th

I'm sending a shoutout to King of The Jungle Lou Diamond Phillips, who's played Hispanics, Native Americans, Siamese, Eskimo... even British; thus, demonstrating the versatility of the half-Filipino actor. Meanwhile, I get stuck playing medical students, migrant workers, and convenience store clerks. I'm just saying, people...
Anyway, he should have a higher-profile year in 2010, with his new Stargate Universe gig and his autobiography coming out this year. And who knows how he'll do in this year's World Series of Poker League.
He's still Richie Valens to most people, so here's his rendition of a tune from "Camelot":

I vote for him in the next "Highlander" movie. You know they're gonna make one.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February 16

Happy Birthday to an icon three times over, LeVar Burton. Whether you know him as Kunta Kinte, you adore him as Geordi LaForge, or you simply owe your literacy to him, he's brought a lot of good karma to the world. So, you can send him a message to his personal web site. Or, you can just sing along with this tribute from Rhett and Link:

Of course, if you're not a fan, you can read this op-ed in the Onion. And pretend it's real.

Monday, February 15, 2010

February 15

Been a while since I featured a sideman, so let's wish Happy Birthday to Mick Avory, the most important member of the Kinks whose last name wasn't Davies. He was the Kinks' drummer from '64-'84, providing the beat on their most critically acclaimed works, and sticking with them through their most turbulent decades. His acrimony with Dave Davies also provided some classic rock n' roll fights. Nowadays, he manages Konk Studios where the Kinks' members had and continue to record their songs. He also plays with the occasional legacy supergroup (such as The Kast Off Kinks.)
Here's some vintage Kinks:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

February 14

It's Valentine's Day, so let's give a shout-out to Teller, the silent half of Penn & Teller. And it may not be what his momma named him, but that's his legal name now; just "Teller".
While Penn more than speaks for both of them in their magic act, Teller's found his voice as an author. Besiders co-authoring several books on magic, he wrote a critically-acclaimed biography about his father, as well as research papers about the applied science of stage magic.
Here's a clip from a Penn & Teller TV special, featuring John Cleese:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

February 13

Happy Birthday to Matt Salinger, who's borne his share of American icons. I chose to write about him because he is, until sometime in 2011, the most prominent actor to play Captain America, back in the 90's before Marvel knew how to make movies. He did the best he could with the script (and costume) he had. His most famous movie role, meanwhile, is probably as one of the Alpha jocks in Revenge of the Nerds.
In 2010, he's known as the unofficial executor of the Salinger legacy, as in J.D. Rumors swirl about a safe containing several manuscripts that Salinger wrote and never offered for publication. Still no word if they exist, or if they will - or should - be released.
Whatever happens, Matt Salinger will keep on with his vocation, acting and producing stage shows (The Syringa Tree) and movies (Let the Devil Wear Black). Meanwhile, let's wish Happy Birthday to a man who got to play a real American hero.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

February 12

see, today's was easy. Today's Cliff DeYoung's birthday, a real son of a beach, a gosh-darn ace. He's another one of Those Guys, somebody that shows up onscreen and makes you feel better about whatever you're watching, even if you can't remember why. Usually, his squinty-eyed smile gets paired up with oily con-men and doofus dads, but he's got my eternal admiration for his dual role in the cult classic "Shock Treatment," resuming Barry Bostwick's role and going one better.

February 11

Trying to get back on the horse with the blog, so I'm popping in the deck some Fort Minor, featuring birthday boy Mike Shinoda. More than the guy who gives Chester time to breathe, he plays a dozen instruments and handles the artwork for Linkin Park, masterminds the Fort Minor project, produces for a fistful of other bands and artists... A multi-tasker after my own heart.

The AMV's decent, and I'm in the mood for swords. 'Kay?

February 10

I missed a day.

In almost six months, I finally ran out of time. Well, that was part of it. Also partly, it was so hard to find somebody to write about today. Something's up with the divining rod yesterday - or not. Anyway, before I get behind, let's get the 10th out of the way. How about we give a look at Nigel Olssen, most recognized for drumming for Elton John on and off through the years; he was the band drummer when I was digging Elton John on the radio, in his "I'm Still Standing" days.
Nigel also took his own shot at a solo career, peaking with a top 20 hit in the 70's, covering "Dancin' Shoes". Here's a listen:

I think it's the hair that throws me off. Maybe it's the quasi-mulletness of it, maybe it's the fact that it doesn't hide his height... I don't know.
Anyway, I'm sorry...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February 9

Now it's time to pass some knowledge, so let's observe the birthday of Brian Greene, physicist and advocate of the "string theory" that just might tie every law of physics together. It's the idea that all the particles of the universe have frequencies, and - well, how about we hear him explain it to David Letterman...

Monday, February 8, 2010

February 8

A birthday shoutout to Joe Raposo, composer and songwriter of many of Sesame Street's classics. Yeah, I never grew up. Especially whenever I hear "Sing", one of his Sesame Street songs that became a radio hit. Here's a rendition performed on the 25th anniversary special:

He also wrote songs and scores for Broadway and TV, including the "Three's Company" theme, just in case you need a different earworm in your head.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

February 7

Happy Birthday to Emo Phillips, a touchstone of alternative comedy. He's always had a circus sideshow vibe, which is one reason he's always been on the fringes. On the other hand, he's one of the best joke writers in the business; anybody who uses weirdness for laughs has to give a nod to Emo.
Here, see what I mean:

He's given up the emaciated pageboy look (in favor of old trendy lesbian) but still does the comedy circuit (I missed him around here last week) adwrites for various projects (he executive-produced "Meet The Parents".) All hail the king of parenthetical comedy!(if you're into that sort of thing...)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

February 6

There's quite a few cool birthdays to write about today, but my number one pick has to be Rick Astley. Yes, I know he looks like Conan O'Brien doing a Michael Buble impression, but the same time that I was digging Anthrax and Screaming Blue Messiahs, I was digging his "Whenever You Need Somebody" album. Astley's the king of blue-eyed soul, a style that faded with the 90's...
Until the Internet made him a phenom all over again, and allowed millions of people to disguise their fandom in a cloak of irony. Astley treated the whole 'rickrolling' phenomenon with class, even appearing in a Macy's Thanksgiving parade (and pushing it over the shark) for the whole thing.
It would be so easy to post "Never Gonna Give You Up" right now (and more appropriate to link to something completely different), but I'm speaking as an unapologetic fan. Here's one of my favorite recordings of his - or rather, a tv performance of his cover of "When I Fall in Love." I seem to like it better than the narrator, apparently...

By the way, his wife's a movie producer. In fact, one production, "Cashback", was an Oscar-nominated short that spun off into a pretty cool feature-length. Rick provided the score, too. Right on...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February 5

Maybe I should wait, but Tony Jaa 's on the fence between legendary and ignominity. I saw "Ong-Bak" in the theaters in 2006, and saw what thousands of fans saw: the best aspects of Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme pressed into one frame. So what happened? After "The Protector", he had a falling out with "Ong Bak" director Prachya Pinkaew, decided to direct "Ong-Bak 2" himself, and proceeded to go Joaquin Phoenix during production. "Ong-Bak 2" didn't set the world on fire, but number 3's coming out this fall anyway.
What's next, Tony? DTV supremacy? Immigrate to Hong Kong? Return Sly's calls and appear in "The Expendables 2"? Live in the forest with the elephants?
Here's a greatest hits clip of Mr Jaa in action, with the hope that there's more to come...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February 4

I haven't taken much time with these posts lately, but I'm glad I did with this one. On my rush days, I usually pick some semi-obscure guy that I at least know I'll get a cool video to post for. But the more I read about David Newman, the more he felt like the kind of guy I'm looking to feature on this blog.
For example, why does a guy born in New York City (and died in New York City) go to school at the University of Michigan? I didn't find the information that explains that. But I did find out that he co-wrote the book for "It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman", Broadway's attempt to bring Superman to the stage. The play didn't exactly fly with the public, but Newman and co-writer Robert Benton had better luck with the screenplay that became the film classic "Bonnie and Clyde"
Newman got another crack at Superman, writing the 70's film version. He ended up co-writing Superman I, II, and III; his writing partner for the films was his wife Leslie. They met at the University of Michigan, and were married for 38 years, until his death. Besides the Superman screenplays, they also produced two kids.
See, that's the life I want.
Besides Superman, he also wrote a few cult classics (Santa Claus: The Movie, Sheena, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker). But I decided to go with this clip from the documentary of the Richard Donner cut of Superman II; jump to about 5:05 to skip the behind-the-scenes talk and see some Newman-written dialogue left on the cutting room floor.

The man wrote the lines, "Come to me, Son of Jor-El! Kneel before Zod!" That's good enough for a slice of cake to me...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February 3

Apologies this week; still under the gun in the real world. But let's send out a Happy Birthday to Yasuharu Konishi, founder of Japan's Pizzicato Five, a retro band with a flair for the shagadelic. Alas, Pizzicato Five is no more, and he's using his swinging magic for all sorts of acts around Japan; kind of the Butch Walker of Japan. Meanwhile, here's a taste of the groovy groovy like the 5 used to do, ya dig?

February 2

Happy Birthday to Duane Jones, the secret weapon of Night of The Living Dead. Why? Not because he was a black actor playing the hero, but because he was playing a role and his race was irrelevant. In the 60's, race was never irrelevant, so the subtext of this casting - and Duane's noble, tragic performance - drove the critics wild. He did a few more movies over the decades, but he dedicated himself more towards teaching, until his death in 1988.
Thanks to public domain, we can enjoy the entire film together, via the link below:

Monday, February 1, 2010

February 1

still under the gun, so here's a quickie featuring Terry Jones. Not the flashiest of the Pythons, he concocted the stream of consciousness transitions that first made Python stand out. He was also behind the camera for the Python films, but his directing is undercelebrated. In fact, three of the four films in Ireland's history to be banned are films of his.
Anyway, here he is, in front of the camera, for a Python classic: