Thursday, December 31, 2009

Was 2009 the Year of Puking?

Here is an amusing article from Cinematical which asks the important question: was 2009 the year of vomit in film?

As of June, we'd seen it in Adventureland, The Haunting in Connecticut, Drag Me to Hell, Observe and Report, The Hangover, Year One, My Sister's Keeper, and I Love You, Man. Since that first post, I spotted 10 more: The International, Miss March, Thirst, District 9, Jennifer's Body, Zombieland, The Road, The Fourth Kind, Gentlemen Broncos, and Precious. That's 18 puke movies in one year. A new record?? I can only assume.

Why the excess of ralphing? The obvious answer would be that it's funny, and movies have lately been pushing new boundaries to get shock laughs. That's why we've been seeing more full-frontal male nudity, too. You used to get a laugh just by suggesting someone was barfing or naked; now you can get a bigger laugh by actually showing it.

Just something to think about while you are out on New Year's Eve . . . or tomorrow while you are recovering from it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Library of Congress Film Board Announces New Additions

The National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress has added twenty-five new films into its archives, including Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video directed by John Landis. Here is a full list of new films:

  • Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  • The Exiles (1961)
  • Heroes All (1920)
  • Hot Dogs for Gauguin (1972)
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
  • Jezebel (1938)
  • The Jungle (1967)
  • The Lead Shoes (1949)
  • Little Nemo (1911)
  • Mabel’s Blunder (1914)
  • The Mark of Zorro (1940)
  • Mrs. Miniver (1942)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
  • Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
  • Pillow Talk (1959)
  • Precious Images (1986)
  • Quasi at the Quackadero (1975)
  • The Red Book (1994)
  • The Revenge of Pancho Villa (1930-36)
  • Scratch and Crow (1995)
  • Stark Love (1927)
  • The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
  • A Study in Reds (1932)
  • Thriller (1983)
  • Under Western Stars (1938)

Monday, December 28, 2009

End of the Year and Decade Shows

In the coming weeks, Sounds of Cinema will air two special episodes to commemorate the end of 2009 and the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century.

On Sunday, January 3rd, I'll take a look at the past decade of cinema with my picks of the films that defined the past ten years.

And on Sunday, January 10th, I will review the films of 2009, selecting my picks of the best and worst films of the year. Tune in to see if your favorites made the list.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dan O'Bannon RIP

Science fiction screenwriter Dan O'Bannon has died. His credits included Alien, Blue Thunder, Return of the Living Dead, and Total Recall.

From Empire Online:
A USC graduate in the same year as John Carpenter, O'Bannon was instrumental in Carpenter's cracking (and crackpot) first feature Dark Star, serving as co-writer, FX supervisor, production designer and editor, and playing Sgt Pinback (who turns out not to be Sgt Pinback at all). O'Bannon is the one who chases the beachball alien all over the spaceship; an idea that would sort of resurface later...

O'Bannon did some FX work on Star Wars in 1977, but is best known for kickstarting a different franchise. While authorship of Alien as we know it today is down to a number of people, there's no question that O'Bannon's Star Beast screenplay set the ball rolling, and he brought many of his colleagues from Alejandro Jodorowsky's aborted Dune to the project. The rest is movie history.

He wrote Blue Thunder and Life Force, and had two cracks at Philip K Dick, adapting We Can Remember It For You Wholesale and Second Variety into Total Recall and Screamers. Some say his Moebius-illustrated Heavy Metal comic The Long Tomorrow was a big visual influence on Blade Runner.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Precious vs. The Blind Side

ABC News features this article about the disparity in reception by African American audiences to the films Precious and The Blind Side. According to the article, Precious is raising criticism but The Blind Side has been recieved more positively or at least indifferently. Here is an excerpt from the piece:

Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips finds the discrepancy puzzling.

"While everyone is fussing about 'Precious,' a movie like 'The Blind Side' is going to make a pile of dough and seems far more racially patronizing," said Phillips, the white co-host of the syndicated show "At the Movies."

"'The Blind Side' is telling a really good story about one African-American character completely through the perspective of the white family."

"That's absurd and patronizing in itself," Armond White, chief film critic of The New York Press, said of Phillips' comments.

The reason for the discrepancy, said White, who is black, is simple.

"Some black people find 'Precious' offensive and they don't find 'The Blind Side' offensive," he said. "There's more humanity there. 'Precious' is like a horror show, a freak show. There's nothing but misery, debased behavior and degradation. One film is about Samaritan-ism, humanism, kindness, love and brotherhood, and the other is about degradation and ignorance.

"I'm happy that people aren't buying it ['Precious'] and prefer to buy 'The Blind Side,'" he added.
I have not the seen either of these films yet so I'm unable to render my own verdict. At this time, however, The Blind Side is certainly the more visible of the two films, as it has a recognizable star in one of the lead roles, and has been distributed broadly and aggressively. Precious, on the other hand, is playing in limited release and features mostly lesser known actors.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The End of Studio Briefing

As regular listeners to Sounds of Cinema are aware, every episode includes a news update in the first half of the show featuring articles from Studio Briefing. However, Studio Briefing has sent out this message, titled "We've Been De-googled!" which explains they have been forced to shut down.
Dear Readers,

As many of our longtime readers are aware, Studio Briefing is the longest-running entertainment-industry news publication on the Web. Launched as a fax-only subscription in 1992, we went online the following year when News Corp's Delphi Internet Services became our first Internet outlet, and we have existed as a paid subscription service and a syndicated online news service ever since.

With many of our client websites battered by the current economy and some of them biting the dust, we were encouraged by a few industry warhorses to lauch a unique blog that would link the items in our daily digest directly to the source material and give readers the opportunity to discuss them. We unveiled the blog last April, augmenting our items with a few images and YouTube videos, and were gratified by the response -- with many new readers registering their thanks for our no-frills presentation that provided a fast-reading overview of the issues and events affecting “the biz” in a compelling style.

To draw revenue from the blog, we initially included ads from Google Adsense, and to help attract attention to it, we purchased ads ourselves from Google AdWords that appeared on related entertainment-industry websites. But a few months after we launched we received a boilerplate notification from Google that had been "disabled" because it did not comply with Google policies. The notice was vague, failing to specify which policies we had violated. We have been trying to obtain an explanation ever since, without luck.

Not only did Google delete the Adsense advertisements appearing on the blog, but it diverted its spider from the site as well. As a result, ceased being cited in Google search results. Then, a few weeks ago, we received word that Google had also halted running our Adword advertisements “due to one or more serious violations of our advertising policies related to Landing Page and Site Quality.” Whatever that means. Moreover, it added, “We are unable to accept advertising from you in the future. Please note that future accounts you open will also be disabled.”

We have repeatedly asked Google to explain its decision and to provide guidance on how to bring into compliance with its policies. Our messages have either been ignored or we have received copies of their original boilerplate notifications.

We are in no position to battle Google on this. And without being included in Google search results we cannot draw sufficient readers to remain viable. We are therefore left with no alternative but to shut down.

We thank you for checking us out during the past months, and please check back here on occasion. We’re still hoping that a White Knight might ride to our rescue.

Lew Irwin

P.S. And if you’re interested in an email subscription (the edition includes no ads and subscribers get it first), we’ll make a special rate available to readers of this blog. Simply drop us a line, and we’ll provide details. We’d also like to hear your suggestions.
If what Irwin has written here is correct, the implications of Google's actions are frightening for anyone operating on the web, as they were effectively able to "quarantine" Studio Briefing and lead to its demise in a very short period.

As for Sounds of Cinema, the future of the news segment is at this point uncertain. I will have to search for another source or abandon it altogether. I have determined that the show, and especially this segment, not fall prey to the celebrity gossip that so much "entertainment news" has devolved into. There is very little serious treatment of the cinema in popular media and seeing another outlet go belly up is disheartening.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Star Wars Concert in Chicago

The Chicago Tribune has an article on the Star Wars concert playing there next week. The show is a traveling performance that mixes a symphony orchestra with stage effects and clips of the films.

An excerpt from the article:
The roughly two-hour show represents an unusual combination -- for many "Star Wars" fans, perhaps the first time they'll be seeing a symphony orchestra. But don't expect contemplative silence between movements. Every instrument will be amplified (a lot), and in addition to the lasers, you'll see flames and smoke -- the staging is so elaborate, it takes 12 semitrailer trucks to transport the show from city to city.

Belgium's Dirk Brosse will conduct an 86-piece orchestra (including some from the Boston Pops and the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra) and a 60-voice choir performing a "Star Wars" montage that Williams assembled and, in some cases, re-orchestrated.

As the orchestra plays and the choir sings, a giant high-definition LED screen will show clips from all six movies, the footage matched to the music. The footage unfolds in rough chronological order but also is organized around musical themes -- a little romance here, the rise of the dark side there.

For the first time, audiences will be able to see a fully digital Yoda in "Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace," as Lucas recently excised the poorly executed Yoda puppet. Anthony Daniels, who lent his voice to the golden protocol droid C-3PO in all "Star Wars" movies, narrates the proceedings.
Read the full article here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Adapting New Moon

MTV has an interview with New Moon screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg in which she discusses what changes she made to the novel and why. This will probably be of interest to fans of the book and those interested in the craft of film adaptation. Check it out here.

That said, in editing the source material, Rosenberg didn't (and probably couldn't, for fear of angering the Twilight fan base) fix the major problem of the book: that the entire second act of the story bears no relevence on the third act. [SPOILER ALERT] The film could quite literally have skipped from Edward leaving (which concludes the first act of the story) to Bella cliff jumping and her journey to Europe, and removed the entire Jacob storyline. [END SPOILER ALERT] I know Twilight fans will likely point out that wolf-boy and his friends become an important part of the following stories, and while that may be true, it is also nevertheless important for this film to stand on its own and deliver a coherent story.

Monday, November 23, 2009

John Hughes Episode to Re-Run on November 29

Sounds of Cinema will feature a re-run of the John Hughes show (episode #252) on Sunday, November 29th. Tune in to hear music from films such as Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, and Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Film Reviews on Winona 360

You can hear audio of some of my recent film reviews in the "Voices" section of Thanks to Kate Carlson for including the reviews on the site. Check it out here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2012 and 9/11

Mark Harris posted this editorial on on the new film 2012, or more specifically on the trailer to the film, which Harris finds deplorable. Here is an excerpt:
In the ad's biggest high-five moment, his little escape plane zips between two parallel high-rise towers just seconds before those towers collapse into each other, presumably killing thousands of CGI flyspeck humans. Forget the towers! the trailer seems to say. How cool was it that the plane threaded that needle?! Awesome! Cusack lives! I half expected a video-game bonus-point total to flash in the corner of the screen. But about those towers: Eight years after 9/11, Hollywood has apparently decided that not only can we see two giant buildings coming down in a movie but we want to, because it's fun. Yesterday's world tragedy is today's money shot. And make no mistake — 9/11, and your memory of those images, is what that moment is all about.
I have seen 2012 and will have a review of it on the episode of Sounds of Cinema airing on November 12, but, as a bit of a preview, I do think what Harris says is right. What is unnerving about 2012 is not just that it invokes 9/11 imagery, or for that matter that it invokes images of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, but that it uses that imagery so carelessly. The only apparent point of the film is to give us a cheep thrill. There have been a number of dramatic films about 9/11 and most of them are uncomfortable to watch but some are also quite good, such as Paul Greengrass' United 93, because it makes us think about what that day meant.

There have been plenty of horror films over the course of this decade that have resurrected the ultra-gory imagery of the 1970s and 80s slasher genre, and those films also invoked imagery of daily violence. However, the best of those films from the original wave (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street) or the more recent one (Saw, 28 Weeks Later, Hostel Part II) actually have something to say about nature of violence or about our culture. The utter destruction of the body is akin to the destruction of an office building and the people inside of it except--and this is important --that horror films force us to look at the violence and see it not as a joy ride but as a very real act of cruelty. And in that revelation, as ugly as it may be, there is a lot of humanity to be found. Films like 2012 are not interested in humanity at all.

In essence, the problem with 2012 is the larger problem faced by the action and disaster genre: whether deliberately or as a consequence of design, the films often cheapen our understanding of disasters and the loss of human life by turning events like 9/11 into a fireworks display.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Salon Article on "Precious" features this article by Erin Aubry Kaplan on the film Precious, which has been generating very positive buzz since opening last week. Kaplan writes about why she feels the film is important for both black and white audiences and how it undermines comfortable cliches of urban stories. An excerpt:

Hollywood has long favored comedies or "urban" dramas, both of which mine the deprivation and depravity of the ghetto for entertainment (a phenomenon I call "ghettotainment"). Movies like "Menace II Society" and "Barber Shop" sit comfortably atop the Netflix queues of a multicultural audience. And at the opposite end of the spectrum are the uplifting dramas, stories of dignified black folk overcoming oppression and/or segregation, movies often set in a distant, racist past -- "Glory" or "Remember the Titans." But "Precious" is jarring, because it breaks all these rules. The movie is about racial oppression, but it's modern; its protagonist is inner-city but a female, not an archetypal gangbanger or would-be criminal; though she perseveres, Precious is clearly a victim, not a victor.

Perhaps the best thing about "Precious" is how it dismantles the well-honed defense mechanisms of the black audience. As viewers, we tend to be ready commentators, snickering at our own pain; we make fun of these on-screen moments because they're frequently so unconvincing. Movies, among other things, have taught us not to take ourselves seriously. But in drawing black pain so specifically and unsentimentally, "Precious" makes those cavalier attitudes impossible. When Mo'Nique snaps, "Shut the fuck up!" for the hundredth time or Gabourey Sidibe, the remarkable actress in the title role, tearfully confesses to her own sense of nothingness, the largely black audience I sat with was silent; I could feel a rare chill of recognition. In one of the film's most heartbreaking moments, Precious stands on the cold sidewalk with her new baby, looking longingly through the window of a church at a gospel rehearsal in joyous full swing. It's rare to see a black church portrayed as impotent. But it isn't a condemnation so much as an illustration of her isolation -- our isolation.

I have not seen the film yet, so at this point I just hope that Precious plays long enough and wide enough that the rest of us get to see it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The End of Miramax (and Independent Film?)

If you hadn't heard, Disney has all but closed down Miramax, the company formally created and owned by the Weinstein Brothers. This is the studio that created and/or distributed some of the most prestigious films of the past twenty years including Pulp Fiction, The Crying Game, sex, lies, and videotape, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, The Queen, and No Country for Old Men. writer Andrew O'Hehir has written an article about the significance of Miramax to recent film history (comparing it to United Artists in the late 1960s and early 70s) and pointing out how the collapse of Miramax is symptomatic of a larger problem facing independent film. Here is an excerpt:

Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn Bowles, who worked at Miramax in the '90s, sees the company's near-total desiccation as just another chapter in a lengthy and necessary restructuring of the film marketplace. Over the course of the last two years, numerous other studio specialty divisions and small indie distributors have disappeared, including Picturehouse, Warner Independent, Paramount Vantage, THINKfilm and New Yorker Films.

"The landscape has changed a lot since last summer, when all those companies closed down," Bowles says. "The market has gotten back to a more sustainable level. Those companies whose basic M.O. was to chase the Oscar at any cost created an absolutely false marketplace." He suggests that surviving companies like Magnolia, Sony Pictures Classics, IFC and Zeitgeist, who focus on marketing quality films to niche audiences, are now in a stronger position. "Producers are the ones who may be hurt by this, because there are fewer players with fewer resources, and it's a buyer's market. But we've done very well since last summer. It's inherently a more reasonable situation."
Reportedly, the Weinstein's are attempting to buy back the Miramax name from Disney, but there is no telling if that deal will go through, as Disney may want to hold onto the label for appearance's sake and for the impressive catalogue of titles under the Miramax name.

I worry what this means for independent film in the near future. On the one hand there is a re-balancing of the marketplace pointed out in the excerpt above, but what Miramax and specialty divisions of major studios offered was the ability to distribute independent features on a national basis and get them into theaters in smaller markets. Without that distribution mechanism in place, it will be much harder for independent filmmakers to get their movies seen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Veteran's Day on Sounds of Cinema

On Sunday, November 8th, Sounds of Cinema will commemorate Veteran's Day with the music of war films, including scores to Patton, Inglorious Basterds, and The Thin Red Line.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Original Ending to Paranormal Activity

Check out this page for the original ending to Paranormal Activity. It is significantly longer than what appears in the theatrical version, although the theatrical version is much more effective.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Times Online: 50 Biggest Movies for 2010

The Times Online has a look at fifty films to watch for in the next year. Here are some highlights from their list:

  • Clash of The Titans
  • The Green Hornet
  • The Rum Diary
  • Wall Street 2
  • Highlander
  • The Wolfman
  • Gulliver's Travels
  • Predators
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • Tron Legacy
  • Sex and the City 2
  • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Inception
  • The Expendables
  • The A Team
  • Toy Story 3
  • Robin Hood
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I
  • Iron Man 2

Check out the article here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sounds of Cinema Halloween Special to Air October 31st

There will be a very special episode of Sounds of Cinema airing at 11pm on Saturday, October 31st on 89.5 KQAL FM. The show will contain a mix of Halloween-related music and movie dialogue, including content from Halloween, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Saw, Psycho, 28 Days Later, and House of 1000 Corpses.
Tune in for the soundtrack to your Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Favorite Horror Film Lists

Here are a few online lists of best horror films:

IFC has a list of the scariest moments in non-horror films. I'm surprised that the human sacrifice of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom isn't listed since it does include the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Check out the full list here.

On The Daily Beast, Martin Scorcese picks his favorite horror films. Most are supernatural or haunted house films like The Haunting or The Exorcist. I wonder if this reflects his Catholic background. Check it out here.

Entertainment Weekly has a list of the twenty best horror films of the last twenty years (1989 - 2009). I'm glad so see someone else appreciated Event Horizon (one of Paul W.S. Anderson's few redeeming films) and Hostel Part 2. Check it out here.

BET has posted a list of horror films with black actors in a lead role. That the Saw films include a diverse cast never occurred to me until reading this piece. Check it out here. has a list of obsucre horror films that they feel should be more widely appreciated. I have to admit that I haven't seen these. Check it out here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Athenaeum Lecture on Wednesday, October 28th

On Wednesday, October 28th at 1pm I will be making a presentation as part of the Athenaeum speaker series at the Krueger Library at Winona State University. The presentation is titled "It's Only a Movie: The Politics of 1970s and 80s Horror Films" and it will cover films such as Last House on the Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, addressing how this body of films was groundbreaking and represented a counter cultural statement that was later lost to commercialization. Attention will also be paid to the recent trend of remakes of these films.

Date: Wednesday, October 28th
Time: 1pm - 2pm
Location: The second floor of the Krueger Library at Winona State University.

The event is free and open to the public.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Time Slot for Sounds of Cinema on 89.5 KQAL in Winona

On October 25, 2009, Sounds of Cinema will move to a new time slot at 11am on 89.5 KQAL FM in Winona. Please make note of the change.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

One, two, Freddy's coming for you . . .

On Sunday, October 25th, Sounds of Cinema will continue its month-long Halloween theme with a look at the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series. The episode will cover every film in the series released thus far.

Here are the trailers from the films:

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

Freddy vs. Jason

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Don't forget, Sounds of Cinema moves to a new time at 11am on Sunday mornings on 89.5 KQAL FM in Winona, Minnesota.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Support 89.7 KMSU FM's Pledge Drive

Starting October 14th, 89.7 KMSU FM "The Maverick" will begin its Fall pledge drive. This is your chance to support the station by making a monetary investment in it. Remember, your pledges not only help support the station's basic operations, they also demonstrate to Minnesota State University Mankato that KMSU is an important and valued part of the community. As such, the amount you give is not nearly as important as the fact that you do give.

To make a donation, call 507-389-5678 or 1-800-456-7810. If you get a voicemail, please leave your name, phone number, and amount you wish to pledge. Please do not leave credit card information, as the voice mail is not secure. You can find out more about supporting KMSU here.

On Sunday, October 18th, those listening to Sounds of Cinema from 89.7 KMSU FM or from 91.3 FM in Austin, Minnesota and in Fairmont and Albert Lea on 91.9 FM will hear a special pledge drive edition of the show. Those listening from 89.5 KQAL FM in Winona, Minnesota will hear a special "Lucifer Rising" episode, continuing the month long Halloween theme on the show.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sounds of Cinema is Now on Facebook

This show is now on Facebook, so if you have a Facebook account, log on and become a fan of this show. There should be a button built in to the right hand column of this page to allow you to do that.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reuters: Universal Ousts Two Chairmen

From Reuters:

Universal Pictures on Monday ousted Chairmen Marc Shmuger and David Linde after recent box office flops, including big-budget comedy "Land of the Lost," replacing the pair with their marketing and production chiefs.

Universal's marketing head Adam Fogelson will now serve as chairman of the movie studio, and film production president Donna Langley will be co-chairman, reporting to Fogelson, Universal said in a statement.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sounds of Cinema October Schedule

Throughout October, Sounds of Cinema will be looking forward to Halloween with a month of programming designed to get you in trick or treat mode:

October 4, 2009: Cinema's Villains
This episode will feature music of films that feature some of the most memorable villains from a variety of film genres including science fiction, action, and horror.

October 11, 2009: Vampires
Vampires are as popular as ever and this episode will include music from various incarnations of Dracula as well as other vampire films like Twilight and The Hunger.

October 18, 2009: Lucifer Rising
Former Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil's score to Kenneth Anger's experimental and esoteric short film is an extraordinary piece of music and this show will feature the entire score as well as commentary on the film and its production. Listeners to 89.7 KMSU FM will hear a special pledge drive episode this week.

October 25, 2009: Twenty-Five Years of A Nightmare on Elm Street
It's been a quarter century since Freddy Krueger first appeared on movie screens and he hasn't left the culture since. This episode will take a look at every Nightmare film from the 1984 original to 2003's Freddy vs. Jason and consider the ongoing appeal of the series.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Maverick at the Movies" domain closing

The website domain name "Maverick at the Movies" will be closing in the next few days. Sounds of Cinema will remain. So, if you haven't already, be sure to update your bookmarks to:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interview with Jack Shaheen

On Sunday, September 20th, 2009, Sounds of Cinema will include an interview with Dr. Jack Shaheen, the author of the books Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs after 9/11 and Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. In this interview, Dr. Shaheen discusses how Arab stereotypes have been assimilated into the culture and how the stereotypical portrayal of Arabs in Hollywood films affects both public opinion and public policy.

Here is an extended trailer to the documentary adaptation of Reel Bad Arabs:

The entire film can be found on YouTube.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lecture: Hollywood’s Arab Muslims in Film After 9/11

For those of you in the Winona area, Winona State Univeristy will present a lecture by Jack G. Shaheen titled, “Hollywood’s Arab Muslims After 9/11: Entertainment or Propaganda?” at 7 p.m. Monday, September. 14, in East Hall, Kryzsko Commons.

According to WSU's website:
Shaheen will discuss stereotypical racial images, how these images impact innocent lives and why these images exist. Shaheen will offer insights into the origin of these stereotypical images, their development in U.S. history and why they matter so much today.

Shaheen will provide solutions to help eliminate misconceptions and will show how the persistence of these images has naturalized prejudicial attitudes towards Arabs and the Arab culture. The goal of the presentation will be to inspire critical thinking about the social, political and human consequences of misconstrued images of Arab culture.

Shaheen is a former CBS news consultant on Middle East Affairs and was the recipient of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
The event is free and open to the public.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Feministing Article on Jennifer's Body

Jennifer's Body, written by Diablo Cody (Juno) and directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) is due in theaters on September 18th. One of the contributers to the blog Feministing has these thoughts on the lead up to the film:
The lingering question is, were Cody and Kusama really able to subvert some of these cliches in order to make smart, feminist commentary on them, or will they just play like good ol' fashioned objectification and sexism (think all the homophobes laughing their asses off at Bruno)? Cody, who called the script a "crazy, chaotic homage" to the horror films of her youth, told the Times: "The tricky thing is if you're going to subvert those tropes, they have to be there. We were constantly bobbing and weaving. Karyn and I talk about the film as a kind of Trojan horse. We wanted to package our beliefs in a way that's appealing to a mainstream audience."
The Trojan horse technique is a hard pill to hustle; it requires a degree of stealth and misdirection that sometimes works, especially in horror (see Night of the Living Dead), but often falls flat on its face.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

O'Hehir on Disney-Marvel Deal

If you hadn't heard, Disney has entered into a $4 billion deal to acquire Marvel Comics, which owns properties like Spiderman, Iron Man, and X-Men. In an article for, Andrew O'Hehir addresses the anxiety comic book fans have been buzzing about since the deal was announced:
New York Times reporters Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply nicely sum up the industry consensus by noting that the Marvel acquisition helps Disney with teen and tween boys, a market segment where the Mouse's princessy, Hannah Montana-flavored products have had little appeal of late. As a corollary to that, all the wild fanboy maundering about Disney draining the alleged edge and darkness out of Marvel's universe is laughably misplaced on various levels. First of all, what the hell are such people talking about? Anybody who feels satisfied with the rapidly diminishing returns of the "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" franchises hasn't been reading any decent comic books, still less watching decent movies, and badly needs to attend Andrew O'Hehir's Clockwork Orange-style cinematic reeducation camp.

Furthermore, at least since the Michael Eisner era, Disney has been a diversified global infotainment empire, with much less of a governing identity or ideology than many people think. Disney management didn't meddle much with Miramax during the Weinstein years and hasn't meddled much with Pixar, and after the $500 million-plus worldwide returns of "Iron Man," company honchos aren't likely to bland down the franchise in an effort to pitch it at 8-year-olds.
I would have to disagree with O'Hehir on his argument that Disney did not interfere with Miramax during the Weinstein era; the Brothers left Miramax because of Disney's interference with Fahrenheit 9/11 (refusing to distribute the film and forcing Michael Moore and the Weinsteins to take it to Lion's Gate) and had successfully pressured Miramax to drop Kevin Smith's Dogma over religious protests. But, as O'Hehir points out, the major properties are already licenced out to other studios and Disney's acquisition will not change that, so there is no reason to believe the deal will effect any ongoing franchises or upcoming films.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Films of Quentin Tarantino on Sounds of Cinema

On Sunday, August 30th, 2009, Sounds of Cinema will take a look at the films of Quentin Tarantino and feature music from his work. Tune in to hear music from Reservior Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and a review of Inglorious Bastards.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Music of John Hughes on Sounds of Cinema

On Sunday, August 23, 2009, Sounds of Cinema will commemorate the memory and influence of John Hughes with a program dedicated entirely to the music of films he wrote, produced, or directed. Music from The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Uncle Buck, and National Lampoon's Vacation will be included in the show.

Thanks to Andy Wardinski for providing the music for this episode.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New Hosts for "At the Movies"

According to this story in The New York Times, "At the Movies," the syndicated television show originally hosted by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, will now be hosted by A.O. Scott of The New York Times and Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune.

The show had most recently been hosted by Ben Lyons of E! Entertainment Television and Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies, and Lyons' appointment to the show had been met with derision from bloggers and other film critics. According to this article in the LA Times, charges were made that Lyons had gotten the position through nepotism (his father is film critic Jeffrey Lyons) and he was accused of being a "quote whore," for writing superlative-filled reviews in the hope that they will be used as a part of the film's advertising campaigns, which happened after Lyons called I am Legend "one of the best films ever made." Without naming him, Roger Ebert attacked Lyons' integrity in this post and the blog was created to track Lyons' lack of taste.

As I have written before, film criticism may not be saving lives or be considered high brow journalism, but it is important nonetheless. With the culture so invested and absorbed in the cinema, whether it is in the theater, in their homes, or online, it is worth our while to have critics who have a grasp of the form and its history and can provide the public with insights that make us all better consumers.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Salon Article on "The Judd Apatow Moment"

Stephanie Zacharek at Salon has written a piece about Judd Apatow, who has become the godfather of 21st century comedy. An excerpt:

Apatow has had a hand in the leisure suit-and-sideburn preposterousness of "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," the oblique stoner humor of "Pineapple Express," the sharp-cornered romantic angst of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and the exhausting semicircular gags of "Drillbit Taylor." He was one of the writers of the much-maligned (for my money, unjustly so) "You Don't Mess With the Zohan," and produced a seemingly slight teen comedy, "Superbad," that has become a cult favorite. Not all of these movies have been hits. But the sheer number of producing and/or writing credits Apatow has amassed in the past five years alone (did I mention "Year One"? Or "Step Brothers"? Or "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story"?) suggests that Apatow -- a clever, perceptive writer who cut his teeth producing and writing for "The Larry Sanders Show" and "The Ben Stiller Show," and went on to executive-produce the short-lived but well-loved series "Freaks and Geeks" -- has become a comedy tastemaker for his era, a guru who knows what will resonate with a young, modern audience.

But comedy, which by its nature is unruly and untamable, doesn't lend itself to being wrangled into submission by any one person, for any length of time. Apatow has cornered the market on movie comedy not just by being in the right place at the right time, but by being pretty much everywhere at once. And with "Funny People" -- not strictly a comedy, although it is, in places, very funny -- Apatow further increases his risk of giving us more Apatow than, perhaps, we really want.

Sounds of Cinema on KMSU

Due to a technical error, 89.7 KMSU FM in Mankato re-ran last week's episode today. The show scheduled to run today (#249) can be heard on 89.5 KQAL FM in Winona at 4pm. The most recent reviews can be found in the review archive and on the myspace page.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Bad Seed Trailer

For all of you interested in Orphan or other psycho-child stories like The Good Son or The Omen, check out the trailer for The Bad Seed (1956):

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Satire of Bruno

Lee Siegel has written an interesting take on the satirical layers of Brüno for The Daily Beast.

An excerpt:
Cohen’s target in Brüno is, superficially, the absurd pursuit of fame that seems to plague American life. It’s odd, in fact, that no one has made the connection between the media’s weird obsession with the death of Michael Jackson and Cohen’s deconstruction of celebrity hollowness.
What better target, after all, if you want to satirize the American obsession with fame than Paula Abdul, one of American Idol’s judges? Arriving in Los Angeles, Brüno decides to become re-famous by interviewing famous people and has Abdul over to his fancy new house. Unfortunately, he doesn’t own any furniture. So he has some of the Mexican workmen who are fixing up his new digs get down on all fours and serve as tables and chairs.

Tasteless? You bet. And the perfect conceit to expose true spiritual vulgarity. Abdul enters and, though visibly surprised by the novel accommodations, amiably slips right into her celebrity share of entitled attention and takes a seat on the back of one of the Mexicans. She chats chirpily with Brüno, indifferent to this new low in the history of immigrant labor. It’s only when Brüno has his assistant wheel in some hors d’oeuvres on the ample naked stomach of another Mexican that Abdul decides she can’t be there, abruptly gets up and leaves. But she was there, and happily so, and it’s not clear whether she leaves out of an eruption of moral indignation or because she finds the prospect of eating off an immigrant’s naked stomach hygienically problematic. You can sit on them, but when it comes to food…

If all Brüno were was a satire on the obsession with fame and celebrity, it would not be enough to hold your attention for very long. But the desire to be famous is also a desire to satisfy your appetites with impunity, to elevate selfishness into a moral principle. The universal desire to be famous is a social problem. Brüno himself is a selfish pig.

Perhaps some straight critics can’t bring themselves to admit that a flamboyantly gay man can at the same time be morally repellent. But Brüno is not repellent because he is flamboyantly gay. He is a flamboyantly gay man who happens to be repellent.
Brüno was certainly a better satire than Borat and Siegel does a nice job of laying out how to understand what Cohen accomplishes in the new film. The comparisons to Jonathan Swift are a bit much, although he is right to use Swift to show that satirists often use sexual, scatological, or "dirty" humor to make their points, which puts Brüno into an artistic and historical context.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Harry Potter and Racial Prejudice

This article from The Washington Post links the cultural commentary of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to current issues, namely the Sonia Sotomayor hearings:

Rowling's use of the term "half-blood" to vividly evoke the damaging effects of racial prejudice in the life of some of her key characters must be highlighted, especially this week. This is the same week where the American people have been treated to the unseemly spectacle of conservative politicians using "racism" as a club to beat up Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic American woman nominated to the United States Supreme Court. These attacks on her, as illustrated but not limited to Senator Sessions' remarks, illustrate that her questioners have no insight into their own racial formation, and deformation, in a white-dominant American society.

I highly recommend that several of these Senators go see the Harry Potter film--and better yet, read the books where the racial prejudice by some in the wizarding community is horribly illustrated. "Generations of purebloods, wizards all--more than you can say, I don't doubt...a filthy, dirt-veined Muggle," says a Wizard racist whose negative attitudes toward racial pluralism have fatal and near fatal consequences for both Wizards and Muggles alike in the film and in the book.
Had the movie come out on its original release date in November 2008 (it was delayed because of the writer's strike) it's possible that these connections might not have been made, proving once again that timing in art is (nearly) everything.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Are Movies Responsible for Anti-Intellectualism?

This article on explores why Americans have a negative attitude toward science and scientific inquiry, looking at scientists with fear or disdain and regarding their work as dangerous. The article, written by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, argues that popular culture, namely film and television, has conditioned Americans to be fearful of science. The article pays considerable attention to the work of Michael Crichton, whose novels and their film adaptations fed into and propagated this fear of science:

An M.D. who became a phenomenal entertainment industry success, Crichton was very much science's man in Hollywood. Even with his many science-centered hits, ranging from "Jurassic Park" to "ER," he still found time to lecture to scientific institutions and compose numerous nonfiction essays sharing his views on matters ranging from science in entertainment to climate change. He was, through and through, a paradox. His plots were meticulously researched and filled with science; yet at the same time — and most memorably in "Jurassic Park" — they depicted science going out of control, running amok, so that before long the bodies begin to pile up (or get digested).

And then toward the end of his career, Crichton produced a book that, for many in science, will live in infamy: 2004's "State of Fear," whose plot involves eco-terrorists trying to create natural disasters that will scare the public about global warming — which doesn't, in the view of the novel's heroic scientist-protagonist, even exist.

Let's take these two halves of Crichton in sequence, as both embody important lessons about science in our culture. First, science in the entertainment media. Crichton had little patience for scientists' complaints about ridiculous sci-fi plots and wild scientist stereotyping. In a 1999 lecture before the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he countered such gripes with his own perspective on why scientists will probably never be very happy with the products of Hollywood. As Crichton advised, there are at least four important rules of movies that just don't mesh with the real process of research: "(i) Movie characters must be compelled to act. (ii) Movies need villains. (iii) Movie searches are dull. (iv) Movies must move." Crichton argued that real science, with its long, drawn-out intellectual processes and frequent dead ends, simply can't be reconciled with such exigencies. "The problems lie with the limitations of film as a visual storytelling medium," he concluded. "You aren't going to beat it."

Crichton's words are worth heeding. People who care about science and want it to come off better in the mass media can't ignore his four rules of movie storytelling. They can't ask for entertainment products in which the characters do actual research (or at least not much of it). They can't ask for entertainment products that will be boring — a contradiction in terms. Rather, the goal must be to work toward finding ways of conveying information about science through film and other entertainment media without rendering them dull or unpalatable to audiences.
This is a good example of storytelling coming into conflict and with other parts of the culture and it supports my argument for a wider appreciation of cinema, which I've tried to do with Sounds of Cinema. A critical public would be more inclined to hold films to a higher standard both aesthetically and thematically. Contemporary audiences would not stand for the racist revisionist history of Birth of a Nation (I hope) because they would recognize it as such. Similarly, a public more educated in film as well as science would reject anti-intellectual crap like The Exorcism of Emily Rose or Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sounds of Cinema Not Heard in Mankato

Sounds of Cinema did not air from 89.7 KMSU FM in Mankato in the last two weeks due to a computer error. The KMSU is staff is hard at work resolving this matter.

The most recent reviews can be found in the Reviews section of the website and on the myspace page.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Controversial Films on Sounds of Cinema

For Independence Day weekend, Sounds of Cinema will celebrate the First Amendment with a survey of films that have been censored, protested, and banned in the United States and throughout the world. Here is a summary of the controversial films covered on Sounds of Cinema today:

The Passion of the Christ
This is easily the most controversial film of the decade; I would guess that more ink was spilled attacking and defending this film than any other since the turn of the century. Most of the controversy was based on accusations of anti-Semitism but I’ve never felt that these accusations were valid.

I do have issues with the film as pornographic – The Passion festishises the violence. To illustrate the point, consider a sex scene in a dramatic film. In that case the scene is part of an ongoing narrative context. That context gives the scene meaning beyond the act itself. When you pull it out of that context, then it becomes about the act. In this case, the film isolates the torture and execution of Christ, with an emphasis on gore, and gives no context about Christ’s life or his message. While it’s true that a lot of Christian viewers will bring that context with them, in evaluating the film we have to stay within the boundaries of what the film presents, and The Passion does not provide context for anything.

Disney films don’t usually suggest themselves as controversial but a few have raised debate over the years. Aladdin was protested by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee based on racism and cultural insensitivity. Aladdin and Jasmine are depicted as Western and even American; they have Western accents and their appearance downplays any Middle Eastern characteristics; Aladdin looks like a tanned Tom Cruise. But the villains of the films are all portrayed as angry Arab stereotypes.

Anger was also directed at the theatrical version of the song "Arabian Nights." The original version contained the line, “Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face/It's barbaric, but, hey, it's home"; the line was rerecorded for subsequent video releases and for the re-released soundtrack and changed to "Where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense/It's barbaric, but, hey, it's home."

A Clockwork Orange
The film was criticized for intense violence mingled with sexuality, but the controversy was made worse by supposed copycat crimes in which gangs would recite the song “Singing in the Rain” while committing violent crimes.

Basic Instinct
Basic Instinct was the first picture to be threatened with the NC-17 rating, which had replaced the X-rating in the early 1990s. The intent of changing X to NC-17 was to allow more respectability to the rating and avoid confusion with the XXX rating adopted by hardcore pornography. The change didn’t work, partly because most major theater chains refuse to carry NC-17 films or cannot because the land leases with their communities have that stipulation. A lot of the major brick and mortar video renters and sellers like Blockbuster and Wal-Mart won’t carry NC-17 DVDs. That’s rather ironic because they will carry unrated films, which is a way around that rule. And of course unrated versions rent and sell far better than their R-rated counterparts.

Basic Instinct was eventually cut down to get an R-rating by removing about 40 seconds of footage, spread throughout the picture. It is a common practice and the ratings process has been critiqued and exposed in the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated which, ironically, was given an NC-17 rating but can be found on DVD in an unrated version.

In addition to the rating dispute, Basic Instinct was protested by women’s groups and gay-lesbian organizations, which felt the film was misogynistic and anti-gay.

Blue Velvet
David Lynch’s film about the sexual perversion lurking beneath the surface of suburbia mixes sexuality with violence, which is always controversial, but its themes can be seen echoed in later films like American Beauty.

Cannibal Holocaust
Cannibal Holocaust was part of a trend of Italian cannibal films from the 1970s and 80s and is one of the most widely censored films of all time, supposedly banned in as many as 50 countries. The first half of Cannibal Holocaust follows an anthropologist into the Amazon as he discovers what happened to a documentary film crew that has disappeared, and the second half shows what happened to them through the footage that they shot.

Cannibal Holocaust became an instant bombshell upon its premiere. The film features very realistic scenes of the characters being killed and even includes footage of the actors killing animals. The intent was to manipulate the line between what is real and what is not and make audiences think about news and entertainment. As it turned out, it worked too well and the director and cinematographer were arrested because of the cruelty to animals and upon the belief that the actors had actually been killed in the making of the film. As a part of their contract to help with marketing the film, the actors had agreed to lay low and so the lawyers for the filmmakers had to scramble to locate the actors and bring the cast into court to exonerate the filmmakers.

Cannibal Holocaust remains a difficult and challenging film but it is also an important one and in the age of 24-hour news networks, sensational journalism, and reality television it has actually become more relevant.

Dogma was Kevin Smith’s comedy about religion with an emphasis on Catholicism. The film was protested by The Catholic League and other religious organizations and raised such a stir that Smith actually received death threats. Disney, which owns Miramax, backed out of distributing the film, at which point Harvey Weinstein brought the project from Miramax to Lion's Gate Films.

Fahrenheit 9/11
The controversy over Fahrenheit 9/11 is fairly well known. It worked out for the film’s benefit and it became the highest grossing documentary film of all time. Like Dogma, the film was dropped from distribution by Disney via Miramax and then taken to Lions Gate Films. In this case, then Florida governor Jeb Bush threatened to take away tax breaks on Disney theme parks if they distributed the film.

Rambo (2008)
The fourth Rambo film was received fairly well in the US but it caused a significant stir in Burma, where the film takes place. In the film, Rambo rescues missionaries who have been taken captive by the military dictatorship that controls that country. The film was banned in Burma but pirated copies made their way into the country and Rambo’s line “Live for nothing or die for something” became a rallying cry for the resistance fighters.

Natural Born Killers
Natural Born Killers was a notorious satire of media sensationalism and violence. The film has been criticized for becoming the very thing that it was satirizing. I think the film works more than it doesn’t and it is still a fascinating film to watch. In the opinion of director Oliver Stone, the compromised theatrical cut is actually more violent because the excesses featured in the director’s cut version make the absurdity of the film more apparent. There were a number of alleged copycat murders linked to the film and novelist and lawyer John Grisham led a civil suit against the filmmakers but the lawsuit was dismissed.

South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut
South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut is an adaptation of the Comedy Central television series. The film is a political satire and a parody of Disney films and according to the The Guinness Book of World Records, the film contains 399 curse words and 199 offensive gestures inside of its 81-minute running time.

The ratings process of South Park was rather interesting. According to filmmakers Matt Stone and Trey Parker, they submitted the film to the MPAA and received an NC-17 but instead of cutting out offensive material, they put more in and resubmitted it. The ratings board again gave them an NC-17 and Parker and Stone again put more offensive material into the film. This went back and forth until finally the MPAA apparently gave up and approved an R-rating.

The story includes Saddam Hussein as Satan’s homosexual lover and supposedly Saddam was forced to watch the film while he was in the custody of the American military. The song "Blame Canada" was nominated for an Oscar for best original song.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
The second Indiana Jones film was criticized in the US for its violence, which was darker and more intense than Raiders of the Lost Ark. Although it is not as violent as many other films mentioned on today’s show, it does contain some brutal scenes of violence against children and a human sacrifice sequence, which did not mesh well with a marketing campaign that was aimed at family audiences. The film upset a lot of viewers and led to the creation of the PG-13 rating by the MPAA.

The film was also controversial overseas. Initially the filmmakers planned to shoot in India, where the film is set, but the Indian government demanded changes to the script so the production was relocated to Sri Lanka. After its release, Temple of Doom was banned in India for some time and there were charges of racism made against the film for its portrayal of Hinduism and its white washing of British colonialism.

Fight Club
Fight Club was adapted from the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Although the film now enjoys a very strong cult following, it did not do exceptionally well at the box office and drew very divided reactions from critics. The Friday that the film was released theatrically in the United States, Rosie O'Donnell appeared on her TV show and revealed the twist ending and urged all of her viewers to avoid the movie. Rupert Murdoch, who controls News Corp, which owns Twentieth Century Fox, purportedly despised the project and clashed with then-studio head Bill Mechanic over putting it into production. The film's disappointing box office returns were a major reason for Mechanic's departure from the studio after its release.

Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a Dream follows several characters descent into drug addiction. Amazingly, some people felt that the film somehow glamorized drug use, which is hard to imagine given the visceral and frankly disgusting climax of the film. The ending sequence landed Requiem for a Dream an NC-17 and director Darren Aronofsky refused to cut the film so it was released unrated. Because major rental chains will not carry NC-17 films, an R-rated version of the film was released on video.

This is by no means a definitive list, just a survey of some notable controversial films that fit into the length of the show. In researching and assembling the list, the following online essays were extremely valuable:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Karl Malden Dead

From the LA Times:

Karl Malden, one of Hollywood's strongest and most versatile supporting actors, who won an Oscar playing his Broadway-originated role as Mitch in "A Streetcar Named Desire," died today. He was 97.

Malden starred in the 1970s TV series "The Streets of San Francisco" and was the longtime American Express traveler's-check spokesman, warning travelers to not leave home without it. He died of natural causes at his home in Brentwood, said his daughter Mila Doerner.

With his unglamorous mug -- he broke his bulbous nose twice playing sports as a teenager -- the former Indiana steel-mill worker realized early on the course his acting career would take.

"I was so incredibly lucky," Malden once told The Times. "I knew I wasn't a leading man. Take a look at this face." But, he vowed as a young man, he wasn't going to let his looks hamper his ambition to succeed as an actor.

In a movie career that flourished in the 1950s and '60s, Malden played a variety of roles in more than 50 films, including the sympathetic priest in "On the Waterfront," the resentful husband in "Baby Doll," the warden in "Birdman of Alcatraz," the outlaw-turned-sheriff in "One-Eyed Jacks," the pioneer patriarch in "How the West Was Won," Madame Rose's suitor in "Gypsy," the card dealerin "The Cincinnati Kid" and Gen. Omar Bradley in "Patton."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson and the Music Video

With the death of Michael Jackson, MTV has actually gone back to showing music videos again. In a lot of the press reports about Jackson's death, it has been mentioned how his work defined the possibilities of medium, broke ground for other African American artists, and included major Hollywood talents.

Consider the full length video for "Bad" (in two parts), directed by Martin Scorsese:

Jackson's work is very important to the history of the music video and to popular music as a whole. However, it is also important to note how the music video itself has changed. This article from CBS points out that a hit music video no longer moves album sales and the form has gravitated from the television to the Internet, which has changed the fundamental purposes and means of video directors:

Record labels don’t see the same returns on music videos as they saw during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, so they are less willing to spend large amounts of money. Plus, there’s simply no place for them on television anymore. For the past decade, MTV’s programming has focused on reality programming, and VH1 and BET are following suit.

Even "Total Request Live," the last daytime show left on MTV dedicated to top music videos, has been canceled. Does this mean MTV, of all things, killed the video star? Not exactly.

The problem with the old-school model is that, like many old-school models, it wasn't prepared for the Internet. Why would someone wait around to catch a music video on TV when it was available online instantly? Viewership declined, then ad revenue, steering television executives away from music and towards original content. Music videos migrated to the web, and everything about them shrunk, from screen to scope.

"If I had written my book a few years prior [to 2008], I would have said music videos had come and gone," said Austerlitz. "But with their migration to the Internet, there has been a rebirth and a resurgence of interest in the form.

Removing music videos from their market-driven function may actually serve to make them better and more artistically interesting pieces of cinema. Already we have seen major film directors, like David Fincher, who have come from the format and the style has certainly been embraced in contemporary editing. But maybe now the influence can shift the other way, with music videos taking cues from narrative film.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Celebrate Freedom of Speech on Sounds of Cinema

Sounds of Cinema for Sunday, July 5th will celebrate freedom of speech by featuring music of films that have been controversial, protested, or banned.

In putting this show together, I have made use the following online essays on controversial films:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Watching Lord of the Rings in Tehran

According to this piece from, the state run television network in Iran has turned to playing a Lord of the Rings marathon to keep the citizens occupied and off the street. It may not have the effect that they had planned:
Gandalf the Gray returns to the Fellowship as Gandalf the White. He casts a blinding white light, and his face is hidden behind a halo. "Imam zaman e?!" someone in the room asks. Is it the Mahdi, the last imam and, according to Shia Islam, the savior of mankind?

Who picked this film? I start to suspect that there is a subversive soul manning the controls at Seda va Sima, AKA the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. It is way too easy to play with the film, to draw comparisons to what is happening in real life. There are the overt Mousavi themes: the unwanted quest and the risking of life in pursuit of an unanticipated destiny. Then there is the sly nod to Ahmadinejad. Iranian films are dubbed (forget the wretched dubbing into English in the U.S.; in Iran dubbing is a craft) and there are plenty of references to "kootoole," little person, the Farsi word used in the movie for hobbit and dwarf. "Kootoole," of course, was, is, the term used in many of the chants out on the street against President Ahmadinejad. He is the "little person." ("And whose side are you on?" Pippin asks the ancient, forest-dwelling giant named Treebeard. Those watching might think the answer is Mousavi, since Treebeard is decked out in green.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Star Trek Episode to Re-Run

This Sunday, June 21, Sound of Cinema will re-run the recent Star Trek-themed episode (#239). The show should be back next Sunday with a brand new episode.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Teaser Trailer for Michael Moore's New Film

The teaser trailer for Michael Moore's new (and still untitled) film about the bank bailouts ran in select theaters over the weekend:

According to, ushers went down the aisles looking for donations:
During this, ushers really did walk out amongst the patrons with buckets in hand and wearing T-shirts with the slogan ‘Save our CEOs’. I don’t know if anybody dropped any cash in, or for that matter what Moore’s team would have done with any donated funds. Perhaps he’ll actually try and pass it on to the ailing institutions and film the ensuing events for the film? Sounds like a possible Moore move.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Article by Nia Vardalos

Actress and writer Nia Vardalos has written a piece for the Huffington Post about her new film, My Life in Ruins, and more specifically about the tough time she has had getting studios to make films for women:

Lately, I've been in meetings regarding a new script idea I have. A studio executive asked me to change the female lead to a male, because... "women don't go to movies."


When I pointed out the box office successes of Sex and The City, Mamma Mia, and Obsessed, he called them "flukes." He said "don't quote me on this." So, I'm telling everybody.

I'm in a new movie, My Life In Ruins, out in theaters now. It's a small indie, that was picked up for distribution by a studio (thank you Fox Searchlight.) We're in one-third, maybe less, about one-quarter of the amount of screens of the big movies...yet we made it into the Top Ten.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lake of Fire Trailer

Here is the trailer for the film Lake of Fire, which is my DVD pick for June 7, 2009. I picked this film following the news coverage over the murder of Dr. George Tiller. You can find my full review on the myspace page and in the Review Archive section of the website.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

David Carradine Dies

From The New York Times:
David Carradine, the star of the 1970s television series “Kung Fu” and the title villain of the “Kill Bill” movies, has died in Thailand, The Associated Press reported. The United States Embassy in Bangkok told The A.P. that Mr. Carradine had been found dead in his hotel suite in Bangkok, where he was working on a movie. He was 72.

Mr. Carradine was part of an acting family that included his father, John; his brother, Bruce, and half-brothers Keith and Robert; and his nieces Ever Carradine and Martha Plimpton.

After a short run as the title character in the 1966 television adaptation of the Western “Shane,” he found fame in the 1972 series “Kung Fu” as Kwai Chang Caine, a wanderer raised by Shaolin monks to be a martial arts master. He enjoyed a career resurgence in recent years when he was cast by Quentin Tarantino in the action movies “Kill Bill: Vol. 1″ and “Vol. 2.”

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fish Frye Opens for The New Standards

Fish Frye, the official band of Sounds of Cinema, will be playing at the Red Sky Lounge in Mankato, Minnesota on Friday, May 29th as the opening act for The New Standards. The show starts at 7pm and is open to anyone over twenty-one years old. If you are in the area, please check it out.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Five Year Anniversary

As of this weekend, Sounds of Cinema (counting its earlier incarnation as Maverick at the Movies) has been on the air for five years. In that time, the show has included 239 episodes, featuring 646 reviews and approximately 9560 minutes of music. This has been a lot of work but also a great deal of fun.

I would like to thank James Gullickson of 89.7 KMSU FM, who took a chance and allowed me to start this show back in May 2004, showing patience with my inexperience in radio and allowing me to share my passion for movies. I'd also like to thank Mike Martin of 89.5 KQAL FM who not only adopted this program, bringing it to a new audience, but also allowed me to use the facilities at KQAL to produce the show.

Additional thanks to Greg Husak and Karen Wright of KMSU, Ann Fee and Joe Tougas of Fish Frye, Shyboy Tim and Shelley of Shuffle Function, Dustin Wilmes and Ton of The Five Count, Herb Kroon of Best of Broadway, Bob Pavlenko of Here There Be Dragons, Rachael Hanel of The Weekly Reader, Don Larsson of Minnesota State University Mankato, and the Mass Communication students and staff at Winona State University.

Lastly, a big thank you to all the listeners who have tuned into the show, kept the program and the stations it broadcasts from on the air, and shared their feedback (positive or negative) with me. With so many other options available on the radio, on television, and online, I'm very pleased that you have taken an interest in this show. Hopefully I've been able to entertain you while provoking thoughts and making your movie-going experience a little richer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sounds of Cinema Boldly Goes . . .

. . . oh hell, you know the rest.

This Sunday, May 17, 2009, Sounds of Cinema will take a look at the music of the Star Trek film series. I'll play selections from a number of films and composers, including both the original cast and the Next Generation films. I will also have a review of the new Star Trek film directed by J.J. Abrams.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hindus Join Catholics in Protest Over "Angels and Demons"

From AHN:

The Hindus have joined in the Catholics' fight against the makers of the upcoming Dan Brown novel-adapted film "Angels & Demons."

The novel and film, which stars Tom Hanks and is directed by Ron Howard, revolve around the quest of symbologist Robert Langdon to unravel the mysteries of Illuminati. The story deals heavily on the conflict between science and religion, particularly with the Roman Catholic Church.

According to the statement made by Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, the filmmakers should have handled the subject more sensitively as cinema is a very powerful medium.

He stressed that films should entertain but not at the expense of ridiculing others' faith and spending disinformation. "Angels & Demons" and other such films bring more confusion and create stereotypes in the minds of some audiences.

As to why the Hindus are concerned with the film's subject when the movie deals with the Catholics, Zed said that despite the differences in their beliefs, they are all fellow seekers of the Ultimate Reality and are "all headed in the same direction." With that being said, they should help each other on that journey.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sounds of Cinema Program Notes

Those listening to Sounds of Cinema from 89.7 KMSU FM in Mankato heard a re-run of last week's show (episode 235) due to a programing error. The current episode (236) will play today at 4pm on 89.5 KQAL FM in Winona. Audio files of the reviews are now available on the Sound of Cinema myspace page and the text of the reviews and playlists have been added to the website.

Next week, both stations will replay The Matrix anniversary show (episode 234).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Jackie Earle Haley is the New Freddy Krueger

According to this article, Jackie Earle Haley (who was featured as superhero Rorschach in Watchman and was nominated for an Oscar a few years ago for his portrayal of a sex offender in Little Children) will play Freddy Krueger in the upcoming remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

I have not generally gotten upset with remakes; as long as the original is preserved, my attitude has been to let filmmakers and studios do what they like. However, I felt a little angst when a remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street was announced because that film really is a well made piece of work and it is one of my personal favorites. So to hear that Haley, an accomplished actor (not a stunt man or a no-name performer), is cast in the role gives me hope that there will be a concerted effort to make a good film and not just cash in on a title.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Controversy over "Observe and Report"

The Huffington Post has a brief article about the new film Observe and Report and one of the film's cruder attempts at humor as Seth Rogan's character has sex with a high, intoxicated, and nearly passed out woman played by Anna Farris. The piece quotes Lindsay Beyerstein's take on the scene:
Rogen excels at a brand of awkwardness-based humor where much of the laughter is tension release. Which means that the scene fails on its own terms, unless you believe that an unconscious person can consent. Without the unexpected "evidence" of consent, it's just a rape scene. If you see the encounter as rape, Brandi's slurred semi-conscious interjection just seems piteous. It doesn't make anything "okay."
I will have a review of Observe and Report on next week's episode of Sounds of Cinema.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"The Story" on Film Scores

The public radio program "The Story" has a segment in their most recent episode on film scores and how watching films and listening to music from certain films, namely Star Wars, helped an autistic child become more socially aware and expressive.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The End of Blockbuster?

Could the end of brick-and-mortar video rental stores be imminent? According to this story, Blockbuster may be on the verge of collapse.
Movie rental company Blockbuster Inc. said Monday the risk that it may not complete financing deals raises “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue as a going concern.

Dallas-based Blockbuster, which has struggled amid the rising popularity of DVD-by-mail services like Netflix, disclosed the warning in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company had already cautioned last month that its auditor was likely to raise doubts about its ability to stay in business.

A going-concern qualification refers to an auditor’s assessment of a company’s ability to continue to operate for the foreseeable future.
If Blockbuster goes under, this could be a major problem for a lot of film viewers, especially those who are older or economically disadvantaged, and do not have digital cable or access to the Internet.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Maurice Jarre: 1924 - 2009

Film composer Maurice Jarre has died. The LA Times has a nice piece remembering the man who composed such scores for Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Jacob's Ladder, Ghost, Fatal Attraction, Shogun, The Message, The Longest Day (1962), and Topaz.

In coming weeks, listen for a special episode of Sounds of Cinema to feature music of Jarre's career.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

MST3K and Twilight

For those who are fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 or the film Twilight (or especially those who cannot stand the film):

The Matrix Remembered on Sounds of Cinema

On Sunday, April 5th 2009, Sounds of Cinema will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the release of The Matrix.

The show will include music from both the score and the album, retrospectives on what the film has meant for science fiction and for film in general, as well as commentary on the deeper philosophical ideas in the story.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

KMSU Pledge Drive

Starting Wednesday, March 25th until Sunday, April 5th, 89.7 KMSU FM "The Maverick" will be holding its spring pledge drive. Those of you who listen to The Maverick are strongly encouraged to tune in and pledge whatever you can manage. As I have often said, the amount you give is not nearly as important as that you do give, because your pledges demonstrate that independent public radio is an important and valued part of the community.

To make a pledge, please call 507-389-5678 or visit

Those listening to Sounds of Cinema from KMSU, on Sunday March 29th will hear a special pledge drive edition of the program. Those listening to the show on 89.5 KQAL FM in Winona will hear a brand new episode with reviews of Knowing and I Love You, Man.

Update: In an extraordinary show of generosity, the listeners of KMSU have pledged enough money to allow the station to quit the pledge drive early. This Sunday's episode of Sounds of Cinema on KMSU should be the same episode that will air on KQAL.

Update 2: Due to a computer error, KMSU aired last week's episode (number 232). The newest episode (number 233) can be heard on KQAL at 4pm.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sounds of Cinema Delayed in Winona Again

Sounds of Cinema has been delayed on 89.5 KQAL in Winona due to Winona State University sports coverage.

Update: The show will air after the basketball game.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Comic Book Films Featured on Sounds of Cinema

This Sunday, March 15th 2009, Sounds of Cinema will feature music of comic book films including scores from Superman: the Movie, 300, and Dick Tracy. I will also review Watchmen and have a DVD pick to match the theme.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Open Letter from "Watchmen" Screenwriter

David Hayter, the screenwriter on Watchmen, has posted an open letter to fans asking them to see the film again this weekend. Here is an excerpt:

So look, this is a note to the fanboys and fangirls. The true believers. Dedicated for life.

If the film made you think. Or argue with your friends. If it inspired a debate about the nature of man, or vigilante justice, or the horror of Nixon abolishing term limits. If you laughed at Bowie hanging with Adrian at Studio 54, or the Silhouette kissing that nurse.

Please go see the movie again next weekend.

You have to understand, everyone is watching to see how the film will do in its second week. If you care about movies that have a brain, or balls, (and this film's got both, literally), or true adaptations -- And if you're thinking of seeing it again anyway, please go back this weekend, Friday or Saturday night. Demonstrate the power of the fans, because it'll help let the people who pay for these movies know what we'd like to see. Because if it drops off the radar after the first weekend, they will never allow a film like this to be made again.

I think Hayter is exagerating his case. First, the movie wasn't nearly as good as he is making it sound and with Iron Man and The Dark Knight having been so successful last year (in part because they were far superior films), I think it is safe to say that we will see more films like it made in the future.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sounds of Cinema May Be Delayed in Winona

The March 8th broadcast of Sounds of Cinema may be delayed in Winona due to WSU Women's Basketball, depending on the results of the Saturday games. If it is delayed, the program will play later Sunday afternoon or evening.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nate Silver's Oscar Picks

As I stated in an earlier post, I'm not going to make predications (only commentary) on the winners of this year's Academy Awards but I thought that this video might be fun to take a look at. Keith Olbermann interviewed Nate Silver who has used logistical regression to correctly predict the outcome of the World Series and the 2008 election and now applied it to the Oscar show.

Once again, this is who Nate Silver thinks will win. It does not reflect who should win (or should have been nominated).

Fahrenheit 451 on the WSU Campus

The film Fahrenheit 451 will be screened on the Winona State University campus as a part of the annual Celebration of the Book.

The screening will be held Wednesday, February 25th at 7pm in Science Laboratory Center room 120 on the WSU campus.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No Oscar Predications on Sounds of Cinema

In years past I have often made predictions or at least gone through the nominees for the annual Academy Awards ceremony. I will not be doing that this year for a variety of reasons.

First, I suck at predicting these things. I've only been right about half the time and the times I have been right have been due to obvious winners in a given category or just dumb luck. I really don't spend time analyzing these things but really anyone who claims that they can tell you who is going to win is full of it. So, given that my input is rather worthless and my insight is blind, that seems like a good enough reason to hold my tongue.

But there is a second reason, one that is just as important but one that the Academy might not like: the Oscars just don't matter very much any more.

The Oscars --and for that matter the Grammys, the Emmys, and most other award shows--are victims of the Information Age. In the past, the only times we could see our favorite movie stars were in their films or in the occasional newspaper or magazine article. Today we are inundated with images of our favorite celebrities, or at least the ones that the mass media has decided should be our favorites. Logging onto the web, I can flip through image galleries of movie stars at award ceremonies and premieres, behind the scenes stills, and leaked sex tapes. In this media saturated environment, the novelty of gathering all the biggest stars together for one show does not have the same luster.

Another outgrowth of the Internet is the democratization of opinion. With websites, blogs, and other online features, anyone can chip in their two cents on a celebrity's outfit or give their own top ten list of best and worst films of the year. Of course, not everyone's opinion is worth listening to, but the fact is that the democratization of media robs the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (among others) of their privilege status as the arbiters of cinematic excellence.

Aside from the change in mass media, there is also a perception problem facing the Oscars. First is the glamour. Compare the stuffy formal style of the Academy Award's production and the tuxes and million dollar dresses worn by the nominees to the casual outfits worn by attendants at an MTV awards show. While MTV's awards have even less clout than the Oscars, there is a hipness to MTV's show that lends it some degree of street credibility.

And who wins at an MTV awards show? Often the winners are films that made a lot of money but more importantly they are films that are popular with the viewers. And this is the other half of the Oscar's perception problem. In pursuit of awards, Hollywood studios have designed their release schedules around the award shows, opening films in New York and Los Angeles but nowhere in between. In many cases, especially this year, those of us living in middle America cannot get to see the films nominated for best picture without driving two and a half hours through a snow storm to get to a theater. It is an alienating release strategy that makes the Oscars even more meaningless to the viewers.

So next Sunday's show will have no run down of the Oscar nominees or predictions of the winners. I may, however, comment upon who actually did go home with a statuette either on the air or through the blog. Because, let's face it, I have an opinion and I'm not afraid to share it.