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.”