A few great car commercials

March 16, 2011

Recently there have been some great car commercials on television and I wanted to look back at some of my favorites listed here. I am not  interested in clever sales pitches, stunning visuals or feasts of strength (so common in truck and luxury car commercials). I am more interested in how the soul of the car is portrayed and in the relationships and experiences people have with their cars. (It also helps to be about an exciting car.)

I love the physical comedy/silent film style acting in this ad made great with the STAR WARS theme.

Just a fun commercial with a beautiful car.  Also, RIP Crown Victoria.

Possibly my favorite. This one brought me to my feet the first time I saw it.  It’s in homage to the Steve McQueen film Bullitt, probably the greatest car chase movie.  The 1968 Mustang GT McQueen used to chase two hitmen in a  1968 Charger R/T 440 to their fiery death was the inspiration for the Mustang’s new design. A special Bullitt Edition was later offered. McQueen’s image was taken from the movie chase which can be seen here.

And this is when the V-Series was just getting started. Check out the CTS-V coupe.

Another great. This Corvette commercial was pulled from television for its “dangerous” portrayal of children driving irresponsibly.  I believe that’s what makes it great. Children dream of driving passionate cars. (And always manuals- children don’t pretend to drive an automatic.)  This ad is so true to  the ideal driver-car relationship. Ford later made a similar ad with adult drivers- it was much less.

A car’s life flashes before its windshield and its the lives of its owners.

What ever happened to style? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. There was a time when style was just about everything in automotive design. I love the shots of the Chrysler Building which was designed using the automotive Art Deco style of the times.

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Film music and… a costume? Really?

October 18, 2009

Last week, I got asked to play with the Golden State Pops Orchestra for their next concert. If it weren’t for the actual concert hall we sat in, I’d believe that I had been transported to a soundstage recording an orchestral tracking session for film/television!

Film composer/conductor Stu Philips (Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider) conducted last week’s rehearsal in a downright old-timing New York attitude, experience-ridden, industry-worn way that reminded me of the great Leonard Bernstein’s down-to-business rehearsing/recording of West Side Story.

I miss it. The fast pace of rehearsal. The pressure, to play perfectly the second time the ensemble sight reads some tougher-than-classical film music. The professionalism of showing up and expecting to be on your game, in the moment, and never missing a beat (literally). The preparation that had been done before I got to my seat: bowings marked out by the principal player already, everyone in their seats, everyone stops playing as soon as the baton stops beating. Not a second to waste or a rhythm to miss.

Also conducting us is Jason Livesay, a wonderful APU alumnus, violinist, composer, conductor. Yep, he orchestrated the end titles for the new film, Astro Boy, which we will be performing. It stars the boy from August Rush, FYI. Simply gorgeous themes; pretty epic and inspiring. And here it is--for your enjoyment!

Astro Boy (John Ottman, composer; Jason Livesay, orchestrator)

Something else on the program that simply thrilled me: Though the new Star Trek movie returned to the music of the original series, I grew up with the ‘Next Generation’ shows and movies. As the orchestra started up the piece, I felt full of wonder hearing that melody that was so familiar every afternoon in front of Grandma’s TV after school!!!

Star Trek: First Contact

Here’s one I never got over. Terrified me as a kid. I even watched the X-Files show; only I switched channels every time during the opening titles.

The X-Files

And last but not least, a little class act from the early 90’s.

Knight Rider (Stu Philips)

We’re performing these exact pieces and more this Saturday, October 24. If you’re interested in the concert, there are student tickets for $15. More information and tickets here. Now I must go find a costume for this concert. They’re making us all dress up. (So HERE’S my question: what should I wear?!)


Five Honorable Movie Remakes

September 10, 2009

It seems we have moved into and era of film making that is highly practiced on remakes, recreations, sequels, and prequels.  For most of these, I am filled with frustration and disappointment at the second tries and uncreative recreations of older more original works, but I must also give credit for those who have successfully reinterpreted and refashioned classic works into something new, something great and something their own.   The remake of a previously great plot, idea or film can be a risky venture for filmmakers and I want to discuss a few successful and respectable triumphs in such ventures.

 The first is the reason for my writing this article at this particular time.  I recently saw Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, which is a loose recreation of The Dirty Dozen, and loved it.   Rather than being a complete remake it’s a fresh and uniquely beautiful blend of classic influences, and with this film Tarantino practices a new style of war film.

The first scene of the second chapter (early in the film) is a clear callout to the original Dirty Dozen while Tarantino’s love for Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns (especially The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) also clearly has its influence.   The spaghetti western influence was most prominent in the peculiar use of the score and the introduction of the characters.

 inglourios basterds

Another recent and successful remake is 3:10 to Yuma, a remake of the famous western of the same name starring Glenn Ford.  The reasons I feel this is a successful remake are quite different from those of Inglourious Basterds. 

What impressed me most on this remake is the  successful capture of the classic western feel achieved by the remake.  Its creators decided to remain true to the classic genre and stayed honest.  Watching the new film felt very much like watching a good old western.  This strict return to the classic themes and genre stands quite unique among other modern films and is refreshing to young and modern audiences.

 310 Yuma

Possibly one of the greatest remakes ever achieved is You’ve Got Mail, the 1998 remake of Jimmy Stewart’s 1940 The Shop Around the Corner.   The transition from a letter writing to an Internet and e-mail writing culture provided the perfect chance to retell an old story in a completely new light and setting.  The finished product is a charming and witty tale filled with literary reminders of simpler times.  Plus, it’s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

 shoparndcorner-9849

I must also mention the new Gone in Sixty Seconds.  This is a great action flick in a time of too few good car movies.  It also helps that it is the remake of a film originally made entirely by stunt drivers.  The original is fun thrill ride for car guys but offers little else for the general audience, as half the film is 45 minutes of some of the greatest driving and chase put on film (and that’s just one of the car chases).  The remake offers most of that driving excitement with the addition of a plot and some acting.  (Although, the new one may have the better car the original has the better car chase.)

 gonein60d

Also, as an honorable mention, I should mention Ocean’s Eleven.  Consider it mentioned.


My top black and whites

March 10, 2009

This post is in response to and in praise of Blaze Danielle’s post at http://blazedanielle.wordpress.com.

Here is my list of favorite black and white movies.  It is also meant to provide great films of introduction for those who don’t watch, are indifferent of, or don’t like black and white movies.  Try a few of these.  If you have seen them please comment; if not, watch them then comment.  The top ten counts down to my favorite.

 

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

 This is the gangster movie that made James Cagney.  It’s the story of a couple of friends, one grows up to be a priest and the other a gangster.  The ending is intense.

The Wind (1928)

This excellent silent drama proves the silent era was cut short just as it was reaching its pinnacle.  It’s easily one of the best silent films made and a great showcase for Gish’s tremendous talent.  She plays a young woman moving to Dust-Bowl-Depression-era Texas where she is haunted and being driven mad by a freakish sandstorm,  isolation and a stalker.  If you don’t mind spoilers check out these fantastic closing scenes.

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

This fast paced comedy helped define the slapstick genre.  It stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.  The laughs come so fast and constant that during the first view you’ll miss half the jokes from laughing .
All About Eve (1950)

All About Eve (1950)

This is a hilariously witty comedy starring the great Bette Davis. It’s one of Davis’ finest performances, and that’s saying a lot.

Key Largo (1948)

Key Largo (1948)

I love this gangster movie starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren BaCall and Edward G. Robinson (love them all) where a hurricane turns the tables on some gangsters who are holding a Florida hotel hostage.
The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big Sleep (1946)

Another great Bogart and BaCall.  This one is based on a classic Raymond Chandler LA noir novel.  If you haven’t seen a Bogart and BaCall try this one.  I will warn you the plot gets fairly twisted; but a lot of people like that.
The Philadelphia Story (1940)

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

A comedy of manners starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart.   Jimmy Stewart earned his only Oscar with this performance.  That’s enough for me.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

This is an absolutely gorgeous black and white film which is like watching a child’s nightmare. Robert Mitchum’s a creepy, preacher-clad murderer stalking and hunting two siblings until he meets Lillian Gish’s wonderful character in a false prophet verses true prophet showdown. There are so many beautiful and memorable images in this film which makes excellent use of light and shadow.

Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca (1942)

This is just plain classic.  It’s so well made and acted in every area.  It has a great cast (even the smallest characters) including Peter Lorre, a favorite of mine.  I only wish he had more screen time.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Love it.  It’s Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart!  See it any time of the year.
Charlie Chaplin's City Lights

Charlie Chaplin's City Lights (1931)

This silent is hilarious and touching and spectacularly smooth flowing.  This is not only my favorite black and white movie by my favorite movie of all. Chaplin was the master.  Also, the final scene is easily one of the best scenes ever fillmed.  Again, see my earlier posts (See These Movies, An Eloquent Silence).

Jamie Cullum – A Memorable Night at the Bowl

August 21, 2008

I made a last minute decision last night.  At 5 pm, I was trying to decided whether or not to go see Jamie Cullum at the Hollywood Bowl.  I didn’t have tickets yet and they were unavailable online.  But I thought I’d try and see what I could get at the box office.  I my good friends Caleb and Katy decided to come as well.  We parked at the park and ride 15 minutes from my aparment and for 5 bucks, got a round trip bus ticket to and from the Bowl.  When we got there, the cheapest tickets available were the $13 tickets.  I was more than okay with this, as $18 is a fantastic price to pay for what happened that night.

The night began with Elizabeth Shepherd.  The Canadian born jazz singer also plays piano, and was accompanied by a bassist and drummer.  I really liked their music.  She had almost a Bjork/Fiona Apple sound, but with a definite jazz feel.  This was very much “progressive” jazz, with odd harmonizations and frequent time changes.  A few times I was thrown off by the time changes, but that’s not a complaint.  The bassist and drummer were very good, and Elizabeth’s piano playing was great, although I wasn’t crazy about her singing.  It’s not that she has a particularly bad or unpleasant voice, it’s that she doesn’t have a particularly pleasant, or memorable voice.  She can sing just fine, but her voice wasn’t all that memorable.  All in all, they were very good though, and I plan on checking them out online.

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The Pendulum Swings

July 18, 2008

There’s something about music.

I got a call recently for a gig playing with a Swing band at the Hip Kitty Jazz Club in Claremont. I have been to this venue before and really liked the atmostphere and thought it was a real hip place, so naturally I was excited to get to play there.  I said yes to the gig perhaps too soon.  With gas costs to and from the rehearsal and performance, I woul be about breaking even.  But, I figured, it would still be fun to play at such a cool venue.

The only available rehearsal space was the band leader’s wife’s salon.  While driving up the street on my way to the rehearsal, I got a flat tire. That really set the mood perfectly for how the night would unfold.  The drummer was also a sub, like me, as well as the bari sax player.  I won’t bore you with specifics, but the rehearsal was 3 hours of misery.  For a swing band, we certainly didn’t swing.  The drummer in particular was all over the place.  Beats were dropped right and left, the saxes were out of tune, all of my parts were written out note for note, and I was the youngest in the band by at least 40 years.  As soon as the rehearsal was over, I bolted out the door to leave.  But, alas, I still had a flat tire to change.  I set about doing so when the band leader noticed my situation and did what he could to help.  2 other members of the band came out and helped me change my flat tire.

So, the gig was tonight.  I had told all my friends how awful it was going to be.  I had talked it up to be this horrible 4 hour performance that I was about to experience…for free.

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Where The Light Is – Mayer at His Best

July 7, 2008

John Mayer first came to see mainstream musical success in 2001 with the release of his debut album, Room For Squares.  Since that time, John has put out several more records and shown incredible growth not only in his songwriting, but his guitar playing as well.  Mayer’s next studio album, Heavier Things, released in 2003, allowed Mayer to explore within the pop feel of his first album.  The result is top quality music.  Mayer’s most recent studio album, Continuum is my personal favorite.  Released in 2006, Mayer adopts a much bluesy-er and rock-y-er feel.  Great songwriting is accompanied by soulful guitar solos and memorable melodies.

Before releasing Continuum, Mayer joined up with studio-giant Pino Palladino on bass and ex-Stevie Wonder drummer Steve Jordan to form John Mayer Trio.  The three relased Try!, a live album in 2005.  The music that these three great musicians make is much bluesy-er than anything Mayer has done on his own.  This project of Mayer’s may just be my favourite thing that Mayer has done.

John Mayer has distinguished himself as a very versatile musician, becoming a master of acoustic guitar based pop, pop/rock, and straight ahead blues.  With this in mind, Mayer gave a concert last December at Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.  The concert opened with John Mayer with an acoustic guitar, joined with two other acoustic players on a few songs.  This was followed by John Mayer Trio, and finally closing out the evening, the main act… (drumroll please)  John Mayer with a full band!

John has just released a DVD and CD of this event.  Both are fantastic.  I highly recommend these to anyone who enjoys good music.  It has been so great to see Mayer’s growth musically over the past several years.  He is definitely one of the most creative artists out on the radio/mtv circuit these days.  If you think you know John Mayer as “just another pop act”, check out this live CD or DVD, entitled Where The Light Is.  I promise, you won’t be disappointed.