Tag Archives: movies

An unexpected journey into the making of a major feature film

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Caves

I know a lot goes into the making of a major film; and even more goes into a film with state-of-the-art effects; and yet more into a film shot in 3D; and still more when it’s not one but three films being shot simultaneously.

But not until I watched the behind-the-scenes filming and production video diaries for The Hobbit did I start to have a sense of the enormity of this production, the unrelenting attention to detail, and the amazing number of people, hours, and money that are going into it.

You can find all 9 (so far) of the Hobbit production video diaries on Peter Jackson’s YouTube Channel.  Continue reading An unexpected journey into the making of a major feature film

The musical handyman

This evening, the guest performers playing with the Butler Symphony Orchestra for their concert titled “Jazz” were Joe Negri and his trio.

Joe’s a well-known and uber-talented jazz guitarist, and an exceedingly nice person. He soloed on a number that is a signature tune for him, an adaptation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee. Here’s a clip of him playing it with the Wheeling Symphony.

Continue reading The musical handyman

Film flashback: Born Yesterday

William Holden & Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday

The highlight of my weekend was seeing a classic film I hadn’t seen before: Born Yesterday, starring Judy Holliday and William Holden. I’m not sure how I missed this one in the past. Judy Holliday is outstanding in this, coarse (check out her shouting “What?” in the clip above) yet sexy and sweet, and smarter than anyone thinks. She’s the prototype for all the not-so-ditzy blondes in film — Legally Blonde, Clueless, any early Goldie Hawn movie.

The plot hasn’t aged too well. With its focus on the evils of business trying to influence government, it looks pretty naive these days — or maybe it could serve as a reminder of how things ought to be. But the characters are as fresh as ever.

The gin game scene from Born Yesterday

Bringing Mr. Sandman back to life

The first horror movie I saw in a theater was Halloween 2. I had seen nothing as terrifying before, and it scarred my psyche. One major result was that I could no longer hear the song “Mr. Sandman,” which was featured in the movie. Previously I thought of it — if I thought of it at all — as a light pop hit; now it had become a harbinger of extreme danger.

Today on last.fm I heard for the first time a newer version of the song, performed by the San Francisco band Oranger. “Hey,” I thought, “this is pretty good. Kinda rockin’. Maybe now I can finally overcome my irrational fear of Mr. Sandman.”

Then I looked up the video:

Oranger – Mr. Sandman (Stubbs the Zombie)

It seems that Oranger’s “Mr. Sandman” is on the soundtrack for the Stubbs the Zombie video game.

I may never sleep again.


I have a new post on the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Outside Perspective blog, “A year in 39 minutes.” It’s about the lovely performance of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons I attended Friday night.

In the course of writing the post, I discovered a few movie trailers that use The Four Seasons as their soundtrack. Here’s the one I enjoyed most, sort of for the music but mostly for the reminder of what a fantastic movie it is:

Maybe you’d like to hear the music without a voiceover? Here’s an impressive performance (not the one used in the movie above):

Vivaldi Four Seasons (Winter) Gil Shaham violin

Gone, man, solid gone

My favorite Disney movie has to be The Jungle Book. The story is great, the animation is lovely, the characters are memorable (Shere Khan, voiced by George Sanders, is among my favorite movie villains), and the music is jazzy perfection.

With so many great songs it might seem hard to choose a favorite one, but mine is definitely “I Wanna Be Like You,” which you may know as The Monkey Song.

Bonus musical history fun: The head orangutan, King Louie, is performed by the great band leader and trumpeter Louis Prima. In the DVD extras for the movie, there’s a bit of footage of Prima and his band dancing around the sound stage as they recorded “I Wanna Be Like You” — very like the monkeys in the clip.

A typical case of American blind justice

There are many Christmas songs but few Thanksgiving songs. In fact the only one I know is "Alice’s Restaurant Massacre" by Arlo Guthrie. It’s 18 minutes long, so I think that makes it count for five songs. (A big Thanksgiving thank you to Uncle Crappy for reminding me about the song, which seems to slip my mind from time to time.)

The song was such a success that they made a movie version as well. The movie has a rambling 1960s style, loosely edited and strange and goofy in a good-natured hippie style. If you know the song, you know most of the plot; the additional plot points don’t contribute much. But if you’re curious to watch you can fast forward through the dragging bits.

Below: Arlo and his friend, who dumped garbage off a cliff, are brought to justice.

Did you try…? Shouldn’t it be a bit more…? Or this. This!

I have a new post on the Pittsburgh Symphony Blogs: “A night in Vienna.”

I’m sorry to say that, until this weekend, my major experience of Mozart had been via the Movie and stage play Amadeus, and the soundtrack to the movie. In reading about Mozart’s shockingly productive yet short life — he died at age 35, having created over 600 works, many of which are considered pinnacles of their genres — I’ve come to understand just how far the movie and play stray from the facts of Mozart’s life.

Still, the movie is so entertaining it’s easy to over look its faults. Plus, it seems faithful in depicting Mozart’s talent, especially for improvisation and for performing. Here’s an edited clip of one of my favorite sequences from the film: Mozart plays the music of his rival, Salieri.