Saturday, March 3, 2007

Soundies on PBS

I've long been a student of music video history, so I must say that I was very happy to hear that there will be a two hour special on PBS in March entitled The Soundies: A Musical History.

For those of you who have never heard of them, Soundies were short, black and white, 16mm films based around songs. Essentially, they were the music videos of their day. They were created to be played on a Panoram, a rear projection machine that was essentially a film jukebox. Located in bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and so on, one could place a dime in a Panoram and watch a Soundie.

The Panoram was introduced in January 1941 by the Mills Novelty Company of Chicago. The machines then cost about $600 apiece. New reels of Soundies were released each week, with each reel consisting of about eight Soundies. The Soundies covered a wide range of genres, from pop to big band to country (well, then, it was called hillbilly music...), and so on. Several major artists made Soundies, including The Ink Spots, Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Doris Day and so on. Some Soundies would even be shown as theatrical shorts in cinemas

Unfortunately, the advent of World War II would mean the beginning of the end of the Panoram and Soundies. The war curtailed civilian manufacturing, so that while new Soundies were constantly being produced, no new Panorams were being made. By 1947 the novelty of Soundies and the Panoram had pretty much run its course. That summer was when the last Soundies were made.

Anyhow, The Soundies: A Musical History will cover the history of the Soundies, complete with interviews (with such folks as Les Paul and Leonard Maltin). and some Soundies themselves. I rather suspect anyone who enjoys music, movies, or music videos, should probably not miss this one.

Friday, March 2, 2007


I have to apologise for the sparsity of posts this weeks. I've had a fairly serious cold, complete with the usual head congestion and sore throat. At any rate, I haven't felt like doing much more than sleep. With any luck, I'll get back to making entries tomorrow.

Monday, February 26, 2007

2007 Academy Awards

For many years now I have to admit I haven't kept my expectations for the Oscars very high. Indeed, last night I have to admit that part of me expected that when the winner for Best Director was announced, it would be Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Babel. And if Martin Scorsese won the Directing award, then Babel would take Best Picture. Fortunately, my fears were unjustified. Not only did Martin Scorsese win the Best Director award, but The Departed won Best Picture.

It was one of the high points of the night for me, seeing one of my favourite directors of all time finally recognised for his work by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It was made all the more better by the fact that the award was presented by three legendary Seventies directors and contemporaries of Martin Scorsese--Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg.

The night was made all the more better by the fact that The Departed also took Best Adapted Screenplay (although I rankled when the announcer said that it was based on the Japanese feature Infernal Affairs--the movie was made in Hong Kong!) and Editing as well. All in all, it was a very good night for Martin Scorsese.

As to the actor categories, for the most part they went the way I expected them to, although I was a bit surprised to see Alan Arkin walk away with the Best Supporting Actor award. Well, surprised and pleased. Arkin has always been one of my favourite actors and it is good to see him appreciated.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed that Pan's Labyrinth lost the Best Foreign Film award, although I am glad that it lost to Lives of Others (quite frankly, both films should have been nominated for Best Picture). and Pan's Labyrinth did take home its share of awards, including Art Director, Cinematography, and Makeup. Ultimately, it took home more awards than Babel!

A greater disappointment for me was that Monster House lost the award for Best Animated Feature to Happy Feet. Not only is Monster House the better film, but so too is Cars. It was a case of the weakest film taking the award.

As to the ceremony itself, I think Ellen DeGeneres did a great job. She kept the awards upbeat and light hearted and good natured. And much of her material was genuinely funny, which more than can be said for some past Oscar hosts. Sadly, as usual the ceremony seemed to drag at times. I personally think that there both interpretative dance and Celine Dion should be banned from the Academy Awards. That having been said, I thought the musical number by Jack Black, Will Ferrell, and John C. O’Reilly was hilarious.

Over all, I have to say that this was an Oscar ceremony I am glad I did not miss, even if it dragged at times (don't all of them?). If anything else, it is good to finally see Martin Scorsese get some recognition from the Academy.