February 26, 2020

Song of the Day #1767

Song of the Day: Point Break ("Take Me Down"), words and music by Michael Hodges, Kayla Morrison, and Gerald Trottman, is sung by Genevieve over a pulsating dance groove, featured on the soundtrack to this 2015 action thriller. The film didn't receive a great reception, earning an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, nowhere near the original Kathryn Bigelow-directed 1991 original, but the films share rockin' soundtracks. Check out this propulsive track here [YouTube link].

February 25, 2020

Celebrating 50 Years of John Dewey High School

I'm posting this in the hopes that graduates of John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, New York will see it! I attended the school from September 1975 through June 1978 (the month in which I graduated before going onto NYU through three degrees). John Dewey offered an extraordinary educational experience, with remarkable teachers and an innovative approach to learning. They were among the happiest years of my life, and till this day, I honor the many teachers whose lessons so profoundly affected the way I looked at the world.

JDHS will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary on the school's campus (at 50 Avenue X) on May 16, 2020. Information can be found at the Facebook page of the group: John Dewey HS 50th Anniversary Celebration Station. If the fates be with me, I hope to attend!

Song of the Day #1766

Song of the Day: Sabrina ("Opening Title") [YouTube link], composed by Friedrich Hollaender, opens this 1954 Billy Wilder rom-com, starring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden. In 1995, the film was remade by director Sydney Pollack. The Wilder version received six Oscar nominations, winning only in the category of Best Costume Design, for Edith Head, who, in her lifetime, was nominated 35 times, winning 8 Oscars along the way. It is rumored, however, that Hepburn personally chose outfits created for her by Hubert de Givenchy.

February 24, 2020

Song of the Day #1765

Song of the Day: Lady Sings the Blues ("Love Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Michel Legrand, who was born on this date in 1932. This is one of the few original compositions on the soundtrack to this 1972 biopic of Billie Holiday, portrayed by the Oscar-nominated Diana Ross with heartbreaking realism. The soundtrack includes, of course, some of the grandest gems from the Great American Songbook.

February 23, 2020

Song of the Day #1764

Song of the Day: Lady Be Good ("Fascinating Rhythm"), music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, originated in the 1924 Broadway production "Lady, Be Good!," and was introduced on the stage by Clint Edwards, Fred Astaire, and Adele Astaire (Fred's older sister). It has been recorded by so many artists through the years, becoming a bona fide entry in the Great American Songbook [pdf link]. Listen to Astaire's original Broadway version [YouTube link] and then check out the epic tap sequence [YouTube link] by Eleanor Powell, which comes immediately after a sequence with the Berry Brothers [YouTube link], both featured in the 1941 remake of the 1928 silent film version. And for a little extra fun, check out Fred Astaire's appearance at the 1970 Oscars.

February 22, 2020

Song of the Day #1763

Song of the Day: Murder, Inc. ("The Awakening") [YouTube link], words and music by George Weiss, is introduced by Sarah Vaughan in her first screen credit, in this gritty 1960 docudrama, which earned Peter Falk, in the role of Brooklyn-born gangster Abe Reles, a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination (the first of two consecutive nominations he received in 1960 and 1961). Facing the electric chair for a series of murders in which he was implicated, Reles, who was a member of the organized crime group known as "Murder, Inc." turned government informant, sending other gangsters to the hot seat. He eventually met his death by, uh, suicide, trying to "escape" from Room 623 of the Half Moon Hotel located on the Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island on the very day he was due to testify against Mafia hood Albert Anastasia---forever dubbing him "the Canary Who Could Sing, But Couldn't Fly." Funny how these things happen, eh? [Daily Motion, part 2, clip at 49:00] Check out the song as delivered in the film by Sassy in a lounge scene [Daily Motion, part 1, clip at 42:19].

February 21, 2020

Song of the Day #1762

Song of the Day: Wait Until Dark (vocal rendition), music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, is sung by Sue Raney (performed by the artist live and from the soundtrack [YouTube links]) over the end credits to this 1967 thriller (based on the 1966 play by Frederic Knott), starring Audrey Hepburn, who earned an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Actress. A lovely song that builds on the eerie themes of the main title [FSM mp3 link], in a much less sinister way than one would have anticipated.

February 20, 2020

Song of the Day #1761

Song of the Day: Anastasia ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Alfred Newman, opens this 1956 film, which stars Ingrid Bergman, who resembles the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, rumored to be the only surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas II, who was executed by the Bolsheviks as a member of the Romanov family in 1918. Bergman was awarded the Oscar for Best Actress and Alfred Newman received an Oscar nomination for "Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture," but lost out to Victor Young, who won the award posthumously for his score to "Around the World in 80 Days." But Newman and Ken Darby did walk away with a statuette for their scoring of a musical picture ("The King and I"). Bergman's co-star in this film, Yul Brynner, had a banner year; in addition to this film, he also starred as Ramesses II in Cecil B. DeMille's blockbuster "The Ten Commandments" and received the Best Actor Oscar for his role as King Mongkut of Siam in the film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "The King and I." I highlight this film today for a very special reason: Today is the 101st anniversary of my mother's birth. Known as Ann or Anna to her friends and relatives, her full Greek name was Anastasia, and for those who loved her and were loved by her, she was royalty incarnate.

February 19, 2020

Smartphones = Dumbphones?

Oh this one had me chuckling. And people laugh at me because I still have a flip phone, which I can throw off the platform of an elevated train station onto the streets of Brooklyn---and it still works! If my brain has shrunk watching the news every day, at least I know it's not because of Smartphone use!

From Sciencedaily.com: "Researchers have found an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to smartphones and the internet."

Read on ...

Song of the Day #1760

Song of the Day: King Cobra ("Luuvbazaar"), words and music by Cody Baker Critcheloe and J. Ashley Miller, closes the credits to this 2016 film based on the book Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice, by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway. The unsettling film stars Christian Slater as Bryan Kocis, James Franco as Joseph Kerekes, and Garrett Clayton as Brent Corrigan. On the soundtrack, the song is performed by SSION (and check out their music video too) [YouTube link].

February 18, 2020

Song of the Day #1759

Song of the Day: King of Jazz ("Wild Cat") [YouTube link], a duet between jazz violinist Joe Venuti and jazz guitarist Eddie Lang (both of whom are credited as composers of the tune) backed by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, is a brief snippet in the 1930 "talkie" film with early two-color Technicolor, providing only a glimpse of Venuti's virtuosity. This is the first of two consecutive cues from films referring to a "King" ... tomorrow, something entirely different, to say the least!

February 17, 2020

Song of the Day #1758

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Balthazar's World") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, incorporates several motifs from the film score, including the Prelude, the Christ theme, and the theme for the "Adoration of the Magi"---all speaking to the character of Balthazar, one of the three wise men who has returned to Judea to find the child he first encountered in a manger in Bethlehem, following the star that proclaimed his birth. William Wyler once joked that it took a Jew to make a good film about Christ (indeed, in music, as in film, such Jewish Americans as Irving Berlin, who wrote "White Christmas" and Mel Torme and Robert Wells, who wrote "The Christmas Song," have contributed some of the finest "chestnuts" to the soundtrack of the Christmas holiday season). Be that as it may, this film's soundtrack, written by one of the greatest composers of his generation---or any generation, has always provided me with a special kind of spiritual nutrition, even during some of my most difficult days. The 1959 all-time Oscar champ (tied only by "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King"---each with 11 Oscars) recently celebrated its 60th anniversary; it was released on 18 November 1959. And now, yes, today, I too am 60. It has become a tradition of sorts to feature a cue from this epic---my all-time favorite film---on my birthday. How fitting to celebrate a 60-year old film and soundtrack, when a 1960 baby celebrates his Beddian Birthday (or should that be "his Ben-hurdian Birthday"?).

Postscript on Facebook: It is an overwhelming experience to have a few hundred people sending you Happy Birthday wishes. I 'hearted' every person who posted to my 60th Birthday Timeline... because words can't express how much I appreciate such an outpouring of love and kindness. But 60 or not... this was one of the T-shirts I got for my birthday... and youthful spirit that I am, this one just about says it all!

Chris1960ShirtSmall.jpg

February 16, 2020

Song of the Day #1757

Song of the Day: Touch of Evil ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Henry Mancini for this 1958 film noir classic, directed by and starring Orson Welles. Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Marlene Dietrich round out the cast of this film, which critics regard as among the finest of its genre. Welles was aghast at how the studio edited his film---but this is Mancini at his classic, gritty best. A year later, Heston would win his Best Actor Oscar for "Ben-Hur" and two years later, Janet Leigh would meet a different fate in Hitchcock's "Psycho" [iSpot.tv link]. But in this film, with its unforgettable, iconic uninterrupted opening tracking shot [YouTube link], Welles delivers one of the last and best of this genre's genuine classics.

February 15, 2020

Song of the Day #1756

Song of the Day: Khartoum ("Main Theme and End Titles") [YouTube link], composed by Frank Cordell, opens and closes this 1966 historical drama, which centers on the siege of Khartoum in the late 19th century. Charlton Heston portrays General Charles Gordon, Laurence Olivier portrays Muhammad Ahmed (the Mahdi), and Ralph Richardson portrays British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. Historical inaccuracies aside, politically correct concerns aside, the film boasts an intelligent script and a wonderful score. This is actually the first of three films in our Film Music February salute, starring Charlton Heston.

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Welcome to Notablog.net:  The Blog of Chris Matthew Sciabarra

Information on email notification, comments policy, and the meaning of "Notablog" or write to me at: chris DOT sciabarra AT nyu DOT edu. Thanks to Don Hamerman for this poignant photograph from 1999.

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