Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Night at the Opera

A Night at the Opera

#85 on the 2007 AFI Top 100 Movies List
A Night at the Opera is a 1935 American comedy film starring Groucho Marx, Chico Marx and Harpo Marx, and featuring Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Margaret Dumont, Sig Ruman, and Walter Woolf King. It was the first film the Marx Brothers made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after their departure from Paramount Pictures, and the first after Zeppo left the act. The film was adapted by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind, Al Boasberg (uncredited), and Buster Keaton (uncredited) from a story by James Kevin McGuinness. Most of the physical gags were wholly lifted from Keaton's 1932 film Speak Easily. It was directed by Sam Wood.

In 1993, A Night at the Opera was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is also included in the 2007 update of AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies, at number 85; and previously in AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs 2000 showing, at number 12.

* Groucho Marx as Otis B. Driftwood
* Harpo Marx as Tomasso
* Chico Marx as Fiorello
* Kitty Carlisle as Rosa Castaldi
* Allan Jones as Ricardo Baroni
* Margaret Dumont as Mrs. Claypool
* Siegfried Rumann as Herman Gottlieb
* Walter Woolf King as Rodolfo Lassparri
* Robert Emmett O'Connor as Sergeant Henderson
* Edward Keane as The Captain
* Purnell Pratt as The Mayor

Friday, March 30, 2012

Clear Heart Full Eyes- A great album by Craig Finn

Craig Finn- Clear Heart Full Eyes
Clear Heart Full Eyes is the debut solo album by The Hold Steady vocalist and guitarist Craig Finn, released on January 24, 2012 on Full Time Hobby. Produced by Mike McCarthy, the album was recorded during a five-month break from The Hold Steady, with Finn noting, "I wanted to do something with a little more storytelling and a lot less volume."
2012 solo album from the Hold Steady mainman. Produced by Mike McCarthy, the album features Finn backed by musicians Josh Block, Jesse Ebaugh, Ricky Ray Jackson, and Billy White. The album was recorded in Austin, Texas during the summer of 2011 and captures the raw excitement of Finn's songs, most of which were captured in no more than three takes.

1. "Apollo Bay"
2. "When No One's Watching"
3. "No Future"
4. "New Friend Jesus"
5. "Jackson"
6. "Terrified Eyes"
7. "Western Pier"
8. "Honolulu Blues"
9. "Rented Room"
10. "Balcony"
11. "Not Much Left for Us"


* Craig Finn - vocals, guitar
* Josh Block - drums, percussion
* Jesse Ebaugh - bass guitar, upright bass, bass six, organ
* Ricky Ray Jackson - guitars, pedal steel
* Billy White - guitars, bass six
* Catherine Davis - piano, organ, keyboards
* Katie Holmes - fiddle
* Hope Irish - backing vocals
* Will Johnson - backing vocals

Recording personnel

* Mike McCarthy - producer
* Jim Vollentine - additional engineering
* Matthew Smith - assistant engineer
* Greg Calbi - mastering


* Christian Helms - art direction, design
* Erick Montes - art direction, design
* Susan Helms - cover textile art
* Andrew Yates - photography
* Don Weir - photography

Mutiny on the Bounty

#86 on the 1998 AFI Top 100 American Movies List.
Mutiny on the Bounty is a 1935 film starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable, and directed by Frank Lloyd based on the Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall novel Mutiny on the Bounty.

The film was one of the biggest hits of its time. Although its historical accuracy has been questioned (inevitable as it is based on a novel about the facts, not the facts themselves), film critics consider this adaptation to be the best cinematic work inspired by the mutiny.

* Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh
* Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian
* Franchot Tone as Byam
* Herbert Mundin as Smith
* Eddie Quillan as Ellison
* Dudley Digges as Bacchus
* Donald Crisp as Burkitt
* Henry Stephenson as Sir Joseph Banks
* Francis Lister as Captain Nelson
* Spring Byington as Mrs. Byam
* Movita as Tehani
* Mamo Clark as Maimiti (as Mamo)
* Byron Russell as Quintal
* Percy Waram as Coleman
* David Torrence as Lord Hood
* John Harrington as Mr. Purcell
* Douglas Walton as Stewart
* Ian Wolfe as Maggs
* DeWitt Jennings as Fryer
* Ivan F. Simpson as Morgan (as Ivan Simpson)
* Vernon Downing as Hayward
* Bill Bambridge as Hitihiti (as William Bambridge)
* Marion Clayton Anderson as Mary Ellison (as Marion Clayton)
* Stanley Fields as Muspratt
* Wallis Clark as Morrison
* Crauford Kent as Lieutenant Edwards (as Craufurd Kent)
* Pat Flaherty as Churchill
* Alec Craig as McCoy
* Charles Irwin as Thompson
* Dick Winslow as Tinkler
* James Cagney as Extra (Uncredited)
* David Niven as Extra (Uncredited)
* Edward "Ted" Reed as Extra (Uncredited)

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Frankenstein (75th Anniversary Edition) (Universal Legacy Series)

#87 on the 1998 AFI Best 100 American Movies List

Frankenstein is a 1931 pre-Code horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling, which in turn is based on the novel of the same name by Mary Shelley. The film stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Boris Karloff and features Dwight Frye and Edward van Sloan. The Webling play was adapted by John L. Balderston and the screenplay written by Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort with uncredited contributions from Robert Florey and John Russell. The make-up artist was Jack Pierce.

* Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein
* Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Lavenza
* John Boles as Victor Moritz
* Boris Karloff (billed as "?") as The Monster
* Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman
* Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein
* Dwight Frye as Fritz
* Lionel Belmore as Herr Vogel, the Burgomaster
* Marilyn Harris as Little Maria

The film begins with Edward Van Sloan stepping from behind a curtain and delivering a "friendly warning" before the opening credits:

We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation – life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even – horrify you. So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now's your chance to – uh, well, we warned you.

In the opening credits, Karloff is unbilled, with only a question mark being used in place of his name. This is a nod to a tradition of theatrical adaptations billing the monster without a name. Universal had not revealed in advance who was playing the monster and had not released any pictures of the monster in order to conceal his appearance. Karloff's name is revealed in the closing credits, which otherwise duplicate the credits from the opening under the principle that "A Good Cast Is Worth Repeating."

There was controversy around this point originally, as some part of the management of Universal built up the suspense of who was playing the creature to gather interest in the film as Bela Lugosi was still largely thought to be performing the role of the creature up until the time of the film's release. Some papers were erroneously still listing Lugosi as the performer. Some were coming to see if Lugosi had changed his mind and recanted about starring in the film, despite some published statements to the contrary, most notably the still-famous "electric beam eyes" poster, which still credited Lugosi as the monster and showed the creature without the now-famous flat head, neck-bolt makeup (created by Universal Studios make-up artist Jack Pierce. Pierce also created Lon Chaney's Wolf Man make-up and Karloff's Mummy make-up as well). Others state it was because the film would cause the ruin of the performer in the role and wanted to minimize said actor's liability, for the original film went against the censor boards of the day.

Bela Lugosi was originally set to star as the monster. After several disastrous make-up tests, the Dracula star left the project. Although this is often regarded as one of the worst decisions of Lugosi's career, in actuality, the part that Lugosi was offered was not the same character that Karloff eventually played. The character in the Florey script was simply a killing machine without a touch of human interest or pathos, reportedly causing Lugosi to complain, "I was a star in my country and I will not be a scarecrow over here!" However, the decision may not have been Lugosi's in any case, since recent evidence suggests that he was kicked off the project, along with director Robert Florey. Ironically, Lugosi would later go on to play the monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man a decade later, when his career was in decline and only after Lon Chaney, Jr. complained bitterly about the possibility of him doing double work through trick photography to appear as both the Wolfman and the Monster in the film for about the same pay rate. Chaney had already appeared as the Monster in the previous Frankenstein film Ghost of Frankenstein, directly succeeding Boris Karloff in the role.
The 1931 "Lugosi as Frankenstein's Monster" promo poster, without the now famous flat head makeup

As was the custom at the time, only the main cast and crew were listed in the credits. Additionally, however, a number of other actors who worked on the project were or became familiar to fans of the Universal horror films. These included Frederick Kerr as the old Baron Frankenstein, Henry's father; Lionel Belmore as Herr Vogel, the Bürgermeister; Marilyn Harris as Little Maria, the girl the monster accidentally kills; and Michael Mark as Ludwig, Maria's father.

Jack Pierce was the makeup artist who designed the now-iconic "flat head" look for Karloff's monster, although Whale's contribution in the form of sketches remains a controversy, and who was actually responsible for the idea of the look will probably always be a mystery.

Kenneth Strickfaden designed the electrical effects used in the "creation scene." So successful were they that such effects came to be considered an essential part of every subsequent Universal film involving the Frankenstein Monster. Accordingly, the equipment used to produce them has come to be referred to in fan circles as "Strickfadens." It appears that Strickfaden managed to secure the use of at least one Tesla Coil built by the then-aged Nikola Tesla himself. According to this same source, Strickfaden also doubled for Karloff in the electrical "birth" scene, as Karloff was deathly afraid of being electrocuted from the live voltage on the stage.

There is no musical soundtrack in the film, except for the opening and closing credits.

The film opened in New York City at the Mayfair Theatre on December 4, 1931, and grossed $53,000 in one week.

The scene in which the monster throws the little girl into the lake and accidentally drowns her has long been controversial. Upon its original 1931 release, the second part of this scene was cut by state censorship boards in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York. Those states also objected to a line they considered blasphemous, one that occurred during Frankenstein's exuberance when he first learns that his creature is alive. The original line was: "It's alive! It's alive! In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!" Kansas requested the cutting of 32 scenes, which, if removed, would have halved the length of the film. Jason Joy of the Studio Relations Committee sent censor representative Joseph Breen to urge them to reconsider. Eventually, an edited version was released in Kansas.

As with many Pre-Code films that were reissued after strict enforcement of the Production Code in 1934, Universal made cuts from the master negative.

* Frankenstein's line, "Now I know what it feels like to be God!", was obliterated by a clap of thunder on the soundtrack.
* Some footage of Frankenstein's assistant Fritz taking sadistic glee in scaring the monster by waving a lit torch near him while the monster is shackled in chains.
* Close up of needle injection was removed.
* In the scene of the monster and the little girl tossing flowers into the lake, the second part of the scene was cut, beginning at the moment he extends his hands to pick her up.

These censored scenes were not shown for decades; in 1986, MCA-Universal restored the shots of Fritz tormenting the Monster, the close up of the needle injection and Maria being thrown in the water, while the full "Now I know what it feels like to be God!" line would not be fully restored until 1999.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men (50th Anniversary Edition)

#87 on the 2007 AFI list of 100 Best American Films
12 Angry Men is a 1957 American drama film adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. Directed by Sidney Lumet, the film tells the story of a jury made up of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt. In the United States (both then and now), the verdict in most criminal trials by jury must be unanimous one way or the other. The film is notable for its almost exclusive use of one set: with the exception of the film's opening, which begins outside on the steps of the courthouse and ends with the jury's final instructions before retiring, a brief final scene on the courthouse steps and two short scenes in an adjoining washroom, the entire movie takes place in the jury room. The total time spent outside of the jury room is three minutes out of the full 96 minutes of the movie.

12 Angry Men explores many techniques of consensus-building, and the difficulties encountered in the process, among a group of men whose range of personalities adds intensity and conflict. Apart from two of the jurors swapping names while leaving the courthouse, no names are used in the film: the defendant is referred to as "the boy" and the witnesses as the "old man" and "the lady across the street".

In 2007, 12 Angry Men was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Martin Balsam
Juror #1
John Fiedler
Juror #2
Lee J. Cobb
Juror #3
E.G. Marshall
Juror #4
Jack Klugman
Juror #5
Edward Binns
Juror #6
Jack Warden
Juror #7
Henry Fonda
Juror #8
Joseph Sweeney
Juror #9
Ed Begley
Juror #10
George Voskovec
Juror #11
Robert Webber
Juror #12

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easy Rider

Easy Rider (Special Edition)

#88 (1998) and #84 (2007) on the AFI Top 100 American Movies of all time.

Easy Rider is a 1969 American road movie written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern, produced by Fonda and directed by Hopper. It tells the story of two bikers (played by Fonda and Hopper) who travel through the American Southwest and South with the aim of achieving freedom. The success of Easy Rider helped spark the New Hollywood phase of filmmaking during the late sixties. The film was added to the Library of Congress National Registry in 1998.

A landmark counterculture film, and a "touchstone for a generation" that "captured the national imagination," Easy Rider explores the societal landscape, issues, and tensions in the United States during the 1960s, such as the rise and fall of the hippie movement, drug use, and communal lifestyle. Easy Rider is famous for its use of real drugs in its portrayal of marijuana and other substances.

* Peter Fonda as Wyatt
* Dennis Hopper as Billy
* Jack Nicholson as George Hanson
* Luke Askew as Stranger on Highway
* Phil Spector as Connection
* Karen Black as Karen
* Toni Basil as Mary
* Antonio Mendoza as Jesus
* Mac Mashourian as Bodyguard
* Warren Finnerty as Rancher
* Tita Colorado as Rancher's Wife
* Luana Anders as Lisa
* Sabrina Scharf as Sarah
* Robert Walker Jr. as Jack
* Sandy Brown Wyeth as Joanne

The motorcycles for the film, based on hardtail frames and Panhead engines, were designed and built by chopper builders Cliff Vaughs and Ben Hardy, following ideas of Peter Fonda, and handled by Tex Hall and Dan Haggerty during shooting.

In total, four former police bikes were used in the film. The 1949, 1950 and 1952 Harley Davidson Hydra-Glide bikes were purchased at an auction for $500, equivalent to about $3300 in current money. Each bike had a backup to make sure that shooting could continue in case one of the old machines failed or got wrecked accidentally. One "Captain America " was demolished in the final scene, while the other three were stolen and probably taken apart before their significance as movie props became known. The demolished bike was rebuilt by Dan Haggerty and shown in a museum. He sold it at an auction in 2001. It now resides at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. Many replicas have been built since the film’s release.

Hopper and Fonda hosted a wrap party for the movie and then realized they had not shot the final campfire scene. Thus, it was shot after the bikes had already been stolen, which is why they are not visible in the background as in the other campfire scenes.

The movie's "groundbreaking" soundtrack featured The Band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Steppenwolf. Editor Donn Cambern used various music from his own record collection to make watching hours of bike footage more interesting during editing. Most of Cambern's music was used, with licensing costs of $1 million, more than the budget of the film. When CSN viewed a rough cut of the film, they assured Hopper that they could not do any better than he already had.

Bob Dylan was asked to contribute music, but was reluctant to use his own recording of "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", so a version performed by Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn was used instead. Also, instead of writing an entirely new song for the film, Dylan simply wrote out the first verse of “Ballad of Easy Rider” and told the filmmakers, “Give this to McGuinn, he’ll know what to do with it.” McGuinn completed the song and performed it in the film.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Patton (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

#89 on the 1998 AFI Top 100 American Films

Patton is a 1970 American biographical war film about U.S. General George S. Patton during World War II. It stars George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates, and Karl Michael Vogler. It was directed by Franklin J. Schaffner from a script by Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North, who based their screenplay on the biography Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago and Omar Bradley's memoir A Soldier's Story. The film was shot in 65mm Dimension 150 by cinematographer Fred J. Koenekamp, and has a music score by Jerry Goldsmith.

Patton won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

The opening monologue, delivered by George C. Scott as General Patton with an enormous American flag behind him, remains an iconic and often quoted image in film. The film was a success and has become an American classic.

In 2003, Patton was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"

* George C. Scott as General George S. Patton. Rod Steiger had first turned down the role, later admitting that it was the worst decision of his career.
* Karl Malden as General Omar Bradley
* Stephen Young as Captain Chester B. Hansen
* Michael Strong as Brigadier General Hobart Carver
* Michael Bates as Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery
* Frank Latimore as Lieutenant Colonel Henry Davenport
* Morgan Paull as Captain Richard N. Jensen
* Karl Michael Vogler as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
* John Barrie as Air Marshal Arthur Coningham
* Siegfried Rauch as Captain Steiger
* Richard Münch as Colonel General Alfred Jodl
* John Doucette as Major General Lucian Truscott
* Paul Stevens as Colonel Charles R. Codman
* Jack Gwillim as General Harold Alexander
* Gerald Flood as Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder
* Ed Binns as General Walter B. Smith
* Peter Barkworth as Colonel John Welkin
* Lawrence Dobkin as Colonel Gaston Bell
* Lionel Murton as Third Army chaplain James H. O'Neill
* David Healy as Clergyman
* Douglas Wilmer as Major General Francis de Guingand
* James Edwards as Sergeant William George Meeks
* Tim Considine as Corporal Charles Kuhl
* Clint Ritchie as Tank captain
* Alan MacNaughtan as British briefing officer

Patton opens with Scott's rendering of Patton's famous military "Pep Talk" to members of the Third Army, set against a huge American flag. Coppola and North had to tone down Patton's actual words and statements in this scene, as well as throughout the film, to avoid an R rating; in the opening monologue, the word "fornicating" replaced "fucking" when criticizing The Saturday Evening Post. Also, Scott's gravelly and scratchy voice is the complete opposite of Patton's high-pitched, nasal and somewhat squeaky voice, a point noted by historian S.L.A. Marshall. Yet Marshall also points out that the film contains "too much cursing and obscenity [by Patton]. Patton was not habitually foul-mouthed. He used dirty words when he thought they were needed to impress."

When Scott learned that the speech would open the film, he refused to do it, as he believed that it would overshadow the rest of his performance. Director Franklin J. Schaffner assured him that it would be shown at the end. The scene was actually shot on the stage of the theater at the Joint Forces Training Base (JFTB) in Los Alamitos California.

All the medals and decorations shown on Patton's uniform in the monologue are authentic replicas of those actually awarded to Patton. However, the general never wore all of them in public. He wore them all on only one occasion, in his backyard in Virginia at the request of his wife, who wanted a picture of him with all his medals. The producers used a copy of this photo to help recreate this "look" for the opening scene. However, the ivory-handled revolvers Scott wears in this scene are in fact Patton's, borrowed from the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense (Collector's Edition Series)

#89 on the 2007 AFI Best 100 American Movies List
The Sixth Sense is a 1999 American psychological thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film tells the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled, isolated boy who is able to see and talk to the dead, and an equally troubled child psychologist (Bruce Willis) who tries to help him. The film established Shyamalan as a writer and director, and introduced the cinema public to his traits, most notably his affinity for surprise endings. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

* Bruce Willis as Dr. Malcolm Crowe
* Haley Joel Osment as Cole Sear
* Toni Collette as Lynn Sear
* Olivia Williams as Anna Crowe
* Donnie Wahlberg as Vincent Grey
* Glenn Fitzgerald as Sean
* Mischa Barton as Kyra Collins
* Trevor Morgan as Tommy Tammisimo
* M. Night Shyamalan as Dr. Hill

The film had a production budget of approximately $40 million (plus $25 million for prints and advertising). It grossed $26.6 million in its opening weekend and spent five weeks as the #1 film at the U.S. box office. It earned $293,506,292 in the United States and a worldwide gross of $672,806,292, ranking it 35th on the list of box-office money earners in the U.S. as of April 2010. In the United Kingdom, it was given at first a limited release at 9 screens, and entered at #8 before climbing up to #1 the next week with 430 theatres playing the film.

By vote of the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, The Sixth Sense was awarded the Nebula Award for Best Script during 1999. The film was #71 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments, for the scene where Cole encounters a female ghost in his tent. It was also recently named the 89th Best Film of all time by the American Film Institute during 2007.

The line "I see dead people" from the film became a popular catchphrase after its release, scoring #44 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes. The Sixth Sense also scored 60th place on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills, honoring America's most "heart pounding movies". It also appears on AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition), a list of America's 100 greatest movies of all time.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Jazz Singer

The Jazz Singer (Three-Disc Deluxe Edition)

#90 on the 1998 AFI List of the best 100 American Movies.

The Jazz Singer is a 1927 American musical film. The first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences, its release heralded the commercial ascendance of the "talkies" and the decline of the silent film era. Produced by Warner Bros. with its Vitaphone sound-on-disc system, the movie stars Al Jolson, who performs six songs. Directed by Alan Crosland, it is based on a play by Samson Raphaelson.

The story begins with young Jakie Rabinowitz defying the traditions of his devout Jewish family by singing popular tunes in a beer hall. Punished by his father, a cantor, Jakie runs away from home. Some years later, now calling himself Jack Robin, he has become a talented jazz singer. He attempts to build a career as an entertainer, but his professional ambitions ultimately come into conflict with the demands of his home and heritage.

On April 25, 1917, Samson Raphaelson, a native of New York City's Lower East Side and a University of Illinois undergraduate, attended a performance of the musical Robinson Crusoe, Jr. in Champaign, Illinois. The star of the show was a thirty-year-old singer, Al Jolson, a Russian-born Jew who performed in blackface. In a 1927 interview, Raphaelson described the experience: "I shall never forget the first five minutes of Jolson—his velocity, the amazing fluidity with which he shifted from a tremendous absorption in his audience to a tremendous absorption in his song." He explained that he had seen emotional intensity like Jolson's only among synagogue cantors.

A few years later, pursuing a professional literary career, Raphaelson wrote "The Day of Atonement", a short story about a young Jew named Jakie Rabinowitz, based on Jolson's real life. The story was published in January 1922 in Everybody's Magazine. Raphaelson later adapted the story into a stage play, The Jazz Singer. A straight drama, all the singing in Raphaelson's version takes place offstage. With George Jessel in the lead role, the show premiered on Broadway in September 1925 and became a hit. Warner Bros. acquired the movie rights to the play on June 4, 1926, and signed Jessel to a contract. Moving Picture World published a story in February 1927 announcing that production on the film would begin with Jessel on May 1.
A blackfaced Al Jolson starring in Robinson Crusoe, Jr.—the performance that inspired the story that led to the play that became the movie The Jazz Singer

But the plans to make the film with Jessel would fall through, for multiple reasons. Jessel's contract with Warner Bros. had not anticipated that the movie they had particularly signed him for would be made with sound (he'd made a modestly budgeted, silent comedy in the interim). When Warners had hits with two Vitaphone, though dialogue-less, features in late 1926, The Jazz Singer production had been reconceived. Jessel asked for a bonus or a new contract, but was rebuffed. According to Jessel's description in his autobiography, Harry Warner "was having a tough time with the financing of the company.... He talked about taking care of me if the picture was a success. I did not feel that was enough." In fact, around the beginning of 1927, Harry Warner—the eldest of the brothers who ran the eponymous studio—had sold $4 million of his personal stock to keep the studio solvent. Then came another major issue. According to Jessel, a first read of screenwriter Alfred A. Cohn's adaptation "threw me into a fit. Instead of the boy's leaving the theatre and following the traditions of his father by singing in the synagogue, as in the play, the picture scenario had him return to the Winter Garden as a blackface comedian, with his mother wildly applauding in the box. I raised hell. Money or no money, I would not do this."

According to performer Eddie Cantor, as negotiations between Warner Bros. and Jessel foundered, Jack Warner and the studio's production chief, Darryl Zanuck, called to see if he was interested in the part. Cantor, a friend of Jessel's, responded that he was sure any differences with the actor could be worked out and offered his assistance. Cantor was not invited to participate in the Jessel talks; instead, the role was then offered to Jolson, who had inspired it in the first place. Describing Jolson as the production's best choice for its star, film historian Donald Crafton wrote, "The entertainer, who sang jazzed-up minstrel numbers in blackface, was at the height of his phenomenal popularity. Anticipating the later stardom of crooners and rock stars, Jolson electrified audiences with the vitality and sex appeal of his songs and gestures, which owed much to African-American sources." As described by historian Robert L. Carringer, "Jessel was a vaudeville comedian and master of ceremonies with one successful play and one modestly successful film to his credit. Jolson was a superstar." Jolson took the part, signing a $75,000 contract on May 26, 1927, for eight weeks of services beginning in July. There have been several claims but no proof that Jolson invested some of his own money in the film. Jessel and Jolson, also friends, did not speak for some time after—on the one hand, Jessel had been confiding his problems with the Warners to Jolson; on the other, Jolson had signed with them without telling Jessel of his plans. In his autobiography, Jessel wrote that, in the end, Jolson "must not be blamed, as the Warners had definitely decided that I was out."

* Al Jolson as Jakie Rabinowitz (Jack Robin)
* May McAvoy as Mary Dale
* Warner Oland as Cantor Rabinowitz
* Yossele Rosenblatt as himself
* Eugenie Besserer as Sara Rabinowitz
* Otto Lederer as Moisha Yudelson
* Bobby Gordon as Jakie Rabinowitz (age 13)
* Richard Tucker as Harry Lee

Jack Robin's use of blackface in his Broadway stage act is the primary focus of many Jazz Singer studies. Its crucial and unusual role is described by scholar Corin Willis:

In contrast to the racial jokes and innuendo brought out in its subsequent persistence in early sound film, blackface imagery in The Jazz Singer is at the core of the film's central theme, an expressive and artistic exploration of the notion of duplicity and ethnic hybridity within American identity. Of the more than seventy examples of blackface in early sound film 1927–53 that I have viewed (including the nine blackface appearances Jolson subsequently made), The Jazz Singer is unique in that it is the only film where blackface is central to the narrative development and thematic expression.

Mary (May McAvoy) and Jack, preparing for dress rehearsal: the first blackface scene

The function and meaning of blackface in the film is intimately involved with Jack's own Jewish heritage and his desire to make his mark in mass American culture—much as the ethnically Jewish Jolson and the Warner brothers were doing themselves. Jack Robin "compounds both tradition and stardom. The Warner Brothers thesis is that, really to succeed, a man must first acknowledge his ethnic self," argues W. T. Lhamon. "[T]he whole film builds toward the blacking-up scene at the dress rehearsal. Jack Robin needs the blackface mask as the agency of his compounded identity. Blackface will hold all the identities together without freezing them in a singular relationship or replacing their parts."

Seymour Stark's view is less sanguine. In describing Jolson's extensive experience performing in blackface in stage musicals, he asserts, "The immigrant Jew as Broadway within a blackface minstrel tradition that obscures his Jewish pedigree, but proclaims his white identity. Jolson's slight Yiddish accent was hidden by a Southern veneer." Arguing that The Jazz Singer actually avoids honestly dealing with the tension between American assimilation and Jewish identity, he claims that its "covert that the symbol of blackface provides the Jewish immigrant with the same rights and privileges accorded to earlier generations of European immigrants initiated into the rituals of the minstrel show."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Swing Time

Swing Time

#90 on the 2007 AFI Top 100 American Movies

Swing Time is a 1936 RKO musical comedy film set mainly in New York City and stars Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Helen Broderick, Victor Moore, Eric Blore and Georges Metaxa, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. The film was directed by George Stevens.

Swing Time is considered by Croce, Mueller and Hyam to be Astaire and Rogers' best dance musical, featuring four dance routines that are each regarded as masterpieces of their kind. "Never Gonna Dance" is often singled out as the partnership's and collaborator Hermes Pan's most profound achievement in filmed dance, while "The Way You Look Tonight" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and went on to become Astaire's most successful hit record, scoring first place in the U.S. charts in 1936. Kern's score, the second of three he composed specially for Astaire, contains three of his most memorable songs.

But while it is considered to be one of Astaire and Rogers' greatest films, the film's plot has been criticized as has the performance of Metaxa. More praised is the acting and dancing performance of Ginger Rogers. Rogers herself credited much of the film's success to Stevens: "He gave us a certain quality, I think, that made it stand out above the others." Swing Time also marked the beginning of a decline in popularity of the Astaire-Rogers partnership among the general public, with box office receipts falling faster than usual, after a successful opening. Nevertheless, the film was a sizable hit, costing $886,000 while grossing over $2,600,000 worldwide and showing a net profit of $830,000. Still, the partnership never again quite regained the creative heights scaled in this and previous films.

In 1999, Swing Time was one of Entertainment Weekly's top 100 films. In 2004, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In the new AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) it has been added at #90.

* Fred Astaire as John "Lucky" Garnett
* Ginger Rogers as Penelope "Penny" Carroll
* Victor Moore as Edwin "Pop" Cardetti
* Helen Broderick as Mabel Anderson
* Betty Furness as Margaret Watson
* Georges Metaxa as Ricardo Romero
* Landers Stevens (George Stevens' father) as Judge Watson

Astaire introduces two new elements into his approach to filmed song and dance, both of which represent the abandonment of theatrical staging conventions. First is the use of space, horizontally in "A Fine Romance" and vertically in "Never Gonna Dance", and second is the introduction of trick photography in "Bojangles of Harlem". Partnered hopping steps/spins and the satire of self-conscious elegance feature prominently in the choreography, in which Astaire was assisted by Hermes Pan.

* "Pick Yourself Up": The first of Kern's standards is a charming polka first sung and then danced to by Astaire and Rogers. One of their most joyous and exuberant numbers is also a technical tour-de-force with the basic polka embellished by syncopated rhythms and overlayed with tap decoration. In particular, Rogers recaptures the spontaneity and commitment that she first displayed in the "I'll Be Hard to Handle" number from Roberta (1935).
* "The Way You Look Tonight": Kern's classic Oscar-winning foxtrot is sung by Astaire, seated at a piano, while Ginger is busy washing her hair in a side room. Here, Astaire conveys a sunny yet nostalgic romanticism but later, when the music is danced to as part of "Never Gonna Dance", the pair will create a mood of sombre poignancy. As evidence of its enduring appeal, this song is regularly featured in modern cinema and television: as in Chinatown (1974), or My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), and it played a prominent role as the key linking element in the final episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
* "Waltz in Swing Time": Described by one critic as "the finest piece of pure dance music ever written for Astaire", this is the most virtuosic partnered romantic duet Astaire ever committed to film. Kern - always reluctant to compose in the Swing style - provided some themes to Robert Russell Bennett who, with the assistance of Astaire's rehearsal pianist Hal Borne, produced the final score. The dance is a nostalgic celebration of love, in the form of a syncopated waltz with tap overlays - a concept Astaire later reworked in the similarly impressive "Belle of New York" segment of the "Currier and Ives" routine from The Belle of New York (1952). In the midst of this most complex of routines, Astaire and Rogers find time to gently poke fun at notions of elegance, in a delicate reminder of a similar episode in "Pick Yourself Up".
* "A Fine Romance": Kern's third standard, a quickstep to Field's bittersweet lyrics, is sung alternately by Rogers and Astaire, with Rogers providing an object lesson in acting while a bowler-hatted Astaire appears at times to be impersonating Stan Laurel. Never a man to discard a favourite piece of fine clothing, Astaire wears the same coat in the opening scene of Holiday Inn (1941), and never a man to waste a chord sequence, Jerome Kern uses the same sequence for "The Way you Look Tonight" and "A Fine Romance".
* "Bojangles of Harlem": Once again, Kern, Bennett and Borne combined their talents to produce a jaunty instrumental piece ideally suited to Astaire, who here - while overtly paying tribute to Bill Robinson - actually broadens his tribute to African-American tap dancers by dancing in the style of Astaire's one-time teacher John W. Bubbles, and dressing in the style of the character Sportin' Life, whom Bubbles played the year before in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Dorothy Fields recounts how Astaire managed to inspire the reluctant Kern by visiting his home and singing while dancing on and around his furniture. It is the only number in which Astaire - again bowler-hatted - appears in blackface. The idea of using trick photography to show Astaire dancing with three of his shadows was invented by Hermes Pan, who also choreographed the opening chorus, after which Astaire dances a short opening solo which features poses mimicking, perhaps satirising, Al Jolson - all of which was captured by Stevens in one take. There follows a two-minute solo of Astaire dancing with his shadows which took three days to shoot. Astaire's choreography exercises every limb and makes extensive use of hand-clappers. This routine earned Hermes Pan an Academy Award nomination for Best Dance Direction.
* "Never Gonna Dance": After Astaire sings Field's memorable closing line: "la belle, la perfectly swell romance" of Kern's haunting ballad, they begin the acknowledgement phase of the dance - possibly their greatest - replete with a poignant nostalgia for their now-doomed affair, where music changes to "The Way You Look Tonight" and they dance slowly in a manner reminiscent of the opening part of "Let's Face The Music And Dance" from Follow the Fleet. At the end of this episode, Astaire adopts a crestfallen, helpless pose. They now begin the denial phase, and again the music changes and speeds up, this time to the "Waltz In Swing Time" while the dancers separate to twirl their way up their respective staircases, escaping to the platform at the top of the Silver Sandal Set - one of the most beautiful Art Deco-influenced Hollywood Moderne creations of Carroll Clark and John Harkrider. Here the music switches again to a frantic, fast-paced, recapitulation of "Never Gonna Dance" as the pair dance a last, desperate, and virtuosic routine before Ginger flees and Astaire repeats his pose of dejection, in a final acceptance of the affair's end. This final routine was shot forty-seven times in one day before Astaire was satisfied, with Rogers' feet left bruised and bleeding by the time they finished.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady

#90 on the AFI Best 100 American Movies List.

My Fair Lady is a 1964 musical film adaptation of the Lerner and Loewe stage musical, of the same name, based on the 1938 film adaptation of the original stage play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. The ballroom scene and the ending were taken from the previous film adaptation (1938) (Pygmalion), rather than from the original play. The film was directed by George Cukor and starred Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.

The film won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director.

* Audrey Hepburn (Marni Nixon, singing) as Eliza Doolittle
* Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins
* Stanley Holloway as Alfred P. Doolittle
* Wilfrid Hyde-White as Colonel Hugh Pickering
* Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Higgins
* Jeremy Brett (Bill Shirley, singing) as Freddy Eynsford-Hill
* Theodore Bikel as Zoltan Karpathy
* Mona Washbourne as Mrs. Pearce, Higgins' housekeeper
* Isobel Elsom as Mrs. Eynsford-Hill
* John Holland as Butler

Musical numbers

1. "Overture"
2. "Why Can't the English?" - Higgins
3. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" - Eliza, Workers
4. "An Ordinary Man" - Higgins
5. "With a Little Bit of Luck" - Alfred, Drunkards, Workers
6. "Just You Wait" - Eliza
7. "Servants Chorus" - Mrs. Pearce, Servants
8. "The Rain in Spain" - Eliza, Higgins, Pickering
9. "I Could Have Danced All Night" - Eliza, Mrs. Pearce, Maids
10. "Ascot Gavotte" - Ensemble
11. "Ascot Gavotte (Reprise)" - Ensemble
12. "On the Street Where You Live" - Freddy
13. "Intermission"
14. "Transylvanian March" - Band
15. "Embassy Waltz" - Band
16. "You Did It" - Higgins, Pickering, Mrs. Pearce, Servants
17. "Just You Wait (Reprise)" - Eliza
18. "On the Street Where You Live" (reprise) - Freddy
19. "Show Me" - Eliza
20. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" (reprise) - Eliza, Workers
21. "Get Me to the Church on Time" - Alfred, Workers
22. "A Hymn to Him (Why Can't A Woman Be More Like a Man?)" - Higgins, Pickering
23. "Without You" - Eliza, Higgins
24. "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" - Higgins
25. "Finale" - Ensemble

Hepburn's singing was judged inadequate, and she was dubbed by Marni Nixon, who sang all songs except "Just You Wait", where Hepburn's voice was left undubbed during the harsh-toned chorus of the song and Nixon sang the melodic bridge section. Some of Hepburn's original vocal performances for the film were released in the 1990s, affording audiences an opportunity to judge whether the dubbing was necessary. Less well known is the dubbing of Jeremy Brett's songs (as Freddy) by Bill Shirley.

Rex Harrison declined to pre-record his musical numbers for the film, explaining that he had never talked his way through the songs the same way twice and thus couldn't convincingly lip-sync to a playback during filming (as musical stars had, according to Jack Warner, been doing for years. "We even dubbed Rin-Tin-Tin"). To permit Harrison to recite his songs live during filming, the Warner Bros. Studio Sound Department, under the direction of George Groves, implanted a wireless microphone in Harrison's neckties, marking the first known wireless microphone use in film history. André Previn then conducted the final version of the music to the voice recording. The sound department earned an Academy Award for its efforts.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sophie's Choice

Sophie's Choice

#91 on the AFI Top 100 American Movies List in 2007.

Sophie's Choice is a 1982 American romantic drama film that tells the story of a Polish immigrant, Sophie, and her tempestuous lover who share a boarding house with a young writer in Brooklyn. The film stars Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Peter MacNicol. Alan J. Pakula directed the movie and wrote the script from a novel by William Styron, also called Sophie's Choice.

This is widely regarded as one of Meryl Streep's finest performances, and it won her the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film was nominated for Best Cinematography (Néstor Almendros), Costume Design (Albert Wolsky), Best Music (Marvin Hamlisch), and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Alan J. Pakula).

* Meryl Streep as Zofia "Sophie" Zawistowski
* Kevin Kline as Nathan Landau
* Peter MacNicol as Stingo
* Rita Karin as Yetta Zimmerman
* Stephen D. Newman as Larry Landau
* Josh Mostel as Morris Fink
* Marcell Rosenblatt as Astrid Weinstein
* Moishe Rosenfeld as Moishe Rosenblum
* Robin Bartlett as Lillian Grossman
* Eugene Lipinski as Polish professor
* John Rothman as Librarian
* Neddim Prohic as Jòzef
* Katharina Thalbach as Wanda
* Jennifer Lawn as Eva Zawistowski
* Adrian Kalitka as Jan Zawistowski
* Joseph Leon as Dr. Blackstock
* David Wohl as English teacher
* Vida Jerman as female SS guard

Sophie's Choice won the Academy Award for Best Actress (Meryl Streep) and was nominated for Best Cinematography (Néstor Almendros), Costume Design (Albert Wolsky), Best Music (Marvin Hamlisch), and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Alan J. Pakula). The film was also ranked #1 in the Roger Ebert's Top Ten List for 1982 and was listed on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Place in the Sun

A Place in the Sun

#92 on the AFI Best 100 American Movies List.

A Place in the Sun is a 1951 American drama film based on the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser and the play, also titled An American Tragedy. It tells the story of a working-class young man who is entangled with two women; one who works in his wealthy uncle's factory and the other a beautiful socialite. The novel had been filmed once before, as An American Tragedy, in 1931.

A Place in the Sun was directed by George Stevens from a screenplay by Harry Brown and Michael Wilson, and stars Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters, Anne Revere, and Raymond Burr.

The film was a critical and commercial success, winning six Academy Awards and the first ever Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama. In 1991, A Place in the Sun was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

* Montgomery Clift as George Eastman
* Elizabeth Taylor as Angela Vickers
* Shelley Winters as Alice Tripp
* Anne Revere as Hannah Eastman
* Keefe Brasselle as Earl Eastman
* Fred Clark as Bellows, defense attorney
* Raymond Burr as Dist. Atty. R. Frank Marlowe
* Herbert Heyes as Charles Eastman
* Shepperd Strudwick as Anthony 'Tony' Vickers
* Frieda Inescort as Mrs. Ann Vickers
* Kathryn Givney as Louise Eastman
* Walter Sande as Art Jansen, George's Attorney
* Ted de Corsia as Judge R.S. Oldendorff
* John Ridgely as Coroner
* Lois Chartrand as Marsha

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Scorpions Make a Comeblack


Comeblack is a compilation album by German heavy metal band Scorpions.

The album is composed half of their own classics' re-recorded versions and half cover versions of 60s' and early 70s' popular rock songs. It was announced on 3 October 2011, with a planned release date of 4 November. The album is released by Sony Music Entertainment and available in both CD and vinyl formats. 2011 album from the German Hard Rockers, a collection of re-recordings of their some of their choice cuts as well as covers of some of their favorite songs originally performed by The Beatles, The Stones, T. Rex, The Small Faces, The Kinks and others.

1. "Rhythm of Love" - 3:39
2. "No One Like You" - 4:06
3. "The Zoo" - 5:38
4. "Rock You Like a Hurricane" - 4:15
5. "Blackout" - 3:48
6. "Wind of Change" - 5:08
7. "Still Loving You" - 6:43
8. "Tainted Love" (Gloria Jones cover) - 3:28
9. "Children of the Revolution" (T. Rex cover) - 3:33
10. "Across the Universe" (The Beatles cover) - 3:17
11. "Tin Soldier" (Small Faces cover) - 3:15
12. "All Day and All of the Night" (The Kinks cover) - 3:16
13. "Ruby Tuesday" (The Rolling Stones cover) - 3:55

* Bonus tracks

14. "Big City Nights" - 3:53
15. "Still Loving You" (Je t'aime encore) (with Amandine Bourgeois) - 6:43
16. "Shapes of Things" (The Yardbirds cover) - 3:20

The Apartment

The Apartment (Collector's Edition)

The Apartment appears at #93 on the influential American Film Institute list of Top 100 Films, as well as at #20 on their list of 100 Laughs and at #62 on their 100 Passions list. In 2007, the film rose on the AFI's Top 100 list to #80.

The Apartment is a 1960 American comedy-drama film produced and directed by Billy Wilder, which stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray. It was Wilder's follow-up to Some Like It Hot and, like its predecessor, was a commercial and critical hit, grossing $25 million at the box office. The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, and won five, including Best Picture.

* Jack Lemmon as C.C. "Bud" Baxter
* Shirley MacLaine as Fran Kubelik
* Fred MacMurray as Jeff D. Sheldrake
* Ray Walston as Joe Dobisch
* Jack Kruschen as Dr. Dreyfuss
* David Lewis as Al Kirkeby
* Hope Holiday as Mrs. Margie MacDougall
* Joan Shawlee as Sylvia
* Naomi Stevens as Mrs. Mildred Dreyfuss
* Johnny Seven as Karl Matuschka
* Joyce Jameson as the blonde in the bar
* Willard Waterman as Mr. Vanderhoff
* David White as Mr. Eichelberger
* Edie Adams as Miss Olsen

The Apartment also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source and Lemmon and MacLaine both won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe each for their performances. The film appears at #93 on the influential American Film Institute list of Top 100 Films, as well as at #20 on their list of 100 Laughs and at #62 on their 100 Passions list. In 2007, the film rose on the AFI's Top 100 list to #80. In 1994, The Apartment was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 2002, a poll of film directors conducted by Sight and Sound magazine listed the film as the 14th greatest film of all time (tied with La Dolce Vita). In 2006, Premiere voted this film as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time".

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rodrigo y Gabriela Area 52

Rodrigo y Gabriela Area 52 (CD+DVD)

It's 2012 and Rodrigo y Gabriela continue to weave their unique six string magic. From the haciendas of Cuba to the Hollywood Bowl, and from the festival fields of Europe to the multiplexes of America. Their motto - “have guitar will travel” made real as their music travels the airwaves of the world and reaches new ears and touches new hearts.
ATO Records is excited to announce the release of the new studio album by Rodrigo y Gabriela. Entitled Area 52, the record was produced by the legendary Peter Asher and will come out on January 24, 2012. Area 52 contains nine of Rod and Gab's favorite songs from their own catalogue re-arranged and re-configured for a 13-piece Cuban orchestra comprised of some of Havana's finest young players, collectively known as C.U.B.A. This two-disc set includes a 30-minute 'making-of' documentary on DVD.

Area 52 was mixed by Rafa Sardina, one of the leading studio musicians in the Latin music world, and arranged by London-based pianist, composer and arranger Alex Wilson. Recording took place in the Miramar district of Havana, Cuba, at Abdala Studios, founded by the Cuban folk hero Silvio Rodriguez, as well as at Rod and Gab s studio in Ixtapa, Mexico. Other players on the record include: bassist Carles Benavent (Paco De Lucia, Chick Corea, Miles Davis), drummer John Tempesta (The Cult, Testament, White Zombie), sitarist Anoushka Shankar and drummer Samuel Formell (Los Van Van).

With career sales in excess of 1.2 million albums, blockbuster movie scores, sell out world tours that span London to Los Angeles, Paris to Tokyo and Dublin to Sydney, and not forgetting the love and respect of fellow musicians like Metallica, Rage Against The Machine, Al Di Meola and L Shankar, Rodrigo y Gabriela have worked hard to reach Area 52.

Just WOW!

For those who are looking at the track listing and thinking, "I already have most of those songs on other discs," NO YOU DON'T! Not like this. C.U.B.A. changes everything. Dramatically.

The addition of the horns and percussion really cranks up the energy level of this duo's music in a big way. It also demonstrates something interesting about their music: the "Latin-ness" of it has always been there, but in way that was less recognizable. Hearing it in the context of a distinctly Latin Rumba Cubana band, it seems obvious that many these songs were always salsa- and rumba-style songs, but performed in a way came across differently. Now, hearing the Latin percussion and the blaring, sassy horns, this stuff actually makes you want to dance!

But, it's not just the energy level of the music that impresses: this album also demonstrates a level of musical maturity that hasn't necessarily been expressed in most of their previous work. There is a breadth and depth here that I haven't heard from them before now. The music has strong, well-arranged jazz elements. And there are surprises. For example, an extended, very soulful sitar solo by guest musician Anoushka Shankar on Ixtapa. It's beautiful, and fits naturally with this version of the song. Lots of other guests grace this disc, too many to list, just suffice it to say that everyone who contributed contributed well, and the music as a whole benefits by the contributions of all of the musicians.

All of these other instruments and musicians do not, however, diminish the prominence of Rod and Gab's playing. Rather, they enhance and amplify it with texture, context, syncopation and band interaction, precisely as a good band should.

The entire album is very well mixed and engineered. You might expect this to be a problem, given that all they had to deal with in the past was two guitars. But everything comes through very well, and the "big" parts are all coherent and clear.

This is definitely their best album yet, in my opinion.


GoodFellas [Blu-ray]

#94 on the AFI List of top 100 American Movies.

Goodfellas (stylized as GoodFellas) is a 1990 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a film adaptation of the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese. The film follows the rise and fall of Lucchese crime family associates Henry Hill and his friends over a period from 1955 to 1980.

Scorsese originally intended to direct Goodfellas before The Last Temptation of Christ, but when funds materialized to make Last Temptation, he postponed what was then known as Wise Guy. The title of Pileggi's book had already been used for a TV series and for Brian De Palma's 1986 comedy Wise Guys, so Pileggi and Scorsese changed the name of their film to Goodfellas. To prepare for their roles in the film, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta often spoke with Pileggi, who shared research material left over from writing the book. According to Pesci, improvisation and ad-libbing came out of rehearsals where Scorsese gave the actors freedom to do whatever they wanted. The director made transcripts of these sessions, took the lines he liked best, and put them into a revised script the cast worked from during principal photography.

Goodfellas performed well at the box office, grossing $46.8 million domestically, well above its $25 million budget. It also received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won one for Pesci in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category. Scorsese's film won five awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, including Best Film. The film was named Best Film of the year by various film critics groups. Goodfellas is often considered one of the greatest films ever, both in the crime genre and in general, and was deemed "culturally significant" and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress. Scorsese followed this film up with two more films about organized crime: 1995's Casino and 2006's The Departed.

Actor Role Based on
Ray Liotta Henry Hill Henry Hill
Robert De Niro Jimmy Conway Jimmy Burke
Joe Pesci Tommy DeVito Thomas DeSimone
Lorraine Bracco Karen Hill Karen Hill (née Friedman)
Paul Sorvino Paul Cicero Paul Vario
Frank Sivero Frankie Carbone Angelo Sepe
Frank Vincent Billy Batts William "Billy Batts" Devino
Tony Darrow Sonny Bunz Angelo McConnach
Mike Starr Frenchy Robert "Frenchy" McMahon
Chuck Low Morrie Kessler Martin Krugman
Frank DiLeo Tuddy Cicero Vito "Tuddy" Vario
Johnny Williams Johnny Roastbeef Louis Cafora
Samuel L. Jackson Parnell "Stacks" Edwards Parnell Steven "Stacks" Edwards
Frank Adonis Anthony Stabile Anthony Stabile
Catherine Scorsese Tommy DeVito's Mother Thomas DeSimone's Grandmother
Gina Mastrogiacomo Janice Rossi Linda Coppociano
Debi Mazar Sandy Robin Cooperman
Margo Winkler Belle Kessler Fran Krugman
Welker White Lois Byrd Judy Wicks
Julie Garfield Mickey Conway Mickey Burke
Paul Herman Dealer Paul Mazzei
Detective Ed Deacy Himself Himself
Christopher Serrone Henry Hill (Youth) Henry Hill (Youth)
Charles Scorsese Vinnie Thomas Agro
Michael Vivalo Nicky Eyes Himself
Michael Imperioli "Spider" Michael "Spider" Gianco
Frank Pellegrino Johnny Dio Johnny Dio
Tony Ellis Bridal Shop Owner Jerome Asaro
Elizabeth Whitcraft Tommy's Girlfriend Theresa Ferrara
Illeana Douglas Tommy's Other Girlfriend Rosie
Anthony Powers Jimmy Two-Times Clyde Brooks
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed McDonald Himself Himself
Tony Lip Frankie The Wop Francesco Manzo
Joseph Bono Mikey Franzese Michael Franzese
Kevin Corrigan Michael Hill Michael Hill