'Fourteen Actors Acting' video portrait project spotlights a killer series of soundtracks
These are the visual cues from the New York Times Magazine's "Fourteen Actors Acting" video feature, but they're also the musical themes that accompany, composed by man-about-town Owen Pallett.
It's an exhilarating piece, running in tandem with the mag's Hollywood Issue out this week. The video vignettes run in a minute or less for each actor, each personality interpreting their idea of a "decisive moment," of "classic screen types." But for me, the music makes it.
Pallett has fun with his, well, palette here, utilizing the Czech Symphony Strings to realize 14 different (black and white) visions, with other actors including Javier Bardem, Jesse Eisenberg, Chloe Moretz, Michael Douglas, Jennifer Lawrence, Noomi Rapace, Vincent Cassel, Anthony Mackie and Lesley Manville.
It's a neat little self-contained project and a sweet opportunity for the Canadian songwriter, violinist, composer and collaborator.
Of course I'm particularly taken, too, with the James Franco clip, because oh my.
Watch the whole thing here, it's worth it.
What did photographer Mary Rozzi have to say about the mysterious Leslie Feist?
In a clip exclusive to HitFix, photographer Mary Rozzi explains the mystery that is Leslie Feist -- a mystery that is still one to the songwriter herself. The clip is taken from "Look at What the Light Did Now," the Feist documentary released to DVD on Tuesday (Dec. 7).
And I do like the doc. An awful lot.
"[Feist] has a way of showing herself without showing herself," Rozzi says right before a long look into the quiet rehearsal of a Reminder Tour show. "must be hard to show yourself like that. Because maybe you're trying to figure out who you are... you're really naked up there. Scary."
The nakedness of the band's hollow, sparse clicks before showtime is buttressed by darkness, the palate for "light artist" Clea Minaker, Feist's visual muse during the recording and touring of "The Reminder."
Feist, througout the film, struggles with her own fame, and her own image; she's loath to put her own face on the cover of her album, and to step out as a solo act rather than a bandleader. As I mentioned in my interview with doc director Anthony Seck, Feist refused to even do an interview for the flick until it made it all the way to the editing room floor. It's an exploration of her personal personality in real time.
As previously reported, Feist is heading back into the studio this winter to work on a follow up to her last 2007 album.
How is the Disney sequel's score like 'Inception?'
Daft Punk firmly establish themselves as more than just dance guys in the score and soundtrack to Disney’s forthcoming “Tron: Legacy,” though holding dear the same elements in the classical orchestrations that they do in their famous electronic compositions.
The French duo had talked with and culled ideas from other Hollywood music-makers like Hans Zimmer before they delved into scoring, and it was precisely Zimmer they channel in stretches of “Tron.” One of the overriding motifs is the blare of horns, like a foghorn, that dominated the dream-in-a-dream sequences in “Inception.” And like that score, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo don’t care to bother with major key, but sits firmly in minor-keyed revolutions – yes, cycles – in as much as a temperamental fashion as this sometimes-ridiculous movie would allow.
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But that’s like “Inception” in timbre not always in style. Particularly in “Adagio for TRON” or in “Outlands,” the 100+ person orchestra shift through the modulating that the synths and drum machines normally would in a Daft Punk song. It’s a full restructuring of a dance song with new instrumentation, plunging into two- or three-minute vignettes, capped by those foghorns or with a blast of “Flynn’s Theme” that take you back to the original arcade of the first film.
“Tron: Legacy” the Film is a lot on the eyes, and rarely do these tracks interfere with the feast. That’s why they were hired, that’s why it works. “End of the Line” is that essence, where it verges on dance music, album-esque territory, but avoids it altogether by just staying with the same repeated motif. The only tracks that maybe could be pulled from the mix as traditional Daft Punk songs and beats are companions “End of the Line” and “Derezzed,” the latter of which just got its own music video.
The pair stay traditional orchestral for the overtures, and the sign-off credit and finale songs. But as Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and his son Kevin (Garrett Hedlund) battle programs in The Grid, electronic battles these flesh-and-blood orchestras, and sometimes move in tandem with them. In one particular scene, as the Flynn family flies toward the light that will send them back into the Real World, they’re accompanied by beautiful half-“human” iso program Quarra (Olivia Wilde); the organic and electronic music shifts from harmonic to turbulent as the threesome battle evil program C.L.U. and his other flying minions.
It’s the perfect platform for the artists themselves, considering their propensity to appear as robots at their blockbusting dance shows: Daft Punk themselves have one leg in machinery and one in humanity. In “Tron,” they’re performers as Daft Punk, but composers as Homem-Christo and Bangalter.
As far as arc goes, though, the duo and its crew of musicans can’t help themselves but send the needle always to either the one and two, or to the nine and 10, with nothing in between. Like the film itself, there’s few blissful plateaus and letups before well-intended plans are foiled by interference and static. This is a series of slow-breathing warm-up and cool-downs, with bounding melodramatic beats and chest-beating orchestrations in the creamy middle. It’s a slow, mean march to the batter’s box (or the disc wars grid). But it’s far, far from a DaftPunk album, even with their “Electroma” in mind. They use their orchestral resources wisely, but not too cleverly. We’re not going deep down into seventh-level dreams or whatever, there’s just that unstoppable, ever-useful Grid structure -- that 4/4 time.
Canadian singer-songwriter heading back into the studio this winter
A couple years ago, Leslie Feist and her whole crew were in Malibu, staying out near the beach, while she was touring off of "The Reminder." She and friend Kyle Field (aka Little Wings) were outdoors, working on their sets, trading songs and singing together. At one point, they and filmmaker Anthony Seck heard dogs barking and whining at the fence that divided the yard from the beach. Everyone got up to see what the fuss was about, and there was a baby seal, rapt, apparently listening to their music. Feist entertained the animal with some shadow puppets and she and Field moved camp to a gully on the beach. They started playing Little Wings' "Look at What the Light Did Now" to further entertain their new friend, to take advantage of a rare moment.
The next day, Feist's documentary had its title. Even though "Look at What the Light Did Now" is not the name of a Feist song, Seck -- the doc's director -- agreed that it was a phrase that captured such precious and small moments that made up "The Reminder" and its subsequent, unique tour, with film footage culled from more than four years.
"It was all, special intimate stuff," Seck told HitFix of the scenes he and editor Holly Singer kept for the final product, out tomorrow (Dec. 7) on DVD. "Les and I were conscious that we wanted something more subtle and artistic. [The interviewees] all have these philosophies, people as a perspective… we said, 'Let's make this a non-narrative narrative.'"
Seck and Feist had been longtime friends in Canada; the film was initially shot to be a 20-minute vignette on Clea Minaker, who shaped the extraordinary lights-and-shadow show that accompanied Feist's live sets. Then Seck was invited onto the entire "Reminder" tour and took down the thoughts of Feist's musical co-conspirators (like frequent collaborator Chilly Gonzales and Broken Social Scene alumni Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew) her artistic muses (like Minaker, photographer Mary Rozzi and multi-format artist Simone Rubi) and even the sound and light guys.
Special focus, too, is given to Patrick Daughters, whose music videos for Feist helped give her rise to mainstream fame: "1, 2, 3, 4" had its day in the sun in an Apple iPod commercial, and the spotlight burned a little bit brighter.
"Some people scrape, some people spend their entire lives and earnings for a break. For Leslie, it just falls in her lap. She knows she's in the record business and wants to make a living that way, but she maintains a core of remaining creative. I think women get pushed around by [major] record labels, just like in the film industry. But she holds her own," Seck says.
Getting Leslie Feist to accept that spotlight -- even as a frontwoman of a highly creative circus, and not just a singular icon -- was no easy feat. It wasn't even until Seck was in the editing room that Feist allowed him to interview her for the project.
"She said, 'I'll ask you a question, and we'll talk about that, and then you get to ask me one,'" Seck explains, comparing her, too, to the singing frog in the Looney Tunes short, who would sing for the man who saved him from a shoebox, but would clam up in front of a paying crowd.
Don't take the metaphor too far, though. Feist positively owns her paying audiences as she's toured stadiums in support of the 2007 effort. And Minaker's work as an incorporated member of Feist's band was no novel act: Seck artfully incorporates that live footage with the narrative, avoiding the "cop-out" pitfalls of some concert films.
The film also includes an invigorating fast-speed slideshow of all the hundreds of design ideas Feist's collaborators crafted for the album art; a how-to guide of getting Leslie Feist to jump out of a window; and a stunning focus on the recording of "The Water." There's really a lot to the story, which is a triumph for Seck and his team for completing such a daring "non-narrative," originally whittled down to a mere 77 minutes.
Of course, then, there's less room to leave in fun details from shooting, like Kevin Drew having an uncontrollable laughing fit for 10 minutes or Feist's manager destroying the tour printer with a hockey stick.
"When were ready to shape the movie, we had to draw the lines pretty tight. There were a lot of schematics -- the road, shadow puppetry, live concerts, music recording, music videos, handling press," Seck says of the business of Feist. "She wanted to make a film that worked. It could’ve been cut two years before [now]. But from final shooting, it needed to take that time creatively. She was the force that got me out there and shooting it. So it was only right she allowed it to have the time that it needed to be finished."
Seck says Feist is heading back into the studio to record this winter. No word yet if he'll be on hand to put it all down on film.
I will watch the hell out of this movie
Sundance announced its selected slate of featured films for its 2011 film festival, including documentaries. And one in particular caught my eye.
"Beats, Rhymes and Life" turns the lens on "the rise and influence of one of the most innovative and influential hip hop bands of all time, the collective known as A Tribe Called Quest." AKA my favorite hip-hop troupe of all time. The movie gets a world premiere at the fest.
me us, the trailer appeared on YouTube around the same time as the announcement. And it looks pretty explosive.
One of the keener points of the film with focus on the band's inner-turmoil, disintegration and breakup, all around the moment they'd achieved ultimate escalation with "Find a Way" from their last "The Love Movement," from 1998. Additionally, the live concert footage looks white-hot and any insights from the likes of Kanye West, Nas and De La Soul. Appears the film used to be dubbed "Beats, Rhymes and Fights," so there's always that.
Mike Rappaport directed the effort; vet Madlib composed the original score and Peanut Butter Wolf (!!) was music supervisor. Can I pre-order that soundtrack now?
The 2011 Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 20-30 in Park City, Utah.
Watch the trailer below.
Lonely at Christmas? Take a trip to London
Coldplay have released a digital download-only holiday single this year, "Christmas Lights," and doubled the fun with a gangbusters music video to boot.
The most extraordinary thing about the clip, in my opinion, is that it was filmed a week ago: exquisite "Sex & Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll" director Mat Whitecross helmed the shoot, which was edited to appear like one long shot. It's got many of the typical elements of a Christmas scene -- fake snow, twinkle-lights, green and red -- but also ropes in a trio of violin-playing Elvis impersonators, vaudevillian stage props, fireworks over London and Chris Martin laying on the floor wailing about a lost lady love.
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What did you think of picks from Katy Perry, Ray LaMontagne, Eminem and Bruno Mars?
The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards finally has its nominees, and -- as is custom -- there's some real duds, shockers and pleasant surprises on the list. Here's a breakdown of what we found in the popular music categories, from Lady Gaga and Katy Perry to Ray LaMontagne and Esperanza Spalding.
The Album of the Year category should feature an asterisk in its name, considering it’s just letting “Collections of Songs Roughly the Length of an Album” and “EP” waltz right in there. Katy Perry made some unforgettable singles this year, but – as I wrote in my review – Katy Perry doesn’t really make great albums. And perhaps the voting Academy felt bad that “The Fame” didn’t win in 2009, so Lady Gaga's "The Fame Monster" gets a pass before she even puts out a real sophomore set. PATIENCE, voters, you can coddle her all you want after “Born This Way” drops.
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OK, mostly Brandon Flowers... and a man with a karaoke mission
This year for Christmas, I'd like for The Killers to do another track together, even though they're on hiatus.
And I'd like for that single, "Boots," to be about snow globes and cinnamon candles and stuff, nothing that's particularly mean or sarcastic, mostly just Brandon Flowers getting extra sentimental.
I really like "It's a Wonderful Life," so if you could have that as the plot to the music video to "Boots," that would be awesome and my brother may even watch it even though he hates Jimmy Stewart.
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Starting with tracks from 2002's 'Kill the Moonlight' and including 'Right' rarity
Have a Spoon super-fan you need to shop for this Christmas?
The Austin-bred rock band has pulled together the alternate version and demo songs they've been posting on their website and made the collection into a little "Bonus Songs 2008-2009" compilation.
Don't get 'em wrong: these tracks weren't written in that year span, but posted during 2008-2009. Some songs are demo versions of composition from "Kill the Moonlight," released all the way back in 2002. There's also the inclusion of rarity "The Right Place at the Right Time" (demo), a rehearsal of "You Gotta Feel It" and a "writing exercise" of "Eddie's Ragga."
For the nerds, 'm I right? However, I've always admired Spoon's songwriting process, even if frontman Britt Daniels says he struggles with penning lyrics. Good to hear how a veteran band does it, and maybe it's worth it for under $10 (digital and CD). Get paid.
Here is the tracklist for "Bonus Songs 2008-2009":
1. Was It You Demo
2. Rhythm And Soul Demo
3. Don't Let It Get You Down Demo
4. Cherry Bomb Country Version Demo
5. My Little Japanese Cigarette Case Oceanside Demo
6. Merchants Of Soul Demo
7. Eddie's Ragga Writing Exercise
8. My Mathematical Mind Demo
9. You Gotta Feel It Rehearsal
10. In The Right Place The Right Time Demo
Will Conor Oberst use his country skills on his longstanding full band?
Bright Eyes has announced it's seventh full length album: the Saddle Creek band will release "The People's Key" on Feb. 15 next year, featuring mainstays Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Wolcott.
It's the Omaha, Neb.-based band's first set sin 2007's "Cassadega," which incorporated quite a bit of country and folk elements that helped shape Oberst's two solo efforts with the Mystic Valley Band in 2008 and 2009 and even with Monsters of Folk, his supergroup with Mogis, M. Ward and Jim James.
No particular guests like -- say -- Emmylou Harris or Gillian Welch are slated to help, but instead a veritable reunion of present and former Saddle Creek acts and friends are on board "Key." Andy LeMaster (Now It’s Overhead), Matt Maginn (Cursive), Carla Azar (Autolux), Clark Baechle (The Faint), Shane Aspegren (The Berg Sans Nipple), Laura Burhenn (The Mynabirds) and Denny Brewer (Refried Ice Cream) are credited as additional musicians.
The album was produced by mega-mind Mogis and engineered by Mogis and LeMaster (Steve Albini would appreciate the distinction).
Meanwhile, as fans sit in wait, there's a couple live shows also worth pining for: Bright Eyes has scheduled a March 9 stop at Radio City Music Hall in New York and a June 23 stint at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
I'm personally eager to hear not only what sonic direction Oberst takes with the effort after a couple loose, jammier years with the above mentioned bands, but also what new he has to say about politics, especially after his proactivity protesting Arizona's controversial immigration law this summer and two years of turbulent party oppositions in the country.
Here is the tracklist for "The People's Key":