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Liebster Award!

liebsteraward 1I want to thank The Cinematic Frontier for nominating me for the Liebster Award! I am sorry it took me so long to write my response, but I am honored by the nomination.

The rules are as follows:

1) Link back to the blog that nominated you

2) Answer the eleven questions

3) Nominate several more blogs (5-11) and ask eleven questions of your own. Make sure you contact the blogs that you have nominated.

Here are the questions from Cinematic Frontier:

1 – What is your favorite new release of 2016 so far? I confess that I have not yet seen a movie this year. I wanted to see Love and Friendship, but it’s not showing in a theater near me. 😦

2 – Do you prefer 3D or 2D? 2D, though it can be fun to occasionally see 3D.

3 – What is your favorite film from the year you were born? – The 1980s are actually a bit of a cinematic void for me. I’m not sure if I’ve seen any movies the year I was born.

4 – Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Wars! At least, the original three Star Wars films. I like to pretend the prequels, sequels and spin-offs never happened and kind of make it all up in my own head.

5 – Which Comic-Con have you most recently attended (or, if you’ve never been to one, which one do you plan or wish to attend)? I fear I’m revealing myself to be massively ignorant, but I am not very familiar with Comic-Con.

6 – Blu-ray or streaming? Blu-ray. I’m very excited about blu-ray, because I just got my first blu-ray player and new TV last week. It’s amazing how much better everything looks when you make that transition from tube to flat screen TV.

7 – Name your favorite ’80s song in a film. Unfortunately, the 1980s in music are almost as big a void for me as the movies.

Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion

Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion

8 – What is your favorite film based on a book? Possibly the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, though that is really a mini-series. The 1938 Pygmalion? Though that is based on a play.

9 – What is your favorite (or least favorite) Nicholas Cage haircut? I have not seen him in many films, though I did see him in Guarding Tess and his hair seemed to fit his character well as a security guard.

10 – Which film recently made you reflect on it long after the credits were over? The Jazz Singer. It has greatly influenced my reading of late and I now have a history of blackface in America (Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture), a biography of Jolson (Jolson, the Legend Comes to Life), and a history of the transition between silent and sound films (The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930) on my reading shelf.

11 – Who is your favorite composer? That is a hard one. It really depends on my mood at the time. Rachmaninoff, Dvorak, Jerome Kern, Puccini, Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Bernard Herrmann, Scott Joplin, Frederick Loewe. They are all my favorite!

My nominations are:

Love Letters to Old Hollywood

Define Dancing

Vienna’s Classic Hollywood

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies

Classic Reel Girl

My questions are:

1 – Book you would most liked to have seen Alfred Hitchcock turn into a movie.

George Burns, Gracie Allen, Fred Astaire in A Damsel in Distress

George Burns, Gracie Allen, Fred Astaire in A Damsel in Distress

2 – Book you would most like to see turned into a musical.

3 – Favorite movie musical score or soundtrack?

4 – Stars you would have liked to have seen paired in a musical.

5 – Least favorite musical.

6 – If your life was turned into a musical biopic, would you rather be played by a singer or dancer?

7 – Classic movie you would most like to see on the big screen.

8 – Movie you would most like to see remade today.

9 – Best book you’ve read in the last year.

Here are two questions that were also asked by Cinematic Frontier:

10 – “Which film recently made you reflect on it long after the credits were over?”

11 – “Who is your favorite composer?”

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Blogging, Cats and Ragtime

Sometimes I just have one of those Fridays…you know, the kind of Friday were absolutely no inspiration strikes. So I thought I would cheat and share a video I found on youtube, demonstrating the hazards of working at home (or blogging) with a cat around.

My cat’s not quite this active, but she definitely makes her presence known. I’ll be sitting in intense thought, typing something up, when I’ll feel something knock against my chair. That is the preliminary “head bonk,” the initial signaling of her presence. Then she meows and gets up on her back paws and pats me on the arm. Next is the jumping up on the desk and walking over my keyboard, sometimes going so far as to plop herself on my lap and purr intensely. She also likes to roll on her stomach and look as cute as possible so that she can distract me and possibly lure me into playing with her. She’s like a femme fatale, using her cuteness as a weapon. She’s even stolen my chair and reduced me to sitting on the floor while I work.

Incidentally, the music that accompanies the video is called “Fig Leaf Rag,” written by Scott Joplin in 1908, though it does seem to be played a little fast. My piano teacher told me years ago that rag is often played too fast nowadays. Most people I know (including myself) tend to associate rag with very fast, fun loving music, but that’s not entirely accurate. Rag can also be poignant, sad, dreamy, many things.

And actually Scott Joplin did not intend his music to be taken as light entertainment. He considered himself a serious composer who was conversant with classical music and wanted his music to be taken as seriously as classical music. Unlike previous ragtime composers, he meant for his music to be played exactly as he wrote them, without improvisation, like any other classical work.

Here is an example of the same song, “Fig Leaf Rag,” played at a slower pace by Joshua Rifkin, who helped to re-popularize ragtime in the 1970s (following the success of the film The Sting, which employed a lot of ragtime in the soundtrack).

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Music

 

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“April in Paris” – by Vernon Duke and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg

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“Place du Theatre-Francais, Spring” by Camille Pissarro: wikimedia commons

Vernon Duke is not as familiar a name as his friend and mentor’s, George Gershwin. Vernon Duke was born Vladimir Dukelsky and studied to be a classical composer before he and his family fled during the Russian Revolution. In America he met George Gershwin and when he began to write popular songs, at Gershwin’s suggestion, he changed his name to Vernon Duke, though he still had an extremely prolific career as a classical composer under the name Vladimir Dukelsky.

Vernon Duke is probably best known for writing the songs for  the musical “Cabin in the Sky,” which was later made into a movie in 1943 with Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and Eddie Anderson (“Taking a Chance on Love”). His other most famous song  is “April in Paris,” written for a revue in 1932 called “Walk a Little Faster” with lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, who is familiar to most people, without being commonly known, for his lyrics to Harold Arlen’s songs in The Wizard of Oz.

Oddly enough, “April in Paris” was not considered a success after the revue closed, but seems to have gradually gained momentum through the years until now it is considered a standard of American popular songs.

This is my favorite version of “April in Paris,” sung by Sarah Vaughan with trumpeter Clifford Brown, from their album together.  This seems to personify “melodramatic lyrics and urbane music,” quoted on the invaluable site Jazz Standards from Philip Furia’s book on Tin Pan Alley.

in 1952, Doris Day and Ray Bolger starred in the film April in Paris, which was not a success, but featured the song and when Doris Day also recorded it, it was a hit for her.

According to Jazz Standards, it was this 1956 recording by Count Basie and his Count Basie Orchestra that made this song a jazz standard and not just a popular song.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Great American Songbook

 

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