Thursday, September 22, 2005

Travolta's Dance Fever

Since this blog is called "Rambling from a Movie Addict", I'm gonna pose this movie question to you readers: does John Travolta have a clause in his contract that he has to dance in every movie he makes?

The reason I ask comes from my weekly Friday Night Movie Fest a few weeks back. I was at my friend's place when we decided to watch the classic Travolta flick The Boy in the Plastic Bubble as we had not seen it since it first aired in the mid-seventies. We remembered that this TV movie featured consummate TV actor Robert "Mike Brady" Reed as his father, Diane Hyland as his mother (and who was Travolta's real-life girlfriend) and Glynnis O'Connor who I had a crush on when I was a wee lad. And after viewing it, we also remembered how bad and dated the movie turned out to be ("Crap-tacular" was the consensus).

Anyways, while we were riffing on the movie a la Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (adding our own humourous commentary to the actions on the small screen), we came upon a scene where Travolta starts doing some dance moves (predating Saturday Night Fever). Watching him shake his booty, it got me thinking that the last few movies that I saw him in also featured him dancing.

Let's go down the list. Of course there's Saturday Night Fever, it's bad sequel Staying Alive, Grease and Urban Cowboy. Pulp Fiction and Be Cool features him dancing with Uma Thurman. Michael has him dancing with a few girls in a bar. Ladder 49 has him dancing at Joaquin Phoenix's wedding. Phenomenom has him dancing with his dog. Primary Colors had him dancing badly with Emma Thompson. I think he dances with Scarlet Johansson in A Love Song for Bobby Long. And I'm almost certain that he also does some type of rhythmic movement in Basic as well as those Look Who's Talking movies as well.

The only one I'm not completely sure about is Battlefield Earth because it was so gawd-awful that I have completely blocked it out of my mind.

So what do we learn from this? I guess that Travolta exhibiting dance moves is one of the many constants in the movie universe, ranking up there with a Christopher Walken offbeat monologues, Nicholas Cage going through some kind of drug-induced trip and Rob Schneider being a big screen waste of space.

Radio-Free Me

Today I am making a confession: I can't listen to the radio anymore, or rather stations that today's music.

I don't like stations that feature silly names like Jack, Giant or The River. I don't like those that play the latest hits, lite hits, hits from the 80s, 90s & today, or even classic rock. It's not like I generally hate rock music although I admit some current musical trends like EMO baffle me. Besides, if I couldn't stand it, I wouldn't be commissioning someone to build me some new shelves to accommodate my ever-expanding CD collection.

No, there are two reasons behind my decision. The first is that these stations all play the same old things over and over again. It's like those annoying "new" catchphrases like "orange is the new pink", "Twelve is the new Eleven" (or my current fave "fugly is the new pretty") as "FM radio has become the new AM Top 40 radio".

I notice this trend last year when I was driving to wushu training everyday. I turned on the radio (no CD player and the tape deck was "wonky") and it seem like I was hearing a certain Avril Lavigne tune at roughly the same time (3 pm) everyday. I could almost set my watch to it. It was then followed by either Nelly Furtado, one of three Britney tunes that was in heavy rotation at that time or that annoying "This Love" song by Maroon 5 (a tune that's taken its toll on me and one I wish I would say goodbye to).

And it's not exclusive to new stuff either. I've been popping into the gym almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning for a few months now, and no matter which classic rock station they have on (either Q107 or FM108), I keep hearing Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" every time I'm there. It's not that I don't enjoy Ozzy and his antics, but I'm almost positive he has other songs in his reportoire (and that's not even including his Black Sabbath material) that they can play.

The second reason is much more critical: all of today's music sounds the same to me. If someone asked me to tell the difference between Sum 41 and Simple Plan, I couldn't do it. The same can be said with Ashanti and the deceased Aaliyah. How about Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan?Sound the same to me.

I remember when FM used to showcase the likes of Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, The Clash, U2, The Jam/Style Council (Paul Weller acts), The Smiths and later on Nirvana. All of those artists had a unique sound that made them stand out from the pack. Nowadays, there is no new artist or band out there whose sound would put them in the category of the aforementioned. And no, Coldplay doesn't belong in that group as they do nothing for me (and they are DEFINITELY NOT the second coming of U2).

Instead, we're inundated with commercially pre-packaged American Idol crap featuring the likes of Hilary, Lindsay and Kelly Clarkson, or the guitar-heavy angst artists like Evanescence, Seether and Good Charlotte. And I won't listen to dance/R&B stations because I'm not fond of that genre, plus I haven't liked a rapper since Biggie died.

Granted, there are some recent artists that I like The Foo Fighters, Green Day (American Idiot is brilliant) and Liz Phair, but they're not in my "must-buy" category. Now I'm just filling up the holes in my collection with the likes of Pink Floyd and Aimee Mann.

So whenever I have to turn on the radio to listen to music (ie. if I'm driving or do any writing), my FM dial is now set to 91.1 which plays real jazz music (NOT the pseudo-new age jazz featuring the likes of Kenny G and John Tesh). Someone told me recently that the older you get, the more you gravitate to jazz stations since you've pretty much heard everything being played up and down the dial. That sounds like that has happened to me since I've crossed the forty threshold a couple of months back. For me, all I know it doesn't sound like anything else on the dial.

And thankfully they don't play Coldplay either.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Finding your voice

I don't know about other writers or friends who are a part of this blogger website, but any writing I have to do such as my movie reviews I have to read it aloud. To me it's the only way I can tell if the words I have written actually makes sense. I call it "audio-grammar" (ie. does it sound right?) as it helps me eliminate any superfluous stuff and simplifies any big words I sometimes use to make me sound more intelligent than I really am (eg. avuncular, jocular, etc.).

Anyways, I'm not particularly fond of the sound of my voice (I'm sure that there are other people who are not thrilled to hear it either), so to rectify this problem, I simply imagine certain actors reading my words. I usually prefer Brit actors since I'm fond of the accent and they can enunciate the Queen's English. I figure that if they can make Shakespeare and Jane Austen sound good, then my drivel should be a snap.

For me, the "voice du jour" belongs to Colin Firth. I've used him ever since I heard him do narration of in the Brit version of Nick Hornby's 'Fever Pitch' (which is where the Drew Barrymore-Jimmy Fallon version is based on). His voice has a nice timbre and an easy-going style in the way he speaks. It's not commanding but has this presence coupled with just the right amount of charm. In fact any Hornby book I happen to read, I simply imagine an audiobook version by him in my head.

Before Firth, it was Stephen Fry whose voice I found to be ideal for children's stories (it was his voice that I imagined when reading over the first and perhaps only children's story I wrote). I heard him doing the UK version of the Harry Potter audiobooks thru downloads and he's great. Worth the time to hear if you get the opportunity.

I have this feeling that I'm not the only one who does this, at least I hope so. With the possible exception of the Irish (I heard Roddy Doyle reading sections from 'A Star Called Henry" and I was mesmerised), most writers probably prefer hearing someone else read aloud their words. Celebrity narration just makes it that much more interesting.

Besides, without Morgan Freeman's narration, 'The Shawshank Redemption' would have been an above average movie instead of the classic that it is now.

Any thoughts or comments out there? I would like to hear who your voice is.