Category — animated
AMERICAN POP is a visually arresting tribute to American music.
A unique (and uniquely-rendered) animated film that spans four generations, Ralph Bakshi‘s American Pop (1981) is the tale of a Russian Jewish family’s turbulent journey towards the realization of the American dream. Unfortunately for the impoverished family, loss plagues them, continuously chopping them down, as if cursed with a ‘close but no cigar’ hex. And yet despite all the pain there remains one true constant in this family – music. It flows through them effortlessly, each generation blessed (or cursed?) with the gift for writing or playing heartfelt music with stunning results. It’s this talent that hurtles our heroes across forty years of unforgiving American historical landscape, shaping their dreams and sinking them all at once, like a double-edged sword. The film works like a survey of American culture, from Jazz to Punk and all points in between, making American Pop as much a musical voyage as it is an animated, visual one. And speaking of the the animation, this one’s a beauty – using the process of rotoscoping, in which live-action footage is animated over, resulting in characters that truly feel real. This contrast, evident in other parts of Bakshi’s animated wonderland (Lord of the Rings, Fire and Ice, Wizards), has always rubbed me the right way. And highlighted here by ‘huge’ pop songs, often sung by the main characters themselves, Bakshi’s magic is particularly effective in evoking tone and emotion. He doesn’t shake our suspension of disbelief by ever explicitly claiming his characters have written the originals (we all know a coke dealer didn’t sing target=”_blank”>Night Moves) – he’s simply evoking a sense of where these characters are emotionally and historically, which gives them a poetic truth that’s profound and compelling. And even though Bakshi has some misses in his filmography (damn you, Cool World!!), this is not one of them – possibly because of his personal, autobiographical connection to this immigrant story. Sure the narrative gets clunky – Hell, if you wanted to, you could probably skip a generation and tell the same tale with equal results – but you know what? Warts and all, I still find myself coming back to this movie time and again. Coming back to the sonic assault of color and sound, and good-ol’ adult-targeted animation at its finest. So do yourself a favor and crank up the volume on this creature – even if it means pissing off your neighbors.
June 6, 2011 2 Comments
DESTINO is Dali + Disney = Delightful.
Everything you need to know is right in front of you. Quick, watch the entire thing before the lawyers get to it and it disappears forever! When you click on it it’ll tell you it’s disabled… but you can click on the link to watch it on youtube!
January 19, 2011 No Comments
For our 100th post we thought we’d celebrate by linking to this super-cool flick that captures the spirit of the isle of cinema. Hope you enjoy the nearly-forgotten 1958 Czech masterpiece by Karel Zeman, Vynález Zkázy (aka The Fabulous World Of Jules Verne), a visual smorgasbord of matte paintings, incredibly rendered sets, and beautiful hand-drawn and stop-motion animation, stunningly meshed with inventive live action which captures the magic of Méliès and Lang. Enjoy!
January 5, 2011 No Comments
Another Robert Wise crime film, this one revolving around racial tensions within a group of bank thieves. And if you thought the cast of Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, and Shelly Winters was jam-packed, just look at the players on the soundtrack: Milt Jackson on vibes, Bill Evans on piano, Jim Hall on guitar! Conductor John Lewis later released a studio version of this album with his small combo group, The Modern Jazz Quartet, that’s well worth seeking out as well!
Here’s track 9, “Skating in Central Park”:
and track 12, “Games”:
Alan Parker, who also directed Pink Floyd’s The Wall – not eligible thanks to my strict self-imposed guidelines – is responsible for the cinematic oddity that is Bugsy Malone, which is either one of the worst ideas ever conceived or one of the best, depending on your perspective. A gangster movie where all the gangsters are played by children, the guns shoot some sort of cream filling, and Scott Baio stars alongside Jodie Foster is a bit hard for me to swallow, but the music isn’t – written by pop musician and hit songwriter Paul Williams, who also wrote and composed songs for the equally entertaining Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack for Brian De Palma.
Here’s track 3, “Tomorrow”:
and track 7, “So You Wanna Be a Boxer”:
David Lynch returns to our list with his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, Dune, scored by Toto, the band that brought you the soft rock hits “ target=”_blank”>Africa” and target=”_blank”>”Rosanna”. It’s a surprisingly listenable affair, though when I think of Dune I can’t help but imagine the film that might have been: Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version, which was going to be written by Dan O’Bannon, was going to star Salvador Dali and Orson Welles, be designed by H.R. Giger and Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius), and be scored by none other than Pink Floyd. Wow! Read more on the failed super-project here, and Jodorowsky’s account here. But back to Toto – very nice, very electronic score. The opening track, “Prologue,” lays out the basic plot:
and here’s track 17, “Take My Hand”:
For the American release of Kobi Jaeger’s documentary, American-International Pictures removed some footage it considered ho-hum, added psychedelic drug-inspired scenes of wife-swapping and body painting, and marketed the whole thing as a dramatic film rather than a documentary. If that’s not the definition of sexploitation I don’t know what is. At least they left the soundtrack intact, by Irmin Schmidt and Inner Space, who would soon form the legendary Krautrock band Can. Here’s track 1, “Indisches Panorama I”:
Sergio Martino’s target=”_blank”>crazy giallo stars Edwidge Fenech as a woman stalked by several sadists at once, the least kind among them being a razor wielding slasher. The soundtrack is just as stylish as the film, composed by one of the only female composers in the world of Italian horror films, Nora Orlandi.
Here is track 14, “Edwige In Dodici Ottavi”:
and track 27, “Body Fox”:
Luc Jacquet’s Oscar winning documentary shows the life cycle of penguins (and when Orca whales are around, it shows the gory death cycle too). Their twenty day march to the safe haven where they will select their mates, procreate, protect and feed their offspring was set to the safe, predictable (though pretty) score of Alex Wurman in the US version, but in France it was set to an experimental soundtrack by Emilie Simon, a Björk-like chanteuse with a penchant for fractured electronica. Check out track 4, “Song of the Sea”:
and track 11, “To The Dancers On The Ice”:
Michael Anderson’s wonderful technicolor adventure based on the novel by Jules Verne tells the tale of pompous Phileas Fogg, who bets his entire fortune on his claim that a man can travel around the world in 80 days, and then sets out to prove it. So off he goes, with butler in tow, from country to country, followed by an inspector who suspects him to be a criminal a man named Mr. Fix trying to sabotage his journey. Good old fashioned entertainment all the way around, with a fun soundtrack that quotes the traditional musics of the countries visited.
Here is track 2, “Paris Arrival”:
and track 20, “Prairie Sail Car”:
Kôichi Chigira’s animated tale about an eleven-year-old boy who enters a magic world in order to change his fate and save his terminally ill mother sounds like a vintage tearjerker, along the lines of Grave of the Fireflies with a slight influence from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Ben Watkins, the key figure in the ever-changing, international band Juno Reactor, composed the soundtrack, which shifts between styles and instrumentation, and is filled with fantastic moments. Here’s track 3, “Mitsuru Theme 2″:
and track 10, “Hare and Heather Part 1″:
and track 12, “Aerial Ballet”:
Paul Schrader’s remake of the Jacques Tourneur-directed, Val Lewton-produced 1942 horror film may not be the classic the original was, but it does have two things going for it: the sexy shapeshifting Nastassja Kinski and the score by Giorgio Moroder, a key figure in the 1980’s music scene who also composed The Neverending Story, Scarface, Midnight Express, and American Gigolo. Here’s track 5, “Leopard Tree Dream”:
and track 6, “Paul’s Theme”:
Jack Cardiff’s movie about a band of mercenaries battling through the Congo in search of $25 million in uncut diamonds is pure machismo. And can we talk about that cover for a second? A guy with a chainsaw charging a shirtless soldier while battles, explosions, and romantic embraces rage around him? Why is Hollywood not jumping at the chance to remake this album cover!?!?? Scored by Jacques Loussier, a jazz musician of the first order, the soundtrack delivers on the cover’s promise, sounding like a fusion of Spaghetti Western and Crime film. Awesome.
Here’s the opening track, the main theme:
and track 10, “The Mission”:
50 down, 100 to go!!!
Click to see part 1 (OST’s #141-150) , part 2 (131-140), part 3 (121-130), part 4 (111-120), part 5 (101-110), part 6 (91-100), part 7 (81-90), part 8 (71-80), part 9 (61-70), part 10 (51-60), part 11 (41-50), part 12 (31-40), part 13 (21-30), part 14 (11-20) and part 15 (1-10).
Check back in the coming weeks to see the rest of the soundtracks, as we head past the century mark into the meat of the countdown!
And be sure to leave feedback, even if it’s incredibly petty or negative!
September 20, 2010 No Comments