Everyone’s Gone to the Movies

We’re headed into the heart of summer, and that makes this a great time to talk about the movies.

    • Film composer James Horner dies in plane crash
      James Horner, best known for his score for Titanic, died earlier this week from injuries he suffered when the plane he was piloting crashed. I’ve long been a fan of his film music, starting with his brilliant score for Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn. I loved the score Jerry Goldsmith did for the first Star Trek movie, and I loved the contrast of Horner’s work on Kahn.  He also did a wonderfully uplifting score for Apollo 13. He will be missed.
    • Remembering Christopher Lee
      Horror movie great Christopher Lee passed away June 7th at the age of 93. While he had lengthy career as a monster/creature/villain, he was best known for playing the evil Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels and the wizard Saruman in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.Top 10 Christopher Lee performances from WatchMojo
    • Why Jurassic World being a big hit is bad for movies
      Strictly speaking, anytime a movie is a big hit, that’s good for the movies.  And by all reports, Jurassic World is a great deal of fun.  (I’m hoping to finally get to see it early next week.) But Charlie Jane Anders, writing the io9 blog, suggests that it will lead to more and more over-the-top sequels of franchise movies without a shred of originality.  While I have no doubt she’s right, Jurassic World is hardly alone in encouraging such things.  And good, new original big movies are always few and far between.  On the other hand, if reading her blog post gets you go pull out the disk of last summer’s Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live, Die, Repeat), it will be a good thing.
Posted in Chapter 8 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Students in Lexington, Neb. revive local movie theater

The Majestic Theatre in Lexington, NE.

The Majestic Theatre in Lexington, NE

If you grow up or live in a small town, you know how important it is to have a local movie theater.  Your theater is a place for people in the community to get together and have fun.  It’s a place for young people to go to on a date.  It’s the place where you make memories of those fun summer movies.

(Nope, I don’t have fond memories of the 13 times I saw Star Wars in the summer of 1977.  Nope, not me….)

I love the fact that here in Kearney we have The World Theatre, a revival/art house theater run by a community non-profit, that plays a great combination of vintage movies and films that would never play here otherwise.

These are things that people who live in urban areas can take for granted.

So I was really excited to read about a group of students in Lexington, Nebraska who worked over a several year period to purchase, renovate and restart their closed local movie theater, The Majestic. The article in the Kearney Hub newspaper today tells about a group of kids who started work in middle school trying to revive their local theater.  With the help of fund raisers, grants, construction classes, and big helping of community engagement, the venue is now open three nights a week showing first run movies like Pitch Perfect 2 and Tomorrowland.

The theater is being run as a non-profit with volunteers.

What a great gift to the town of Lexington, and what a great lesson to the young people who decided they wanted to make it happen!


Posted in Chapter 8 | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Everything is a Remix – “Wagon Wheel” Edition

I just went to see the band Old Crow Medicine Show about a week ago, and and I highly recommend seeing them if you have the chance.

They are particularly famous for the song “Wagon Wheel.”  Wait a minute, is that their song?

Well – the song is co-written by OCMS’s Ketch Secor and Bob Dylan.  How did Bob Dylan come into play? A bit of the chorus of the song comes from a bootleg recording by Dylan for a movie soundtrack recorded back in the 70s.

Ketch heard that fragment, in which Dylan mumbles quite a bit, and fleshed out the full song from it. Before Ketch started work on it, the song was known as “Rock Me Mama.”  It’s since been the signature song for OCMS.

But it was also a huge recent hit for Darius Rucker, former front man for Hootie and the Blow Fish. (And one of very few top country hits by an African American singer.)

But the roots of the song go back further – Dylan credits the words “Rock me, mama” to blues player Arhtur “Big Boy” Crudup.  And Crudup may have gotten the idea from a Big Bill Broony recording.

In short, you will see that the history of Wagon Wheel follows the themes disucssed in Everything is a Remix Part 1.  It’s not that “Wagon Wheel” isn’t an original song – it clearly is.  It’s just that almost everything in art and music owes a debt to what came before.

P.S. Devil Makes Three was the opening act for Old Crow, and they were fantastic!

Posted in Chapter 7 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

And We’re Back – Questions Worth Asking

Posted in Chapter 10, Chapter 5, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Site News | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How “Little Shop of Horrors” would have ended if Disney hadn’t forced a change

If you’ve ever had me for class, you know that as much of a Disney fan as I can be (Love Big Hero Six and Wreck It Ralph), I really hate what the studio has done to some classic stories.  (Don’t get me started on why I hate the Disney version of The Little Mermaid!)

Among the stories I think Disney has ruined is the wonderful man-eating-plant-horror-musical Little Shop of Horrors.  The play version is clearly a comic tragedy that ends with everyone dying and the hero Seymour learning the consequences of the sin of hubris. But in the Disney movie, Seymour kills the plant and everyone lives happily ever after. And the whole point of the story is lost.

But it didn’t have to be that way!

Director Frank Oz originally shot the movie with a version of the play’s ending. And here it is – with an extended dream sequence of one of my favorite songs from the movie:

Posted in Chapter 3 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

TBT – Siskel & Ebert talk about the movies

This is a reposting (with slight editing) of a post from four years ago.  Hard for me to come to terms with the fact that this presentation is from 20 years ago!

My JMC 406 commentary class is going to be talking about writing critical reviews over the next week or two.  Here are a couple of  readings and great talk by movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert for my students.  But for all of you thinking about reviewing, these materials are all great.  (And, please, take the time to watch the C-SPAN video of Siskel and Ebert talking to National Press Club back in 1995.  Get passed the complaints about Sen. Bob Dole and get to where they talk about what makes movies good or bad.)

Siskel & Ebert at the National Press Club

Posted in JMC 406 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Movie Links for my Media Literacy Students

We’ve been talking about the movies this week in my media literacy class, and I’ve shown a range of video clips, but there are even more clips that I haven’t had time to show.  So here are links to a host of links on the movies for you:

And finally

Posted in Chapter 8 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Columnists for your reading pleasure

Here are links to a number of columnists and columnist index pages from newspapers around the country for my JMC 406 commentary writing students, and anyone else who’s interested.  It has previously been published here in somewhat different form.

National Columnists

Commentary from newspapers around the United States:

Commentary from Nebraska newspapers:
Note: Many of the posts here are letters to the editor.  They are interesting, but they are not newspaper columns. If you use this link, check what you are reading carefully.

Posted in JMC 406 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Apple’s big announcement – oh yeah, and the Apple Watch

Everyone in the tech press is spending enormous numbers of electrons on the new Apple watch announced today.  Except it was really announced several months ago.  It will talk to your iPhone, it will track your activity, it will help you navigate, it will….

…run at most 18 hours before it needs to be hooked up to a charger, when it’s new, before the battery starts its slow march toward death.

And the price?  Any where from $350 for the entry-level Sport model all the way up to $10,000+ for the 18k gold Edition model.  Yes, more than $10,000 for a gold electronic device that will be obsolete in two years. (Buzz is that maybe the high-end watch is a great idea.  We’ll see.)

Apple Watches

Now I realize that I’m not anywhere near Apple’s target market for fancy/schmancy Edition watch. And I realize that I’m an incurable Apple fan boy.  But I have to admit that the Apple Watch loses me. I’m far more interested in the new Pebble Time smart watch that uses an eInk display that isn’t nearly as cool looking as the Apple display, but has the capability of running for up to a week between charges. (Only a lack of money is keeping me from pre-ordering the new Pebble.)

I’m sure Apple will sell a boatload of their watches (along with their new-and-improved laptops), but the thing that really struck me coming out of announcement was that HBO will be available without a cable subscription through the Apple TV streaming box. (Apple will reportedly have it as an exclusive for three months, then other providers will be able to sell it.)

I doubt that cable companies will ever be forced by the federal government to start selling al a carte cable channels (nor should they, in my view), but people who want to pick and choose a few select cable favorites are getting pretty close to being able to do that with streaming.  And in the long run, I think that’s going to be the big change that today brings (in part) to the media world landscape.


Posted in Chapter 10, Chapter 9 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Music for a Busy Day

Way too much to cover in class today to play all the music history videos I had scheduled, so here they are for your viewing and listening enjoyment.  Go from Elvis to Lennon & McCartney to Lennon and Maisy. This is a repost from March 6, 2014.

Here’s a collection of videos to take you through the early days of rock ‘n’ roll along with a few other choice bits of music.

Young Elvis Presley doing a live version of “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy” possibly from 1956.

Chuck Berry doing “Maybelline,” his adaptation of the fiddle tune “Ida Red.”

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles singing “What’s So Good About Goodbye.”

The single was from Hitsville U.S.A., which later became Motown.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, 1964.

An early video of The Who performing “The Kids Are Alright.”

Was there ever a better rock drummer than Keith Moon?

The Beatles, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Sugar Hill Gang doing “Rapper’s Delight.

Some old school bboying.

The opening of the Style Wars hip hop documentary

George Straight singling “What’s Going On In Your World” from 1989

and finally….

Lennon and Maisy doing their cover of Robyn’s “Call Your Girl Friend.”

Posted in Chapter 7 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment