What’s on Your New Year’s Eve Playlist?

Looking for something fun to fill your New Year’s Eve playlist? How about something from the Postmodern Jukebox?

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What’s a Postmodern Jukebox, you say.

According to The Huffington Post, Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox broke out in 2013.  Scott Bradlee is the creator of the viral phenomenon Postmodern Jukebox, a diverse group of musicians who have turned Ke$ha into country, given Justin Bieber a bit of swing and most recently garnered praise — and more than 4.3 million views, as of this writing — for replacing Miley Cyrus’ twerking with some classic doo wop.”

Still confused? Here’s Scott Bradlee & PMJ on TED.

I stumbled upon the Postmodern Jukebox while scrolling through Google Play for something new, which used to take me hours flipping through record bins at local Sam Goody’s or Sound of Market record stores. I was immediately hooked.

The song featured on Google Play that month was a Jazz cover of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” featuring Kate Davis on lead vocals and bass.

Fun, right?

Of course the first thing I did was create PMJ radio stations on Pandora and Spotify, which is how I first heard their 1950’s ‘sock hop’ style cover of Magic’s “Rude” featuring hyper animated vocalist, Von Smith, with Robyn Adele Anderson and Jen Kipley singing backups. There’s a stunning moment at 2:27 when Von cuts loose. He hits and holds an impressive high note. It’s a little touch that makes this cover worth it.

If you listen closely, you might notice that Von Smith’s voice is reminiscent of 80s Star Search winner, Sam Harris, with whom Von sang a duet in 2010.

Led by Scott Bradlee, the Postmodern Jukebox is a rotating collection of musicians and singers who produce covers of pop songs in various styles of music; such as jazz, swing, doo-wop, and gospel.

One of the things I like about PMJ is their creativity. Their ragtime cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”, with Robyn Adele Anderson’s camp vocals, is incredibly fun.

Turning Jason Derulo & Snoop Dogg’s “Wiggle” into a 1920s ‘Broadway’ number takes guts.  But taking the Guns & Roses classic, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and rearranging it into New Orleans jazz style Mardis Gras anthem was a stroke of genius! Having the remarkable Miche Braden belt out the lyrics doesn’t hurt.

Guns and who?

Speaking of New Orleans, PMJ took Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One” and turned it inside out. Sink your teeth into this vintage New Orleans jazz cover featuring Casey Abrams.

I don’t know what I was doing on 2013 that I didn’t take notice. Though, it’s probably better that I found PMJ after they’ve accumulated a decent catalog of music. I’d hate to think I might have written them off after hearing the Miley Cyrus cover.

I’ll leave you with the PMJ cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”, in the style of a vintage Irish Tenor, featuring Mitchell Jarvis and Robyn Adele Anderson. I love the underlying campiness of this version. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also pretty good.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Hope 2015 brings peace, love, happiness and plenty of chances to “get lucky”! 😉


 

Bonus Track!

Scott Bradlee and the Postmodern Jukebox covers Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” in a “Great Gatsby” ragtime style, featuring Robyn Adele Anderson and, as always, Mr Bradlee on keyboards.

For more Scott Bradlee & PMJ, check out ScottBradleeLovesYa on YouTube.

Cheers!

‘Tis The Season for Warm Fuzzies! …and a couple of Capra Classics.

Tis the season for family, friends, and lots of warm fuzzies. But like almost everyone else I know, I haven’t been feeling very warm or fuzzy lately. So, when the warm glow of the season starts to sputter and dim, I do what any self respecting sentimental cinephile does. I turn to classic Hollywood.

When it comes to classic Hollywood, no one did warm and fuzzy quite like Frank Capra.

Ask anyone for a list of their favorite holiday movies and somewhere on the list you’ll probably find Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for most of your life, It’s a Wonderful Life is the 1946 Frank Capra classic, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Thomas Mitchell, Lionel Barrymore, and a cast of Hollywood mainstays. It’s explained by IMDB as “An angel (Clarence, played by Henry Travers) helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman, George Bailey (Stewart), by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

While watching ‘Wonderful Life’ for the umteen-hundredth time the other night, I couldn’t help a despairing feeling that bank CEOs apparently haven’t changed since 1946. Lionel Barrymore’s Mr Potter could very well be the CEO of Citi Group or Goldman Sachs.

‘Wonderful Life’ is an excellent movie with a superb cast but I always feel a little sad for George Bailey. He dreams of someday seeing the world but spends his entire life being the responsible citizen, putting the needs and wants of others ahead of himself. Indeed, if uncle Billy hadn’t been so careless George might not have considered such desperate measures. The extreme nature of George’s crisis is probably what makes the ending so effective. It’s why we root for George Bailey. He’s our ‘everyman’ who fights the system and wins.

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Trivia: Thomas Mitchell (Wonderful Life’s Uncle Billy) plays Judge Henry Blake in Pocketful of Miracles


On the other end of the spectrum is Capra’s Pocketful of Miracles (1961) which, in my humble opinion, because of it’s bright view of the world and almost absurd optimism, is a better representation of the spirit of the season.

In Miracles, gangster Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford) and his girlfriend Queenie (Hope Lange) try to turn pan handler Apple Annie (Bette Davis) into a society dame when they learn that Annie’s daughter (Ann-Margret) is coming to visit from Spain with her fiance, a royal. The storyline is convoluted and far-fetched but it hits all the right bells and whistles.

What appeals to me about Pocketful of Miracles is it’s charm. Unlike the seriousness of It’s a Wonderful Life, Pocketful of Miracles is utter nonsense. It’s how we wish the real world worked. It’s a sickeningly sweet saccharine saga full of hope and improbable expectations and I love every single minute of it!

large_pocketful_of_miracles_02_blu-ray_So, whether you’re a George Bailey or an Apple Annie, I want to wish everyone a Happy and Joyous Holiday!

May 2015 bring Peace, Love, Happiness, and Good Health to all.

The Wanamaker…er…Macy’s Christmas Light Show

Macy_'s AdIt’s that time of year again…

Walk into Macy’s at 13th and Market Streets (formerly John Wanamaker’s department store) from November 28 through December 31 and you’ll see crowds of people standing in the grand court staring upward at the now famous Christmas Light Show.

Yes, that’s Julie Andrews you hear.

I remember seeing the original show for the first time as a child. I could not have been more than 3 or 4 years old. The happy music, blinking lights and dancing water fountain seemed like magic to me. My grandmother then took me a few blocks east to Gimbel’s department store for a walk through the Christmas village and ultimately, a visit with Santa Claus.

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Christmas 1967 (I was two)

I thought it would be interesting to compare the Wanamaker’s and Macy’s productions. While I like the updated version, I do miss the dancing water fountains.

The original John Wanamaker’s Christmas Light Show (archival recording 1983)

The Philadelphia John Wanamaker’s department store premiered their iconic Christmas Light Show in 1955. The show, a large music and light display several stories high, is viewable from several levels of the Philadelphia landmark. Its popularity as a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike ensured a continuous run, even after the building changed ownership from Wanamaker’s to Lord & Taylor, and now Macy’s. The show was narrated for decades by Philadelphia’s own John Facenda, locally known for reporting the news on radio and television, as well as nationally as the voice of NFL Films. Various announcers narrated the show between 1995 and 2005. Beginning in 2006, under Macy’s, Julie Andrews became the show’s narrator.

In 2007, the entire Christmas Light Show was completely modernized and rebuilt by Macy’s Parade Studio on new trusses with lighter materials and LED lighting. In 2008, a new and bigger Magic Christmas Tree with LED lights debuted. However, due to safety concerns and logistical issues, the dancing water fountains were retired and will not return.


 

John Wanamaker Christmas Show from the 1980’s.



 

The Updated Macy’s Christmas Light Show (2013)

“The updated holiday show, titled “Christmas Pageant of Lights,” features narration by the actress Julie Andrews” –  via hdampf007

According to Friends of the Wanamaker Organ at Macy’s website, the light show program is as follows…

Greg Sonsini has compiled a list below of music used in the Light Show. Help is requested in finding the artists of those works not yet identified. Please e-mail us at execdirec@wanamakerorgan.com if you can add details.

  1. Opening fanfare during John Facenda’s/Julie Andrews’ introduction: Provenance unknown.
  2. Selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite-specifically “Overture,” “Waltz of the Flowers,” and “Closing Waltz,” played during the Nutcracker storyline. Album unknown.
  3. “In The Clock Store” by Charles Orth (1893), which is played during the Clock segment.  The version used in the Light Show comes from an album titled “The Sound Of Musical Pictures” (1960).  It was arranged by Ralph Hermann and played by the Medallion Concert Band. Walt Disney adapted the piece for one of his Silly Symphonies in 1931. You may here it on YouTube here.
  4. “Alpine Sleigh Ride” by Frank Chacksfield and his Orchestra, played during the Snowflake sequence.
  5. “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  6. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, later replaced by “The Rudi Bear Song” (part of a Teddy Bear promotion), played during the candy cane, toy soldier and toy drum segment.
  7. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” by an unknown artist played during the Santa Express Train segment.
  8. “Frosty the Snowman,” by the Ray Conniff Singers.
  9. A snippet of “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music” movie soundtrack, played during the fading of the snowmen.
  10. “O Tannenbaum” by the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra played during the final lighting of the entire board. This was replaced in 1988 by “Deck the Halls” by an artist that I have not been able to identify. The arrangement is by Carmen Dragon and has been adopted for the Wanamaker Organ (with grateful assistance from Mr. Dragon’s daughter) by Peter Richard Conte.

 

Christmas ButtFor more information, see the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ website.

You can find some interesting archival photos from Temple University

Also visit U Wish U NU

 

 

RIP Lauren Bacall

 

I just heard that Lauren Bacall died today at age 89

In my mind, Bogart has been waiting patiently since 1957 to reunite with the love of his life, so when Betty (Lauren) showed up in Heaven it must have looked something like this scene from Dark Passage (1947).

“Reality…What A Concept” Remembering Robin Williams

The news of Robin’s death was such a shock. I’m still having a difficult time believing that it’s true.

There are people who touch our lives in such profound, undefinable ways. Robin Williams was one of them. He made us laugh, but he also made us think. He made us question things while we were laughing at them.

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams

Like many Americans, I first saw Robin Williams in an episode of Happy Days called My Favorite Orkan. My six year old sister was madly in love with Henry Winkler’s Fonzie so we never missed an episode. So when Mork and Mindy debuted the following fall, it was naturally added to our viewing line up.

31CY4KZFFELWhile my family was gathered around the tube watching the weekly adventures of Robin and Pam Dawber, my friends and I were memorizing the jokes form the “Reality…What a Concept” LP, a live recording of Robin’s 1978 Roxy performance.

Through the years, Robin Williams has brought us nothing but happiness. News of his death was a complete shock. I still can’t believe it.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” – Robin Williams

 Rest in peace, sir.

Things To Do In Philly When The Internet Goes Down.

You never really understand how much of your life is dependent upon the internet until it’s not there anymore.

For almost a month, my internet has been suffering drop outs and sluggish speeds. It’s been a nightmare for which I’ve been preparing a long vengeful blog post that, because of outlandish accusations and rough profanity, will probably never be published in it’s entirety.

We did find productive things to do around the house while the internet was down. Sunglasses are now required in the bathroom because the bathtub sparkles so brightly! 😎

In our downtime we caught a few good movies, some of which I share with you here.

I happened to catch a late night broadcast of Crime and Punishment (1935) starring Peter Lorre, on GetTV (one of the myriad broadcast movie channels that have been popping up lately.) I’ve never seen this early adaptation. Lorre is brilliant. Strangely enough, this version is not available on Netflix but it is available in it’s entirety on Youtube.

“The story goes that Peter Lorre wanted to star in the film version of the Dostoyevsky novel, but was certain that Columbia Pictures chieftain Harry Cohn would turn the project down. So Lorre hired a secretary to type up a synopsis of the story in words of one syllable then submitted this simplified resume to Cohn. Enthusiastic over the project, Cohn gave Lorre the go-ahead — but first he asked “Tell me —  has this book got a publisher?”” – Hal Erickson (Rovi)

Whether true or not, that rumor makes for good entertainment.

Here’s the movie, in it’s entirety. Bookmark it. Save it for when you’re looking for something good to watch.

Out of the Furnace (2013) stars Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker and Casey Afleck (yes, THAT Afleck). When police stop looking for his missing veteran brother, Russell Baze takes matters into his own hands.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but clearly not anything as deep and thoughtful as this flick turned out to be. It’s slow to unfold but it’s good story telling. Woody Harrelson is creepy as hell.

While we’re on the subject of Christian Bale… If you haven’t seen American Hustle (2013), put it on your list. it’s a great piece of entertainment that’s loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s. I don’t know why people love to hate this film so much. I enjoyed it. The clothes and the cars alone gave me flashbacks.

Warm Bodies (2013) A zombie saves a teenager. They fall in love and save the world. What’s not to love? Even the Romeo and Juliet references that get shamelessly thrown in your face didn’t manage to ruin the film for me. It’s cheesy, pop corn chomping fun.

The Call (2013) How can you go wrong with Halle Berry? A 911 operator gets a call from a kidnapped teen. This is a joyride movie! It had me shouting at the screen.

The 2014 Robocop reboot was a lot better than I had expected. It’s still silly and a bit of a stretch for suspension of disbelief, but it was good entertainment. Perhaps I’m just a little biased. I’ve been a huge fan of Gary Oldman since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, one of my all time favorite films.

I started following Simon Pegg on twitter long before I learned of his incredible career as an actor/writer/comedian. Seriously, I had no idea. That was almost four years ago. Since then I’ve gotten all caught up. I’ve enjoyed him in everything from Shaun of the Dead to Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, Star Trek and everything in between. On Monday night we had the pleasure of watching A Fantastic Fear of Everything. It’s about a crime writer whose research has turned him into a paranoid mess. It’s a little strange but bizarrely funny. Pegg spends half of the movie in his underwear chasing his imagination. The running gag is incredibly funny.

Thankfully, our internet trouble has been dealt with. Everything is running smoothly. We sacrificed a goat and danced around in circles naked while singing the alphabet song backwards. That seemed to have appeased the internet gods. …for now. 😉

Bonus Material…

Everything Wrong With Robocop (1987) in 7 Minutes or Less. by CinemaSins

 And finally…

Simon Pegg rapping old school style in ‘A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Oh, fair warning. The following clip is probably not safe for work.

 

Summer Detour

Gallery

This gallery contains 22 photos.

So, over the week of July 4th we took a drive through New Jersey in what seems to be a new tradition. — Though, putting it in writing will probably put an end to it.   We chose the hottest … Continue reading