Friday, June 25, 2004

Actors who sing vs singers who act

Why is it that we are more accepting of singers who try to become actors than we are of actors who try to become singers?

Look at all of the singers who have gone on to have successful acting careers, even going so far as to win Oscar recognition for their work:

Bing Crosby - Best Actor for “Going My Way”
Frank Sinatra - Best Supporting Actor for “From Here To Eternity”
Barbara Streisand - Best Actress for “Funny Girl”
Diana Ross - Oscar nominee for “Lady Sings the Blues”
Cher - Best Actress for “Moonstruck”
Will Smith - Oscar nominee for “Ali”
Queen Latifah - Oscar nominee for “Chicago”

And then there are others who went on to have solid film careers:

Dean Martin
Tina Turner
Dolly Parton
Olivia Newton John
Kris Kristofferson
Mark Wahlburg
Jennifer Lopez
Whitney Houston
Ice Cube

Even Elvis Presley and Madonna have had better film careers than most actors have had singing careers. Oh, you will have the occassional singer whose movie will bomb - like Maria Carey in Glitter or anything Britney Spears has been in so far. But given time they may eventually get a good role and suddenly they are respectable.

Now compare that with the derision and scorn that is heaped on actors who dare try to record their voices on anything other than a novelty record:

Eddie Murphy
Bruce Willis
David Hasselhoff
William Shatner
Leonard Nimoy
Jennifer Love Hewitt

Even the ones who avoid singing and opt to just play bass guitar with a band like Kenau Reeves and Russell Crowe are given no respect.

I can think of only one actor who went on to have any success as a singer. That would be Jim Nabors (i.e. Gomer Pyle) who became popular on the gospel circuit.
Am I leaving anyone out?

Why are we so picky about our singers, but not so much with acting?

I figure it is because we tend to listen to songs over and over again, but we don’t watch a particular perfromance in a movie with the same amount of repitition. I’m sure the first time most people heard Eddie Murphy’s song “Party All the Time” they probably thought it was pretty good, but by the 10th or 20th time it starts to wear thin.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Top movie songs

The American Film Institute’s latest list purports to reveal the top 100 songs in movies during the past 100 years.

The top 10:
Over the Rainbow (THE WIZARD OF OZ)
As Time Goes By (CASABLANCA)
Singin' In The Rain (SINGIN' IN THE RAIN)
Mrs. Robinson (THE GRADUATE)
When You Wish Upon a Star (PINOCCHIO)
The Way We Were (THE WAY WE WERE)
The Sound of Music (THE SOUND OF MUSIC).

As always, I could quibble with the order. For instance, I would bump up Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” ahead of “Moon River” and I wouldn’t include “The Way We Were” or “Stayin’ Alive” in my Top 10.

But my biggest gripe, as always, is with the blatant ommissions. Looking over the list of 400 nominated songs there are quite of few deserving tunes that didn’t make the cutoff for the Top 100. Most significantly, in my opinion, are the Disney and Pixar tunes:

Chim Chim Cher-ee (Mary Poppins)
The Bare Necessities (Jungle Book)
Friend Like Me (Aladdin)
Under the Sea (The Little Mermaid)
Whistle While You Work (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves)
You’ve Got A Friend In Me (Toy Story)

Then there are these shocking ommissions:

If I Only Had A Brain (Wizard of Oz)
Ghostbusters (Ghostbusters)
I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow (O Brother, Where Art Thou?)
Live and Let Die (Live and Let Die)
The Time Warp (Rocky Horror Picture Show)
You’re the One That I Want (Grease)

And finally, songs that were not even on the list of 400 nominees:

Spoonful of Sugar (Mary Poppins)
Oompa Loompa (Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)
The Maladjusted Jester (The Court Jester)
Yellow Submarine (Yellow Submarine)

I’m sure I will think of more...

Pink Elephants on Parade (Dumbo)

Monday, June 21, 2004

Rowland pays while Bush plays

The resignation of Connecticut Gov. John Rowland was probably inevitable and therefore not surprising. If anything, I was mostly surprised that he held on for so long in today’s media culture where the hint of a scandal can sometimes produce a feeding frenzy.

But this wasn’t really a feeding frenzy, at least not on a national level. The charges leveled against Rowland - that he lied about getting gifts and favors from friends, state contractors and state employees - didn’t get too many people excited outside of the Nutmeg State.

I had an inkling that it would come to this, however, because of my personal experience with the typical Connecticut Yankee’s intolerance for these types of scandals. In April of 1992, I was working as a young reporter for a chain of weekly papers along the Connecticut coastline.

Once I was called to fill in for a vacationing reporter at one of the papers and cover a legal hearing in the upscale community of Madison where the local chief of police was in the process of being drummed out of his job. His crime? When the department got new police cruisers from a local dealer (Three 1991 Ford Crown Victoria’s), the chiefs car came with a trunk-mounted, 10-disc compact disc player that the dealer had thrown in.

Now this was back when having a cd player in a car was still kind of unique, and a 10-disc changer was something out of Star Wars. At the hearing I covered, the prosecuting attorney grilled the local dealer about how much the 10-disc changer cost (he refused to say) at a time when AM/FM radios with cassette decks was the standard.
I remember sitting there watching this hearing unfold thinking ‘What’s the big deal’? But obviously folks in Connecticut took this kind of stuff very seriously.

So when I saw what Rowland was charged with I knew his days were numbered. Here is the NYTimes summary:

“(Rowland’s wealthy friends) fixed up his cottage in bucolic Litchfield, where Connecticut's movers and shakers summer, complete with a hot tub given to him by a state employee. The governor got thousands of dollars in Cuban cigars and French champagne, a vintage Ford Mustang convertible and free or discounted vacations at the estates of friends -- contractors who won substantial business from the state.”

So while I’m not trying to defend what Rowland did, I think I can say that a certain former Texas Governor should be thankful that the folks in the Lone Star State were much more lenient about such things.