Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sucked in by Schlesinger

"Do you want to go see Cry-Baby the musical?" my friend Steve asks me.

"They're doing Cry-Baby on Broadway?" I ask, trying to remember if I ever actually saw the Johnny Depp/John Waters movie, or if I just read a really long article about it in Premiere in the spring of 1990.

"Adam Schlesinger is doing the music," Steve says -- and that's all I need to hear.

I don't go to Broadway shows very often -- I'm not positive, but I think my last one was "Spamalot" two and a half years ago -- but as soon as Steve mentioned Schlesinger was involved, I was in.

You see, Schlesinger is one of those automatics for me. He's one of the frontmen for Fountains of Wayne, probably my favorite band (I'm a sucker for catchy power-pop). You might know them from the ubiquitous 2003 video for "Stacy's Mom".

He wrote the title track from "That Thing You Do," and it requires a special kind of genius to craft a song that's going to play, in full or in part, nearly a dozen different times in the space of a two-hour movie that not only doesn't drive you crazy, but actually sounds better each successive time you hear it. (The movie itself is fun, but if it wasn't for that damn song, I doubt it would be on so many people's lists of Movies You Must Always Stop And Watch When You Stumble Across It On Cable.) He performed a similar feat with "Way Back Into Love," the song at the center of the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore romcom "Music and Lyrics" (YouTube has both an early version from the film and the polished final version), which is another tune that burrows its way into your brain in the least annoying way possible.

(Note: Schlesinger did not, in fact, write "Pop Goes My Heart," the hilarious Wham! parody that's the other key song from that movie, but the video is worth watching anyway just to see Scott "Street from Friday Night Lights" Porter as the George Michael of the group.)

I'll even listen to other bands if I hear they're playing a Schlesinger-penned tune, like the Click Five's "Just the Girl," which somehow straddles the line between Fountains of Wayne and Backstreet Boys.

Now, "Cry-Baby" is still being tinkered with in previews, so I shouldn't say much about the show, save that I had a good time and spent the trip home humming several of the songs (which were co-written by "Daily Show" head writer David Javerbaum).

But I bring this up not only because I've been wandering around the house most of today singing snatches of "Way Back Into Love," but because I know that everybody has their automatic pop culture people, the sort where, if you here they're involved in a project, you're going to check it out, no questions asked. It can be a big star or a director or a band, or it can be somebody less obvious. I have a friend who's a cinematography buff who will slap down 10 bucks to see any movie Roger Deakins has photographed, for instance.

Since we're in a bloggy lull while we wait for the TV season to come fully back to life, I figured it was time for another open thread, so who gets your money, every time?


Anonymous said...

Joss Whedon, hands down.

Anna said...

Oh yes, Roger Deakins is one of my favorite cinematographers as well, but I wouldn't see just anything for him.

I second Joss Whedon, most definitely. Also, if Danny Boyle directed it, or Kate Winslet is acting in it, I am so there.

Jeff said...

Anything Christian Bale acts in. I haven't seen him do a bad project yet.

R.A. Porter said...

I was going to say Lord Joss myself, and then I remembered that even he couldn't get me to pick up Astonishing X-Men. The rest of his comics, absolutely, but I don't have the stomach for that mutant soap opera.

Rob Thomas, probably.

Ronald Moore for the foreseeable future.

Going back to comics (where Joss failed me) I guess Matt Fraction can basically do no wrong. Eventually, someone's going to give him a dump truck full of money to write a movie or TV show and I'll be there.

Harlan Ellison (and I even watched his not-so-good episode of last summer's Masters of Science Fiction, "The Discarded". I contributed mightily to my bookseller's college fund for his kids back when I was in college, buying books I had no business spending money on.

Anonymous said...

Before Studio 60, I would have said Aaron Sorkin. Much love for A Few Good Men, American President, Sports Night and West Wing. But Studio 60 was terrible and I didn't end up seeing the Farnsworth Invention on Broadway because of it. He is no longer automatic, at least not where the tickets are so expensive. I still haven't seen Charlie Wilson's War but I fully intend to.

Cry Baby needs some work but it was pretty entertaining. Good work yet again by Schlesinger.

To catch a glimpse of the present and future of musical theater (or entertainment generally) go see Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights." He hasn't written anything else yet but I will automatically go see it when he does.

Anonymous said...

Kurt Vonnegut (RIP)
The Coen Brothers
Donald Sutherland
Burt Lancaster
Edward Norton
Werner Herzog
Johnny Depp (Before all you poseurs jumped on the bandwagon with those pirate movies)
Michael Chabon
Joseph Heller
Sam Peckinpah
Clint Eastwood

Whew... Oh yeah! Bill Murray (live action only)

Matt said...

Interesting that you liked Cry-Baby, which theatre message boards I frequent have pretty much universally panned.

A few folks who get my (at least initial) viewership regardless, even if some of them have failed recently:

J.J. Abrams (at least as a writer/director, if not as a producer)
Aaron Sorkin
Greg Berlanti
Stephen Spielberg
Mitchell Hurwitz
Gary Ross
Christopher Guest/Eugene Levy

Anonymous said...

Long time lurker, but I couldn't resist.

Definitely Joss Whedon. I even read the first 10 issues of Astonishing X-Men and I am not a Marvel gal (Batman all the way, people!)

Bruce Springsteen. I've seen him live 7 times and he always delivers. Plus his work just keeps getting better.

Paul Newman. I haven't seen even close to everything he's ever done, but I know it's always going to be a great performance.

Stephen Sondheim. Sadly, I can no longer afford to go to the theater, but he is the greatest musical theater composer of all time, imo. No one else is even in the ballpark.

Slightly off-topic - if you're a power pop fan (one of my all time favorite genres) may I recommend the dB's and The Shoes? Two of the very best power pop bands that ever were.

Anonymous said...

There are a bunch of actors who I'd say that about in theory, but I don't always come through. But among the ones at the top are Cate Blanchett, Chris Cooper, Hope Davis, Matt Damon and Toni Collette. (Off the top of my head.)

Michelle Yeoh I can actually say I will see anything she appears in.

Rob Thomas and Joss Whedon (leaving comics out of it, although if I did buy comics, I'd buy his). J. Michael Strazcyinski would also count if he came back to TV.

Brad Bird, Hayao Miyazaki, Peter Jackson (yes, even after King Kong) and Robert Altman (RIP)

A couple of obscure ones - there's a Korean director named Ki-Duk Kim who I'm very much into.

And anything Buddy Miller (country singer/songwriter/producer) is involved in will be good. He's best known for working with Emmylou Harris (who's also on my list), but it's all good.

Anonymous said...

Ooo, yes, Brad Bird.

ripvanruben said...

Oh my list for this sort of thing could be endless but here goes:

Robyn Hitchcock - even when he's off he's still bizarrely interesting.

Robert Pollard - Yes this means i have buy like 10 records year from him but there is always some gems buried in there.

Joss Whedon - Although Dollhouse has me worried as it sound like an Alias rehash.

Anonymous said...

In no particular order:

Bruce Campbell (and when I say anything, I mean *anything*--I've even seen some of his early short films)
R.E.M. (as a band and as individual members)
Jeremy Irons
John Cusack
Ralph Fiennes
The Coen Brothers
Peter Jackson
Sam Raimi
Café Tacuba
Cary Grant
Brad Bird
Pixar (does that count? Because I see anything I can of theirs--like I used to do with Disney, heh)

R.A. Porter said...

Oh duh!!! I'm with Dez. If The Chin acts in it, directs it, writes it, or sings it, I'm there.

Unknown said...

john darnielle, fowwww showwwww.

and yeah, goes without saying, joss whedon. david gordon green too. i suppose judd apatow, but not the "slap his name on it as executive producer" ones. and i guess jacob aaron estes, if he ever did anything else after "mean creek."

thinking up this list and realizing i have no women in it makes me feel kinda sexist.

bill said...

For authors, Neal Stephenson is probably my only 100% guarantee to purchase. Picked up Zodiac 20 years ago and I'll buy anything with his name on it. If Poppy Z. Brite starts writing again, I'll probably buy.

In music, it's John Wesley Harding, Paul Westerberg, Laura Love, and PJ Harvey.

Don't go to movies like I used to so Terry Gilliam might be the only one I'd check out with no knowledge of the product. Coen brothers are close, though I've missed a few of their recent movies. If Whedon does more Firefly I'm there, anything else gets a wait and see. Can't think of an actor that'll get me in the door based on name alone.

In the Atlanta restaurant world, I'll eat anything Richard Blais puts in front of me: foie gras milkshake (best taste sensation EVAR!), charred octopus that were so cute we gave them names before eating them (yum), sweetbreads (not my thing, but not bad), stuff so weird I can't even describe it (more, please), he even got me to eat peas (oh, is this what they're supposed to taste like?) which normally make me ill just thinking about them.

bill said...

And whenever I make it back to New Orleans, I'm eating at The Delachaise.

Anonymous said...

While you're waiting for new shows to blog could you make the last season of the Sopranos available since they are rerunning them on AE? The link to the paper doesn't work.

Guen and me said...

People who guarantee that I will purchase/watch/read/etc.?

Authors: Laurell K. Hamilton

Actor & Director: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton (I will see the stuff they make independantly of each other, but if they're working together then it's a must see!)

TV: Joss Whedon is a must. Greg Berlanti and Rob Thomas are rapidly becoming must sees.

Music: Eh...I used to buy based on artist but anymore I only buy the songs I like and I don't really have any must listens.

Anonymous said...

KEVIN SMITH! 'Nuff said!

Anonymous said...

You should have asked us first - we saw it here in summer.... You probably would have been a little less excited. Hope it got at least somewhat better in transition to B'way.

But you just like Schlesinger because of Stacy's Mom....

Your sis

Karen said...

Joss Whedon. Ernst Lubitsch. Preston Sturges. Any comic by Brian K Vaughan or Alan Moore.

Anything with James McAvoy or Christopher Eccleston.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with some earlier choices - Aaron Sorkin, Bruce Campbell (but NOT Bubahotep), Kurt Vonnegut.
I add some very old school/expensive choices - I'm still a sucker for The Who, though the ticket prices are ridiculous, Patrick Stewart and John Hiatt.

Greg said...

Robyn Hitchcock

Ben Edlund

Brian K. Vaughan (though at this point I'm waiting until Lost is done, at which point I'll catch it all on DVD)

Bernard Herrmann

Carter Burwell

PJ Harvey (though White Chalk is making me reconsider her spot on the list)

Alan Sepinwall said...

My friend Phil pointed out to me that "Spamalot" was not, in fact, the last Broadway show I saw before this one. In between, I saw "The Drowsy Chaperone," and even blogged about it.

Anonymous said...

David Sedaris.

Z said...

Sorkin is still an automatic to me, even if Studio 60 made me sad. I did re-watch the entire series on DVD and when you remove expectations and resign yourself to it being a swing and a miss, it's still pretty good. Just not nearly as awesome as it should've been. I did see both Farnsworth and Charlie Wilson over Christmas and both were still worth it. Sorkin lives.

JJ and Berlanti are my new automatics. Felicity is the only JJ-produced series I've not seen, and that includes the online-only eps of Six Degrees. Knowing Berlanti was the guy behind "Pacey kisses Joey" has only deepened my admiration for his current work.

After Deadwood, I will follow David Milch. I'm probably the only guy here who will be buying the John From Cincy DVD last week cuz I loved it. Should Last Of The Ninth go, I'll be there too.

In film, Scorsese, Cameron Crowe, and Kevin Smith get me every time. In literature, it's Nick Hornby and Tom Perrotta... although Hornby's A Long Way Down and his YA novel SLAM were not really a step forward.

On the flip side, has anybody ever followed a potential automatic and gotten burned? I was very big on Bryan Fuller after Pushing Daisies and his Heroes work, but I hated Wonderfalls when I Netflixed it, and Dead Like Me left me apathetic.

Shawn Anderson said...

Yes - Joss Whedon. I guess The Dollhouse better deliver.

Michael Cera: has yet to disappoint (he's young, there's still time)

I second Brian K. Vaughn - so far his contributions to Lost have been pretty good, to add to his comic book triumphs Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina.

Jonathan Lethem: Although it remains to be seen how well his work gets adapted (Motherless Brooklyn, Fortress of Solitude, Tonight at Noon, As She Climbed Across the Table, You Don't Love Me Yet are all projects in the works)

Jon Brion has hands that spin gold.
As Film Composer: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, I Heart Huckabees
As Producer-Collaborator: Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, Kanye West, Spoon, David Byrne, Eels, Robyn Hitchcock... too many to mention.
Solo - his live at Largo shows are truly amazing
Stephen Malkmus: Anything he touches as well (solo, Pavement, Silver Jews, The Crust Bros. SubUrbia, I'm Not There)
Scott McCaughey: (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, Robyn Hitchcock, R.E.M., The Squirrels, Liz Phair)

Anonymous said...

In literature Harlan Ellison even though his output has declined considerably Stephen King had a great run Movies-Quentin Tarantino and at one time Martin Scorsese. Actors - there was a time when DeNiro could absolutely do no wrong but that almost feels like a memory now.
Music - no one is consistent anymore. I guess XTC if they ever released something new. TV-the Lost guys, anything by David Milch. Oh I forgot-actors I have to agree with Christian Bale-one of our best.

Anonymous said...

Music - Matthew Ryan, Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel.

Films - Scorsese, James L. Brooks (though I did get burned on Spanglish), Spike Lee and Le Brothers Coen

TV - Ricky Gervais, Joss Whedon,

Anonymous said...

Bruce Springsteen
Paul Westerberg
Jeff Tweedy
Billy Bragg
Joss Whedon
David Simon
David Chase
Ricky Gervais
Larrt David
Viggo Mortenson
JK Rowling

Anything zombie-related, movie or book, it has to be pretty awful for me not to give it a chance. I'm a sucker for the undead.

Anonymous said...

thinking up this list and realizing i have no women in it makes me feel kinda sexist.

Crap, can't believe I forgot Courtney Love and PJ Harvey!

@andrea, why no love for Bubba Ho-Tep?

Alan Sepinwall said...

@andrea, why no love for Bubba Ho-Tep?

Don't want to speak for Andrea -- and I personally liked the movie -- but I can see how even a die-hard fan of The Chin might have trouble warming to it. It's incredibly slow, and in many ways might have been served better as a short film than something feature length (even a 90 minute one).

Marengo Main Street said...

Clive Owen.

hujhax said...

Edgar Wright, maybe? After Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I'll show up for the next thing he cooks up....