Friday, August 31, 2007

Video Killed The Radio Star (Again)

I love OverClocked Remix. As a fan of video game music, it's always fun when a homemade remix turns up and completely changes the way you think about the original piece.

My favorite type of remix is the type that includes vocal work; lyrics just add that little extra something that can make an already-great remix even better. So I thought I'd share the ones that rule my playlist:

The Ken Song by jdproject: This one caught me completely by surprise - what could you possibly do with a Street Fighter 2 theme? But Joe Darwish transforms it into an energetic, ultra-catchy pop-rock affair, and I just adore it.

Dreaming Still by pixietricks: Jillian Goldin is one of OCR's best vocalists, and her remake of Noriko Mitose's "Radical Dreamers" is a huge improvement over the placid original theme. The last thirty seconds or so always confuse me, because the sudden swerve up-tempo comes out of nowhere, but it's still excellent.

Dragon Song by Harmony: Despite being unfamiliar with the source material, I find I can appreciate Brandon Bush's solid vocals and masterful piano/guitar work on their own.

Journey's End by pixietricks: Another one by Jillian Goldin, this time remixing the Gagazet theme of "Final Fantasy X" into a love song that perfectly captures post-game Tidus and Yuna.

Smooth Steel by malcos: A while back, OCR held a Vocal Remix competition - the "Metal Man" theme from "Mega Man 2" was revamped, and various vocalists submitted their own lyrics/vocals. Though Jillian Goldin won the competition, I've always preferred Stephen Malcolm-Howell's version; he does a lot more with the arrangement.

Summoner's Love by DragonAvenger: There's something delightfully appropriate about DragonAvenger remixing a "Final Fantasy X" song; her voice reminds me quite a bit of Rikki, the Japanese folk singer who performed "Suteki da ne" for the same game. DragonAvenger takes the Besaid theme - a very laid-back melody to begin with - and threads her voice through it quite seamlessly. It does get a bit repetitive towards the end, but I like it nonetheless.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Oh, and by the way...

Sorry about being MIA lately... I've started a new job and the training schedule is insane. It hasn't left me much time to blog, read or do just about anything that isn't work-related, though I'm trying to post at least once a week at the Savage Critics (most recent review was DD #99; Brubaker continues to infuriate me by being consistently good enough that I have nothing constructive to say about him).

Some comments about movies I saw over the weekend:

Disturbia: Does what it says on the tin, I suppose. It might be that I've grown accustomed to mindfucks, but this came off as a little too straightforward, in that the killer is so obviously the killer. Still, it has some nice moments, and the cast is comprised of actors who aren't so high-profile that their presence damages the atmosphere (this being one of the reasons "Scream" did as well as it did).

As an aside, I find Shia LeBeouf intriguing; a few days after "Disturbia", I realized LeBeouf had played Chaz in that horrible, horrible Keanu Reeves version of "Constantine", and was pretty much the only bright spot in a two-hour miseryfest. If I had to narrow down his appeal to a single factor, I'd say it's the way he projects both vulnerability and rage, so that you don't know whether to cuddle him or hit the deck. Like I said, intriguing.

The Joy Luck Club: I'm planning a double-shot review of the film and the original novel at a later date, but suffice to say, I loved it. The format, the way the tales intertwine across two (sometimes three) generations of women, the sharp contrasts drawn between the Chinese mothers and their American daughters... it's a very powerful, very moving tapestry of stories.

The Simpsons: Honestly? I never expected it to be so funny. IMO, the show's heyday had come and gone, and suddenly this movie comes out and nails every single humorous and parodical moment. I laughed my ass off, and left the theatre hoping the movie would give the show a shot in the arm. Who knows, maybe it will.

And finally, some notes about the upcoming TV season. I'm waiting until early October to do the big premiere round-up - "Weeds" has already started airing, but "Heroes", "Supernatural" and "Dexter" aren't scheduled for another month or so, and "Jericho" doesn't even have a relaunch date. The plan for mid-season will be a little different this year, as I'm going to focus on the following new series: "Chuck", "Burn Notice", "Reaper", "Bionic Woman", "Pushing Daisies" and "The Sarah Connor Chronicles". Basically, I don't want to get attached to series destined for premature cancellation (fans of "The Dresden Files" and "Drive" probably understand where I'm coming from), so it's "wait and see" for the lot of them.

*rubs eyes*

Damn. They did it. They actually went through with it.

Kudos, ATWT. One small step for Van Hansis and Jake Silbermann, one Star Jones-sized step for network television!

EDIT: I just have to reinforce Hansis' closing statement, because he's so right: if you're going to do a gay storyline, just do it. Don't dumb it down, don't be condescending, and don't kowtow to conservative throwbacks who find it "inappropriate". Just make a proper go of it. And I think - regardless of the somewhat-cliche twists the plot's taken (this is, after all, a soap opera) - that that's exactly what's happening.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Slow Week: Gay Lay May Pave Way To Pay Day

With nothing interesting on TV at the moment, no noteworthy comics coming out this week, and unbearable humidity screwing up my thought processes, I haven't had much to talk about.

Fortunately, idle web-trawling almost always brings up a gem or two. To wit, superherofan has gotten me interested in a plotline currently running on "As The World Turns", an American soap opera.

The show doesn't air here (I'm following the relevant scenes via online clips), and truth be told, I'm not much interested in soap as a genre. But what drew my attention to the Luke/Noah storyline is... well, the fact that it's a Luke/Noah storyline. For context's sake, this is reportedly the first time two boys have coupled up on a mainstream soap opera.

That got me thinking about homosexuality in fiction - specifically, on how the inclusion of a homosexual couple in an actual relationship is considered a Very Big Deal. It used to be that having one gay character, male or female, was a Big Deal (I recall my days as a "Melrose Place" fan with deep shame), so I'm cautiously optimistic that this development represents some kind of progress; at the very least, we've left behind the archetype of the Celibate Gay Man who can't get to first base without the heads of network execs exploding in unison.

(Comics analogy: "Young Avengers" got a lot of press just because Hulkling and Wiccan were in a relationship, but the deepest connection Northstar could have with another man in the early '90s was a firm handshake.)

There's a bit of a dilemma here. On the one hand, this is a major development, because soap operas purport to deliver a mimetic representation of our world (setting aside the obvious absurdities in terms of plot and character development), and yet they're content to blissfully ignore any representation of homosexuality that isn't being used as a Very Special Episode platform. So for a soap opera - a rather old one, at that - to commit itself to a Luke/Noah pairing is significant, because it's acknowledging such things to be a part of our reality.

At the same time, by acknowledging it to be a Very Big Deal, by calling so much attention to the mere fact of its existence, the implicit suggestion is that it's abnormal. There's something deeply problematic about depicting two same-gendered individuals in love as a taboo-buster, because 1) the audience, and the writers, end up defining the characters by their sexuality and it can easily devolve into a Midnighter sort of thing, where the only thing you know about them is their orientation; and 2) the more you point to what you're doing and say "TABOOOOO!", the more you reinforce the very thing you're trying to break down. Can't cross a line if you keep redrawing it.

I have to admit, I'm intrigued to see where this is heading. The skeptic in me tends to doubt that "As The World Turns" can successfully break free of the stigmas, pitfalls and cliches attached to this particular paradigm... but if they can do it, and if they can maintain Luke and Noah as a couple on the same level as any other heterosexual pairing in the series, they could conceivably open the door that much wider for equal representation. And maybe someday having gay characters around won't be such a Very Big Deal anymore.