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Exclusive: Cameron Crowe on the soundtrack of “We Bought a Zoo” and why it sounds different than anything he’s done before

Exclusive: Cameron Crowe on the soundtrack of “We Bought a Zoo” and why it sounds different than anything he’s done before (photo)

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You think of Cameron Crowe movies, you think of the music in Cameron Crowe movies. John Cusack and the boombox in “Say Anything…” Stillwater singing “Tiny Dancer” on the tour bus in “Almost Famous.” Orlando Bloom’s mixtape roadtrip at the end of “Elizabethtown.” Nobody does movie music quite like Crowe. That’s why we’re wrapping up our multipart interview on his new movie “We Bought a Zoo” (you can read parts 1 and 2 here and here) with his thoughts on its soundtrack, which Crowe says is totally different than anything else he’s done as a director.

A big reason why is Jónsi, the singer and guitarist from Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós, who is serving as “We Bought a Zoo”‘s composer. Crowe said he wanted him to score the film, after listening to his music on set while he was shooting.

“We fell in love with the music of Jónsi and Sigur Rós just as an environment while we were making the movie,” Crowe explained. “And about halfway through the edit it became obvious that I had to ask if Jónsi himself would come score it. I wrote him an email and reached him in Iceland. He asked to read the script and I sent him the script and streamed him a scene and he got on a plane and came from Iceland. He wrote the theme for the movie immediately and we’ve been living in this intoxicating world of his music in the movie ever since.”

Asked whether the only music in the film would be Jónsi’s, Crowe replied “There are a few other songs, but it’s different from other stuff that I’ve done that’s felt like a mixtape or a radio station with a lot of different [music] in it. That’s kind of the way I’ve always approached it, but this is definitely Jónsi creating the overall musical character — and it is like a character, and there a few records along the way. I’ve never done it like this before and it’s really exciting.”

Searching for a point of comparison for his unusual approach, Crowe invoked the name of another director who knows a thing or two about movie music: Wes Anderson. “It’s probably like “Royal Tenenbaums”‘ relationship between records and Mark Mothersbaugh’s stuff,” Crowe said. “It’s probably a little more that that, but a similar relationship. Where Mothersbaugh created that joyful, whimsical, happy, sad exuberance — that’s Jónsi.”

No word from Crowe yet on what other artists might be contributing to the “We Bought a Zoo” soundtrack, mostly, he told me, because they haven’t asked all the artists yet (“They could say no, and that would be embarrassing,” he laughed). Plus, the already limited roster of additional musicians keeps shrinking because Jónsi keeps writing new pieces of music. “What I like, though,” Crowe added, “is it has a real strong musical feeling, as strong as anything I’ve ever done.”

So what’s next for Crowe, once this project is done? Asked whether he’d be resuming work on his Marvin Gaye biopic, Crowe instead told me about a brand new project he’s started. It came about, he said, “from auditioning and working with a bunch of actors for ‘We Bought a Zoo.’ This woman that I work with, Gail Levin, is a great casting director. She’s always finding new faces. The kids she found for ‘We Bought a Zoo’ are so exciting. We met with all these actors, and they would leave the room and it was a situation where I would turn to Gail and say ‘They’re not right for this one, but I want to write something where we can work with that person.’ That was the genesis for writing a whole new script which I’ve been working on while we were doing ‘We Bought a Zoo’ and finishing this Pearl Jam movie.”

It sounds like whatever this upcoming project is, it’s going to see Crowe return to his roots in teen-driven storytelling. It will also be his fourth movie in a little more than a year, a huge output for a director whose last film opened in 2006. “I’m trying out this prolific thing,” Crowe admitted. “The thing about being prolific? It’s a lot of work.”

“We Bought a Zoo” opens December 23. What’s your favorite Cameron Crowe soundtrack? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

New Yorkers: go see “Love Exposure!”

New Yorkers: go see “Love Exposure!” (photo)

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In general, I would describe myself as a bitter, jaded, misanthropic cynic who has forgotten how to feel joy while watching a movie (“Dead inside,” my wife added, when I read her that description. “You forgot dead inside.”). I have seen so many movies in the last ten years, that sometimes I feel like I’ve seen every movie. That’s why I want to give a quick heads up about one movie that brought me a great deal of joy when I saw at Fantastic Fest back in 2009, one that is as refreshingly unusual as movies get. It’s “Love Exposure” from Japanese director Sion Sono. It opens this Friday in New York City at Cinema Village.

The lengthy delay between festival premiere and theatrical release is easy to explain: this movie is totally bugshit insane. And it’s about a hero, forced to commit crimes so he can confess his sins to his ultra-religious father, who starts to take upskirt photos of girls. And he uses martial arts while he does it. And he cross-dresses. Oh, and it’s 237 minutes long. In other words: not exactly a formula for box office gold. But it is a recipe for wonderfully eclectic cinema. Here is the trailer:

And here’s how I described the film in a review I wrote of the film at Fantastic Fest 2009:

“Extremely silly at times, genuinely thought-provoking at others, and frequently both all at once, the film boasts the rare quality of looking nothing like anything you’ve seen before. It lifts up your spirit as it lifts up your skirt.”

I wouldn’t expect it to last long in theaters. Movies this unique rarely do. Make sure you see it while you can.

Interested in “Love Exposure?” If you see it, we want to know what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

All-you-can-watch MoviePass returns

All-you-can-watch MoviePass returns (photo)

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It sounded too good to be a true: $50 bucks a month for all the theatrical movies you could watch at basically any national theater chain. That was what a company called MoviePass offered when it first launched at the beginning of July. Sure enough, it was too good to be true and their beta test was called off at launch because the company hadn’t cleared their service with the movie theater chains that would be honoring it. When exhibitors heard about MoviePass the same way we all did, by reading about it online, they weren’t too pleased. And that put the kibosh on the whole thing for the time being.

Today, JoBlo (via Variety) says that MoviePass is back, even though they still haven’t reached an agreement with exhibitors. Instead, they’ve partnered with a company called Hollywood Movie Money, “that specializes in vouchers for movies.” This is Mike Sampson from JoBlo’s explanation:

“Now, MoviePass subscribers would just print vouchers at home and the company will reimburse theater owners the full amount. So how exactly do they plan on making money offering up unlimited tickets but still having to pay the theater owners back at full price? Well, they’re hoping you don’t really use the service as much as you think you would. The big hook in their business model is that you pay $50 for unlimited movies but probably only see 3-4 movies a month. That would still allow them to clear around $10/month.”

This strikes me as a strange business model. Essentially, MoviePass is banking their future on customers not using their service. They plan to find people who are so obsessed with going to the movies that they’ll pay $50 a month to see as many as they want, but are also so disinterested in going to the movies that they never bother to get their money’s worth out of the service. That seems like a very small niche of wealthy, stupid consumers. By the way even if a New Yorker used MoviePass to “only see” 3-4 movies a month, at the citywide average of $12 a pop, that’s already $48. That means bye bye profit margin even on customers using MoviePass at the company’s preferred levels.

Seems risky to me, but what do I know? I barely passed high school economics. I’m an extreme case, I know, but I see probably ten to a dozen theatrical movies a month. That makes me the perfect customer for MoviePass and also the worst case scenario for MoviePass. We’ll see if I get the chance to try it out. I’d like to.

Would you buy a MoviePass? And if you did, would you use it infrequently enough to make it profitable for MoviePass? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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