Category Archives: Film / Tv / Theater Review

Song of the Day #1863

Song of the Day: Come on-a My House features the words and music of Ross Bagdasarian (yes, “David Seville” of “Chipmunks” fame) and William Saroyan. Based on a traditional Armenian folk song, it was performed in the off-Broadway production of “The Son” (1950) but became a huge #1 hit for Rosemary Clooney the following year [YouTube link]. Check out some other renditions by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Prima (with a few Italian delicacies thrown in), Kay Starr, and Julie London [YouTube links]. Today is Moderna Second Dose + 14 Days, which means that if you too have the proper paperwork, you can “Come on-a My House” and—as the song says—I can give you candy and figs and grapes and cakes and everything, even a Marriage Ring! Well, I’m not that easy. 😉

Be Kind …

This being the Greek Orthodox Holy Week, I can think of fewer messages more important than not giving into the very things you dislike in others. It reminds me of some great dialogue from “Ben-Hur” (1959). His family destroyed, his childhood friend (Messala), who betrayed him, is now dead, and Judah Ben-Hur is turning toward the dark side. Esther, who loves him, tells him:

“It was Judah Ben-Hur I loved. What has become of him? You seem to be now the very thing you set out to destroy, giving evil for evil! Hatred is turning you to stone. It is as though you had become Messala! … I’ve lost you, Judah.”

The “miracle” at the end of the film has less to do with leprosy being cured and more to do with Judah laying down the sword, upon which his own soul was being impaled.

Song of the Day #1862

Song of the Day: Tribute to Film Composers [YouTube link], arranged and conducted by John Williams, is a celebration of some of the greatest scores—and their composers—to have ever graced the silver screen. It includes wonderful cues from such composers as Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa, James Horner, Henry Mancini, Ernest Gold, John Barry, Maurice Jarre, Malcolm Arnold, Jerry Goldsmith, Bill Conti, Elmer Bernstein, Randy Newman, Ennio Morricone (that “Cinema Paradiso” theme from yesterday), Nino Rota, and the maestro himself. The performance of this kaleidoscopic medley was a highlight of the 74th Academy Awards back in March 2002. Tonight, a new film score will take its place among those awarded over the last 93 years of Oscar.

(In the title YouTube link, Harrison Ford tells us back then that Williams had only 45 Oscar nominations, and 5 Oscars to his credit; he now has 52 Oscar nominations, second only to Walt Disney’s 59 lifetime nominations!)

Inherit the Wind … Still Riveting


This scene from the 1960 film, “Inherit the Wind” (which is on the local NY PBS station tonight), is one of the most riveting cinematic statements of the power of the individual human mind in the debate between science and religion. Based on the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, it features two giants of the silver screen: Spencer Tracy and Frederic March. Breathtaking…

Martin, Johnny, and Bette

This 1988 Martin Short appearance on Johnny Carson is full of hilarious impersonations… and Bette Davis is not amused! LOL

Song of the Day #1861

Song of the Day: Cinema Paradiso (“Love Theme”) [YouTube link] was composed by Ennio Morricone for the 1988 Italian film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 62nd Academy Awards. This is Academy Awards Weekend, which comes later than the typical February showing (that coincides with my Film Music February Tribute). So I’m featuring two additional film-related “Songs of the Day” to celebrate the art of the score. Listen especially to this lush, romantic theme as rendered by the great classical violinist Itzhak Perlman [YouTube link].

Oscar Funk You Up!

Kicking off Oscar weekend with “Uptown Funk” (by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars)—which has served as the inspiration for quite a few cinema dance mash-ups. Check ’em out! Lotsa fun!

Classic Movie Stars Funk it Up!

Take 2:

Take 3:

And finally, Take 4 (100 movie-scene mash-up):

Tomorrow and Sunday, two more Oscar-oriented treats, part of my “Song of the Day” series …

Song of the Day #1860

A fortuitous “Song of the Day” in light of today’s verdict in the Chauvin trial.

Song of the Day: Strange Fruit features the words and music of Abel Meeropol (though credited under the pseudonym, “Lewis Allan,” because Meeropol was a member of the American Communist Party at the time). It was recorded on this date in 1939 by the great Billie Holiday (who was born on the 7th of this month in 1915). This song is at the center of the plot to the 2021 film, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” which shows how the FBI and other political authorities persecuted the singer (played brilliantly by the Oscar-nominated Andra Day), as a means of stopping her from performing this powerful protest against the lynching of African Americans. It remains what jazz musician and historian Leonard Feather once called “the first unmuted cry against racism,” as important on this day as it was over 80 years ago. Check out the original 1939 Holiday recording, and renditions by Diana Ross (from her 1972 Oscar-nominated performance in “Lady Sings the Blues“), Nina Simone, and, from the 2021 film, Andra Day [YouTube links]. I’ll be featuring two more selections from film music this coming Oscar weekend.

Epic Films for Holiday Weekend!

For the first time in memory, television networks are showing two epic Biblical films in prime time, on consecutive nights. First up, tonight, is TCM’s 8 PM (ET) showing of “Ben-Hur” (as part of their A to Z tribute to “31 Days of Oscar“). Second up is tomorrow night’s annual ABC showing of “The Ten Commandments” at 7 PM (ET).

Charlton Heston has the distinction of having starred in what many consider to be the last great “costume” epic of its time (“The Ten Commandments“) and in the first great “intimate” epic of its time (“Ben-Hur“). The former film remains a stunning Cecil B. DeMille achievement that has forever given new meaning to the phrase “A Red Sea Moment” to describe any remarkably monumental special effects sequence on the big screen. The latter film remains the all-time Oscar champ (11 Oscars, tied with “Titanic” and “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King“), directed by William Wyler, which ushered in a new kind of epic for a new era, one heavy on intimate characterization that is never eclipsed by its action sequences, including an unforgettable real chariot race, that makes CGI look fake by comparison.

Of course, what would a post like this be without at least one Sciabarra footnote. Aside from Heston, one of the key things that connects these two films is that Martha Scott plays Heston’s mother in both of them!

I could just as easily throw on the Blu-Ray of either film, but there’s still something charming about the fact that they’ll be on this weekend back-to-back. They remain truly notable achievements in the history of the cinema, however you might view them, critically, symbolically, or from a religious standpoint. Of course, nothing beats seeing these films on the Big Screen; I was lucky enough to see “Ben-Hur” for the first time, in 1969, on its tenth anniversary re-release in glorious 70mm at New York’s great Palace Theatre and “The Ten Commandments” a couple of years later at the wonderful Ziegfeld Theatre. Lacking that, find yourself the biggest TV screen to appreciate their artistry.

Epic-scale films with epic-scale scores—Elmer Bernstein’s great soundtrack for the DeMille classic and Miklos Rozsa’s spectacular Oscar-winning soundtrack [YouTube links to their “Soundtrack Suites”]—still worthy of your attention after all these years.