Thursday, December 23, 2010

We Will We Will Crack You

Media Moment: Death of a President
Queen Related: Reference to WWRY

You might remember the controversy this mockumentary generated at its debut in 2006 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The fictionalized assassination of George W. Bush was deemed offensive and immoral by Bush supporters while his critics saw it as an insightful commentary on America’s evolving police state.

The film chronicles the shooting of Bush by a Syrian-American at a protest in Chicago. This inevitably leads to an international confrontation between Syria and the U.S. At one point, an anti-Bush sign (see bottom image) is shown that is obviously a reference to Queen’s grassroots anthem, WWRY.

When I saw the connection being made between Bush and WWRY on the protest sign (is it real or fabricated?) I immediately thought of the cassette single I have that intercuts a George H.W. Bush speech on the Gulf War from 1991 with snippets of We Are the Champions.

What I find interesting is that the ideological contrast between the two songs — WWRY being a rallying cry for the underdog and WATC being a “see, we kicked your ass,” salt-in-the-wounds kind of song — parallels the two Bush situations.

Bush Sr. felt that Desert Storm had positioned the U.S. with the upper hand with the expectation of an easy victory over Iraq, while the fictional Syrian protest in the film reflects the resistance of U.S. influence by the oppressed in that part of the world.

Could the Bush situations be inverted and still work with the two songs? I think so. Just think of the protest images by the Iraqis during the Gulf War (WWRY) and the premature “Mission Accomplished” celebrations put on by Bush Jr. (WATC). It’s all in the way you spin it, I suppose.

Either way, I don’t think Freddie nor Brian would be particularly happy with their songs’ usage for political purposes.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Lovely Album

Media Moment: The Lovely Bones
Queen Related: Debut album

I had PVRed The Lovely Bones a few months ago and finally got around to watching it this weekend. It was actually one of the few movies I’ve recorded lately that I wanted to watch from beginning to end since the trailer looked interesting, which came as no surprise since Peter Jackson had directed it.

At roughly the 8:00 minute mark, the camera pans across a shopping mall scene, past an Indian character who is standing in front a record store. As the shot moves past him, a blurry Queen album cover can be seen amongst the record store promos behind him (top image).

I was about to rewind a few seconds to confirm what I had seen when the next scene zoomed out from the store and showed more of the Queen promo item I had just seen (lower image). It occurred to me when I saw both the free-standing Queen promo (with yellow band) and the top of the actual LP (seen to the right of Stanley Tucci’s character in grey coat) that someone on the film’s production design team needed to choose albums from 1973 to display because that is the year in which the main character, Suzie Salmon, gets murdered by Tucci’s character.

I wonder if the production team had to recreate the promo or if they managed to track down an original somehow. The curious thing is that this film takes place in the United States (Pennsylvania) but yet the most prominent album being marketed in the record store is Queen’s debut album. I’m not even sure if Queen had been aggressively promoted there in 1973 since we hear it wasn’t really until Sheer Heart Attack in 1974 that Queen made significant inroads in the U.S.

This isn’t to say that there weren’t Queen promos around in 1973 in American record stores, but why showcase Queen so prominently with an album not as well known as perhaps others from that period, such as Bob Dylan (Dylan), The Hollies Greatest Hits, Wings (Band on the Run), or even Aerosmith’s debut album from 1973?

Methinks there’s a Queen fan over at Jackson’s camp.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brian's Korean namesake

We had the local cable company install a voice-over-Internet landline telephone late last week and the attending technician was of Southeast Asian descent.

After deciding that the best place to access the TV/Internet cable needed to hook up the cable modem for the new landline was behind the cabinet housing the PVR, he had to navigate through a mountain of kids’ toys to get to the cabinet. This inevitably resulted in him asking how old our child(ren) is which prompted me to ask him the same.

Curious as to which Asian ancestry he belonged to, I asked him which languages he and his wife spoke around the house. He replied both Korean and English, although he admitted they didn't speak as much Korean around the kids as he’d like.

When he finished installing the phone line and testing it, he was ready to head off to his next appointment. I glanced at his name tag and it said: Brian Mai. I should have asked him if he played guitar.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Under (economic) Pressure

Media Moment: Viral video
Queen Related: Under Pressure used in muppet-sync performance

Another QMS member sent a link to this video today and after watching it, I thought it was interesting on several levels:

1) The video was hosted on a “comedy” site but I didn’t find any humor in the homeless man’s situation, if indeed this is a legitimate appeal for help and not a social satire on the economic slump felt throughout most of the westernized world.

2) From what I remember, the original music video for UP was a montage of imagery meant to underscore the stresses felt by citizens in a turbulent society . . . how to deal with the overwhelming pressures of industrialization. Now, however, it’s the recent global economic pressures that the song seems to reflect.

3) I wonder if this guy was inspired by the recent Muppet performance of Bohemian Rhapsody that made the viral rounds a few months ago.

4) Unlike other fan-created Queen-themed videos that have saturated the Internet over the past few years, this one has a poignancy to it due to a performance that is more akin to video-panhandling rather than a single-minded attempt at fame and glory (ala slide recorder BoRhap dude).

5) This guy has obviously thought through the duet between Mercury and Bowie because he imbues each Kermit with subtle characteristics from each singer and exaggerates their mannerisms to coincide with the lyrics, especially the end sequence where he intertwines the two muppets. He would have crossed the line, however, if he had given one Kermit a moustache and the other two different colored eyes.

6) As a Queen fan witnessing a Queen song used to sell me a hard-luck case, I’m actually motivated to help the guy because of this connection. If it was a non-Queen song being performed, I can’t say that I’d be any more moved to help the guy than I would out of mere compassion. The Queen connection does hit a nerve for me. It would be interesting if Queen fans came to his rescue, or even if Brian or Roger made a donation to his cause.

7) Bottom line: he’s either a huge Queen fan, a huge fan of the song, or merely chose it to plead his case of desperation and rehearsed it perfectly.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fat bottomed puppets

Media Moment: Broadway production of Avenue Q
Queen Related: Fat Bottomed Girls mentioned

Queen gets referenced in the strangest of places it seems. My wife was recently in New York and went to see Avenue Q on Broadway, which is sort of like Sesame Street for adults.

And since my wife is tuned in to Queen sightings because of my influence, she told me that there was a line in the song Mix Tape that mentions Fat Bottomed Girls. It’s an awkward metaphor of how one male character thinks of a female character who has the hots for him and interprets his gift of a mix tape as a good sign. Needless to say, she’s a bit dismayed that the titles of some of the songs were less than flattering.

I think there may be a more pervasive Queen element in the production, though. The “Q” in Avenue Q would seem to imply “queer” since there are many homosexual overtones throughout the story. So to reference a Queen song would work on that level alone, although FBG is not a Freddie song. Nonetheless, I think the producers knew that a connection would be made between the Q in queer and FBG to Queen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The pressure's on tomorrow

Media Moment: Don't Forget the Lyrics advertisement
Queen Related: Under Pressure

I’m waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store today, and with nothing better to do than glance around at what others are buying, I happened to catch this back page ad staring out at me from the magazine rack.

If this issue of Star Magazine (Sept 20, 2010) wasn’t put back incorrectly by a browsing customer, I never would have known about it since I’ve never read an issue of Star.

With a host change from Wayne Brady to Mark McGrath for the upcoming season, I’ll be curious to see how the show does. I do think the tie-in between the anxiety felt by contestants and Queen/Bowie’s lyrics is clever, so I hope the show does well.

I haven’t watched too many of the earlier seasons of DFTL although I am aware that Queen songs have made an appearance in the past. Now that the show's marketing efforts are using a prominent Queen song, I hope they become more of a staple on the song list for this season, which starts tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Beach in the prairies?

Media Moment: The Reflecting Skin
Queen Related: Jim Beach

I had heard some interesting things about this 1990 “vampire” movie, not the least of which was that it was filmed in my backyard here in southern Alberta. So when I saw it scheduled on the Sundance Channel the other night, I recorded it for a future viewing.

The opening scene showing Jeremy Cooper (bottom photo) walking through the yellow wheat field was certainly recognizable to me, although I can't say I ever came across any bullfrogs in these fields, like the one that exploded here (top photo).

What I did not expect to see in this movie was the name of Jim Beach as the executive producer. What? Is this the same person who managed Queen’s career? Hmm, let’s see . . . the writer/director is British and this movie was a BBC co-production, so there was some evidence to support my hunch.

A visit to IMDB removed any doubt, however. Clicking on the hyperlink for Jim Beach brought up his profile page and, sure enough, the only bio description of him said, “Is the long-time manager of rock group Queen.” He has a few other executive producer credits over the years, so this movie is not a one-off for him. I suppose that his time commitment to Queen was significantly less in 1990 since Freddie would have been very ill at that time and the band itself was essentially winding down.

As for the movie itself, it’s very Lynch-esque in not only its look and feel, but the flow of the narrative is similar to Blue Velvet and grotesque in many ways like Eraserhead. This film also features an early appearance of Viggo Mortensen who is always interesting to watch. Definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of David Lynch or just curious to see what Jim Beach was involved in.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Elizabeth, don't try suicide.

Media Moment: Prozac Nation
Queen Related: Freddie Mercury poster

A scene in Prozac Nation caught me by surprise last night. About 10 minutes into the film, Christina Ricci’s character, Elizabeth Wurtzel (whose autobiography the movie is based on), is shown moving into her dorm with a new roommate, Ruby, played my Michelle Williams (pictured above).

As they talk, Elizabeth flips through a box of LPs (Springsteen’s Born to Run is clearly visible) and Ruby grabs a rolled-up poster from another box and walks out of camera range. The next scene shows her pinning the poster to the wall next to a doorway. The poster, as is clearly evident here, is a black and white shot of a dude in a white unitard with the word “Mercury” appearing down the right hand side.

Do doubt owing to Wurtzel's real-life career experiences with Rolling Stone magazine, there is a definite classic rock motif that runs through this film. Lou Reed, whom Wurtzel interviewed for RS back in 1981, actually makes a guest appearance at one point, although I’m not sure if his presence is a tie-in to America’s drug culture or to his anti-establishment reputation, which seems to echo Elizabeth’s struggles.

The film is set in 1986 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At least I’m assuming it’s 1986 because there is a scene showing television news coverage broadcasting the Challenger shuttle explosion from that year. Apart from Live Aid in ’85, I didn’t think Queen had much presence in the U.S. at that time, unlike Springsteen who was still riding high on his Born in the USA album success from the year before. So Ruby’s poster preference is a bit of a mystery, in my opinion.

I don’t recall Springsteen having a nefarious reputation for drug usage—and Freddie’s persona in America in the mid-1980s certainly didn’t hinge on drug usage—so I’m curious as to what part rock music plays in the film’s overall message. I guess I’ll have to watch it again.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's crazy where this song is popping up!

Media Moments: TV commercial for McCain Superfries, American Idol, Little Tykes toy guitar
Queen Related: Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Here in Canada, McCain foods is a huge, family-owned pre-packaged food giant. They've been running a TV spot for their McCain Superfries that uses Queen’s versin of CLTCL. I don’t think it really fits the look and feel of the commercial since it’s just a couple of kids grabbing fries and shoving them in their mouths. It’s not a very animated sequence and belies the energy of the song. Yes, I get the love connection between the song and the taste of the fries, but it feels tacked on more than a natural complement to the product.

Recently, Tim Urban did CLTCL on American Idol and made a fool of himself, in my opinion. He was trying to be hip and slide around the stage but the song ended up being a weird mix of Michael BublĂ© and Freddie but not as good as either. Kara D. got it right when she said he was trying to be a star playing to millions of adoring fans but his performance was fraudulent because he hadn’t achieved that kind of status yet.

Finally, our little guy turned two recently and received a Little Tykes guitar from his uncle as a birthday gift. Out of the five pre-programmed instrumentals that come with the toy, one is CLTCL. The interesting thing about these five little song snippets is that the three strings, when pulled to simulate a guitar lead, actually sound like the guitar on the original song. So for the three of Brian’s simulated guitar licks built into the strings, it is remarkably close in tone to the Red Special. And I think CLTCL is the catchiest instrumental on the toy, although The Trogg’s Wild Thing is a close second.