There's a bit of a theme to my Youtube playlist this year, which is honoring some of the talent that has passed since the last one. While revisiting some of the media that various departed filmmakers were involved with, I spent a lot of time tracking clips down on Youtube. And I thought it would be nice to share a few of them with you. As always, these playlists are mostly made up of media ephemera that's difficult to categorize, and the only thing they really have in common is utilizing a strong musical element. This batch includes more tie-in music videos, award show numbers, and oddball musical numbers you probably forgot about. Enjoy.
Psycho Killer - Jonathan Demme's beloved 1984 Talking Heads concert film "Stop Making Sense" opens with this number, introducing David Byrne, feet first. I always loved the song, and adore the simplicity of this staging, that was nonetheless effortlessly theatrical. And I'm very sorry I only watched "Stop Making Sense" after Mr. Demme was gone.
Dumb Ways to Die - I was flabbergasted to learn that this morbid little animated short is actually part of a 2012 Australian public service announcement campaign created by the Melbourne commuter rail network. Apparently it was a very successful one too, reducing certain categories of safety accidents significantly. The song was written by John Mescall with music by Ollie McGill. Visuals and animation were by Pat Baron and Julian Frost. And every single one of the little cartoon characters that is so horribly killed in the video has a name - including Clod, Doomed, Numskull and Putz.
The Best Things in Life are Free - Before "Mad Men" recedes too far into the past, let's revisit that lovely little moment where Don hallucinates elderly firm partner Bert Cooper performing a goodbye musical number at the end of the seventh season (or mid-season) finale. It's a terribly fitting way for him to go out, especially as Cooper's actor, Robert Morse, is a Broadway alum, best known for "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
A Comedian at the Oscars - Will Ferrell, Jack Black, and John C. Reilly perform at the 2007 Oscars. The song is by Marc Shaiman, with lyrics by Judd Apatow and Adam McKay. According to Apatow, it took them two hours to write this fantastic lament about how the Oscars ignore comedic actors. Personally, my favorite bit is Jack Black trying to pick a fight with the acting nominees and hitting on Helen Mirren. He really needs to host the awards one of these days.
Measuring, Measuring - A very obscure "Sesame Street" segment that I was obsessed with finding for a while because I wasn't really sure that it existed. However, I did remember the song. The music is by Mark Styles, with lyrics by Maxine Fisher. The animation is by Michael Sporn.
Fish Heads - The beloved novelty song by Barnes & Barnes (two fictional brothers played by Bill Mumy and Robert Haimer) resulted in an equally weird novelty music video, which starred and was directed by Bill Paxton. He worked on several shorts around this time, and managed to get the music video shown on Saturday Night Live in 1980. It went over so well, the next week they played it again. The video has been a cult favorite ever since.
7 O'clock News - This is the opening sequence for "Kodomo no Omocha," ("Child's Toy,") usually shortened to "Kodocha," one of my favorite obscure '90s anime. It follows the wacky adventures of a hyperactive child actress named Sana, who juggles school, family, and a career. The opening does a great job of getting across her energy level and the show's lightning-fast humor, particularly the theme song by the band Tokio. I still find it amazing how much they managed to squeeze into a scant 90 seconds of screen time.
A Whale of a Tale - Back in the '50s, when musicals were still a theatrical mainstay, it wasn't a surprise that any major movie star you could name could carry a tune. Still, it's delightful surprise to find Kirk Douglas crooning a sea shanty at the start of Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," one "A Whale of a Tale" written by Al Hoffman and Norman Gimbel.
Anthropology Rap - The "Spanish 101" rap from "Community" is more famous, but I love the follow-up for "Anthropology 101" in the second season premiere. Not only does it feature Betty White as the anthropology professor, but also stealthily leads into Toto's "Africa." Chris McKenna wrote the lyrics.
Tit Willow - And finally, here are Rowlf the Dog and Sam the Eagle performing "Tit Willow," from Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Mikado," in the first season of "The Muppet Show." Sam's scary frowning expression actually scared me as a child, but when I grew up, I learned to appreciate what a giant dork he really was. His delivery here, of literally two words, is absolutely priceless. This segment was also one of the show's "UK Spots," used to fill in extra time on the longer British broadcasts of the show. So most Americans never saw it during the original run.