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A Letter To A Movie Theater Owner – Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D (updated)

Typing on MacBook Pro

Photo | aless&ro

When I get a chance to see a movie, I expect a fairly high quality viewing experience. I can forgive the occasional dim projector bulb or slightly low volume level… but sometimes, the theater’s presentation of a film is so poor that I have to run out into the lobby and let the management know. When this doesn’t work, which it rarely does… I write ‘A Letter To A Movie Theater Owner’.

Dear Marginally Successful Movie Theater Owner,

How are you? If you just answered that question out loud, I wouldn’t be surprised. Anyway, I recently came into your theater and purchased a ticket for ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D’. Boy, I was in for quite a surprise! I didn’t realize that this film’s audio was mixed so that the surround sound speakers were 5x louder than the front. I didn’t even realize this was a new trend in Hollywood filmmaking! Boy do I feel stupid now! Believe you me, I used to enjoy being able to hear the character’s dialogue clearly during the course of a film, but sir, I’m not one to stand in the way of Hollywood progress.

When I sat down in your theater, I was immediately impressed by the seven people who also chose to see this film. Shia LaBeouf’s performance always makes me laugh! Although in this performance I noticed that he chose to speak in a dampened tone, as if talking through a closed sleeping bag. For a moment I questioned this, but then I realized, what do I know?! I’m just an average Joe! I’ll leave the real filmmaking to the professionals. When the battle sequences began further into the film, I noticed that the majority of these seven people were startled by the significant difference in volume levels between the front and surround speakers. What a riot!

Not only were your ticket prices reasonable, but I feel as if I got twice the return on my investment! During the heavy dialogue parts of the film, I not only got to enjoy Michael Bay’s fine craftsmanship but I also had the pleasure of hearing every comment from the women behind my seat. Usually, due to the volume level of the film I’m seeing, I’m unable to hear others’ comments. But sir, I’ve seen the light! Instead of spending paltry time researching movie reviews after the film, thanks to these women I was able to hear an immediate film review… during the film!

I just wanted to take a few minutes and write you a letter of appreciation. This experience taught me a lot. Hollywood filmmaking involves a variety of subtle techniques that the layman (like myself) just can’t understand. Audio, video, projector, camera… It’s just a whirlwind of information that frankly, I’m choosing to leave in the hands of the professionals.

Thank you again!

Andrew Silanskas
Average Citizen


UPDATE: Well, three days later… they responded! I was slightly concerned that my sarcasm was too subtle in my email to them, but it looks like they actually understood my sentiments.

Dear Mr. Silanskas,
Thank you for your feedback on your recent visit to our theater in *****.  Our sound tech has been alerted to the issues you mention and they will be addressed.  The sound system at this location is one of the best available and we will not tolerate sub-par presentation.  I know you have many entertainment options and I appreciate you choosing ***** Cinemas.
***** *****
***** Cinemas
District Manager

Wow, It actually worked?! I guess I’ll find out soon if they actually did anything about it or if they just send a generic email to everyone who complains. I’m skeptical… but hopeful (but mostly skeptical).

Staying Power: Kanye West

Kanye West

Photo | angelonfire

Who has that “it” factor… that certain something that separates the fads from the truly talented? Who are those certain celebrities today that will be just as relevant in 20 years? ‘Staying Power’ is a column that delves into the past to reveal the immortal artists of the future.

Kanye West is my next choice for an artist with ‘Staying Power‘. It’s not just his solo career that impresses me; It’s his incredible talent as a producer. Over the past decade, Kanye has produced tracks for some of the biggest names in hip hop music.

From 1996 to 2000, Kanye produced tracks for Jermaine Dupri and Foxy Brown (to name a few). He gained great commercial success from his work on Jay-Z’s ‘The Blueprint’. After this, he became one of the most sought-after producers in the industry. Within the next year, Kanye ended up producing tracks for T.I, Ludacris, DMX and Monica. From 2004 to today, Kanye has managed to release 22 solo singles as well as continuing to serve as a producer.

His history as an artist isn’t what impresses me. It’s his constant push to stay relevant. He was producing when Diddy was still “Puff Daddy”… when Snoop and Dre dominated hip hop music… and listeners were still trying to figure out what hip hop music really was. Few rap artists manage to maintain their celebrity status for longer than a few years due to a music industry that’s constantly changing. In fifteen years, Kanye has managed to stay extremely relevant by learning to adjust to these changes. Not only has he adjusted to these new industry standards, he’s actually ended up creating a completely new industry himself. His obsession for the highest production standards in his own studio has actually forced his competition to produce a new level of quality, which then created a “new sound” that listeners crave.

Kanye’s success at not only staying relevant, but also becoming the “industry standard” is what gives him ‘Staying Power’. He’s managed to adjust to the industry over the past 15 years, and I can see him adjusting to the next 20 without any trouble.

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Who Wrote It? – The Messengers and Justin Bieber, ‘Never Say Never’

Justin Bieber

Photo | Our-Style

‘Who Wrote It?’ is a Hungry Cliff column dedicated to seeking out and giving credit to the original creators of our favorite content.

Justin Bieber’s track ‘Never Say Never’ is such a textbook pop hit. I still believe that it could have (and should have) been as big of a hit as ‘Baby‘ or ‘One Time‘, but I’ll let bygones be bygones. Did you know that it was originally performed by another artist? No? Well, sit back and relax while I explain the creative process behind yet another hit!

The Messengers, a group of songwriters based out of L.A., wrote a track called ‘Sexy Together‘ a few years ago. Up-and-coming artist Travis Garland demoed the single. Justin’s producer had been working with The Messengers in the recording process of ‘My World 2.0‘, heard the track ‘Sexy Together’, bought it, tweaked the lyrics to be a little more age appropriate and ‘Never Say Never’ was officially birthed.

Wow, I wish this story was more complex, but in reality a good majority of hit singles are created this way. There are teams of songwriters all around the country that dedicate their lives to writing “hits” and selling them to artists and producers looking for “that song”. Check out Travis’ and Justin’s versions below!

Videos after the break.


Who Wrote It? – Chris Sligh and Rascal Flatts, “Here Comes Goodbye”

Chris Sligh and Rascal Flatts

Photo | GospelMusicUpdate

In season 6 of American Idol, a guy named Chris Sligh became a top ten finalist before he was eliminated. His choice of songs during the competition always stuck out to me as being so insanely unique. Covers of dc Talk, MuteMath and Ray LaMontagne? Who else has the guts to sing dc Talk on American Idol!? To this day, no other American Idol contestant has stuck in my head as much as this guy.

Chris Sligh covers dc Talk‘s ‘Wanna Be Loved’

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Shortly after his stint with American Idol, Chris signed a solo deal with an independent record label based out of Atlanta. He released the album ‘Running Back to You‘ in 2008 which managed to reach #6 on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs Charts. For the next year, he toured around the country with over 115 shows!

This is where it gets interesting. In April 2009, Chris sat down with songwriter Clint Lagersberg and wrote the track “Here Comes Goodbye”. The country band Rascal Flatts heard the song, put it “on hold” and chose to record it for their upcoming album. Twelve weeks after their album’s release, “Here Comes Goodbye” went #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Charts!

I love this success story so much because it proves that you don’t have to buy into the hype of American Idol to achieve your dreams. He sang what he wanted, he wasn’t ashamed of his faith and he never gave up. I would attempt to explain Chris’ entire songwriting process for “Here Comes Goodbye”, but his blog explains it perfectly. I remember sitting in my friend’s house in 2007 watching the American Idol auditions and saying “This dude is gonna win!”. Well, I wasn’t quite right BUT, if he would’ve won would he ever have been able to write such an incredible track like “Here Comes Goodbye”? OR would he have been so caught up in contract fine print that he would’ve just put out another rushed and overproduced American Idol winner album? We’ll never know. Does it even matter? This guy proved that you don’t need huge record labels and teams of songwriters and producers to pump out a hit. Instead, he relied on his faith and his talent.

Chris Sligh “Here Comes Goodbye”
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Rascal Flatts “Here Comes Goodbye”

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Staying Power: Lady Gaga

Abraham Lincoln BoomBox

Photo | 13thFloorGrowingOld

Recently, I’ve been thinking… I showcase a lot of different musicians, but who has that “it” factor. Ya know? That certain something that separates the fads from the truly talented. Twenty years ago, was anyone predicting the artists with staying power, or were they so wrapped up in their current trends that they couldn’t see that far? Did anyone actually consider that “Marky Mark” Wahlberg could go on to have an extensive career in film? Would anyone believe that Body Count’s Ice-T could be better known for his acting role as a police detective instead of his controversial music career? This got my mind thinking. Who are those certain celebrities today that will be just as relevant in 20 years?  And that’s why I’m creating ‘Staying Power’, a blog column that delves into the past to reveal the immortal artists of the future.

I know it’s cliche, but the first person who comes to my mind is Lady Gaga. She’s created a hole in the market that consumers didn’t even realize they wanted… and then filled it with herself. People that are too young to remember Madonna, never got a chance to immerse themselves in the late 80s/early 90s “Be Yourself” music scene.  The in-between time where gangster rap and punk rock hadn’t quite taken over yet, and “pop music with a message” (actually created by the artist) dominated. Lady Gaga’s management obviously figured out that it was time for “a new Madonna”. I can see Lady Gaga in twenty years, touring the world and still releasing new music (exactly like Madonna today).  She has created her own brand, opposed to just riding out a fad.

I want to sit here and list off the people I think will still be relevant in twenty years, but I’ve decided to only showcase one artist per blog post.  This topic is obviously open to discussion and I’m curious: Who do you think will still be relevant in twenty years?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Movie Etymology, Part 1: Military words in cinema

Military Camera

Photo | expertinfantry

Well, the time has come for me to post something.  In an effort to establish a topic I might be able to write more than two blog posts about (and in a similar but not entirely identical effort to keep that topic informative and entertaining), I decided to attempt to point out some interesting relationships between various film and entertainment concepts.  However, running the Six Degrees of Separation script on Wikipedia didn’t seem like much of a challenge (especially since I didn’t author it!), so I will go one tenuous step further and confine my attention to etymology!

Don’t everybody click the “back” button at once, now.

Everybody enjoys a good action movie, right?  With explosions, fast cars, guns, martial arts, and more explosions, even if you don’t care for the genre itself, you can still appreciate the sheer production value involved in crashing a car into a helicopter into a submarine into a building (all of which somehow contain gasoline in all the places you would expect to find air).  Maybe it’s one rogue agent against an entire army, or one military unit against another.  Indeed, such is mankind’s enthusiasm for martial prowess that we frequently employ words and expressions rooted in military matters.  The vocabulary of filmmaking is no exception.  More after the break.