Recently I've been on a bit of a way back kick for my movie tastes. No, not WAY way back. But back far enough to see how films from the 80s have held up over time. I grabbed a copy of the original Tron and plunked down to watch it last week. By today's standards, the graphics and computer animation seems clunky. It was 1982 after all! But what's interesting is that it actually holds up over time. And while it didn't gross much at the box office (the arcade game actually made more money than the film), it quickly became a cult favorite.

Two of the film's biggest fans have a bit of a cult following of their own, the duo known as Daft Punk. I've written of my love for them before, but what's great is that they came up with the musical score to Tron's sequel, Tron: Legacy. Sure, the sequel has better graphics, but the score is a glimpse into the true capabilities of Daft Punk. Working with an 85-piece orchestra, they were able to give the sequel the appropriate futuristic electronic funk for which they are so well known.

An animated series called Tron: Uprising is scheduled to premiere in 2012. Let's hope it will stand the test of time as well as Tron, the first.

Award-winning actress Kristen Chenoweth definitely deserves more recognition. She has a way of captivating an audience, and it's hard to imagine anyone else playing in the roles she's conquered over the years. As the lovelorn Olive Snook in the series Pushing Daisies, Kristen's performance earned her an Emmy! She hilariously and quite desperately tries to gain the affection of her boss at a pie shop. In addition to her acting career, Kristen is also a talented singer. Probably most well known the role of Glinda from the Wicked musical, she actually won a Tony award in 1999 for her stage performance in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Her musical theater chops were also showcased in Leonard Bernstein's farcical take on the Voltaire classic, Candide. Of course, Ms. Chenoweth's talents aren't all comedic in nature. Her stint as a fast-talking White House deputy press secretary in the sixth and seventh seasons of The West Wing was a thing of beauty. Keep up the fine work, Madam, and I'll keep watching.

We spar yet again,
Oh worthy adversary.
I yell your name, KHAN!

Now that the unpronounceably named volcano from Iceland has settled down, let's turn our attention to other unpronounceable acts that Iceland has released upon the world.

First up is probably Iceland's biggest musician, Ms. Guðmundsdóttir, better known as Björk. Initially the lead singer for The Sugarcubes, Björk has been around long enough to become a worldwide musical icon. Her inventive style often includes a great deal of innovation as well. Sometimes she's screaming, sometimes she's grunting, but every little thing she does is very musical. She even was the lead in a musical called Dancer in the Dark. It's pretty and depressing. Actually some would say it's pretty depressing. Bring your box of tissues.

From the other side of the island comes the all-male musical group, Sigur Rós. I love this band, and not just because they sing in a mixture of Icelandic and Vonlenska, an unintelligible language they created. Their range in music goes from a lilting tune to a deeply introspective piece in a heartbeat. I actually saw them play at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall where they ended the concert by spraying the entire audience with confetti. The film Heima, chronicles their journey home where they gave free concerts to the people of Iceland. It showcases their music perfectly, but also features the wonderful imagery that inspired them. 

I recently stumbled across yet another musical act from Iceland, Múm. They are a collective of musicians who also perform experimental electronic music. I wonder what it is about being from Iceland that inspires such unique music...perhaps it’s the volcanoes!

I don’t remember the day I first saw music video for "Around the World" by Daft Punk, but I do know that it was the beginning of a torrid love affair with acclaimed director Michel Gondry. At the time, I didn’t know who the director was, but I would watch the video for hours, trying to memorize each component. The video shows mummies, robots, skeletons, and synchronized swimmers all dancing around a stage built to look like an LP. It wasn’t until I checked out a series of DVDs called Directors Label that I discovered the genius behind Gondry’s directorial skill. Basically a collection of music videos, advertisements, and short films, The Work of Director Michel Gondry highlights some of the best and most imaginative creativity I’ve ever seen. Some excellent commentary in the director’s thick French accent gives you a tiny glimpse into his crazy little mind.

It only makes sense that given a bigger budget Gondry’s feature films are that much more brilliant. One of my favorites is Be Kind Rewind. Starring Jack Black, Danny Glover, and a surprisingly talented Mos Def, this film was filmed and takes place in Passaic, New Jersey. A video store owner faces eviction if he doesn’t retool his business. After a freak accident erases all the videotapes, the store must recreate every movie using people and props from the local neighborhood. The new business booms until a fast-talking lawyer tries to shut the entire operation down. Will the community rally to save their local video store?

It’ll be interesting to see what Gondry comes up with on his next project. He’s currently filming The Green Hornet, a superhero movie based on the radio and character of the same name.