DIMITRI TIOMKIN – Fathers of Film Music, Part 4

September 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Dimitri TiomkinArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 10 May 1894, Kremenchuk, Ukraine.
Died: 11 November 1979.

Dimitri Zinovich Tiomkin was born in Kremenchuk, Ukraine during the wanning years of the imperial Russian Empire. His mother Marie was a music teacher who nurtured his nascent talent as a pianist and his father Zinovie, was a physician. At the urging of his wife, Zinovie enrolled Dimitri in the prestigious St. Petersburg Conservatory, which was overseen by renowned Russian composer Alexander Glazunov. Tiomkin’s native gifts allowed him to quickly gain prominence as a solo pianist under the tutelage of Felix Blumenfeld and Isabelle Vengerova.

The early 20th century was a rich time for music and the arts in Russia and Tiomkin would often visit the “Homeless Dog” café where he would enjoy the company of other rising artists such as fellow student Serge Prokofiev and dancer Mikhail Fokine. The café offered Tiomkin his first exposure to American ragtime, blues and jazz. The seeds of these experiences would later blossom; helping him lay the foundation of his American film music career. To supplement his income Tiomkin would provide piano accompaniment to Russian and French silent films as well as army post tours, which featured the prima ballerina Thamar Karsavina. Read more…

THE KARATE KID – Bill Conti

August 28, 2014 Leave a comment

karatekidTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

If you say ‘wax on, wax off’ to anyone of a certain age, they will instantly be transported back to the summer of 1984, when The Karate Kid was one of the box office smashes of the year. Essentially a Rocky story for kids, which replaced boxing with karate, the film was directed by John G. Avildsen and starred Ralph Macchio as Daniel Larusso, a streetwise New Jersey kid who is uprooted and moves to Los Angeles with his mother (Randee Heller) after his parents divorce. Despite being an outsider, Daniel is immediately smitten with pretty high school cheerleader Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), but soon becomes a target for her ex-boyfriend, bully and jock Johnny (William Zabka), who attends a ruthless karate dojo run by the equally ruthless former Special Forces veteran John Kreese (Martin Kove). After being beaten up again one night, Daniel is rescued by his apartment building’s janitor, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita); astounded by the apparently aged Miyagi’s karate skills, Daniel asks to be trained so that he can fight back against the bullies – and so begins their unlikely friendship. Read more…

SUNSET BOULEVARD – Franz Waxman

August 25, 2014 Leave a comment

sunsetboulevardMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Billy Wilder and producer Charles Brackett created a brilliant film noir screenplay for Sunset Boulevard, which told the story of a once proud but now aged Hollywood actress who wished to end her seclusion and regain past glory. For the principle actors, after considering Mae West and Mary Pickford for the leading role Gloria Swanson was given the part of Norma Desmond. A young William Holden was selected for Joe Gillis and Erich von Stronheim was cast as Norma’s former husband and now butler Max von Mayerling. The story tells the tale of Joe Gillis, a young screenwriter down on his luck that drives into Desmond’s estate while fleeing a car repo man. Norma, who has written a script to propel her comeback, hires Joe to create a screenplay. She lavishes her wealth and affection on him, which he freely and shamelessly accepts. Ultimately she falls in love with Joe and when he rejects her she shoots him. The story ends as a now elegantly dressed yet mad Norma descends her grand staircase to greet the police. Halfway down she pauses and announces proudly that she is happy to be making films again, ending with “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” The movie was both a commercial and critical success earning eleven Academy Award nominations, winning three for Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Score. Read more…

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY – A.R. Rahman

August 23, 2014 2 comments

hundredfootjourneyOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a film about a clash of cultures – physically, geographically and gastronomically. It stars Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory, the perfectionist owner of a high class Michelin-starred restaurant in a quaint French village, whose life is thrown into turmoil when the Kadam family, recently arrived from India, moves into the building across the street from her restaurant. Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), the eldest son of the family, is an enormously talented chef in his own right, and with the help of his father (Om Puri), wants to open an Indian restaurant in their new building – much to the disgust of Madame Mallory, who snootily thinks that the new arrivals will reflect negatively on her legacy. So begins a ‘merry war’ of philosophies, coq au vin versus chicken tikka masala, as Madame Mallory tries to sabotage the Kadam’s dream, while Hassan falls for Madame Mallory’s pretty sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte le Bon)… The film is based on the novel by Richard C. Morais, is directed by Lasse Hallström, and features a lovely original score by the Mozart of Madras himself, A.R. Rahman. Read more…

GREMLINS – Jerry Goldsmith

August 21, 2014 Leave a comment

gremlinsTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Gremlins was a monster movie with a big heart, one of the biggest box office successes of 1984. Directed by Joe Dante – his first mainstream movie following the success of his independent horror movie The Howling in 1981 – it starred Zach Galligan as Billy, an average college kid living in pleasant small town America, whose life becomes forever altered when his father Rand (country star Hoyt Axton) gives him a present for Christmas: a cute critter called a mogwai, which Rand purchased from a mysterious Chinese curiosity shop. The mogwai, which Billy names Gizmo, comes with three very strict rules: keep him out of the sunlight, don’t get him wet, and never, ever feed him after midnight. Of course, Billy inadvertently breaks all three rules, and before long his charming little town is overrun with a whole host of less than friendly gremlins, and Christmas will never be the same again… The film co-stars Phoebe Cates, Polly Holliday, Judge Reinhold, Corey Feldman and Frances Lee McCain, features comedian Howie Mandel as the voice of Gizmo, and has an original score by Jerry Goldsmith, the first of his eight collaborations with director Dante. Read more…

THE LIBERATOR – Gustavo Dudamel

August 19, 2014 1 comment

theliberatorOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s always a big event when a darling of the classical music world joins the film scoring fraternity. Back in the early days of the medium is was not uncommon for classical greats to work in the movies; Aaron Copland, Sergei Prokofiev, Aram Khachaturian, Dimitri Shostakovich, Arnold Bax, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, and many others all worked for directors at various points in their careers. These days, it’s less common for there to be crossover. John Corigliano won an Oscar for The Red Violin in 1999, his third entry into the film score world, while composers as distinguished as Philip Glass and Michael Nyman are veritable mainstays, but for the most part, today’s most eminent concert hall artists tend to stay away from the scoring stage. Once in a while, though, someone takes the big leap, and the latest to join that club is Gustavo Dudamel, the erstwhile conductor-in-residence of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Read more…

A PLACE IN THE SUN – Franz Waxman

August 18, 2014 Leave a comment

aplaceinthesunMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

A Place in the Sun was adapted from a 1925 novel “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser. Director George Stevens hired Michael Wilson and Harry Brown for the screenplay, and assembled a stellar cast to at last bring this tragic story to life. George Stevens (Montgomery Clift), Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) and Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) were hired as the principles and paired with a great cast of supporting players. The film centers on George Eastman, a poor man raised by an evangelical mother, who is tragically undone by his own actions. He leaves Chicago dirt poor, determined to make a name for himself working in the company of his wealthy Uncle in California. While there he begins dating Alice, a girl he met in the plant. All seems fine until he becomes completely enamored with Angela, a drop dead gorgeous socialite whom he meets at a party. He abandons Alice without a thought and begins dating Angela. The two fall in love, yet things begin to unravel when Alice discloses to George that she is pregnant. When she threatens a public disclosure if he does not marry her, George feels cornered and so devises a plot to murder her. When the time comes to strike through a staged boat accident, his conscience prevails and he relents only to see Alice drown anyway by accident. He survives, but inexplicably fails to report her death to the authorities. As such, although innocent, circumstantial evidence and his own guilty behavior make authorities suspicious. His arrest comes just as Angela’s father grants him permission to marry his daughter. He is then tried and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Read more…

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