M3GAN – Anthony Willis

February 7, 2023 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s always interesting to me to observe when things go ‘viral’ online. Right now, in the early months of 2023, you can’t open up Instagram or Tik-Tok without being confronted by some pre-teen girl (or, perhaps slightly creepily, not a pre-teen girl) re-creating the dance from M3GAN, a short scene where the protagonist of the movie of the same name prances in an office hallway – whirling arms and hair flips and even a hands-free cartwheel – before bloodily dispatching someone with the blade of a paper guillotine. The dance craze comes from the eponymous movie, a horror-thriller with a rich vein of dark humor, about a toy designer who makes an incredibly lifelike android companion for her recently orphaned niece, but who then comes to regret making it when the doll/robot inevitably becomes self-aware and goes awry, embarking on a murderous rampage. Read more…

DAVID AND BATHSHEBA – Alfred Newman

February 6, 2023 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the success of Paramount’s “Samson and Delilah” in 1949, 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck believed it was time for his studio to enter the Biblical Epic genre. He decided that the film would focus on the life of the legendary King David of Israel. Zanuck personally took control of production, provided a budget of $2.17 million, hired Philip Dunne to write the screenplay and tasked Henry King with directing. The initial screenplay was a biopic, which would if filmed, render a four-hour movie. As such Zanuck directed Dune to pare it down, focusing entirely on David’s illicit affair with Bathsheba. For casting, Zanuck insisted on having the popular, successful, and beautiful actors Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward star as David and Bathsheba. Joining them would be Raymond Massey as Nathan, Kieron Moore as Uriah, and James Robertson Justice as Abishai. Read more…

ALIVE – James Newton Howard

February 2, 2023 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In October 1972 a plane carrying a rugby team from Montevideo, Uruguay, who were on their way to play a game in Santiago, Chile, crashed high in the Andes mountains. 15 of the 45 passengers and crew died on impact but the others – some of whom were badly injured – quickly had to figure out how to survive. During the following 72 days, the survivors suffered extreme hardships, including exposure, starvation, and an avalanche, which led to the deaths of thirteen more passengers; famously, but reluctantly, they were forced to resort to cannibalism to stave off death due to lack of food. Eventually two of the rugby players – Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa – decided to strike out for help. They climbed a 15,000 foot mountain without gear, and then hiked almost 50 miles. It took them almost in 10 days, but they finally stumbled into a remote village, where they could obtain help and call for the Chilean Army to rescue the other survivors. This incredible story was turned into a book, Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read, and then eventually into this film, which was directed by Frank Marshall and starred Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, and Vincent Spano. Read more…

DOG GONE – Emily Bear

February 1, 2023 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Dog Gone is a family adventure-drama film, directed by Stephen Herek, starring Rob Lowe, Johnny Berchtold, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley. It’s a heartwarming true story about a college student named Fielding Marshall and his epic search for his beloved dog, Gonker, who goes missing on a hike and has to be found quickly as he is ill and needs a life-saving injection. Fielding’s search for Gonker becomes a local cause célèbre, making the news, and inspiring the community. It premiered on Netflix at the beginning of January and, normally, it’s not anything I would give a second thought to, based on the film itself. However, I want to take some time out to write about Dog Gone’s score, which was written by 21-year-old composer Emily Bear. Read more…

ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Oliver Wallace

January 30, 2023 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As a young man Walt Disney was fond of the two Lewis Carroll novels “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and “Through The Looking Glass”. As early as 1933 he conceived of making a film adaptation, but it did not take form until 1945 and then would require six years to bring his dream to fruition. Disney personally managed production with a budget of $3 million, a team of thirteen writers were hired to craft a screenplay based on both of Carroll’s books, and a trio consisting of Clyde Geronini, Wilfred Jackson and Hamilton Luske were tasked with directing. A fine voice cast was assembled, including Katherine Beaumont as Alice, Ed Wynn as Mad Hatter, Richard Haydn as Caterpillar, Sterling Holloway as Cheshire Cat, Jerry Colonna as March Hare, Verna Felton as Queen of Hearts, J. Pat O’Malley as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Bill Thompson as White Rabbit, Joseph Kearns as Doorknob, Sink Trout as King of Hearts, and James MacDonald as Dormouse. Read more…

Movie Music UK Awards 2022

January 28, 2023 2 comments

The film music world got back to normal, mostly, after two years of COVID-related disruption, and ultimately roared back with a vengeance with a ton of great scores. I heard more than 650 scores in 2022 – either as a soundtrack album, in movie context, or both – and I ended up rating a whopping 79 of them **** or better.

Surprisingly, the best of the year’s music was dominated by scores for television – fantasy shows, super hero shows, westerns, gothic horrors, and more. The lines between ‘film music’ and ‘television music’ are becoming much more blurred; investment in multi-episode streaming series is almost on a par with traditional theatrical films, and as such the scores that accompany them are just as elaborate, dense, complex, and impressive as their big screen counterparts – perhaps even moreso, as composers have to structure their music with multi-season arcs in mind. As such, for the first time, I have decided to allow television and video game scores to compete on an equal footing with film scores for my coveted ‘Score of the Year’ award – and so, without further ado, here are my choices for the best scores of 2022. Read more…

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Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022 – English Language Indies III

January 27, 2023 2 comments

My recurring under-the-radar series usually concentrates on the best scores for non-English language films in a given year, but doing so means that I sometimes overlook music written for British, Australian, and American films that are similarly low-profile, but also have outstanding scores. To rectify that, here is the final entry for this year in my ongoing series of review articles, this time looking at seven such scores from the second half of 2022, written for independent English-language features that you might have otherwise overlooked.

The scores are: a heartwarming family drama about the homelessness crisis, an Australian film about a the unlikely friendship between a girl and a fish, a British comedy set in the world of French high fashion, another British comedy set in the world of professional golf, scores for two experimental films by a talented newcomer, a seasonal fantasy-drama about a magical reindeer, and a hilarious mock-biopic of Weird Al Yankovic! Read more…

CHAPLIN – John Barry

January 26, 2023 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Considering that he was one of the most important and transformative figures in the history of cinema, it’s somewhat surprising that there wasn’t a biopic of Charlie Chaplin until 1992. The film was a labor of love for director Richard Attenborough; it was written by a trio of literature greats – William Boyd, Bryan Forbes, and William Goldman – and starred the then 27-year old Robert Downey Jr. in the role that marked his transition from youthful movies to serious adult cinema. The film charts Chaplin’s entire life and career, from his impoverished childhood growing up in Victorian London, to his first brushes with showbusiness via Fred Karno’s vaudeville theatre, his move to the United States in 1914, and his gradual rise to fame via his iconic ‘tramp’ character in silent films such as The Kid, The Gold Rush, and City Lights. It also reveals his tempestuous private life – various love affairs and failed marriages – as well as his political conflicts with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, which eventually led to him fleeing America for Europe at the height of his fame amid accusations of communist sympathies. The film climaxes with Chaplin’s glorious return to Hollywood in 1972 after decades in exile, when he received an honorary Oscar for ‘the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century’. Read more…

Academy Award Nominations 2022

January 24, 2023 Leave a comment

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) have announced the nominations for the 95th Academy Awards, honoring the best in film in 2022.

In the Best Original Score category, the nominees are:

  • VOLKER BERTELMANN (HAUSCHKA) for All Quiet on the Western Front
  • CARTER BURWELL for The Banshees of Inisherin
  • JUSTIN HURWITZ for Babylon
  • RYAN LOTT, RAFIQ BHATIA, and IAN CHANG (SON LUX) for Everything Everywhere All at Once
  • JOHN WILLIAMS or The Fabelmans

This is the second Oscar nomination for Bertelmann, the third Oscar nomination for Burwell, the fourth Oscar nomination for Hurwitz (him having previously won for both song and score for La La Land in 2016), and the first nomination for the members of Son Lux.

Incredibly, this is the 53rd Oscar nomination for John Williams, which breaks his own record for being the most nominated living person, and maintains his position as the second most nominated person of all time after Walt Disney (who had 59). He previously won Academy Awards for Fiddler on the Roof in 1971, Jaws in 1975, Star Wars in 1977, E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial in 1982, and Schindler’s List in 1993.

In the Best Original Song category, the nominees are:

  • STEPHANIE GERMANOTTA (LADY GAGA) and MICHAEL TUCKER (BLOODPOP) for “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick
  • M. M. KEERAVANI and KANUKUNTLA SUBHASH CHANDRABOSE for “Naatu Naatu” from RRR
  • RYAN LOTT, DAVID BYRNE, and MITUSKI MIYAWAKI (MITSKI) for “This Is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once
  • TEMILADE OPENIYI (TEMS), ROBYN RIHANNA FENTY, RYAN COOGLER, and LUDWIG GÖRANSSON for “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
  • DIANE WARREN for “Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman

The winners of the 95th Academy Awards will be announced on March 12, 2023

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GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO – Alexandre Desplat

January 24, 2023 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been so many versions of Carlo Collodi’s classic story Pinocchio over the years that it’s hard to keep track of them all. The best known version of the story, at least in English-speaking countries, is the classic Disney musical from 1940; in the intervening years there have been dozens of others, including two different ones directed by Italian filmmaker Roberto Benigni, and a remake of the 1940 version starring Tom Hanks just a few months ago. Given all this, one might wonder what Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio might have to offer that is different from all the other versions, but in actual fact it has a great deal to recommend, from its beautiful and detailed stop-motion animation, its unexpectedly deep and sophisticated screenplay adaptation, interesting voice cast, and appealing music. Read more…

ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND – Irving Berlin and Alfred Newman

January 23, 2023 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1937 composer Irving Berlin was solicited by 20th Century Fox studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck to write a biopic about his life to be called “Alexander’s Ragtime Band, which would showcase some of his greatest songs. Berlin balked, believing such a story would be too intrusive. Zanuck pivoted and asked him if he could instead write a story, which could feature his greatest songs. He agreed, collaborated with screen writer Richard Sherman, and their story was accepted. Zanuck took personal charge of production, hired Kathryn Scola and Lamar Trotti to write the screenplay, and tasked Henry King with directing. The cast would be anchored by singers Ethel Merman as Jerry Allen, and Alice Faye as Stella Kirby. Joining them would be Tyrone Power as Alexander, Don Ameche as Charlie Dwyer and Jack Haley as Davey Lane. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2022, Part 4C

January 20, 2023 1 comment

Life has returned to world cinema in 2022 following the easing of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and at the end of the fourth quarter of the year I’m absolutely delighted to present the latest instalment in my on-going series of articles looking at the best under-the-radar scores from around the world. This article covers five scores for projects from Scandinavia and adjacent countries in eastern Europe, and includes a Polish comedy drama set in Denmark, a Norwegian animated film based on a classic children’s book, a Finnish super-hero film for children, a Norwegian WWII action film, and a gorgeous romantic score for a Finnish film set in the wilds of Ireland. Read more…

BAFTA Nominations 2022

January 19, 2023 Leave a comment

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has announced the nominations for the 76th British Academy Film Awards, honoring the best in film in 2022.

In the Best Original Music category, which is named in memory of the film director Anthony Asquith, the nominees are:

  • VOLKER “HAUSCHKA” BERTELMANN for All Quiet on the Western Front
  • CARTER BURWELL for The Banshees of Inisherin
  • ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
  • JUSTIN HURWITZ for Babylon
  • SON LUX for Everything Everywhere All at Once

This is the second BAFTA nomination for Bertelmann, the 12th BAFTA nomination for Desplat (who won the award for “The King’s Speech” in 2011, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in 2014, and “The Shape of Water” in 2017), the second BAFTA nomination for Burwell, and the second BAFTA nomination for Hurwitz (who won the award for “La La Land” in 2016). The members of Son Lux – Ryan Lott, Rafiq Bhatia, and Ian Chang – are celebrating their first BAFTA nomination.

The winners of the 76th BAFTA Awards will be announced on 19 February, 2023.

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SCENT OF A WOMAN – Thomas Newman

January 19, 2023 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Scent of a Woman is a critically acclaimed drama film directed by Martin Brest. It’s a remake of the 1974 Italian film Profumo di Donna, directed by Dino Risi, which was itself an adaptation of the 1969 novel ‘Il Buio e il Miele’ by Giovanni Arpino. It stars Al Pacino and Chris O’Donnell, with James Rebhorn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Gabrielle Anwar in primary supporting roles. Pacino plays Frank Slade, a former lieutenant colonel in the US Army, who has become an irascible alcoholic following an accident that left him blind. Frank’s niece hires Charlie Simms, a young student with dreams of getting into Harvard, to be his temporary caretaker over the Thanksgiving weekend, and initially there is a terrible personality clash, but gradually the two unlikely companions warm to each other – until Frank calmly states that, at the end of the holiday, he intends to kill himself. Meanwhile, Charlie is having issues of his own, relating to an incident he witnessed at this school, the repercussions of which threaten to jeopardize his entire future. The film was roundly praised at the time, especially for the performance by Pacino, who won the Oscar for Best Actor for his work here. Read more…

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE – Daniel Hart

January 17, 2023 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Anne Rice’s 1976 novel Interview With the Vampire, while not originally a success, has since become regarded as a modern classic of Gothic horror literature, which revitalized the vampire genre after decades where the public perception of them was either a grotesque monster (á la Nosferatu), or a debonair blood-sucking aristocrat (á la Christopher Lee’s Dracula). Rice re-imagined vampires with more depth and emotional complexity, and created a global society for them to inhabit, running parallel to that of the humans on which they prey. The film spawned multiple sequel novels in the ‘Vampire Chronicles’ series, as well as an excellent movie adaptation in 1994 starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, which remains one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Now, the story is being re-told again as a TV series on the AMC network created by Rolin Jones, starring Jacob Anderson as Louis, Sam Reid as Lestat, Eric Bogosian as the interviewer Daniel Molloy, Bailey Bass as the child vampire Claudia, and Assad Zaman as the ancient leader of the Parisian coven, Armand. Read more…