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Wojciech Kilar, 1932-2013

December 29, 2013 1 comment

Wojciech KilarComposer Wojciech Kilar died on December 29, 2013 at his home in Katowice, Poland, after a battle with cancer. He was 81.

Kilar was born in Lvov, Ukraine, when it was still part of Poland, in July 1932, but moved to Katowice in Silesia in 1948 with his father, a gynecologist, and his mother, an actress.  Kilar studied at the State Higher School of Music in Katowice under composer and pianist Władysława Markiewiczówna, at the State Higher School of Music in Kraków under composer and pianist Bolesław Woytowicz, and in Paris with  the legendary Nadia Boulanger in the late 1950s. Upon his return to Poland, Kilar and fellow composers Henryk Górecki and Krzysztof Penderecki led an avant-garde music movement in the 1960s, during which time he wrote several acclaimed classical works.

Kilar scored his first film in 1959, and went gone on to write music from some of Poland’s most acclaimed directors, including Krzysztof Kieślowski, Krzysztof Zanussi, Kazimierz Kutz and Andrzej Wajda. He worked on over 100 titles in his home country, including internationally recognized titles such as Bilans Kwartalny (1975), Ziemia Obiecana (1975), Rok Spokojnego Słońca (1984), Życie Za Życie (1991) and Pan Tadeusz (1999), plus several others in France and across other parts of Europe. Read more…

12 YEARS A SLAVE – Hans Zimmer

December 20, 2013 Leave a comment

12yearsaslaveOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most important and acclaimed films of 2013, 12 Years a Slave tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York in the pre-Civil War United States, who is tricked, abducted and sold into slavery. Arriving in the South, the story chronicles the next twelve years of his life as he faces cruelty after cruelty, indignity after indignity, relentlessly barbaric treatment at the hands of a malevolent slave owner, and his struggle to maintain some semblance of dignity and humanity as he strives to find a way back home to his family. The film is directed by British filmmaker Steve McQueen, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northup, and features an outstanding supporting cast including Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt, and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, who is destined for an Academy Award nomination for her soulful performance as Solomon’s fellow slave, Patsey. A brutal, difficult, and at times excruciatingly raw film, 12 Years a Slave is clearly one of the year’s best films, in that it examines in unflinching detail one of the most heinous periods in American history, and features a powerhouse central performance from Ejiofor as the man who refuses to be beaten down by the wrongs done to him. Read more…

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG – Howard Shore

December 15, 2013 6 comments

thehobbitdosOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The second film in Peter Jackson’s new Middle Earth trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is The Desolation of Smaug; it picks up immediately where the first film in the trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, left off last year, with the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) journeying to the ancient dwarf stronghold of Erebor in the company of the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), dwarfish king-in-waiting Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), and his band of adventurers, to take back their homeland from the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Along way, however, the heroic company must traverse any number of dangers, including vicious orcs, unfriendly elves, a treacherous forest, and the inhabitants of an impoverished lake town in the shadow of the lonely mountain. Meanwhile, much to Gandalf’s consternation, the shadowy threat of a mysterious necromancer continues to grow, looming large over all of Middle Earth, and threatening its long-lasting peace. The film is a significant improvement over the first installment, eschewing some of its comic action material and embracing a more serious tone that befits a story that touches on much more adult themes involving obsession and corruption. It’s visually spectacular, of course (although the orc leader Azog still looks like a bad video game rendering), has a wonderful supporting cast that includes Stephen Fry, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans and a returning Orlando Bloom as Legolas, and – most importantly from this website’s point of view – sees Howard Shore returning to Middle Earth for the fifth time as composer. Read more…

SAVING MR. BANKS – Thomas Newman

December 13, 2013 3 comments

savingmrbanksOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The much-loved Disney feature Mary Poppins celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long since the world first learned the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, or were first able to hear the worst Cockney accent in cinematic history courtesy of Dick Van Dyke, but it’s true, and the legacy and popularity of the film remains as strong today as it was in 1964. The new film Saving Mr. Banks, directed by John Lee Hancock, tells two parallel stories. Firstly, it charts how the film Mary Poppins was made, with the irascible English spinster P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) traveling from her home in London to Los Angeles, where she is wooed mercilessly by no lesser figure that Walt Disney himself (Tom Hanks), in an attempt to secure the rights to her book, which she is loathe to give up. Secondly, and possibly most importantly, it explores in flashback Travers’ childhood in rural Australia, and how her relationship with her loving, caring, but hopelessly drunk and irresponsible father (Colin Farrell) helped inspired her work, and her famous umbrella-wielding nanny. Read more…

Golden Globe Nominations 2013

December 12, 2013 Leave a comment

goldenglobeThe Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) have announced the nominations for the 71st Golden Globe Awards, honoring the best in film and American television of 2013.

In the Best Original Score category, the nominees are:

  • ALEX EBERT for All is Lost
  • ALEX HEFFES for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  • STEVEN PRICE for Gravity
  • JOHN WILLIAMS for The Book Thief
  • HANS ZIMMER for 12 Years a Slave

These are the first major film music award nominations for Ebert, Heffes and Price, although Ebert has previously been nominated for a Grammy award for his work as a member of the alt-rock group Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. This is the 24th nomination for Williams, who previously won Globes in 1975 for Jaws, 1977 for Star Wars, 1982 for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and 2005 for Memoirs of a Geisga. It’s also the 11th nomination for Zimmer, who previously won Globes for The Lion King in 1994 and Gladiator in 2000.

In the Best Original Song category, the nominees are:

  • KRISTEN ANDERSON-LOPEZ and ROBERT LOPEZ for “Let It Go” from Frozen
  • PAUL HEWSON (BONO), DAVID EVANS (THE EDGE), ADAM CLAYTON, LARRY MULLEN Jr. and BRIAN BURTON for “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
  • CHRIS MARTIN, JONNY BUCKLAND, GUY BERRYMAN and WILL CHAMPION (COLDPLAY) for “Atlas” from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  • ED RUSH, GEORGE CROMARTY, T BONE BURNETT, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, JOEL COEN and ETHAN COEN for “Please Mr. Kennedy” from Inside Llewyn Davis
  • TAYLOR SWIFT and JACK ANTONOFF for “Sweeter Than Fiction” from One Chance

The winners of the 71st Golden Globe Awards will be announced on January 12, 2014.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE – James Newton Howard

December 6, 2013 3 comments

hungergamescatchingfireOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Catching Fire is the second film based on the bestselling Hunger Games trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, following on from the smash hit Hunger Games movie last year. Jennifer Lawrence returns to the starring role as Katniss Everdeen, a young woman from a post-apocalyptic America who, along with her compatriot Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), survived their participation in the eponymous games – a gladiatorial-style combat tournament involving children from various impoverished ‘districts’, who fight to the death for the entertainment of the wealthy and decadent inhabitants of the Capital, organized as penance for a popular uprising generations previously. In Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta have drawn the ire of the corrupt and sadistic President Snow (Donald Sutherland) for defying the Government and for possibly inciting a potential second uprising within the districts; in response, Snow orders a second, special games called the “quarter quell” in which former winners of the games must compete again, in a nightmarish new battle arena designed to look like the jungle. Read more…

FROZEN – Christophe Beck

December 2, 2013 Leave a comment

frozenOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Frozen is the 53rd official animated feature in the Walt Disney canon. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, Disney veterans who previously worked on The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas and Tarzan, the film is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairytale The Snow Queen, albeit significantly ‘Disneyfied” and turned into a full-fledged musical. The story involves two princess sisters from the kingdom of Arendelle, Elsa and Anna, voiced by Kristin Bell and Idina Menzel. As she grows up, Elsa begins to manifest powers that allow her to manipulate snow and ice, culminating in an incident at her coronation as Queen that leaves Arendelle under a blanket of eternal winter. Elsa flees from her home, distraught, but Anna resolves to reconcile with her sister. Teaming up with Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff), a gruff mountain man, and Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), an anthropomorphic snowman, Anna sets off into the frozen wilderness to find the Snow Queen with the fate of the kingdom in her hands. Read more…