Archive for January, 2020


January 31, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Last Full Measure is a military-themed drama film written and directed by Todd Robinson. It tells the true story of William H. Pitsenbarger, a sergeant in the US Air Force, who flew rescue missions to save downed soldiers and pilots during the Vietnam War. Pitsenbarger was killed during the Battle of Xa Cam My in April 1966, and the film tells the story of the 34-year struggle to have him awarded the Medal of Honor. The film stars Sebastian Stan as Scott Huffman, the Pentagon official charged with investigating the Medal of Honor request, and has an astonishing supporting cast that includes Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Ladd, Amy Madigan, Bradley Whitford, John Savage, and the late Peter Fonda, in what turned out to be his final screen role. Conceptually the film is very much in the vein of those earnest military dramas like Men of Honor, and especially Courage Under Fire, and those comparisons continue into its music too. Read more…

ALWAYS – John Williams

January 30, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Always is the Steven Spielberg film most people tend to forget. Sandwiched between such classics as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Schindler’s List, and Jurassic Park, it came during the period where Spielberg was alternating between making major box office blockbusters and smaller, more personal films that tackled intimate themes and emotions. Always is a remake of the 1943 Spencer Tracy film A Guy Named Joe, which was written by Dalton Trumbo. Richard Dreyfuss stars in the Tracy role as Pete Sandich, a daredevil pilot who works putting out forest fires; his long-time girlfriend Dorinda (Holly Hunter) and best friend Al (John Goodman) fear that his recklessness in the air will lead to tragedy. Their worst fears come true when Pete is killed in a plane crash saving Al’s life; in the afterlife, Pete is given guidance by an angel-like figure (Audrey Hepburn, in her final screen role), and told that he has one last life to save before he can move on to heaven – Dorinda’s, who has become overwhelmingly grief stricken and suicidal as a result of Pete’s death. Read more…

DRACULA – David Arnold and Michael Price

January 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been literally dozens and dozens of adaptations of and variations on the Dracula story in the years since Bram Stoker wrote it in 1897. The most recent version is this BBC mini-series developed by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, the brains behind such successful shows as Doctor Who, Sherlock, and The League of Gentleman. Danish actor Claes Bang is the latest to star in the title role as the undead aristocrat from Eastern Europe who drinks human blood to survive; the show begins with a fairly conventional re-telling of the Dracula myth – castles and brides, voyages to Whitby, Lucy and Mina and Jonathan Harker – but ends with a very unconventional contemporary twist that places Dracula in modern society and completely upends vampire lore. The show has not been entirely successful, but it certainly has handsome and impressive production values, which extend to its score by composers David Arnold and Michael Price. Read more…

ODNA [ALONE] – Dmitri Shostakovich

January 27, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Film-making in the 1930s Soviet Union was very tightly regulated by the state to ensure fidelity to the ideals of the revolution. Directors Leonid Trauberg and Grigori Kozintsev found inspiration in news reports of the dire challenges faced by two teachers. They conceived their film to address three political issues of the day; the State’s promotion of education, the elimination of the kulaks (land owning peasants), and the introduction of modern technology. The film was originally conceived as a silent film, but was later changed to include dialogue and music by composer Dmitri Shostakovich. With the additional demand by the State for realism in film, each actor would use their real names as the characters. Yelena Kuzima would star in the lead role as the school teacher Joining her would be Pyotr Sobolevsky as her husband, Sergey Gerasimov as the local Council Chairman and Mariya Babanova as the Chairman’s wife. Read more…

DOLITTLE – Danny Elfman

January 24, 2020 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Whimsical fantasy adventure scores have been bread and butter for Danny Elfman for more than thirty years, ever since he first burst onto the scene and wowed us with his magical, maniacal musical talents. His latest effort in the genre is Dolittle, a new adaptation of the famous stories by Hugh Lofting about an eccentric, reclusive doctor in Victorian England who has a somewhat unique gift – he can talk to animals! The role was made famous by Rex Harrison in a 1967 screen musical, and then by Eddie Murphy in a very different approach in 1998; this new version returns (mostly) to its roots and stars Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, setting sail on a fantastical adventure to find a cure for Queen Victoria, who is suffering from a mysterious illness. The film is adapted from Lofting’s 1922 novel The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, is directed by Stephen Gaghan, and has an astonishing all-star supporting cast both corporeal and vocal, including Antonio Banderas, Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Holland, Rami Malek, and Octavia Spencer. Read more…

DIAL M FOR MURDER – Dimitri Tiomkin

January 21, 2020 Leave a comment


Original Review by Craig Lysy

English playwright Frederick Knott introduced his story “Dial M For Murder” in 1952 as a play for television. Its popularity led to stage productions in London and New York that were also successful. Renowned producer Alexander Korda saw opportunity and purchased the film rights, and after the success of the stage productions sold them to Warner Brothers for a handsome profit. Warner Brothers Studios had Alfred Hitchcock under contract and when his effort to film “The Bramble Bush” failed to get off the ground they directed him to begin production on “Dial M For Murder”. Hitchcock would produce and direct the film with a modest budget of $1.4 million. His first choices for the lead roles did not pan out. Cary Grant would not accept the role of a villain, and Olivia de Havilland demanded too much money for his modest budget. Despite these setbacks he never the less secured a fine cast which included Ray Milland as Tony Wendice, Grace Kelly as Margot Mary Wendice, Robert Cummings as Mark Halliday, John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard, and Anthony Dawson as Alexander Swann. Read more…

Movie Music UK Awards 2019

January 19, 2020 2 comments

Popular opinion among the film music community has posited that 2019 was the worst year of the decade for new original scores, and while that may be the case for the majority of mainstream Hollywood, that is absolutely not the case for the wider film music world. Yet again, I have to stress that there is some absolutely tremendous film music being written out there by a plethora of young, ambitious, supremely talented composers – if only people are prepared to step from out of their comfort zones and actually seek it out.

My choices for the Scores of the Year all meet the criteria of what I believe makes for outstanding film music: rich, varied ensembles that blend orchestras with electronics, vocals, and soloists in interesting ways; compelling musical architecture which tells a story and supports the visuals in a way which draws the viewer and/or listener into the film’s narrative; inventive writing which uses different themes, interesting compositional ideas, and clever techniques; and strong emotional content which connects the audience with the film it is accompanying.

Four of my five nominees for Score of the Year are indeed from mainstream American productions – one of which is from the granddaddy of all blockbuster franchises – but as you go further and further down the list you will find several works from Asia (Japan, China, Vietnam), as well as contemporary fantasy dramas from Germany, historical biopics from Switzerland, romantic comedies from Sweden and France, historical war movies from Spain, documentaries from Romania, and animated films from all across the globe! So, without further ado, here are my choices… Read more…

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Academy Award Nominations 2019

January 13, 2020 Leave a comment

oscarstatuette The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) have announced the nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards, honoring the best in film in 2019.

In the Best Original Score category, the nominees are:

  • ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for Little Women
  • RANDY NEWMAN for Marriage Story
  • THOMAS NEWMAN for 1917
  • JOHN WILLIAMS for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

This is the first Oscar nomination for Guðnadóttir, and the eleventh nomination for Desplat, who previously won for The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014, and for The Shape of Water in 2017. The Newman cousins now have 22 nominations between them – nine for Randy, and thirteen for Thomas – but neither have previously had a Best Score win.

Incredibly, this is the 52nd Oscar nomination for John Williams, which breaks his own record for 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:

  • KRISTEN ANDERSON-LOPEZ and ROBERT LOPEZ for “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II
  • JOSHUAH BRIAN CAMPBELL and CYNTHIA ERIVO for “Stand Up” from Harriet
  • ELTON JOHN and BERNIE TAUPIN for “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman
  • RANDY NEWMAN for “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4
  • DIANE WARREN for “I’m Standing With You” from Breakthrough

The winners of the 92nd Academy Awards will be announced on February 9, 2020.

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1917 – Thomas Newman

January 11, 2020 5 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

1917 is an astonishing, emotionally overwhelming, technical masterpiece of a film set in northern France during World War I. Directed by Sam Mendes and based in part on the experiences of his own grandfather during the war, the film stars George Mackay and Dean-Charles Chapman as Schofield and Blake, two young English soldiers serving in the trenches on the front lines. When some vitally important military intelligence is conveyed to their commanding officer, Schofield and Blake are tasked with delivering a message to another unit half a dozen miles away, with orders that would stop a platoon of 1,600 soldiers – including Blake’s brother – from falling into a German trap and being massacred. In order to deliver the message the pair must journey on foot deep into enemy territory, overcoming obstacles and enduring incredible physical and mental hardships, in a manner which illustrates how devastating war is for everyone involved. Read more…

SCL Award Winners 2019

January 7, 2020 Leave a comment

The Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL) has announced the winners of the first annual SCL Awards, honoring the best in film and television music in 2019. The SCL is the premier professional trade group for composers, lyricists, and songwriters working in the motion picture, television, and game music industry, and is headquartered in Los Angeles. The winners are:




  • KATHRYN BOSTIC for Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am


  • HILDUR GUĐNADÓTTIR for Chernobyl


  • JOSHUAH BRIAN CAMPBELL and CYNTHIA ERIVO for “Stand Up” from Harriet


  • GORDY HAAB and STEPHEN BARTON for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order


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BAFTA Nominations 2019

January 7, 2020 Leave a comment

baftaThe British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has announced the nominations for the 73rd British Academy Film Awards, honoring the best in film in 2019.

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

  • ALEXANDRE DESPLAT for Little Women
  • MICHAEL GIACCHINO for Jojo Rabbit
  • THOMAS NEWMAN for 1917
  • JOHN WILLIAMS for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

This is the tenth BAFTA nomination for Desplat, who won for “The King’s Speech” in 2010, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in 2014, and “The Shape of Water” in 2018; the second nomination for Giacchino, who previously won for “Up” in 2009; and the seventh nomination for Newman, who won for “American Beauty” in 1999 and “Skyfall” in 2012. It is the first nomination for Guđnadóttir.

The nomination for The Rise of Skywalker marks the the eighteenth nomination for Williams, who has seven previous BAFTAs for “Jaws” in 1975, “Star Wars” in 1978, “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980, “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” in 1982, “Empire of the Sun” in 1988, “Schindler’s List” in 1993, and “Memoirs of a Geisha” in 2005, and further increased his standing as the most-nominated composer in BAFTA history.

The winners of the 73rd BAFTA Awards will be announced on 2 February, 2020.

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Under-the-Radar Round Up 2019, Part IV

January 6, 2020 2 comments

I am pleased to present the fourth installment in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world in 2019. Rather than grouping the scores on a geographical basis, this year I decided to simply present the scores in a random order, and so this fourth batch again includes reviews of seven more disparate scores all around the world – including two TV scores from Spain, a psychological thriller score from Italy, a horror movie from Morocco, a Chinese drama TV series, a comedy from Argentina, and an intimate love story from Vietnam! Read more…

Golden Globe Winners 2019

January 5, 2020 Leave a comment

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) have announced the winners of the 77th Golden Globe Awards, honoring the best in film and American television of 2019.

In the Best Original Score category composer Hildur Guđnadóttir won the award for her challenging score for the comic book action-drama film Joker, a revisionist look at the origin story of Batman’s arch-nemesis. This is Guđnadóttir’s first Golden Globe, and in winning the award becomes the first solo female composer to win Best Score. The only other female composer to win was Lisa Gerrard, who shared the award for Gladiator with Hans Zimmer in 2000. In her acceptance speech, Guđnadóttir said:

“Wow. I thought they forgot the music! Well, this is truly… I’m speechless. This is unbelievable. Thank you Hollywood Foreign Press. Thank you Todd (Phillips) for inviting me on the journey of a lifetime, for all the trust and faith and your openness. Thank you, Joaquin (Phoenix) for making my job really easy with a spectacular, unbelievable performance. It’s mindblowing. Thank you Jason Ruder, music editor, for your fantastic job. Truly incredible. Conductor Jeff Atmajian. My brothers Gunnartin, Asthor, and Gunnarsson. My agent Patty, of course. My incredible family, and my mother, my husband and score producer Sam, my beautiful son Cody. That’s everything!”

The other nominees were Alexandre Desplat for Little Women, Randy Newman for Marriage Story, Thomas Newman for 1917, and Daniel Pemberton for Motherless Brooklyn

In the Best Original Song category, the winners were Elton John and Bernie Taupin for their song “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman, the biopic of John’s life starring Taron Egerton.

The other nominees were Cynthia Erivo and Joshuah Brian Campbell for “Stand Up” from Harriet; Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Timothy McKenzie, and Ilya Salmanzadeh for “Spirit” from The Lion King; Robert Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez for “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II; and Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber for “Beautiful Ghosts” from Cats.

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