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Archive for January, 2021

Movie Music UK Awards 2020

January 26, 2021 Leave a comment

2020 has been, by far, the strangest year in living memory for both films and film music. The rampant COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic shuttered cinemas around the world and pushed the overwhelming majority of the mainstream studio tentpoles to 2021, 2022, or to an ignominious debut on one of the several streaming services. As such, the list of scores that were released during the calendar year became something of a crapshoot, with no-one ever being quite sure what would come out from one year to the next. As a result of all this, my list of Scores of the Year for 2020 is an independent studio’s dream – there is only one major blockbuster score among my top ten.

It’s perhaps the most eclectic and non-commercial awards I have ever done, but with many of the traditional big guns missing from the list, it allowed a large number of exceptionally talented newcomers and perhaps lesser-known journeymen and women a chance to shine in the spotlight.

Ultimately four of my five nominees for Score of the Year came from British productions – perhaps an indication that circumstances on that side of the pond were slightly less impacted by everything – and amazingly none of those Top 5 scores were written by American composers – quite a change from the usual set of dominant markers. Instead, in addition to the Brits, we have scores from Japan and Spain in the top ten, and as you go further and further down the list you will find numerous unexpected choices, ranging historical dramas and adventure fantasies from Germany, horror films from Norway, super hero-themed thrillers from Spain, documentaries from Israel by way of China, romantic comedies from Ireland, and so much more! So, without further ado, here are my choices… Read more…

IL GATTOPARDO – Nino Rota

January 25, 2021 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Studio executives of the Italian production company Titanus decided to bring to the big screen the popular 1958 best-selling novel Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Collaboration with 20th Century Fox brought the necessary financing for a budget of $2 million. Titanus producer Goffredo Lombardo was tasked with the project, and Luchino Visconti brought in to direct. Controversy arose over casting the key role of Prince Don Fabrizio Corbera of Salina as Visconti desired Marlon Brando or Laurence Olivier but the 20th Century Fox leveraged their financing of $2 million to force Burt Lancaster into the role over Visconti’s objections. Joining him would be Claudia Cardinale as Angelica Sedera, Alain Delon as Prince Tancredi Falconeri, and Rina Morelli as Princess Maria Stella of Salina. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2020, Part VI

January 22, 2021 1 comment

As the year winds down and the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues still to decimate the 2020 theatrical movie schedule, it appears that yet again a lot of the best film music released comes from smaller international features not as reliant on massive theatrical releases to make their presence felt. As such (and as I did last year under much different circumstances) I am very pleased to present the sixth and final installment (for this calendar year) in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world.

The titles included are a Spanish TV documentary about a legendary footballer, a Norwegian fantasy-horror about Norse gods, a Spanish comedy score set in the 1970s, a raucous animated adventure from Ireland, and three terrific scores from Italy: a mafia thriller, a biopic about a beloved entertainer, and a comedy about serial killers! Read more…

GREEN CARD – Hans Zimmer

January 21, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Green Card is a romantic comedy-drama written and directed by Peter Weir, starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell. Depardieu plays Georges Fauré, an undocumented immigrant from France living in New York, who enters into a ‘green card marriage’ with MacDowell’s character, Brontë Parrish, so that he can stay in the United States. In order to fool the agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service who are reviewing their case, Georges and Brontë agree to move in together, but quickly find that they have absolutely nothing in common, and before long they can barely tolerate each other. However, true love has a way of emerging in stories like this – and such is the case here, with plenty of hi-jinks and cross-cultural misunderstandings along the way. Green Card was the first English-language leading role for Gérard Depardieu, who was already considered the finest French actor of his generation, and it was mostly a success, with Depardieu winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Read more…

PIECES OF A WOMAN – Howard Shore

January 19, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Pieces of a Woman is a serious, emotionally devastating family drama about a pregnant woman named Martha who, following a shocking event during her home birth, finds her entire life falling apart. Wracked with guilt, Martha finds herself becoming increasingly alienated from her husband and mother, receiving judgmental comments from people around her, and eventually contemplating legal action against her midwife – all while coming to terms with her own feelings about what happened to her and her baby. It’s a searing indictment of the issues many women have to face during their pregnancies, including the assignment of blame, and the extent to which many women are not given full control of what should be one of the most important and personal events of their lives. The film was directed by Hungarian filmmaker Kornél Mundruczó, and was adapted from a 2018 stage play by him and writer Kata Wéber; it stars Vanessa Kirby as Martha, and features support from Shia LaBoeuf, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook, and Ellen Burstyn, all of whom have been mentioned as potential Oscar nominees. The film is also notable for its inclusion of a 24-minute opening birth sequence, which was shot in a single take and was largely improvised in the moment by the actors, director Mundruczó, and camera operator Benjamin Loeb. Read more…

COME SEE THE PARADISE – Randy Edelman

January 14, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Every once in a while, a piece of film music transcends the movie for which it was written and takes on a life of its own, becoming enormously famous and popular with the general public, despite the majority of them having no idea where it originally came from. If you went to a cinema at any point in the 1990s and watched the trailers you will have heard one such cue: a driving, momentum-filled piece of drama and intensity, filled with surging strings, powerful percussion, epic cymbal clashes, even a cimbalom, before it all ends on a gripping, tension-filled chord. It was used in the trailers for everything from Clear and Present Danger to A Few Good Men, Patriot Games to Philadelphia, Rob Roy, and so many others, and it was of course the legendary “Fire in a Brooklyn Theatre”. But, originally, it came from this score – Come See the Paradise by Randy Edelman. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2020, Part V

January 12, 2021 1 comment

As the year winds down and the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues still to decimate the 2020 theatrical movie schedule, it appears that yet again a lot of the best film music released comes from smaller international features not as reliant on massive theatrical releases to make their presence felt. As such (and as I did last year under much different circumstances) I am very pleased to present the fifth installment in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world – this time concentrating on six more of the best scores from the fourth quarter of 2020!

The titles included are a Christmas-themed animated film from Norway, a documentary about the Spanish civil war, a Russian Romeo-and-Juliet style romantic drama, a Dutch WWII spy thriller, a historical romance from Spain, and Italian biopic of a mad genius painter! Read more…

WHERE EAGLES DARE – Ron Goodwin

January 11, 2021 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The genesis of Where Eagles Dare lay with actor Richard Burton, whose career was in decline. His two sons exhorted him to do an adventure film where he was the hero, and did not die in the end. Burton approached producer Elliot Kastner and asked if he had any projects that would fit the bill. He did not but Kastner asked novelist collaborator Alistair MacLean for a new original script to showcase Burton. Well, MacLean delivered the goods, and financing was provided by Winkast Productions with a budget of $6.2 million. Brian Hutton was brought in to direct and a stellar cast assembled to join Richard Burton as Major Jon Smith, including Clint Eastwood as Lieutenant Morris Schaffer, Mary Ure as Mary Ellison, Patrick Wymark as Colonel Wyatt Turner, and Michael Hordern as Vice Admiral Rotland. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2020, Part IV

January 8, 2021 1 comment

As the year winds down and the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues still to decimate the 2020 theatrical movie schedule, it appears that yet again a lot of the best film music released comes from smaller international features not as reliant on massive theatrical releases to make their presence felt. As such (and as I did last year under much different circumstances) I am very pleased to present the fourth installment in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world – this time concentrating on six of the best scores from the fourth quarter of 2020! The titles include a moving Chinese-Israeli holocaust documentary, an emotional Italian drama, a wonderful Christmas themes score from the Netherlands, a score for a modern LGBTQ love story, a powerful documentary score from Spain, and a children’s animated film about a crazy chicken! Read more…

AWAKENINGS – Randy Newman

January 7, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

In 1969 the acclaimed neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks was a 36-year-old physician at Beth Abraham Hospital’s chronic-care facility in the Bronx in New York. While there, Sacks began working with a group of survivors of the 1920s sleeping sickness encephalitis lethargica, who had been unable to move on their own for decades, and existed in a state of catatonia. After surmising that the new experimental drug L-DOPA may have a positive effect on his patients he began administering it to a test group; it had immediate, miraculous results, with several patients emerging from their stupor and regaining almost all of their cognitive faculties. Unfortunately, the effects of the drugs were short lived, and the patients eventually regressed to their catatonic states, but not before many of them related their experiences and life stories. Sacks eventually published the details of his work in the non-fiction book Awakenings, which was adapted into this film by Steven Zaillian in 1990. Robin Williams starred as Malcolm Sayer (Sacks by another name), with Robert De Niro turning in a tour-de-force performance as Leonard, one of the patients he revives. The film was directed by Penny Marshall, and co-starred John Heard, Julie Kavner, Penelope Ann Miller, and Max von Sydow; it was also a tremendous critical success, receiving Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor for De Niro, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Read more…

THE MIDNIGHT SKY – Alexandre Desplat

January 5, 2021 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Midnight Sky is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama directed by George Clooney, adapted from the novel by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Clooney himself stars as Augustine Lofthouse, a brilliant NASA scientist who has been searching for habitable planets elsewhere in the universe that humans could colonize. In the year 2049 an unidentified cataclysmic event wipes out most of the Earth’s population; knowing that he is terminally ill, Augustine volunteers to remain behind at an isolated communications base in the Arctic, where he attempts to contact the crew aboard the spacecraft Aether, who are returning to Earth after a successful voyage to a habitable moon orbiting Jupiter, with the intention of telling them not to come back. However, Lofthouse is having trouble successfully contacting the ship, and fears that all may be lost – until he finds a young girl living in the communications base, having apparently been left behind by her family. Inspired by the girl to renew his efforts to make contact, Lofthouse and the girl set out across the icy wastes of the Arctic, heading towards a different radio base, despite the numerous dangers that lie in their path. The film co-stars Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Demián Bichir, and Kyle Chandler as the crew of the spacecraft, and was intended to be released in theaters in the fall of 2020 but – of course – was pushed to Netflix instead, yet another cinematic victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more…

THE WIND AND THE LION – Jerry Goldsmith

January 4, 2021 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director John Milius was a longtime admirer of President Theodore Roosevelt. By chance he came upon an article “Pedecaris Incident” by Barbara W. Tuchman in American Heritage magazine and found a fascinating story which involved President Roosevelt sending American troops to free an American citizen kidnapped in Morocco by a Berber warlord. He was intrigued by the tale and further investigatory reading of the 1924 biography Raisuli, The Sultan of the Mountains by Rosita Forbes inspired him to proceed with a film adaptation. He had always dreamed of filming a grand sprawling epic film and believed this story gave him his opportunity. Given that this was a passion project, Milius wrote the screenplay himself and related: “I consider ‘The Wind and the Lion’ my first real movie. I approached it as a David Lean film, to do it in that style, a large epic canvas, to see if I could pull off great movements of troops. The story is even written that way. Two guys, the Raisuli and Teddy Roosevelt, yelling at each other across oceans.” However, to get MGM Studios buy in, he had to romanticize the story by changing the kidnapped victim to a beautiful woman, and casting Raisuli as one of the dashing leading men of the day. Herb Jaffe was tasked with producing the film and a budget of $4.5 million was provided. Casting was problematic with Omar Sharif turning down the part of Raisuli and Faye Dunaway withdrawing due to illness. Eventually Sean Connery was cast as Sharif Mulai Ahmed Mohammed Raisuli joined by Candice Bergen as Eden Pedecaris. Joining them would be Brian Keith as President Theodore Roosevelt and John Huston as Secretary of State John Hay. Read more…

SOUL – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste

January 1, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s been quite fascinating to observe the gradual tonal shift in Pixar’s movies over the years. Although their earliest entries – Toy Story in 1995, A Bug’s Life in 1998, Toy Story 2 in 1999 – contained their fair share of interesting adult and emotional themes in amongst the toy-and-bug based comedy and antics, in recent years the studio has become much more interested in exploring deeply existential themes of life and death. 2017’s Coco saw its Mexican protagonist journey to the fabled ‘land of the dead’ to seek a deceased family member, while Onward from earlier this year saw two alternate-reality fantasy elves trying to spend one more day with their deceased father. Pixar’s new film, Soul, may be the most ambitious one yet. It follows the story of Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher who dreams of being a jazz musician; after an accident on the way back from a gig audition Joe finds himself literally separated from his soul and on his way to the ‘great beyond’. However, when Joe rebels against his fate because he doesn’t believe he has achieved what he was destined to do, he instead finds himself acting as a mentor to a pre-born soul named 22 who has been unable and unwilling to find the ‘spark’ she needs in order to achieve life on Earth. The film is directed by Pete Docter and features the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, and Rachel House. Read more…