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AGNES OF GOD – Georges Delerue

November 5, 2018 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

John Pielmeier’s play 1979 Agnes of God was both a commercial and critical success, achieving a respectable run on Broadway. Norman Jewison convinced Columbia Pictures that the story had big screen potential, and secured backing for the project. He would both produce and direct the film, and brought in Pielmeier to adapt his play for the cinema. Crucial to the film’s success would be finding three actresses to fill the trio of roles on which the story unfolds. Jane Fonda was cast as Dr. Martha Livingston. Joining her would be Anne Bancroft as Mother Superior Miriam Ruth, and Meg Tilly as Sister Agnes Devereaux. The film offers a murder mystery where science and faith intersect and clash. The story reveals nuns rushing from evening prayers to Sister Agnes’s room in answer to her screaming. They discover her bleeding profusely and a dead baby lying in a basket strangled by its umbilical cord. The court assigns Dr. Livingston to assess Sister Agnes for competency to stand trial. A clash of wills unfolds between Dr. Livingston efforts to discover the truth, and Mother Superior efforts to protect her niece, who she believes is innocent. What results is a classic confrontation of science and faith, with both sides working with the best of intentions. Read more…

OUT OF AFRICA – John Barry

September 3, 2018 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Notable directors such as Orson Welles, David Lean and Nicolas Roeg had long sought to bring to the big screen the 1937 novel Out of Africa by Isak Dinesan (Karen Blixen). None were successful in adapting the story into a cogent screenplay. Sydney Pollack however was determined to succeed, and after two years of struggle managed with the assistance of screenwriter Kurt Luedtke to fashion a screenplay drawing from Blixen’s “Out of Africa”, but also her novel “Shadows on the Grass” and Elsbeth Huxley’s novel, “The Flame Trees of Thika”. Mirage Enterprises agreed to fund the project, which would be produced by Kim Jurgensen and Sydney Pollack, who would also direct. A fine cast was assembled, which included the dashing Robert Redford as Denys Hatton, Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, and Klaus Maria Brandauer as Baron Bror von Blixen. The story offers a sad testament to the life of a wealthy Danish woman Karen Blixen, and the love of her life, Denys Hatton. After she is spurned by her Swedish lover, Karen relocates to British East Africa and enters into a loveless marriage of convenience with his brother, Baron Bror Blixen. They plan to start a dairy cattle farm, but on the wedding day Bror informs her that he plans to instead start a coffee plantation. His infidelity leads to her contracting syphilis, which requires that she return to Denmark for treatment. She returns to find Bror more interested in Safaris than her and they separate. Read more…

RAN – Tôru Takemitsu

August 27, 2018 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Ran, which translates as Chaos, was a passion project for the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, and most critics believe it to be his last great film. He had envisioned the film for many years, and he even made detailed paintings of the castles and sets he hoped to one day construct. He began writing the screenplay in 1976 but production was delayed by Tōhō Studios executives who balked at the estimated $5 million price tag, which would have made it the most expensive Japanese film ever made. The fact that his last film, Dodes’kaden, was a box office flop also served to harden studio resistance. Fortunately the great success of his film Kagemusha restored studio confidence in Kurosawa, and he was able to forge a partnership, securing funds from French producer Serge Silberman. There are recognizable parallels between Ran and Shakespeare’s King Lear, although Kurosawa related that the similarities did not become apparent to him until after he had conceived his script. Ran was Kurosawa’s last great epic film, one that offers a classic morality play, which affirms the truism that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. We are offered an excruciating tragedy, which reveals deception, envy, treachery, betrayal and hubris. Read more…

THE NATURAL – Randy Newman

August 20, 2018 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1982 Columbia Pictures studio executive Victor Kaufman created a joint venture, TriStar Pictures, with CBS and HBO. The goal was to pool their resources given the ever-escalating costs of making movies. For their first film they chose to celebrate America’s national pastime by adapting The Natural, a baseball biopic novel by Bernard Malamud. The film offered classic Americana and Kaufman believed it was the perfect vehicle for launching TriStar Pictures. Mark Johnson was given the reigns to produce the film, and Barry Levinson was tasked with directing. Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry were brought in to write the screenplay, which would be loosely based on the life of Roy Hobbs, a man of incredible “natural” baseball talent. Robert Redford, whose good looks and leading man talents were ascendant, was cast for the titular role. Joining him would be Robert Duvall as Max Mercy, Glenn Close as Iris Gaines, Kim Basinger as Memo Paris, Barbara Hershey as Harriet Bird, Wilford Brimley as Pop Fischer, Darren McGavin as Gus Sands, and Robert Prosky as the Judge. Read more…

CONAN THE BARBARIAN – Basil Poledouris

August 13, 2018 2 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Conan The Barbarian is based on the Conan stories penned by author Robert E. Howard. The movie adaptation tells the story of a young Conan who lives in the mythic Hyborean Age and suffers grievously at the hands of an evil ruler of the Snake Cult, Thulsa Doom, who kills his parents and sells him into slavery. Eventually after much suffering he gains his freedom and trains to become a mighty warrior. He then sets out to solve the riddle of steel and avenge his parent’s death. As such, this is a classic morality tale with an unambiguous hero and villain. The film was a commercial success, which spawned a sequel and served to reinvigorate the fantasy genre. Read more…

E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL – John Williams

July 30, 2018 2 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Steven Spielberg, like most kids, suffered with the divorce of his parents. He was 14, and to cope with his circumstances, he created an imaginary alien friend, who became a surrogate brother. Over time this evolved into a story, which his sought to film called “Growing Up”. After the success of Raiders of The Lost Ark, he returned to fashioning his childhood story, which would now incorporate elements from another story he had written called “Night Skies,” where aliens terrorize a family. He brought in screenwriter to Melissa Mathison to craft a story of a special needs child bonding with a friendly alien. The result was a story to be called “E.T. and Me,” which Spielberg pitched to Columbia Studios. Remarkably they rejected the project, believing that it would only appeal to small kids. Well, Spielberg was undeterred, and approached Sid Sheinberg of MCA, who saw the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and agreed to fund the project. They bought back the script from Columbia Pictures for $1 million dollars and granted 5% of the film’s net profits. Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy would produce the film, with Spielberg also directing. For his creative team, he brought in Carlo Rambaldi, who had created the aliens seen in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The story required Spielberg to cast child actors, and he screened hundreds. His patience and hard effort paid off as he managed to secure a perfect cast, which included; Henry Thomas as Elliot, Drew Barrymore as Gertie, Dee Wallace as Mary, Peter Coyote as Keys, and Robert MacNaughton as Michael. Read more…

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK – John Williams

July 23, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1973 George Lucas wrote a story titled “The Adventures of Indiana Smith”, drawing inspiration from adventure movies of the 1930s and 1940s. While on a shared vacation to Hawaii with Steven Spielberg, Lucas pitched his story, and convinced him to direct a trilogy of films. Upon Spielberg’s suggestion, the surname was changed to Jones and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan was hired to create the script. The major Hollywood studios all rejected the project because of the $20 million price tag and Lucas’ exacting terms. Eventually Paramount took the gamble and Frank Marshall was tasked with producing the film. After exhausting efforts to cast the lead man, Spielberg convinced Lucas to cast Harrison Ford for the role of Indiana Jones. Joining him on the project would be Paul Freeman as Dr. René Belloq, Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood, John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, Ronald Lacey as Major Arnold Toht, Denholm Elliot as Dr. Marcus Brody, and Wolf Kahler as Colonel Dietrich. Read more…

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – John Williams

June 18, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The stunning success of Star Wars caused George Lucas to rethink his original vision of a single stand-alone film. He now saw opportunity for a story arc, which would span additional films. To that end, he hired veteran science fiction writer Leigh Brackett to write the next screenplay, based on his story titled The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas did not like her first draft, and when she died shortly there after of cancer, he was left to rewrite the script himself. He shifted the story into a much darker narrative, which critics today acknowledge as the best film of the franchise. Lucas did not want to direct and so brought in trusted friend Irvin Kershner, his former professor. Most of the original cast would reprise their roles; Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Kenny Baker as R2-D2, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, and David Prowse as Lord Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones). Joining them would be Frank Oz as Yoda, Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, and Jeremy Bulloch as Boba Fett. Read more…

STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE – Jerry Goldsmith

June 11, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The rebirth of the science fiction genre with Star Wars in 1977, and the continued success of the Star Trek series in syndication, convinced Paramount Studio to begin work on a feature film. In 1978, Paramount assembled the largest press conference held at the studio since the 1950s to announce that double Academy Award winning director Robert Wise would direct a $15 million film adaptation of the television series. The film in the finest tradition of Star Trek is a classic morality play, which speaks to a universal and transcendent yearning shared by all cultures, namely La Ricerca di Dio – the quest for God. The story line reveals the menace of a massive energy cloud of enormous power on a set course to Earth. Admiral James Kirk reassumes command of a newly refitted Enterprise and leads a desperate mission to save humanity. But all is not as it seems as we see Kirk discover that he faces a first contact encounter with an entity of insurmountable power programmed to a singular purpose – to find its creator. By maintaining fidelity to the fundamental Federation principles of seeking out new life forms in the spirit of peace and understanding, Kirk, using his usual guile and experience, is able to overcome technological, linguistic and conceptual challenges and establish a dialogue. With Spock’s assistance, he ultimately succeeds in potentiating within the mechanistic alien entity a spiritual epiphany, which catalyzes a breath-taking transformation, thereby saving the Earth. The film was slow paced, cerebral and ponderous, yet never the less became a huge commercial success. It earned Paramount three times its production costs, there-by setting the stage for a second film. Goldsmith was also honored with Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for best score. Regretfully, he failed to win. Read more…

SUPERMAN – John Williams

June 4, 2018 2 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1973 producers Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler believed it was time to bring a classic super hero to the big screen. After protracted negotiations with DC Comics, they secured film rights to produce two Superman movies, which they would shoot back to back. A number of screenwriters were hired and let go before until a team comprised of Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman and Robert Benton took up the project. Yet Salkind and Spengler were still not satisfied and so hired Tom Mankiewiicz to do the final rewrite, which was completed in July 1976. Thematic for the film was taking the long and tortuous road to hire a director and cast. Richard Donner finally won out over nine other directors. As for the titular role, almost all of the leading men of the day were either turned down, or showed no interest. As such, Spengler decided to cast an unknown, and after over 200 auditions, newcomer Christopher Reeve won the part – bu it was felt he was too skinny. Rather than wear a muscle suit, Reeve went on a weight-lifting regimen, adding a massive 24 pounds of muscle. Joining the cast would be Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, Ned Beatty as Otis, Jackie Cooper as Perry White, Glenn Ford as Jonathan Kent, Phyllis Thaxter as Martha Kent, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, and Valerie Perrine as Eve Teschmacher. Read more…

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND – John Williams

May 28, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Since his youth, Steven Spielberg had aspired to create a feature length science fiction film. His 1970 short story Experiences was his initial conception, which explored teenagers witnessing a wondrous “meteor shower light show” in the night sky. He pitched his idea and secured backing from Columbia Studios to proceed with “Watch the Skies”. Rewrites caused delays, and it was decided that he proceed with another project first, “Jaws”. The enormous financial success of “Jaws” resulted in Columbia Studios granting him significant creative control, which allowed for the development of the science fiction film he had always dreamed of. The script was written by Spielberg, but had input and additional refinements by several screenwriters. The title was changed to its final form as a derivation of ufologist J. Allen Hynek’s classification methodology for “close encounters”. Spielberg assembled a fine cast anchored by “Jaws” star Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, Francois Truffault as Claude Lacombe, Melinda Dillon as Jillian Guiler, Teri Garr as Veronica Neary, and Cary Guffey as Barry Guiler. Read more…

STAR WARS – John Williams

May 21, 2018 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

George Lucas conceived of a space adventure drawn from the Flash Gordon sequels in 1971 following the completion of his first feature film, THX 1138. When his efforts to secure film rights were rebuffed, he resolved to create his own fantasy adventure. He wrote a script in 1973 and producer Larry Kurtz assisted him in securing financing, but United Artists, Disney and Universal Studios all declined, stating that they found the story strange. Lucas however persevered and finally obtained backing by 20th Century Studio exec Alan Ladd Jr. The script evolved through several incarnations, finally coalescing into the film version in 1975. Lucas formed a visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic to realize his technical vision, which would demand visuals not seen before by the industry. The film and company would provide a seminal event, which would usher in a new age of filmmaking. Read more…

ROCKY – Bill Conti

April 23, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Sylvester Stallone was enduring hard times in 1975. Despite having appeared in a few movies – including The Lords of Flatbush, Farewell My Lovely, and Death Race 2000 – he had only $100 in the bank, and was seeking to sell his dog Butkus because he could not afford to feed it. Ending up on the street was a looming possibility, which focused his resolve to engineer the big career break he needed. Seeking inspiration, Stallone found it in a famous match between heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali and underdog no-hoper Chuck Wepner, who somehow managed to take the legendary Ali to fifteen rounds. Over three nights Stallone wrote a quintessential American rags-to-riches story about a down-and-out boxer named Rocky Balboa. This is a classic underdog narrative, where we bear witness to a determined man, who through perseverance, guile and sheer force of will, overcomes all obstacles to achieve greatness. Entwined within the narrative is a surprisingly tender love story, which served to endear Rocky to audiences as a relatable and fallible hero, one of the common folk whose story informs us that anything is possible. United Artist producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler loved the script and bought the film rights, with Stallone leveraging its sale with the stipulation that he would star. Studio executives baulked, but when Stallone refused to blink, they acquiesced, but with a severely reduced budget of $1 million. John G. Avildsen was tasked with directing the film. Read more…

THE OMEN – Jerry Goldsmith

April 16, 2018 Leave a comment

theomen100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Bob Munger, a friend of Producer Harvey Bernhard of 20th Century Fox, suggested that he consider making a supernatural horror drama based on the anti-christ of the apocalypse. Bernhard was intrigued by the idea, and hired screenwriter David Seltzer to come up with a story, who exceeded Bernhard’s expectations and delivered a classic story. Richard Donner was hired to direct and he assembled a stellar cast, which included Gregory Peck as Ambassador Robert Thorn, Lee Remick as his wife Katherine, David Warner as photographer Keith Jennings, Billie Whitelaw as the sinister Mrs. Baylock, Patrick Troughton as Father Brennan, and young Harvey Stephens as Damien Thorn, he young boy at the center of the narrative. Read more…

JAWS – John Williams

April 2, 2018 1 comment

jaws100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As we today look back to 1975, we recognize that Jaws was a transformative film, which forever altered how the film industry would operate. Jaws inaugurated what has become known in the modern lexicon as, the Summer Blockbuster. After 1975 studio executives would thereafter conceive and fund big summer action and adventure films, which would take the public by storm, and fill studio coffers. The film was adapted from a Peter Benchley novel, which was originally conceived with the title “Leviathan Rising”, but later discarded for Jaws. It is as simple a tale as they come, man against the beast. We find the summer vacation community Amity Island plagued by a series of shark attacks, which threaten the island’s livelihood. Rogue seafarer Quint (Robert Shaw) is hired to hunt down and kill the beast with all dispatch. Accompanying him would be landlubber Police Captain Brody (Roy Scheider) and, oceanographer Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss). They wage war against this massive leviathan, which leads to Quint’s death, the loss of his boat, the Orca, and Hooper and Brody barely surviving. Well, the film was a massive commercial success, which spawned a franchise of sequels. It was also a critical success, earning four Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Film Score, winning three; best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Film Score. Read more…