THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY – Kris Bowers

April 13, 2021 4 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been several films and plays made about the life and work of the great jazz singer Billie Holiday, who died in 1959 aged just 44. Lady Sings the Blues from 1972 earned Diana Ross an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, while Audra McDonald received unanimous critical praise for her performance as her in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill a few years ago. The latest actress to play her on screen is Andra Day in the Lee Daniels-directed The United States vs. Billie Holiday. The film follows Holiday at the height of her fame and explores two story strands that speak to the African American experience in the 1940s; the first concerns her role at the center of the ‘War on Drugs’ wherein Holiday – a long-time heroin addict – becomes a target for the federal government and is seduced by and has a long-term relationship with narcotics agent Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), who was taking part in an undercover sting operation against her. The second concerns the effort of similar authorities to stop her performing the controversial song “Strange Fruit,” an anti-racism song written in response to the lynchings of young black men in the 1930s. Read more…

BAFTA Winners 2020

April 11, 2021 Leave a comment

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) have announced the winners of the 74th British Academy Film Awards, honoring the best in film in 2020.

In the Best Original Music category, the winners were Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste, who won the award for their work on the Pixar animated film Soul. Accepting the award on behalf of the trio via Zoom, British composer Atticus Ross said:

“Wow, thank you BAFTA. First off I’d like to celebrate the incredible talent of my musical partners, Trent Reznor and Jon Batiste. For me, the message of Soul is to embrace the moment, so in this crazy moment I’d like to embrace everyone at Pixar, especially Pete Docter, Kent Powers, Dana Murray, and Tom McDougall. I know that Trent and Jon would want me to thank their families. I’d like to thank my wife Claudia. You endlessly amaze me. My children – come! – I love you! Thank you BAFTAs, this means so much to all of us.”

The other nominees were James Newton Howard for News of the World, Emile Mosseri for Minari, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Mank, and Anthony Willis for Promising Young Woman.

Categories: News Tags: ,

DEFENDING YOUR LIFE – Michael Gore

April 8, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Defending Your Life is a high concept comedy-drama written, directed by, and starring Albert Brooks. He plays Los Angeles advertising exec Daniel Miller, who is hit by a bus and killed within minutes of the film starting. He awakens in the ‘waiting zone’ between Earth and the afterlife, which is an interconnected complex of luxury resort hotels featuring every imaginable convenience. The catch is that, in order to successfully transition to heaven, the newly-deceased Daniel must ‘defend his life’ with the help of an assigned lawyer, and argue a case before a panel of judges, who will determine whether he lived his life on Earth well. If he is unsuccessful his soul will be reincarnated to live another life on Earth, where he will have another attempt at moving past his fears. While undergoing this process Daniel meets and falls in love with Julia (Meryl Streep), a recently deceased woman, who is taking the same tests. The film, which co-stars Rip Torn and Lee Grant, is an unusual mix of whimsical comedy, light romance, and existential philosophy, but was very well-received when it was first released, with Roger Ebert calling it “funny in a warm, fuzzy way” and a film with a “splendidly satisfactory ending”. Read more…

GODZILLA VS. KONG – Tom Holkenborg

April 6, 2021 5 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Shared multiverses are such an important part of contemporary cinema these days. It feels like every new successful film, no matter what the genre, feels the need to expand its scope to encompass a range of endless spinoffs, sequels, and prequels, and this is certainly the case in the world of fantasy and science fiction. Godzilla vs. Kong is the culmination of a near decade-long project by Legendary Pictures, and sees the timelines of the films Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) coming together in a battle for kaiju supremacy. The film is set five years after the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and follows a complicated (but patently ridiculous) plot about evil corporations building giant robots, and the theory that the center of the earth is actually hollow, but it’s really just all an excuse for Godzilla and King Kong to have an enormous on-screen fight amid the skyscrapers of Hong Kong, and using those basic prerequisites, it’s a success. The film is directed by Adam Wingard, stars Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Kyle Chandler, and Demián Bichir, and has a score by Dutch composer Tom Holkenborg. Read more…

THE QUIET MAN – Victor Young

April 5, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director John Ford read the story “The Quiet Man” by Maurice Walsh in the Saturday Evening Post, liked it, and purchased the film rights for $6,260 In 1944 he approached actor John Wayne and made a gentlemen’s agreement to make a film, which would be set in Ireland. However, to their dismay, every studio turned them down saying their idea was “a silly Irish story that won’t make a penny”. Undeterred they went to Republic Pictures studio executive Herbert J. Yates and negotiated a deal; if he would fund the film Wayne and co-star Maureen O’Hara would agree to first make a Western for Republic. Yates agreed and they made the successful film “Rio Grande” in 1950. They got the green light to proceed and Ford would produce and direct the film with a generous $1. 75 million budget. John Wayne would star as Sean Thornton and Maureen O’Hara would play Mary Kate Danaher. Joining them would be Barry Fitzgerald as Michaleen “Óge” Flynn, Ward Bond as Father Peter Lonergan, and Victor McLaglen as Squire “Red” Will Danaher. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2021, Part I

April 2, 2021 1 comment

Yes it’s that time of year again! The new year is already one quarter gone and, as the world of mainstream blockbuster cinema and film music continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues, we must again look to smaller international features not as reliant on massive theatrical releases to discover the best new soundtracks. As such I am very pleased to present the first 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 two Spanish action thrillers, a Vietnamese romantic drama, an Italian period murder-mystery television series, a Russian fantasy-adventure sequel, and a contemporary French TV series re-telling a classic story about a gentleman thief! Read more…

THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS – Angelo Badalamenti

April 1, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Comfort of Strangers is a psychological thriller directed by Paul Schrader, adapted by Harold Pinter from the novel by Ian McEwan. Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson play Colin and Mary, an English couple on vacation in Venice, looking to rekindle the spark in their relationship. The couple makes the acquaintance of Roberto (Christopher Walken), a bar owner, and the three of them spend an evening drinking together and swapping life stories. However, after Roberto introduces them to his wife Caroline (Helen Mirren), it soon becomes apparent that their ‘chance encounter’ was not quite as random as it first appeared, and before long things are spiraling out of control into a web of lies, obsession, and dangerous sexuality. Read more…

THE RECKONING – Christopher Drake

March 30, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Reckoning is a medieval horror movie written and directed by British filmmaker Neil Marshall, whose previous works include Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday, the re-boot of Hellboy, and several of the best episodes of Game of Thrones. The film is set in England in 1665 and stars Charlotte Kirk as Grace Haverstock, a young mother whose husband commits suicide after contracting the bubonic plague. When Grace rebuffs the advances of her late husband’s business partner Pendleton (Steven Waddington) – he wants both her property AND her body – Pendleton uses his influence to exact a sadistic revenge, accusing Grace of witchcraft. Before long Grace finds herself imprisoned and at the mercy of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter, Judge Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee), who forces her to endure endless physical and emotional torture, while she maintains her innocence. It’s a parable of the sort of horrific misogyny women have had to deal with for centuries, dressed up as light torture porn, but it’s done fairly brisk business since its premiere as a video-on-demand in February 2021. Read more…

THE NUN’S STORY – Franz Waxman

March 29, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Fred Zinnemann was intrigued by Kathryn Hulme’s best-selling novel “The Nun’s Story (1956) and purchased the film rights. To his dismay, he could not obtain financial backing from any studio as they all felt that the lack of action would not resonate with audiences. All this changed dramatically when Audrey Hepburn decided she wanted to take on the role of Gaby Van der Mal. A bidding war ensued with Warner Brothers prevailing. Henry Blanke was hired to produce the film with a 3.5 million budget. Robert Anderson was tasked with adapting the novel and writing the screenplay. Zinnemann would direct and he assembled a fine cast. Joining Hepburn would be Peter Finch as Dr. Fortunati, Dame Edith Evans as Mother Emmanuel and Dame Peggy Ashcroft as Mother Mathilde. Read more…

TOURS DU MONDE, TOURS DU CIEL – Georges Delerue

March 25, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Tours du Monde, Tours du Ciel was a groundbreaking 10-part French documentary series broadcast on the La Sept network in 1991. Like the similarly-themed Cosmos, which was presented by Carl Sagan on American television in 1980, it attempted to tell the history of astronomy, from the prehistoric era to the classical Greeks and Romans, through the work of Copernicus and Galileo and Kepler, to the present day, as scientists around the world continue to seek to unlock the secrets of the universe by observing the sky. The series featured interviews with numerous contemporary astronomers and scientists, interspersed with archaeological footage, and spectacular imagery of space; it was directed by Robert Pansard-Besson, and is still recognized today as one of the most important French-language scientific documentaries of all time. Read more…

THE COURIER – Abel Korzeniowski

March 23, 2021 2 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Courier is an old-fashioned slow burn Cold War spy thriller in the classic John Le Carré mold, directed by Dominic Cooke. The film tells the true story of Greville Wynne, a middle-class English businessman who is recruited by both the CIA and MI6 to act as a go-between in their dealings with Oleg Penkovsky, a high-ranking official in Soviet military intelligence who wants to defect to the west. Wynne is instrumental in obtaining information about the Soviet nuclear missile programme, helping Penkovsky smuggle details out of Moscow and back to London; the intelligence he gathers is crucial to ending the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but it comes at great personal cost to Wynne and his family. The film is anchored by a brilliant lead performance from Benedict Cumberbatch as Wynne, a typical everyman who is thrust almost against his will into a world of espionage that he knows nothing about; he is ably supported by Merab Ninidze as Penkovsky, Jessie Buckley as Wynne’s long-suffering wife Sheila, and Rachel Brosnahan and Angus Wright as Wynne’s secret service handlers. Read more…

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS – Victor Young

March 22, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

American novelist Ernest Hemmingway’s latest novel “For Whom The Bell Tolls” (1940) offered a potent commentary on the Spanish Civil War, which many studios believed could be adapted to the big screen. However, Hemmingway’s demand of $100,000 for the film rights, and control of selecting the principal actors was a non-starter. Paramount however, thought differently having successfully produced his earlier novel “A Farewell to Arms” (1932), which agreed to pay an astounding $150,000 for the film rights and acceded to Hemmingway’s demand that he would choose the two leads – Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. After Cecil B. DeMille dropped out of producing and directing the film, Sam Wood took over the reins, and would produce and direct the film with a budget of $3 million. He brought in Louis Bromfield to rework the existing script, with Dudley Nichols finally completing the screen play. An exceptional cast was assembled including Gary Cooper as Robert Jordan, Ingrid Bergman as Maria, Akim Tamiroff as Pablo, Katina Paxinou as Pilar, and Joseph Calleia as El Sordo. Read more…

CLASS ACTION – James Horner

March 18, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Class Action is a courtroom drama directed by Michael Apted, starring Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Hackman plays Jedidiah Ward, a liberal civil rights lawyer who is hired to file a lawsuit against a major auto manufacturer whose station wagons have a dangerous design flaw. The case becomes more complicated for him when he discovers that his daughter Maggie (Mastrantonio) is representing the firm he’s suing; Jedidiah and Maggie have been estranged for many years ever since she discovered that he was cheating on his wife, her mother. The film is intended to be an indictment of corporate greed, specifically companies which weigh financial risk against public interest, while also providing a father-daughter redemption story. The film co-stars Colin Friels, Joanna Merlin, and Laurence Fishburne, and has a score by James Horner. Read more…

Academy Award Nominations 2020

March 15, 2021 Leave a comment

oscarstatuette The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) have announced the nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards, honoring the best in film in 2020.

In the Best Original Score category, the nominees are:

  • TERENCE BLANCHARD for Da 5 Bloods
  • JAMES NEWTON HOWARD for News of the World
  • EMILE MOSSERI for Minari
  • TRENT REZNOR and ATTICUS ROSS for Mank
  • TRENT REZNOR, ATTICUS ROSS, and JON BATISTE for Soul

These are the first Oscar nominations for Mosseri and Batiste. It is the second nomination for Blanchard, the seventh Best Score nomination for Howard (in addition to his two nominations for Best Song), and the second and third nominations respectively for Reznor and Ross, who previously won for The Social Network in 2010.

In the Best Original Song category, the nominees are:

  • SAVAN KOTECHA, MAX GRAHN (FAT MAX GSUS), and RICKARD GÖRANSSON for “Húsavík” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
  • LESLIE ODOM JR. and SAM ASHWORTH for “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami
  • DANIEL PEMBERTON and CELESTE WAITE for “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • DIANE WARREN and LAURA PAUSINI for “Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead
  • GABRIELLA WILSON (H.E.R.), DERNST EMILE II (D’MILE), and TIARA THOMAS for “Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah

The winners of the 93rd Academy Awards will be announced on April 25, 2021.

Categories: News Tags: , ,

RED RIVER – Dimitri Tiomkin

March 15, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer-Director Howard Hawks had long desired to make a Western and finally found his vehicle after reading “The Chisolm Trail” (1946) by Borden Chase in the Saturday Evening post. He secured Monterey Productions to fund the project, providing a generous budget of $2.7 million. This was a passion project, and so Hawks decided to both produce and direct the film. He tasked Chase to adapt his novel and Charles Schnee assisted in writing the screenplay. A stellar cast was hired, which included John Wayne as Thomas Dunson, Montgomery Clift making his acting debut as Matt Garth, Walter Brennan as Nadine Groot, Joane Dru as Tess Millay, and John Ireland as Cherry Valance. Read more…