ALEXANDRE DESPLAT: EN FRANÇAIS – PART THREE

May 26, 2020 1 comment

Over the past decade or so, Alexandre Desplat has cemented his status amongst the world’s most respected film composers with a series of scores for major studio films in the United States. He has been nominated for eleven Academy Awards – for The Queen (2006), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), The King’s Speech (2010), Argo (2012), Philomena (2013), The Imitation Game (2014), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), The Shape of Water (2017), Isle of Dogs (2018), and Little Women (2019) – winning twice. However, much of his early work in his native France remains relatively unknown to wider audiences – something this article intends to rectify!

In this third installment of Alexandre Desplat: En Français, we take a look at five scores Desplat wrote during the first half of the 2000s, just as he was starting to make in-roads into the international film music scene. Read more…

BACK TO THE FUTURE, PART III – Alan Silvestri

May 21, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Following the massive success of Back to the Future in 1985, director Robert Zemeckis shot a pair of sequels back-to-back, both of which continued the time traveling exploits of Marty McFly, the suburban kid from 1980s California, and his eccentric inventor friend Doc Brown, who built a time machine out of a DeLorean. Back to the Future II was less of an icon than the original, but has since proven prescient with its vision of a dystopian alternate world where Marty’s nemesis Biff Tannen becomes a Donald Trump-like multi-billionaire. The ending of the second movie saw the 1985 version of Doc, and the DeLorean, being hit by lightning and sent back in time to Hill Valley in 1885, when it was a newly-build town in the Old West. However, Marty discovers some devastating news about his friend’s fate, and manages to convince the 1955 version of Doc to send him back in time too. Marty finds Doc happily working as a blacksmith, unaware of his future, but before long the pair starts getting into trouble, with Marty encountering both his own great-grandparents, and running afoul of one of Biff’s ancestors, the ruthless gunslinger Mad Dog Tannen. With time running out to save the day and finally return home, one final issue arises when Doc falls in love with Clara Clayton, a beautiful schoolteacher played by Mary Steenburgen. Read more…

THE WILLOUGHBYS – Mark Mothersbaugh

May 19, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The importance of family is the thematic driving force behind The Willoughbys, a new CGI animated comedy from director Kris Pearn, which premiered on Netflix in April 2020. The film is based on a popular book by author Lois Lowry and follows the adventures of the four Willoughby children – intelligent Tim, precociously talented Jane, and a pair of creepy twin boys both called Barnaby – who conspire to rid themselves of their neglectful and disinterested parents after they find an abandoned baby, but are ordered to get rid of it. After tricking their parents into going on an insanely dangerous European vacation, the Willoughby’s are shocked to find that a Nanny has been hired to look after them; Tim immediately distrusts the Nanny as being in league with his parents, and does everything to thwart her plans. However, there is more to Nanny than meets the eye, and before long a plan is in motion to find their now-missing parents and keep the family together. The film has an excellent voice cast, including Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, and Ricky Gervais, and has been quite well received by critics as a wholesome story that blends slapstick comedy hi-jinks with warm sentiment and heart. Read more…

JANE EYRE – Bernard Herrmann

May 18, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1941 independent producer David O. Selznick hired director John Houseman to write the script for his next project, a retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, Jane Eyre; ultimately the screenplay was realized thanks to the collaboration of fellow director Robert Stevenson and writer Aldous Huxley. However, at this point of his career, Selznick was tired and seeking a respite from producing films. As such he sold production rights for Jane Eyre and several other films to William Goetz of 20th Century Fox. Kenneth MacGowan and Orson Welles were assigned to produce the film and Robert Stevenson was tasked with directing. Welles would star as Edward Rochester with Joan Fontaine as Jane Eyre. Joining them would be a fine cast which included Margaret O’Brien as Adele Verans, Peggy Ann Garner as young Jane Eyre, John Sutton as Dr. Rivers, Sara Allgood as Bessie, Agnes Moorhead as Mrs. Reed and Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns. Read more…

ANOTHER 48 HRS. – James Horner

May 14, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The 1980s buddy-cop movie trend arguably began in 1982 with the film 48 Hrs., which paired gruff homicide detective Jack Cates (played by Nick Nolte) with smart-mouthed street criminal Reggie Hammond (played by Eddie Murphy, making his big screen debut). The mismatched duo had two days to find the men responsible for the murder of two of Jack’s colleagues – hence the title of the film – and the confrontational dynamic between the two leads led to box office gold; the film grossed almost $80 million in the US, launched Eddie Murphy’s movie career, and paved the way for future movies in the buddy-cop genre, notably Lethal Weapon. Nine years later Nolte and Murphy re-teamed with director Walter Hill for Another 48 Hrs., a somewhat belated sequel. In this story, Jack is accused of murder after killing a suspect while trying to capture ‘The Iceman,’ a vicious San Francisco drug lord. Meanwhile, Reggie is due to be released from prison, but discovers that the Iceman has put a bounty on his head, although Reggie doesn’t know why. To solve their mutual problems with the Iceman, Jack teams up with Reggie once more – to save Reggie’s life, and to clear Jack’s name and prove his innocence. Read more…

ROBOT JOX – Frédéric Talgorn

May 7, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The cinematic sub-genre of ‘enormous things fighting each other’ has a small but storied history. The Japanese do it best, with their myriad of monstrous kaiju in the enduring Godzilla series. Michael Bay’s risible Transformers movies made a ton of money at the box office but remain mindless, brain-dead Hollywood products. Director Guillermo del Toro tried to pump some life back into genre with yet more robots when he produced Pacific Rim in 2013, and did so to some acclaim, even though I personally didn’t care for them. However, one of the least-known efforts in the genre is this one: Robot Jox, which actually predates all the American entries. Written and directed by Stuart Gordon, the film is set in a post-apocalyptic future where traditional warfare has been outlawed and, instead, giant machines fight international battles to settle territorial disputes. The film follows the adventures of Achilles (Gary Graham), one of the ‘jox’ pilots who controls these robots in a series of gladiatorial encounters, and who is called on to take part in a vital contest against a Russian opponent for the fate of Alaska. Read more…

BAD EDUCATION – Michael Abels

May 6, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Bad Education is a true-life political drama set in the American school system. Based on the New York magazine article “The Bad Superintendent” by Robert Kolker, it exposes the largest public school embezzlement scam in American history, which occurred in a small town on Long Island, New York, in 2002. The focus is on two individuals – Frank Tassone, the superintendent of the school district, and his assistant, Pam Gluckin – who between them embezzled $7.1 million dollars from the school board finances, until their misdeeds were uncovered by a tenacious high school reporter who found discrepancies in the budget. The film stars Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Ray Romano, and Geraldine Viswanathan, and was a major critical success when it premiered on HBO in the United States in April 2020. The film is directed by Cory Finley, and has a score by composer Michael Abels. Read more…

THE FIELD – Elmer Bernstein

April 30, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Field is a quietly devastating drama written and directed by Jim Sheridan, adapted from the 1965 play of the same name by John Keane. Set in Ireland in the 1930s, the film stars Richard Harris as Bull McCabe, an impoverished farmer who rents a dilapidated field on the cliffs by the sea. When the wealthy widow who owns the field decides to sell it, McCabe assumes that he will be given the first chance to buy it, but unknown to McCabe the widow has been holding on to a grudge for decades, and in a public display of spiteful pettiness directed at McCabe, holds an open auction instead. A rich American named Peter (Tom Berenger), who wants to build a factory on the site, outbids him, and so begins a bitter war which leads to betrayal, death, and madness, with the field itself acting as a symbolic representation of the desperately difficult lives the characters lead. The film has a terrific supporting cast including John Hurt, Sean Bean, Brenda Fricker, and a very young Brendan Gleeson, and was a critical success when it was first released. Read more…

WENDY – Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin

April 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There have been literally dozens of adaptations of the Peter Pan story since it was first written by J. M. Barrie in 1904, as well as numerous sequels and prequels and re-imaginings. Some of the most famous include the Disney animated feature from 1953, Steven Spielberg’s sequel Hook in 1991, and P. J. Hogan’s version from 2003, but now we have possibly the most unusual version of them all – Wendy, from director Benh Zeitlin. The film is a complete re-imagining of the entire story, transposed to the contemporary American South. Devin France plays Wendy Darling, the eldest daughter of Angela (Shay Walker), who owns a diner by the railroad tracks. One night Wendy and her younger twin brothers Douglas and James board a mysterious train, where they meet Peter (Yashua Mack), a free-spirited boy; the train takes them to a river, and eventually they swim to a hidden island where children never age so long as they believe in Mother, the spirit of the island. The children spend their days having adventures but, eventually, reality begins to encroach on their world, causing doubt and regret to creep into their idyllic lives. Read more…

REBECCA – Franz Waxman

April 27, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

David O. Selznick was captivated by the 1938 novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a romantic psychological thriller, which he was determined to bring to the big screen. He purchased the film rights for $50,000, took on producing the film, and tasked Alfred Hitchcock to direct – his debut film in America. The screenplay was written by Robert Sherwood and Joan Harrison with adaptation by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan. Selznick insisted that the film remain faithful to the novel, and friction occurred when he overruled a number of changes made by Hitchcock. Selznick’s initial choices for the lead roles were Ronald Coleman and Carole Lombard, but both declined. Nevertheless a stellar cast was assembled, which included Joan Fontaine as the second Mrs. De Winter, Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter, Judith Anderson as the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, George Sanders as Jack Favell, Reginald Denny as Frank Crawley, and C. Aubrey Smith as Colonel Julyan. Read more…

A SHOW OF FORCE – Georges Delerue

April 23, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A Show of Force is a thriller directed by Bruno Barreto, based on true events which occurred in Puerto Rico in 1978. Amy Irving stars as television reporter Kate Ryan, who is investigating the circumstances surrounding the brutal deaths of two Puerto Rican teenagers, Carlos Enrique Soto-Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado-Torres. The government claimed the victims were radical terrorists, while their families said they were pro-independence student activists, and as Ryan gets deeper and deeper into the mystery, she finds herself embroiled in a much larger political scandal and cover-up involving the local police, and which may eventually lead to the corridors of power at the CIA. The film is adapted from Anne Nelson’s book ‘Murder Under Two Flags’, and co-stars Andy Garcia, Lou Diamond Phillips, Robert Duvall, and Kevin Spacey. The film marked the English-language debut of Brazilian director Barreto, who would later go on to make the films Carried Away and One Tough Cop (both scored by Bruce Broughton). Read more…

ELEPHANT – Ramin Djawadi

April 21, 2020 3 comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Elephant is the latest feature film from Disney Nature, the subsidiary of the mouse house dedicated to making wildlife-themed documentaries, and whose previous works have included Chimpanzee, African Cats, and Bears. Although I understand that their heart is in the right place, these Disney docs pale considerably when compared to the efforts of the BBC Natural History Unit, and I especially have a pet peeve about how the filmmakers force a narrative onto the animals’ lives, and anthropomorphize them to make them more dramatically persuasive. In Elephants, for example, the ‘story’ follows a herd of elephants “led by their great matriarch Gaia and her younger sister Shani, who has helped keep their family safe. Shani has also been raising her spirited son Jomo, a very energetic young elephant who just wants to play”. How do they know the older elephant is named Gaia? How do they know the young elephant is called Jomo? These are wild elephants. They don’t have human names. The animal kingdom is intense and dramatic already, and doesn’t need to be dressed up and dumbed down with cutesy names and false constructed narratives to be compelling to audiences. Anyway, despite this, the stories have been fairly popular, and Elephants has an added level of public interest due to the fact that it is narrated by Meghan Markle, and is her first media project since she married Prince Harry and became the Duchess of Sussex. Read more…

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME – Alfred Newman

April 20, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The dawning of the new age of film with dialogue and music had arrived and Universal Studio executives decided to explore a remake of their 1923 production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A favorable fan poll in 1936 added impetus to the endeavor, but the studio was never able to assemble the lead actors to launch the project and so sold the film rights to MGM, which in turn sold them to RKO. RKO was committed to the project and built a massive recreation of Paris and the cathedral on their ranch in the San Fernando Valley outside Los Angeles. Pedro Berman was hired to produce the film and provided a massive budget of $1.8 million. William Dieterle was given the reigns to direct the film, which would again be adapted from Victor Hugo’s famous 1831 novel Sonya Levien and Bruno Frank provided the screenplay and a fine cast was assembled, which included Charles Laughton as Quasimodo, Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Jehan Frollo, Thomas Mitchell as Clopin, Maureen O’Hara in her screen debut as Esmeralda, Edmund O’Brien as Pierre Gringoire, Walter Hampden as Archbishop Claude Frollo, and Harry Davenport as King Louis XI of France. Read more…

ALEXANDRE DESPLAT: EN FRANÇAIS – PART TWO

April 17, 2020 Leave a comment

Over the past decade or so, Alexandre Desplat has cemented his status amongst the world’s most respected film composers with a series of scores for major studio films in the United States. He has been nominated for eleven Academy Awards – for The Queen (2006), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), The King’s Speech (2010), Argo (2012), Philomena (2013), The Imitation Game (2014), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), The Shape of Water (2017), Isle of Dogs (2018), and Little Women (2019) – winning twice. However, much of his early work in his native France remains relatively unknown to wider audiences – something this article intends to rectify!

In this second installment of Alexandre Desplat: En Français, we take a look at seven scores Desplat wrote during the second half of the 1990s, immediately prior to his international breakthrough – The Luzhin Defence, from September 2000. Read more…

TWIN PEAKS – Angelo Badalamenti

April 16, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

There’s a case to be made for the notion that television as we know it changed on April 8th, 1990. On that date, on the American network channel ABC, Twin Peaks premiered. The brainchild of surrealist writer-director David Lynch, and TV producer Mark Frost, Twin Peaks was ostensibly a murder-mystery show that followed an investigation led by FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) into the death of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), a teenage beauty queen from a fictional town in Washington state. But of course, it was much more than that. It touched on elements of horror and science fiction, offbeat comedy, and satirized many of the tropes inherent on American soap operas. It had a sprawling cast of eccentric characters, whose interlocking lives drive the plot. It was also deeply, deeply weird: there are giants delivering cryptic messages, dwarves talking backwards, demons possessing people, doppelgängers, fever dreams and horrific nightmares, and copious amounts of coffee and cherry pie. By the end of the second season the plot had become so incomprehensible and maddeningly obtuse that it hemorrhaged viewers and was eventually cancelled; I admit that I found the show incredibly frustrating, and by the end of it I was convinced that Lynch was playing an elaborate prank on his own audience – he created a show that was so impenetrable, was so confusing, had such a bizarre visual style, and contained so much ‘intentional bad acting,’ because he wanted to see how long people would tolerate it by convincing themselves it was ‘art’. Read more…