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EDWARD SCISSORHANDS – Danny Elfman

January 14, 2019 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Tim Burton related that, as a teenager growing up in Burbank California, he felt estranged, isolated and misunderstood. A drawing by him of a solemn man bearing long sharp blades spoke to his inability to form and retain friends. The drawing served as inspiration for his film Edward Scissorhands, where he sought to explore a young man dealing with feelings of isolation and self-discovery. After reading First Born, a 1983 novelette by Caroline Thompson, he was sufficiently impressed to hire her to write the screenplay for the film. Burton and her sought inspiration from the classic monster movies of the past including The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, and Frankenstein, as well traditional fairy tales. The project was very personal to Burton, and Thompson relates she wrote the screenplay as a love poem to the director. 20th Century Fox acquired the film rights, and given Burton’s stunning commercial success with Batman in 1989, gave him complete creative control. He assembled a fine cast, including Johnny Depp for the titular role. Joining him would be Winona Ryder as Kim Boggs, Dianne Wiest as Peg Boggs, Anthony Michael Hall as Jim, Kathy Baker as Joyce, Robert Oliveri as Kevin Boggs, Alan Arkin as Bill Boggs, O-Lan Jones as Esmeralda, and Vincent Price in his final screen role as Edward’s creator. Read more…

AVALON – Randy Newman

January 7, 2019 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Avalon offered Barry Levinson’s third installment of his semi-autobiographical tetralogy of ”Baltimore Films” – Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987), Avalon (1990) and Liberty Heights (1999) – which explored immigrant life in his hometown Baltimore from the 1940s through the 1960s. He served as producer, director and screenwriter for the project and his production company Baltimore Pictures financed the film. He brought in a first class cast, which included Leo Fuchs as Hymie Krichinsky, Lou Jacobi as Gabriel Krichinsky, Armin Mueller-Stahl as Sam Krichinsky, Joan Plowright as Eva Krichinsky, Israel Rubinek as Nathan Krichinsky, Eve Gordon as Dottie Kirk, Elizabeth Perkins as Ann Kaye, Aiden Quinn as Jules Kaye and Elijah Wood as Michael Kaye. The film offers a commentary on the challenges of immigrant Russian-Jews trying to assimilate in America. Sam, the patriarch of the Krichinsky family, arrives in 1914 to forge a new life, eventually settling in Baltimore where he works as a wallpaper man. Matriarch Eva is firmly grounded in the old ways and ensures the family stays true to its roots. Conflicts between old country familial culture and modern American culture are inevitable and elicit generational clashes as Sam and Eva struggle to balance the old with the new. Despite hardships, which include an armed robbery, a devastating home fire, and children abandoning their surname for an American one, the family holds together, weathering the storm, united in love. The film was a commercial success and secured four Academy Award nominations including Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Film Score. Read more…

BATMAN – Danny Elfman

December 31, 2018 2 comments

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Bringing Batman to the cinema was a torturous journey that took ten years to come to fruition. Producers Benjamin Melniker and Micheal Uslan purchased screen rights from DC Comics in 1979, and their creative vision was to abandon the campy TV iteration and fashion a dark and serious exposition of the hero. Regretfully United Artists, Columbia Pictures and Universal Pictures all turned down the project, as they wanted a script that reprised the campiness of the TV series. Eventually in 1980 Warner Brothers took on the project seeking to capitalize on its massive success with Superman. Tom Mankiewicz was hired to write the script, which was completed in 1983. Yet the project stalled until 1985 when Tim Burton was hired. Burton wanted his own vision and so rejected Mankiewicz’s script, instead tasking Sam Hamm, a comic book fan, to write a new screenplay. After three years of delays by Warner Brothers executives, the film was given the green light to proceed in April of 1988. Casting the principles could have supported a feature film of its own. Instead of going with one of the leading male action movie stars of the day, Burton selected Michael Keaton whom he had directed in Beetlejuice, which caused uproar among comic book fans who sent 50,000 letters of protest to studio executives. The casting drama continued when Robin Williams was hired for the role of the Joker and then let go in favor of Jack Nicholson. Rounding out the cast would be Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon, Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, and Jack Palance as Carl Grissom. Read more…

CINEMA PARADISO – Ennio Morricone

November 26, 2018 1 comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

As a young small town Sicilian boy, director Giuseppe Tornatore fell in love with the cinema where he would spend hours every day insatiably viewing films. With the advent of television and the VCR, many believed that the days of the town cinema were numbered. This film abounds with nostalgia as Tornatore explores his movie going memories and how they affected his life. Drawing from his own life experiences, he crafted a screenplay, which secured the financial backing of the French production company Les Films Ariane. A fine cast was assembled, which included; Philippe Noiret as Alfredo, Salvatore Cascio as Salvatore Di Vita (child), Marco Leonardo as Salvatore Di Vita (adolescent), Jacques Perrin as Salvatore Di Vita (adult), Agnese Nano as Elena Mendola (young), Leopoldo Trieste as Father Adelfio, Antonella Attili as Maria (young), Pupella Maggio as Maria (adult) and Isa Danieli as Ana. Salvatore Di Vita, aka Toto, is a precocious kid who falls in love with movies shown at his town’s theater, Cinema Paradiso. It comes to pass that he worms his way into the heart of projectionist Alfredo, who befriends him and takes him on as his apprentice. Over time Salvatore masters the projector and often runs it himself. So great is his love of movies that he buys a movie camera and begins making his own home movies. Tragedy strikes one night when the Cinema Paradiso catches fire and burns down, with Salvatore saving Alfredo’s life, but not before he is badly burned and blinded. Read more…

THE MISSION – Ennio Morricone

November 19, 2018 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer David Putnam and director Roland Joffe were seeking to sustain the acclaim of their last collaboration, The Killing Fields (1984), and so recruited renowned screenwriter Robert Bolt to compose a compelling historical drama. The independent British production company Goldcrest Films financed the project, providing a generous budget, and a fine cast was assembled, which included Robert De Niro as Captain Rodrigo Mendoza, Jeremy Irons as Father Gabriel, Ray McAnally as Cardinal Altamirano, Aidan Quinn as Felipe Mendoza, Cherie Lunghi as Carlotta, Ronald Pickup as Don Hatar, Chuck Low as Don Cabeza and Liam Neeson as Father John Fielding. The film offers a classic morality play, which explores the tragic events surrounding the 1750 Treaty of Madrid. The Spanish and Portuguese are warring along the Brazil and Paraguayan border and the treaty ended the conflict by requiring Spain to cede territory south and east of the Rio Uruguay to Portugal. This would require the seven Jesuit missionaries to leave and place the Guarani inhabitants in peril as Portugal, unlike Spain, used slavery to man their plantations. The film opens in 1740 with Jesuit missionary Father Gabriel seeking to convert the Guarani to Catholicism. The opening scene of a Jesuit cast over the waterfall tied to a cross reveals the Guarani’s hostility to outsiders. He is joined by slaver Rodrigo Mendoza who seeks repentance following the murder of his brother, who he caught sleeping with his fiancée. Father Gabriel gains the trust of the Guarani through his oboe playing and they over time convert. Rodrigo finds new meaning to his life, abandons weapons, and commits to joining the priesthood. Read more…

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…