When In Rome…


…I do as the Romans do. I recently got back from a trip to Switzerland where I hopefully wrapped up the research for my book on the music of Charlie Chaplin. After a week of furiously plowing through scores and correspondence at the Chaplin Archives in Montreux, I decided to take ten days of much needed R&R in Italy, all of which was underscored by a proper playlist of appropriately chosen film music. Though famous musical Venetians like Vivaldi and Monteverdi helped me navigate their slender, tourist-clogged streets, some film composers also accompanied…

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In Space No One Can Hear You Scream


In November 2014, it was announced that a new edition of Alfonso Cuarón’s GRAVITY would arrive in a “Silent Space” edition, removing Steven Price’s Oscar-winning score and giving viewers the experience of what it might be like in space. I was appalled when I read the announcement. Whatever you think of Price’s score, the thought of someone—whether it’s the studio, the film’s Oscar-winning director, or whomever—eliminating an essential part of the film seemed gimmicky and money-grubbing. And while I understand the appeal of the gimmick for this particular film, I found the whole…

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9 Favorite Film Scores of Michel Legrand


Over the past year I had the privilege of exploring the music of Michel Legrand in more depth. Between writing the liner notes for Intrada’s releases of THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT and SUMMER OF ’42/THE PICASSO SUMMER, and delving into Criterion’s Blu-ray box set of The Essential Jacques Demy, 2014 turned into a wonderful year of further discovery of Legrand’s music. And with the release of LA RANÇON DE LA GLOIRE in January, at nearly 83, Legrand’s talent is as strong as ever. As Legrand’s film career enters its seventh decade, now seemed the perfect time to celebrate the music of…

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CD Review: Mr. Turner


The big surprise in last week’s announcement of the Oscar nominations—at least from a film music standpoint—was the inclusion of Gary Yershon’s score for MR. TURNER. Mike Leigh’s biopic of English landscape and maritime painter J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) had received acclaim for Timothy Spall’s excellent portrayal of the grumpy artist (which won him Best Actor at Cannes) as well as Dick Pope’s (or “Dick Poop” in the embarrassing nomination announcement from Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs) masterful cinematography. But Yershon’s score apparently flew under the radar. Thankfully, the Academy’s Music Branch rectified that…

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CD Review: La rançon de la gloire (The Price of Fame)

I’m breaking one of my cardinal rules with this post in reviewing a score for a film I haven’t seen. LA RANÇON DE LA GLOIRE only recently opened in France and has yet to arrive in the U.S. But the chance to hear and discuss a new Michel Legrand score was just too good to pass up. The film is based on the true story of two bumbling crooks who dig up the body of Charlie Chaplin for ransom money. Given that I’m working on my book about Chaplin’s film music, it’s obvious why…

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2014 Oscar Nominations for Music


This is the first year in a long time that I don’t have a favorite film that I’m rooting for going into the Oscars. There were films that I enjoyed (THE IMITATION GAME) and that surprised me in a good way (AMERICAN SNIPER) but then there were the inevitable overrated entries that left me scratching my head (BOYHOOD) or loathing (BIRDMAN). For such a lackluster year, the Academy came up with some surprises (and not) in the Music categories, which, as usual, are the only categories I truly care about….

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9 Favorite Henry Mancini Scores


Before there was John Williams or Hans Zimmer, there was Henry Mancini—the first film music superstar. Through a string of chart-topping studio albums, Mancini’s indelible tunes were played on hi-fi’s around the world, and his songs and themes were sung and recorded by the top artists of his era. But that popularity came at a price. “A problem arose from the re-recording of those scores,” Mancini said in his autobiography, Did They Mention the Music?  “The albums were made up of the most melodic material from the films. A lot of…

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CD Review: QB VII


In the Dark Ages before cable or the Internet, the Big Three of network television—ABC, NBC and CBS—ruled American homes. In 1974 a new form of television drama came to dominate the airwaves—the miniseries. Spread out over multiple nights or weeks, the miniseries was the water cooler moment that dominated pop culture for its run. Usually based on bestselling epic novels, the miniseries’ lavish productions and high-powered casts became sure-fire ratings grabbers during the all-important sweeps period. Following the success of British miniseries THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII and…

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Drawing a Line in the Sand


Looking for a film music gem? 2005’s SAHARA fits the bill. Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt was the charismatic star of nearly a dozen bestselling adventure novels before Sahara hit bookstores in 1992. After the poor box office for another Pitt adventure—1980’s RAISE THE TITANIC—it’s no surprise it took even longer for SAHARA to hit the screen. And yet, if you turn off your brain for a couple of hours and just go with it, an enjoyable time can be had as Dirk searches for a long-lost Civil War battleship deep in the…

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2013 Oscar Nominations for Music


It’s the most wonderful time of the year… No, not Christmas. Meh. Oscar Season! And for a confirmed Oscar obsessive such as myself, this is arguably the most important day of the year for me. (Sad, huh?) From a purely selfish standpoint, forget the ceremony itself. What matters is the actual nominations. After months and months of watching, listening, prognosticating and spending way too much time thinking about this topic, it’s all over with within a matter of minutes. Today is the day we get to see the results of…

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