James Brown

I Feel Good

While most of this blog hopefully focuses on the better aspects of film music, I’ve spent more than my share of time highlighting the negative as well. Perhaps that’s the jaded New Yorker in me. I’ve lamented the digital future, bitched and moaned that I have nothing to listen to, and questioned the Sizzler Effect. Tough as it is, occasionally I like to turn off the critical voice in my head and allow myself to just…be.

This past weekend I watched movies for no other reason than I wanted to watch them (as opposed to those I have to watch for work reasons), listened to some great new soundtracks that surprised and delighted me (reviews of those will appear in the coming days), and most importantly, I didn’t write a single word. Not one. I can’t tell you how freeing this was, and what a rarity it was.

When you’re a freelancer and work from home, the work is always there, just a few steps away, beckoning you with that “come hither” stare, perpetually tapping you on the shoulder and making you feel guilty if you take any time off at all. Or maybe that’s just at Chez Lochner. This past weekend, I purposefully wanted to take a little R&R. Or maybe I was just burned out.

The movies I watched I had all seen before. There’s really no reason to revisit DOCTOR DOLITTLE, except in parallel with my reading of Mark Harris’s excellent Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. The book details the five films up for the Best Picture Oscar in 1967, which included IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (the winner), BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE GRADUATE, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, and inexplicably DOCTOR DOLITTLE. While the film is a lumbering, overproduced mess, I have a fondness for Leslie Bricusse’s score, which will hopefully see an expanded release someday.

The joy of listening to Varese Sarabande’s deluxe edition of Michael Giacchino’s STAR TREK meant it was time to watch the film again, which only increased my enjoyment of the score even more. Then there was the simple beauty of WALL-E and Thomas Newman’s wonderful score.

But the real treasure of the weekend was watching the premiere of Wynton Marsalis’s Swing Symphony (and Stravinsky’s Petrushka) online, courtesy of the fantastic Berlin Philharmonic and Sir Simon Rattle, worth every penny of the $9.90 Euros I spent to watch it in HD. It was great to watch first-class musicians making first-class music and enjoying every minute of it.

It was hot and humid in NYC this weekend, the perfect weekend for a delicate flower like me who wilts in the heat to hibernate in front of the air conditioner with a great read, great movies, and great music. No critical thoughts passed my brain all weekend long (at least none that I remember, which probably isn’t saying much). Sure, the laptop beckoned me with tons of work that needed to be written, including this post. But my critical faculties took a few days off. And once I opened up my eyes and ears, it wasn’t as difficult to partake of life’s simple pleasures.

Now it’s Monday and we’re back. But as I once again turn my journalistic eye to music, I want to keep in mind that vision of musicians coming together, bridging the language barrier to create art that touches me. I have no idea how long it will last. But for now, to quote the Godfather of Soul, “I feel good!”

  1. Harris’ book is a great weekend read – that pivotal Oscar year was close to the time I purchased my first soundtrack album (Burt Bacharachs’s CASINO ROYALE) – mostly for THE LOOK OF LOVE and the cover art – but unbeknownst to me at the time, the beginning of a lifetime obsession with movie music.
    I’m with you on the fondness for Bricusse, too; he had such bad luck with DOLITTLE, and my favorite: GOODBYE MR. CHIPS. What really bothers me is that the DOLITTLE film actually cut my favorite song (which you can hear briefly during the overture and on the soundtrack album): WHERE ARE THE WORDS. Thank goodness FSM gave CHIPS the presentation it deserved on CD!
    The Marsalis thing makes me jealous – I saw him live at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in the 80’s when I lived there. It was a hot day, but he kept it cool. Hahaha.
    I made the most of my Father’s Day weekend too: EL CID and THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE – presented in High Definition on German Blu-Rays – this alone justifying the price of an all-region player. Needless to say I was transported back to the days when cinemas had curtains and overtures, and to top it all off: the Rozsa and Tiomkin scores were delivered in DTS-HD. Oh the sweet sounds of cinema!!!

    1. I agree, Gary. Harris’s book IS a great read, even if it took me a bit longer than the weekend to read it (though not by much).

      I don’t think Bricusse is the greatest of songwriters, but there’s something about DOLITTLE that I enjoy. I don’t know why. I didn’t see the movie until I was an adult and it’s pretty excruciating unless you’re planted in front of it by your parents. Still, the songs have a particular charm. He did better with CHIPS, even though that movie isn’t very good either. And there are moments in SCROOGE and WILLY WONKA of course. I was so used to the DOLITTLE album, that I was shocked to hear an overture, a completely differently main title than I was expecting (I think the first track on the CD is the abbreviated overture), intermission music and exit music. Gotta love the old roadshow engagements.

      Don’t be jealous about the Marsalis thing. Just go online, pay the Euros and watch it. Thoroughly enjoyable and the Swing Symphony is a damn good piece.

      As for your Father’s Day weekend selections, that’s some kickass film music that came your way. :) They sure don’t write them like that anymore.

  2. I look forward to the new reviews you alluded to. I am afraid I am a terrible reactionary when it comes to film music, so I welcome learning about new scores that are more than just adequate and compatible to the film. I would like to ask if I am alone in my deep appreciation of Bernard Coulais and his Oceans score? Don’t know any of his other work.

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