Latest Articles

Sci-fi, fantasy film scores in Oscar contention

Monday, December 11th, 2017 at 10:58 am

For another in Variety‘s series of looks at this year’s Oscar-worthy film music, I singled out four films that might be characterized as either fantasy or science-fiction: Alexandre Desplat’s The Shape of Water, Rolfe Kent’s Downsizing, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s Blade Runner 2049, and Michael Giacchino’s War for the Planet of the Apes. All… Read More

Music for historical events in 2017 films

Monday, December 11th, 2017 at 10:30 am

As part of Variety‘s series of examinations of awards-worthy work in this year’s film music, we looked at four films that depict either historical events (Dunkirk, Battle of the Sexes, All The Money in the World) or were rooted in historical fact (Mudbound). Hans Zimmer’s Dunkirk score would seem to have the best chance at… Read More

Jonny Greenwood on “Phantom Thread”

Monday, December 11th, 2017 at 10:20 am

Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, who rarely grants interviews, made an exception to talk to Variety about his music for Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film Phantom Thread, starring Daniel Day-Lewis in what may be his final acting role. Greenwood was fascinating, talking at length about his mostly piano-and-strings score for the period piece about an enigmatic London… Read More

Documentary scores in the Oscar race?

Monday, December 4th, 2017 at 10:11 am

Given the number of first-rate documentary scores this year, a number of people have posed this interesting question to me: Could a documentary score win an Oscar? Could one even be nominated? (In fact, that has never happened.) I interviewed a number of people about it and, in this story for one of Variety‘s awards-centric… Read More

Preview of this year’s Oscar music race

Friday, December 1st, 2017 at 9:23 am

Variety editors asked me to take an early look at the original-score race at the Oscars, even though it was only November and there are still a number of films yet to be screened. Realistically, at this point there are about 25 legitimate contenders for the five available nomination slots, but at this early stage… Read More

Making Mexican Music for Pixar’s “Coco”

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 at 8:50 am

This piece, the lead Artisans story in this week’s Variety, was both complicated and a joy to write. Disney/Pixar always goes to great lengths to find the right score (and often songs) for each of its films, but on Coco they went to extremes. Coco, which opens next week, is set during Mexico’s “Day of… Read More

Film Music in Concert: More Popular than Ever

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Movie music in the concert hall seems to be, as they say, “trending” — it’s more popular than ever, and in many different forms. For the lead story in this week’s Variety “Music for Screens” section, I interviewed three composers (David Newman, who recently conducted the New York Philharmonic in sold-out Star Wars shows ;… Read More

Awards season begins; early score contenders

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 at 7:47 am

For Variety‘s first Contenders issue of the year, I profiled four early scores that could be vying for “original score” honors as the 2017 awards season gets underway: Dario Marianelli’s music for Darkest Hour; Thomas Newman’s music for Victoria & Abdul; Carter Burwell’s music for Wonderstruck; and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ music for Wonder Woman. This is… Read More

Lalo Schifrin 85th Birthday Concert

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 at 6:54 am

Renowned film and TV composer Lalo Schifrin turned 85 this year, and the occasion was commemorated Saturday night with a concert featuring many of his memorable themes — everything from Mission: Impossible and Mannix to Bullitt and Dirty Harry. It was a co-production of Musicians at Play Foundation and Varese Live, with proceeds benefiting the… Read More

Wallfisch on the music of “Blade Runner,” “It”

Saturday, October 7th, 2017 at 11:02 am

With Blade Runner 2049 opening this weekend, and the colossal box-office success of It, I thought it was the perfect moment to talk at length with composer Benjamin Wallfisch about both scores — which, incidentally, couldn’t be farther apart in terms of style and execution. Wallfisch collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the all-electronic score for… Read More

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In Person

  • Interviewing Branagh about “Orient Express”

    December 9, 2017 at 8:15 am

    The nice people at Fox asked me to conduct a 40-minute Q&A with actor-director Kenneth Branagh and composer Patrick Doyle after a screening of Murder on the Orient Express in the studio’s beautiful and great-sounding Zanuck Theatre. This was one of those evenings when I was able to remind myself how lucky I am to live here and get to meet (and interview) some of the artists who make the movies we love. Branagh was both articulate and expansive, telling amusing stories about the shooting of Orient Express (and that wild moustache he dons as Hercule Poirot), while the always delightful Doyle talked about working with Michelle Pfeiffer about the song he and Branagh penned for the film’s finale. A large crowd of members from various guilds attended.

  • Interviewing “E.T.” musicians

    November 21, 2017 at 8:06 am

    On Sunday, the American Youth Symphony — widely considered the finest young, pre-professional orchestra in the country — played John Williams’ complete score for E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, live to picture at UCLA’s Royce Hall. It was only the third time ever in Los Angeles (Williams himself conducted it at the Shrine Auditorium in 2002, David Newman conducted the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in 2015). Prior to the concert, I conducted a fun Q&A with two musicians who actually played on the original 1982 recording sessions: David Newman, then a violinist on his way to becoming an Oscar-nominated composer and one of the world’s finest conductors of film music in the concert hall; and Ralph Grierson, a top studio pianist who performed the difficult but beautiful end-title solo. Joining us was Katie Kirkpatrick, whose mentor Dorothy Remsen played the magical harp solos in the original; who played that part for Newman at the Bowl in 2015; and who inherited Remsen’s harp, named it “Dottie” and still plays it today. Here is a rundown of the concert and the honorees dinner that followed.

  • Interviewing the music team from “Coco”

    November 11, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    The Disney-Pixar film Coco is going to be a big hit during the post-Thanksgiving period, and critics are already calling it one of the best animated films of the year. It was an honor to be asked to interview the entire Coco music team Thursday night after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening at the Pacific Design Center. L to R in the photo: co-director, co-songwriter and writer Adrian Molina; songwriter and orchestrator Germaine Franco, whose Mexican-American heritage became a big factor in achieving an authentic sound for this “Day of the Dead”-themed story; composer Michael Giacchino, whose previous five Pixar films include Ratatouille (an Oscar nominee) and Up (an Oscar winner); songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, whose “Remember Me” is certain to be short-listed for awards this season; and yours truly. A memorable evening.

  • Alexandre Desplat on “Shape of Water”

    November 9, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    It was a distinct pleasure to interview composer Alexandre Desplat about his music for The Shape of Water after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film Wednesday night at the Arclight in Culver City. Desplat, an eight-time Oscar nominee (who won for The Grand Budapest Hotel), is always thoughtful, articulate and witty, and that evening was no exception. He discussed his collaboration with director Guillermo del Toro (their first) and his comments about how the look, feel and sound of water influenced his writing were fascinating. I will write a story for Variety about this in the coming weeks.

  • Interviewing Patrick Doyle for “Orient Express”

    November 8, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    A busy week of live audience Q&As after new movie screenings began on Tuesday at the beautiful Zanuck Theatre on the 20th Century-Fox lot. After a showing of the new Kenneth Branagh film Murder on the Orient Express, I interviewed Scottish composer — and longtime Branagh collaborator — Patrick Doyle about his score, and original song, for the film. Doyle is a delightful raconteur and the Society of Composers & Lyricists audience left informed and entertained. Composer John Powell, an old friend and colleague from late 1980s London, was also there and brought down the house with a few well-chosen quips.

  • Paul Williams on movie songwriting

    October 14, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    I just want to say this from the outset: I love this guy. I first met Paul Williams a few years ago when we were in Santa Barbara talking about mutual friend Elmer Bernstein. But I’ve been a fan since the 1970s, when I discovered his songwriting abilities, first for the Carpenters (“We’ve Only Just Begun”), then in movies (“Evergreen,” “The Rainbow Connection”) and even TV (“The Love Boat”). I leapt at the chance to do an on-camera interview for the Film Music Foundation about his movie and TV career. You’ll find it here, among several other interviews (several by me) with craftspeople in the film and TV music arena. It’s less than 90 minutes — please watch!

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