Latest Articles

Music for “A Wrinkle in Time”

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 at 6:48 pm

One of the year’s most anticipated sci-fi extravaganzas, A Wrinkle in Time, features both a new song by Sade (her first for a film in over 30 years) and a score by Game of Thrones favorite Ramin Djawadi. Variety asked me to examine the music of the film, so I visited the scoring stage to… Read More

Oscar music roundup

Monday, March 5th, 2018 at 6:42 pm

Another awards season is finally in the books, with Sunday night’s Oscar telecast that saw Alexandre Desplat win for his Shape of Water score, and songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez for their song “Remember Me” from Coco. Variety kept me busy all weekend, writing the winner stories (score story here, including Desplat’s beating the… Read More

Oscar concert review

Thursday, March 1st, 2018 at 5:02 pm

On Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Motion Picture Academy joined forces to present an evening-long celebration of film music, highlighting this year’s five Oscar-nominated film scores. But that was only the second half of the concert (featuring conductors John Williams, Alexandre Desplat, Carter Burwell and Thomas Wilkins). The first half took a… Read More

“Baby Driver’s” musical choreography

Friday, February 23rd, 2018 at 9:38 am

An unexpected Variety assignment turned out to be the most fun in weeks: I was asked to interview the director and sound designer for Baby Driver as part of Variety’s “Oscar Innovators” series, which ran in a special issue on Thursday. Director Edgar Wright corrected me at the very start — this wasn’t a film… Read More

Historical, statistical notes for original-score race

Friday, February 23rd, 2018 at 8:21 am

Can composer Alexandre Desplat win a second Academy Award (for The Shape of Water), just three years after his first? Statistically, the odds are against it. But then Desplat has beaten the odds before, winning for The Grand Budapest Hotel the same year he was nominated for another film (The Imitation Game). Yet don’t count… Read More

Jonny Greenwood on “Phantom Thread”

Friday, February 16th, 2018 at 7:38 pm

Journalism is a funny business, and it’s changed a lot since I started in 1973. I saw Phantom Thread on November 25 and immediately felt that Jonny Greenwood’s score could be a serious Oscar contender. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have gotten an interview with him the very next day. But my story was… Read More

Analysis of the original-score Oscar race

Thursday, February 15th, 2018 at 7:40 pm

Every year Variety asks me to analyze the music races for the Academy Awards — not really handicapping them, as that entails choosing favorites, which I don’t like to do. But examining the five nominees, quoting the composers, hinting at what’s important about each, and subtly suggesting what Academy voters might be thinking. Alexandre Desplat’s… Read More

African musical sounds for “Black Panther”

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 at 7:08 pm

This was one of my most fun Variety assignments of the year: Interviewing Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson about his music for Marvel’s Black Panther. I’ve known Ludwig since his USC days, which is where he met director Ryan Coogler; this was their third film together (after Fruitvale Station and Creed) and his most ambitious score… Read More

Russo invokes Courage for “Discovery” finale

Monday, February 12th, 2018 at 6:53 pm

On January 15, I was invited to the recording session for episode 15 of Star Trek: Discovery, the season finale of the CBS series. It was all very mysterious. All we were told was that something special would happen and that we could not give anything away until after the show aired on February 11…. Read More

Johann Johannsson, Dead at 48

Monday, February 12th, 2018 at 6:34 pm

It was a shock to receive word on Saturday morning that Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson had been found dead in his Berlin apartment. As Variety‘s resident film-music writer, it was my sad duty to talk with his manager and write the story as quickly as possible. Here is that obituary. I had known him since… Read More

Read More Articles

In Person

  • Interviewing composer David Amram

    March 15, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    The extraordinary composer David Amram was in town this week, so the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Film Music Foundation took advantage of his presence to add him to their Visual History archives. I was asked to conduct the interview, which meant an intense research weekend immersing myself in his films (among them The Manchurian Candidate, Splendor in the Grass and The Young Savages), re-reading his autobiography, and listening to as much of his music as possible. It may be a while before the interview is available for viewing, but rest assured he talks about Elia Kazan, John Frankenheimer, Jack Kerouac, Leonard Bernstein, Charlie Parker, and many of the other amazing people with whom he has crossed paths over his 87 years.

  • On “CBS Sunday Morning”

    March 4, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    For Oscar Sunday, the CBS newsmagazine Sunday Morning decided to profile the famous Newman family of film composers. They interviewed composers Randy, David, Thomas, Maria and Joey, representing the second and third generations of Newman composers in Hollywood; and discussed Alfred and Lionel, from the first generation, along with visiting their old haunts on the 20th Century-Fox lot. I was delighted to help provide some historical context for the piece, which you can find — at least for the next few days — here.

  • Discussing the song nominees on NPR

    February 22, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    Again this year the nice folks at Boston’s Here & Now, which airs on many NPR stations, asked me to chime in on this year’s Oscar music race. Here is a link to our 11-minute discussion of the five nominated songs from the movies Coco, The Greatest Showman, Marshall, Call Me By Your Name and Mudbound, along with snippets from each of the songs. I have some thoughts about the race that may help you fill out your Oscar ballots!

  • “Wakefield” with Aaron Zigman, Robin Swicord

    January 24, 2018 at 7:38 am

    One of the most intriguing and provocative films of last year got almost no attention at all. It was Robin Swicord’s Wakefield, based on an E.L. Doctorow short story about an angry New York lawyer who ditches his wife, daughters and career in one night and hides out in his garage for months on end. It also happens to have one of the year’s most haunting and effective scores, by composer Aaron Zigman (The Notebook, For Colored Girls). I was privileged to moderate a discussion of the film and its score with writer-director Swicord and composer Zigman after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening on Monday, Jan. 22. Swicord is one of the best-known writers in Hollywood, having penned Little Women, Memoirs of a Geisha and other scripts and also directed The Jane Austen Book Club (also with Zigman as composer).

  • Bruce Broughton Honored

    January 22, 2018 at 10:43 am

    On Saturday, I had the privilege of introducing award-winning composer Bruce Broughton as he was about to receive the New West Symphony’s “Bravo Award for Musical Excellence” at a fundraising gala in Santa Monica, Calif. It was a delightful event that included performances of several Broughton concert works, capped by the composer himself at the piano and his wife Belinda on violin performing themes from his famous Silverado score. (L-R: JB, Belinda Broughton, Bruce Broughton, New West Symphony executive director Natalia Staneva, gala co-chair Leah Mendelsohn)

  • Pasek & Paul on “Greatest Showman”

    December 19, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are among this country’s most talented and sought-after songwriters, so when Fox asked me to do a live Q&A with them following a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of The Greatest Showman at 20th-Century Fox, I jumped at the chance. If you don’t know their names, you almost certainly know their music: They have already won the Oscar for La La Land and the Tony for Dear Evan Hansen, and their songs for A Christmas Story were heard during Fox’s recent live telecast of the musical. (They also wrote my favorite TV song of last year, “Runnin’ Home to You” for The Flash.) Their song “This Is Me” is certainly a contender for the Best Song Oscar.

View More Appearances