Latest Articles

Pinar Toprak’s music for “Captain Marvel”

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019 at 10:32 am

Wow, two great Variety assignments in a row! First, writing about the year’s first stunning score, John Powell’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. And now, the chance to preview Pinar Toprak’s memorable music for Captain Marvel, which opens Friday. It’s a landmark moment not only because Toprak is the first woman to… Read More

John Powell’s “How to Train Your Dragon” music

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019 at 10:43 am

John Powell’s music for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the first genuinely great score of 2019. I found it a stunning, unexpectedly emotional experience, and so asked for time with both Powell and director Dean DeBlois to explore their process and learn about the creation of the music. This, of course,… Read More

Final Oscar stories for the 2018 awards

Monday, February 25th, 2019 at 8:21 am

The 91st Academy Awards are in the books at last. It was a joy to report on composer Ludwig Goransson’s victory in the original-score category, more than a year after I first called attention to his African-infused music for Black Panther in the pages of Variety. In the days leading up to the awards, we… Read More

The Oscar song brouhaha and its aftermath

Sunday, February 17th, 2019 at 1:30 pm

On January 24th, we at Variety received word that the Oscar producers had decided to perform only two of the five Best Song nominees on the show (Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” and Kendrick Lamar’s “All the Stars,” by the two most popular recording artists). Within an hour, I had three other solid sources confirming this, so… Read More

Oscar song and score category analysis

Thursday, February 14th, 2019 at 2:16 pm

One of my favorite annual Variety assignments involves analyzing the competition in the Best Song and Original Score categories as the Academy Awards campaign winds down and the voting begins. While Oscar pundits debate whether “Shallow” from A Star Is Born will win the song honors or be upset by one of the others, and… Read More

Music in “Green Book”

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 at 2:27 pm

Although it wasn’t eligible for an original-score nomination — Kris Bowers’ 20 minutes of score was insufficient by comparison with all the other music in the film — Green Book still managed to be one of the year’s toughest assignments for a composer. That’s because Bowers came aboard early, trained actor Mahershala Ali in how… Read More

Composer Michel Legrand, dead at 86

Sunday, January 27th, 2019 at 1:31 pm

French composer Michel Legrand — the genius behind such unforgettable movie songs as “I Will Wait for You,” “The Windmills of Your Mind,” “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” and others — died Jan. 26 in Paris. I adored his scores as much as his songs, ranging from classics like The Umbrellas… Read More

Program notes for LA Phil’s John Williams concerts

Sunday, January 27th, 2019 at 8:05 am

I was honored to be asked to pen the program notes for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s four-day series of concerts paying tribute to the great John Williams. Gustavo Dudamel conducted a thrilling greatest-hits collection of music that included four of his Oscar winners (Jaws, Star Wars, E.T., Schindler’s List), popular movie hits (Close Encounters, Raiders,… Read More

Oscar nominations for best song and score

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 at 2:18 pm

Waking up on Oscar morning to find out the nominees is exciting enough — racing to be the first online with a thoughtful, historically informed analysis can make the heart beat even faster. This year was no exception, and our initial breakdown of the nominees was up within an hour of the announcement. It took… Read More

Nick Redman, dead at 63

Friday, January 18th, 2019 at 5:57 pm

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Nick Redman, a close friend for nearly 30 years and a collaborator on dozens of film and record projects, died on January 17. He was only 63, and while he had been battling cancer for the past two years, we all thought he’d be around much longer. He was a… Read More

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In Person

  • Remembering Andre Previn

    March 7, 2019 at 8:27 am

    Composer Andre Previn, who died Feb. 28, was one of those amazing and underappreciated triple-threat musicians: renowned conductor of classical music, extraordinary jazz pianist, talented composer of Hollywood film scores. Although he left the movie business in 1966 (and later penned an amusing memoir of that era, No Minor Chords), returning only occasionally to conduct a score (notably Rollerball and Jesus Christ Superstar), he will always be remembered for his contributions, especially during the 1950s and ’60s. California radio station KWMR kindly asked me to talk about Previn, his four Oscar wins and his remarkable facility with both songs and scores. Thanks to host Sally Phillips for the opportunity; my segment begins at 33 minutes into this archived broadcast.

  • Talking Oscar songs on “Here and Now”

    February 22, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    Again this year, NPR’s newsmagazine Here and Now asked me to discuss this year’s Oscar-nominated songs. Host Jeremy Hobson and I enjoyed playing, and talking about, the surprisingly diverse crop. Here is a link to the segment, which aired on Feb. 22, just two days before the Academy Award telecast.

  • Ludwig Goransson on “Black Panther”

    February 15, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Just a week before he won two Grammy Awards (one for Song of the Year, one for Original Score), I interviewed Swedish composer Ludwig Goransson about his acclaimed, Oscar-nominated score for the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. We shot it for Michael Coleman’s SoundWorks Collection at Goransson’s studio and incorporates on-location footage of him recording musicians in Africa. The day after the Grammy Awards, I discovered that Ludwig’s wins set a record for a musician working in two vastly different genres and wrote about it for Variety.

  • Marc Shaiman on “Mary Poppins Returns”

    February 14, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    Composer-songwriter Marc Shaiman earned his sixth and seventh Oscar nominations for music in the long-awaited Mary Poppins Returns: for original score, and original song (“The Place Where Lost Things Go” with his co-lyricist Scott Wittman). It was a long odyssey, involving months developing the storyline, writing and rewriting the songs, flying to London to rehearse with the actors, and finally recording the dramatic score. We discussed all of this in a video interview for SoundWorks Collection — interestingly, at Shaiman’s former Los Angeles studio where he had written the music and songs for his earlier Oscar nominees. (A few days later, I was able to interview both Marc and Scott at a SAG-AFTRA screening of the film in Beverly Hills.)

  • Nicholas Britell on “If Beale Street Could Talk”

    February 12, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    Composer Nicholas Britell earned his second Oscar nomination this year for the intimate, emotional score for If Beale Street Could Talk. This was his second film (after Moonlight) with director Barry Jenkins, who was a close collaborator on the music, Britell says in this video interview taped three weeks before the Oscars. Britell not only discusses the composing process, he performs one of the score’s main themes at the piano.

  • Lorne Balfe’s “Mission: Impossible” score

    December 14, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    It was a pleasure to quiz composer Lorne Balfe about his incredible, grand-scale score for Mission: Impossible — Fallout after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening Dec. 13 on the Paramount lot. Balfe entertained the audience with anecdotes about his collaboration with director Christopher McQuarrie and producer-star Tom Cruise; discussed the months-long gestation and writing process, which involved deconstructing the original Lalo Schifrin themes for adaptation into a completely new score; and talked about the London recordings, which required a massive orchestra and choir and may have been among the most expensive Paramount scores ever recorded.

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