Latest Articles

Arturo Sandoval scores “The Mule”

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 at 6:44 pm

One of the world’s great jazz trumpeters has a secret desire: to set aside the instrument and transition into a new career of writing music for movies. Arturo Sandoval recently wrote the underscore for Clint Eastwood’s The Mule — for which he also played the trumpet and penned the delightful Latin-infused source music. We visited… Read More

Classic soundtrack releases: best of the year

Sunday, December 30th, 2018 at 6:42 pm

Every December I review the top 20 “classic soundtrack” albums: expanded reissues, first-time releases of great film music of the past, and re-recordings. This year, for the first time, Variety agreed to publish it. It’s a bounty of great movie music, including four John Williams scores, three by Jerry Goldsmith, more by Dave Grusin and… Read More

The Oscar “shortlists”

Monday, December 17th, 2018 at 7:16 pm

On Dec. 17, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released its “shortlists” of movie songs and scores that will be eligible for nomination for this year’s Oscars. It’s the first time since 1979 that they’ve used this process — narrowing voters’ choices from the 156 qualified scores and 90 qualifying songs down to… Read More

Ups and downs for music as awards season begins

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 at 8:31 am

In a little over a week, we’ve seen the Golden Globe nominations for song and score; the Grammy nominations which, with its offbeat eligibility year, combines the best of this year with last; and the news about scores that were disqualified, for various reasons, from Oscar consideration. Here are three stories I wrote for Variety… Read More

Celebrating 40 years of Varese Sarabande records

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 at 8:04 am

The venerable Varese Sarabande company — long seen as Hollywood’s leading soundtrack label — celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, so Variety asked me to look back at its history, interview composers about its impact, and research its biggest hits. It was a surprisingly fun assignment, as its full backstory had not previously been told:… Read More

New twists in this year’s Oscar music race

Friday, November 30th, 2018 at 7:32 am

The process of choosing “best song” and “best score” for this year’s Academy Awards will be a little more complicated for voters. Revised Oscar rules mandate that the music branch choose 15 pre-nominees in each category, requiring them to see and evaluate all of the eligible works an entire month earlier than usual. This may… Read More

Kubrick scores with the L.A. Philharmonic

Sunday, November 25th, 2018 at 6:28 pm

It’s always a pleasure to write program notes for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It’s one of the nation’s leading orchestras, and these extraordinary musicians perform in one of the world’s great music spaces, the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This past weekend the Phil (along with the Los Angeles Master Chorale) performed excerpts from the classical… Read More

The music of “Mary Poppins Returns”

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Make no mistake, Mary Poppins Returns — the long-awaited sequel to one of the most beloved Disney films of all time — will be among this year’s biggest Christmas movies. I was lucky enough to see it several weeks ago in anticipation of writing at length about the songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman,… Read More

Lalo Schifrin gets his Oscar

Monday, November 19th, 2018 at 10:23 am

Composer Lalo Schifrin on Sunday night received an honorary Academy Award “in recognition of his unique musical style, compositional integrity and influential contributions to the art of film scoring.” Actor-director Clint Eastwood, for whom Schifrin composed eight scores (including Dirty Harry and Joe Kidd), presented Schifrin with his Oscar during an entertaining and funny 20-minute… Read More

An honorary Oscar for Lalo Schifrin

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 at 7:09 am

Lalo Schifrin, the Argentine-born composer of Mission: Impossible, Mannix and more than 100 film scores (including Cool Hand Luke, Dirty Harry and The Amityville Horror), will receive an honorary Academy Award on Sunday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ annual Governors Awards. Schifrin, who has been nominated six times but never won,… Read More

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In Person

  • 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.

  • Music in “Black Panther”

    December 6, 2018 at 10:31 am

    On the eve of their triple Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Score and Best Song, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, composer Ludwig Goransson and songwriter-producer Sounwave sat down with me for an in-depth conversation about their work on the biggest-grossing film of 2018. The occasion was a screening, co-sponsored by Disney and radio station KPCC, of Black Panther at Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live. It was great fun, and the attentive audience was a nice plus.

  • Interviewing Nicholas Britell about “Vice”

    November 28, 2018 at 7:34 am

    So far this awards season, a good deal of attention has been paid to If Beale Street Could Talk, the adaptation of James Baldwin’s Harlem love story that is even more relevant today than when it was written in 1974. Composer Nicholas Britell reunited with his Moonlight director Barry Jenkins on that one. But I find Britell’s music for Vice, writer-director Adam McKay’s seriocomic look at former Vice President Dick Cheney’s life, even more interesting and compelling. It required a full London symphony orchestra, and the mix of classically styled, big-band, dissonant and emotional music throughout was the topic of our Q&A after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening Tuesday night in Westwood.

  • Max Richter and “Mary Queen of Scots”

    November 15, 2018 at 7:16 am

    German-born, London-based post-minimalist composer Max Richter was in town this week to promote his score for the new Mary Queen of Scots starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. Richter, who divides his time equally between concert music (The Blue Notebooks, Sleep) and media music (Miss Sloane, The Leftovers), is thoughtful and articulate, as he demonstrated during a Q&A I did with him after a screening of the film Tuesday night at Universal Studios. The Society of Composers & Lyricists sponsored the sold-out event.

  • Carter Burwell and “Buster Scruggs”

    November 9, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Thursday night, I had the pleasure of interviewing Oscar-nominated composer Carter Burwell (Carol, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri) after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the newest film by Joel and Ethan Cohen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Burwell has been scoring the Coen brothers’ films for more than 30 years, dating back to Blood Simple in 1984. This often amusing, sometimes harrowing Western is in six parts, which was like “scoring six movies,” Burwell said.

  • The legacy of Bernard Herrmann

    November 4, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Bernard Herrmann — the composer of such classics as Citizen Kane, Vertigo, Psycho and North by Northwest — is today more revered and influential than even during his lifetime. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and The Film Music Foundation deemed his legacy important enough to launch an oral-history project focusing on this key American composer. So far we have done nearly four hours of interviews with biographer Steven Smith, director Larry Cohen, editor Paul Hirsch, conductor Richard Kaufman, the composer’s daughter Dorothy Herrmann, and Foundation executive Les Zador. They are all available here, at the Foundation’s website. More interviews are expected to be done in December.

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