Latest Articles

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

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

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In Person

  • 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.

  • 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.

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