Latest Articles

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

Capsule looks at song, score races

Monday, February 5th, 2018 at 2:53 pm

For this week’s Variety, a week after the Oscar nomination announcements, editors asked me to summarize the nominees and their relative chances for winning. It’s a particularly tough year with at least three of the songs having a good shot and possibly even four of the five nominated scores that could win the category. This… Read More

John Morris, Mel Brooks’ composer, dead at 91

Monday, January 29th, 2018 at 7:59 am

The composer of that unforgettable violin melody at the heart of Young Frankenstein, and so many more great scores for Mel Brooks movies, died on Thursday in New York. John Morris, twice Oscar-nominated (for co-writing the hilarious Blazing Saddles song and for his heartfelt dramatic score for The Elephant Man), had long ago retired from… Read More

Oscar music nominations analysis

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018 at 11:35 am

As always on Oscar-nominations-announcement day, I have written a kind of “instant analysis” of the song and score categories — who was nominated, who was not, and a bit about the background of the nominees. The lead of my story — the fact that two major pop names, Diane Warren and Jonny Greenwood — remained… Read More

Top music agents speak!

Friday, January 19th, 2018 at 9:53 am

The music editors at Variety were intrigued about the fact that the winners of both music categories (song and score) at the Golden Globes were represented by the same agents. So I was dispatched to interview Richard Kraft and Laura Engel about what they do, how and why they happened to sign those particular clients… Read More

Mark Hamill on John Williams

Thursday, January 11th, 2018 at 9:51 am

While I was preparing my John Williams piece for Variety, I had the good fortune to connect with actor Mark Hamill, who of course plays Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films. He was so enthusiastic in his praise for the maestro, and waxed eloquent in his appreciation for film music generally, that I didn’t… Read More

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In Person

  • “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.

  • 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.

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