Latest Articles

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

John Williams on “The Post,” “Last Jedi”

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 at 12:03 pm

It’s always a treat to interview the legendary John Williams. A few weeks ago he talked with me about scoring The Post for longtime colleague Steven Spielberg; about his eighth Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi; and about his plans for 2018, which include a theme for Solo and a new concert work celebrating the… Read More

Music for suspense, family sagas, animation

Thursday, January 4th, 2018 at 10:54 am

For Variety‘s final roundup of potential award nominees in the music categories, I covered nine scores and broke them down into three categories: Suspense (Michael Abels’ Get Out, Patrick Doyle’s Murder on the Orient Express, Carter Burwell’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri); films that centered on families (Jon Brion’s Lady Bird, Randy Newman’s The Meyerowitz… Read More

The songs in “Coco” and “Greatest Showman”

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018 at 7:39 am

The two most likely candidates for Best Song nominations at the Oscars come from very different movies: “Remember Me,” the musical centerpiece of Disney/Pixar’s Coco, and “This Is Me,” the outcasts anthem from the P.T. Barnum biopic The Greatest Showman. They also happen to be the work of four of America’s current greatest songwriters, all… Read More

John Williams to pen “Solo” theme

Saturday, December 30th, 2017 at 10:36 am

I interviewed composer John Williams recently and happened to ask him about the stand-alone Star Wars movie titled Solo (about the adventures of a pre-Episode IV Han Solo). He confirmed that he would be writing the theme for the film and that John Powell (who had already been announced as the film’s composer) would probably… Read More

The year’s best classic film music albums

Thursday, December 28th, 2017 at 10:57 am

One of my favorite end-of-year assignments involves choosing the top 20 albums of “classic film music” released during the previous 12 months. This year’s task seemed harder than ever, because several labels gave us truly remarkable discs — some of them expanded classics, some previously unreleased scores, some of them reissues of very rare LPs…. Read More

Dominic Frontiere dead at 86

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017 at 10:23 am

We got the sad news about Dominic Frontiere’s death through an offbeat source: a paid death notice that appeared in the Los Angeles Times. It took an entire day (including calling every funeral home in the Santa Fe area) to confirm the news, and in that time I assembled an obituary that covered the high… Read More

Doyle & Branagh in DGA magazine

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017 at 7:49 am

Composer Patrick Doyle and director Kenneth Branagh, who have Murder on the Orient Express in this year’s awards competition, had never done a joint interview despite 30 years of collaboration in the movies and on the stage (including memorable scores for Henry V, Hamlet, Cinderella and Thor). So when the DGA Quarterly — the magazine… Read More

Memorable music for newspaper movies

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017 at 7:37 am

With the opening of The Post, Steven Spielberg’s new newspaper drama with its score by the legendary John Williams, I thought it might be a good time to look back at past movies with a newspaper setting and the music that accompanied them (and added a bit of information and commentary for each). So for… Read More

Sci-fi, fantasy film scores in Oscar contention

Monday, December 11th, 2017 at 10:58 am

For another in Variety‘s series of looks at this year’s Oscar-worthy film music, I singled out four films that might be characterized as either fantasy or science-fiction: Alexandre Desplat’s The Shape of Water, Rolfe Kent’s Downsizing, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s Blade Runner 2049, and Michael Giacchino’s War for the Planet of the Apes. All… Read More

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In Person

  • 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.

  • Alexandre Desplat on “Shape of Water”

    November 9, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    It was a distinct pleasure to interview composer Alexandre Desplat about his music for The Shape of Water after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film Wednesday night at the Arclight in Culver City. Desplat, an eight-time Oscar nominee (who won for The Grand Budapest Hotel), is always thoughtful, articulate and witty, and that evening was no exception. He discussed his collaboration with director Guillermo del Toro (their first) and his comments about how the look, feel and sound of water influenced his writing were fascinating. I will write a story for Variety about this in the coming weeks.

  • Interviewing Patrick Doyle for “Orient Express”

    November 8, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    A busy week of live audience Q&As after new movie screenings began on Tuesday at the beautiful Zanuck Theatre on the 20th Century-Fox lot. After a showing of the new Kenneth Branagh film Murder on the Orient Express, I interviewed Scottish composer — and longtime Branagh collaborator — Patrick Doyle about his score, and original song, for the film. Doyle is a delightful raconteur and the Society of Composers & Lyricists audience left informed and entertained. Composer John Powell, an old friend and colleague from late 1980s London, was also there and brought down the house with a few well-chosen quips.

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