For those of us who grew up with comic books in the ’60s and ’70s, the current batch of super-hero series on the CW have proven to be great fun. They’re constantly referencing classic storylines that we remember so well. Case in point: the four-part Crisis on Earth-X crossover series that linked Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow and aired over two nights last fall. I was honored to moderate a clip-filled Q&A that featured composers Blake Neely, Nathaniel Blume, Daniel James Chan and Sherri Chung, examining in depth how they went about scoring this grand-scale TV epic. The Society of Composers & Lyricists sponsored the event.
Composer Kurt Farquhar has worked steadily in television for almost 30 years. His credits range from Sister, Sister and Moesha to South Central and The King of Queens. He led the way for hip-hop in TV scoring and now, with what he calls a “neo-urban” style for Black Lightning, has mashed up every imaginable approach for the the CW super-hero show. It was a distinct honor to moderate a Society of Composers & Lyricists Q&A with the composer, his music editor Joshua Winget, and theme composer GodHolly, at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn theater.
Composer Jeff Russo (Fargo, Star Trek: Discovery) has scored the intriguing new sci-fi thriller Counterpart for the STARZ network. I moderated an hour-long Society of Composers & Lyricists discussion about the show and its music with Russo and executive producer Jordan Horowitz. Russo’s main-title theme and score are surprisingly intimate, with a chamber-music sound owing to his use of a string quartet for much of the series.
Another awards season is finally in the books, with Sunday night’s Oscar telecast that saw Alexandre Desplat win for his Shape of Water score, and songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez for their song “Remember Me” from Coco. Variety kept me busy all weekend, writing the winner stories (score story here, including Desplat’s beating the statistical odds for a second time; song story here) and adding a Monday-morning story about Lopez becoming the first-ever double EGOT winner. A complete summary of Saturday and Sunday events — including the annual SCL Oscar reception, always a highlight of the weekend, is here.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Monday night, it was my pleasure to lead a Q&A with composer Michael Giacchino after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of his latest film, War for the Planet of the Apes, on the 20th Century-Fox lot. It is Giacchino’s second film in the Apes series (after Dawn, in 2014) and his fourth film with director Matt Reeves (the Apes movies, Let Me In and Cloverfield). The composer reported that 90% of the score — played by a massive orchestra and choir on the Fox scoring stage — was original, and he even came with props: the mixing bowl used by percussionist Emil Richards on Jerry Goldsmith’s original 1968 Planet of the Apes, and a ram’s horn that he played himself on both of his Apes scores.