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Entries in John Williams (7)

Saturday
Dec292018

Interview: Justin Hurwitz learns the theremin and other "First Man" stories

by Nathaniel R

A lot of people who win two Oscars by the age of 32, with only three films under their belt (not that there's many of those people, mind you) might safely be said to have peaked early. If the Golden Globe nominated score for First Man is any indication however, Justin Hurwitz is still on a steady ascent into his power as a composer. The gifted 33 year-old has scored all four of Damien Chazelle's films. The first three were musicals in spirit or by nature. The fourth, First Man, is less of a departure than expected since the emotive score is crucial to the film's success. 

Chazelle and Hurwitz were college roommates and have been fiercely loyal since. While Chazelle was struggling to get his first films made, always with the plan for Hurwitz to score them, Hurwitz survived by breaking into sitcom writing "I don't take for granted how lucky I was to get to write comedy professionally," he says but the plan was always to be a composer "I am more passionate about music than anything else in the world."  

Our full interview, edited and condensed for clarity, follows... 

NATHANIEL: When did you first know you wanted to be a composer?

JUSTIN HURWITZ: I grew up playing piano, taking lessons since I was six. My parents gave me a synthesizer and a sequencer for my tenth birthday that lets you layer tracks, so I started composing then. I wasn't thinking about movies yet but it was around that same time that I started noticing film scores. The most impactful to me were the John Williams / Steven Spielberg films. Jurassic Park had a big impact on me. E.T. on VHS... I was so in love with that score. 

NATHANIEL: Touchstones for a lot of people!

JUSTIN HURWITZ: As I got into college I discovered composers like Nina Rota and Bernard Hermann and all sorts of others. 

Watching First Man, I thought 'god this most have been an overwhelming film to score,' but on the other hand after La La Land, maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps it was a piece of cake?

It was definitely not a piece of cake. In a lot of ways it was my most challenging score...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jun112018

25th Anniversary Memoir: "Jurassic Park"

by Lynn Lee

June 1993.  It was my birthday, and I’d invited a group of my girl friends over for a small celebration that would include a movie outing.  I don’t remember exactly why I picked Jurassic Park.  I hadn’t read the book, I wasn’t yet a full-on movie buff, I didn’t like scary movies, and I wasn’t really into dinosaurs.  Yet something about the tremendous buzz surrounding this “adventure 65 million years in the making” must have penetrated my social bubble because I remember us all being excited to see it.

Whatever our expectations were, Jurassic Park blew them away.  From the moment that opening eerie chorus and single bamboo flute dissolved into the rustle of an unknown, unseen thing in a crate that within three minutes lay savage waste to one unfortunate worker, we were all transfixed in our seats and couldn’t have moved if our lives had depended on it...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec172015

Oscar's Eligible Original Scores for 2015

Thomas Newman has 12 nominations but has never won. Can this be the year? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (our much obsessed over AMPAS) has released the list of this year's original score contenders. The music branch is one of the most controversial laden in the Academy and they regularly make rulings that make people crazy. This year the most high profile scores that have been disqualified due to pre-existing material are The Revenant and Love and Mercy. Now, a lot of films use pre-existing material  -- particularly if they part of franchises like this year's Creed, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Man From UNCLE, which are all eligible -- it's just a question of "how much?" pre-existing they use. And that's where the annual controversies spring from, as when AMPAS let Babel slide (despite a score that had much much less original music than pre-existing music) and it won the category!

In a strange turn of events given Oscar darling Alexandre Desplat's typical yearly work load, he's not even the most eligible contender this year with only two scores.

The complete list of eligible scores (and more info) is after the jump. I've highlighted 15 my favorites but which are you rooting for? 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Feb252014

5 Days Til Oscar. When Will John Williams Win a Sixth?

John Williams, the cinema's most widely and wildly celebrated composer, is a nominee again this year for The Book Thief (you can download some sheet music from the score here). He is 82 years old but in a delightfully senior twist, he is only the third oldest nominee (after June Squibb and Patricia Norris). IMDb's database for composers is very confusing so I can't share "number of original scores" but his feature film career, starting with Daddy-O (1958) and continuing on through the The Book Thief (2013), is prolific and highly regarded with more presumably to come since the Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises are still alive and so is he.

John Williams conducting "The Book of Thief" score in a recording session

His Oscar record is the closest anyone's ever come to total Academy infallibility (if you discount the people who only made one or two pictures). In the past 46 years, starting with the adaptation of the music in The Valley of Dolls (1967) and ending with his original compositions for The Book Thief  (2013) he has been nominated 49 times, winning 5 Oscars. 

with Catherine Deneuve when he won his last Golden Globe for Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)I don't know what kind of a percentage that is -- again, the films are hard to count and some won't have been eligible since he does a lot of franchises (and those are sometimes disqualified for lack of enough new material) but I'd wager that his record is something certifiably insane like 90% of his original compositions being named one of the year's five "Best". 

In other words, if he scores it, they're nominating it. Period.

Strangely, given their crazy-cuckoo devotion, he has only won the statue twice in the past 30 years. His most recent statues were for Schindler's List (1993), E.T. (1982), with his heyday being in the seventies when he won thrice for  Star Wars (1977), Jaws (1975) and Fiddler on the Roof (1972... in the Adaptation category which they no longer have).

 

 

 

Do you think he'll win a sixth Oscar or an honorary* soon?

Related:
Oscar Charts for the Sound and Music Categories
Nathaniel's Ballot of the Year's Best in Sound and Music

*in the unique star-subservient logic of the Academy, performers who've already been amply rewarded with gold are sometimes given an extra rather than honoring someone without trophies. See the recent baffling Honorary for 1961's Best Actress Sophia Loren's for her  "memorable performances", instead of taking the opportunity to honor one of numerous classic and respected actresses who've never won and are still living.

Tuesday
Jul302013

Goodbye Peacock. And Other Links

Los Angeles Times AMPAS elects their first African American president in Cheryl Boone Isaacs
IndieWire
on how newcomer Annie McNamara landed a supporting role in the otherwise starry cast of Blue Jasmine
Filmonic John Williams will score the new Star Wars trilogy 
Maps to the Stars on the Cronenberg exhibit at TIFF this year 
Fashionista thinks Claire Danes has lost a leg in this photoshoot 
IndieWire on the 25th anniversary of Midnight Madness at TIFF this year

Empire another big get for rising star David Oyelowo who was so good in Middle of Nowhere and also eye-catching in The Paperboy - he joins the increasingly crowded Insterstellar for Christopher Nolan
The Backlot on HBO's new gay series starring Jonathan Groff. Is it "special"? 
In Contention A Most Wanted Man could put Philip Seymour Hoffman back in the Oscar race
/Film oh dear god. they can't leave well enough alone. Dexter might get a spin-off series after 8 looooong seasons
Salon Before Fruitvale Station there was Boyz n the Hood
Cinema Blend new teaser poster for Gravity 

Finally, you have undoubtedly heard that the fine comic actress Eileen Brennan passed away earier today at 80 years of age. I have to admit a weird unfamiliarity with the most acclaimed turn in her filmography (unlike me I know!) as I never saw her Oscar-nominated work in Private Benjamin. I remember people being really into it when I was a kid but it was rated R and I somehow never caught up with it when I was old enough. I'll personally remember her most fondly as Peacock in Clue with her frazzled manner, soup sipping, and ungainly hat. Others will cherish her work in The Sting or The Last Picture Show or any number of TV appearances including time on Laugh-In with her future Benjamin co-star Goldie Hawn. What will you remember her for? RIP Mrs Peacock.

Thursday
Nov032011

John Williams Heading Toward Oscar Nomination #46 

John Williams © Chad Batka, New York TimesIn the long history of the Academy Awards, only one man can claim more nominations than composer John Williams. And that man, long gone, is now less a man and rather more like a symbol, a legend, an industry, a way of life. 

John Williams never opened a theme park and his name is decidedly less distinctive that "Walt Disney" but he's also inextricably embedded in our popular culture. In a very literal way John Williams has scored our collective dreams and adventures for over a half century now. Though the movies of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are hardly his only playground in terms of beloved movies, they're probably the scores that people think of first. (The fan tribute video below provides a thorough overview of just that.)

After an unusually long break from features the much celebrated composer is now back at work. He's got three new Spielberg movies on the way (The Adventures of Tintin, War Horse, Lincoln) and he could be celebrating his 80th birthday in February as a 46 or even 47 time Oscar nominee. Take that, Streep, with your piddly 16 nominations!

Tribute to John Williams, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas from whoispablo on Vimeo.


Do you think John Williams (45 nominations / 5 wins) will finally break his nomination tie with Oscar's other most awarded composer Alfred Newman (45 nominations / 9 wins) this January. Either War Horse or TinTin could do it. But will it be both? 

Related
Oscar Predictions - Aural Categories
Recent New York Times Interview
Awards Daily posted pieces from the Tintin score