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Entries in Original Score (32)

Friday
Oct172014

Birdman's Beating Heart: An Interview with Composer Antonio Sanchez

Birdman, the pitch-black comedy from Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu that recently took the festival circuit by storm, opens in theaters today. Among its most distinctive and arresting features is its drum-based score, composed by Grammy-winning jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez. A classically trained musician considered by both critics and peers to be among the foremost drummers, bandleaders and composers in contemporary jazz, the Mexico City native had never scored a film before his partnership with Iñárritu. Margaret caught up with him to discuss the project. The soundtrack was released on October 14, on Milan records.

Margaret: Since you’re a first time film composer, how did you get involved with Birdman

ANTONIO SANCHEZ: I met Alejandro [Gonzalez Iñárritu] a few years back—there’s a very famous jazz guitar player that I play with a lot named Pat Metheney—and Alejandro has been a big Pat Metheney fan for a long time. In fact, the first time I ever heard Pat Metheney was in Mexico City when Alejandro used to DJ this radio show back in the day.

Margaret: No way!

ANTONIO SANCHEZ: He had a radio show on WFM 96.9 in Mexico City that played really hip, modern music-- music you would not normally hear on Mexican radio stations. I became a fan really fast.

Years later I was playing with Pat Metheney in L.A., and Alejandro came to the concert. I met him afterward, we really hit it off, and we kept in touch. Last year he called me to say he was going to shoot a film in the next couple months and was thinking that the perfect film score would be just drums, solo drums. And while of course I was interested, I had no idea how it was going to work. Like you said, it was my first time scoring a film, and also just drums? I had no idea how that would sound 

[Dreams of EGOT & Internal Monologues after the jump...]

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jul072014

Halfway Pt. 3: Sound, Songs, Score. What Did You Enjoy Listening To?

Having covered the most astounding visuals from the first half of 2014 let's move on to Sound. This is when I suddenly become shy, mutable, and tongue-tied as a critic. You may read this post at any decibel level but please know that I'm whispering it. A truth: sound is the aspect of filmmaking for which I feel least qualified to judge. I try to absorb what's happening in underscoring and with the mix and editing. I'm definitely more attuned that I once was. But the fact remains that my ears are neither as well trained nor as aggressive in consumption as my eyes. I love to hear other people talk sound and scoring (I recommend the book The Conversations by Walter Murch which is on film editing but it touches on sound as well) so please do share your favorites in the comments. I'll probably learn something if you do. At the very least I'll have more to consider. 

If I had to vote right now...

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Henry Jackman); Godzilla (Alexandre Desplat); The Grand Budapest Hotel (Alexandre Desplat); Noah (Clint Mansell); Snowpiercer (Marco Beltrami)... though I'd be hard-pressed to tell you why in all five cases other than that I responded to the music and thought it a fine match for the material tonally

BEST SOUND MIXING & EDITING: In these categories I'd undoubtedly go with some mix of the otherwordly bestial movies like Godzilla, Noah and How To Train Your Dragon 2 and I'd most definitely opt for Under the Skin and not just because my BFF and I leaned toward each other and whispered Yaz's "I Before E Except After C" lyrics during the enormously creepy vocalizations in the first minute of the film. But other than that I'm open to suggestions...

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: And now we can raise our voices again after the jump because I have five I LOVE already and we're only half finished with 2014. Guess what they are...

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.

Wednesday
Jan292014

And Then There Were Four. Oscar Nomination Revoked In Yet More Music Branch Drama

As you have undoubtedly heard because the drama is too juicy not to spread, the Original Song nominee that shocked everyone on Nomination Morning is no longer. "Alone Yet Not Alone" from Alone Yet Not Alone, a faith-based movie, has been disqualified due to excessive untoward campaigning. The nomination had been controversial right from the start for multiple reasons. First, no one had heard of the movie (not even one review on Rotten Tomatoes at the time) and people don't like obscure things. Then the amateurish-looking and racist-seeming trailer got passed around mockingly and we learned that anti-gay activists were endorsing the film. The team behind it basically gave God the credit for its nomination. Listen, Oscar night is heaven on earth but God's got nothing to do with it.

More on Oscar's most aggravating branch after the jump... 

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Dec212013

Randomness: The Hunt, Film Scores, Burlesque Memories

I'm experiencing something a bit like ADHD today. I've started several articles none of which got past a few lines and worked on a few oscar chart updates or revisions none of which ever felt like I'd finished (visualdocumentary and music / sound charts). And I also spent some time stressing about Sundance which starts in less than a month and which The Film Experience will be covering. But mostly my head has remained a jumble of criss-crossed movie thoughts, so in the effort to get unstuck, I'm just blurting out a handful of random ones, a couple of which might feel familiar if you follow me on twitter.

• I'm curious to hear what your favorite film scores of the year because in this regard, I'm not sure I have any! I tend to be a fan of Alexander Desplat's work but I can't even remember Philomena's score which I saw so recently and which one assumes is an Oscar shoo-in on the composer's name alone. (See also: John Williams and The Book Thief)

• January 16th is going to be insane: Oscar nominations, Sundance's Opening Night, and the "Critics Choice" ceremony are all taking place within 12 hours of each other. Spread it out a little, showbiz! Seriously.

• I watched The Hunt last night, Denmark's finalist for The Foreign Film Category. Mads Mikkelsen is always super and his face, so full of confusion, disbelief, and hurt that's cutting as deep as the lacerations on his face from town beatings. He won Best Actor in Cannes way back in May 2012 and if the film wins its Oscar category in March 2014 The Hunt may well serve as the new poster boy reminder of how deeply strange global cinematic culture is in terms of distribution models. I've heard that people get seriously worked up about this movie, loving or hating it but frankly, either reaction is, um, foreign to me. It's an effective drama, and wholly plausible -- see also the Meryl Streep drama A Cry in the Dark (1988), a predecessor in how ugly "guilty as soon as your accused" mob mentality can be -- at least until the ending which seems tacked on as failed provocation. But it's also not doing anything particularly interesting cinematically or in the screenplay. I expected more from Thomas Vinterberg, who once made the genius Festen/Celebration (1998) which was famously snubbed by Oscar despite causing quite a stir with cinephiles. And I kept feeling like the final scene was shot at the same house where The Celebration took place. Am I crazy or is this true?

• I was at a party the other night (not a film crowd) and an older gentlemen, hearing that I was a film critic, asked me what my favorite movies were. When I got to "Woody Allen's Manhattan" he interrupts... "you mean Annie Hall?"

• Back to the foreign film finalist list, 3 of the 9 finalists each year are selected by special committee with the other 6 coming from popular vote. So which films do you think are which? I'm guessing the committee shoved Cambodia's The Missing Picture and maybe Bosnia's A Day in the Life of a Iron Picker but otherwise I can't suss out which film needed a committee boost since the other 7 finalists strike me as having obvious wide appeal Oscar hooks.

• Today Burlesque was on Oxygen and it remains insanely watchable. "Wagon Wheel Watusi"! It's not a movie that reveals something new everytime you watch it but rather a movie which just reconfirms everything you felt the first time and heightens it. It's RIDICULOUS but in a good way. And it's nice that Kristen Bell got Frozen since Burlesque has a bad case of Yentlitis -- "Only the star may sing even though we've cast a bunch of people with musical chops in this!"

• Finally, I don't know why I didn't tell you this sooner but I swear to god, last week I dreamt that Nicole Kidman was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Blue is the Warmest Color. When I woke up I tried to go back to sleep since I didn't want this nonsensical actressexual dream to end. It's been haunting me ever since...

No wonder I can't concentrate!

What's going on in *your* movie addled mind?

Friday
Dec132013

'Gravity', 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Kamasutra 3D' (!) Among 141 Eligible for Original Score

Was 2013 a weak year for film scores? I feel like it was. At least in terms of the scores that Oscar's music branch would pay attention to. I mean, four of my favourite scores of the year aren't even eligible! They would be Great Expectations (Richard Hartley), A Touch of Sin (Giong Lim), Lore (Max Richter - my no. 1 from 2012, but not released in US until this year), and Only God Forgives (Cliff Martinez). Also not eligible for whatever reasons are Lone Survivor (Stephen Jablonsky), Frozen, Inside Llewyn Davis (T-Bone Burnett), and Nebraska (Mark Orton) - sorry Anne Marie!


I'm sure there is plenty of excellent music featured amongst this year's 141 (the documentary win this year's bragging rights, then) eligible scores, but Oscar will only look at about 10 or 12. Sorry Joseph Bishara - your abrasive strings on Insidious: Chapter 2 and The Conjuring just won't factor despite their effectiveness. Sorry Daniel Hart - your clapping melodies on Ain't Them Bodies Saints just aren't going to get enough ears listening. Sorry Sreejith Edavana and Saachin Raj Chelory - your score for Kamasutra 3D (!!!) will not be considered, but boy am I intrigued!?!?

 

Out in front are Gravity (Stephen Price), 12 Years a Slave (Hans Zimmer) and Philomena (Alexandre Desplat - the moment I saw his name in the credits I though "instant nomination!"), with Saving Mr Banks (Thomas Newman), The Book Thief (John Williams) rounding out Nathaniel's own predictions and both feel like likely nominees. But what of newcomer Alex Ebert and All is Lost, a globe nominee yesterday. Musicians might be inclined to reward the way he kept a film with one actor who barely talks interesting. There'a also Mark Heffes' Globe nominee for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

One to keep an eye out for too is Craig Armstrong for The Great Gatsby. I figured it would be deemed not significant enough given the film's preference to songs, but there it is and he's already been cited by several places including the Grammys. Henry Jackman should also be on the Oscar watch radar for Captain Phillips, likewise Hans Zimmer (again) for Rush, Randy Newman for Monsters University, Danny Elfman for Oz: The Great and Powerful and Howard Shore for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I may not necessarily be fans of those scores (I haven't seen The Hobbit sequel), but those names should never be discounted.

I doubt Oscar will spread itself beyond those names, as much as I'd like The Missing Picture (Marc Marder), Mud (David Wingo), The Place Beyond the Pines (Mike Patton), Stoker (Clint Mansell), and The Wind Rises (Joe Hasaishi) to show up. Lastly, and perhaps of interest to nobody but myself, some of Danny Elfman's best work in years from Errol Morris' The Unknown Known is not included on the long list. However, given the likes of The Armstrong Lie and Tim's Vermeer are included it's not for the reasons that Errol Morris seems to think. Curious.

See the full list after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec102013

Team FYC: "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" Original Score

Team FYC highlights our favorite individual fringe Oscar contenders. Here's Philippe Ostiguy...

Last January, waves of chatter came rushing out of Sundance with glowing words for a little American drama that has steadily enchanted audiences since. Though it can’t be credited with much innovation, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is an old-fashioned tale of love and crime told with heart, eager to pay tribute to Americana pioneers.  Though its sun-kissed cinematography and trio of lead performances by Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck have been the main talking points, the film earns most of its magic by way of Daniel Hart’s musical contributions, at once delicate and tense, alert and dreaming.

Classically trained violinist Hart, who has released music under his own name as well as with his bands The Physics of Meaning and Dark Rooms, has little film experience: his only other scoring credit is on Lowery’s previous film, St. Nick. But that’s about to change. His work on Saints is memorable and precise, a perfect fit for the film that beautifully stands on its own. His string-heavy compositions are wistful and light as daydreams, yet, from the nostalgia of “Do You Remember That Day” to the slight dissonance of “Ruth Tries to Write”, always suggest the violence of emotions below the surface. It’s a subtle and layered score that, though deeply rooted in tradition, always feels alive, fitting in somewhere between Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ haunting work on The Assassination of Jesse James and more cacophonic Lawless score.

The songs composed for the soundtrack deserve a mention, too: between the Motown-esque ‘60s throwback of Andrew Tinker’s “Ain’t Long Enough”, Curtis Heath and John Graney’s bluesy “Been Waiting” and the soulful country of “Siren Call” and “Here We Are”, which both sound like they were written half a century ago, Hart’s compositions find a slew of striking complements that make Saints’ a most well-rounded soundtrack – and one that, though it might not turn the Academy’s head, more than deserves a spin or two. Or more.

You can listen to part of the soundtrack here.