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FILM SCORE FRIDAY 11/15/02

Plus: Internet Exclusive -- The FIRST review of the LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS CD!!!!

By Scott Bettencourt (and Doug Adams)

For film music collectors, the rest of the year will feature a lot of early Jerry Goldsmith, two John Hughes Christmas movies, and two versions of Miracle on 34th Street.

For the first time, we are pre-announcing NEXT month's Silver Age title, which we will make available to order in approximately two weeks. It is a two-disc collection of episode scores from THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., including the main theme arrangements from each season as well as scores by Jerry Goldsmith, Morton Stevens, Lalo Schifrin, Walter Scharf, Gerald Fried, Robert Drasnin, and Richard Shores.

The disc will feature an illustrated 28-page booklet and liner notes by TV music expert Jon Burlingame. The disc will sell for $24.95, but those subscribers who automatically receive every Charter Club release will only be charged $19.95. Enjoy!

Just a reminder, the latest CDs from Film Score Monthly are now in stock: THE PRIZE, Jerry Goldsmith's delightful early score to the faux-Hitchcock comedy thriller (penned by master Hitchcock scribe Ernest Lehman himself), starring Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson; and THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL, Miklos Rozsa's score for the post-apocalyptic drama starring Harry Belafonte. (For some reason I always think of this movie as starring Sidney Poitier. I don't know if that's due to unconscious racism on my part, or my belief that if there were only one man left on Earth it ought to be Poitier.)


Intrada has announced the latest in their Special Collection series, a full score release of the great Bruce Broughton's music for the John Hughes produced/penned remake of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET. The original soundtrack CD release consisted mostly of songs and featured only a few cues of Broughton's score. The Intrada release will feature nearly sixty-eight minutes of Broughton's music, and will be available next month.


Coincidentally, Percepto's CD of Cyril Mockridge's score to the original version of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (paired with Mockridge's music for 1949's COME TO THE STABLE, which received a whopping six Oscar nominations including Best Song for Alfred Newman and Mack Gordon) is now available.


Varese Sarabande has announced the latest four releases from their CD Club, which are available for ordering and will begin shipping on November 20th.

STUDS LONIGAN is one of Jerry Goldsmith's first scores (so early that he's credited as "Gerrald Goldsmith"), for the film adaptation of James T. Farrell's acclaimed novel (which was remade for TV in 1979 starring Harry Hamlin, with a score by Ken Lauber). Goldsmith's jazzy score is reminiscent of his work for The Twilight Zone, such as "The Big Tall Wish," and features complex piano solos by a young John Williams.

And speaking of John Williams, HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK: THE DELUXE EDITION presents an expanded 2-disc version of the score to 1992's smash hit sequel, including alternate cues not featured in the release version and correcting severe mastering mistakes from the original CD release.

BIG was the first blockbuster Howard Shore ever scored, and the kind of family-friendly, charming comedy that the composer of Seven never seems to do anymore (these days, it's hard to remember that he also scored Mrs. Doubtfire). The Varese Club CD is the first legitimate release of the score to Big, a film that also inspired a David Shire Broadway musical.

The fourth of the Varese releases, a Masters Film Music selection, pairs Alex North's never before available score to the 1955 romantic drama THE RACERS, starring Kirk Douglas, with the ballet North wrote for the Fred Astaire/Leslie Caron musical DADDY LONG LEGS.


The Varese website also features the cue list from their upcoming CD of Jerry Goldsmith's score to STAR TREK: NEMESIS. The cues total approximately 48:06, making it the longest original score release for any of the Star Trek movies, not counting the later, expanded version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Cues include "Set Your Phasers to Bland," "Lore Outs Data," "I'm a Doctor, Not a Transsexual," "The Wedding of Tasha and Wesley," "Picard Inherits Kirk's Toupee," and "Klingon Theme For the Last Damn Time,"


CORRECTION: The bonus cue on the upcoming special edition CD of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS is titled "Farewell to Lorien," not "Return to Lothlorien" as I reported in last Friday's column. I have no idea how I made this mistake. I haven't been so embarrassed since that time I reported that not only did John Williams score Star Wars but he was also an acclaimed classical guitarist, the actor who played the detective in Dial M For Murder, and the guy who gave that fatal dose of Pop Rocks to the kid who played "Mikey" in those old cereal commercials.


On a personal note, I would like to congratulate Madonna for penning what has to be the worst James Bond song ever, "Die Another Day." Some may feel that "All Time High," "Never Say Never Again," or "Tomorrow Never Dies" earns that distinction, but Madonna's feeble composition makes even her lame-assed "Beautiful Stranger" from The Spy Who Shagged Me seem like a work of Sondheimian elegance. Of course, I'm prejudiced because I consider Madonna to be not only an unimpressive songwriter but also an abysmal and charmless actress (for proof, see Swept Away -- but for Heaven's sake, don't; it's hard to recommend a film where the only enjoyment comes from seeing the lead actress get slapped and kicked) and, as Jon Favreau might say in Swingers, a nasty skank. (By the way, the Supreme Court ruled in The People v. Courtney Love that it is not libelous to call someone a "nasty skank," especially when they are.) Supposedly Madonna has an onscreen cameo in Die Another Day as well. My hope is that Bond takes one look her and quips "I wouldn't **** her with Blofeld's ****." Die another day? Honestly, Madonna -- why wait?


CDS AVAILABLE THIS WEEK

Big - Howard Shore - Varese CD Club
Die Another Day - David Arnold - Warner Bros.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - John Williams, William Ross - Atlantic
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York: The Deluxe Edition - John Williams - Varese CD Club
Miracle on 34th Street/Come to the Stable - Cyril Mockridge - Percepto
The Prize - Jerry Goldsmith - Film Score Monthly
The Racers/Daddy Long Legs - Alex North - Varese CD Club/Masters Film Music
Studs Lonigan - Jerry Goldsmith - Varese CD Club
The World, The Flesh and the Devil - Miklos Rozsa - Film Score Monthly


COMING SOON

November 19
The Emperors' Club - James Newton Howard - Varese Sarabande
Sunset Boulevard - Franz Waxman - Varese Sarabande
Treasure Planet - James Newton Howard - Disney
XXX - Randy Edelman - Varese Sarabande
November 26
Evelyn - Stephen Endelman - Decca
Star Trek: Nemesis - Jerry Goldsmith - Varese Sarabande
December 10
About Schmidt - Rolfe Kent - New Line
Catch Me If You Can - John Williams - Dreamworks
The Hours - Philip Glass - Nonesuch
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - Howard Shore - Warner Bros.
Date Unknown
Amerika - Basil Poledouris - Prometheus
The Busy Body/The Spirit is Willing - Vic Mizzy - Percepto
Dragonwyck - Alfred Newman - Screen Archives
Fear No Evil - Frank LaLoggia - Percepto
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - Jerry Goldsmith, et al - Film Score Monthly
Miracle on 34th Street - Bruce Broughton - Intrada Special Collection
The Package - James Newton Howard - Prometheus CD Club
The Swarm - Jerry Goldsmith - Prometheus CD Club


IN THEATERS TODAY

Ararat - Mychael Danna - Score Album on Milan
El Crimen del Padre Amaro - Rossino Serrano
Half-Past Dead - Tyler Bates
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - John Williams, William Ross - Score Album on Atlantic


DID THEY MENTION THE MUSIC?

FAR FROM HEAVEN - Elmer Bernstein

"From the note-perfect opening credits and the first sweeping chords of Elmer Bernstein's opulent score to the tasteful modern furniture and porcelain figurine lamps in the Whitakers' updated colonial, "Far From Heaven" is so intensely stylized you can't help feeling, at least at first, that some kind of ironic commentary is intended."

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com

"All of the wild, unruly feeling that the characters must repress pops to life around them, in every detail of Mark Friedberg's production design, Edward Lachman's painterly cinematography, Sandy Powell's delectable costumes and, above all, the great Elmer Bernstein's sobbing, swooping score. Mr. Bernstein's music, which plays beneath nearly every scene, puts the melody in this melodrama, and Mr. Haynes, fading breathlessly from one scene to the next, reaches moments of operatic intensity that seem disproportionate to his tale of genteel bigotry and marital dysfunction. But that's the point of the movie, and the source of its troubling beauty."

A.O. Scott, New York Times

"Capped by the crowning glory of Elmer Bernstein's emotionally and orchestrally lush score, the film is a jewel-like operation on every technical level."

David Rooney, Variety

"--Elmer Bernstein's swelling, plaintive score--"

Ella Taylor, L.A. Weekly

"Float on a swooning score by Elmer Bernstein, that essential movie composer of the 1950s."

David Thomson, Los Angeles Times

"Perfect to the last detail of its production design, stunningly photographed by Edward Lachman, and featuring an Elmer Bernstein score in the classic mold, it also accomplishes what Gus Van Sant failed to do with his Psycho remake, collapsing the new into the old."

Keith Phipps, The Onion

"--not to mention the rhapsodic Rachmaninoid chords of the Elmer Bernstein score that dramatizes this emotional maelstrom."

J. Hoberman, Village Voice

FEMME FATALE - Ryuichi Sakamoto

"It is, however, a reminder that there is sometimes more to movies than character and story, that formal dexterity and visual inventiveness (along with a good score, in this case by Ryuichi Sakamoto) and some nice-looking people can be the vehicles of exhilaration and surprise."

A.O. Scott, New York Times

"The bravura Cannes seg, lasting about 15 minutes, is accompanied by the teasing strains of Ryuichi Sakamoto's muted variation on Ravel's 'Bolero."

Lisa Nesselson, Variety

"At the Cannes Film Festival, in the course of a glamorous gala and to the strains of Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Bolero"-like music, a team of thieves led by the sleekly sadistic Eriq Ebouaney and the slinky blonde Rebecca Romijn-Stamos execute a daring caper. Seven years later, the "Bolero" music has become Bernard Hermann circa Vertigo, as an ex-paparazzo (Antonio Banderas) trails Laure in her current persona around Paris."

David Edelstein, Slate.com

"Nothing that follows ever surpasses this droll and bloody 15-minute set piece, scored to a pastiche of Ravel's Bolero."

J. Hoberman, Village Voice

"Cued to Ryuichi Sakamoto's winking scoreˇa wholesale knock-off of Ravel's 'Bolero' --the film finds the master of mimicry stepping into a hall of mirrors, imitating himself imitating Hitchcock."

Scott Tobias, The Onion

ON GUARD [LE BOSSU] - Philippe Sarde

"Buoyant score borrows heavily from classical standards that fit the mood."

"Variety Staff," Variety


THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS

HOWARD SHORE

Reprise 2-48408
20 Tracks - 77:15

Reviewed by Doug Adams

The biggest compliment one could pay Howard Shore's score to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is to say that it accomplishes exactly what it needs to. Meager praise? Hardly. Shore's work on The Fellowship of the Ring was one of the most detailed and vibrant scores ever set to a fantasy film. It matched the story's literary complexity with a treasure trove of interconnected thematic material, meeting the epic filmmaking with a sincere and affectionate musical voice that never once overplayed a scene for the sake of showmanship. The composition itself was of the highest caliber, unique in its stripped down counterpoint, its organic melodic contour, and its mixture of ancient tropes and bleeding-edge modernism. But it was, as Shore himself often noted, an Act One score. Act Two needed to be familiar, yet broader in every sense of the word--more themes, more development, more colors, more featured soloists, more unique instruments. It needed to extend the musical world of the first film--to feel like a logical progression of ideas, not a sequel.

And The Two Towers' score does exactly that, in the highest possible style.

Shore's concurrent work on all three Lord of the Rings films has resulted in an amazingly logical musical progression. This new score never feels like a follow-up or a crass attempt at recreating the magic of the first film. It's a continuation, an authentic Act Two. When prior material returns, it is touched by some fresh nuance, whether it's couched in a novel setting or interacting with a new tune. For example, in addition to his "pity" theme from the first film, Gollum now has two new musical counterparts: a tragic theme that's structurally related to the preexisting History of the Ring theme and a creepy-crawly motive (seemingly incorporating the cimbalom) that represents his latent malice and caps the score proper with a wonderfully taunting sneer. The equine Riders of Rohan have a heroic brass fanfare--complete with a corresponding fiddle solo variation--that bears rhythmic similarities to the Fellowship theme. The "Treebeard" track combines the ethereal choral work of the first score with an earthy English Horn solo and the best wooden percussion textures (featuring marimba and -- is that Indonesian angklung?) since Indiana Jones traversed the jungles of Peru. The ghostly Lothlorien theme appears both in is original Eastern flavored setting and transformed into a warrior's clarion in "The Hornburg," while the Orc / Isengard theme returns more contrapuntally varied, sputtering out in short nasty bursts while actively jumping octaves. Even the Orc's unnaturally tromping 5/4 ostinato is expanded upon and corralled into a militaristic charge. And tellingly the Evil of the Ring theme becomes more omnipresent and driving, darkly slithering its way into the score at surprising moments.

For Two Towers, Shore cleverly digs his returning themes deeper into the orchestral frame, indicating that the story's quest has thrust characters into a more complex world. Fellowship immersed the listener in one culture at a time, but Two Towers commingles material, notching up the thematic interplay considerably. Certainly Shore has maintained the notion of separate and unique cultures -- hobbits, elves, dwarves, orcs, multiple races of humans, etc. -- but there's now the sense that each is more aware of the neighbors. The sum of this added breadth and density is a more fully realized and multifaceted Middle-earth. Appropriately, Shore's writing is consistently more contrapuntal. While the quasi-ancient triadic homophony that so distinctly colored the first film is still at hand, Two Towers is considerably more dissonant and textural. Even the subtle use of aleatoric textures from Fellowship is now more explicit and often threatening as in the vocal passages of "The Passage of the Marshes."

And of course as the nuanced threats of Middle-earth grow, so do the responses. Much of Two Towers is directed towards gargantuan military action, and Shore responds with appropriately rhythmic material that puts the corners on the score and pushes it to explore more angular territory. The action music is carved in a brutal / elegant manner that's regal, exacting and overwhelming all at once. Unlike so many other scores, Two Towers uses its action to create genuine drama, not a cheap show. The battle music is informed by and drawn from the complex musical world in which it occurs, so it feels as if there are legitimate repercussions to the waging war. Does this matter on a score on CD, separated from the film? Absolutely, for the same reason a Mahler symphony or a Puccini opera achieves its heights effectively. Drama is context. When Shore's battle music tears through his established material transforming and dissecting familiar themes, hurling them against one another, layering them behind brass clusters and savagely propulsive cadences, it's not just good film music, it's good art. The action, which populates the last third of the CD, is a well-earned dramatic destination, not a diversionary flash.

The Reprise Records album also features guest vocal performers, Shelia Chandra, Elizabeth Fraser (returning from Fellowship), Ben Del Maestro and Emiliana Torrini, who sings Shore's "Gollum's Song," a creepy setting of Gollum's new tragic theme. All the performers acquit themselves nicely, but it will most likely be Torrini's evocatively twisted performance that will get fans' attention. On the instrumental side, the London Philharmonic is in excellent form, with just the proper bit of bite in the playing.

Perhaps I should amend my introduction. Two Towers doesn't do solely what it needs to. It only needed to be as good as Shore's work on Fellowship. It may be better.

MailBag@filmscoremonthly.com


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