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Varese Sarabande plans to announce three new CD Club releases next Monday.

As Variety reported in a recent article, these will be among the last releases from the label supervised by Varese veteran Robert Townson, who is leaving the company "to launch a new venture producing live concerts of film music." Among Townson's other final projects for the label will be a soundtrack CD for the final season of House of Cards, and LP releases of Herrmann's Vertigo and Goldsmith's L.A. Confidential.

The next release from Caldera presents the score for the offbeat 1973 psychological thriller THE BABY, scored by Oscar nominee and Emmy winner Gerald Fried (The Killing, Roots, Birds Do It, Bees Do It). 

Legendary composer and performer Michel Legrand died on Saturday, January 26 at the age of 86. We hope to have a more detailed tribute in an upcoming column, but for now, you can follow the link to Jon Burlingame's obituary of Legrand from Variety


The Cisco Kid in The Gay Amigo - Albert Glasser - Kritzerland
Durante La Tormenta
 - Fernando Velazquez - Quartet
El Fotografo Del Mauthausen
 - Diego Navarro - Rosetta
El Lado Oscuro del Corazon
 - Osvaldo Montes - Rosetta
El Reino
 - Olivier Arson - Quartet
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World - John Powell - Backlot
Los Futbolismos
 - Fernando Velazquez - Quartet
Mad Macbeth
 - Susan Dibona, Salvatore Sangiovanni - Kronos
A Man Called Peter
 - Alfred Newman - Kritzerland
Minuscule: Mandibles from Far Away
 - Mathieu Laboley - Music Box
Non Lasciamoci Piu
 - Fabio Frizzi - Kronos
Oma Maa
 - Pessi Levando - Kronos
 - Pierre Hamon - Quartet
Sin Fin
 - Sergio De La Puente - Rosetta
Super Lopez
 - Fernando Velazquez - Quartet
 - Alberto Iglesias - Quartet


Arctic - Joseph Trapanese - Score CD due Feb. 15 on Sony
A Breath Away - Michel Corriveau
The Gandhi Murder - Robert Diggy Morrison
The Golem - Tal Yardeni
Miss Bala - Alex Heffes
Piercing - Music Supervisor: Randall Poster
Sharkwater Extinction - Jonathan Goldsmith
Then Came You - Spencer David Hutchings
Tito and the Birds - Ruben Feffer, Gustavo Kurlat
Velvet Buzzsaw - Marco Beltrami
Who Will Write Our History - Todd Boekelheide


February 8
Cannibal Holocaust
 - Riz Ortolani - Beat
Duri a Morire
 - Stelvio Cipriani - Digitmovies
La Professora Di Lingue
 - Lallo Gori - Beat
Simon Bolivar 
- Carlo Savina - Digitmovies
We the Animals - Nick Zammuto - Temporary Residence
February 15
Alita: Battle Angel
 - Tom Holkenborg - Milan
- Joseph Trapanese - Sony
February 22
Free Solo - Marco Beltrami - Node
March 1
Colette - Thomas Ades - Lakeshore
Dorian Gray - Charlie Mole - Filmtrax
March 8
If Beale Street Could Talk - Nicholas Britell - Lakeshore
Ittefaq - BT - Kss3te Recordings
Date Unknown
The Baby
- Gerald Fried - Caldera
Calypso/Italia '61 in Circarama
 - Angelo Francesco Lavagnino - Alhambra
Dead Ant
- Edwin Wendler - Notefornote
Deux Hommes Dans La Ville/Le Toubib/La Verve Couderc
 - Philippe Sarde - Music Box
For the Term of His Natural Life/The Wild Duck
 - Simon Walker - Dragon's Domain
The House that Dripped Blood
 - Michael Dress - Kritzerland
The Hyper Agent Gridman
 - Osamu Tozuka, Kisaburo Suzuki - Cinema-Kan (import)
Josef Mengele: The Final Account 
- Joe Harnell - Dragon's Domain
Superman - John Williams - La-La Land
Twelve Students Who Want to Die
 - Yukihiko Tsutsumi - VAP (import)
Valley of Shadows
 - Zbigniew Preisner - Caldera


February 1 - Rick Wilkins born (1937) 
February 1 - Herbert Stothart died (1949)
February 1 - Karl Hajos died (1950)
February 1 - Miklos Rozsa records his score for The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
February 1 - Lyn Murray begins recording his score for To Catch a Thief (1955)
February 1 - Alexander Courage records his score for the Lost in Space episode "The Cave of the Wizards" (1967)
February 1 - Barry Gray begins recording his score for Thunderbird 6 (1968)
February 1 - Ron Jones records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "A Matter of Perspective" (1990)
February 1 - Alan Silvestri begins recording his score for The Perez Family (1995)
February 1 - Bruce Broughton begins recording his score for Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco (1996)
February 1 - Howard Shore begins recording his score for The Score (2001)
February 2 - Giuseppe Becce born (1877)
February 2 - Mike Batt born (1950)
February 2 - Miklos Rozsa begins recording his score for Crisis (1950)
February 2 - Dimitri Tiomkin begins recording his score for Take the High Ground! (1953)
February 2 - David Buttolph begins recording his score for Secret of the Incas (1954)
February 2 - Gerald Fried records his score for Cast a Long Shadow (1959)
February 2 - Recording sessions begin for Bronislau Kaper's score to Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
February 2 - Richard Band begins recording his score for Parasite (1982)
February 2 - Recording sessions begin on James Newton Howard’s score for Outbreak (1995)
February 2 - David Bell records his score for the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Dark Frontier, Part I” (1999)
February 2 - Dennis McCarthy and Kevin Kiner record their score for the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “The Aenar” (2005)
February 3 - Paul Sawtell born (1906)
February 3 - Derek Hilton born (1927)
February 3 - Daniele Amfitheatrof begins recording his score for Lassie Come Home (1943)
February 3 - Dave Davies born (1947)
February 3 - Toshiyuki Watanabe born (1955)
February 3 - Ray Heindorf died (1980)
February 3 - Lionel Newman died (1989)
February 3 - Basil Poledouris begins recording his score for RoboCop 3 (1992)
February 3 - Paul Baillargeon records his score for the Star Trek: Enterprise episode ‘The Forgotten” (2004)
February 4 - Hal Mooney born (1911)
February 4 - David Raksin begins recording his score for The Girl in White (1952)
February 4 - Kitaro born (1953)
February 4 - Don Davis born (1957)
February 4 - Bronislau Kaper begins recording his and Heitor Villa-Lobos' score to Green Mansions (1959)
February 4 - Patton opens in New York City (1970)
February 4 - Joe Raposo died (1989)
February 4 - Von Dexter died (1996)
February 4 - J.J. Johnson died (2001)
February 4 - Jimmie Haskell died (2016)
February 5 - Felice Lattuada born (1882)
February 5 - Bronislau Kaper born (1902)
February 5 - Clifton Parker born (1905)
February 5 - Elizabeth Swados born (1951)
February 5 - Cliff Martinez born (1954)
February 5 - Nick Laird-Clowes born (1957)
February 5 - Elmer Bernstein begins recording his score for The Rat Race (1960)
February 5 - Jacques Ibert died (1962)
February 5 - Guy Farley born (1963)
February 5 - Kristopher Carter born (1972)
February 5 - Michael Small begins recording his score for The Parallax View (1974)
February 5 - Ron Jones records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "When the Bough Breaks" (1988)
February 5 - Douglas Gamley died (1998)
February 5 - Dennis McCarthy records his score for the Enterprise episode “Stigma” (2003)
February 5 - Al De Lory died (2012)
February 5 - Ray Colcord died (2016)
February 6 - Akira Yamaoka born (1968)
February 6 - Hugo Montenegro died (1981)
February 6 - Alan Silvestri begins recording his score for Romancing the Stone (1984)
February 6 - Jay Chattaway records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Power Play” (1992)
February 6 - John Dankworth died (2010)
February 6 - Sam Spence died (2016)
February 7 - George Bassman born (1914)
February 7 - Marius Constant born (1925)
February 7 - Laurie Johnson born (1927)
February 7 - Alejandro Jodorowsky born (1929)
February 7 - Gottfried Huppertz died (1937)
February 7 - Frans Bak born (1958)
February 7 - David Bryan born (1962)
February 7 - Jerry Fielding begins recording orchestral cues for Demon Seed (1977)
February 7 - Ira Newborn begins recording his score for Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)
February 7 - Shirley Walker begins recording her score for Willard (2003)


ALLIED - Alan Silvestri
"'Allied' is one of those movies in which everything clicks in such a precise and effective manner -- including top-notch contributions from the likes of composer Alan Silvestri, cinematographer Don Burgess and costume designer Joanna Johnston -- part of the fun in watching it is in seeing all of the various pieces coming together in such a seemingly effortless manner. It is a lovely homage to the kind of entertainment that Hollywood used to put out in the day without breaking a sweat, while still strong and sure enough to work on viewers who have never seen any of the films to which it pays tribute."

Peter Sobczynski,

THE DESERT BRIDE - Leo Sujatovich
"This is a film of minor gestures, conversations and incidents, made major through the difference they make to a woman who has never been the subject of any story: Garcia’s face and voice open up beautifully as Teresa accepts her place in the center. It’s a performance with which the marvelous cinematographer Sergio Armstrong (working in a softer, more shimmery register than in his collaborations with Pablo Larraín) is in perfect sympathy, blurring portions of the frame seemingly in tandem with her own raddled state of mind, and giving way to airy, iridescently colored tableaux as the inner fog clears. Atán and Pivato control every formal element here -- from the chiming, whispery score and sound design to Andrea Chignoli’s fluid, rhythmic editing -- with a precision that seems entirely unforced: As a story about drifting into grace, 'The Desert Bride' is crafted accordingly."
Guy Lodge, Variety

"The wispy story could almost be reduced to an anecdote. Yet in the leisurely flow of Andrea Chignoli's edit, it's imbued with gorgeous, undulating rhythms that pull you in to the point where the recovery of Teresa's bag becomes secondary to the emergence of a woman capable of being an active participant in life, rather than hiding in the margins. Leo Sujatovich's score, full of soft piano, guitar and strings, adds to the poignancy without veering too far into the sentimental."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
THE ESCAPE - Alexandra Harwood, Anthony John
"Wandering the streets of Paris, Tara slips into a dreamy fugue state, giving a fake name and turning her phone off. The people, the noise of traffic, the sound of leaves in the wind -- all accompanied by the plangent piano of Anthony John’s score -- become antidotes for the depredation of her spirit. As the narrative thread keeps unspooling, a dangling sense of foreboding is cast over the film. Scenes of hopeful brightness are punctured with apprehension. In one claustrophobic close up, we feel Tara’s nerves turn nitric as she listens to a series of anxious voicemails from home. We know that she must return home, must reconcile and rework her life, and yet she continues drifting. And it’s here that 'The Escape' begins to feel rudderless, uncertain of its destination, as if Tara has escaped the careful confines of Savage’s screenplay, so specific and focused in its first half, and almost adrift in the second."
Josh Wise, Slant Magazine

"The saving grace of Tara’s life in commuter-belt limbo is that she’s not far from a Eurostar station, where hourly trains promise to sweep her away to Paris -- a recurring daydream she fosters like the eponymous housewife heroine of Marianne Faithfull’s 'Ballad of Lucy Jordan.' (You can all but hear the song’s synths bubbling up from under Alexandra Harwood and Anthony John’s starkly melancholic, piano-based score.) Following one morning of especially fractious domestic discord, she impulsively buys a ticket, in the process setting her life on a different course -- and the film on a tonal diagonal. Drawn by an irrational soul connection to 'The Lady and the Unicorn,' the celebrated series of Flanders tapestries on display in Paris’s Museum of the Middle Ages, she embarks on a kind of second-self romantic quest, abetted by worldlier French acquaintances. As she relaxes, so does the filmmaking -- the score sweetens, while Laurie Rose’s hitherto jagged, utilitarian lensing takes on a rosier glow. The softening of the film’s outlook isn’t without some rueful payoff of truth -- this remains a kitchen-sink drama, after all, not 'French Kiss.' Still, the keenly observed environmental and behavioral detail of the first half is missed somewhat in this transition, ahead of a potentially debate-prompting resolution (already teased at the outset of the film) that takes a few emotional shortcuts."
Guy Lodge, Variety
"But Arterton, whose performance is deeply internalized and often silent -- and whose face, regarded in somewhat overused close-up, is the movie's central landscape -- signals with every gesture and glance that Tara's discontent is no simple matter. The score by Anthony John and Alexandra Harwood is in sync with her shifting perspectives; sometimes it's a thrumming pulse, sometimes lush and plaintive, and at still other points it expresses a stripped-down serenity."
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter

THE GUARDIANS - Michel Legrand
"The film has such a nuanced relationship with cinematic beauty that what is seen and what is hidden within the image are equally important -- as when Francine and Georges make love discreetly behind a boulder but are betrayed by an untouched picnic basket lying a few steps away. Prettiness itself is implicitly a trap, encouraging a dangerous intimacy and comfort. It’s when peaceably moulding butter pats with floral motifs that Hortense and Francine become close, and make plans for the future. It’s a moment of fleeting happiness and confidence that is crushed by two subsequent brutal blows from the front, and it exacerbates the agony of what lies ahead for Francine. Such rushes of emotion are to be feared. Michel Legrand’s score appears on only a handful of occasions, bursts of music that underline a moment of expectation, as when Francine first arrives at the farm, or wash over a terrible sorrow, such as Hortense’s reaction to the death of her son. Francine provides much of the film’s music herself, singing sweetly old-fashioned songs around the farm."
Pamela Hutchison, Sight and Sound

"Inspired by prize-winning French author Ernest Pérochon’s 1924 novel, director Xavier Beauvois’ emotionally devastating adaptation -- which some may find as arduous as the wartime chapter it depicts -- dispenses with a fair amount of the suffering to be found in the book, forgoing the contemporary tendency toward gritty, handheld realism in favor of a more timeless, almost painterly aesthetic. Set in the Limousin region of France, the decidedly unmanipulative drama features virtually no score (despite a music credit to Michel Legrand) or invasive camera tricks, relying mainly on a fine cast and the work of DP Caroline Champetier, whose stately widescreen compositions supply historically accurate tableaux that have largely been missing from the canonical visual record of that era."
Peter Debruge, Variety

"As quiet as it is, the drama is punctuated by the graceful melodies of New Wave composer Michel Legrand ('Contempt' [sic]), whose score is used sparsely but poignantly, as well as by songs that Francine sings to pass the time. Bry, who has never acted in a movie before, has an alluring presence whether she’s humming a lullaby, churning butter or lying in the arms of her lover. By the final scene, which plays like a homage to Stanley Kubrick’s WWI classic 'Paths of Glory,' she movingly shows how the young orphan has grown into a free woman, braving the long war and emerging victorious."
Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE CITY - Amelie Legrand, Victor Moise

"Both fatalistic and romantic, Khalid obsesses over his failed romance with Laila while wondering whether he even belongs here anymore, taking the city’s temperature -- and a long, fruitless apartment hunt -- as something akin to a divine message. If this blank-slate mentality makes him less intriguing than the times surrounding him, the screenplay seems aware of that: Khalid’s check-ins with some filmmaker friends from Beirut and Baghdad serve to correct his listless perspective, while cannily foreshadowing that even a city this storied could -- and, in fact, did -- become something of a war zone. With the filmmakers swapping drunken platitudes against the kind of background score that festival critics live to deem 'soulful,' these are also, unfortunately, the moments when El Said’s film feels most generic."
Steve Macfarlane, Slant Magazine

- David Wingo
"Once again working with cinematographer Adam Stone, Nichols knows when to get up close with Edgerton, whose displays of anxiety are his most emotional moments in an otherwise intentionally subdued performance. And composer David Wingo -- the go-to scorer for both Nichols and David Gordon Green -- captures the film’s Southern flavor without ever tipping into big, manipulative moments."
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
"All too frequently, historical and biographical films bestow a saintly nobility upon their subject matter, transforming human beings into purposely constructed symbols. When that happens, a movie can become preachy and annoying. 'Loving' skirts this temptation and, except for a couple of scripted platitudes uttered by Mildred (Negga in a performance so pure and uncomplicated she gets away with it), it resists glorifying these reluctant heroes, David Wingo’s swelling score aside. Indeed, Richard’s inability to easily verbalize his feelings defines the film’s aesthetic. He speaks as if words must pry themselves from his mouth to be heard, similar to the way Heath Ledger’s Ennis Del Mar struggled to express himself in 'Brokeback Mountain.' But when the inexperienced ACLU lawyer representing the couple (a strangely cast Kroll, who smiles a lot) asks Richard what he would like him to tell the members of the Supreme Court during oral argument, the usually inarticulate man gives a response so simple and distilled you want to reach out and hug him: 'Tell the judge I love my wife.' Up to this point, Edgerton’s earnest performance has felt a tad actorly, but in that sweet-spot moment, it rings like a wedding bell."
Steve Davis, The Austin Chronicle
"There was that nice warm Cannes feeling in the Lumière Theatre at the end of the screening as the cinema echoed with applause as the credits rolled. Some critics, however, are calling 'Loving' Nichols’ most conventional film yet. Someone will have to enlighten me as to what’s conventional about understated, delicate drama. The only bows to convention in the film are the occasional soft violins that surface and the lawyers who emphasise how important their case is."
Isabel Stevens, Sight and Sound
NERUDA - Federico Jusid

"For all its jokey impudence, though, 'Neruda' takes deadly aim at Chile's flowering dictatorship. Peluchonneau is as sinister as he is ridiculous, and Augusto Pinochet, who would later become Chile's President until his overthrow in 1981, pops up as a vicious prison commander, rounding up workers and dissidents with gusto. As in all his movies, Larrain is an expert juggler of tones: by turns antic and lyrical, Neruda is shot with a dark, nocturnal beauty and a mournful orchestral score."
Ella Taylor, NPR
"Larraín pursues the film's conceit with a painstaking attention to detail that stretches from the use of back projection and voiceover narration to the Bernard Herrmann-style score composed by Federico Jusid. Irreverent, funny and insightful, 'Neruda' is unquestionably mannered but undeniably entertaining."
Allan Hunter, The List
"And that is where 'Neruda' takes flight into the stratosphere of the unexpected. Every moment of the movie is a fiction, a fabrication and Larrain never lets us forget it, using the stunning digital photography (is any director/DP team better mastering the expressive potential of that format than Larrain and Armstrong?) in immensely innovative ways. The camera is rarely still but manages both to pick up striking dramatic compositions and deliver silly sight gags, like Neruda hiding from Peluchonneau by pretending to be a photograph. It’s wackily madcap at times, with deliberately hokey back-projection giving an almost cartoonish air to car chases, and it’s stupidly beautiful at others, as men talk in grand halls of power while dogs bark surreally on staircases in the background. And with many of the conversations taking place continuously across several different locations -- a jarring device at first, before one settles into its quickfire rhythm -- Larrain is always reminding us 'this is not real, this did not happen.' Even the music from Federico Jusid, which frequently layers two different motifs on top of one another for a discordant effect heightens that artificiality, while the breakneck, almost overwhelming pace with which the picture is edited scarcely allows you to draw breath, let alone settle into a comfortable disbelief-suspended state. At times it resembles nothing so much as a newly discovered work of the French New Wave."
Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

"Clever use of back projection in scenes with Peluchonneau in pursuit on a motorcycle underscores the intention to coax a story from the poet's (and by extension, the filmmakers') imagination as much as from history. Composer Federico Jusid's classic mystery score, with its agitated bursts of Bernard Herrmann-style strings, also reinforces the drama's placement in a fictionalized realm."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
THE RACHEL DIVIDE - Mark Degli Antoni
"That’s most true with regards to Dolezal’s sister Esther, adopted son Izaiah and biological son Franklin, whose lives have been upended (potentially irrevocably) by her continuing campaign. In their plight, 'The Rachel Divide' -- smartly edited by Jeff Gilbert and unobtrusively scored by Mark Degli Antoni -- lays bare Dolezal’s decision to prioritize her own crusade over the welfare of loved ones. A stunning final scene demonstrates that she has yet to learn from her mistakes. Consequently, Brownson’s clear-sighted doc proves a tragic case study of a fundamental truth: If you tell a big enough lie, and then refuse to admit to it even when everyone knows you’re lying, you not only lose all credibility, you hurt yourself and those for whom you’re supposedly fighting."
Nick Schager, Variety
"Indeed, 'Stubby' hardly shies away from the tough realities of what was known as the War to End All Wars, and it feels both proficiently documented and generally credible, even if it’s hard to believe that a dog did everything you see happening on screen. Animation, which was handled by Technicolor and Mikros Animation in Canada, convincingly pushes the realism factor, with the battle scenes and European backdrops extremely well-rendered. The score by Patrick Doyle ('Rise of the Planet of the Apes') also hits the right emotional notes in the right places, especially during a closing sequence where the legend of Stubby finally becomes fact. "
Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

TRAFFIK - Geoff Zanelli
"Even when presenting a veritable hell on Earth, where Brea eventually does arrive, Taylor and Spinotti make it look snazzy. But while Patton almost single-handedly makes you want to take the film a little more seriously than is in any way warranted, it's impossible to do so on any level, so fundamentally based is it in stock characters, hackneyed suspense cliches and predictable notes reliably struck. The canned-sounding electronic score doesn't help much either."
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter


Screenings of older films, at the following L.A. movie theaters: AMPASAmerican Cinematheque: AeroAmerican Cinematheque: EgyptianArclightArena CineloungeLACMALaemmleNew Beverly, Nuart and UCLA.

February 1
BLACULA (Gene Page) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
THE IRON GIANT (Michael Kamen) [Cinematheque: Aero]
JAWS (John Williams), THE DEEP (John Barry) [New Beverly]
PULP FICTION [New Beverly]

February 2
THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE (Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, Jack Elliott) [New Beverly]
THE INCREDIBLES (Michael Giacchino), INCREDIBLES 2 (Michael Giacchino) [Cinematheque: Aero]
JAWS (John Williams), THE DEEP (John Barry) [New Beverly]
PURPLE RAIN (Prince, Michel Colombier) [New Beverly]
REAR WINDOW (Franz Waxman) [Cinematheque: Aero]
TALES FROM THE HOOD (Christopher Young), TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT (Edward Shearmur) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
TESTAMENT (James Horner) [UCLA]

February 3
FATSO (Joe Renzetti) [UCLA]
THE GODFATHER PART II (Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola) [New Beverly]
THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE (Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, Jack Elliott) [New Beverly]
THE TONGFATHER (Fu Liang Chou) [New Beverly]

February 4
THE GODFATHER PART II (Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola) [New Beverly]
SET IT OFF (Christopher Young) [New Beverly]
THE TONGFATHER (Fu Liang Chou) [New Beverly]

Feburary 5
THE FAMILY (Ennio Morricone) [New Beverly]
THE GODFATHER PART II (Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola) [New Beverly]

February 6
THE BLACK GODFATHER (Martin Yarbrough) [New Beverly]
THE GODFATHER PART II (Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola) [New Beverly]
WOMAN OF THE YEAR (Franz Waxman) [New Beverly]

February 7
THE BLACK GODFATHER (Martin Yarbrough) [New Beverly]
THE GODFATHER PART II (Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola) [New Beverly]
THE LEOPARD (Nino Rota) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
STORMY WEATHER (Emil Newman) [Laemmle NoHo]

February 8
BLUE VELVET (Angelo Badalamenti) [Nuart]
THE GODFATHER PART II (Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola) [New Beverly]
MOONSTRUCK (Dick Hyman), ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (Dave Grusin) [Cinematheque: Aero]
PULP FICTION [New Beverly]

February 9
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (Jerry Bock, John Williams) [Cinematheque: Aero]
THE GODFATHER PART II (Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola) [New Beverly]
OLIVER! (Lionel Bart, Johnny Green) [New Beverly]

February 10
BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA (Ernest Gold), ANGEL BABY (Wayne Shanklin) [New Beverly]
DIRTY DANCING (John Morris) [Laemmle Ahyra Fine Arts]
LUDWIG [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
MODERN TIMES (Charles Chaplin) [UCLA]
OLIVER! (Lionel Bart, Johnny Green) [New Beverly]
RATATOUILLE (Michael Giacchino) [Cinematheque: Aero]
THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (Michel Legrand), THE CINCINNATI KID (Lalo Schifrin) [Cinematheque: Aero]


Given how The Godfather has retained and even increased its status as a modern-day film classic in the 47 years since its original release, it's always a little bit of a shock to look at the list of Oscar winners from 1972 and see how its wins were overshadowed by Cabaret's. The Godfather took home only three -- Picture, Actor (Brando, who famously sent Sacheen Littlefeather in his place to personally refuse the award -- oh, the 70s) and Adapted Screenplay, while Cabaret won eight including Directing, Actress (Liza Minnelli) and Supporting Actor (Joel Grey).

Thanks to the New Beverly, I've been able to see both films again on the big screen in just the last few weeks, and though Cabaret clearly hasn't had the overall cinematic impact that The Godfather has, its Oscar wins were clearly no Crash-style flash-in-the-pan, as even 47 years after its release Cabaret is startlingly good, one of the best -- and most unusual -- movie musicals ever made. Minnelli, Grey and Michael York give probably the best performances of their careers (if the film were made now, Eddie Redmayne would probably play the York role, and couldn't improve on it), and Fosse's musical numbers are superb. 

I'd actually seen Cabaret again in a theater in the last few years, so the main reason I watched it this time was for its second feature, Lucky Lady, one of the first films to capitalize on Minnelli's new-found movie stardom. Despite all the A-list people involved in front of behind the camera on Lucky Lady, it was a notorious flop but having only seen it on home video decades ago, I'd hope it would turn out to be the kind of honorable failure that one can really enjoy while understanding why it doesn't work for most audiences. Alas, it was even worse than expected.

Supposedly the original Williard Huyck & Gloria Katz screenplay was so good that even the young Steven Spielberg wanted to direct it, but it's hard to see any good qualities in the filmed version (in the writers' defense, the film's ending changed multiple times before the film's theatrical release, losing its original tragic finale). Burt Reynolds is playing against his strengths, there's no chemistry between the leads, and -- possibly due to the extensive location filming, especially on water -- nearly all the dialogue sound re-recorded, which kills any chance of spontaneity and in particular does no favors to Minnelli, who shows none of the movie-star charisma that made her work in Cabaret so compelling.

You would think that Stanley Donen, the director of Charade, could have found the right balance of humor, romance and thrills, but the film just sits there, shockingly charmless and often actively irritating (the dubbing is a big factor there). At least the combination of Gene Hackman, Geoffrey Unsworth's cinematography and John Barry's production design allows one to pretend that the film is actually about the early days of Lex Luthor, and one of my all-time favorite character actors, John Hillerman, shows up as a villainous gangster.

I guess what I really wanted was for Lucky Lady to be like At Long Last Love. At Long Last Love makes a fascinating companion piece to Lucky Lady -- they were both lavish period pastiches released in 1975, both featuring Burt Reynolds and John Hillerman, and both featuring musical numbers (a few in Lucky Lady's case, while At Long is a full-on burst-into-song musical). Though it's reputation was always poor, Lucky Lady (at least if Box Office Mojo is to be believed) grossed a credible $24 million in its U.S. release, while At Long made a paltry $1.5 mil.

One of my favorite things about At Long Last Love is one of its most controversial -- in a filmmaking experiment decades before Les Miserables and La-La Land, writer-director Peter Bogdanovich insisted on having the film's actors actually sing during filming (and using those on-set performances as the soundtrack), rather than lip-synching to pre-records which is how musicals have been made 99.99 percent of the time. Much as I love musicals, that extra layer of artificiality that lip-synching tends to add -- especially when the songs have been recorded in a way that emphasize the studio setting (the movie of Evita seemed like Madonna lip-syching to an album for two hours) -- is really distracting to me, the immediacy of the live sound having an advantage that I find preferable to the polish of pre-recorded numbers. (If memory serves, Bogdanovich actually put out an ad apologizing to the crew for his live-sound experiment).

Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd may be no one's ideal of movie-musical stars, but thanks to the long-take directorial approach, Laszlo Kovacs' lovely cinematography and Gene Allen's lavish production design -- as well as such top-notch cast members as Hillerman, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan and Mildred Natwick -- At Long Last Love has genuine elegance and even charm, two qualities largely lacking in Lucky Lady. (And as a huge Stanley Donen fan, I get no pleasure in saying that.)

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I think Stanely Donen looped most his films (see Bedazzled, for example) and it always had a distancing effect. Then again, since the majority of box office these days comes from foreign markets (where everything is looped) I sometimes wonder why filmmakers bother live-recording anything.

But if you're gonna loop a film, why not put more effort into it? Animated films, it seems to me, consistently suffer from a distancing effect (partly because the voices are provided by name actors not used to trade nuances, RIP Mel Blanc). If two animated characters are talking in a car, why not record them in an enclosed space? If people are talking outside, why not record them outside?

If two animated characters are talking in a car, why not record them in an enclosed space? If people are talking outside, why not record them outside?

This is precisely what Wes Anderson did in Fantastic Mr. Fox, bringing his voice cast to a farm or something to record their voices in outdoor settings. There's even a moment where on one actor's voice track you could hear a plane going overhead, and the animators put a plane into the scene to cover it.

At least in live-action movies, these days it seems like much more effort (probably due to improved recording technologies) is made to give looped dialogue the proper ambience.

Despite this, there were three movies late last year in which it sounded like the actor had re-voiced nearly their entire performance -- Nicole Kidman in Destroyer, Will Farrell in Holmes & Watson, and KiKi Layne in If Beale Street Could Talk.

For a while, I've wondered if one of the reasons To Catch a Thief is one of my less favorite Hitchcock films -- despite the spectacular lead actors - is that so many of the scenes feel dead due to the re-voicing of the French actors.

Pauline Kael used to complain about all the looping in John Boorman films, particularly Zardoz, that the re-recording drained all the spontaneity from the scenes. I've often felt specific actors weren't very good at looping -- Roy Scheider tended to give his looped lines more arch readings, while Sigourney Weaver's loopings were flatter.

One thing that intrigues me about Peter Jackson's 3D/colorized WWI doc They Shall Not Grow Old is the looping and otherwise added sound for all the silent vintage footage (I haven't seen it yet, still not sure if I"ll catch it).

One thing that intrigues me about Peter Jackson's 3D/colorized WWI doc They Shall Not Grow Old is the looping and otherwise added sound for all the silent vintage footage (I haven't seen it yet, still not sure if I"ll catch it).

It's an excellent film. The looping is mostly spot on...saw it in a Fathom Events screening which was followed with a 'making of' piece with Peter Jackson. They used lip readers to take down the 'dialogue' on screen and even matched up a communiqué from general headquarters to footage where someone is delivering a message to the troops. Recorded artillery pieces to match the screen and lots of Foley work.

It's really a remarkable, remarkable film and document of the times. I'm hoping for about a half dozen sequels...Jackson notes they didn't touch on the air war, or the naval war, or much of the technology in the war, the perspective on non-UK troops, etc. Highly recommended.

One thing that intrigues me about Peter Jackson's 3D/colorized WWI doc They Shall Not Grow Old is the looping and otherwise added sound for all the silent vintage footage (I haven't seen it yet, still not sure if I"ll catch it).

It's an excellent film. The looping is mostly spot on...saw it in a Fathom Events screening which was followed with a 'making of' piece with Peter Jackson. They used lip readers to take down the 'dialogue' on screen and even matched up a communiqué from general headquarters to footage where someone is delivering a message to the troops. Recorded artillery pieces to match the screen and lots of Foley work.

It's really a remarkable, remarkable film and document of the times. I'm hoping for about a half dozen sequels...Jackson notes they didn't touch on the air war, or the naval war, or much of the technology in the war, the perspective on non-UK troops, etc. Highly recommended.

And, it's getting a theatrical re-release today!
Very happy as I thought I'd missed the chance to see it on the big screen.

I'm sacrilegious enough to say I was a little disappointed with They Shall Not Grow Old.

I think colorization has still got a good way to go.

I also think the format of the film -- non-stop sound bites -- and the narrow focus (on Brits in the trenches) represents a lost opportunity. Would have preferred a three-hour doco with a broader focus and magisterial narration.

If people are talking outside, why not record them outside?

Because ambient noise will change between separately recorded lines of dialogue.

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