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Intrada plans to release one new CD next week.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently announced their updated rules for the 92nd Academy Awards, to be presented in 2020. As with the most recent Awards, there will be 15-entry shortlists for both the Original Score and Original Song categories. There is still the option of an Original Musical category which "may be activated only by special request of the Music Branch Executive Committee to the Board of Governors in a year when the field of eligible submissions is determined to be of sufficient quantity and quality to justify award competition."

The Foreign Language Film award will now be known as International Feature Film, and its shortlist has been increased from seven to ten films but otherwise the category rules will remain the same. Makeup and Hairstyling will now have five nominations instead of three, and a shortlist of ten films instead of seven.

CDS AVAILABLE THIS WEEK

Le Plus Beau Pays Du Monde/Le Sanctuaire - Rob - Music Box 
Louisiane
 - Claude Bolling - Music Box 
Maniac [re-issue] 
- Rob - Music Box
The Professor and the Madman - Bear McCreary - Sparks & Shadows
The Sentinel - Gil Melle - La-La Land 
The Son
 - Nathan Barr - Varese Sarabande 


IN THEATERS TODAY

All Creatures Here Below - Ceiri Torjussen
Amaurosis - Jim Barne
Aniara - Alexander Berg
Chasing Portraits - Jacob Bloomfield-Misrach, Matthias Zimmermann 
A Dog's Journey - Mark Isham
John Wick - Chapter 3: Parabellum - Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard - Score CD due June 7 on Varese Sarabande
Loving Vincent: The Impossible Dream - Clint Mansell
The Meanest Man in Texas - Steve Dorff
Photograph - Peter Raeburn
The Professor - Bryce Dessner, Aaron Dessner
Q Ball - Joel Goodman
The Serengeti Rules - Anne Nikitin 
The Souvenir - no original score
The Sun Is Also a Star - Herdis Stefansdotir - Score CD due May 24 on Sony (import)
Trial by Fire - Henry Jackman
A Violent Separation - Evan Goldman
We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Andrew Hewitt
Zilla and Zoe - James Sizemore


COMING SOON

May 24
Aladdin - Alan Menken - Disney
Avengers: Endgame
 - Alan Silvestri - Hollywood
Black Mirror: Hang the DJ
 - Alex Somers, Sigur Ros - Invada 
Hakkodasan
 - Yasushi Akutagawa - Cinema-Kan (import)
Philip Glass Soundtracks Vol. II - Philip Glass - Orange Mountain
The Sun Is Also a Star - Herdis Stefansdotir - Sony (import)
May 31
Fletch Lives - Harold Faltermeyer - La-La Land
Godzilla, King of the Monsters - Bear McCreary - WaterTower
Outlander: Season 4 
- Bear McCreary - Madison Gate
June 7
Being Rose - Brian Ralson - Notefornote 
First to the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8 - Alexander Bornstein - Notefornote 
John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum
 - Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard - Varese Sarabande 
The Ken Russell Soundtracks Vol. 1 - Rick Wakeman - Rraw (import)
My Brilliant Friend - Max Richter - Deutsche Grammophon
Prom Night
- Carl Zittrer, Paul Zaza - Perseverance
June 14
Dragged Across Concrete - Jeff Herriott, S. Craig Zahler - Lakeshore
Men in Black: International - Danny Elfman, Chris Bacon - Sony (import)
Missing Link - Carter Burwell - Lakeshore
Shaft
- Isaac Hayes - Varese Sarabande
June 21
The Biggest Little Farm - Jeff Beal - Lakeshore
Confidential: Secret Market
- Yasuo Higushi - Cinema-Kan (import)
Too Old to Die Young - Cliff Martinez - Milan (import)
Yesterday - Daniel Pemberton, songs - Capitol
June 28
Apollo 11 - Matt Morton - Milan (import)
Date Unknown
Blanche Comme Neige
 - Bruno Coulais - Quartet
The Dennis McCarthy Collection vol. 1: The Television Movies
 - Dennis McCarthy - Dragon's Domain
Jaguar Lives!
 - Robert O. Ragland - Dragon's Domain
Pumpkinhead
 - Richard Stone - Notefornote


THIS WEEK IN FILM MUSIC HISTORY

May 17 - Taj Mahal born (1942)
May 17 - Joanna Bruzdowicz born (1943)
May 17 - Heitor Villa-Lobos died (1959)
May 17 - Trent Reznor born (1965)
May 17 - Ron Grainer begins recording his score for The Omega Man (1971)
May 17 - Joshua Homme born (1973)
May 17 - Hugo Friedhofer died (1981)
May 17 - Jay Chattaway records his score for the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Equinox: Part 1” (1999)
May 17 - Ikuma Dan died (2001)
May 17 - Cy Feuer died (2006)
May 18 - Meredith Willson born (1902)
May 18 - Recording sessions begin for Cyril Mockridge’s score to The Luck of the Irish (1948)
May 18 - Rick Wakeman born (1949)
May 18 - Mark Mothersbaugh born (1950)
May 18 - Jacques Morelenbaum born (1954)
May 18 - Reinhold Heil born (1954)
May 18 - James Horner begins recording his score for Testament (1983)
May 18 - Ron Jones records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Menage a Troi" (1990)
May 18 - Kevin Gilbert died (1996)
May 18 - Albert Sendrey died (2003)
May 19 - Irving Gertz born (1915)
May 19 - Anton Garcia Abril born (1933)
May 19 - Tom Scott born (1948)
May 19 - Bert Shefter records his score for The Great Jesse James Raid (1953)
May 19 - James L. Venable born (1967)
May 19 - Kyle Eastwood born (1968)
May 19 - Earle Hagen wins the Emmy for his score for the I Spy episode “Laya” (1968)
May 19 - Jerry Goldsmith wins his second Emmy, for QB VII Parts 1 & 2; Billy Goldenberg wins for the Benjamin Franklin episode “The Rebel” (1975)
May 19 - James Horner begins recording his score for Titanic (1997)
May 19 - Edwin Astley died (1998)
May 19 - Hans Posegga died (2002)
May 20 - Zbigniew Preisner born (1955)
May 20 - Jerry Goldsmith wins his first Emmy, for The Red Pony; Charles Fox wins an Emmy for his Love, American Style music (1973)
May 20 - Lyn Murray died (1989)
May 21 - Kevin Shields born (1963)
May 21 - Jay Chattaway records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light” (1992)
May 21 - Fiorenzo Carpi died (1997)
May 21 - Frank Comstock died (2013)
May 22 - Roger Bellon born (1953)
May 22 - Iva Davies born (1955)
May 22 - Richard Rodgers wins the Outstanding Music Emmy for Winston Churchill – The Valiant Years (1962)
May 22 - John Sponsler born (1965)
May 22 - Laurence Rosenthal wins the Emmy for his score to Michelangelo: The Last Giant (1966)
May 22 - James Horner begins recording his score for Unlawful Entry (1992)
May 23 - Michel Colombier born (1939)
May 23 - William Stromberg born (1964)
May 23 - Tom Tykwer born (1965)
May 23 - Jimmy McHugh died (1969)
May 23 - George Bruns died (1983)
May 23 - Recording sessions begin on Patrick Doyle’s score for Dead Again (1991)
May 23 - James Horner begins recording his score for Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
May 23 - Kenyon Emrys-Roberts died (1998)
May 23 - Recording sessions begin for John Ottman's score for The Invasion (2007)

DID THEY MENTION THE MUSIC?

BECOMING ASTRID - Nicklas Schmidt
 
"The children’s questions serve as the transition into the film’s main narrative, which flashes back to Lindgren’s experience as a young woman in the late 1920s, occasionally returning to the children’s questions in voiceover to punctuate her significant experiences and, in case we missed it, underline their meaning: 'Kids in your stories can make it through anything,' a child’s voice informs us as Astrid is going through an emotional ordeal. As in the prologue whose obvious strokes paint Lindgren as a mythic icon adored by all children, there’s never any ambiguity to a scene in 'Becoming Astrid' that isn’t resolved by a swell of music, the innocently insightful words of a babe, or even a rapid zoom in that pinpoints precisely where our attention should be."
 
Pat Brown, Slant Magazine 

"Although her previous four features were ultra-contemporary tales, Christensen takes to period filmmaking like a duck to water, and brings to it an uncommon energy. Erik Molberg Hansen’s dynamic, natural-light, widescreen lensing is full of visual interest and matches the sweep of Nicklas Schmidt’s lush string score. Editors Åsa Mossberg and Kasper Leick keep matters pacey, never falling into the trap of heritage ennui. Linda Janson’s cool-toned production design reveals reams of sociological information, as do Cilla Rörby’s exquisite costumes."
 
Alissa Simon, Variety 
 
THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER - Matt Veligdan
 
"Those looking for standard horror-genre payoff in terms of gore, screaming, and jump scares will inevitably find 'Clovehitch' too reticent and slow. But editors Megan Brooks and Andrew Hasse’s careful pacing builds considerable nervous anticipation. Matt Veligdan’s original score remains discreetly in the background until it takes over with a lovely, haunting closing-credits piano piece."
 
Dennis Harvey, Variety 
 
FIFTY SHADES DARKER - Danny Elfman
 
"Anastasia Steele, in contrast, is pretty much always confused, or aroused, or confused by her arousal. Watching 'Fifty Shades Darker,' a movie that seems to have been sleepwalked through by everyone involved (composer Danny Elfman, who has written some of the most majestically anarchic film scores in recent memory, seems to have simply pressed the 'vague eroticism' button on his keyboard and left the room), I came away with a deep sense of respect for Dakota Johnson, who has the incredibly unenviable task of making Ana Steele seem like a real person. If you’ve read or even skimmed the books, you know she has almost nothing to work with. Much of 'Fifty Shades Darker''s source material gives Johnson little option but to be a soundboard of grunts, moans, gasps, and murmurs. Johnson’s success with the role comes largely from her ability to make this passive bewilderment seem somehow credible."
 
Sarah Marshall, The New Republic

GET OUT - Michael Abels
 
"All this sounds like a rousing social farce, and so it is. There are broader and more jagged laughs, too, courtesy of Lil Rel Howery, who plays Rod, Chris’s best friend and dog minder, back in the city. But listen to the threatening thuds of Michael Abels’s score; wait for those moments, scattered throughout the action, when the winces quicken into jolts and jumps; and consider how much is packed into Peele’s terrific title. 'Get Out': you could say it to an invasive bogeyman, a discarded lover, an insolent guest, or a guy who needs to leave, right now, in order to save his skin. Some skins, you soon realize, need saving more urgently than others."
 
Anthony Lane, The New Yorker 

"'Get Out' layers its horrors. It’s not above an effective jump scare, but those are scattered amidst a mood of growing unease abetted by Toby Oliver‘s cinematography, particularly his sense of framing. Dialogue that might seem innocuous in another film or setting has the power to make you flinch here. The unsettling score from newcomer Michael Abels uses traditional screeching strings, which are complemented by songs with unnerving choral arrangements that start an itch deep in your brain."
 
Kimber Myers, The Playlist 
 
"In the opening moments of 'Get Out,' as a mysterious, threatening figure stalks a wary black man who’s lost his way in a suburban neighborhood at night, writer-director Jordan Peele declares his intentions in two clear ways. First: he openly invokes the death of Trayvon Martin, a black 17-year-old killed in a gated community by a man who assumed he was a criminal because of his skin color. Second: Peele lets the scene play out like a familiar horror movie sequence, complete with stabbing musical jump-cues, canny tension-building camera movement, and sudden, shocking action. Like the equally memorable opening scene of the recent horror movie 'It Follows,' the initial moments of 'Get Out' are a reminder that no matter how domestic and low-key the film becomes at other times, it’s first and foremost a horror movie, with an agenda of unsettling the audience, then scaring the hell out of them. But it’s also an overtly political movie, one that evokes current racial tensions both to make the story more relevant, and to make it more frightening."
 
Tasha Robinson, The Verge 

"The disconcerting score and occasional jump-scares have been there all along, but it’s not until Chris awakens to find himself officially held captive that the movie finally starts to really feel like a Blumhouse production -- and Peele relishes how over-the-top he can finally go. By this point, audiences have come to realize whom Chris must kill to get out, and that struggle is pitched at such a degree that audiences actually cheer as he gorily eliminates the white people who stand in his way. Call it payback for all the expendable black characters that Hollywood horror movies have given us over the years. Here’s a movie in which a person of color actually makes it to the closing credits, though Peele might question whether that qualifies as a happy ending."
 
Peter Debruge, Variety 

JONATHAN - Brooke Blair, Will Blair
 
"Instead, 'Jonathan' is simply a close, unadorned, un-gimmicky character study about a character (or characters) who in any other context would invite not just a more artifice-driven telling, but violent narrative twists. If you can lay aside such expectations, this modest but accomplished feature will prove a satisfying if not quite classifiable experience. Adding to its calm peculiarity is a largely ambient-style score by Brooke & Will Blair."
 
Dennis Harvey, Variety 
 
LOGAN - Marco Beltrami
 
"This third and final Wolverine spinoff to the 'X-Men' franchise takes place in 2029, when the heroic mutant (Hugh Jackman) is aging, ailing, and hitting the booze. Most of the X-Men have been wiped out, and several decades have passed without record of a new mutant birth, but their deteriorating commander, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), rejoices when the hero inherits an abandoned child who shares his superpowers and retractable bone claws (Dafne Keen, fantastic). The film earns its R rating with extreme violence and excessive F-bombs; it's also the most shocking, thrilling, and emotionally resonant X-Men film to date. Director James Mangold, returning after the second installment, 'The Wolverine' (2013), orchestrates several jaw-dropping action sequences, heightened by Jackman's and Keen's intense performances and by Marco Beltrami's taut and plunky score."
 
Leah Pickett, The Chicago Reader 

"Director of photography John Mathieson’s camerawork is keenly attuned to the story’s emotional textures, as is the fine score by Marco Beltrami, which incorporates brief churns of horror amid the melodic elegance. Throughout the film, Mathieson gives each frame a comics-based graphic impact, broody rather than cartoonish. (Another accomplished cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael, handled some of the additional unit work.)"
 
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter 

THE LONG DUMB ROAD - Keegan DeWitt & The Cookhouse Boys
 
"Bound for Los Angeles and the promise of art school, Nat (Revolori) sets out from his familiar suburban home in his family’s hand-me-down minivan, eager to spend his time photographing 'the heart of real America' (read: lots of pictures of strip-mall chain restaurants) while zipping toward his bright future. First lesson: Don’t rely on a hand-me-down minivan to take you thousands of miles across the country. Through a combination of happenstance and just plain bad luck, Nat breaks down in the middle of nowhere and his path crosses with Richard (Mantzoukas), who has just been fired from his job as a mechanic. They both need something from the other, and so Nat and Richard saddle up and set off across Texas, a journey made all the more enjoyable thanks to Keegan DeWitt’s plucky, swinging score."
 
Kate Erbland, IndieWire 
 
RIVER RUNS RED - Pierre Heath

"A pair of racist galoot cops pull over and then shoot down the son of a city’s only black judge in the opening moments of 'River Runs Red,' an earnest indie drama. The acting is stiff, the pacing sluggish, the framing uncertain, the music an intrusive mush and the scenario schematic. But it’s an interesting schematic, at least, complete with thoughtful/exhaustive discussion of the difference between justice, revenge and forgiveness. And Taye Diggs, who plays the judge, is commanding enough a lead that I’d love to see him play this role again in a movie that wasn’t so often a shambles or that didn’t collapse, in the end, into dreary fantasies of violent revenge. This starts as a shoe-leather thriller about a man who has achieved success within a corrupt system now seeing his child murdered and smeared by that system. What change can he bring from the inside? What trespasses of law does the greater justice demand?"
 
Alan Scherstuhl, The Village Voice 
 
"Subject matter this potent deserves far more measured and sophisticated treatment than it receives in this melodramatic exercise featuring an overbearing musical score and cliched plot mechanics."
 
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter 

RUBEN BRANDT, COLLECTOR - Tibor Cári 
 
"Every frame is overwhelming. The characters all look like they have strolled out of Picasso's dreamworld (one of the thieves wear two pairs of sunglasses for his four sets of eyeballs). Kowalski's partner has two faces, one on the front of her head, one on the back. One character is literally two-dimensional, making art theft a cinch for him since he can slide underneath doors. The landscapes they zip through are a constantly-changing pop-art emanation, as though the history of art was tossed up into the air, and the movie cavorts among the randomly falling pieces. Every wall is covered with posters, Soviet propaganda, movies, cheap art prints. Hitchcock makes a cameo. In one chase scene, the characters suddenly find themselves running through the urban-fascist landscape of a De Chirico, before passing out of it. There's a nightmare sequence - so loopy and inventive I laughed out loud -- where Ruben is in a standoff from out of an old Western with Andy Warhol's gun-holstered 'double Elvis,' while an entire Coliseum chants for blood. Tibor Cári's score is a constant, urgent and energetic, moving us from dream to reality into fractured reality back into the dream."
 
Sheila O'Malley, RogerEbert.com 

"An evocative score by Tibor Cari, spiced with selections from classical recordings and hipster versions of cult classics, perfectly suits the action."
 
Alissa Simon, Variety 
 
"Though not all the relationships are entirely clear -- the thieves' relationship with Brandt, for example, remains somewhat vague -- and there might be some minor issues that could become apparent on multiple viewings, this is first and foremost a rollicking and very imaginatively staged ride that’s enjoyable and different. And Tobor Cari’s lush orchestral score further helps viewers get swept up by the film's infectious momentum, as do some unexpectedly jazzy versions of famous pop songs."
 
Boyd van Hoeij, The Hollywood Reporter 

WHITE FANG - Bruno Coulais
 
"The ensuing half-hour of mostly dialogue-free visual storytelling, as the newborn pup learns the way of the wilderness from his protective mother Kiche, is the film’s most excitingly sustained and artful passage, buoyed by Bruno Coulais’s lively if perhaps over-ornamented score. The pace is considerably more deliberate than that to which viewers raised on U.S. studio animation will be accustomed, though it does arguably honor the episodic origins of its literary source. The rewards here are ones of fine, subtle sensory detail, be it the shimmering visualization of falling snow on a forest floor, the convincing, characterful nature of the animal sound effects, and the grand, graceful design and movement of the wolfdogs themselves -- as expressive and adorable as any Disney critter."
 
Guy Lodge, Variety

THE NEXT TEN DAYS IN L.A.

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

May 17
THE DECAMERON (Ennio Morricone), OEDIPUS REX [Cinematheque: Aero]
GRINDHOUSE (Robert Rodriguez, Graeme Revell) [New Beverly]
HOUSE (Asei Kobayashi, Mikki Yoshino) [Nuart]
LOVING VINCENT (Clint Mansell) [Laemmle Ahyra Fine Arts]
THE NEW YORK RIPPER (Francesco De Masi), NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN (Jack Eric Williams), DRILLER KILLER (Joe Delia) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
VALLEY GIRL (Scott Wilk, Marc Levinthal), THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (Air) [New Beverly]

May 18
THE CANTERBURY TALES (Ennio Morricone), TEOREMA (Ennio Morricone) [Cinematheque: Aero]
GOODFELLAS, HUSBANDS (Ray Brown) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
THE LOVE WITCH (Anna Biller) [New Beverly]
THE SECRET GARDEN (Zbigniew Preisner) [New Beverly]  
VALLEY GIRL (Scott Wilk, Marc Levinthal), THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (Air) [New Beverly] 

May 19
ANNA LUCASTA (Elmer Bernstein) [LACMA]
ARREBATO (Negativo) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
CITY OF GOLD (Bobby Johnston) [Arena Cinelounge]
MERRILY WE GO TO HELL, FIRST COMES COURAGE (Ernst Toch) [New Beverly]
THE SECRET GARDEN (Zbigniew Preisner) [New Beverly] 
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES (James Horner) [AMPAS]
THE 10TH VICTIM (Piero Piccioni) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]

May 20
THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER (Michael Nyman) [Arena Cinelounge]
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW (Luis Bacalov) [Cinematheque: Aero]
JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS (John Frizzell) [New Beverly]
MERRILY WE GO TO HELL, FIRST COMES COURAGE (Ernst Toch) [New Beverly]

May 21
BILLY MADISON (Randy Edelman), JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY (John Morris) [New Beverly]
DELICATESSEN (Carlos D'Alessio) [Arena Cinelounge]
ULZANA'S RAID (Frank DeVol) [LACMA]

May 22
THE BAND WAGON (Arthur Schwartz, Adolph Deutsch) [New Beverly]
YENTL (Michel Legrand), CROSSING DELANCEY (Paul Chihara) [New Beverly]

May 23
AFTER HOURS (Howard Shore), GLORIA (Bill Conti) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
BABY BOOM (Bill Conti) [Laemmle NoHo]
HOOK (John Williams) [Cinematheque: Aero]
SOUTHLAND TALES (Moby) [LACMA]
YENTL (Michel Legrand), CROSSING DELANCEY (Paul Chihara) [New Beverly]

May 24
BABETTE'S FEAST (Per Norgrard) [Arena Cinelounge] 
FULL TILT BOOGIE (Cary Berger, Dominic Kelly) [New Beverly]
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI [Arena Cinelounge]
LOST IN TRANSLATION (Brian Reitzell), SOMEWHERE (Phoenix) [New Beverly]
THE LOVE WITCH (Anna Biller) [New Beverly]
RAGING BULL, THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE (Bo Harwood) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
THE THING (Ennio Morricone), STARMAN (Jack Nitzsche) [Cinematheque: Aero]
VERTIGO (Bernard Herrmann) [Nuart]

May 25
BIG (Howard Shore) [New Beverly]
GODZILLA (Akira Ifukube), DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (Akira Ifukube), GODZILLA'S REVENGE (Kunio Miyauchi), MONSTER ZERO (Akira Ifukube), GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (Masaru Sato), GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (Riichiro Manabe) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI [Arena Cinelounge]
LOST IN TRANSLATION (Brian Reitzell), SOMEWHERE (Phoenix) [New Beverly]
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY [Cinematheque: Aero]

May 26
BAD BLACK, WHO KILLED CAPTAIN ALEX? (Kizito Vicent) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
BIG (Howard Shore) [New Beverly]
HONOR AMONG LOVERS, CRAIG'S WIFE (Morris Stoloff), SARAH AND SON [New Beverly]
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (Maurice Jarre) [Cinematheque: Aero]


THINGS I'VE HEARD, READ, SEEN OR WATCHED LATELY

Heard: Beverly Hills Cop II (Faltermeyer), The Quinn Martin Collection: Vol. 1 (various), Less Than Zero (Newman), The Ten Commandments (Edelman), Adieu, Bonaparte/The First Circle (Yared)

Read: Yet more of Foundation and Earth, by Isaac Asimov

Seen: Pokemon Detective Pikachu, The Hustle, Tolkien, Poms, Non-Fiction, Wine Country

Watched: Star Trek ("Balance of Terror"), Banacek ("Project Phoenix"), Star Trek: Discovery ("The Vulcan Hello"), Band of Brothers ("Carentan"), The Terror ("The Ladder"), Batman: The Animated Series ("The Under-Dwellers"), A Very English Scandal ("Episode 1")

Film music has probably been my principal obsession for the last four decades or so, and while I still eagerly pick up (when I can afford to) every new CD release of current and past scores, I can't say that I often feel very enthusiastic about the scores being recorded these days. 

It's not because nearly all of the composers I grew up loving (Goldsmith, Herrmann, Barry, Bernstein, Rozsa, Poledouris, Mancini, Bennett, Morris, Addison) have since passed on, as there are certainly plenty of currently working composers I love (particularly Williams, Thomas Newman, Elfman, Shore and the new kids Desplat and Giacchino). And there are also relatively new composers doing striking work, such as Jonny Greenwood and Mica Levi.

But I feel like overall, given the combined talents of today's composers, there are very few new scores that really catch my interest. I don't know if this is because of the time constraints frequently placed on studio composers due to hasty post-production periods and written-in-stone release dates, or simply because many current filmmakers seem to shy away from scores that feature memorable melodies (note the preference in indie films for scores that often seem to consist merely of strumming and droning).

Scoring will still always be my favorite filmmaking craft, despite my disappointment with the current state of the artform, but the craft that has me particularly excited these days is cinematography. Unlike with film music, I don't know if you could say there has been a Golden Age of cinematography, since pretty much every era has had remarkable work (though the dominance of color and the new widescreen processes in the 1950s meant that the photography of that decade wasn't always as evocative as that of the eras that prececed and followed it). Here is an incomplete list of my favorite cinematographers, past and present.

Roger Deakins: Along with Emmanuel Lubezki, he's probably the biggest name in contemporary cinematography, and until just over a year ago he was the Thomas Newman of the field, in that despite immense acclaim and multiple nominations he had yet to receive an Oscar. Active in features since the early 1980s, he earned his first nomination for The Shawshank Redemption, but it was his collaborations with the Coen Brothers that really put him on the map. His fourteenth nomination, for Blade Runner 2049, finally earned him his long overdue Oscar. As one critic put it (I can't find the original source so I'm paraphrasing), Deakins' work on the film was so remarkable that "it was the first film since Road to Perdition [shot by Conrad Hall] that legitimately made me feel bad for other cinematographers."

Bruno Delbonnel: His warm, gorgeous cinematography for Amelie earned him his first nomination, and in the last decade he's done typically lovely work on such English-language features as Across the Universe, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Robert Elswit: Elswit had had a particularly eclectic career, encompassing everything from Rob Reiner's The Sure Thing to Tomorrow Never Dies. He shot many of Paul Thomas Anderson's films, winning the Oscar for his stunning work on There Will Be Blood (against competition that included two nominated Deakins films), and the same year he did particuarly fine and subtle work on Michael Clayton (not to mention that shooting two of the five Best Picture nominees in one year is pretty damn impressive).

Shelly Johnson: One of my favorite relatively obscure DPs. He rarely receives the assignments he deserves (his most recent wide release was The Hurricane Heist), but two Joe Johnston films show him at his best -- Hidalgo and Jurassic Park III (managing to make the latter look much more like an authentic Spielberg film than the murky Lost World did). In The House Bunny, he made the food court at LA's Farmer's Market look glowingly romantic, which is no mean feat.

Emmanuel Lubezki: His career has been dominated by his collaborations with Alfonso Cuaron and, more recently, Terrence Malick and Alejandro Inarritu. Like Deakins, he went for years with nominations but no wins until managing a trifecta of consecutive Oscars for projects whose challenges could not be more difficult -- the 3D and largely CGI Gravity, the continuous-take interiors of Birdman, and the exquisite on-location cinematography of The Revenant (could Inarritu possibly have won two consecutive Directing Oscars without Lubezki's contributions?).

Robert Richardson: Like Lubezki, a three-time winner, for JFK, The Aviator and Hugo. He first gained notice by shooting every Oliver Stone film from Salvador to U-Turn, then with collaborations with Scorsese and currently with Tarantino. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 demonstrates the remarkable spectrum of his abilities, while A Few Good Men showed how he could make a film with little inherent visual interest look dramatic yet not gimmicky.

Owen Roizman: One of my all-time favorites. While often associated with the naturalistic, "urban" style of the 1970s -- The French Connection, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three -- the remarkably different looks he gave The Exorcist, Tootsie and Wyatt Earp are a simple demonstration of his stunning range. He retired in 1995 after French Kiss, and following five nominations he won an Honorary Oscar in 2017 -- "to Owen Roizman, whose expansive visual style and technical innovation have advanced the art of cinematography."

Harris Savides: A career cut short too soon by illness, he died in 2012 at the age of 55. During his two decades of shooting features he worked with such noted directors as Woody Allen, Noah Baumbach, Sofia Coppola, David Fincher, James Gray, Jonathan Grazer, Ridley Scott, and six films for Gus Van Sant. He tended to work in a low-key, naturalistic style that made him the heir to '70s greats like Gordon Willis, which made him a perfect fit for Fincher's Zodiac and Van Sant's Milk, but his work could also be strikingly beautiful -- his first film for Van Sant, Finding Forrester, had much more genuine loveliness than the material deserved.

Geoffrey Unsworth: One of my earliest favorites. There's a story that when Shelley Duvall showed up on the set of Robert Altman's Popeye after her extremely stressful experience of filming The Shining, Altman described her as "a changed artist." I wonder if that's true for a lot of people who worked with Kubrick. My favorite production designer, Ken Adam, nearly had a nervous breakdown while working on Barry Lyndon and seriously considered quitting the business -- but when he returned to designing, his work on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker proved to be more bold and imaginative than ever. Geoffrey Unsworth already had an impressive career before he signed on for 2001: A Space Odyssey (though Unsworth was the principal DP on 2001, John Alcott, who would go on to shoot Kubrick's next three films, shot the Dawn of Man sequence and some other unspecified scenes), with credits such as A Night to Remember, Becket and Othello, but his work after 2001 was markedly different, as he developed a distinctively soft, luminous style that defined the look of his films for the next decade, including Cabaret (his first Oscar), Murder on the Orient Express, Royal Flash, Superman and The Great Train Robbery. Unsworth died of a heart attack during the making of Tess and the film was finished by Ghislain Cloquet -- both cinematographers won the 1980 Oscar, and Superman and Great Train Robbery featured dedications to Unsworth.

David Watkin: One of the great natural light-oriented cinematographers, he came from the documentary field and first made his mark in the 1960s on films like The Knack, Help! and The Charge of the Light Brigade. Richard Lester's cinematographer-of-choice, he shot my beloved Musketeers films in his inimitable, effortless style, and garnered even more prestige in the 1980s with Chariots of Fire, Moonstruck, and his Oscar-winning work on Out of Africa. In accepting the award for the latter, he showed particular class by making special mention of his second-unit cinematographers, who had shot the flying sequence which the show producers used to illustrate his work on the film.

Gordon Willis: My all-time favorite cinematographer, and one of my favorite artists in any medium. Nicknamed "the Prince of Darkness" due to his groundbreaking style (a nickname sometimes shared with fellow cinematographer Bruce Surtees, of Dirty Harry and Lenny fame), my words can in no way do justice to his extraordinary talent, so I'll settle for just listing some of his more memorable visual achievements -- Klute, The Godfather, The Paper Chase, The Parallax View, The Godfather Part II, All the President's Men, Annie Hall, Interiors, Comes a Horseman, Manhattan, Pennies from Heaven, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, The Purple Rose of Cairo. He directed one feature, the little-seen stalker-thriller Windows, and it was pretty bad with a borderline offensive script -- but as you'd expect with a film photographed and directed by Willis, it looked great. None of his masterful '70s work was Oscar-nominated (and only his first two Godfathers were even shortlisted), but after two nominations (Zelig, Godfather III), he received an incredibly well-deserved Honorary Oscar in 2009, "for unsurpassed mastery of light, shadow, color and motion."

Vilmos Zsigmond: Another legend from the 1970s, whose stunning work from that era includes McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Images, The Long Goodbye, The Sugarland Express, Obsession and The Deer Hunter (and the staggeringly beautiful Heaven's Gate in 1981). Similar to the way Georges Delerue managed to win his only Oscar for A Little Romance, a score whose love theme was actually a Vivaldi piece, Zsigmond's only Oscar was for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a film in which major sequences were shot by some of the other great DPs of the era, such as John A. Alonzo, William Fraker, Laszlo Kovacs and Douglas Slocombe (the India sequence). Zsigmond's last great work was probably DePalma's The Black Dahlia (his final Oscar nomination) but he kept shooting until nearly the end of his life, leaving us in 2016 at the age of 85.

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No Conrad Hall?

I love Conrad Hall. He's the rare DP who managed to maintain his quality of work up until the very end; that posthumous Oscar for Road to Perdition wasn't just based on sentiment. (I love Zsigmond, but Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks isn't exactly The Deer Hunter, and Willis' post-1985 work wasn't as strong as that of his heyday).

The one I should have put in if I weren't in such a hurry to finish the column was Wally Pfister (Moneyball, and every Nolan film from Memento through Dark Knight Rises).

(Thank you for actually reading to the end of the column).

I love Conrad Hall. He's the rare DP who managed to maintain his quality of work up until the very end; that posthumous Oscar for Road to Perdition wasn't just based on sentiment. (I love Zsigmond, but Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks isn't exactly The Deer Hunter, and Willis' post-1985 work wasn't as strong as that of his heyday).

The one I should have put in if I weren't in such a hurry to finish the column was Wally Pfister (Moneyball, and every Nolan film from Memento through Dark Knight Rises).

(Thank you for actually reading to the end of the column).


Nolan needs Pfister like Darabont needs Thomas Newman. When cinematographers make the leap to directing, it's a shame that they so rarely go back to what made them notable in the first place (looking at Salomon, de Bont, now Pfister).

When cinematographers make the leap to directing, it's a shame that they so rarely go back to what made them notable in the first place (looking at Salomon, de Bont, now Pfister).

That's my fear -- that Pfister will become a hacky director like de Bont, Salomon or Andrzej Bartkowiak rather than return to being a great DP. (I actually liked Transcendence, but if Pfister starts directing TV crap like the remakes of The Andromeda Strain and Coma -- both helmed by Salomon -- I will be very sad. To be honest, I didn't see either of those Salomon miniseries but I understand I didn't miss much).

After seeing that awful Barry Sonnenfeld/Kevin Spacey comedy Nine Lives, I imagined a fantasy-comedy in which a curse was placed upon Sonnenfeld and Spacey, that they would be allowed to continue making movies but only sequels to Nine Lives. Obviously, one of those gentlemen has suffered an even worse career fate, at least for the foreseeable future.

I love Conrad Hall. He's the rare DP who managed to maintain his quality of work up until the very end; that posthumous Oscar for Road to Perdition wasn't just based on sentiment. (I love Zsigmond, but Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks isn't exactly The Deer Hunter, and Willis' post-1985 work wasn't as strong as that of his heyday).

The one I should have put in if I weren't in such a hurry to finish the column was Wally Pfister (Moneyball, and every Nolan film from Memento through Dark Knight Rises).

(Thank you for actually reading to the end of the column).


Scott,

I'm sure you probably saw this list compiled by the ASC earlier this year:

https://theasc.com/news/asc-unveils-list-of-100-milestone-films-in-cinematography-of-the-20th-century

Something I found noteworthy was that four of the top ten milestone films were not even nominated by the AMPAS cinematography branch as being some of the best work of their respective years. Blade Runner, The Godfather, The Conformist, and 2001: A Space Odyssey were all overlooked by the collective voters.

Perhaps milestones don't always reveal themselves immediately; though, that's difficult to understand when you look at any one of those films now.

-Jonathan

I hadn't seen that list, but I'll be sure to check it out, thank you.

2001, Conformist and Godfather were all shortlisted for Cinematography, so at least the branch was aware of their greatness. And they stopped doing most of the category shortlists two years before Blade Runner, so it's possible that it could have made the ten if not the five (and Cronenweth was nominated four years later, for Peggy Sue Got Married).

When I first glanced at your post, I thought you were saying that those four didn't make the ASC list, which would have been pretty outrageous -- particularly The Godfather, which was one of the all-time game-changers in cinematography.

Vittorio3 Storraro

Vittorio3 Storraro

Storaro is a God, no argument. I almost think of him as the Miklos Rozsa of cinematography, since his work is so inherently beautiful that it can be hard to find the right subject matter to warrant his extraordinary gifts. What would be the point of Storaro shooting a courtroom drama?

(That said, Storaro's apparent determination to crop his past films to an in-between aspect ratio does not exactly sit well with me).

Getting back to my fave, Gordon Willis, I think he's a big reason that Woody Allen's films between 1977 and 1985 were so good. I saw Broadway Danny Rose again not long ago, and there's a brilliantly shot/directed scene where Danny learns he's going to be dumped by his star client. I believe it's in a hotel lobby, and the actors talk as they move across the lobby toward the camera, and just as Danny reaches the close-up he gets the bad news -- I don't know that there's anything in the post-Willis Allen movies that is so simply yet perfectly staged (though I think Husbands and Wives, 7 years after the last Willis/Allen movie, is the director's masterwork).

Freddie Young
Caleb Deschanel

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