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I am on vacation this week so the news section of this column will not be up to date -- La-La Land was expected to announce this year's slate of "Black Friday" score CDs today, so readers should be able to find that information on our Message Board.


CDS AVAILABLE THIS WEEK

Dark: Cycle 1 - Ben Frost - Invada (import)
Dark: Cycle 2 - Ben Frost - Invada (import)
Lucy in the Sky
 - Jeff Russo - Lakeshore 


IN THEATERS TODAY

Almost Home - David Robbins
Away - Gints Zilbalodis
Bruno Sammartino - Charles David Denler
Knives Out - Nathan Johnson
Les Miserables - Pink Noise
Locusts - Burkhard Dallwitz
Queen & Slim - Devonte Hynes - Soundtrack CD on Motown with 1 Hynes cue
Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project - Owen Pallett
The Two Popes - Bryce Dessner


COMING SOON

December 6
Vikings: Final Season - Trevor Morris - Sony (import)
December 13
Animal Among Us - Alexander Taylor - Notefornote
Go Fish - George Streicher - Notefornote 
Killing Eve - David Holmes, Keefus Ciancia - Heavenly Recordings (import)
Little Women - Alexandre Desplat - Sony (import)
Marriage Story
 - Randy Newman - Lakeshore
The Song of Names 
- Howard Shore - Decca (import)
Uncut Gems - Daniel Lopatin - Warp
December 20
Matthias & Maxime - Jean-Michel Blais - Mercury
January 10
The Addams Family - Mychael Danna, Jeff Danna - Lakeshore
January 17
Bliss - Steve Moore - Relapse (import)
Date Unknown
Alien 2 Sulla Terra 
- Guido & Maurizio DeAngelis - Beat
Big Mama II
 - Chuck Cirino - Dragon's Domain
Cari Mostri del Mare
 - Carlo Savina - Kronos
Gail Kubik: Scenes for Orchestra etc
. - Gail Kubik - Kritzerland 
Gege Bellavita
 - Riz Ortolani - Digitmovies
I Fratelli Corsi
 - Angelo Francesco Lavagnino - Kronos
I Ladri Della Notte 
- Ennio Morricone - Beat
Il Disordine
 - Mario Nascimbene - Kronos
Il Segno Del Coyote
 - Francesco DeMasi - Beat
Jesus de Nazaret
 - Alejandro Karo - Kronos
Lilly's Bewitched Christmas
 - Anne-Kathrin Dern - Kronos
Lucio Fulci's Gates of Hell Trilogy
 - Fabio Frizzi, Walter Rizzati - Beat
Mille Milliards de Dollars/Le Crabe-Tambour/Conte de la Folie Ordinaire
 - Philippe Sarde - Music Box
Musiche Da Film Ennio Morricone
 - Ennio Morricone - Universal (import)
Noah Land
 - Leon Gurvitch - Kronos
The Paul Chihara Collection, vol. 3
 - Paul Chihara - Dragon's Domain
Saddles, Sagebrush and Steiner: Western Scores of Max Steiner
 - Max Steiner - BYU
Un Dramma Borghese
 - Riz Ortolani - Digitmovies


THIS WEEK IN FILM MUSIC HISTORY

November 29 - Chuck Mangione born (1940)
November 29 - Recording sessions begin on Herbert Stothart’s score for Hills of Home (1947)
November 29 - Miklos Rozsa begins recording his score to Moonfleet (1954)
November 29 - Erich Wolfgang Korngold died (1957)
November 29 - Russell Garcia begins recording his score for Atlantis the Lost Continent (1960)
November 29 - Alexander Courage's score to the second Star Trek pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," is recorded (1965)
November 29 - Carl Stalling died (1972)
November 29 - George Harrison died (2001)
November 29 - Shirley Walker died (2006)
November 30 - Gordon Parks born (1912)
November 30 - Edward Artemyev born (1937)
November 30 - Victor Young begins recording his score for September Affair (1949)
December 1 - Peter Thomas born (1925)
December 1 - Gerald Fried records his score for the Mission: Impossible episode “The Diplomat” (1968)
December 1 - Laurence Rosenthal begins recording his score to Heart Like a Wheel (1982)
December 1 - John Williams begins recording his replacement score for Rosewood (1996)
December 1 - Stephane Grappelli died (1997)
December 2 - Harry Sukman born (1912)
December 2 - Eddie Sauter born (1914)
December 2 - Milton Delugg born (1918)
December 2 - Artie Butler born (1942)
December 2 - Michael Whalen born (1965)
December 2 - Gerald Fried's score to the Star Trek episode "Shore Leave" is recorded (1966)
December 2 - Richard Markowitz begins recording his music for the three-part Mission: Impossible episode “The Falcon,” his final scores for the series (1969)
December 2 - Francois-Eudes Chanfrault born (1974)
December 2 - John Williams begins recording his score for Midway (1975)
December 2 - Aaron Copland died (1990)
December 3 - Nino Rota born (1911) 
December 3 - Franz Waxman begins recording his score for Woman of the Year (1941)
December 3 - Christopher Slaski born (1974)
December 3 - Elmer Bernstein begins recording his score to McQ (1973)
December 3 - Hoyt Curtin died (2000)
December 3 - Dee Barton died (2001)
December 3 - Derek Wadsworth died (2008)
December 4 - Alex North born (1910)
December 4 - Richard Robbins born (1940)
December 4 - Leonard Rosenman records his score for the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode “One of the Family” (1964)
December 4 - Jason Staczek born (1965)
December 4 - Benjamin Britten died (1976)
December 4 - On Golden Pond opens in New York and Los Angeles (1981)
December 4 - Harry Sukman died (1984)
December 4 - Jay Chattaway begins recording his score for the two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Chain of Command” (1992)
December 4 - Frank Zappa died (1993)
December 4 - Tito Arevalo died (2000)
December 5 - Karl-Ernst Sasse born (1923)
December 5 - Johnny Pate born (1923)
December 5 - John Altman born (1949)
December 5 - Richard Gibbs born (1955)
December 5 - Osvaldo Golijov born (1960)
December 5 - Cliff Eidelman born (1964)
December 5 - Jerry Goldsmith records his score for the Room 222 pilot (1968)
December 5 - Jerry Goldsmith begins recording his score to Coma (1977)
December 5 - Ron Jones records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Outrageous Okona" (1988)
December 5 - Masaru Sato died (1999)
December 5 - Dave Brubeck died (2012)
December 5 - Manuel De Sica died (2014)

DID THEY MENTION THE MUSIC?

ARCTIC DOGS - David Buckley
 
"That’s probably giving 'Arctic Dogs' too much credit, though, given that most of the comedy is both very broad and painfully unfunny. There’s really not much to recommend about this film: the animation lacks texture, the score is overwrought, the plotting is scattershot, and the character design is uninspired. But Angelica Houston does put on a thick Russian accent to play the caribou who runs the courier service, and that’s kind of fun. File it next to 'Norm Of The North' in the 'lazily assembled animated kids’ movies set in the Arctic' section of your collection, if you must."
 
Katie Rife, The Onion AV Club 

DOWNSIZING - Rolfe Kent

"But heady, bold statements about humankind are both the film’s best aspect and its chief flaw: There are just so many of them. While seldom less than engaging, the film trifles with so many different ideas (Ngoc Lam’s religiosity, the use of the shrinking tech for evil, altruism, consent, the potential for cultish reappropriation, the legitimate economic ethics raised by that boor in the bar) that there’s an overall lack of focus, and some of the most tantalizing avenues are left unexplored or undeveloped. As compensation, however, accompanied by Rolfe Kent‘s bouncy, magically-inclined score, 'Downsizing' romps its way across the planet only to blossom into a surprisingly satisfying love story and, for Payne aficionados, an even-more-surprising exhortation: choose life. And that’s not Life as a grand, upper-case-L concept, but the ordinary variety -- that of hatchbacks and neighborliness and often getting things a bit wrong. We may be doomed, and Life on Earth may be about to end, but lower-case lives are still worth living, be they ever so small."
 
Jessica Kiang, The Playlist 
 
"But the film’s main issues are less narrative than they are tonal. In its final act, 'Downsizing' tries to be both ironic and fully earnest, weaving between heartfelt speeches, swelling strings, and acerbic takedowns, often in the same scene. It’s not so much that that film shifts from an acerbic to an emotional register, but that it aims to do both at once, and succeeds at neither. There are beats at the end that feel formally at war with themselves."
 
Ben Croll, IndieWire 
 
"The film had to be flawless from a technical point of view to be convincing, and so it is. The perspectives involving full-sized and miniaturized humans together in the same frame always look just right, and the straightforward presentation of the new mixed world, with big and small co-existing, is handled in an off-hand manner that makes it instantly acceptable. As usual, Payne and his longtime writing partner Jim Taylor inject droll humor whenever possible, which helps keep the human story vibrant within the futuristic technical framework. Craft contributions, notably Stefania Cella's production design, James E. Price's visual effects and Phedon Papamichael's cinematography, are immaculate, while Rolfe Kent's score is discreetly supportive of this moving and beautiful film."
 
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter 
 
ETHEL & ERNEST - Carl Davis
 
"Nevertheless, the care and affection with which Mainwood and his collaborators (notably animation director Peter Dodd and art director Robin Shaw) adapt already endearing material carries the day. Carl Davis contributes an original score with an aptly cheery-bye, Hail Britannia flavor, and numerous golden oldies ('The Lambeth Walk,' et al.) soundtracked and/or sung by high-spirited Ernest further heighten the nostalgia value. (There’s more commercial appeal than matching ambiance in the closing-credits song Sir Paul McCarthy contributes.) The voice characterizations are spot-on (Luke Treadaway plays the adult Raymond), if hardly very demanding of such talents as Broadbent and Blethyn."
 
Dennis Harvey, Variety 
 
FILM STARS DON'T DIE IN LIVERPOOL - J. Ralph
 
"That sense of restraint is completely lost on director Paul McGuigan, better known for crime thrillers like 'Lucky Number Slevin' than romantic dramas like this one. In everything from the score to the costumes and hairstyling, McGuigan seems to think that there’s no such thing as too much, a lavishness that just isn’t supported by the film’s obviously modest budget. The result is some embarrassing wigs and the most heavy-handed ’70s set decoration this side of 'The Conjuring 2.' That money would have been better spent on location shoots, instead of letting painfully obvious matte paintings and stagey rear projection stand in for the highways of Southern California and skyline of New York City -- which would have been fine, if they were used for stylistic effect à la 'Pulp Fiction.' Alas, as the cringeworthy folk cover of 'California Dreamin'' makes clear, they were not. Combined with the similarly heavy-handed sentimentality of the film’s romantic scenes, the effect is akin to pouring half a bottle of soy sauce onto an exquisite piece of sashimi. It just isn’t necessary to add so much flavoring, especially to quality raw materials like Annette Bening and Gloria Grahame."
 
Katie Rife, The Onion AV Club
 
"Adopting Elton John’s 'Funeral for a Friend' as a kind of musical leitmotif amid composer J. Ralph’s already elegiac score, 'Film Stars' jumps around between 1979 and 1981. Working closely together, editor Nick Emerson and DP Urszula Pontikos slip between flashbacks and 'the present' (two years later) via long hallways, open doors and an extravagant device by which the free-floating camera careens off to study vast expanses of flowered wallpaper before circling back to find the characters rearranged within the room at a different point in their lives."
 
Peter Debruge, Variety 
 
HOSTILES - Max Richter
 
"The threat of a slashed pension encourages Blocker to cooperate, but so enraged is he by the prospect of the assignment — he has seen several close friends die, in heinous fashion, at the hands of Yellow Hawk -- that he retreats alone to an open field and reaches for the gun in his holster, as if to take his own life. Bale, as Blocker, falls to his knees and screams to the high heavens in agony, but he’s drowned out by the escalatingly foreboding Max Richter score on the soundtrack. Blocker’s racial animosity ('wretched savages') had previously been straightforward; here, Cooper initially leads viewers to surmise that the man hates Native Americans so much he would sooner shoot himself in honor of that hatred rather than simply do his job...When Cooper wants to humanize Blocker, we get nicely unhurried scenes, like the bedside one in which Blocker is brought to clenched tears at the sight of his bandaged, bullet-ridden longtime associate, Corporal Henry Woodson (Jonathan Majors); when Cooper wants to remind us of the man’s flaws, we get a Max Richter eruption, or a dirge of exposition, as with the fractional cameo from Bill Camp, whose journalist character helpfully announces that Blocker has taken 'more scalps than Sitting Bull himself.'"
 
Danny King, The Village Voice 
 
"Cooper’s style is undeniably elegant, from its unhurried pace (in which heavily accented characters let long silences fill the space their lines) to the rich, widescreen imagery (positively stunning, its landscapes ranging far beyond the de-facto Monument Valley vistas so often seen in Westerns). Making the most of that scenery, DP Masanobu Takayanagi eschews closeups in favor of carefully blocked, painterly compositions. This was the effect 'War for the Planet of the Apes' was going for, though Cooper isn’t asking audiences to acknowledge his good taste, but simply giving them room, both physical and emotional (and further encouraged by Max Richter’s restrained tonal score), to project themselves onto the scene."
 
Peter Debruge, Variety 
 
THE LEISURE SEEKER - Carlo Virzi
 
"In another context, that scene could be a poignant metaphor. But the viewer will have to read that into it themselves, pushing past the saccharine score and cheerfully bright cinematography. Even the painful fact of Ella’s devotion to a man who sometimes mistakes her for someone else manifests on screen as a slideshow she sets up for him at whatever campground they’ve parked at that night, lit with soft white Christmas lights and surrounded by their fellow campers, who gather around on the highly unlikely pretense of being captivated by someone else’s old family photos. Adding to the sense of inconsequentiality is the use of the 2016 election as set dressing, including both a Donald Trump rally and a Hillary Clinton rally for seemingly no other reason but to underline the American-ness of it all. If only the film had something to say about America -- or about memory, or about families. As it stands, two screen legends portraying true love will have to do"

Katie Rife, The Onion AV Club 

PHANTOM THREAD - Jonny Greenwood
 
"Dancing across the surface of the movie is Anderson regular Jonny Greenwood’s enchanting music score, too, which boasts one of the more sublime and transporting piano themes in recent memory. It instantly puts you in the mood for a story of active hearts, emotional tyranny, and consuming passions, and even preps you for the movie’s ticklish aberrance. At heart, 'Phantom Thread' is a classy, curious fractured fairy tale and, on the runway of Anderson’s career, a beautiful head-turner."
 
Robert Abele, The Wrap 
 
"Meanwhile, Jonny Greenwood’s gentle score washes over the film in what seems like an endless medley of movements -- sometimes jaunty, sometimes lush, sometimes somber. The music itself is minimalist, but its use isn’t; the music pretty much never lets up until about halfway through the picture -- when someone suddenly utters these three words: 'I love you.' That’s when it really becomes clear that Anderson’s seeming conventionality is something of a ruse -- that he’s interrupting the gently rolling reserve with jagged moments of emotion, like little rips in the fabric. Perhaps appropriate to its subject, 'Phantom Thread' is a film of contrasting textures, but it’s a counterintuitive one. Most tales of people finding love present hard, angular worlds and allow romance to soften the edges. 'Phantom Thread' does the opposite: It presents a soft, even sensuous world, and shows us how sometimes love can come in the cuts and the tears."
 
Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice 
 
"What an absolute joy it is, then, to watch Alma slowly turn the tables on this insufferable creep. 'Phantom Thread' hides this development until it can no longer; its buildup is consumed with subtle flirtations, the thrill of driving fast in a sports car, the elegance of the clothes and the ritualization of Woodcock turning bodies into consumable things. It’s almost a little too square and prestigey for the maker of 'Inherent Vice,' but then Jonny Greenwood’s delicate piano score goes cello-heavy and the mood darkens into neediness -- and worse."
 
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York 
 
"The movie is, of course, beautifully made. Anderson’s visual style is remarkable. Shooting the picture himself, reportedly, with the collaboration of lighting cameraman Michael Bauman, he frames in a Kubrick-inflected style but cuts with a Hitchcock-influenced one. This gives the movie a sense of momentum that’s supported by Jonny Greenwood’s score and the other music (mostly classical) alternating with it. This is very much a 'composed' movie; very little of it is without music, and there are very deliberate shifts in instrumentation and orchestration throughout. The acting is, of course, impeccable. Day-Lewis, performing for the first time in what seems like a long time in an accent and vocal timbre not unlike his natural one, is a tightly-wound wonder who becomes like an old-man kitten once Alma has reduced him to the “open and tender” state that she frequently desires of him. Krieps and Lesley Manville, both impeccable, inhabit the circumscribed world of this story with utter integrity."
 
Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com 
 
"Few American directors create such absorbing worlds with Anderson’s efficiency, and it doesn’t take long for 'Phantom Thread' to follow suit: The movie charges into an operatic start, laying out the revered Woodcock House where Reynolds and his icy sister (Lesley Manville, a study in dismissive scowls) run a slick operation. Taking on cinematography duties himself, Anderson’s camera captures the angular staircases and immaculate interiors as if establishing the gates of heaven itself, while Jonny Greenwood’s wondrous orchestral score swoons. It’s Anderson’s most astonishing opening sequence since 'There Will Be Blood,' an elegant assemblage of imagery on par with the dressmaker’s pristine technique."
 
Eric Kohn, IndieWire 
 
"There’s perhaps not such a wide chasm separating the intense artist Anderson has written and the one he’s cast. Surely, too, there’s kinship between the director himself and Reynolds, a highly gifted aesthete who doesn’t care what’s fashionable in his medium. (Not to put too fine a point on it, but one scene finds him gazing through a peephole like a viewfinder, spying on a private fashion show of his work.) Anderson shot the film himself, and his 35mm cinematography has a look and texture radically different than anything else he’s made -- a subtle, suggestive quality of light that went out of vogue ages ago. It pairs well with the uncharacteristic tinkle and swoon of Jonny Greenwood’s music, which possesses almost none of the sinister discordance of his previous work for Anderson. We’re a long, long way from the dick-swinging, long-take virtuosity of the director’s Scorsese-and-Kubrick-aping salad days: In the simple, refined timelessness of its technique, 'Phantom Thread' is practically a love letter to classic aesthetic values -- cinematic, sartorial, or otherwise."
 
A.A. Dowd, The Onion AV Club 
 
"Paul Thomas Anderson’s 'Phantom Thread' devotes a significant amount of time to acclimating us to the House of Woodcock, ostensibly run by Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a renowned dressmaker in 1950s-era London. Anderson drinks in the stylish townhouse where much of the film takes place, framing a spiral staircase in worshipfully low angles as Reynolds’s maids, seamstresses, and models ascend it each morning to commence in the ritual of their work. These svelte montages, accompanied by Jonnny Greenwood’s hypnotic score, viscerally communicate the profound fulfillment that an artist derives from knowing that everything is in the right place at the right time."
 
Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine 
 
"I’ll leave it to you to accompany the development of Reynolds’, Alma’s, and Cyril’s peculiar three-way bond, with its constantly shifting balance between need and resentment, desire and jealousy, hate and love. And Anderson himself, in control as he’s ever been of his craft, is more than capable of deepening the perspective to show you how the story of this vicious-yet-intermittently-functioning love triangle is also a fairy tale–like parable about marriage, art, and even the conflict between fate and free will, the choices that are ours to make and those that are out of our hands. These larger themes aren’t trotted out as proof of artistic heft; they’re implicit in the stunningly framed but never static images, the ever-shifting palette of rich jewel colors, and the gradually emerging leitmotifs of Jonny Greenwood’s all-enveloping orchestral soundtrack."
 
Dana Stevens, Slate.com 
 
"That sleight-of-hand infiltrates the whole movie. Sumptuously dressed in Jonny Greenwood’s era-callback piano score, the exactingly composed frames, and so many divine costume designs by Mark Bridges, it takes a while to catch on that 'Phantom Thread' is Anderson’s most playful and most kinky movie to date -- a Molotov cocktail gift-wrapped in taffeta and lace. It is also, not paradoxically, a dead-serious exploration of the act of artistic creation, the essential role a romantic partner plays in that creation, and the toll that subordination to another’s craft takes. (Anderson dedicates the film to his longtime partner Maya Rudolph and their children.) That topic has certainly been batted around before on film -- auteurs do so love splaying their emotional guts on the screen in shadow plays of life-begets-art -- but what sets 'Phantom Thread' apart is that it isn’t an apologia, or an exorcism. It’s a Valentine. The heart, after all, is our strongest muscle."
 
Kimberley Jones, The Austin Chronicle 

"'Phantom Thread' could have been a howl. Just the name 'Reynolds Woodcock' is, as the French would say, de trop -- the pinnacle of twit. Jonny Greenwood’s delirious strings-and-piano score carries on in a romantic-transcendentalist realm of its own. It would all be very pretentious -- except it’s not pretension if you live and breathe it, as I think Anderson lives and breathes the idea that an artist like Woodcock must orchestrate every aspect of existence to make a sacred space for creation. The trouble comes when you also believe in true love. How can a man like Woodcock cede even a small amount of control?"
 
David Edelstein, New York 
 
"'Phantom Thread' is a pas de trois set to a Jonny Greenwood score, a delicate dance for three in which there’s no clearly dominant player and the relationships between the members of the trio are constantly renegotiated. That’s familiar territory for director Paul Thomas Anderson -- 'Phantom Thread' shares a great deal of DNA with his 2012 film 'The Master.' But this time, he’s set his ballet of manners and power struggles in post-war London, in a house of high fashion ruled by the finicky, improbably named genius Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis)."
 
Alissa Wilkinson, Vox 

"Nor is it clear at this point what kind of movie Anderson has made, a bit of ambiguity that persists until the film’s final moments and helps give 'The Phantom Thread' its charge. It’s lush and filled with glamorous trappings and at heart it’s about an intense attraction, but it would be misleading to call it romantic. It draws deeply from Hitchcock, especially 'Vertigo,' with its protagonist whose obsessions reshape a woman’s identity, and 'Rebecca,' with the Cyril hovering in disapproval like Mrs. Danvers. But it never becomes a thriller, at least not in the conventional sense. Anderson cuts intermittently to Alma delivering some kind of confession to a character left unrevealed for much of the film, but it’s not readily apparent what she’s confessing or even if there’s anything to confess. Meanwhile, Jonny Greenwood’s score provides little guidance, discordant one moment, swooning the next, and frequently circling back to a pleasantly jazzy theme that sounds like something Vince Guraldi could have written for an unfilmed Peanuts special."
 
Mike Ryan, Uproxx 
 
"But, of course, we’re all too aware that something ominous has to be lurking in the shadows. There wouldn’t be a movie otherwise, and the plangent pull of Jonny Greenwood’s musical score, rapturous with longing and anxiety, summons an unmistakable ’50s-Hitchcock vibe. So does Anderson’s meticulous filmmaking. Reynolds is presented as a feverish artisan of fashion, sketching and sewing his way to a vision of the feminine ideal. He courts Alma by using her as a human mannequin, and it’s therefore hard not to get intimations of a movie like 'Vertigo,' or maybe a super-kinky 'Pygmalion.' Will 'Phantom Thread' turn out to be the story of a man who falls for his fetishistic design of a woman?"
 
Owen Gleiberman, Variety 

"All these good things being said, there is nonetheless no individual contribution to the film's character and impact more important than Jonny Greenwood's music. Creating his fourth soundtrack for Anderson, Greenwood has crafted a gorgeously melodious, piano-dominated score that would have been right at home as part of a black-and-white late-1940s romantic melodrama. Remarkably, however, there's not a trace of retro or campiness to it, as it swoops right in to instantly transport you back to the era and create a mood of turbulent feelings and amorous expectation. As with the film itself, it leaves you wondering: 'Where on Earth did this come from?'"
 
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
 
THE POST - John Williams
 
"Spielberg has crafted a solid piece of work that skillfully juggles both suspense and Big Ideas, and his team of collaborators delivers, from John Williams’ horn-heavy score (creating either tension or heroic awe, as needed) to Janusz Kaminski’s camera sliding its way through newsrooms and dinner parties, all lit with that particular brand of early 1970s drabness."
 
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
 
"True, sometimes director Steven Spielberg lays it on so thick you think he has a trowel. Inspiring scenes are flooded with sunshine. John Williams' score swells and kvells. (Of course, Spielberg didn't become America's most popular director by being its subtlest.)"
 
Stephen Whitty, New York Daily News  
 
"However, the truth is that every time 'The Post' threatens to slide into pure, pretentious melodrama, the talent of someone involved pulls it out. Whether it’s a subtle choice made by Streep or Hanks, an economy of storytelling displayed by Spielberg, a composition by John Williams -- there’s always something to hold on to in 'The Post' that keeps it working. Even the sound design -- a symphony of typewriter clicking and ringing phones singing out through the Post offices - is engaging. It’s a movie from one of our most essential filmmakers when it comes to pure entertainment, and it works on that level. Even just the parade of familiar faces (I didn’t even mention the always-welcome presences of Carrie Coon, David Cross, Sarah Paulson, or Pat Healy) will keep you engaged."
 
Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com 
 
"With Spielberg helming such a cast (which also includes Sarah Paulson, Bradley Whitford, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, David Cross, Zach Woods, Michael Stuhlbarg, and others I’ve doubtless missed), The Post seems on paper like an obvious slam-dunk. Spielberg brought in some of his frequent collaborators -- composer John Williams, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski -- and legends like costume designer Ann Roth to make the whole thing hum along like a well-oiled printing press. It’s also somehow the first time Streep and Hanks have worked together onscreen, and it’s a stirring, true story of ordinary American heroes speaking truth to power -- something everyone seems to love, Hollywood and moviegoers alike."
 
Alissa Wilkinson, Vox 
 
"One element that proves too predictable and ordinary is the score by the normally great longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams. It's a rote-sounding job that frankly feels tossed off."
 
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter 
 
STUFFED - Ben Lovett
 
"Erin Derham’s 'Stuffed' opens with a montage of the various taxidermists she profiles throughout her documentary. This opening lays bare the film’s argument in unmistakable terms: that taxidermy is an art form, closer to the work of Tim Burton than that of Norman Bates. But it also exposes the film’s most unbearable flaw, as Derham supports her hagiographic argument by sewing together her case studies with a relentless, and relentlessly generic, score that speaks to her devotion to formula."
 
Diego Semerene, Slant Magazine 

WORMWOOD - Paul Leonard-Morgan
 
"On a purely narrative level, 'Wormwood' is consistently gripping and eye-opening, but what truly elevates it to the realm of greatness is Morris’ boundary-pushing storytelling approach. The director’s dramatic reenactments are crafted with canted angles, constricting framing, Zack Snyder-esque slow-motion, and film-noir shadows, which (together with a score of strings, piano, and apocalyptic braying tones) lend the proceedings a dreamy malevolence. Moreover, these staged sequences are all set in 1953, the better to create a heightened contrast between Frank’s speculative past (and Eric’s memories of it) and Eric’s more literally verifiable later activities, which Morris relates through nonfiction means. The result is a dynamic interplay between the real and unreal, the known and the unknown -- one augmented by excellent performances that eerily channel the actions (and emotions) described by Morris’ incisive speakers."
 
Nick Schager, The Daily Beast 
 
"Ironically in a project directed by one of the most famous documentarians working today, these sequences are far more compelling than the rambling interviews. Unlike 'Making a Murderer,' the series isn’t designed to arrive at any major turning points; instead, it scrutinizes the essence of Eric’s desire for a clean ending he may never find. With ample split screens, a pounding score, and fragments of archival footage alternating with the acted scenes and interviews, 'Wormwood' excels at echoing the hall of mirrors that define Eric’s mindset."
 
Eric Kohn, IndieWire 

THE NEXT TEN DAYS IN L.A.

Screenings of older films, at the following L.A. movie theaters: AMPASAlamo DrafthouseAmerican Cinematheque: AeroAmerican Cinematheque: EgyptianArclightArena Cinelounge, LaemmleNew Beverly, Nuart, UCLA and Vista.  

November 29
CHOPPING MALL (Chuck Cirino), PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC'S REVENGE (Stacy Widelitz) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
EXISTENZ (Howard Shore) [New Beverly]
PULP FICTION [New Beverly]
SANTA SANGRE (Simon Boswell) [Nuart]
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (Nacio Herb Brown, Lennie Hayton) [Cinematheque: Aero]

November 30
ELF (John Debney) [New Beverly]
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (Hans Zimmer) [Alamo Drafthouse]
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (Howard Shore), THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (Howard Shore), THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (Howard Shore) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
MULHOLLAND DRIVE (Angelo Badalamenti) [New Beverly]
RAN (Toru Takemitsu) [Vista]

December 1
CITY LIGHTS (Charles Chaplin), THE CIRCUS (Charles Chaplin) [Cinematheque: Aero]
ELF (John Debney) [New Beverly]
TIME BANDITS (Mike Moran) [Vista]

December 2
AKIRA (Yamashiro Shoji) [AMPAS]
FARGO (Carter Burwell), A SIMPLE PLAN (Danny Elfman) [New Beverly]
KISS KISS BANG BANG (John Ottman) [New Beverly]
ROCKETMAN (Matthew Margeson) [Cinematheque: Aero]

December 3
DIAL CODE SANTA CLAUS (Jean-Felix Lalanne) [Alamo Drafthouse]
FARGO (Carter Burwell), A SIMPLE PLAN (Danny Elfman) [New Beverly] 

December 4
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Walter Schumann) [New Beverly]
ON DANGEROUS GROUND (Bernard Herrmann), NIGHTFALL (George Duning) [New Beverly]

December 5
KISS KISS BANG BANG (John Ottman) [Alamo Drafthouse]
ON DANGEROUS GROUND (Bernard Herrmann), NIGHTFALL (George Duning) [New Beverly] 

December 6
THE BOYS NEXT DOOR (George S. Clinton) [Nuart]
FIRST BLOOD (Jerry Goldsmith), THEY LIVE (John Carpenter, Alan Howarth) [UCLA]
RESERVOIR DOGS [New Beverly]
THE SHINING (Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind) [New Beverly]
SISTERS (Bernard Herrmann), BLOW OUT (Pino Donaggio) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]

December 7
BACK TO THE FUTURE (Alan Silvestri), DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN (Thomas Newman) [UCLA]
BRAZIL (Michael Kamen) [Vista]
GREMLINS (Jerry Goldsmith) [New Beverly]
LONE WOLF MCQUADE (Francesco De Masi) [New Beverly]
MAGNOLIA (Jon Brion) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]

December 8
THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (Michael Kamen) [Vista]
GREMLINS (Jerry Goldsmith) [New Beverly]
THE HOLIDAY (Hans Zimmer) [Alamo Drafthouse]
OUR BLUSHING BRIDES, FOOTLIGHT PARADE [Cinematheque: Egyptian]


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

Heard: Good Morning, Vietnam/Operation Dumbo Drop (North/Newman), Glory & Honor (Broughton), American Assassin (Price)

Read: The Man Who Went Up in Smoke, by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Seen: Heroic Losers; Dark Waters; A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; Waves; Charlie's Angels [2019]; Frozen II; 21 Bridges

Watched: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I saw seven films in theaters this last weekend, and surprisingly the one I enjoyed the most was 21 Bridges. My expectations had been pretty low based on the first trailer, which made it look like the ultimate "blue lives matter" movie, but the actual film is quite different. It was a pleasantly old-fashioned cop thriller -- old-fashioned as in 70s/80s, not 1950s -- but along with an impressive cast (any film that has both J.K. Simmons and Keith David is going to be watchable at least), one of its greatest strengths was the use of music.

Henry Jackman and Alex Belcher wrote the score, and I have no idea if it would stand on its own as a listening experience, but in this age of interchangable, synth-heavy action scores written by ten people, it was a joy to watch an urban action film with an actual orchestral score, and one which the filmmakers valued enough to mix in a way that it was always given aural prominence (even the Onion AV Club review remarked on the strength of the music and its use in the film). As far as twists, it's not exactly Knives Out -- if you've seen the later trailer you can probably figure out nearly all the film ahead of time -- but it was a satisfying 99 minutes (!) at the movies, with an especially impressive foot chase in the final act. It would also make a nice double bill with Richard Donner's swan song, 16 Blocks.

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Comments (1):Log in or register to post your own comments
My only quibbles with KNIVES OUT relate to the aesthetics and the music. Not that either was bad by any means; it's just that I thought that I could have been better. What gives, for instance, with the decision to lay "Sweet Virginia" over the end credits? Am I missing something? In any case, it left me yearning for the theme to SLEUTH (which the film clearly references with the sailor mannequin).

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Today in Film Score History:
December 7
Basil Poledouris begins recording his score for White Fang (1990)
Ernst Toch born (1887)
Georges Delerue begins recording his score for Les Visiteurs (1979)
Jerry Goldsmith records his score for The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971)
John Addison died (1998)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service opens in Los Angeles (1969)
Star Trek -- The Motion Picture is released in theaters (1979)
Tom Waits born (1949)
Victor Young begins recording his score for Appointment with Danger (1949)
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