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The latest release from the BYU Film Music Archive is a three-disc set titled SADDLES, SAGEBRUSH AND STEINER: WESTERN SCORES OF MAX STEINER. Disc One features cues from Steiner's scores for Virginia City, Santa Fe Trail, San Antonio and Dallas; Disc Two features Rocky Mountain and The Charge at Feather River; Disc Three has The Lion and the Horse and Raton Pass.


La-La Land has announced two CDs to begin shipping this week -- an expanded and remastered edition of Michael Kamen's score for the 1989 cult classic ROAD HOUSE, featuring cues not included in Intrada's earlier release of the score (since my liner notes for the Intrada edition were not retained, I assume a massive letter writing campaign will ensue, and I thank my readers in advance), and a re-release of their CD of Harold Faltermeyer's score for the 1984 blockbuster action comedy BEVERLY HILLS COP.


CDS AVAILABLE THIS WEEK

Amore Mio 
- Carlo Savina - Saimel 
Beverly Hills Cop [re-release]
- Harold Faltermeyer - La-La Land
Encounter - Penka Kouneva - Notefornote
The Good Liar - Carter Burwell - WaterTower [CD-R]
J'Accuse - Alexandre Desplat - Warner Classics (import)
Road House
- Michael Kamen - La-La Land
Windjammer - Morton Gould - Sepia 
Zombie Night
 - Alan Howarth - Dragon's Domain


IN THEATERS TODAY

Acceleration - Gregory De Iulio
American Dharma - Paul Leonard-Morgan
Ballet Blanc - David Raiklen
Cold Brook - Michael Deragon
Danger Close - Caitlin Yeo
Doctor Sleep - The Newton Brothers - Score CD-R on WaterTower
Gabriel - Tim Janssens
Good Girls Get High - Jay Israelson
Honey Boy - Alex Somers 
The Kingmaker - Jocelyn Pook
Klaus - Alfonso G. Aguilar
Last Christmas - Theodore Shapiro - Song CD on Legacy
Light from Light - Adam Granduciel, Jon Natchez
Marriage Story - Randy Newman
Midway - Thomas Wander, Harald Kloser
Playing with Fire - Nathan Wang
Primal - Guillaume Roussel
Sunday Girl - Isaac Tetenbaum
The Swallows of Kabul - Alexis Rault - Score CD Les Hirondelles de Kabul on Milan (import)
To Be of Service - Pulse Music
The Tower - Nathanael Bergese
Upin & Ipin - Les' Copaque Sdn Bhd, Andrew Bong


COMING SOON

November 15
The Crown: Season Three
 - Martin Phipps - Sony
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, vol. 1
 - Daniel Pemberton - Varese Sarabande
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, vol. 2 
- Daniel Pemberton, Samuel Sim - Varese Sarabande
La Chiave
 - Ennio Morricone - Beat
November 22 
Ad Astra
 - Max Richter, Lorne Balfe, Nils Frahm - Deutsche Grammophon
First Reformed - Lustmord - Vaultworks
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 
- Marco Beltrami, Anna Drubich - eOne 
November 29
Lucy in the Sky
 - Jeff Russo - Lakeshore
December 13
Animal Among Us - Alexander Taylor - Notefornote
Go Fish - George Streicher - Notefornote 
Uncut Gems - Daniel Lopatin - Warp
Date Unknown
The Alan Howarth Collection vol. 1
 - Alan Howarth - Dragon's Domain
Borsalino/Borsalino & Co.
- Claude Bolling - Music Box
Cari Mostri del Mare
- Carlo Savina - Kronos
Damon and Pythias
 - Angelo Francesco Lavagnino - Alhambra
I Fratelli Corsi
- Angelo Francesco Lavagnino - Kronos
Il Disordine
- Mario Nascimbene - Kronos
La Trinchera Infinita
 - Pascal Gaigne - Quartet
Mientras Dure la Guerra
 - Alejandro Amenabar - Quartet
Mille Milliards de Dollars/Le Crabe-Tambour/Conte de la Folie Ordinaire
- Philippe Sarde - Music Box
Miriam Cutler Film Music
 - Miriam Cutler - Quartet
Mutant
 - Richard Band - Dragon's Domain
Saddles, Sagebrush and Steiner: Western Scores of Max Steiner
- Max Steiner - BYU
Straight into Darkness 
- Michael Convertino - Dragon's Domain


THIS WEEK IN FILM MUSIC HISTORY

November 8 - Arnold Bax born (1883)
November 8 - Mark Suozzo born (1953)
November 8 - The Ten Commandments opens in New York (1956)
November 8 - Nicholas Carras records his score for She Demons (1957)
November 8 - Gerald Fried records his score for the Lost in Space episode "Castles in Space" (1967)
November 8 - Robert Drasnin records his score for the Mission: Impossible episode “Nerves” (1971)
November 8 - Gino Marinuzzi Jr. died (1996)
November 9 - Roger Edens born (1905)
November 9 - Jerry Goldsmith begins recording his score for Lonely Are the Brave (1961)
November 9 - Lalo Schifrin begins recording his score for Sol Madrid (1967)
November 9 - Johnny Harris records his score for The New Adventures of Wonder Woman episode “Skateboard Wiz” (1978)
November 9 - Dave Grusin begins recording his score for Tootsie (1982)
November 9 - Alfred Ralston died (1988)
November 9 - Stanley Myers died (1993)
November 9 - Paul Baillargeon records his score for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “The Siege of AR-558” (1998)
November 10 - Mischa Bakaleinikoff born (1890)
November 10 - Philip Sainton born (1891)
November 10 - Carl Stalling born (1891)
November 10 - Billy May born (1916)
November 10 - Ennio Morricone born (1928)
November 10 - Victor Young died (1956)
November 10 - Sylvain Chomet born (1963)
November 10 - Robert Gulya born (1973)
November 10 - Michel Colombier begins recording his replacement score for The Golden Child (1986)
November 10 - Bruce Broughton records his score for the Amazing Stories episode "Thanksgiving" (1986)
November 10 - Dennis McCarthy records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Child” (1988)
November 10 - Recording sessions begin for Christopher Young’s score for Hush (1997)
November 11 - Jerome Kern died (1945)
November 11 - Dimitri Tiomkin died (1979)
November 11 - Bruce Broughton records his score for the Amazing Stories episode "Gather Ye Acorns" (1985)
November 11 - Alex North records his score for Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
November 11 - Morton Stevens died (1991)
November 11 - Dennis McCarthy records his score for the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Future Tense” (2003)
November 11 - John Frizzell records his score for the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “The Forge” (2004)
November 11 - Eddie Horst died (2010)
November 12 - Bob Crewe born (1931)
November 12 - Neil Young born (1945)
November 12 - Kenyon Hopkins begins recording his score for The Fugitive Kind (1959)
November 12 - Richard Markowitz records his first Mission: Impossible score, for the episode “The Mind of Stefan Miklos” (1968)
November 12 - David Shire records his score for The Godchild (1974)
November 12 - Alan Silvestri begins recording his score for Clean Slate (1993)
November 12 - Velton Ray Bunch records his score for the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Similitude” (2003)
November 12 - John Tavener died (2013)
November 12 - Karl-Ernst Sasse died (2006)
November 13 - Leonard Rosenman begins recording his score for Hell Is For Heroes (1961)
November 13 - Andre Previn begins recording his score to Dead Ringer (1963)
November 13 - Henry Mancini begins recording his score for The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1972)
November 13 - David Bell records his score for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “The Sword of Kahless” (1995)
November 13 - Carlo Rustichelli died (2004)
November 14 - Aaron Copland born (1900)
November 14 - Alden Shuman born (1924)
November 14 - Edmund Meisel died (1930)
November 14 - Wendy Carlos born (1939)
November 14 - Jean-Claude Petit born (1943)
November 14 - Yanni born (1954)
November 14 - Tom Judson born (1960)
November 14 - Dave Grusin begins recording his score for The Scorpio Letters (1966)
November 14 - Basil Poledouris records his score for the Twilight Zone episode “Song of the Younger World” (1986)
November 14 - Dennis McCarthy records his score for the Twilight Zone episode “Voices in the Earth” (1986)
November 14 - Sol Kaplan died (1990)
November 14 - Michel Colombier died (2004)
November 14 - Irving Gertz died (2008)

DID THEY MENTION THE MUSIC?

BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE) - Arnaud Rebotini
 
"'BPM' is an ensemble piece that honors a milestone of social activism. If that sounds dull, know that it isn’t: This is a colorful, funny and engaged bunch of people, and their humor lightens the film’s inevitable march toward death. Robin Campillo’s movie has a forward momentum inspired by the determination of its characters and bolstered by Arnaud Rebotini’s house-music score."
 
Dave Calhoun, Time Out New York
 
"In keeping with the ultra-realistic nature of the film, Campillo significantly doesn’t shy away from the sex scenes. While never reaching the explicit, elongated levels of 'Blue is the Warmest Color,' ‘120 BPM’ makes sure to keep the physical intimacy between Nathan and Sean at the forefront of their electric connection. B*****bs, a*** sex, and a late heart-sinking h*****b scene – even if somewhat awkwardly edited by Campillo and slightly crippled by Arnaud Rebotini’s sterile score -- power the kind of emotional resonance that’s essential to the context."
 
Nikola Grozdanovic, The Playlist 
 
"At other times, the dance floor adrenaline rush dissolves into dust particles or specks of light that transform into a labyrinth of blood cells, an image both literal and poetic. Along with Arnaud Rebotini's electronic music, there's also punchy use of the Bronski Beat classic 'Smalltown Boy,' a landmark gay pop anthem that harks back with poignancy to the earlier days of the AIDS struggle."
 
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter 
 
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL - Koji Endo
 
"Keeping the action in tight closeups and medium shots, regular DP Nobuyasu Kita’s camera sometimes pulls back suddenly to reveal the carnage to stunning effect. While sets and locations in Kyoto are generic, Koji Endo’s restrained score makes the plaintive strings of the Japanese shamisen stand out at critical moments."

Maggie Lee, Variety 

HOCHELAGA, LAND OF SOULS - Terry Riley, Gyan Riley
 
"This historical fantasia is admirably compact, even if the reduction of so many large themes to a motif or fleeting moment inevitably renders some of them rather heavy-handed. Still, the symphonic ambition that can make Girard’s vision occasionally seem affected or simplistic also has a certain undeniable splendor, one amply served by his superb design and tech collaborators. Particularly notable are the subtle yet spectacular CGI effects that bring to life entire vistas (like a huge Iroquois village) that existed before Montreal itself; and a diverse, beautiful score by the great American composer Terry Riley and his son Gyan."
 
Dennis Harvey, Variety

LBJ - Marc Shaiman
 
"The movie is far more interested in attempting to plumb the psychology of this often misunderstood chief executive by underscoring the insecurities that informed his homespun bluster, a sensitivity that magnified in the shadow of the handsome and charismatic Kennedy brothers. (Here, the legendary friction between LBJ and Robert Kennedy plays out like a fight on a D.C. playground, with the latter coming off like a little pissant.) Indeed, the most riveting moments in the film occur in those shell-shocked hours in Dallas following John Kennedy’s death, when Johnson must assume a role he’s long coveted but never dreamed of undertaking under such tragic circumstances. In these quiet scenes, Harrelson (in a frequently distracting makeup job -- those ears!) throws off the yoke of Lone Star yokel and becomes something more three-dimensional, adeptly conveying how LBJ delicately navigated the heartbreaking aftermath of the assassination with the nation’s welfare foremost in mind. Unfortunately, this narrative shift eventually becomes a platform for lionizing Johnson in the grand fashion of one of those hoary Hollywood studio biographies that showcased noble selflessness as the greatest attribute in any human being, all to the accompaniment of a swelling inspirational score. It’s a sentimentality that would provoke even an ol’ softie like Johnson to let loose with a profanity or two."
 
Steve Davis, The Austin Chronicle
 
"Instead, Branagh presents something like an attractively wrapped present with nothing inside. Ostensibly, it’s a well-made movie, with first class production and costume design and some very talented visual effects artists working on very unconvincing visual effects. Even composer Patrick Doyle, one of Branagh’s key collaborators, delivers a score that is, like the rest of the movie, both overbearing and tension-free."
 
Drew Taylor, The Playlist
 
MY FRIEND DAHMER - Andrew Hollander
 
"Meyers makes no mistakes shaping the story's rising tension and Jeff's fracturing sense of self. As with all horror stories, the soundscape is as crucial as the visuals. Andrew Hollander's score deepens the sense of dread with its staticky groans, while even a creaking door can sound like a cry of pain. In keeping with the film's unsentimental approach to the '70s, music supervisor Jonathan Leahy contributes a refreshingly non-obvious selection of period songs, saving a couple of better-known numbers, appropriately, for the prom scene, in all its torturous glory."
 
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter
 
ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. - James Newton Howard
 
"Before we see Roman in action, however, we’re treated to voiceover by Washington that is meant to set up a flashback structure. The narration accompanies a legal brief Roman is writing. The brief is two paragraphs of legalese interspersed with nonsense, and we get to see it typed in its entirety on the screen. As letters fill the screen, the score gets louder and more bombastic in a vain attempt to telegraph suspense. In the brief, Roman calls himself a hypocrite who has sold out his own belief system. He casts himself as plaintiff and defendant in this damning confession."
 
Odie Henderson, RogerEbert.com 
 
SUBURBICON - Alexandre Desplat
 
"All of this plays, in other words, like a retroactive dry-run to the Jerry Lundegaard scenes of 'Fargo,' or maybe a closer relative to 'Crimewave,' the slapstick cartoon thriller the Coens wrote for Sam Raimi in the ’80s. One can understand why the two never really got around to making the movie themselves -- their sensibilities have long since evolved beyond this embryonic stage. Still, one might have hoped that Clooney would be a suitable, simpatico alternative. Sadly, the star-turned-director has no real feel for the Coens’ twisted comic alchemy; his own throwbacks, including the Oscar-nominated 'Good Night, And Good Luck' and the turgid WWII drama 'The Monuments Men,' are more reverently referential. Clooney creates a vague vintage aura -- Alexandre Desplat’s lush retro score and Robert Elswit’s typically slick cinematography do the heavy lifting there -- but he seems lost as to how to replicate the siblings’ sardonic tweaking of old genre tropes. The tone swings wildly scene to scene, from stodgily 'old-fashioned' to laboredly nutty."
 
A.A. Dowd, The Onion AV Club
 
"The movie even starts to grate aesthetically with an overdone score by Alexandre Desplat and design elements that fetishize ‘50s America in an incomplete way, stranding the movie between parody and realism. Even the great Robert Elswit’s work here feels uninspired. Of course, it all comes back to the flaws of a director unable to figure out what story he’s trying to convey or an intriguing way to tell it. 'Suburbicon' doesn’t so much tell two stories that never coalesce into one -- it doesn’t tell any interesting story at all."
 
Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com 
 
"The melding of the two sensibilities works best in the arch prologue which takes the form of an extended advertisement for the pleasures of 1950s Suburbicon, a model town of identikit homes on neat lawns where the postman knows everyone’s name and everyone’s business. It’s a place, the announcer-voice tells us over Alexandre Desplat’s piping, cheerily parodic score, that is 'a melting pot of diversity' in that it features blindingly white families from New York, Ohio and 'even Mississippi' smiling apple-pie smiles. But the peacefulness of this picket-fence paradise is troubled when a black woman (Karimah Westbrook) answers the door to the cheery postman and is discovered not to be the maid but the lady of the house. Cue angry town-hall meetings, the hasty erection of a high fence to protect the white gaze from having to fall on black skin, and a gathering mob of increasingly mutinous neighbors."
 
Jessica Kiang, The Playlist 

"Along with his cast, Clooney has assembled a pro team behind the camera. Cinematographer Robert Elswit's widescreen visuals maximize the light-and-dark contrast between sunny suburbia and its diseased heart, while production and costume designers James D. Bissell and Jenny Eagan, respectively, supply plenty of period eye candy. And Alexandre Desplat's score works overtime, shifting from sleepy cocktail jazz into needling agitation before pulling out all the stops and going the full Bernard Herrmann."
 
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
 
TELL ME WHO I AM - Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans
 
"One senses a certain sleight of hand in the film’s technique, which relies quite heavily on music and moody, Errol Morris-style reenactment (including sets that stand in for the Lewis’ house) to misdirect us. Most intriguingly, however, it asks audiences’ brains to operate as Alex’s once had to, taking a few ambiguous facts or context-free photographs and connecting the dots via their own imaginations."
 
Peter Debruge, Variety 

TRICK - Michael Wandmacher
 
"Worst of all, the filmmaking here traffics in faux intensity. The camerawork gets shaky every time Trick unleashes his fury, resulting in a film that’s more incoherent than terrifying, and Lussier thinks cranking up the score will add to the fear when it just makes his movie louder. With so much horror that seems designed to work psychologically, I believe the time is right for another resurgence in the physical, blunt world of the slasher genre, but 'Trick' seems intent to prove me wrong."
 
Brian Tallerico, RogerEbert.com 

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 8
AKIRA (Yamashiro Shoji) [Nuart]
THE BROOD (Howard Shore) [New Beverly]
PULP FICTION [New Beverly]
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (John Williams), THE WANDERERS [Cinematheque: Aero]
THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION (John Addison) [UCLA]
VIDEODROME (Howard Shore) [Alamo Drafthouse]

November 9
THE GAME (Howard Shore) [Vista]
HAIL, MAFIA (Hubert Rostaing) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (Denny Zeitlin), THE GREAT NORTHFIELD MINNESOTA RAID (Dave Grusin) [Cinematheque: Aero]
IT'S ALIVE (Bernard Herrmann) [Alamo Drafthouse]
MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE (Joel Goldsmith) [New Beverly]
MEN IN BLACK (Danny Elfman) [Alamo Drafthouse]
THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (Bernard Herrmann) [New Beverly]

November 10
THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (Arlon Ober) [Alamo Drafthouse]
GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (Jerry Goldsmith) [Alamo Drafthouse]
LOOPER (Nathan Johnson) [Alamo Drafthouse]
THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (Bernard Herrmann) [New Beverly]
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING [Cinematheque: Aero]
THE WIZARD OF OZ (Harold Arlen, Herbert Stothart) [Vista]

November 11
COP LAND (Howard Shore) [New Beverly]
GREMLINS (Jerry Goldsmith) [Arclight Sherman Oaks]
REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE (Toshiro Mayuzumi), JUSTINE (Jerry Goldsmith) [New Beverly]
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (John Williams) [Alamo Drafthouse]

November 12
CENTIPEDE HORROR [Alamo Drafthouse]
THE GODFATHER PART II (Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola) [Laemmle Town Center 5]
GREMLINS (Jerry Goldsmith) [Arclight Santa Monica]
STUNTS (Michael Kamen), WALKING THE EDGE (Jay Chattaway), THE KINKY COACHES AND THE POM POM PUSSYCATS (Richard Cooper) [New Beverly]
THE TREE OF LIFE (Alexandre Desplat) [Cinematheque: Aero]
VIDEODROME (Howard Shore) [Alamo Drafthouse]
WANDERLUST (Craig Wedren) [Alamo Drafthouse]

November 13
COOL AS ICE (Stanley Clarke) [Alamo Drafthouse]
HER SMELL (Keegan DeWitt) [Cinematheque: Aero]
MEDIUM COOL (Mike Bloomfield), THE DON IS DEAD (Jerry Goldsmith) [New Beverly]
SUNSET BLVD. (Franz Waxman) [New Beverly]

November 14
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (Stephen Trask) [Alamo Drafthouse]
MEDIUM COOL (Mike Bloomfield), THE DON IS DEAD (Jerry Goldsmith) [New Beverly]

November 15
AKIRA (Yamashiro Shoji) [Nuart]
ANNIE HALL [Vista]
GONE TO EARTH (Brian Easdale) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
PULP FICTION [New Beverly]
VIDEODROME (Howard Shore) [New Beverly]
ZARDOZ (David Munrow) [Cinematheque: Aero]

November 16
BLUE VELVET (Angelo Badalamenti), WILD AT HEART (Angelo Badalamenti) [Cinematheque: Aero]
THE 'BURBS (Jerry Goldsmith) [Alamo Drafthouse]
HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE (David Kitay) [Vista]
JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (Bernard Herrmann) [New Beverly]
PEACEMAKER (Dennis Michael Tenney) [New Beverly]
REBECCA (Franz Waxman) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
SPELLBOUND (Miklos Rozsa) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
SUPERGIRL (Jerry Goldsmith) [Vista]
THREE CASES OF MURDER (Doreen Carwithen) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]

November 17
THE BROTHERS BLOOM (Nathan Johnson) [Alamo Drafthouse]
EXCALIBUR (Trevor Jones) [Alamo Drafthouse]
JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (Bernard Herrmann) [New Beverly]
LAURA (David Raksin) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
NIGHTMARE ALLEY (Cyril Mockridge) [Cinematheque: Egyptian]
RAMBLING ROSE (Elmer Bernstein), SMOOTH TALK (Bill Payne, Russ Kunkel, George Massenberg)[Cinematheque: Aero]


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

Heard: The Case Against 8 (Neely), The West Wing (Walden), The Master and Margarita (Morricone), The Little Prince (Loewe), King Rat (Barry), Omaggio a Donaggio (Donaggio/Turso), The Danish Girl (Desplat), Babe (Westlake), Star Trek: Metamorphosis/Return to Tomorrow/Patterns of Force (Duning), Trespass (Zorn), Urinetown The Musical (Hollmann), Mars (Cave/Ellis)

Read: A Taste for Death, by P.D. James

Seen: Tel Aviv on Fire; Synonyms; The White Storm 2: Drug Lords; Terminator: Dark Fate; The Irishman

Watched: Thriller ("The Hungry Glass"), Maniac ("Furs by Sebastian"), My Man Godfrey [1936], The Terror ("First Shot a Winner, Lads")

Among my many moviegoing compulsions, I have a particular compulsion to see films that have spent years "on the shelf" and are finally receiving a theatrical release. They don't have to be films I would otherwise be especially interested in -- the slasher genre is not a favorite of mine, but it was less the good reviews it had received at festivals than the seven years (!) it took to reach an LA theater that made me so eager to see All the Boys Love Mandy Lane in 2013.

When trailers for The Current War first surfaced two years ago, I was not especially impressed. It seemed to be just the latest attempt at an Oscar grab from The Weinstein Company, and even beyond all the personal issues about its founders that surfaced both before and after 2017, I have never been especially impressed by their filmmaking sensibilities. I also felt a very personal prejudice about The Current War's screenplay being known for its presence on the so-called "Black List," the annual list of allegedly great unproduced contemporary screenplays (admittedly, some of that prejudice is probably due to the great unlikelihood that I will ever have a script on that list).

I'm sure there are plenty of terrific films and scripts included on that yearly list, but all too often the scripts are fake-clever ones like The Accountant, Crazy Stupid Love, Gifted, Hot Summer Nights, The Sea of Trees, Shut In and Stoker. (Looking over the Wikipedia list of produced Black List scripts, it seems like the annual lists are so long as to be nearly meaningless, with plenty of genuinely good films and scripts mixed with all the dross). And the fact that the very first Black List included two screenplays by the writer who would go on to pen the staggeringly terrible Collateral Beauty suggests their selection system was flawed from the get-go.

One thing that amused me in The Current War trailer was how it built up to the entrance of Nikola Tesla, played by...Nicholas Hoult. Given what an iconic, almost cult-y figure Tesla has become -- after all, in The Prestige he was played by none other than David Bowie -- Hoult seemed a less than dazzling choice for the part.

When the Weinstein empire suddenly collapsed, The Current War was one of the films left stranded, and it didn't help that reviews from its film festival screenings were pretty brutal. One critic said that it was the first film ever shot entirely with "dutch angles." I had assumed with such big names in the cast (particularly Benedict Cumberbatch) it would eventually see a theatrical release (The Upside, another Weinstein casualty, finally came out early this year and earned an impressive $100 million), and last month it finally reached U.S. theaters, courtesy of a new company called 101 Studios.

It's being advertised as the "Director's Cut." The implication is that without the famously meddling editorial hand of Mr. H. Weinstein, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's unfettered vision can now reach theater screens unscathed, and along with shooting new scenes and re-editing the film since its original screenings, the score by the Lion team of Dustin O'Halloran and Volker Bertelmann has been replaced by a new team-effort score from the currently ubiquitous Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.

I enjoyed Current War much more than I expected to. The story is certainly facinating (though I have no idea how closely the film sticks to the historic events and timeline) and the script is pretty snappy, despite my prejudice against Black List-approved screenplays. The period art direction and costume design are excellent (Hoult in particular wears some marvelous outfits), and the visual effects are evocative. I can't say that after Sherlock, The Imitation Game, Doctor Strange and Star Trek Into Darkness, I needed to see Benedict Cumberbatch play another genius (in this case, Thomas Edison) with social issues, but he's always a compelling presence, and he's probably just glad Atonement didn't get him typecast as child molesters.

But the true star of the film is Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse, Edison's rival. Given the frequent (but not inevitable) casting of Shannon as one of those people -- like those so often played by Caleb Landry Jones and Ben Mendelsohn -- who if they sat next to you you'd find an excuse to move away from them, Shannon's portrayal of an real-life American titan of industry is unexpected and absolutely wonderful, probably the most satisfying thing about the movie. I would happily watch a series of historical dramas with Shannon playing every imaginable important American figure. If Spielberg wants to do a Lincoln prequel with Shannon in the Day-Lewis part, I'll reserve my ticket now.

Which brings us to the "Director's Cut" aspect of this new release. While I am happy that Weinstein's old-style studio-mogul everything-must-be-over-explained sensibilty was presumably absent from the new cut, I pains me to admit that in this "Director's Cut," the direction is in fact the worst thing about the film. I didn't see Gomez-Rejon's remake of The Town That Dreaded Sundown but I greatly enjoyed his love-hate teen tearjerker Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, finding his distinctive visual style highly effective in that context. The only other work of his I know is American Horror Story -- I've watched the first two seasons, for which he directed several episodes. Overall I liked those two seasons, but the one thing I did not like was the direction -- the mannered camera angles and the excessive cutting distracted greatly from the inventive plotting and the spectacular cast. Watching The Current War, it's no surprise that Gomez-Rejon came from American Horror Story, because the two projects share a maddeningly similar style. The director is constantly putting the camera in places that do nothing to tell the story and only serve to remind one that there is a director involved, one who apparently was afraid that the plotline wasn't compelling enough to hold the audience's interest without incessant visual tricks.

And given that this is the "Director's Cut," I guess that's one thing we can't blame on Harvey Weinstein.

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Today in Film Score History:
November 15
Alexandre Tansman died (1986)
Gianni Ferrio born (1924)
John Williams begins recording his score to The Cowboys (1971)
Jurriaan Andriessen born (1925)
Les Baxter records his score for The Comedy of Terrors (1963)
Luis Bacalov died (2017)
Richard Addinsell died (1977)
Roberto Pregadio died (2010)
Saul Chaplin died (1997)
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