Rights issues, or disinterest?

When an American movie gets released in Europe but fails to show up in Region 1 land, it’s easy for fans to get a little miffed and wonder the heck is going on.

It’s not unusual to see a European financed film eventually make its way here (there are exceptions, like Martin Weisz’s Grimm Love / Rohtenburg, for example), but it is odd that All the Boys Love Mandy Lane has yet to appear on DVD here; the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2006, and yet it was never picked up by North American distributors for a theatrical and DVD run.

Why? Particularly since the director, Jonathan Levine, went on to make The Wackness (2008), which recently debuted on DVD here?

Mandy Lane is not a straight thriller, and that may be the big problem with distributors wanting an easy sell in a market already filled with mid- and low-level slashers and horror fodder that’s virtually indistinguishable unless there’s some seriously depraved or bizarro element.

(The French seem to have refined shock value to a fine art, although whether The Inside and Martyr(s) will be regarded as genre classics or just shock art in 10 years will be interesting.)

You’d think Mandy Lane's unique style and elements would attract a distributor wanting a title guaranteed to stand out among blah rental fodder, but that hasn't happened yet.

Levine’s film is available in Europe, so I’ve uploaded a review of this odd thriller by filmmakers clearly determined to create a work that doesn’t wallow in the excesses of the slasher genre. They’re good excesses, mind you, but when someone succeeds in creating a new offshoot that works, a film like All the Boys Love Mandy Lane deserves to be celebrated.

To the other end is Olly Blackburn’s Donkey Punch (2008), also released in Region 2 land by Optimum. Both films have sumptuous photography, an intriguing cast, and a style that’s distinct, but where Mandy Lane offers characters we eventually lament as they die quite horribly, Donkey Punch stays with hot and bothered stick figures who make extraordinarily dumb moves.

There's this thing I call Peter’s Law, named after a colleague whose patience for stupid characters is exceptionally low: if you’re a moron, you deserve to die, and if you’re a filmmaker who anchors a film around morons, that film isn’t worth anyone’s time.

Donkey Punch's failure is a classic case of Peter's Law in action, but the film will probably remain of note for its look, as well as the cast who appear quite naked and full frontal, including Jaime Winstone. While the film will attract fans wanting a glimpse of gratuitous boobery, Winstone’s real talent is better showcased in Dead Set (2008), where she plays a kick-ass production gopher who keeps a segment of humanity alive while zombies tear up the United Kingdom with their bloodied fingers and vicious canines.


Addictions and Control Issues

When director Ian Connacher appeared on CBC Sunday Morning a few weeks back, he presented some disturbing clips from his documentary, Addicted to Plastic (2008), that showed a mess of fine and chunky pieces of non-degrading plastic swirling around the oceans.

Those clips, which had Connacher and cameraman Gad Reichman on a chartered boat reeling in drifting crap, occur at the film's beginning, and lead into a broad, tight narrative that covers the history of and our affection for plastic, as well the immense crap we send to Asia, and how those countries deal with our and their own rubbish.

Addicted to Plastic is currently available from the director's website, and is well worth acquiring for the globe-trotting narrative on how we're permamently, culturally stuck with this 'magical clay.'

As it happens, Connacher's doc also arrives in close proximity to Irena Salina's Flow: For Love of Water (2008), a film about what's happening to poor and local middle-class communities in Asia and North America as multinational corporations are snapping up control of valuable water resources. Salina gained access to several executives from the main water management companies whose work in the Third World hasn't been so neat, and in many cases, the execs hang themselves with their own words - a gift every filmmaker cherishes when it happens.

Unlike Addicted to Plastic, where even the plastic industry would concur things have gotten out of hand, Flow spotlights some shocking cases of greed, and there are indeed some smiling villains. Mongrel Media's DVD includes a lot of extras not printed on the Flow sleeve, including a commentary track, expanded interviews, deleted scenes, and a pair of vintage shorts.


2008 Oscar Nominations

I am totally copyrighted by AMPAS - Leave me alone!Well, today AMPAS revealed the official nominees for the 2008 Oscars, with the awards ceremony to be broadcast on February 22nd, 2009, on ABC at 8pm in the U.S., and on CTV in Canada.

I’ve reprinted part of the official list, and linked those titles that are currently available on DVD, or are slated to be released on DVD prior to the Oscar ceremony, to the IMDB’s DVD pages, which list current available editions.

Note: if you are a filmmaker whose work has been nominated (particularly short-form works), and your film is or will be available on DVD or online anywhere on planet Earth (France, Germany, etc.), please send us a link (just type “editor” plus the number two plus “at kqek dot com”) or leave a comment, so the listed title will take readers straight to your order or info page.

(Last year, Suzie Templteton’s Oscar-winning animated short Peter and the Wolf was available in the UK, but never received its deserved Region 1 release. Ergo, it was good to know it was available from Amazon.co.uk!)

Also, in the original score and separate song categories, those titles available on CD have been linked to Soundtrackcollector.com (which lists every version that’s been released internationally), and/or those titles already reviewed at KQEK.com. (For those scores I missed, the catch-up will happen within the next few weeks.)

Lastly, I’ve also posted a link to a printable version of this list, as archived at the AMPAS site, as well as a link to the Golden Globe Awards.

Yes, few details about the Hollywood Foreign Press are out there, but whether you think they’re all self-aggrandizing scribblers who like gold-plated swag or believe the members are part of a legit organization of learned critics with decades of experience in various media (ahem), it might be interesting to compare the nominations and Golden Globe winners, and see whether the AMPAS members were more bold in their choices, or whimped out and based their checklist on the Golden Globe list because it was easier.


2008 Academy Award Nominees (by category):

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor" (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
Sean Penn in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Josh Brolin in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.)
Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Angelina Jolie in "Changeling" (Universal) --- DVD due Feb. 17
Melissa Leo in "Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics) --- DVD Due Feb. 10th
Meryl Streep in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Kate Winslet in "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Amy Adams in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (The Weinstein Company)
Viola Davis in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

Best animated feature film of the year

"Bolt" (Walt Disney) Chris Williams and Byron Howard
"Kung Fu Panda" (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount) John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Andrew Stanton

Achievement in art direction

"Changeling" (Universal) Art Direction: James J. Murakami
Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt
Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Art Direction: Nathan Crowley
Set Decoration: Peter Lando
"The Duchess" (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films) Art Direction: Michael Carlin
Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
"Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage) Art Direction: Kristi Zea
Set Decoration: Debra Schutt

Achievement in cinematography

"Changeling" (Universal) Tom Stern
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Claudio Miranda
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Wally Pfister
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Anthony Dod Mantle

Achievement in costume design

"Australia" (20th Century Fox) Catherine Martin
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Jacqueline West
"The Duchess" (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films) Michael O'Connor
"Milk" (Focus Features) Danny Glicker
"Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage) Albert Wolsky

Achievement in directing

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) David Fincher
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Ron Howard
"Milk" (Focus Features) Gus Van Sant
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Stephen Daldry
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Danny Boyle

Best documentary feature

"The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)" (Cinema Guild)
A Pandinlao Films Production Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
"Encounters at the End of the World" (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment)
A Creative Differences Production Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
"The Garden"
A Black Valley Films Production Scott Hamilton Kennedy
"Man on Wire" (Magnolia Pictures)
A Wall to Wall Production James Marsh and Simon Chinn
"Trouble the Water" (Zeitgeist Films)
An Elsewhere Films Production Tia Lessin and Carl Deal

Best documentary short subject

"The Conscience of Nhem En"
A Farallon Films Production Steven Okazaki
"The Final Inch"
A Vermilion Films Production Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant
"Smile Pinki"
A Principe Production Megan Mylan
"The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306"
A Rock Paper Scissors Production Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde

Achievement in film editing

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Lee Smith
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
"Milk" (Focus Features) Elliot Graham
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Chris Dickens

Best foreign language film of the year

"The Baader Meinhof Complex" / Die aader Meinhof Komplex” A Constantin Film Production - Germany --- Region 2 DVD due March 12
"The Class" / “Entre les murs” (Sony Pictures Classics) A Haut et Court Production - France --- Region 2 DVD due March 24
"Departures" / “Okuribito” (Regent Releasing) A Departures Film Partners Production - Japan
"Revanche" (Janus Films) A Prisma Film/Fernseh Production - Austria
"Waltz with Bashir" (Sony Pictures Classics) A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production - Israel

Achievement in makeup

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Greg Cannom
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O'Sullivan
"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (Universal) Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Alexandre Desplat
"Defiance" (Paramount Vantage) James Newton Howard
"Milk" (Focus Features) Danny Elfman
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) A.R. Rahman
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Thomas Newman

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

"Down to Earth" from "WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman
Lyric by Peter Gabriel
"Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Music by A.R. Rahman
Lyric by Gulzar
"O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

Best motion picture of the year

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
A Kennedy/Marshall Production Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
A Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Working Title Production Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers
"Milk" (Focus Features)
A Groundswell and Jinks/Cohen Company Production Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)
A Mirage Enterprises and Neunte Babelsberg Film GmbH Production Nominees to be determined
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight)
A Celador Films Production Christian Colson, Producer

Best animated short film

"La Maison en Petits Cubes"
A Robot Communications Production Kunio Kato
"Lavatory - Lovestory"
A Melnitsa Animation Studio and CTB Film Company Production Konstantin Bronzit
"Oktapodi" (Talantis Films)
A Gobelins, L'école de l'image Production Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand
"Presto" (Walt Disney)
A Pixar Animation Studios Production Doug Sweetland
"This Way Up"
A Nexus Production Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

Best live action short film

"Auf der Strecke (On the Line)" (Hamburg Shortfilmagency)
An Academy of Media Arts Cologne Production Reto Caffi
"Manon on the Asphalt" (La Luna Productions)
A La Luna Production Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
"New Boy" (Network Ireland Television)
A Zanzibar Films Production Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
"The Pig"
An M & M Production Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh
"Spielzeugland (Toyland)"
A Mephisto Film Production Jochen Alexander Freydank

Achievement in sound editing

"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Richard King
"Iron Man" (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment) Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Tom Sayers
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
"Wanted" (Universal) Wylie Stateman

Achievement in sound mixing

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
"Wanted" (Universal) Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt

Achievement in visual effects

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
"Iron Man" (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment) John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan

Adapted screenplay

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Screenplay by Eric Roth
Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
"Doubt" (Miramax) Written by John Patrick Shanley
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Screenplay by Peter Morgan
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Screenplay by David Hare
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Original screenplay

"Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Courtney Hunt
"Happy-Go-Lucky" (Miramax) Written by Mike Leigh --- DVD due March 10
"In Bruges" (Focus Features) Written by Martin McDonagh
"Milk" (Focus Features) Written by Dustin Lance Black
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon
Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

For a printable version of this list from the official AMPAS site:

To compare Oscar nominations with the 2008 Golden Globe Awards:


Relationships en francais

Those who find Alain Resnais' films slow and terribly dull will likely pass on Coeurs (2006), Resnais' film version of Alan Ayckbourn's play Private Fears in Public Places, but fans will appreciate the inventive scene transitions, if not Mark Snow's gorgeous score that tethers the drama of three pairs of emotionally hurt couples for which a hug won't do a darn thing.

The film looks georgeous in 2.35:1, and is available in Canada via Christal Films, and in the U.S. from IFC. The DVD review also is also linked to the CD review, which is worth hunting down if you want to hear Mark Snow scoring a character piece instead of the X-Files for which he's still best-known.

Paired with the Resnais film is a review of Une Vie à t'attendre / I’ve Been Waiting So Long (2004), Thierry Klifa's film about an ex-flame who comes back and is just as guilty as her old lover for starting something that both knew was a bad idea.

The film may work for some, but it's more of an example of how to bungle a romance when you deny some of the key ingredients needed to keep viewers caring about the characters.

Mongrel Media's DVD contains a fine transfer, and the film offers a interestingly grittier portrait of Parisian locales than the idyllic (but stunning) sets in Coeurs.


Lalo Schifrin in Film 1: Action and Art

There's no Region 1 DVD of Don Siegel's Telefon (1977), but hey, there's TCM, who recently ran an ugly but widescreen transfer of this decent Cold War thriller scored by Lalo Schifrin, one of several for director Siegel.

Alongside The Fourth Protocol (Where is the DVD? Where is the CD? EH?). Telefon is a simple but effective score that doesn't deliver any main theme until the end credits. The score is still unavailable on CD (Ahem: FSM?) but I've uploaded a film review of this neglected film.

Also uploaded in a review of Carlos Saura's Tango (1998), an art house film that's pretty arresting for the visuals - the movie was lensed by Vittorio Storaro - and outstanding music score (original pieces and adapted songs by Schifrin).

The CD was released in Germany, but aspects of the score are addressed in the review of Columbia-TriStar's decent DVD, which sports good extras, but needs a new film transfer.

Coming next: two French films about wonky relationships with distinctive French endings that lack any sense of closure for Anglo audiences used to cookie-cutter studio fodder.


A Touch of Brass

There’s something to be said when you’re watching an eros film by a veteran (in this case, Provocation / Provocazione, by the infamous Joe D’Amato), and in the back of your mind you’re thinking, ‘Gee, if Tinto Brass had directed this tiresome tale of a fractured and unfulfilled couple, it would be both funny and fun, and better edited and scored by a real composer, not Muzak Italia.’

For more than two years, the films of Tinto Brass have consistently been among the highest read reviews at KQEK.com. I don’t know why. Honestly. I have reviews of films by Bergman, Hitchcock, serious documentaries, cult TV shows, arty stuff, and works from Region 2 land, and yet every month, within the first week, each and every one of the Brass films covered here rack up the highest hits, page views, etc.

Yes, Brass directed Caligula (1979) and Salon Kitty (1976), but he was also part of Italy’s New Wave filmmakers during the late sixties, and made thrillers, gialli, and politically rebellious films. As of this writing, none of these works are apparently available in Region 1 land, so I’m going by reputation and the serious casts and crews with which he worked during his early career.

Clearly something happened after Caligula, because he decided sex comedies and dramas with the popo as its dominant motif would become his only focus. He’s also like the enfant terrible of Italian cinema because he’s rude, crude, and undeniably vulgar in each and every film, and he just won’t go away.

So why Brass? Why should anyone care what this corpulent, gravel-voiced cigar chomper has made for the past 20 years?

D’Amato moved from being a cinematographer – including ‘scope productions – to softcore, then hardcore, then gore, and finally combing all manor of disparate ingredients to create shock films.

Brass, in turn, just seemed to stick with his own favourite themes, and rather than show beautiful women being shredded or bloodily violated, his voyeuristic eye was trained on provocative women placed in silly situations reminiscent of early seventies Italian sex comedies (the good ones), and once in a while, he’d adapt a novel and make a decent drama about obsession, like The Key (1983).

He’s also worked with composers like Ennio Morricone, Pino Donaggio, and Riz Ortolani - the latter the composer of The Voyeur (1994), the latest Brass film to debut on DVD via Cult Epics.

Voyeur is everything D’Amato’s Provocation (1995) isn’t: erotic, funny, sly, and technically proficient, because where D’Amato was balancing his filmed eros (softcore porn) with hardcore porn, Brass still tried to craft some kind of story, which in the case of Voyeur, came from Alberto Moravia’s L'Uomo che guarda.

If you watch Provocation, it’s a by-the-book eros tale, with perfunctory direction towards actors and technical crew. Voyeur is among Brass’ best-cut films (he edits virtually all of his movies) and is maniacally detailed in its set décor, celebrating those activities and body parts Brass adores (to frequently obsessive degrees).

His fetishes for the main body parts are evident in the mounted bedroom pictures, the doorways, and the blasted wallpaper. He’s crazy, but he’s not an incompetent hack, and the fact his films – certainly his best works – are made with an idiosyncratic skill prove he’s still here because he is, in spite of his strongest critics, a filmmaker.

D’Amato could’ve evolved into one himself, but he went bonkers on excess designed to repulse. D’Amato’s camera in Emmanuelle in America (1977) initially embraces the female form, but then he integrates faked snuff footage, and an equine ingredient. He was a far more prolific director than Brass, but his quantitative output arguably eroded any desire he may have had to transcend the genres he was working in during the eighties and nineties.

The two filmmakers did sort of cross paths – D’Amato made his own version of Caligula, as well as Brass’ 1991 film Paprika, four years later – and I’ll eventually do some comparisons between the quality and sensibilities of each filmmaker within those related works.

Until then – assuming you still care by this point – I’ll direct you to reviews of Tinto Brass’ The Voyeur from Cult Epics, and Joe D’Amato’s Provocation from newcomer Mya Communications (reportedly the new incarnation of DVD label NoShame), two very distinct erotic films made within a year of each other.


New TV Scores on CD

Just uploaded are a trio of soundtrack reviews from three fine composers:

- Sean Callery’s 24: Redemption (Varese), released in conjunction with Fox' DVD of the pre-season teleplay.

- Joe Harnell’s The Incredible Hulk: Prometheus, Parts One and Two (Five Jays Music), featuring the complete scores for this two-part arc.

- Bear McCreary’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (La-La Land Records), gathering music from Season 1 as well as material leading towards Season 2.

Coming next: two naughty films.

And imminent: book reviews of Lalo Schifrin’s Mission Impossible: My Life in Music, and Lalo Schifrin: Entretiens avec Georges Michel.


And the Nominees are...

Well, it's that time of year again when the International Film Music Critics Association announces the nominees for scoring excellence in 2008, and I'm delighted that the nominees span many countries.

It was hard to narrow my own selections to a top five. The master list of scores for 2008 was frankly huge, and it's great to see the art form doing well in so many venues, with so much new talent emerging from around the world.

When I started getting interested in soundtracks 26 years ago (good God... 26 years ago), the only way to find out about composers involved literally going down to Cheapies on Yonge (by Dundas, and the smaller Wellesley location) and seeing what that chain's amazing buyer managed to snag for the month.

I remember picking up Hugo Friedhofer's Boy on a Dolphin, and putting my trust in the record label (something called Varese Sarabande, who had just rewarded me with a series of genuine Twilight Zone recordings) and believing that whoever Friedhofer was, this dude merited my attention. (It was worth the $15 bucks.)

Then came Records on Wheels (I think that was the store on Young), followed by The Record Peddler on Carlton, as well as Peter Dunn's Vinyl Museum (at magical Yonge and Dundas, again) for an incredible mass of used/deleted/unwanted LPs.

(Those who remember Dunn's shop, with its preposterous mobile - '8-track tapes are equal if not better than CDs' - and persistent born-again text on the album sleeves should do a Google search and check out some of the scant posts, although this one is a real delight. "Plays fine but check condition." Oh, the memories. It's Dunn's blessed fault I walked out with 20 LPs every time.)

It was maybe around this time when I discovered Soundtrack! magzine, Randall Larson's CinemaScore, John Williams' From Silents to Satellites (later to emerge as Music from The Movies), Film Score Monthly, as well as Page Cook's soundtrack column in Films in Review (damn, I miss that little magazine). They were all invaluable for listing albums that sometimes received a commercial release (plus the odd Poo LP).

The scope of these publications was either North American or more broadly international, and collectively they provided an important tally of who scored what, and why a score merited our attention. The mags also satisfied the nutty needs of collectors and fans, and perhaps composers who also found venues where their work was discussed with great sincerity, emotion, and maybe some arrogance.

I've no idea what it's like to discover people writing about and arguing about one's own music in print and online, but it has to include surprise, some delight, and maybe a bit of satisfaction in knowing the career you, the composer, chose, is incredibly cool and vital to the success of several massively popular forms of art and popular entertainment.

Your work is creative and fun, and when nominees for the IFMCA Awards are announced, it isn't one's age or yearly output or a film's grosses that matter, but the quality of what you've written among peers, veterans, and newcomers.

This year's nominees are pretty diverse:




JANUARY 16, 2009. WALL*E, the Pixar movie about a lone robot left on Earth, garnered the most nominations for the fifth annual International Film Music Critics Association Awards for Excellence. The animated film was nominated for four awards: Film Score of the Year, Best Score for an Animated Film, Best Film Composition (for “Define Dancing”) and Composer of the Year for Thomas Newman (who also scored REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and TOWELHEAD in 2008).

Also nominated for Film Score of the Year are the acclaimed THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON by Alexandre Desplat; the highest grossing movie of the year, THE DARK KNIGHT by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer; the Abu Ghraib prison documentary STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE by Danny Elfman and the first score by veteran film composer John Williams in three years, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

Danny Elfman received the most individual nominations this year with seven: Composer of the Year; Film Score of the Year and Best Documentary Score for STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE; Best Drama Score for MILK; Best Action/Adventure Score and Best Individual Cue for WANTED (“Success Montage”); and Best Fantasy/Science Fiction Score for HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY.

In the category of Breakout Composer, the Association took notice of scores by up-and-coming composers Paul Cantelon (THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL and W.), Andrew Lockington (JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and CITY OF EMBER), Nico Muhly (THE READER), Max Richter (WALTZ WITH BASHIR) and Atli Örvarsson (BABYLON A.D. and VANTAGE POINT).

The nominations by the IMFCA, which has members from around the world, reflect the Association’s global perspective. International score nominees include the latest Hayao Miyazaki animated film GAKE NO UE NO PONYO (PONYO ON THE CLIFF) by Joe Hisaishi, the comedy BIENVENUE CHEZ LES CH’TIS by Philippe Rombi, and the made-for-television movie PANE E LIBERTÀ by Ennio Morricone.

The International Film Music Critics will announce the winners of their 5th Annual Awards on February 18, 2009.


• The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, music by Alexandre Desplat
• The Dark Knight, music by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer
• Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, music by John Williams
• Standard Operating Procedure, music by Danny Elfman
• Wall*E, music by Thomas Newman

• Alexandre Desplat
• Danny Elfman
• James Newton Howard
• Thomas Newman
• John Powell

• Paul Cantelon, The Other Boleyn Girl and W.
• Andrew Lockington, Journey to the Center of the Earth and City of Ember
• Nico Muhly, The Reader
• Max Richter, Waltz with Bashir
• Atli Örvarsson, Babylon A.D. and Vantage Point

• The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, music by James Horner
• Che, music by Alberto Iglesias
• The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, music by Alexandre Desplat
• Defiance, music by James Newton Howard
• Milk, music by Danny Elfman

• Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis, music by Philippe Rombi
• Burn After Reading, music by Carter Burwell
• Fool’s Gold, music by George Fenton
• Leatherheads, music by Randy Newman
• Tropic Thunder, music by Theodore Shapiro

• The Dark Knight, music by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer
• Hancock, music by John Powell
• Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, music by John Williams
• Speed Racer, music by Michael Giacchino
• Wanted, music by Danny Elfman

• The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, music by Harry Gregson-Williams
• City of Ember, music by Andrew Lockington
• Hellboy II: The Golden Army, music by Danny Elfman
• Inkheart, music by Javier Navarrete
• The Spiderwick Chronicles, music by James Horner

• The Happening, music by James Newton Howard
• Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In), music by Johan Söderqvist
• Mirrors, music by Javier Navarrete
• Twilight, music by Carter Burwell
• Valkyrie, music by John Ottman

• Bolt, music by John Powell
• Gake no ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff), music by Joe Hisaishi
• Horton Hears a Who!, music by John Powell
• Wall*E, music by Thomas Newman
• Waltz with Bashir, music by Max Richter

• The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos, music by The Cinematic Orchestra
• Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about his Father, music by Kurt Kuenne
• Night, music by Cezary Skubiszewski
• Standard Operating Procedure, music by Danny Elfman
• Tabarly, music by Yann Tiersen

• Cloverfield: “Roar! Overture,” music by Michael Giacchino
• The Happening: “Be With You,” music by James Newton Howard
• Valkyrie: “They’ll Remember You,” music by John Ottman and Lior Rosner
• Wall*E: “Define Dancing,” music by Thomas Newman and Peter Gabriel
• Wanted: “Success Montage,” music by Danny Elfman


• Battlestar Galactica (Season 4), music by Bear McCreary
• John Adams, music by Robert Lane and Joseph Vitarelli
• Merlin, music by Robert Lane
• Lost (Season 4), music by Michael Giacchino
• Pane e Libertà, music by Ennio Morricone

• Afrika, music by Wataru Hokoyama
• Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, music by Knut Avenstroup Haugen
• Gears of War 2, music by Steve Jablonsky
• Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, music by Chris Tilton
• Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, music by Mark Griskey

• Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, music by Jerry Goldsmith; produced by Douglass Fake (Intrada)
• Body Double, music by Pino Donaggio; produced by Douglass Fake (Intrada)
• The Boys from Brazil, music by Jerry Goldsmith; produced by Douglass Fake (Intrada)
• Heavy Metal, music by Elmer Bernstein; produced by Lukas Kendall (Film Score Monthly)
• The Matrix: The Deluxe Edition, music by Don Davis; produced by Don Davis and Robert Townson (Varèse Sarabande)

• El Cid, music by Miklós Rózsa; conducted by Nic Raine, produced by James Fitzpatrick (Tadlow)
• The Kentuckian/Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot, music by Bernard Herrmann; conducted William Stromberg; produced by Anna Bonn, John Morgan and William Stromberg (Tribute Film Classics)
• Odna (Alone), music by Dmitri Shostakovich; conducted by Mark Fitzgerald, produced by Hans-Bernhard Bätzing (Naxos)
• She, music by Max Steiner; conducted William Stromberg; produced by Anna Bonn, John Morgan and William Stromberg (Tribute Film Classics)
• An Unfinished Life – Piano Sketches, music by Christopher Young; performed by Dave Guili, produced by Flavio Motalla and Christopher Young (BSX)

• Gangs of New York/The Journey of Natty Gann/The Scarlet Letter, music by Elmer Bernstein; produced by Robert Townson (Varèse Sarabande)
• Indiana Jones: The Soundtracks Collection, music by John Williams; produced by Laurent Bouzereau (Concord)
• Le Cinéma de Georges Delerue, music by Georges Delerue; produced by Stéphane Lerouge (Universal Music France)
• MGM Soundtrack Treasury, various composers; produced by Lukas Kendall (Film Score Monthly)
• Superman: The Music, various composers; produced by Mike Matessino and Lukas Kendall (Film Score Monthly)

• Film Score Monthly
• Intrada
• La-La Land
• MovieScore Media
• Varèse Sarabande

The International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) is an association of online, print and radio journalists who specialize in writing about original film and television music.

The IFMCA was originally formed in the late 1990s as the now-defunct “Film Music Critics Jury” by editor and journalist Mikael Carlsson, a regular contributor to filmmusicradio.com and filmmusicmag.com, and the owner of the Swedish independent film music label MovieScore Media.

Since its inception, the IFMCA has grown to comprise over 50 members from countries as diverse as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Previous IFMCA Score of the Year Awards have been awarded to Dario Marianelli’s ATONEMENT in 2007, James Newton Howard’s LADY IN THE WATER in 2006, John Williams’ MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA in 2005 and Michael Giacchino’s THE INCREDIBLES in 2004.

For more information about the International Film Music Critics Association, its members and the list of past awards, please visit http://www.filmmusiccritics.org or contact press@filmmusiccritics.org.


Season of the Mask 6: Nostlagia

The 25th anniversary of Halloween really was a one of a kind event for fans because it marked the first time so many cast and crew members from Parts 1 thru 8 were gathered under one roof.

For some of the actors (like Part 6’s Marianne Hagan), it was a new, bewildering and perhaps somewhat nervous experience, while others clearly enjoyed the energy, the fans, and what’s probably the first time many of the actors had seen each other since they appeared in a Halloween film(s).

A documentary as well as a wealth of material from the convention (interviews, panel discussions) have been archived in a 2-disc set (although why Disc 2, basically an extras disc, was left off the 30th Anniversary Commemorative Set is a puzzle, since there was room in the boxed set).

In addition to a review of Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, we have another documentary from Starz that was made in 2006 – Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film.

Based on Adam Rockoff’s book, the doc gathers interviews from many genre pioneers and exploitation filmmakers, and supports their comments with R-rated film clips to trace the genre’s success and eventually disappearance, until the early nineties when Scream made the stalking of sex-crazed coeds cool again (even though it never really lost its cinematic appeal).

Coming next: reviews of TV scores – Bear McCreary’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Joe Harnell’s The Incredible Hulk: Prometheus Parts 1 and 2, and Sean Callery’s 24: Retribution.

And imminent: book reviews of Lalo Schifrin’s Mission Impossible: My Life in Music, and Lalo Schifrin: Entretiens avec Georges Michel.


Lalo Schifrin: 52 Years in Film – Part 1

The short Argentinian film Venga a bailar el rock (1957) was Lalo Schifrin’s first film scoring assignment, and as he recalled in our interview late last fall, he was seen as the right man at the right time to bring a new sound to the country’s film industry after the Peron regime was defeated.

Life under Peron, and the many brilliant minds he met and collaborated with during his 50+ year career, is partly what Mission Impossible: My Life in Music, Schifrin’s autobiography (and first book) is all about. Published by Scarecrow Press in 2008, it's actually the second time Schifrin has appeared at length in book form to elaborate on his years in jazz, film, and classical.

To begin a bit of a retrospective of Schifrin’s work, there’s our latest interview with the composer. I’ve also uploaded a film review of his first European feature film, René Clément’s Les Felins / aka Joy House (1964), which was reissued on DVD in 2008 by Koch Lorber.

The soundtrack has also appeared on CD, first from Universal France as part of their massive and ongoing series of rare and long-neglected film scores (many of them jazz) from French films, and then reissued on Schifrin’s own label, Aleph, in 2005. That soundtrack review has also been uploaded, with a particular emphasis on how this score clearly showed Schifrin was no novice flirting with movie music.

Coming soon are reviews of Schifrin’s book, as well as the French language Q&A, Lalo Schifrin: Entretiens avec Georges Michel. (Yes, kids, this is why it was worth studying French for 14 years. Thank heavens it hasn’t dissolved over the past 22 years!)

Throughout January and February, I’ll have film reviews of movies scored by Schifrin, and album reviews, including The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

Coming next: Anchor Bay’s Halloween: 25 Years of Terror (2006) documentary, and Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006)

And imminent: reviews of TV scores – Bear McCreary’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Joe Harnell’s The Incredible Hulk: Prometheus Parts 1 and 2, and Sean Callery’s 24: Retribution.


Elmer Bernstein: Lost & Found

Way back in October of 2000, I interviewed Elmer Bernstein, and it was a bit tough trying to ask the least possible questions within a twenty minute period in spite of the fact Bernstein was a living legend, and a composer whose career spanned more than 50 years in pretty much every conceivable genre.

Besides his jazz work (click here for Parts One and Two of a Film Score Monthly retrospective), there was his Film Music Collection and Notebooks series, and a few lesser-known works that we covered within that 20 min. chunk, including the play Laurette (1960), and a poetry recording he was involved with in early seventies - both released at one point on LP.

Laurette was released as a one-sided promo platter, and it took 48 years for the music to finally get a commercial release, via Kritzerland, as a limited CD. The label has coupled it with another very short Bernstein score, Prince Jack (1985), written and directed by longtime film editor Bert Lovitt.

(The film, based around the recollections of John F. Kennedy by peers, associates and colleagues, is still unavailable on DVD. Bernstein’s association with Kennedy material, however, can also be traced to The Making of the President 1960, Mel Stuart’s 1963 documentary of the presidential race. The doc was broadcast on ABC after the Kennedy assassination. Bernstein won an Emmy Award for his music, and I'll upload a film review near the end of January.)

Another album we briefly discussed was There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among The Wolves, read by author/poet James Kavanaugh, and released by Karo Records back in 1973. Bernstein’s score was a mix of chamber cues, pop-rock, and small orchestra, and his original score flowed or turned sharply between musical styles during the reading.

The album featured 17 sections with lengths varying from a minute to just over four, and while the music was in stereo, the vocal track was often panned left to right, and not all readings featured a full underscore.

So here are Bernstein's brief (and slightly edited) comments regarding those works:

Mark R. Hasan: I wonder if we can talk about a couple of lesser-known works that you've done. One I'm particularly curious about is Laurette.

Elmer Bernstein: Laurette. Yes… I have the [original recording], but I never did anything with it. Of course, it would have been recorded for the show - it wasn't played live - it was a recording. There was this one really nice piece in there - a waltz - from which I'm sure you remember very well… But of course none of the stuff I did on Broadway was a happy experience. That was not a happy experience at all.

MH: Laurette?

EB: Yes. Well, that was the play on which Judy Holiday found out she had cancer, and Jose Quintero was drunk all the time... It was a show about Laurette Taylor. She had been an alcoholic and then recovered. At the end of her life she did [Tennessee Williams'] Glass Menagerie and became a Broadway darling. The play itself was a disaster.

MH: Oh really?

EB: There were a lot of good people in it… [Robert Mulligan] produced it and Jose Quintero directed it, and Judy Holiday was in it, Patrick O'Neal was in it, Joanie [Joan] Hackett was in it. It was a good cast. I mean, they were good people, but Judy Holiday was sick, weird and uncooperative; she spoke everything in a whisper… There's a very funny thing: there was an amazing set in the play, but the set was so amazing that it dwarfed the actors.

MH: Oh dear.

EB: No, it was not a happy experience. It never got to Broadway.

MH: Well the theme itself - I remember it so clearly because it's so beautiful.

EB: Oh thank you.

MH: When you're asked to write something of such a sensitive nature, is it one of the hardest things to write?

EB: No, as a matter of fact I prefer the sensitive things which come more naturally to me, and I don't go very well in between, because I think most of my best things are either like that very sensitive or like that very grand - grand in the sense of the Ten Commandments (1956) or the Magnificent Seven (1960).

MH: One of the other recordings that you did later on is a poetry record called There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves.

EB: Where did you get a hold of it?

MH: Actually, a collector, and he managed to find it courtesy of A-1 Record Finders, probably 20 years ago. I'd never heard of it before. I just wonder if there were special challenges required for that project?

EB: I have zero memory of that! Those were a bunch of poems written by James Kavanaugh, who’s a very interesting guy - he's a former priest [and] a lovely man - and he approached me with these poems... I liked him a lot and … we conceived and set up an evening in which all of this stuff was performed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. It was a one-shot thing.

MH: Oh it was?

EB: Yeah, but I didn't realize there was a record of that.

MH: Yeah, there's a record of it.

EB: My goodness. I can't imagine what that's like.

- MRH (2009)

A Renaissance Tale

Those only familiar with George Romero's Living Dead series will probably scratch their heads and wonder why the director chose to make Knightriders (1981), ostensibly a character drama about a travelling Renaissance troupe.

For fans of his increasing bloody zombie films, it's puzzling, but Knightriders is a fine example of Romero's storytelling ability, as well as his affinity for dramatizing shifting power dynamics within a tightly knitted group of friends and lovers - aspects certainly present in his first three zombie films.

Knightriders is long - at two hours one has to warm to the characters or the film won't click - but it's also graced with a rich score by Donald Rubinstein, a talented composer whose work in film has pretty much been for Romero.

Perseverance's CD presents the entire score, and in a way the album is a throwback to the first soundtrack LPs that allowed film fans to relive aspects of their favourite movies when home video was non-existent.

Radioplays (like Lux Radio Theatre) let people relive a movie at home, combining the listener's imagination with the compressed film dialogue in a one hour format (like Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound), but the soundtrack album - if available, which often wasn't the case during the forties and early fifties - was something anyone could buy and play at home to 'relive' favourite film moments via love themes, heroic marches, pensive moody pieces, or kinetic action cuts.

It sounds creaky and stilted, but that's what many soundtrack albums still do, saving you a large chunk of time without watching the movie again when you want to relive specific moments. Ergo, while Knightriders as a film is worth the time investment, Perseverance's CD compacts the film into a roughly hour-long musical narrative, and a damn good one.

Coming next: Elmer Bernstein's Laurette/Prince Jack from Kritzerland.

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