It’s been a wild couple of months doing almost constant live Q&As with composers and songwriters for the current crop of Oscar hopefuls. For the Society of Composers & Lyricists alone there have been nearly a dozen. Some of the more memorable ones have been Tar with composer Hildur Guonadottir and director Todd Field; White Noise with Danny Elfman; Pinocchio with composer Alexandre Desplat and director Guillermo del Toro; The Banshees of Inisherin with Carter Burwell; Glass Onion with Nathan Johnson; A Man Called Otto with composer Thomas Newman and producer-songwriter Rita Wilson; and Spirited with songwriters Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Khiyon Hursey.
This week, Variety published its first “Contenders” section designed to inform award voters (and watchers) about worthy work in 2018 releases. It may be a record for the earliest one yet (it’s still only October!); there’ll be another at the end of November. We started with three really interesting stories: Michel Legrand scoring Orson Welles’ final film, The Other Side of the Wind; British classical composer Thomas Ades doing his first film, Colette; and perennial favorite Alexandre Desplat, who has three scores in contention (most likely to gain attention: Isle of Dogs). Also in this issue: a preview of my composer panel at the inaugural Variety Music for Screens Summit, which was Tuesday, Oct. 30 in Hollywood.
Another awards season is finally in the books, with Sunday night’s Oscar telecast that saw Alexandre Desplat win for his Shape of Water score, and songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez for their song “Remember Me” from Coco. Variety kept me busy all weekend, writing the winner stories (score story here, including Desplat’s beating the statistical odds for a second time; song story here) and adding a Monday-morning story about Lopez becoming the first-ever double EGOT winner. A complete summary of Saturday and Sunday events — including the annual SCL Oscar reception, always a highlight of the weekend, is here.
Every year Variety asks me to analyze the music races for the Academy Awards — not really handicapping them, as that entails choosing favorites, which I don’t like to do. But examining the five nominees, quoting the composers, hinting at what’s important about each, and subtly suggesting what Academy voters might be thinking. Alexandre Desplat’s The Shape of Water is the current favorite, but I think you cannot count out Jonny Greenwood’s Phantom Thread or Carter Burwell’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Hans Zimmer’s Dunkirk and John Williams’ Star Wars: The Last Jedi are admittedly outsiders at this point… but the Oscars love to surprise us. This story appeared only in print, so please click on the images to read it here.
The music editors at Variety were intrigued about the fact that the winners of both music categories (song and score) at the Golden Globes were represented by the same agents. So I was dispatched to interview Richard Kraft and Laura Engel about what they do, how and why they happened to sign those particular clients (composer Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water and songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for The Greatest Showman), and what their role is during awards season. It was fun, and the Q&A was published online this week in Variety.
For another in Variety‘s series of looks at this year’s Oscar-worthy film music, I singled out four films that might be characterized as either fantasy or science-fiction: Alexandre Desplat’s The Shape of Water, Rolfe Kent’s Downsizing, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s Blade Runner 2049, and Michael Giacchino’s War for the Planet of the Apes. All four are terrific, and while Desplat’s Shape of Water seems to have the best chance at nomination, I wouldn’t count out any of them!
It was a distinct pleasure to interview composer Alexandre Desplat about his music for The Shape of Water after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film Wednesday night at the Arclight in Culver City. Desplat, an eight-time Oscar nominee (who won for The Grand Budapest Hotel), is always thoughtful, articulate and witty, and that evening was no exception. He discussed his collaboration with director Guillermo del Toro (their first) and his comments about how the look, feel and sound of water influenced his writing were fascinating. I will write a story for Variety about this in the coming weeks.
I love the headline on the print version of my Variety story about French composer Alexandre Desplat — the 2014 Oscar winner for The Grand Budapest Hotel — and his four alternately dramatic and delightful scores for major films this year: “The Hardest-Working Man in Score Business.” Desplat created a fun jazz backdrop for The Secret Life of Pets; a powerful, evocative dramatic score (including a piano piece actually played by Alicia Vikander) for The Light Between Oceans; a dark and moody Americana ambiance for American Pastoral; and a clever ’40s-jazz flavor for Florence Foster Jenkins. He even convinced Meryl Streep to sing (on key, unlike the real Ms. Jenkins) on that last one!
I’ve moderated a number of post-screening talks with composers during awards season, most recently Monday night at The Landmark with French composer Alexandre Desplat about his exquisite music for The Danish Girl. Desplat was charming, funny and articulate as always — especially in discussing how his life didn’t change at all after winning the Oscar last year for Grand Budapest Hotel. Last month I interviewed Thomas Newman about his music for Bridge of Spies, also for SCL, on the Walt Disney lot. Both composers stand a strong chance of an Oscar nomination later this week.
Alexandre Desplat and Chris Montan (the Oscar-winning composer of The Grand Budapest Hotel and president of music for the Walt Disney Company, respectively) took top honors at this year’s BMI Film and TV Music Awards dinner. Here is my overview of the evening’s speeches and additional awards. Part of the fun, though, was doing the on-camera interviews on the red carpet — some of which are now showing up online. This link will take you to my brief chats with Desplat, Montan, Brian Tyler (talking about doing Marvel movies), Fil Eisler (Revenge) and Gwendolyn Sanford (Orange Is the New Black).