Ennio Morricone died yesterday in Rome at ninety-one years old, according to The Los Angeles Times. Staff writer Randall Roberts describes him as not only “the most important film composer of the twentieth century,” but “also the busiest.” Roberts lists his top ten scores as: Sergio Leone’s Trilogia del dollaro; Gillo Pontecorvo’s La battaglia di Algeri (1966); Sergio Sollima’s La resa dei conti (1968); Dario Argento’s Il gatto a nove code (1971); Bernardo Bertolucci’s Novecento (1976); Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978); John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982); Roland Joffé’s The Mission (1986); Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987); and Quentin Tarantino’s The H8teful Eight (2015).
Pennsylvania composer Kyle Simpson will debut original scores to two classic silent films (Georges Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Kingdom of Fairies (1903)) Saturday at Carnegie Library and Music Hall, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Simpson, an assistant professor of music at Washington & Jefferson College who has performed professionally with the Glenn Miller Orchestra as well as Lew Soloff and Paquito D’Rivera, will play the scores live with his chamber orchestra and Pittsburgh’s Redline String Quartet. The Village Voice named A Trip to the Moon one of the hundred greatest films of the twentieth century.
Netflix has acquired the rights to the untitled Leonard Bernstein biopic Bradley Cooper will direct, star in, and produce, from a screenplay he co-wrote with Academy Award-winning scriptwriter Josh Singer, who wrote Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight (2015), according to Deadline. Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Todd Phillips are all set to produce, with Netflix determined to ride its own wave of star-driven prestige success from this year’s Best Picture nominees, Scorsese’s The Irishman (2019) as well as Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (2019). Cooper’s sophomore effort will cover thirty years of marriage between Bernstein and his wife, Chilean-born actress Felicia Montealegre.
Daniel Lopatin, an electronic musician who also records under the name Oneohtrix Point Never, scored Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems (2019), having collaborated with the brothers previously for Good Time (2017), according to NPR. Using an eclectic cocktail of old-school synthesizers, Mellotron flutes, saxophone solos, as well as an eight-person choir, the inspiration behind the cosmic, New Age soundtrack was Vangelis, the Greek synthesizer conductor. Lopatin says while film is expected to be more realistic, music is expected to be more fantastical, which is why such a meditative score of analog synthesizers is juxtaposed against such a chaotic movie.
Graham King, who produced Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), has acquired the rights to make a Michael Jackson biopic spanning his entire life (including the 1994 and 2005 child molestation allegations), as well as access to all his music, according to The Independent. John Logan, who wrote Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000), will be the scriptwriter, having previously collaborated with King on Martin Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator (2004). Jackson has been in the headlines this year ever since the release of Dan Reed’s Leaving Neverland (2019), in which Wade Robson and James Safechuck come forward with new allegations against the King of Pop.
On Wednesday, Branford College hosted a Residential College Tea with composer Howard Shore, who shared with conductor John Mauceri the technical method as well as the emotional artistry behind cinematic scoring, according to the Yale Daily News. Shore, who scored the likes of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, says one must be disciplined enough to write music bar by bar and page by page, while, at the same time, composing from the heart, rather than analytically or intellectually (which all comes later). Shore’s next project will be featured in François Girard’s The Song of Names (2019), with a Christmas Day release date.
Jenny Gage’s After (2019) beat Jordan Peele’s Us (2019) as well as Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman (2019) at the People’s Choice Awards in the drama category, despite only seventeen percent of critical reviews aggregated through Rotten Tomatoes being positive, according to BBC News. The film, starring Ralph Fiennes’s nephew, Hero-Fiennes Tiffin, is adapted from a piece of One Direction fan fiction first published by Anna Todd on WattPadd in 2013, which has gone on to be read more than six hundred million times and snagged the thirty-year-old author a book deal. Roger Kumble’s sequel, After We Collided (2020), recently wrapped production.
“Circle of Life”
By Sandra Reid
Imagine picking up a kitten for the first time, or maybe even a human baby. Alternatively seeing the sunrise or visiting the zoo. There is exactly one song that comes to mind in each of these scenarios, the iconic “Circle of Life.”
Whether performing a jumbled collection of syllables to reach for the legendary Zulu solo at the beginning or howling the chorus on seeing a baby, the song has permeated our everyday lives in a way never matched even by the likes of “Let It Go.”
It changed how major films introduce their themes, characters, and titles. The now over-saturated late title drop had been done in a few action movies previously, but “Circle of Life” codified how to make it work; awe-inspiring score and animation all seeped in operatic sincerity.
Even in the musical adaptation it alone could be worth the price of admission with gorgeous puppets and costumes surrounding Pride Rock as it rises over the stage.
As the essential jaw-dropping opener, Disney had set their own stakes and standards at and impossibly high level for this remake.
Sandra Reid has publications in The Rowdy Scholar and Spectrum along with articles in The Metropolitan.
“Song review: ‘Circle of Life’”
By Hunter Goddard
It is all too easy for the unimaginative filmmaker to consign the music in their film to forgettable background noise, but sometimes, a song can elevate the motion picture accompanying it into something immortal: an experience; a memory; a dream.
Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff’s animated musical, The Lion King (1994), is bookended with the choral leitmotifs of its signature track, “Circle of Life.”
This circular structure sings with the lyricism of Walt Disney’s Renaissance, and echoes with the poeticism of the film’s Shakespearean themes.
Composed by Elton John, written by Tim Rice, and performed by Carmen Twillie (who sings the English verses) and Lebo M. (who sings the Zulu), the record was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
It is the sunrise and sunset of the movie, the birth and death, the love and agony. Its notes soar to vertiginous heights while its vocals reach lows beneath our very skin, crawling along the goosebumps it raises on our flesh and the chills it strikes down our spines.
Such tonal polarization surrounds us with the picture’s epic theses of our history shaping our destiny, and the passionately drawn vistas of Simba’s birth at the beginning, then his own cub’s at the end, harmonize with each other divinely.
Ultimately, “Circle of Life” is a songwriting at its most cinematic, so vital to the imagery onscreen, visual and audio together collaborate into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Danny Boyle’s Beatles jukebox musical, Yesterday (2019), originally began as a screenplay titled Cover Version by Jack Barth and Mackenzie Crook, with Crook slated to direct, according to The New York Times. After approaching executive producer Nick Angel for his connections in the music industry, Angel asked Richard Curtis, writer of Mike Newell’s Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and his own Love Actually (2003), to rewrite the script, sharing a story credit with Barth. Curtis’s production deal at Working Title and Universal got Boyle involved, and Apple Corps and Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the copyright holders behind most of the band’s discography, were persuaded the film would be prestigious and lucrative enough to share the rights.
With the thirtieth anniversary of the release for Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) coming and going this month, Prince’s Batman LP still shapes creative partnerships between filmmakers and musicians today, according to Variety. After Albert Magnoli’s Purple Rain (1984), Prince overspent on production costs while touring for the soundtrack, until Batman producer Mark Canton reached out to the singer’s management team as part of the film’s saturation marketing strategy. Drawing from a rough cut of the film for inspiration, despite not knowing how to score a cinematic composition to the frame, Prince produced much-needed hits such as “Batdance,” “Partyman,” and “Scandalous.”