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For Los Angeles-area film music fans who missed the Academy Museum's screening of Giuseppe Tornatore's acclaimed documentary ENNIO last fall, the good news is it opens at the Laemmle Theater in North Hollywood today.

The bad news is it only plays once a day, and at seemingly random times:

Friday: 12:50 pm
Saturday: 4:00 pm
Sunday: 7:15 pm
Monday: 4:00 pm
Tuesday: 7:15 pm
Wednesday: 7:00 pm
Thursday: 7:00 pm

According to the website for Music Box, the film's U.S. distributor, additional engagements are planned around the country over the next several weeks, and it has already screened in other cities including New York and Cleveland, and will screen again in Los Angeles at Alamo Drafthouse at the end of March.


IN THEATERS TODAY

About Dry Grasses - Philip Timofeyev 
Bring Him to Me - Frederik Wiedmann
Drive-Away Dolls - Carter Burwell
Drugstore Jane - Alex Geringas
Ennio - Ennio Morricone
Io Capitano - Andrea Farri
Mea Culpa - Amanda Jones
Ordinary Angels - Pancho Burgos-Goizueta 
Red Right Hand - Mondo Boys
Spaceman - Max Richter 
Stopmotion - Lola de la Mata
Terezin - Emanuele Frusi 


COMING SOON

Cliffhangers
 - Joe Harnell - Five Jays [CD-R]
The Joe Kraemer Collection Vol. 1
 - Joe Kraemer - Dragon's Domain [CD-R]
Octopussy
 - John Barry - La-La Land
Scusi, ma lei le paga le tasse?/Come rubammo la bomba atomica
 - Lallo Gori - Beat   


THIS WEEK IN FILM MUSIC HISTORY

February 23 - Allan Gray born (1904)
February 23 - Erich Wolfgang Korngold wins Original Score Oscar for The Adventures of Robin Hood, the first year the award goes to the composer instead of the head of the studio's music department; Alfred Newman wins Score Oscar for Alexander's Ragtime Band (1939)
February 23 - Rachel Elkind born (1939)
February 23 - Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann begin recording their score for The Egyptian (1954)
February 23 - David Buttolph begins recording his score for The Horse Soldiers (1959)
February 23 - Richard Markowitz records his score for the Mission: Impossible episode “Live Bait” (1969)
February 23 - Jerry Fielding begins recording his score for Hunters Are for Killing (1970)
February 23 - Lorne Balfe born (1976)
February 23 - Recording sessions begin for Danny Elfman’s score for Dick Tracy (1990)
February 23 - Ron Jones records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Offspring" (1990)
February 24 - Fred Steiner born (1923)
February 24 - Michel Legrand born (1932)
February 24 - Franz Waxman begins recording his score for Captains Courageous (1937)
February 24 - George Harrison born (1943)
February 24 - Rupert Holmes born (1947)
February 24 - Manuel De Sica born (1949)
February 24 - Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter record their score for It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)
February 24 - Elmer Bernstein begins recording score to The World of Henry Orient (1964)
February 24 - Franz Waxman died (1967)
February 24 - Jerry Goldsmith records his score for Crosscurrent (1971)
February 24 - Roy Budd begins recording his score to The Carey Treatment (1972)
February 24 - Walter Scharf died (2003)
February 24 - Svatopluk Havelka died (2009)
February 24 - Mychael Danna wins the Original Score Oscar for Life of Pi (2013)
February 24 - Ludwig Goransson wins his first Oscar, for the Black Panther score (2019)
February 25 - George Duning born (1908)
February 25 - Don Randi born (1937)
February 25 - Erich Wolfgang Korngold begins recording his score for The Sea Wolf (1941)
February 25 - Victor Reyes born (1962)
February 25 - Penka Kouneva born (1967)
February 25 - Jerry Goldsmith begins recording his score for Outland (1981)
February 25 - Haim Mazar born (1983)
February 25 - Laurence Rosenthal records his score for To Heal a Nation (1988)
February 25 - Jay Chattaway records his score for the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “Divergence” (2005)
February 25 - Ennio Morricone wins an Honorary Oscar, "for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music;" Gustavo Santaolalla wins his second consecutive Best Score Oscar, for Babel (2007)
February 26 - Hagood Hardy born (1937)
February 26 - Bernard Herrmann wins his only Oscar, for the All That Money Can Buy score (1942)
February 26 - Richard LaSalle records his score for the Land of the Giants episode “Graveyard of Fools” (1970)
February 26 - Moisey Vainberg died (1996)
February 26 - John Lanchbery died (2003)
February 26 - Ludovic Bource wins the Original Score Oscar for The Artist (2012)
February 26 - Justin Hurwitz wins Oscars for La La Land’s score and original song “City of Stars” (2017)
February 27 - The first score Oscar is awarded, to Victor Schertzinger and Gus Kahn's score to One Night of Love; however, Academy policy at the time awards the Oscar to the head of the studio's music department, Louis Silvers (1935)
February 27 - Leigh Harline, Ned Washington, Paul J. Smith win Best Score Oscar for Pinocchio (1941)
February 27 - Recording sessions begin for Bronislau Kaper's score to A Life of Her Own (1950)
February 27 - Mort Glickman died (1953)
February 27 - Elmer Bernstein begins recording his score for True Grit (1969)
February 27 - Joseph Mullendore records his score for the Land of the Giants episode “Return of Inidu” (1969)
February 27 - Leith Stevens records his score for the Land of the Giants episode “Rescue” (1969)
February 27 - Herbert Don Woods records his score for the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode “The Crystals” (1981)
February 27 - George Duning died (2000)
February 27 - Nathan Scott died (2010)
February 27 - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross win the Original Score Oscar for The Social Network (2011)
February 28 - Albert Elms born (1920)
February 28 - Pierre Jansen born (1930)
February 28 - Charles Bernstein born (1943)
February 28 - Loek Dikker born (1944)
February 28 - Mike Figgis born (1948)
February 28 - David Raksin begins recording his score for The Next Voice You Hear (1950)
February 28 - Edward Shearmur born (1966)
February 28 - Murray Gold born (1969)
February 28 - Jerry Goldsmith records his score to the Twilight Zone: the Movie segment "It's a Good Life" (1983)
February 28 - Armando Trovajoli died (2013)
February 28 - Ezra Laderman died (2015)
February 28 - Ennio Morricone wins his first “competitive” Oscar for The Hateful Eight score (2016)
February 28 - Andre Previn died (2019)
February 29 - Herbert Stothart wins Original Score Oscar for The Wizard of Oz (1940)
February 29 - Mervyn Warren born (1964)

DID THEY MENTION THE MUSIC?

ARGYLLE - Lorne Balfe
 
"Somehow more ridiculous than all of that is the dialogue in Jason Fuchs’ script, which is always accompanied by Lorne Balfe’s cliched musical score that never pipes down."
 
Johnny Olekinski, The New York Post 
 
THE BOYS IN THE BOAT - Alexandre Desplat
 
"But arguably, the film’s true ace in the hole is two-time Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat ('The Grand Budapest Hotel' and 'The Shape of Water'), whose soaring score really lifts and gives every moment wings, but especially the rousing sports sequences that are incredibly well shot by cinematographer Martin Ruhe (not to mention artfully well-paced, edited and constructed for maximum slowly-escalating drama). Desplat makes magic, frankly, and there arguably no one in the business who can assemble that crescendo of stirring, anthemic encouragement, and twinkling faint sense of hope as he so elegantly can."
 
Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist 

"The story of the University of Washington rowing team that bucked expectations to win the gold medal at the 1936 Olympic games in Nazi-controlled Berlin, 'The Boys in the Boat'  starts strong, with cinematographer Martin Ruhe’s images of the sun-dappled water melding seamlessly with shots of rowers’ hands, arms, and bodies moving in time with the current. Alexandre Desplat’s accompanying musical compositions lean into the sequence’s melodramatic atmosphere, the result being a form-content synergy that establishes rowing as a sport predicated on the harmony between man, craft, instrument, and nature. Better still, Clooney achieves this without any exposition that might make such notions obvious and turn the proceedings leaden."
 
Nick Schager, The Daily Beast 

"The narrative is framed by images of an elderly man in the present day watching young rowers and thinking back to his youth. Lilting orchestral music (by Alexandre Desplat, outdoing himself) accompanies these recollections of the days when, as an impoverished engineering student, Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) joined his college’s rowing program because he was promised a job if he made the team. The film highlights the contrast between Rantz’s grim, gray circumstances -- he lives by himself in a burned-out car and stuffs his hole-filled shoes with paper -- and the rolling hills and wood-paneled halls of his university, not to mention the placid, sun-dappled waters of the rivers where he will eventually row."
 
Bilge Ebiri, New York 

"Bookended by a saccharine 'Saving Private Ryan'-esque framing device that sees composer Alexandre Desplat at his most twee, the action proper takes place in Seattle, Washington in 1936. Joe Rantz (Callum Turner, low-key but engaging) is a dedicated but poverty-stricken student at the University of Washington who discovers the only way he can earn money and put a roof over his head is to make his way onto the college rowing team."
 
Ian Freer, Time Out 

"Indeed, Clooney’s side hustle might seem arrogant if the films themselves weren’t so humble and unassuming. Besotted with a vision of Hollywood that was already gone when he got there, the guy has always been a living anachronism who just keeps turning the clock back 35 years until he finally runs out of time. That used to mean channeling the spirit of Dean Martin. Now it means trying to bring Jerry Goldsmith back from the dead.* Adapted from Daniel James Brown’s 2013 book of the same name, this historical sports drama about the scrappy -- but strapping -- underdogs who rowed for the United States crew team at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin is so comfortably down the middle that it makes 'Rudy' seem like the work of Sergei Eisenstein by comparison. It starts, of course, with a 'Saving Private Ryan'-esque framing device in which an old man sits by the water and (proverbially) shakes his fists at the speedboats whizzing by the dock as Alexandre Desplat’s twinkly score takes us back to a more honest time some four decades earlier. It was a time before America started fighting its way out of the Great Depression; a time when men were all named Joe, and born with the pecs needed to strain a pair of suspenders even though they all lived on a diet of soot and internalized despair."
 
David Ehrlich, IndieWire

"'The Boys in the Boat,' directed by George Clooney, is an old-fashioned movie about old-fashioned moxie. Based on a section of Daniel James Brown’s 2013 nonfiction book of the same name, and set to a plucky score by Alexandre Desplat, it’s a handsome, forthright flashback to a high water point of the Depression Era when the University of Washington’s junior varsity crew paddled all the way to the 1936 Olympics. Approximately 300 million radio listeners tuned in to hear live sporting news from Berlin, and the film cuts to what feels like all of them rooting on these tall, ruddy and heroic amateurs. I’ve never seen a movie with this much applause -- the extras must have been as winded as the athletes."
 
Amy Nicholson, The New York Times 
 
"Craft-wise, at least Clooney has assembled as fine-tuned a crew as coach Ulbrickson did, with director of photography Martin Ruhe, composer Alexandre Desplat and editor Tanya M. Swerling all bringing the actor-turned-director’s vision to life. One just wishes the painterly backdrops of Depression-era Seattle, the sun-dappled shots of rowed water, and the anguished looks of those dapper rowing boys (oft-scored by swelling music helpfully nudging us to feel inspired or despondent, depending on the shot) didn’t all feel so wooden and sterile. You cheer on these boys but you’re not left with much once the credits roll and their story becomes but a wistful tale of a time gone by."
 
Manuel Betancourt, The Onion AV Club 
 
"Drawn from a true story, 'The Boys in the Boat' is a painstakingly wholesome, sun-dappled, old-fashioned movie that now fits into a rather ironic slot. These days, there is often a well-pedigreed drama that comes out at the end of the year and serves as an alternative to the awards films. But that’s only because it’s framed as a traditional 'crowd-pleaser,' which means that two or three decades ago it would have been an awards film (or, at least, an awards wannabe). Remember 'Chariots of Fire?' In 1982, it won the Oscar for best picture. Today, it wouldn’t win dog-catcher, and 'The Boys in the Boat,' a movie that may remind you of 'Chariots of Fire,' is a kind of WASP daydream of a sports movie. It could almost be a late-’90s Matt Damon movie, only with less interior conflict. 'Chariots of Fire,' of course, had its Vangelis synthesizer score to lend the stiff-upper-lip track races a gliding-in-time modernist sheen. 'The Boys in the Boat' has a musical score, by Alexandre Desplat, that’s thick with traditional cornball valor. And that matches the movie, which is heavy on inspiration and light on complexity."
 
Owen Gleiberman, Variety 

"Peter Guinness adds a touch of genteel wisdom as George Pocock, the crew’s British boatbuilder and, it turns out, a sensitive Joe whisperer when the young athlete withdraws into shame or uncertainty. George is something of a poet, which is only fitting. As another character declares, 'Rowing is more poetry than sport,' a sensibility that Alexandre Desplat’s gentle, versatile score is fully in tune with. (There are also lively musical touches courtesy of Joe’s piano-playing teammate Don Hume, portrayed by Jack Mulhern.) As to the visual poetry of rowing -- the mechanics and the muscle, the glide through picturesque waters -- DP Martin Ruhe and editor Tanya Swerling avoid the obvious, and Ruhe’s swooping camerawork is impressive without being showy. As with the crew in the boat, Clooney and his collaborators achieve something fluent when everyone’s in sync."
 
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter

LA SYNDICALISTE - Bruno Coulais
 
"Yes, the subject matter is genuinely interesting. It’s the true story of Maureen Kearney, an Irish union rep who was subject to a bizarre sexual assault after she accused an energy company of selling its secrets to China. But Salomé's jazz-soundtracked attempts to set this film up as a twisty-turny mystery can’t really hide the fact that it’s a thrill-free zone after the first few minutes."
 
Alice Saville, Time Out
 
MEAN GIRLS - Jeff Richmond (music), Nell Benjamin (lyrics)

"But with a great deal of the musical’s best songs for defining and deepening characters cut for the film (including most of the introductory numbers for Cady, Damian, and the Plastics), there are also long stretches of scenes between songs that feel like a lightweight remake of the original 'Mean Girls.' Most of the cast excels in song, but few of them match the exuberant specificity of the 2004 film’s actors; Spivey’s brassy Damian and Avantika’s marvelously ditzy Karen come the closest. (One member of the original young cast makes a late-breaking surprise cameo that’s both a lot of fun and a nostalgic reminder of the gifts of that 2004 lineup.) And if the musical sequences work overtime to justify this project’s existence as more than a carbon copy, the remainder of Payne and Perez Jr.’s film doesn’t do enough to make a case for itself. But if this 'Mean Girls' thrives too much on its relationship to the original, more tribute with songs than independent adaptation, its enjoyability is also a testament to the original’s staying power, as well as to Fey’s decades-long faith in the recyclability of her own material. And to be fair, Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin, the musical’s composer and lyricist team, have also penned a lively, smart score that’s responsible for all of the film’s most buoyant moments."
 
Dan Rubins, Slant Magazine 
 
"The cast of 'Mean Girls' (2024) has a lot of big shoes to fill, both from the original movie and from the Broadway musical. Most of them do step up, flexing their vocal chops and bringing their own flair to the larger-than-life characters -- except for Rice. Unfortunately, she just doesn’t have Rapp’s or Cravalho’s strong singing voices, or Spivey’s or Avantika’s comedic timing. She brings a nice wide-eyed naïveté to Cady, but her singing doesn’t hold up, especially compared to the rest of the cast. This wouldn’t be such a glaring problem if the first few songs weren’t mostly centered around her. To accommodate Rice’s singing voice, Cady’s initial solo was changed, and some of the more vocally challenging parts in the group numbers went to other characters. The first segment of the movie only flirts with being a musical: Jayne and Perez Jr. dangle better singers and numbers in front of the audience without fully committing to them, instead dragging out a few uninspired songs like the new-to-the-musical 'What If?' and Cady’s romantic overture 'Stupid With Love.' Thankfully, those boring songs aren’t indicative of the full-throttle musical theater that the movie does eventually embrace. When Jayne and Perez Jr. let the movie be the musical it’s supposed to be, it’s an amazingly good time. The two best numbers -- 'Revenge Party,' an ensemble song-and-dance routine that overlays a montage of Cady, Janis, and Damian getting back at Regina, and 'World Burn,' Regina’s big villain song -- are absolutely splendid. They’re also the ones that most play up the musical version’s theatricality, and embrace what it’s meant to be."
 
Petrana Radulovic, Polygon 

"The musical numbers and callbacks to the memeable jokes of the 2004 film work well for a production that is couching its existence on fondness for, and familiarity with, a popular film; a whole subgenre of stage musicals relies on this exact conceit. But it’s bizarre for a film remake to couch itself so heavily on that same familiarity, recycling jokes enough times that it comes across as cynical. It begs the question of why you wouldn’t just watch the original again. The obvious answer there is the songs, and the tragedy of those misplaced narrative priorities is that the musical numbers, on their own, are actually very well staged and performed. This is the feature debut of directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr., who make a meal of these sequences, setting up complicated shots that move through expertly choreographed dancers and convey heightened emotion to great effect. 'Someone Gets Hurt' is an eerie trip through Regina’s manipulation of Aaron (Christopher Briney) at a Halloween party full of frozen, stuttering teens. 'Revenge Party' is a chaotic technicolor party in the confetti-strewn halls of the school, and 'I’d Rather Be Me' is just a barnburner showcase of Cravalho’s command over the camera. It’s easy to see why the stage musical was popular with songs this energetic and fun, so it’s heartening to see Jayne and Perez translate that energy to screen with such joy and fervor."
 
Leigh Monson, The Onion Av Club 
 
"The same could be said for the songs, which in the musical tradition, are mostly used as a way for characters to express their emotions. None of the songs are particularly catchy, although Gretchen Weiner’s song 'What’s Wrong with Me?' stands out for its poignancy, as does 'I'd Rather Be Me,' Janis’ powerful rock anthem about the importance of self-worth. Even when the songs aren’t great, they are brought to life with visual panache. 'Revenge Party,' sung by Janis and Damian, with its hallway decked out in rainbow colors and cotton candy clouds nails a certain Gen-Z Instagram aesthetic. Similarly, Regina’s dark dirge 'Someone Gets Hurt'” evokes the glitter-infused, lowlight misery of something like 'Euphoria.'"
 
Marya E. Gates, RogerEbert.com 

"What struck me after watching 'Mean Girls,' much like it did when I saw the Broadway musical, is that the songs of 'Mean Girls,' with music by Jeff Richmond and lyrics by Nell Benjamin, aren’t that great. You won’t walk out of the theater singing or humming a tune. They are just not that memorable. The movie adds two new songs, including the instantly forgettable 'What If,' which kicks off the movie. The only time the movie truly comes alive is during Janice’s 'I’d Rather Be Me.'"

Amy Amatangelo, Paste Magazine 

"The difficulty with a script so taut, however, is that, like a waterproof coating, it doesn’t let the songs in very well. The stage version had the same issue: Fey excels at boiling an interaction down to a pithy exchange or two, leaving precious little emotional territory for the music to cover. For the thing to function better as a musical, I think you’d need a worse book, or at least one willing to cede some of the story’s weight for the songs to lift on their own. Instead, with music by Fey’s husband, Jeff Richmond, and lyrics by Nell Benjamin, the songs restate what we already know, usually in mealy-mouthed terms -- Cady, falling for Aaron Samuels sings, 'I’m astounded and non-plussed / I am filled with calculust,' and that’s some of the better wordplay. The movie has, thankfully, edited down the song list from the original show. The various pastiche songs that remain, like 'Stupid With Love,' will get stuck in your head despite themselves or are wisely buried under Jayne and Perez’s twirling camera movements and Kyle Hanagami’s relentless choreography (there are a lot of impressive tracking shots down chaotic hallways)."
 
Jackson McHenry, New York 
 
"A sanitized version of one of the 21st century’s greatest movies should be insufferable. But some respectably catchy music and a couple of breakout stars do wonders for lifting the 2024 'Mean Girls' onto its own two feet, just tall enough to stand confidently next to its progenitor. While it still has no decent reason to exist other than to make a few bucks off of nostalgic millennials and curious newcomers, 'Mean Girls' prevails by leaning hard into its own pointlessness and letting its stars live out their catty dreams -- even if their claws don’t scratch hard enough. Surprisingly, the musical numbers -- which come courtesy of a book by Fey, lyrics by Nell Cunningham, and compositions by Fey’s husband and collaborator, Jeff Richmond -- manage to save the film from its rocky start. It’s worth noting that in bringing the musical to the screen, Fey, Cunningham, and Richmond trimmed and reworked the original show, which some critics found both lengthy and wheel-spinning. And while the songs that did make it into the film vary in quality, they accomplish the lofty task of taking viewers somewhere new in the middle of a story they’re probably intuitively versed in. The tracks range from big, Broadway standard showstopper ballads to thumping Billie Eilish knockoffs (non-derogatory, in this case). The lyrics are silly and uber-fun, and even when they nosedive into earnestness, Fey’s writing manages not to be cloying, thanks to a cast of performers who are all dedicated to selling these songs for everything they’re worth. What’s more, the musical numbers boast some delightful staging and keen, captivating direction. The film’s pair of directors, Samantha Jay and Arturo Perez Jr., keep eyes darting back and forth across the screen, opting for fluid tracking shots and character-specific choreography. These choices make 'Mean Girls' worthy of the theatrical treatment, as opposed to being relegated to Paramount+, where it was originally destined to live."
 
Coleman Spilde, The Daily Beast

"Once inside this group, Heron begins to get a little too infatuated with being popular, a journey brought to life this go-around by a bevy of original tunes with lyrics by Nell Benjamin. The best way to describe these songs is that they immediately conjure up memories of ditties penned by Pasek & Paul, specifically in how much they sound like they're tailor-made for pop radio. Generic lyrics abound on the 'Mean Girls' soundtrack and the assorted songs are shockingly benefit of anything resembling humor. A song called 'Revenge Party' where characters sing about how 'It's a revenge party/with your two best friends/it's like a party with revenge' is the height of 'wit' here in a tune that only makes one wish they were listening to 'Me Party' from 'The Muppets' instead. Most disappointing of all the tunes, though, is a big number for Janis entitled 'I'd Rather Be Me,'" which wants to be the big self-love anthem of 'Mean Girls.' Needless to say, it does not hit the heights of similar superior songs like 'Changing My Major' or 'Defying Gravity.' Oddly listless writing (including one instance where the word 'bad' is used to rhyme with 'bad') and no sense of specificity to who Janis is as a character makes the entire musical number a waste despite the game vocals of Auli?i Cravalho. None of the musical numbers in 'Mean Girls' will be stuck in your head once you leave the theater and few of them demonstrate much visual panache in the way they're executed either."
 
Lisa Laman, Collider 
 
"As it happens, those fries arrive during Regina’s big intro number: 'My name is Regina George / And I am a massive deal / Fear me, love me / Stand and stare at me / And these, these are real,' she croons, gesturing bosomward. Rapp played Regina on Broadway for several months starting in 2019, and it takes nothing away from the honed, glittering malevolence of her performance to note that a great villain deserves a better theme song. (This number and many others, reworked from the stage show, are by composer Jeff Richmond and lyricist Nell Benjamin.) There’s something deflating about the winking, self-skewering air with which this lean, mean teen queen presents herself; it was precisely her lack of self-knowledge that made McAdams’ original Regina so spectacularly vicious and so divinely funny. She was both imperious and utterly impervious to criticism; the slightest hint of self-mockery would have proved anathema to the character and lethal to the comedy. So why does it all feel so laborious and overworked, so frantically self-regarding? It has something to do with the insipid quality of the songs, none of which threaten to lodge themselves in your brain the way the first movie’s lines so effortlessly do. For every tune that opens a poignant window into a character’s turmoil (like 'What’s Wrong With Me?,' Gretchen’s quavering cry for help), there seem to be at least three or four that feel egregiously padded, underlining story beats that don’t exactly cry out for psychological elaboration. Fey’s original script was, among other things, a model of narrative concision (the movie clocked in at 97 minutes to this one’s 112), and it said more with Cady’s droll voice-over than the musical can manage with a full-blown medley."
 
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times 

"Mark Waters’ hit comedy about the savage jungle of high school cliques, 'Mean Girls,' had enough instant-classic dialogue and memorable characters to become a touchstone for the generation either in or fresh out of their teens when it was released in 2004 and those who have discovered it in the years since. With screenwriter Tina Fey continuing to steer the vehicle, the property navigated the transition to Broadway musical in 2018 with plenty of its original charms intact and some even fortified thanks to the expressive magic of characters bursting into songs that reveal their inner lives. The show was never going to keep Stephen Sondheim awake nights with its workmanlike tunes composed by Fey’s husband, Jeff Richmond. But Nell Benjamin’s frequently clever lyrics delivered laughs and director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw’s flair for kinetic showmanship made it a high-energy explosion of hormonal insecurity, malice, vulnerability and hard-won life lessons. A top-notch cast didn’t hurt, either. But all the effervescence and fun have been drained out of the material in this labored reincarnation, a movie musical made by people who appear to have zero understanding of movie-musical vernacular. Debuting co-directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. are best known as collaborators on the FX shortform series 'Quarter Life Poetry,' but their choppy work here seems firmly entrenched in Perez’s music-video background. The same goes for choreographer Kyle Hanagami. The songs seldom spring organically from the story and more often feel so awkwardly shoehorned in that you come to dread them. What’s worse is that the music is so gratingly over-produced and studio-enhanced you miss the high of characters spontaneously singing. In terms of musical deficiencies, that’s a deal-breaker. The final nail in the coffin is the creative team’s decision wherever possible to frame the songs through social media. The device is used so unrelentingly you start to wonder why the entire movie wasn’t made on TikTok. Maybe it would be less of a garish eyesore on a smartphone.The numbers that elevated Regina to arch-villain status in the musical have been flattened into generic anthems of self-love and superiority so muddied by a brutally homogenized pop sound mix that half her lyrics are garbled."
 
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

OCCUPIED CITY - Oliver Coates
 
"Though Hyams’ voice bears a methodical timbre, make no mistake, McQueen is clearly infuriated with Amsterdam’s response to COVID, particularly the selfish acts of the young. McQueen and editor Xander Nijsten contrasts stories of famine during 'The Hungry Winter' with later images of teens dancing jubilantly in unmasked reverie. Whenever he makes these critiques, the filmmaker has the vital sense to know when to let the images speak for themselves. When Hyams shares details about the curfew instituted by Germany during the war, McQueen allows for her voice to fall away; with a precisely controlled track, the cinematographer Lennert Hillege’s lens drifts above the contemporary nighttime streets, tilting and turning over, gliding past sleepy storefronts and glowing street lights as composer Oliver Coates’ wheezing, melancholic score, punctuated by backwards pulses whose repetitions are akin to mournful sighs, soundtracks the city’s eerie emptiness."
 
Robert Daniels, RogerEbert.com  
 
"Alongside a somber score by Oliver Coates ('Aftersun') and some rare instances that use existing pieces of music like a Chopin ballade, 'Occupied City' also recounts the city’s Hunger Winter of 1944, when the town suffered a man-made famine caused by the Nazis that killed thousands of people across the Netherlands. McQueen also makes room for the unveiling of the National Holocaust Names Memorial in 2021 which carries the names of 102,163 known Dutch victims of the Nazis. (When the war ended, Netherlands went down as the Western European country with the highest death rate of Jewish people -- in Amsterdam alone more than 60,000 people were killed.)"
 
Tomris Laffly, The Wrap 
 
"Well-chosen music recordings as well as the score by Oliver Coates ('Aftersun') deepen the mournful but stirring gravity that courses through the film. Its diegetic selections include a thrashing experimental dirge and an almost comically gentle protest song urging 'No more fascism now.' And a daring jolt arrives with the use of David Bowie’s 'Golden Years' in a sequence filmed at a COVID vaccine center, a facility that seems to be specifically for elderly patients. The pop playfulness is jarring, the potential analogy at first off-putting; Hyams has been speaking of the Nazis’ roundup and transit centers, the places designed for funneling people to death camps. Some viewers might not forgive McQueen for this sequence, but I’ll take his boldness over approved party-line talking points any day."
 
Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter 

OUT OF DARKNESS - Adam Janota Bzowski

"The eerie music from Adam Janota Bzowski, the vivid dark-hued cinematography from Ben Fordesman, and the ultra-crunchy sound design from Paul Davies and his crew make this challenging atmosphere an engrossing environment to visit while constantly compelling you to note that you sure as hell would not want to live in it. The story told in 'Out of Darkness' is ultimately sad more than terrifying, a parable about violence and the roots of human war. It’s an impressively credible and gnarly journey back in time."
 
Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com  

"British director Andrew Cumming, making his feature debut, has taken a crew out to the Scottish Highlands -- also where 1981’s 'Quest for Fire' was shot -- to capture what is essentially 'Alien' or 'The Blair Witch Project,' as a small group of terrorized characters gets picked off by an ominous, wailing creature in the fog-shrouded woods. Desperately, they try to light a bonfire before the sunlight fades. It doesn’t matter. The sequence-building has a monotony to it, as does the percussive, insta-Penderecki score by Adam Janota Bzowski."
 
Joshua Rothkopf, Los Angeles Times 

"Cumming's story is often grisly and terrifying, but it's also frighteningly realistic -- at least as close as paleolithic researchers can point him. While there are probably a legion of archeologists lining up to point out historical inaccuracies, the spirit and the details combine to create a truly immersive reenactment of paleolithic life, when all you had was what you could carry, and furs were all the kept you from hypothermia. Cumming even had a proto-European language, tola, developed specifically for the film, to re-enforce its ancient nature. Like the untuned tribal wails and horns of the score by Adam Janota Bzowski (Saint Maud), it's just one of the ways through which he designs the hazy outlines of a proto-culture, one so nascent that rites and customs are both obvious (like the significance of the white bone spear that Adem wields) and alien (such as whatever gods or spirits Oled is invoking in his incantations)."
 
Richard Whittaker, The Austin Chronicle
 
"Understandably, there’s hardly an uplifting moment at any point, contributing to the disconcerting tone and supported by Adam Janota Bzowski’s ominous score. Some decently graphic kills exist, and the cast does display an evenly-matched level of performances. However, Beyah (Safia Oakley-Green), as the film’s final girl, can rise slightly above, with horror and desperation punctuated by hoarse, desperate screams recalling Leonardo DiCaprio’s guttural howls in 'The Revenant.' However, this does have the unintended effect of the remaining group starting the blend together as 'Out of Darkness' progresses, with one or two every so often treating the audience to a pseudo-motivational quote or two presumably meant to come off as poignant but which quickly lose any impact by the third or fourth iteration. There’s even a twist in the creature revealed at the film’s climax, which could appear acceptable, confusing, or capable of producing a tremendous shrug. The jury remains out on this."
 
Brian Farvour, The Playlist
 
"'Out of Darkness' routinely juxtaposes its tiny protagonists and their vast, barren  environs, all inhospitable plains and treacherous hills, which lends the material its mythic grandeur and menace. Adam Janota Bzowski’s score is full of tribal drumbeats and low, moaning tones, yet the director places an equal premium on silence, especially during his more suspenseful sequences. The first-time filmmaker knows how to build tension and his debut’s finest moments are those in which the crunch of footsteps on hard soil, the pitter-patter of water droplets on slick rocks, the unsettling howls of the wind, and the agitated panting of scared men and women are all that break up the ominous quiet. That its centerpieces’ payoffs aren’t as good as their set-ups is unfortunate, but Cumming’s mastery of mood is enough to keep the proceedings taut throughout."
 
Nick Schager, The Daily Beast
 
SOMETIMES I THINK ABOUT DYING - Dabney Morris
 
"'Sometimes I Think About Dying' is a dark comedy of restraint and quiet, but that silence holds an incredible amount of power and emotion. Ridley gives what might be her best performance, and Lambert knows exactly how to balance the delicate mood of the film. Everything, from the production design that actually makes a bleak office still look inviting, to the score by Dabney Morris that almost brings to mind a fairytale of sorts, is pitch perfect. 'Sometimes I Think About Dying' shows the beauty in the things we might think of as unremarkable, whether it's the little moments that break up the mundanity in our every day, or even in ourselves."
 
Ross Bonaime, Collider 
 
"In a lot of ways, it would be fair why someone might want to write off 'Sometimes I Think About Dying' as banal Sundance-core (the film garnered buzz after it premiered at the festival in 2023). It veers excessively close to both the mumblecore and self-consciously subdued drama aesthetics that have become a cliché for popular films to come out of the fest: A forcedly dramatic title; eloquent, cursive opening credits; downplayed narrative trajectory; whimsical score; a sustained series of static shots of environments and character interactions. These could all make this film feel overly, rigidly constructed. The pieces are arranged for failure. And yet, there’s something to 'Sometimes I Think About Dying' that makes these elements (that could plausibly tear a film apart) into a successful, if slight, mood piece that understands the internal struggles of its central character. Fran’s life is dull and unfulfilling, just as the stagnant frames of Dustin Lane’s camera would suggest, but her fantasies give her a sliver of fantastical excitement, as accentuated by that cursive lettering and those thrumming chords of Dabney Morris’ score."
 
Trace Sauveur, Paste Magazine 

"Fran’s macabre daydreams are hauntingly beautiful. Lambert frames them with sweet-sounding orchestral scores, and the settings Fran imagines for her dead body are weirdly inviting. A moss-covered forest floor, for instance, looks soft and lush, with sunlight streaming down through the fog, even with Fran’s cold corpse staring lifelessly ahead. When Fran snaps out of these grisly reveries, back into her office day, it’s jarring. It really cements her as someone who feels so isolated from the people around her that she finds more comfort in imagining her own absence from the world."
 
Petrana Radulovic, Polygon 
 
"The script’s eschewing of the short’s narration and limiting of dialogue to brief but poignant exchanges, makes Fran into more of an enigma, leaving the viewer searching the image for a sense of her interiority. Lambert sticks us firmly in Fran’s perception of things, with montages of empty streets under gray skies, set to a score by Dagney [sic] Morris that’s infused with all the false cheer of muzak, conveying the drabness that Fran perceives around her. The mountains that loom over the bay outside the office window vaguely suggest the natural beauty of the region, but this beauty would seem to mean little to her except as a setting for her death fantasies."
 
Pat Brown, Slant Magazine 

"Who’s to say what Ridley’s slump-shouldered, drably dressed character, Fran, is thinking about when her mind floats away? Director Rachel Lambert (whose delicate, Jeff Nichols-produced feature 'In the Radiant City' demonstrated that she’s an artist of profound subtlety) doesn’t elaborate on whatever emotion is stirring behind Fran’s eyes, though she does at times depict her daydreams, presenting them as images more than complete thoughts. These scenes are unexpected, surreal, accompanied by a lovely, meditative string score from composer Dabney Morris. Fran doesn’t seem suicidal, but she isn’t particularly engaged in life either."
 
Peter Debruge, Variety 
 
*This may be the most unexpected line I read in any film review of 2023.

THE NEXT TEN DAYS IN L.A.

Screenings of older films in Los Angeles-area theaters.

February 23
BLAZING SADDLES (John Morris) [Vista]
CRUEL INTENTIONS (Edward Shearmur) [Alamo Drafthouse] 
DAYS OF HEAVEN (Ennio Morricone) [Los Feliz 3]
A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (Ennio Morricone), FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (Ennio Morricone) [Vista]
HENRY & JUNE [New Beverly]
I'M NO LONGER HERE [UCLA/Hammer]
MAGIC MIKE XXL [Vidiots]
THE MASTER (Jonny Greenwood) [BrainDead Studios]
NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (John Swihart) [Nuart]
PULP FICTION [New Beverly]
RUSHMORE (Mark Mothersbaugh) [New Beverly]
SPELLBOUND (Miklos Rozsa) [Egyptian]
TWIN PEAKS FIRE WALK WITH ME (Angelo Badalamenti) [Alamo Drafthouse]

February 24
ACTION JACKSON (Herbie Hancock, Michael Kamen) [Vidiots]

THE AMERICAN FRIEND (Jurgen Kneiper) [BrainDead Studios]
AMERICAN PIE  (David Lawrence) [Alamo Drafthouse] 
BLACK NATIVITY (Raphael Saadiq, Laura Karpman) [Los Feliz 3]
BLAZING SADDLES (John Morris) [Vista] 
BREAKIN' 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO [New Beverly]
BUCK AND THE PREACHER (Benny Carter) [Academy Museum]
FENCES (Marcelo Zarvos) [Alamo Drafthouse]
A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (Ennio Morricone), FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (Ennio Morricone) [Vista] 
GREASE 2 [Vidiots]
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN (Frank Loesser, Walter Scharf) [Vista]
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, THE AWFUL TRUTH (Ben Oakland) [New Beverly]
THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (David Lee) [Los Feliz 3]
MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND (Hans Zimmer) [Vidiots]
NANNY (Bartek Gliniak, Tanerelle) [Los Feliz 3]
PAST LIVES (Christopher Bear, Daniel Rossen) [Aero]
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (Franz Waxman) [Vidiots]
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (Richard O'Brien, Richard Hartley) [Nuart]
SLEEPY HOLLOW (Danny Elfman) [Alamo Drafthouse] 
SPELLBOUND (Miklos Rozsa) [Egyptian]
THE TREE OF LIFE (Alexandre Desplat) [Los Feliz 3]
TWIN PEAKS FIRE WALK WITH ME (Angelo Badalamenti) [Alamo Drafthouse] 
VARSITY BLUES (Mark Isham) [Alamo Drafthouse]
WINCHESTER '73 [Egyptian]
THE WITCHES (Stanley Myers) [New Beverly]
A WRINKLE IN TIME (Ramin Djawadi) [Academy Museum]

February 25
AMERICAN PIE  (David Lawrence) [Alamo Drafthouse]
CASINO [Aero]

CROOKLYN (Terence Blanchard) [Egyptian]
CRUEL INTENTIONS (Edward Shearmur) [Alamo Drafthouse]
A DOG'S COURAGE (Ji-soo Lee) [UCLA/Hammer]
A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (Ennio Morricone), FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (Ennio Morricone) [Vista]  
42 (Mark Isham) [Aero]
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN (Frank Loesser, Walter Scharf) [Vista] 
IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, THE AWFUL TRUTH (Ben Oakland) [New Beverly]
KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE (Joe Hisaishi), PORCO ROSSO (Joe Hisaishi), NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (Joe Hisaishi) [Egyptian]
THE LURE (Ballady i Romanse) [BrainDead Studios]
PHASE IV (Brian Gascoigne) [Los Feliz 3]
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (Randy Newman) [Vidiots]
SLEEPY HOLLOW (Danny Elfman) [Alamo Drafthouse]
THE SOCIAL NETWORK (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross) [Los Feliz 3]
3 WOMEN (Gerald Busby) [Vidiots]
12 YEARS A  SLAVE (Hans Zimmer) [Academy Museum]
THE VIRGIN SPRING (Erik Nordgren) [Los Feliz 3]
WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES (Mihaly Vig) [Los Feliz 3]
THE WITCHES (Stanley Myers) [New Beverly]

February 26
CABARET (John Kander, Ralph Burns), McCABE AND MRS. MILLER (Leonard Cohen) [Vista]  
THE CHASE (Richard Gibbs) [Los Feliz 3]
DJANGO (Luis Bacalov) [Aero]
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Michael Galasso, Shigeru Umebayashi) [Alamo Drafthouse]
SLEEPY HOLLOW (Danny Elfman) [Alamo Drafthouse] 
TIME WALKER (Richard Band), THE OUTING (Bruce Miller, Joel Rosenbaum) [New Beverly]
TWIN PEAKS FIRE WALK WITH ME (Angelo Badalamenti) [Alamo Drafthouse]  
US (Michael Abels) [Los Feliz 3]

February 27
AMERICAN MOVIE (Mike Schank) [Alamo Drafthouse]
THE ANGRY BLACK GIRL AND HER MONSTER (Nima Fakhrara) [Los Feliz 3]
CABARET (John Kander, Ralph Burns), McCABE AND MRS. MILLER (Leonard Cohen) [Vista]  
CRUEL INTENTIONS (Edward Shearmur) [Alamo Drafthouse] 
DIRTY HARRY (Lalo Schifrin) [Landmark Pasadena]
FANTASTIC PLANET (Alain Goraguer) [Vidiots]
KUNG FU HUSTLE (Raymond Wong), SHAOLIN SOCCER (Raymond Wong) [New Beverly]

February 28
THE DEBUT (Wendall J. Yuponce) [Vidiots]
FARAWAY, SO CLOSE! (Laurent Petitgand) [Los Feliz 3]
KISS THE GIRLS AND MAKE THEM DIE (Mario Nascimbene), SECRET AGENT SUPER DRAGON (Benedetto Ghiglia) [Vista] 
KUNG FU HUSTLE (Raymond Wong), SHAOLIN SOCCER (Raymond Wong) [New Beverly]
LICORICE PIZZA (Jonny Greenwood) [BrainDead Studios]
SLEEPY HOLLOW (Danny Elfman) [Alamo Drafthouse] 
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (John Morris) [Academy Museum]

February 29
BLOODLETTING (Christopher Kelly) [Los Feliz 3]
KUNG FU HUSTLE (Raymond Wong), SHAOLIN SOCCER (Raymond Wong) [New Beverly]
MASTER (Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe) [Los Feliz 3]

March 1
BEAU TRAVAIL (Charles Henri de Pierrefeu, Eran Tzur) [Egyptian]
CRASH (Howard Shore) [Nuart]
ELITE SQUAD (Pedro Bromfman), ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN (Pedro Bromfman) [Aero]
THE FOG (John Carpenter) [Egyptian]
GRINDHOUSE: DEATH PROOF [New Beverly]
IDENTIKIT (Franco Mannino) [Alamo Drafthouse]
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (John Williams) [New Beverly]

March 2
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (David Shire) [Los Feliz 3]
BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER (Pat Irwin) [New Beverly] 
BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER (Pat Irwin) [Vidiots]
THE CHANGELING (Rich Wilkins, Ken Wannberg) [Egyptian]
FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (Ira Newborn) [New Beverly]
THE PINK CLOUD (Ciao Amon) [UCLA/Hammer]
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (Richard O'Brien, Richard Hartley) [Nuart] 
THE ROOM (Mladen Milicevic) [Landmark Westwood]

March 3
FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF (Ira Newborn) [New Beverly] 
HAPPY GILMORE (Mark Mothersbaugh) [Alamo Drafthouse]
GLORY (James Horner) [Egyptian]
KES (John Cameron), THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL (Chris Michie) [UCLA/Hammer]
LITTLE WOMEN (Thomas Newman) [Alamo Drafthouse]


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

Heard:
 Things We Lost in the Fire (Santaoalla/Soderqvist); Byzantium (Navarrete); The Wiz (Smalls); One-Eyed Jacks (Friedhofer); A Prayer for the Dying (Scott); Mutiny on the Bounty (Kaper); Cruise Into Terror/Survive! (Fried); Greta (Navarrete); The Comeback Kid (Mulaney); Morituri (Goldsmith); Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Goransson); Serengeti Shall Not Die (Zeller); The Chase (Barry); Hellraiser (Coil); 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Smith); Viking Women and the Sea Serpent (Glasser)

Read: Public Murders, by Bill Granger

Seen: Neige; La garce; The Great Mouse Detective; 2023 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts; Society of the Snow; Robot Dreams; Rebecca [1940]; Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One; Uptown Saturday Night; Harlem Nights; Bobi Wine - The People's President; The Eternal Memory

Watched: Cave In!; The Newsroom ("The Blackout Part II: Mock Debate"); Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt ("Kimmy Gets Divorced?!"); The Towering Inferno; Person of Interest ("Risk"); Veep ("First Response")

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