THEATRE REVIEW: Nick Stafford’s ‘War Horse’

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – It’s an imposing puppet made of bamboo, nylon, bicycle chain and leather, and its three human operators are clearly visible, but not long into the National Theatre’s captivating production of “War Horse,” the steed in the title is a living, breathing force onstage.

Playwright Nick Stafford has adapted the popular novel by Michael Morpurgo about a half-thoroughbred hunter named Joey that goes from a Devon farm into the heat of battle in World War I.

The horse relates his adventures in the first person in the book, but Stafford wisely abandons that conceit for the play, letting the story unfold through dialogue. First seen as an awkward foal, Joey is bought at auction by a farmer whose son, Albert (Luke Treadaway), becomes his devoted master.

Sold to the army when war breaks out, Joey ends up in the midst of some of the worst carnage in history as cavalry charges are mown down by machine gun fire. Eight million horses were killed in the First World War, and at every step Joey threatens to become one of them.

Albert enlists at 16 in order to join the yeomanry but instead spends his time trying to survive in the infantry while Joey lands on the other side of the front line. There, he has the great fortune to come under the care of a German officer who loves horses, and his chances of survival become brighter.

The production is a triumph of design, with the marvelous puppets — including several horses, a goose, vultures and even a little girl — rendered not only credible but touching. Created by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, each creature is manipulated by three people who make the sounds and provide the subtlest movements to make them all seem real.

Directors Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris combine realistic drama with sublime surrealism to convey the rustic warmth of the Devon countryside and the stark clamor of the battlefield. Designer Rae Smith keeps the stage bare using a black backdrop with a vast white slash on which animated images show ships at sea and troops advancing.

Paule Constable’s lighting design and Christopher Shutt’s sound design are essential elements in the power of the production, helped greatly by Adrian Sutton’s evocative music and John Tams’ appropriate folk songs.

Treadaway as Albert, Thusitha Jayasundera as Albert’s mother and Angus Wright as the caring German officer stand out among the humans, but it is the spectacular horses that make this show a surefire hit.

Venue: National Theatre, runs through Jan. 12; Cast: Luke Treadaway; Jamie Ballard; Thusitha Jayasundera; Angus Wright; Playwright: Nick Stafford; Based on the novel by: Michael Morpurgo; Directors: Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris; Set designer: Rae Smith; Puppets: Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler; Lighting designer: Paule Constable; Music: Adrian Sutton; Video designers: Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer; Sound designer: Christopher Shutt; Presented by the National Theatre in association with Handspring Puppet Company.

This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.

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FILM REVIEW: Robert Redford’s ‘Lions for Lambs’

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – The title of Robert Redford’s “Lions for Lambs” comes from a comment made by a German officer in World War I about the bravery of British soldiers compared to the criminal stupidity of their commanders.

The film, which had its world premiere Monday at the London Film Festival, makes clear that Redford feels the same way about the current political leadership of the U.S. and the men and women now fighting and dying in the name of their country.

In sober and unemotional fashion, Redford and writer Matthew Michael Carnahan set out the arguments for and against America’s military incursions in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving it for the audience to ponder a response. They leave no doubt, however, where they stand.

Box office response to films that deal with the U.S. government’s strategies in the Middle East so far suggests that the public is not eager to grapple with the topic onscreen. Redford’s film will appeal to those who feel that today’s military sacrifices are being made on false premises, but its responsible tone could draw a more widely appreciative audience.

Clocking in at about 90 minutes, the film has three settings, two of which involve discussions on the merits of commitment to activism and politics far removed from the field of battle. The third shows two Special Forces volunteers trapped on a snowy mountain in Afghanistan and surrounded by the enemy.

Redford plays Dr. Stephen Malley, a lecturer at an unnamed California university, who is attempting to persuade a bright but undisciplined student named Todd (Andrew Garfield) that he should apply his talents to help solving the problems of the day.

Meryl Streep is Janine Roth, a veteran television reporter whose skills include taking shorthand and the ability to land an exclusive interview with hotshot Sen. Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise). Irving has his eye on the White House, and what he has to reveal is a new strategy that involves sending small Special Forces teams deep into mountainous territory to prevent Sunni and Shia insurgents from uniting.

In fact, that strategy has already been launched. When a Chinook helicopter attempts a landing in a dangerous area, it comes under fire and two soldiers are pitched out into harm’s way. Arian Finch (Derek Luke) and Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Pena), both from deprived communities but believers in the American Dream, are exactly the kind of youngsters that Malley lionizes.

The film cuts back and forth among the three scenarios as the senator tries to convince the reporter that his way is right, the professor does the same with the student and the two grunts try to stay alive.

The debate between the politician and the journalist comes off best as both actors get under the skin of their characters, with Cruise snapping out details with charming efficiency and Streep showing the reporter’s increasing skepticism with typical subtlety.

Pena and Luke are fine in a classroom sequence that reveals their selfless idealism, and they do what’s required in combat scenes made uglier by also being viewed via satellite.

Redford wears his heart on his sleeve in the scenes between the professor and the effortlessly smart kid. Garfield is also fine, but the encounter suffers from being polemical and as a result lacks drama.

Politicians, the media, educators, military commanders and a docile public all come under fire in a well-made movie that offers no answers but raises many important questions.

Cast: Robert Redford; Meryl Streep; Tom Cruise; Peter Berg; Michael Pena; Derek Luke; Andrew Garfield; Director: Robert Redford; Screenwriter: Matthew Michael Carnahan; Director of photography: Philippe Rousselot; Production designer: Jan Roelfs; Music: Mark Isham; Costume designer: Mary Zophres; Editor: Joe Hutshing; Producers: Robert Redford, Matthew Michael Carnahan, Andrew Hauptman, Tracy Falco; Executive producers: Tom Cruise, Daniel Lupi, Paula Wagner. Running time, 92 minutes.

 

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FILM REVIEW: Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Youth Without Youth’

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – It has been 10 years since Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola last worked behind the camera, but high expectations for his new feature “Youth Without Youth,” which screened Sunday at the RomaCinemaFest, are dashed as it proves to be a muddled fantasy about the transmigration of souls.

Handsomely made on a low budget, the film has the polished look of a Coppola film with expert contributions from some master craftsmen. But the story is full of arcane references that many will find nonsensical, and the performances are a letdown. Lacking coherence and suspense, the picture is likely to attract a cult following while disappointing Coppola’s fan base.

Tim Roth (pictured, left, with uncredited Matt Damon as a reporter) plays an elderly linguistics scholar who is struck by lightning and not only begins to grow younger but also can master languages he never knew. Beginning in Bucharest, Romania, in 1938, the story has Nazi spies, fascists and a beautiful young woman who also is struck by lightning. She, however, is turned into a seventh century disciple of Chandrakirti who can speak ancient tongues and starts aging at a furious rate.

The far-fetched tale relates the strange events that overtake 70-year-old Dominic (Roth) after he is struck by lightning while planning suicide. Delighted to learn that he is getting younger, he is troubled to discover he has a double that materializes with evil intent. Dominic is further alarmed by the attentions of a sexy Nazi spy known only as the Woman in Room 6 (Alexandra Pirici) and the evil Dr. Josef Rudolf (Andre M. Hennicke) who employs her.

The scholar flees to Switzerland and survives World War II. He continues his work until one day he encounters two young women who soon afterward run their car off the road in a storm. One of them, Veronica (Alexandra Maria Lara), survives, but having been struck by lightning she now speaks Sanskrit and calls herself Rupini.

Eventually Veronica re-emerges as herself, but Dominic not only believes she is Rupini reincarnated but he also falls in love with her. As he is getting younger by the day while she gets older, something has to give. Not to mention the meddlesome double.

Coppola’s screenplay lurches from one extreme to the next, while as director he indulges unexceptional acting. Roth fails to establish Dominic as a vital character. His best screen outings are when he’s animated by villainy, but here his doleful countenance sinks into the scholar’s passive vulnerability.

Coppola is clearly captivated by the mystical contemplations of Romanian author Mircea Eliade, upon whose novella the film is based, but his fascination hasn’t translated into a fascinating motion picture. Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. uses a static camera to capture production designer Calin Papura’s atmospheric sets, while editor Walter Murch assembles it all with typical skill.

Cast: Tim Roth; Alexandra Maria Lara; Bruno Ganz; Alexandra Pirici; Andre M. Hennicke; Marcel Inures; Pintea; Florin Piersic Jr.; Zoltan Butuc; Adriana Titieni; Director, producer, screenwriter: Frances Ford Coppola; Based on the novella by: Mircea Eliade; Director of photography: Mihai Malaimare Jr.; Production designer: Calin Papura; Music: Osvaldo Golijov; Costume designer: Gloria Papura; Editor: Walter Murch; Executive producers: Anahid Nazarian, Fred Roos; Production: Sony Pictures Classics, American Zoetrope presents a SRG Atelier, Pricel and BIM Dsistribuzione production; MPAA rating: R; Running time, 124 minutes.

This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.

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Clint Mansell’s ‘The Fountain’ tops World Soundtrack Awards

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By Ray Bennett

GHENT, Belgium – “This is really great, fantastic,” said British composer Clint Mansell as he struggled for words when he accepted his World Soundtrack Award  for best original score from three-time Oscar-winner Maurice Jarre. “Speak up, son,” encouraged his retired business analyst father in the audience.

Mansell said later that he had been overwhelmed to receive the award from Jarre (“Lawrence of Arabia,” “Dr. Zhivago,” “A Passage to India”). He was a double winner for his music in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” at the 7th World Soundtrack Awards presented here on Saturday as he also won the Public Choice Award.

France’s Alexandre Desplat was named film composer of the year for scoring “The Queen” and “The Painted Veil” and David Arnold picked up the best original song award for “You Know My Name,” written with Chris Cornell for the James Bond film “Casino Royale.”

Greek legend Mikis Theodorakis (“Zorba the Greek”) was given a lifetime achievement award while Daniel Tarrab and Andres Goldstein shared the Discover of the Year prize for their work on “XXY” and “Inheritance.” The award for best young Belgian composer prize was awarded to Werner Viaene for “Belgium, the Movie” by Wim Robberechts.

When he won the Public Choice prize, Los Angeles-based Mansell, a former rocker with the band Pop Will Eat Itself, thanked Aronofsky for giving him the chance to write film music on “Requiem for a Dream” (2000) and the Kronos Quartet and the band Mogwai for performing his score. He thanked the orchestra: “When I think of all the man-hours they have put in to make me look good, it makes me very grateful.”

The self-effacing composer from Britain’s midlands seemed genuinely surprised when his name was later called for the best soundtrack prize as he triumphed over Mychael Danna for “Little Miss Sunshine,” Philip Glass for “Notes on a Scandal,” Harry Gregson-Williams for “Shrek the Third” and David Shire for “Zodiac.”

After the ceremony, I took this photo of (l-r) (l-r) are composer Stephen Barton (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (VG), Lullaby, Matters of Life and Death, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont); composer agent Rob Messinger, Clint Mansell (The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream, Sahara, Pi) BMI’s Doreen Ringer Ross, David Arnold (Die Another Day, Casino Royale, The World Is Not Enough, Stargate, 2 Fast 2 Furious) and Mychael Danna and Harry Gregson Williams.

After the ceremony, I took this photo of (l-r) (l-r) are composer Stephen Barton (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (VG), Lullaby, Matters of Life and Death, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont); composer agent Rob Messinger, Clint Mansell (The Fountain, Requiem for a Dream, Sahara, Pi) BMI’s Doreen Ringer Ross, David Arnold (Die Another Day, Casino Royale, The World Is Not Enough, Stargate, 2 Fast 2 Furious) and Mychael Danna and Harry Gregson Williams.

Desplat was not on hand to accept his award as he is in London scoring Chris Weitz’s upcoming fantasy adventure “The Golden Compass.” In a video message, he thanked the directors of his films, Stephen Frears and John Curran, and praised the French composers who had inspired him, especially Jarre and Georges Delerue. Accepting the award for Desplat from Flanders International Film Festival chief Jacques Dubrulle, Jarre chided the absent winner: “Promise me next time you will be here!”

Theodorakis also sent a video message in which he said he was sending lifelong friend and collaborator, Turkish composer Zulfu Livaneli to accept his award. The two work hard in the cause of Greek and Turkish friendship and Theodorakis said Livaneli’s appearance was intended to be symbolic of their work.

Livaneli praised his Greek colleague for using “his work, his art and his life to contribute to peace in the world.”

Goldstein and Tarab said they shared their Discovery prize with “the great team in Buenos Aires that work with us,” and Tarab added: It is overwhelming to be here among so many composers that I respect and admire so much.”

The awards ceremony, hosted by Belgian Television film critic Roel Van Bamboost and British broadcaster, concert promoter and documentary filmmaker Tommy Pearson, featured performances of film music by Theodorakis, Mychael Danna, Harry Gregson-Williams, Evanthia Reboutsika, and Jeff Neve.

The WSA celebrations came at the close of 34th edition of the Flanders Film Festival. Awards in that event, handed out earlier, went to Stefan Ruzowitzky’s “The Counterfeiters” for best film; Roy Anderson’s “You the Living” for best music, and Tamara Jenkins’s “The Savages” for best screenplay. Saverio Constanzo was named best director for “In Memory of Me” and actors Saleh Bakri and Ronit Elkabetz won a special mention from the jury for  “The Band’s Visit”. Kathleen Turner headed the jury at the festival, which ran Oct. 9-20.

A version of this story appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.

Here’s more on the Flanders International Film Festival and the World Soundtrack Awards, and Mansell

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Film composers strut their stuff in Ghent

Bajofondo Santaolalla

By Ray Bennett

GHENT, Belgium – Double Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla kicked off three evenings of music tied to the Flanders International Film Festival and the World Soundtrack Awards Thursday with a thunderous performance by the electrifying aggregation known as the Bajofondo Tango Club.

Rich with influences from the musical traditions of Buenos Aires and Montivideo, including tango, murga, milonga and candombe, boiled up with Argentine and Uruguayan rock, hip hop and electronica, the eight-piece unit thrilled a packed audience at the medieval city’s Arts Centre Vooruit.

gustavoLos Angeles-based Santaolalla (left), who won back-to-back Academy Awards for his scores to “Brokeback Mountain” and “Babel,” tours with Bajofondo and has recorded two albums with the band. They played London’s Roundhouse Sunday night and were headed for Seville in Spain. On guitar and percussion, and adding his growling voice to colorful vocals, the Argentine composer stayed in the background for most of the fiery set, which lasted almost two hours.

Javier Casalla on violin and Martín Ferrés on bandoneon took center stage to drive the music with evocative video clips of life in Argentina displayed on screens behind them.

Performing tracks from their albums “Bajofondo Tango Club” and “Mar Dulce,” produced by Santaolalla and Juan Campodónico, who contributes programming, beats and samples, and plays guitar, the band maintained a furious pace through an irresistibly sensual combination of melody and percussion.

Santaolalla provided one memorably hushed moment playing a theme from his score to the 2004 Walter Salles movie “The Motorcycle Diaries.” The composer said he is completing a new film with Salles based on the album ” Café de los Maestros,” which could do for the tango of Argentina what Ry Cooder’s “Buena Vista Social Club” did for Cuban music. It is expected to debut in February at the Berlin film festival.

Meanwhile, Bajofondo climaxed their dynamic set with three encores and closed by inviting the closest members of the standing-only audience to dance on stage.

Alberto IglesiasThe mood changed Friday evening when the enchanting music of Oscar-nominated Spanish film composer Alberto Iglesias (left, “The Constant Gardener”) was performed at the Ghent Music Centre by the Flemish Radio Orchestra conducted by Dirk Brosse. His deeply evocative score for the new Marc Foster film “The Kite Runner” was followed by a suite of themes from the many Pedro Almodovar movies he has scored including “Volver,” “Bad Education,” “Talk to Me” and “All About My Mother.”

The performance also featured a concert piece by the winner of seven Goya film awards titled “Orpheus in Palermo” that featured artists providing foley sound effects of men walking and doors closing.

The three-day event closed on Saturday with performances at the Music Centre as part of the World Soundtrack Awards. British composer Harry Gregson-Williams conducted the Flemish Radio Orchestra playing some of his sweeping themes from the “Shrek” films, “Seraphim Falls,” “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

Brosse then led the orchestra in music by Canadian composer Mychael Danna from “Monsoon Wedding,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “Being Julia,” and “Ice Storm,” featuring Dutch musicians playing Indonesian gamelan instruments. Both sequences demonstrated how well the finest film scores hold up in a concert hall setting.

The evening included a jazz piece by Belgian composer Jeff Neve accompanied by intriguing clips from the movie “With Friends Like These” and a rousing suite of music by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis (“Zorba the Greek”) who was receiving a lifetime achievement award although he wasn’t present due to illness.

Another Greek composer, Evanthia Reboutsika, who won the World Soundtrack Discovery Award in 2006, provided the highlight of the show. Playing the violin accompanied by Osama Abdulrasol on a plucked zither called a qanun, she performed tracks from the movie “My Father and My Son” and drew rapturous applause from an audience that comprised festival-goers and some of the best film composers in the business including Gregson-Williams, Danna, David Arnold and triple-Oscar winner Maurice Jarre.

This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s more about Bajofondo

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THEATRE REVIEW: Christian Slater in ‘Swimming With Sharks’

'Swimming with Sharks' Matt Smith, Slater

By Ray Bennett

Hollywood loves to think its corporate monsters are worse than in any other business, as George Huang demonstrated in his scabrous 1994 film “Swimming With Sharks”.

Now, British writer Michael Lesslie has rendered the story onstage and Christian Slater (pictured right with Matt Smith) provides the fireworks as the production executive from hell played in the film by Kevin Spacey.

It’s not subtle, but the story of schlock producer Buddy Ackerman (Slater) and his corruption of an idealistic young film school graduate named Guy (Smith) is an entertaining depiction of cutthroat office politics at its worst.

On a gleaming set of sterile desks, chairs and white couches, director Wilson Milam sets a fierce pace as a bumptious young opportunist named Rex (Arthur Darvill), who has won a promotion, gives wide-eyed Guy the lowdown on life as a big-time power broker’s assistant.

This includes long hours when he must pay constant attention to 40 telephone lines and he must fetch everything from coffee with the correct sweetener to the latest empty-headed starlet in the lobby for Ackerman’s pleasure. The fast-talking and deeply cynical executive believes that blood on the lens sells motion pictures and is responsible for a series of gorefests that have kept the studio in profit.

The industry is going through changes, however, with young independent filmmakers daring to try serious drama. When indie producer Dawn Lockard (Helen Baxendale) brings in a hot new script to pitch, Ackerman turns it down, but ambitious Guy is determined to help make it work.

There’s history between the ruthless executive and the woman, so when Guy falls in love with her, it sets in motion a triangular power play with devastating results.

Huang based his movie on his experiences working as an assistant to assorted bullies at various studios, and the play retains much of the crude but colorful language he gave to the shrewd but outrageously vulgar showman.

Slater might not have Spacey’s sly calculation, but he gives a bravura performance and he uses his knowing grin to put across Ackerman’s more extreme behavior. He’s thoroughly credible when the apparently heartless producer is suddenly persuaded of the merit of quality filmmaking and when he invents movingly the loss of a loved one.

Smith is effective in showing the young assistant’s growth from a gangly and awkward kid who can name every best picture winner at the Academy Awards to a smooth operator who knows how to break down a screenplay and put a budget figure on it. Baxendale stands up to Smith’s energy and Slater’s star power with admirable strength.

Designer Dick Bird’s clinical set establishes a soulless environment helped by Stephen Warbeck’s incisive musical punctuation. Sound designer Matt McKenzie, however, might have made the gunshots, when they come, more emphatic and startling.

The Hollywood Reporter features twice in the production in scenes of torture. First, when Ackerman orders his assistant to find and tear up every single copy of an edition carrying an unflattering story about him and secondly when Guy uses a copy to literally draw blood. Nice to see.

Venue: Vaudeville Theatre, runs through Jan. 19; Cast: Christian Slater; Helen Baxendale; Matt Smith; Elizabeth Croft; Arthur Darvill; Mark Edel-Hunt; Jonathan Newth; Fanos Xenofos; Playwright: George Huang; Adapted by: Michael Lesslie; Director Wilson Milam; Set designer: Dick Bird; Lighting designer: Paul Anderson; Music: Stephen Warbeck; Sound designer: Matt McKenzie; Presented by CMP, Nica Burns, Max Weitzenhoffer for Nimax Theatres, the Weinstein Co., Old Vic Prods., Ian Lenegan and Ian Osborne

This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter

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Gabriel, Desplat, Arnold honoured in BMI London awards

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By Ray Bennett

Peter Gabriel was in a philosophical mood as he accepted the accolade of BMI Icon in London this week. The British music industry crowd gave him two standing ovations as he spoke of what the honour means to him.

Peter Gabriel BMI 2007 x325He said, ”It means a lot because it’s about songwriting. When I realised I was not going to be the world’s greatest drummer, that’s when I knew it was about the songs. When I saw the list of previous honorees, I’m very proud to be among them.”

Other BMI Icons include Ray Davies, Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, the Bee Gees, James Brown, Dolly Parton, Van Morrison, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

BMI doesn’t often have entertainment at its London event but at Gabriel’s request, the folk duo Show of Hands – Steve Knightley, Phil Beer, joined by Miranda Sykes (pictured) – performed a lively set that was very well received.

I had a great time at a table with ebullient songwriter Ashley Ingram, left, once of the group Imagination. The British musician and producer cowrote Des’ree’s infectiously optimistic hit “You Gotta Be,” for which he picked up a prize marking four million plays on American radio.

Ingram is now based in Toronto where he runs a popular music school. He telephoned his mum in Northampton during the evening to tell her about the banquet. He said, “She just wanted to be sure that I hadn’t been late getting here.”

As the evening wound down, I spotted Alan Price get up to leave. Price, is one of the great songwriters and his song score for the film “O Lucky Man” shamefully did not receive Academy Award recognition. He picked up a prize on the night for 5 million plays of his arrangement of “The House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals. I have almost all his records and I’ve always wanted to interview him.

I approached him in the spacious lobby of the Dorchester Hotel Ballroom. “I’m a journalist and a lifelong fan … ” I said. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t even look at me. He turned on his heels and scurried off into the night.

BMI 2007 Desplat Bryant x325In the awards, Golden Globe-winning composer Alexandre Desplat (pictured left with Del Bryant), Grammy-winning composer David Arnold, and composing brothers Harry and Rupert Gregson-Williams were among the winners.

The film and television music prizes were among honors handed out to members of Britain’s Performing Rights Society and other European rights services for top play in the U.S. in 2006 at the American music rights organization’s annual London shindig.

“Unwritten,” by Danielle Brisebois and Natasha Bedingfield, picked up the Robert S. Musel Award for Song of the Year.

BMI president and CEO Del Bryant at a private gathering ahead of the event, said the non-profit organization has had three consecutive years of record results: “It’s been an exceptional year, with $840 million in earnings for performing rights. Radio in the United States is having a rough time and so are record companies. This is a hedge against the problems we’re having with the mechanicals.”

Bryant reminded Gabriel that the first song he registered with BMI, almost 40 years ago, was titled “Where the Sour Turns to Sweet.” The songwriter’s songs have appeared in numerous films and he composed the score for Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” and Phillip Noyce’s “Rabbit-Proof Fence”.

In this year’s film prizes, Desplat was honored for his Golden Globe-winning score for John Curran’s “The Painted Veil” and his music for Stephen Frears’ “The Queen,” which picked up Oscar and BAFTA nominations. The French composer scored Ang Lee’s latest, “Lust, Caution,” and Chris Weitz’s upcoming fantasy adventure “The Golden Compass.”

David Arnold BMI 2007 x325Arnold (left), a Grammy winner for “Independence Day,” was cited for his score to “Casino Royale.” He composed the music for three previous James Bond films and is on board for the untitled “Bond 22” plus the animated “Agent Crush” and comedy “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.” Arnold, who is also very busy in the pop world working with such acts as the Kaiser Chiefs, has scored TV’s “Stargate SG-1” since 1997.

Rupert Gregson-Williams was honored for the Adam Sandler comedy “Click” and DreamWorks Animation’s “Over the Hedge.” Previous films include “Hotel Rwanda” and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.” He has Jerry Seinfeld’s animated “Bee Movie” just about to open with Paul Weiland’s comedy “Made of Honor” and another Adam Sandler comedy, “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” coming up.

Harry Gregson-Williams won for the Aardman/DreamWorks animated film “Flushed Away” and Tony Scott’s Denzel Washington thriller “Deja Vu.” His credits include such DreamWorks hits as “Antz” (1998), “Chicken Run” (2000), and “Shrek” (2001) with John Powell. He scored “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (2005) and he is at work on “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” due in 2008, both directed by Andrew Adamson for Walt Disney.

Also honored was John Murphy for Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice.” His credits include Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine,” and Juan Carlos Fresnadoillo’s “28 Weeks Later.” Edward Shearmur (“Factory Girl,” “The Other Boleyn Girl”) was recognized for his Emmy-winning music for the TV series “Masters of Horror.”

The BMI TV awards went to Pete Townshend for the three “CSI” series, and also to “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House,” with cable prizes going to “Dexter” and “The Hills.”

2007 BMI LONDON AWARDS

Film Music

“Casino Royale,” David Arnold (PRS)

“Click,” Rupert Gregson-Williams (PRS)

“Deja vu,” Harry Gregson-Williams (PRS)

“Flushed Away,” Harry Gregson-Williams (PRS)

“Miami Vice,” John Murphy (PRS)

“Over the Hedge,” Rupert Gregson-Williams (PRS)

“The Queen,” Alexandre Desplat (SACEM)

TV Music

“CSI,” Pete Townshend (PRS)

“CSI: Miami,” Pete Townshend (PRS)

“CSI: NY,” Pete Townshend (PRS)

“Grey’s Anatomy,” Carim Clasmann (PRS), Galia Durant (PRS)

“House,” Robert Del Naja (PRS), Grantley Marshall (PRS), Andrew Vowles (PRS)

Cable Awards

“Dexter,” Rolfe Kent (PRS)

“The Hills,” Natasha Bedingfield (PRS)

Emmy Award

“Masters of Horror,” Edward Shearmur (BMI)

Golden Globe Award

“The Painted Veil,” Alexandre Desplat (SACEM)

The Robert S. Musel Award

“Unwritten,” Natasha Bedingfield (PRS), Danielle Brisebois (BMI)

EMI Music Publishing Ltd. (PRS)

Natasha Bedingfield

College Song

“Crazy”

GianFranco Reverberi (SIAE), GianPiero Reverberi (SIAE), Cee-Lo Green (BMI)

Universal Music Publishing Ricordi srl (SIAE)

Warner/Chappell Music Publishing Ltd. (PRS)

Gnarls Barkley

Internet Award

“You’re Beautiful”

James Blunt (PRS), Amanda Ghost (PRS), Sacha Skarbek (PRS)

Bucks Music Group Ltd. (PRS)

EMI Music Publishing Ltd. (PRS)

James Blunt

Dance Award

“Dare”

Damon Albarn (PRS), Jamie Hewlett (PRS)

EMI Music Publishing Ltd. (PRS)

Gorillaz featuring Shaun Ryder

Here’s BMI and more on Gabriel, Show of Hands, and Ingram

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THEATRE REVIEW: Jonathan Pryce in ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’

l-rJonathanPryce(ShellyLevene)AidanGillen(RichardRoma),photobyJohanPersson

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – David Mamet’s already spare drama “Glengarry Glen Ross” has been pared to the bone in a scintillating revival that stars Jonathan Pryce (pictured left) , who shows that spending time on such light Hollywood fare as the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series has not affected his dynamic stage presence.

The 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning play is set among ruthless real estate salesmen in Chicago but their petty grasping and merciless in-fighting could happen in any business and political situation where greed and desperation go hand in hand.

Director James Macdonald takes a brisk 80 minutes in two acts to stage Mamet’s masterful dissection of men whose job involves prying money from gullible dreamers longing for a place in the sun.

Pryce plays Shelly Levene, a man who spits out words before they’ve assembled meaning as sentences in his mind but whose gift for the gab is failing him. He was once top dog in an office run like a kennel with the hounds offered scraps to chase and sink their teeth into. The scraps, called leads, are the names of potential customers handed out with savage selectivity by icy manager John Williamson (Peter McDonald).

Levene’s name isn’t often on the big board of top sellers these days and with a sick wife and a daughter in school, he’s getting increasingly frantic. Tough economic times increase the pressure from the company’s absentee owners so that the manager’s leads become ever more important to Levene and his fellow salesmen.

Even rising star Richard Roma (Aidan Gillen, pictured right) is reduced to pitching a sale to a hapless guy named Lingk (Tom Smith) he meets in a restaurant. Salesman Dave Moss (Matthew Marsh) conspires with old-timer George Aaronow (Paul Freeman) to stage a burglary to steal the leads and sell them to a rival agency.

The characters are introduced in two-handed sequences in the 35-minute first act set in a restaurant with Mamet’s skill at imparting information through syncopated dialogue never better. Tony Award-winner Pryce nails Levene’s faltering expertise at persuasion as he begs Williamson for some top-flight leads. His antic pleading is met with implacable indifference, well portrayed by McDonald, who stepped into the role at the last minute.

Roma’s encounter with the credulous Lingk enables Gillen to get under the skin of the swaggering young man with his ability to appear ingratiating and trustworthy. Marsh and Freeman complete the set-up with a conversation in which one never gets to finish a sentence while the other gulls him into contemplating robbery.

The 45-minute second act reveals designer Anthony Ward’s meticulously detailed set of a crowded office torn apart by burglars. As Mamet leads his characters into further duplicity and plot twists, director Macdonald allows the fine cast to get to grips with the playwright’s percussive fluency.

Gillen (TV’s “The Wire”) has the flair and body language of Al Pacino, who played Roma in James Foley’s 1992 film version, but he brings his own astute comprehension of a slick operator who senses in Levene intimations of his own demise.

Pryce, who played Lingk in the 1992 film version – which starred Jack Lemmon as a more sentimental Levene – captures expertly Levene’s nastiness as well as the charm he can manufacture and his escalating anxiety. His description of overcoming one couple’s reluctance in order to nail down a sale is like watching a great jazzman at work.

“Glengarry Glen Ross” has an illustrious production history beginning in 1983 at the National Theatre when Evening Standard critic Milton Shulman praised the playwright’s speech patterns for their “glib, breathtaking momentum.”

It had a run in Chicago before it opened in New York in February 1984 with Robert Prosky as Shelly Levene and Joe Mantegna as Richard Roma for a run of 378 performances. The late, great Lane Smith played Lingk. It won Tony Awards for best play and best featured actor, Mantegna.

James Foley’s 1992 film version was scripted by Mamet and starred Al Pacino as Roma, Alan Arkin as Aaronow, Ed Harris as Moss, Kevin Spacey as the cold office manager Williamson and Alec Baldwin as a character devised for the film. Lemmon was named best actor at the Venice International Film Festival and Pacino pulled Oscar and Golden Globe nominations as best supporting actor.

The play was presented again on Broadway in 2005 and picked up another Tony Award as best revival. Alan Alda as Levene, Gordon Clapp as Moss, and Liev Schreiber as Roma were nominated as featured actors and the prize went to Schreiber, who was nominated this year as best actor for “Talk Radio.”

Venue: Apollo Theatre, runs through Jan. 12; Cast: Jonathan Pryce; Aidan Gillen; Paul Freeman; Matthew Marsh; Peter McDonald; Tom Smith; Shane Attwooll; Playwright: David Mamet; Director: James Macdonald; Designer: Anthony Ward; Lighting designer: Howard Harrison; Presented by Mark Rubinstein, Ron Kastner, Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Jam Theatricals and Patrick Myles.

A version of this review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. Photo by Johan Persson.

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THEATRE REVIEW: Wycherley’s ‘The Country Wife’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – When the curtain goes up in the new West End production of William Wycherley’s Restoration sex comedy “The Country Wife,” Toby Stephens, as a priapic young stud named Horner, is standing alone with his back to the audience grinning and stark naked.

countrywife372At first night this week, I was sitting just in front of his mother, actress Maggie Smith. A companion whispered to her, “Were you expecting that?” and received in reply a shocked “No!”

Smith’s delighted laughter could be heard along with the rest of the audience throughout the production, not least for her son’s performance but for everyone including Fiona Glascott as the titular young wife, Margery. Smith played the role at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 1969. In the same row a few seats along, also having a good time, sat Judi Dench, who played Margery in 1966.

Many great actresses have played the young wife including American Ruth Gordon (“Harold and Maude”) in 1936 with Michael Redgrave as her husband, Joan Plowright in 1956 with Laurence Harvey as Horner, and Helen Mirren in a 1977 BBC production with Bernard Cribbins as the husband.

The play might have been shocking in 1675, but its tale of lustful men and wanton women mocking the veneer of polite society is played for rollicking laughs in director Jonathan Kent’s new production at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Cynical and bawdy, it assumes that every wife is ripe for plucking and every husband is destined to be a cuckold. It could be taken as misogyny except that the women give as well as the men and the betrayed husbands are a pious bore and a jealous buffoon.

Dressed in blue jeans and frock coats to blur the time frame, three young men – Horner (Toby Stephens), Harcourt (John Hopkins) and Dorilant (Tristan Beint) – spend their time drinking beer, playing pool and planning their next conquests.

Horner devises a scheme whereby his doctor will declare him a eunuch following a bout of the pox, the idea being that husbands will trust him with their wives and leave him to exploit the circumstances as he will. Invariably, the objects of his attention are all too willing to enjoy the deception.

Chief among these is Lady Fidget (Patricia Hodge), who is always on the lookout for a wayward male and the opportunity to test his honour, as Wycherley puts it. Horner is up for anyone at any time, and he also is particularly taken with Margery (Fiona Glascott), the pretty, giddy young wife of a furiously overprotective older man named Pinchwife (David Haig).

Margery is from the country and longs for the attention of the city gallants while her husband goes to great lengths to keep her away from temptation. Pinchwife’s sister, Alithea (Elisabeth Dermot Walsh), is engaged to marry a foppish dimwit named Sparkish (Jo Stone-Fewings), though his friend Harcourt is doing his best to displace him.

Kent, in the first production of his yearlong season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, moves things along at a gloriously lusty pace. Paul Brown’s sets involve plenty of doors for miscreants to dive through and hide behind while the actors relish Wycherley’s ribald dialogue, which is rich with euphemisms for sexual dalliance and doesn’t sound dated at all.

All the performances are entertaining. Stephens is a touch too cocky for a man pretending to be a eunuch but he’s full of dash and eager to please. Hodge makes Lady Fidget a sly and knowing conspirator and Walsh and Hopkins contribute some sense of propriety with great poise and charm.

The real crowd-pleasers, however, are Glascott as the winsomely irritating country wife and Haig as her combustible green-eyed spouse. Glascott is sexy, innocent and maddening in the role.

Haig is a master of farce, and he frets, blusters and comes as close to exploding as John Cleese at his best. It’s a witty and boisterous performance that will send packed audiences out onto the Haymarket laughing happily well past Christmas.

Venue: Theatre Royal Haymarket Company; runs through Jan. 12;  Cast: Toby Stephens, Patricia Hodge, David Haig, Fiona Glascott, David Shaw-Parker, Timothy Bateson, Nicholas Day, Lucy Tregear, Liz Crowther, John Hopkins, Tristan Beint, Jo Stone-Fewings, Elisabeth Dermot Walsh, Catherine Bailey, Janet Brown; Playwright: William Wycherley; Director: Jonathan Kent; Set designer: Paul Brown; Lighting designer: Mark Henderson; Sound designer: Paul Groothuis; Costume designer: Paul Brown; Music: Steven Edis.

A version of this review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.

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Charles Strouse earns his applause at the ASCAP awards

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – No matter their age nor how well they sing, there is something magical in songwriters performing their own tunes. Broadway veteran Charles Strouse (pictured), who turns 80 next year, proved that at the 2007 ASCAP Awards banquet at London’s Grosvenor House Wednesday night.

Charles Strouse ASCAP 2007 x325Strouse won standing ovations from the seen-it-all industry crowd after warbling such hits as “Once Upon a Time,” “Kids,” “Applause,” from his hit show of the same name starring Lauren Bacall, and “Tomorrow” from “Annie.”  Besides his musicals “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Annie”, the Tony-winning composer and songwriter composed the scores for movies such as “Bonnie & Clyde” and “The Night They Raided Minsky’s.” He also wrote the theme for TV’s “All in the Family.”

I was at a table with prizewinning composers Patrick Doyle, Anne Dudley and Alex Heffes, who joined in the enthusiastic response. A few tables away, record producer George Martin and Lady Martin and Oscar-winning lyricist Don Black and his wife Shirley also were on their feet.

Academy Award-winning composer Anne Dudley and nominated composers Patrick Doyle and Dario Marianelli were among the winners in the film and television music prizes presented at ASCAP’s’s annual banquet that honours members of Britain’s Performing Rights Society for the most performed works in the U.S. in 2006.

Norwegian pop duo Tor Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen (Stargate) were named songwriters of the year and their “So Sick” was named best song. EMI Music Publishing U.K. was named publisher of the year.

ASCAP senior vp international Roger Greenaway told me ahead of the event: “It’s safe to say that the performing rights end is not doing as bad as the record industry these days because we’re about performances and they’re about physical recordings, although we do feel their pain. We’re not safe, but we’re safer. In fact, we see a rise of 4-5% over the next two or three years.”

Greenaway said that film and TV music is thriving. “It’s doing better than ever as there are more TV channels on cable and satellite. With more than 800 TV stations in the U.S., performing rights for film and TV music is really vibrant,” he said.

In this year’s film prizes, Dudley, who won the Oscar for “The Full Monty” in 1997, was honored for Kevin Reynolds’s “Tristan + Isolde.” Current Dudley projects include Paul Schrader’s “The Walker” and Lynda La Plante’s ongoing ITV miniseries “Trial & Retribution.”

Doyle’s ASCAP prize was for Stefan Fangmeier’s 2006 fantasy “Eragon.” Current projects from the veteran U.K. composer (Oscar-nominated for “Sense and Sensibility” and “Hamlet”) include “The Last Legion” and “Sleuth.”

Marianelli, who won for “V for Vendetta,” was an Oscar nominee for “Pride & Prejudice” (2005) and might be in the running next time for the hit “Atonement.” He also scored current pictures Neil Jordan’s “The Brave One” and Asif Kapadia’s “Far North.”

Other film music honorees were John Taverner, who won for Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men.” A legend in classical music, his rare movies include Carlos Reygadas 2005 Argentine film “Battle in Heaven,” which was In Competition at the Festival de Cannes in 2005 and won the critics’ prize as best Latin American film at the 2005 Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival.

Alex Heffes won for Kevin Macdonald’s “The Last King of Scotland.” His credits include “Touching the Void” (2003) and “Dear Frankie” (2004) and he scored Macdonald’s new documentary on Nazi Klaus Barbie, “My Enemy’s Enemy.”

And Erran Baron Cohen won for “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” Sacha Baron Cohen’s brother, he wrote the music for the 2005 U.K. documentary BBC TV series “Serious Arctic.”

The ASCAP television theme awards went to “American Idol,” “Dancing with the Stars,” “House” and “Who wants to be a Millionaire?”

Songwriters Hermansen and Eriksen had seven of the most performed songs in 2006 including Ne-Yo’s “So Sick” and “Sexy Love,” Rihanna’s “Unfaithful,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away,” sand Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.”

Their success went a long way to helping EMI land the publishing prize for the fourth time, as managing director Guy Moot emphasised: “For Stargate to pick up seven awards, including Songwriters of the Year is particularly pleasing in a year that has seen them make a huge breakthrough in the U.S. With other wins for Yusuf Islam, Phil Collins, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Lenky, it’s good to see the diversity and breadth of our catalogue being acknowledged.”

2007 ASCAP Awards

Honoring PRS writer and publisher members whose repertory is licensed by ASCAP and was among its most performed works in the United States in 2006.

FILM

Erran Baron Cohen, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”

Patrick Doyle, “Eragon”

John Tavener, “Children of Men”

Alex Heffes, “The Last King of Scotland”

Anne Dudley, “Tristan And Isolde”

Dario Marianelli, “V For Vendetta”

TV THEME

Keith Strachan, Matthew Strachan, “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” Publishers: Universal Music Publishing Group

Cathy Dennis, Julian Gingell, Barry Stone, “American Idol.” Publishers: EMI Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group

Elizabeth Fraser, “House.” Publishers: Sony/ATV Music Publishing (UK) Limited

Dan McGrath, Josh Philips, “Dancing with the Stars.” Publishers: BBC Worldwide Music/Universal Music Publishing Group

RECORDINGS

Songwriter of the Year: Tor Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen (Stargate)

Publisher of the Year: EMI Music Publishing UK

Song of the Year: “So Sick,” Ne-Yo. Writers: Tor Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen. Publishers: EMI Music Publishing, SONY/ATV Music Publishing (UK) Limited

College Award: “Hats off to the Buskers,” The View. Writers: Kyle Falconer, Kieren Webster. Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group

Vanguard Award: ‘Fur And Gold,’ Bat For Lashes. Writer: Natasha Khan. Publisher: Chrysalis Music Ltd.

A version of this story appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s more about Strouse and ASCAP

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