RIP John Barry

Good film music enhances movie scenes. Great film music takes a good, bad or indifferent scene and lifts it into the stratosphere. Really great film music does that and is also enchanting to listen to in any context. By that measure, John Barry is one of the best film composers ever.

He might have lacked some of their complexity, but in emotional and melodic terms he is very much on a par with the greatest film composers of all time, including Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, and Bernard Herrmann — and their music charted much less frequently. John Barry could write a complex, soaring pop hit that might make Burt Bacharach jealous. He wasn’t afraid to be over-the-top when the job called for and embraced a certain level of kitsch where appropriate. He didn’t over-value subtlety.

Mr. Barry died yesterday in New York from a heart attack at age 77, not super young but another twenty or thirty years of his presence on the planet would have been nice, too. Even today, when many young film viewers are only barely aware that some guy named Sean Connery once played James Bond, if I ask almost anyone to think of “spy music,” they’re probably going to think of either the actual music from the early James Bond films or music heavily influenced by it. That’s just scratching the surface.

Barry evoked beauty, longing and mystery for all kinds of films. His 111 composing credits included Oscar-winning scores for “Out of Africa,” “Born Free,” the colonial war classic “Zulu,” his groundbreaking combination of scoring and music supervision on “Midnight Cowboy,” the cult fantasy-romance, “Somewhere in Time,” a now very obscure 1972 live-action musical version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and Richard Lester’s masterpiece, “The Knack and How to Get It.” Other scores include “Dances With Wolves,” “The Lion in Winter,” and the three movies that starred Michael Caine as anti-Bond workaday spook, Harry Palmer. Barry had the spy market cornered, and he was one very cool cat.

If you’ve never heard his fascinating and funny 2004 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross where he discusses “million dollar Mickey Mouse music,” now’s a good time. As you can always bet on, there’s much more at MUBI and be sure to check out this anecdote from Sir Michael about being present at the creation of a pop masterpiece. After the flip, just a few somewhat random clips of some of Barry’s best.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

“Goldfinger” live

I think I might have mentioned here before that, after much struggle, I finally got my Blu-Ray/Home theater set-up working a couple of days ago. However, as of earlier today I had yet to actually watch a Blu-Ray video on it. My Bullz-Eye and Premium Hollywood compatriot, Ross Ruediger, suggested to me I inaugurate it by checking out the “Goldfinger” Blu-Ray. Even though that movie — which truly started the sixties spy craze and became the model for the modern action film (with a gigantic nod to “North by Northwest“) — isn’t his favorite of the series, he loved how the disc looked and it sold him on the format. Well, having looked at just a bit of “Raging Bull,” which I happened to snag a free copy, I’m almost frightened of the the resolution. “Goldfinger” might kill me.

You see, “Goldfinger” actually is my favorite Bond film, I’ll try to make a special and hopefully shaken vodka martini-soaked occasion of watching it on Blu-Ray, and I certainly think its theme song can’t be topped.

And so, below are two great live versions. Starting with Dame Shirley Bassey. I don’t know when this particular rendition was recorded but I never quite realized how sexy she is. Wow.

And here’s the man himself, composer, arranger, and conductor John Barry, in 2001 conducting an orchestral version of “Goldfinger,” that almost comes across like a lament or a torch song. Also he reclaims the Bond theme from that scalawag, Monty Norman. Nicely done, Sir Barry.

;

  

Related Posts

Weekend box office preview: PG/PG-13 comedies with veiled genitalia references take on “Inception”

cats&dog2

Yes, I’m going to be brief and terse today for, as you can see, we’re pretty busy here at Premium Hollywood right now. However, allow me me to tell you two things. As discussed at a recent press conference I attended, Paramount’s “Dinner for Schmucks” contains a Yiddish word literally meaning “penis” in its title and might just as easily been named “Dinner for Dicks,” if we were all living in a shtetl.  The 3-D kiddie sequel from Warner’s, “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” contains an at-one-remove non-reference to female genitalia that somehow seems a million times dirtier to me than the real reference contained in the wonderfully absurd name of the character played by Honor Blackman in the greatest-James-Bond-ever-made (aka, “Goldfinger”).

That being said, both movies have their potential commercial upsides and downsides as they struggle to top the predicted $25-$30 million dollar third weekend for Christopher Nolan’s brain-based blockbuster, “Inception.” I personally don’t know why any parents went to see the first “Cats & Dogs” beyond being dragged forcibly by little ones, but they went. I’m personally convinced watching ‘net videos of non-CGI assisted/created cats and dogs would be a lot more amusing.  The new film adds the 3-D factor and, as jolly Carl DiOrio notes, may be something of a test for the ongoing commercial appeal of the format-cum-gimmick.

Steve Carell has something to show Paul Rudd in I’ve seen “Schmucks” (been one, too) and, while I understand Dave Medsker’s more-negative-than-positive review — well, except for the part about Zach Galifianakis, who pretty much put me away — I myself come down more on the positive side. It’s not great film-making nor is it an example of great screenwriting, but it engaged me and made me laugh quite a bit, mostly based on the sheer invention of its cast, particularly the supporting players, most definitely also including Jemaine Clement. Considering the audience reaction the night I saw it, I’m willing to wager it’ll do the same for most rank-and-file film-goers and could perhaps over-perform on the ongoing appeal of stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd.

There’s one more new major release, “Charlie St. Cloud,” a fantasy tearjerker for Zac Efron that apparently borrows a page or two from the Nicholas Sparks playbook and may perhaps set the hearts of some teens and tweens aflutter. It doesn’t seem likely to hit the big leagues. Of course, the reviews aren’t so hot.

There is also more than a little action on the indie/limited release front this week. The highly acclaimed “The Kids Are All Right” has a major expansion that could take it through to Oscar time.  There is “The Extra Man” which I’ve been covering here as you may have noticed (more is on the way) which I liked more than most critics. There is also the well-reviewed by nearly everyone but a few fine cinephiles, and me, “Get Low.” The Oscar talk is already flying about this one for the great Robert Duvall in his folksy mode, and we’ll see whether it allows the film some, forgive me, tender mercies from arthouse filmgoers.

Robert Duvall, getting low

  

Related Posts

“Basterds” Redux

As John F. Kennedy used to say, “success has a thousand fathers and failure is an orphan.” One thing’s for sure, both generate a ton of ink.

* I’m still of two minds on this whole Twitter business in terms of whether or not it really speeds up what we used to call “word-of-mouth” on movies. It seems to me we’ve had texting for awhile now, though the proliferation of iPhone and other communication devices is a new factor and must be having an impact. Unlike texting, you don’t pay on a per-Tweet basis, so maybe. Steven Zeitchik, however, is more certain and guess which movie he thinks is the first to officially benefit. (If you haven’t already been spoiled at all on the not-ripped-from-the-history-books ending of “Inglourious Basterds, you might want to skip this one.)

* Tom O’Neil at “The Envelope” speculates on awards strategy for releasing “Basterds” now rather than closer to award season. To me, Weinstein’s decision to highlight the musical “Nine” over this seems more than self-evident. Assuming the film is not a complete turkey, that film’s Oscar chances should be better.

Quentin Tarantino‘s films are not Oscar-friendly. The older members of the Academy have traditionally leaned strongly towards a very traditional, essentially literary and middle-class, view of quality which is pretty much the antithesis of the Tarantino aesthetic. It’s only been through his widespread acclaim and a subtle loosening of old prejudices that his films have gotten the definitely limited Oscar recognition they have and, considering what some regard as a too lighthearted view of World War II horrors, I wouldn’t expect this one to be much different. Of course, with ten nomination slots for Best Picture, and the universal groundswell of acclaim for heretofore internationally unknown German actor Christoph Waltz, two or three nominations (including the semi-inevitable “Best Original Screenplay” nod) are almost a certainty.

If you want an example of the kind of old-school middle-brow snobbery that’s always stood in the way of Tarantino — and Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Don Siegel, Sergio Leone, etc. before him —  Peter Bart provides it for you. Some commenters respond aptly.

* Paul Laster at Flavorwire has a revealing interview with production design husband-and-wife team David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco about “Inglourious Basterds,” the Jack Rabbit Slim’s set from “Pulp Fiction,” and other films. Considering that they also work with Wes Anderson, these two are crucial collaborators with our most talented masters of movie stylization working, and the current heirs to people like the great Ken Adam, the production design genius of “Dr. Strangelove” and “Goldfinger,” among many others. (H/t David Hudson@Twitter…okay, so maybe there is a Twitter effect on filmgeeks.)

Now is the time at Premium Hollywood vin ve dance.

  

Related Posts