Daniel Pemberton on Composing the Score of “Gold”

Posted on January 25, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Daniel Pemberton is one of my favorite composers (“The Man from Uncle,” “Steve Jobs”) and I was delighted to catch up with him to talk about the score for the new Matthew McConaughey film “Gold,” inspired by the true story of the rise and fall of a gold miner.

“Gold is a pretty remarkable movie about this character called Kenny Wells who comes from a family of gold prospectors,” Pemberton said. “He is down on his luck, down to his last few bucks but he still believes and dreams he can make it big. So he goes on one last splurge to try and find a gold mine in the Indonesian jungle which he does, remarkably, and then it’s kind of rise with him and what he has to battle with having found that gold mine.” Former Sexiest Man Alive Matthew McConaughey is almost unrecognizable in the film, “with a massive pot belly and balding.”

Pemberton came to the project later than usual, “but it was really great to work with Stephen Gaghan, who I hadn’t worked with before. He was a really great collaborator to work with, really enthusiastic and great at trying to push unusual ideas into the score. It is a quite complicated film to score in the sense that it’s not really like a film you can describe in one line. It’s got everything. There are aspect of the relationship between Kenny and his wife played by Bryce Dallas Howard, there is this kind of caper of trying to find the gold mine, there are two major locations which are the jungle and New York. What I really wanted to do with the soundtrack is take New York to the jungle and take the jungle to New York. Even though they are vastly different there were still similarities. The mountains of Indonesia were not that different to skyscrapers in New York and there are predators in the jungle and we have predators of Wall Street who try and take over what Kenny’s built. And so musically it’s trying to find a way to put all these story strands together and try and do it in an unusual fashion.”

Wall Street is famous for a sound that is musical but not usually heard in music. “I always try to find a way into every film I do. I was watching it again and again and there was a noise that came in the film, that I’ve heard many times before but I don’t think it has been used musically and I was suddenly struck by this sound. It was perfect for the film. It’s the sort of sound of the American dream, of modern capitalism, of making it rich, of New York City and it’s a bell and it has a pitch I like as well. It’s bare metal and shiny and it’s the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. We started trying these ideas, taking that bell and looping it and building beats underneath it and rhythms and throwing that into these early adventures in Indonesia and it was just amazing to have just the right pace for the film and his relentless drive. Kenny won’t stop even if he’s down to his last dime. He always keep going. And that bell has got a sound like someone just hitting away which is like a casino paying out or like people smashing rocks. So, it was a really great sound. So I end up manipulating that a lot, using it like straight, looped, then I speed it up or slow it down. Slow it down and it sounds like this incredible death bell. That is all peppered through the score. It was a really interesting starting block and then I went into using different kinds of bell and gongs as well and then there’s like a real variety of instrumentation, more synthetic for the relationship moments. It’s quite a broad canvas musically on this film.”

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Composers Interview

Oscar Nomination Roundtable: Movie Addict Headquarters

Posted on January 25, 2017 at 2:47 pm

It was a pleasure to join my friends Betty Jo Tucker and Mack Bates, along with Geoff Roberts on Betty Jo’s podcast Movie Addict Headquarters to talk about this year’s Oscar nominations — who was left out, who should win, and what we loved most about the films we saw last year.

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Contest: Moana Songs

Posted on January 25, 2017 at 8:00 am

You can win a CD of the Oscar-nominated music from “Moana!”

Send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with Moana in the subject line and tell me your favorite beach. Don’t forget your address! (US addresses only) I’ll pick a winner at random on February 6, 2017.

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Contests and Giveaways Music

Oscar Nominees 2017

Posted on January 24, 2017 at 10:59 am

The Oscar nominees were announced this morning! Not many surprises — Meryl Streep got her 20th nomination, and other previous nominees and winners like Nicole Kidman and Octavia Spencer appeared on the list as well. Annette Bening and Amy Adams were overlooked, a disappointment. But after two years (let’s face it, 89 years) of #oscarssowhite, it was good to see some people of color recognized, especially those behind the camera. “La La Land” tied the record for the most nominations — it is a valentine from Hollywood to itself — but small-budget newcomer “Moonlight” made an impressive showing with eight nominations. I’ll be talking about the nominations with Mack Bates and Betty Jo Tucker on the Movie Addict Headquarters podcast today and will post a link to the show.

Best Picture

”Hacksaw Ridge”
”Hell or High Water”
”Hidden Figures”
”La La Land”
”Manchester by the Sea”

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”

Best Actress

Emma Stone, “La La Land”
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”

Best Actor

Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges,”Hell or High Water”
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Best Adapted Screenplay

”Hidden Figures”

Best Original Screenplay

“Hell or High Water”
”La La Land”
”The Lobster”
”Manchester by the Sea”
”20th Century Women”

Best Foreign Language Film

“Land of Mine,” Martin Zandvliet, Denmark
”A Man Called Ove,” Hannes Holm, Sweden
”The Salesman,” Asghar Farhadi, Iran
”Tanna,” Bentley Dean, Martin Butler, Australia,
”Toni Erdmann,” Maren Ade, Germany

Best Documentary Feature

“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America”

Best Animated Feature

“Kubo and the Two Strings”
”My Life as a Zucchini”
”The Red Turtle”

Best Film Editing

”Hacksaw Ridge”
”Hell or High Water”
”La La Land”

Best Original Song

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land”
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” “Trolls”
“City of Stars,” “La La Land”
“The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story”
“How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana”

Best Original Score

”La La Land”

Best Cinematography

“Arrival,” Bradford Young
”La La Land,” Linus Sandgren
”Silence,” Rodrigo Prieto
”Lion,” Grieg Fraser
”Moonlight,” James Laxton

Best Costume Design

”Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
”Florence Foster Jenkins”
”La La Land”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“A Man Called Ove”
”Star Trek Beyond”
”Suicide Squad”

Best Production Design

”Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
”Hail, Caesar!”
”La La Land”

Best Sound Editing

”Deepwater Horizon”
”Hacksaw Ridge”
”La La Land”

Best Sound Mixing

”Hacksaw Ridge”
”La La Land”
”Rogue One”
”13 Hours”

Best Visual Effects

“Rogue One”
”The Jungle Book”
”Doctor Strange”
”Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them”
”The BFG”
”Kubo and the Two Strings”
”A Monster Calls”

Best Short Film, Live Action

“Ennemis Intérieurs”
”La Femme et le TGV”
”Silent Nights”

Best Short Film, Animated

“Blind Vaysha”
”Borrowed Time”
”Pear Cider and Cigarettes”

Best Documentary, Short Subject

”4.1 Miles”
”Joe’s Violin”
”Watani: My Homeland”
”The White Helmets”

The 89th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will air live on ABC at 8:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 26.

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The Producer of “A Dog’s Purpose” on the Dog Safety Controversy

Posted on January 23, 2017 at 6:33 pm

Gavin Polone, one of the producers of “A Dog’s Purpose,” wrote a candid and compelling response to the controversy over some leaked footage showing a dog named Hercules apparently being forced into the water by his trainer. I strongly encourage anyone who has any concerns about Hercules or the way the animals were treated in the film to read it carefully.

Like you, I’m sure, I was appalled when I saw the video, shot on the set of A Dog’s Purpose in Winnipeg in October 2015, of a dog trainer trying to coerce a frightened German Shepard into a pool. Unlike you, the terrible feeling engendered by that video was heightened for me because I am the producer of that film and because much of my identity is fused with the belief that I am a lover and defender of animals and their welfare.

I have participated in, helped pay for and written in this publication about animal welfare causes. My will is set up so that all I have shall be donated to charities benefiting animals when I die. I am a vegan who has fewer close friends than most and no relatives with whom I speak regularly. The most consistent and closest relationships I’ve had throughout my life have been with animals.

Love of animals defines my existence, and that love is what drove me to struggle for years to get Bruce Cameron’s brilliant and widely cherished novel about the bond between a person and a dog made into a movie. In part, my feelings about animals were formed as a child by films like Sounder and Born Free and TV shows like Lassie. I wanted to promote the feelings I developed for animals by making a meaningful movie about the same. So now, the idea that I’m connected to an accusation of the abuse of a dog is, to understate it, painful.

He explains what the leaked footage got right and how it was edited to mislead. He also explains what changes he thinks are necessary to ensure that all animals are better protected in the future.

Before the first real take, the handlers were asked to change the start point of the dog from the left side, where he had rehearsed, to the right side. That, evidentially, is what caused him to be spooked. When the dog didn’t want to do the scene from the new position, they cut, though not soon enough, and then went back to the original position. The dog was comfortable and went in on his own and they shot the scene. The TMZ video only shows the unfinished take of when the dog was on the right side. What is clear from viewing all the footage was that the dog was NEVER forced into the water.

From a front angle, when they shot the scene, you can see that there is a calmer path in the artificial water turbulence for the dog to move through. This is not visible in the TMZ video. You can also see, at the end of the scene, the dog going underwater for four seconds, which never should have happened, and then the diver and handlers lifting the dog out of the pool. The dog then shook off and trotted around the pool, unharmed and unfazed. They only did one take of the full scene and then ended for the day. TMZ’s edited version gives the impression that the dog was thrown in and eventually drowned, since the two parts seem to be connected. You never see him pulled out and OK. This is highly misleading.

Further, I saw video shot last Thursday morning of the dog and I’m happy to say that Hercules is obviously quite well.

I believe anyone who reads this will be reassured and will not believe that a boycott is called for. If you disagree, I’d be glad to hear from you in the comments or by email at moviemom@moviemom.com.

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