Category Archives: Film / Tv / Theater Review

Song of the Day #1859

Song of the Day: The Wizard of Oz (“Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”), music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E. Y. Harburg, is one of the highlights of this 1939 film classic. Check out the original film version [YouTube link], along with many other renditions: Ella Fitzgerald (and here too), Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney (with solos by Scott Hamilton on tenor sax, Ed Bickert on guitar, Dave McKenna on piano, Warren Vache, Jr. on trumpet), a swingin’ Sammy Davis, Jr. with the Buddy Rich Band, Barbra Streisand with Harold Arlen himself and alternative versions by The Fifth Estate and Klaus Nomi. And with that, our Seventeenth Annual Film Music February comes to an end! Tonight is the airing of the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards, where some of the composers we’ve featured in this year’s series are nominated. But we’ll have to wait till Oscar weekend (24-25 April 2021)—at which time I’ll feature a couple of additional Film Music tributes—to find out who takes home the prizes for the cinema music categories. Stay tuned!

Song of the Day #1858

Song of the Day: The Karate Kid (I-II-III-IV) (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Bill Conti (well known for his soundtracks to the “Rocky” franchise), brings a perfect combination of energy, contemplation, and triumph to the whole film series (1984-1994). I recently re-watched the original films in their entirety—the first three with Ralph Macchio—as a prelude to the fun Netflix “Cobra Kai” series (see Xolo “Miguel Diaz” Mariduena’s FB page), in which Macchio reprises his role as Daniel LaRusso [YouTube link to the hilarious “Sweep the Leg” video by No More Kings]. I enjoyed the films on a whole other level than I did when I first saw them. Maybe it was a wider appreciation for all the wisdom coming out of the mouth of Mr. Miyagi! It’s not Bruce Lee, but it’s got a special poignancy for me.

Song of the Day #1856

Song of the Day: Motherless Brooklyn (“Main Theme”) [YouTube link] was composed by Daniel Pemberton, who brings a Miles Davis-influenced sound to this 2019 film. The score also includes some classic jazz recordings along with other original songs, performed by such artists as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

Song of the Day #1855

Song of the Day: Ice Station Zebra (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link] was composed by the late, great Michel Legrand, who was born on this date in 1932. The score to this 1968 espionage film was orchestrated and conducted by Legrand himself with a 75-piece orchestra. It has been described as a brilliant “Cold War ballet.”

Song of the Day #1854

Song of the Day: Black Panther (“A New Day”) [YouTube link], was composed by Ludwig Goransson, for this 2019 superhero film, based on the Marvel-ous collaboration of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, starring the late Chadwick Boseman. With its predominantly black cast and black director, this trailblazing, absorbing film broke many box office records. The orchestral score embraces a global sound, while also incorporating original songs by Kendrick Lamar.

Song of the Day #1853

Song of the Day: Lady Usher (“A Few Kind Words”) [site link], composed by my friend, Michael Gordon Shapiro, is from a 2020 adaptation [YouTube link] of the Edgar Allan Poe short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The soundtrack to this film won Best Original Score from the New York Cinematography Awards (congratulations, Mike!). As described by the composer, this tender cue offers “a moment of respite before the film’s macabre mood arrives in full force.”

Song of the Day #1852

Song of the Day: Never Let Me Go (“The Pier”) [YouTube link], composed by Rachel Portman, echoes the tragic tones of this 2010 film based on the dystopian novel of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro. The San Diego Film Critics Society awarded the soundtrack with best score honors that year.

Song of the Day #1851

Song of the Day: Barefoot in the Park (“Main Title”), music by Neil Hefti, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, opens this hilarious 1967 comedy starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. On this date in 1919, my mother was born; this was one of her favorite films. She’d become convulsed with laughter especially in scenes featuring Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee, Mildred Natwick, as Fonda’s mother, Ethel Banks. Natwick (who, like Redford, appeared in the original 1963 Neil Simon Broadway production) delivers some of the best lines in the film—after climbing umpteen flights of stairs to reach her daughter and son-in-law’s quintessential New York apartment [see Robert Osborne’s intro on YouTube]: “I had to park the car three blocks away. Then it started to rain so I ran the last two blocks. Then my heel got caught in a subway grating. When I pulled my foot out, I stepped in a puddle. Then a cab went by and splashed my stockings. If the hardware store downstairs was open, I was going to buy a knife and kill myself.” Or: “I feel like we’ve died and gone to heaven—only we had to climb up” [YouTube link]. Or this one [YouTube link], where the climb nearly brings mother Banks to her knees. Or this one where she goes down the stairs [YouTube link]. Mom has been gone since April 1995. But her memorable, uproarious laughter was so infectious that it brought as many laughs to her family as did the things that tickled her. Check out the opening theme to this comedy classic [YouTube link].

Song of the Day #1850

Song of the Day: The Watermelon Woman (“Another Day”) [YouTube link] features the words and music of Ed Baden Powell, Kwame Kwaten, Sarah Webb, Steve Marston, and Kathy Sledge, who delivers this R&B track with gusto on the soundtrack to this 1996 landmark film in New Queer Cinema. Sledge, the youngest and founding member of Sister Sledge, can also be heard in this house-inflected Hands in the Air Remix of the song (not to be confused with the classic Stevie Wonder track, which Sledge has covered [YouTube links].)