James Horner, cockroach of composers?

James Horner, cockroach of composers? (photo)

Posted by on

It’s winter, the indie companies are flailing, the bloggers are despairing, the economy still sucks and the only true blockbuster on an understocked December slate is “Avatar.” You think indies are endangered? Pity the poor composers of film scores. Where once they cranked out orchestral majesty for most major releases, they’ve now become an optional component, victim to changing tastes and the commercial allure of the all-song soundtrack.

But one’s risen above the purge. After working steadily through plenty of high-profile gigs (“Star Trek II,” “Apollo 13,” etc.), James Horner ensured himself the professional equivalent of tenure by writing the score for “Titanic,” which sold 27 million copies worldwide and was the highest-selling primarily orchestral soundtrack ever.

Even though everyone bought the disk for Celine Dion’s little song, correlation is often causation in Hollywood. And sure, Horner’s feeling the changing times as much as anyone — would the Horner of 1995, who scored “Casper,” “Braveheart” and “Apollo 13” (out of six that year, no less), be happy knowing he’d be doing “Bobby Jones: Strokes of Genius” in 2004? But hey, he’s working.

And high-profile gigs do still exist. Horner just devoted a year and a half of his life to “Avatar.” This has resulted in an unusually lengthy LA Times profile in which Horner says things like “What I have done is create a world that uses a tremendous amount of colour — colours that we haven’t heard before” with a straight face.

12012009_horner.jpgBy “color,” he means “a small bit of orchestral music, then three or four ethnic instruments will play and then somebody will sing and then the orchestra will do something and it has to all be seamless over, say, a 12-minute sequence.” LIKE NOTHING WE’VE EVER HEARD. Sure. “Ethnic instruments.” And electronics. These are new.

For those of you not immersed in the fast-paced arguments and controversies of the film score world, you should know that the Times profile is basically a softball pitch, with London Symphony Orchestra principal tuba player Patrick Harrild reminiscing about working with Horner, who he claims couldn’t possibly be nicer. This results in some inadvertent hilarity — “The first score I recorded with him was the one about little people — ‘Willow,’ ” he says, which is as good a summary as any.

So, in case you didn’t know, James Horner — whose scores, for over a decade now, have rarely been anything other than sentimental strings, warmed-over classicisms and the occasional “exotic” element (Zorro!) — is a very controversial guy who, a decade ago, become symbolic of everything wrong with contemporary film scores.

He was attacked by Alex Ross in the New Yorker and the good folks at Film Score Monthly went around in circles for months on the question of how much he stole from himself/classical music, whether or not he was a horrible human being, etc. In the late ’90s, in short, there wasn’t a single film score composer more polarizing amongst the kind of person who cares about these things.

But a decade’s passed, and Horner stands atop the heap, proudly employed, convinced of his own worth and still entrusted with expensive projects. He writes the kind of generically “old-fashioned” scores that just scream “Hollywood movie” and (like Donald Trump says) “quality.” Those kind of movies, for better or worse, are no longer as popular as they once were, and with them goes the expensive niche once held by Horner’s scores.

So when you watch “Avatar,” you might as well be watching the last stand of the old-school film composer. But for now, Horner says “Hollywood movie” in the old-fashioned sense, while no one knows what’s to come next.

[Top photo: “Avatar,” 20th Century Fox, 2009]


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

Posted by on

Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.