This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


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]

Watch More

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

Watch More

A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

Watch More

WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

Watch More