Tag Archives: Philip Glass

My Thoughts on: Candyman (2021)

*note: this review was originally published for subscribers on Patreon

Candyman is a film that I originally intended to see in theaters last fall, but ultimately didn’t because I was suffering from severe burnout at the time. Even though I received the movie on blu-ray for Christmas, I still found I wasn’t ready to view the movie….until now that is.

Today, I finally sat down and watched Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, a direct sequel to the original 1992 film. While it’s been close to a year since I watched the original film, this one contains enough references to the original film that if you haven’t seen the original or haven’t seen it recently, it doesn’t hurt your experience with this film. I particularly appreciate the role, however small, that Helen Lyle (the protagonist of the original film) plays in the story. While she never appears in the flesh, her presence is very much felt throughout the film.

And what a film! Set in the modern day, the story follows artist Anthony McCoy as he discovers and delves into the legend of Candyman while seeking inspiration for his art. It seems like a great idea at first, but it quickly turns nightmarish for all involved, as it quickly becomes apparent that, even all these years later, Candyman is still very real (and just as deadly as ever).

I love how the story of Candyman is updated to even more better reflect the ongoing turmoil in our country involving racial tension. What was only hinted at in the original film (re: the inequality between communities) is now confronted almost head on in this one. I also like how the story of Candyman is expanded upon, past the original legend that’s cited in the first film. It doesn’t feel shoehorned in the least and in fact it feels like a very natural part of the story, almost an improvement if that makes sense. In fact, based on how the story ends, I’d almost say there’s room for a sequel.

Anthony’s story arc is particularly heartbreaking to watch, even more than Helen’s in the first film (and that’s saying something). Even though Anthony seems to have the best of intentions when investigating the legend of Candyman, it doesn’t take long for the story to corrupt everything it touches, ripping Anthony’s life apart. Though once he becomes aware of certain story details, I feel like Anthony almost becomes resigned to his fate, while I can’t help but think of how Helen resisted almost to the bitter end before finally inserting herself into the narrative on her own terms. Maybe I’m wrong and I’ll decide otherwise upon rewatch, but that’s how I feel after my initial viewing.

Now, no review from me would be complete without mentioning the film’s music. If you’ve seen the original Candyman, then you’re likely aware that film contains a magnificently haunting score from Philip Glass. Well, while the music for this film is composed by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, it’s clear to my ears that he took inspiration from the original score when putting this music together. And to my delight, when I watched the movie’s credits, it looks like the composer directly cited some of Philip Glass in the music too! If I had to choose, I’d say the original Candyman score is a hair better, but that’s really just nitpicking. The music in this film is beautiful and haunting and really helped to drive the horror in the story home.

Also, since it’s been a while since the film came out, I don’t see the harm in openly discussing the fact that Candyman doesn’t physically appear except in reflections for most of the movie. I understand the explanation that this is because Candyman has become weaker over time, but it also reminds me of a scene in the original movie where Helen sees video footage where she was confronted by Candyman, only no one can see him. This reminded me very much of that.

All of this is to say that this new Candyman was very much worth the wait and I enjoyed it immensely. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly encourage you to do so.

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My Thoughts on: Candyman (1992)

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My Thoughts on: Candyman (1992)

I’m going to be honest right at the start and just admit that the only reason this film came on my radar at all is because I saw the trailer for the upcoming Candyman film when I went to see Spiral. That trailer intrigued me so much, I got curious and asked the Internet if I needed to see the original Candyman film first. As most of them said yes, I picked up a copy of the film, have just finished watching it and let me tell you that film is an experience I will not soon forget.

Honestly, I’m not sure where to start with Candyman, there’s so many parts of it that are incredible. I might as well start with Philip Glass’ score for the film. Had I known that Philip Glass composed the music for Candyman, I probably would’ve attempted this film years ago, as I have the highest respect for his work. This won’t surprise many of you who’ve been following my work, but the music was undoubtedly one of my favorite things about this film. It gives the story of Candyman an almost sacred feeling in some places, which is fitting given the titular character is a supernatural being and the hapless Helen is forced to join that realm by the film’s end. The thing is, I can’t imagine this film being scored any other way, that’s how good the music is! The air of solemnity it gives to the story in just the right moments, that’s what you want in film music, something that elevates the story.

Apart from the music, the story itself is equal parts enthralling and horrifying. Like, this is the stuff of my nightmares horrifying. After invoking Candyman and then attempting to disprove his legend, Helen is literally forced to watch as her life is systematically torn apart and destroyed beyond all hope of repair. The emotional angst and trauma in this film is so palpable that it will be a long time before I can watch this film again. You can feel Helen’s pain as she tries to comprehend what is happening to her. You can definitely feel Ann Marie’s pain in a scene that I found so distressing I’m scared to see what the unrated version of the scene looks like. If the goal of this film was to make me deeply uncomfortable, it worked. My mind was taken places it didn’t want to go, but the story was so compelling I literally could not look away.

And then there’s Candyman himself. I was completely mesmerized by Tony Todd’s performance as the titular character. Once he properly arrives in the film after being teased several times, you literally can’t look away whenever he’s on the screen. Between his deep voice and the sheer presence with which he plays the role of Candyman…I don’t know what to say other than I was enthralled. What really drew me in were the hints at Candyman’s hidden depths. He’s not just some random killing being, there’s a purpose to what he does and it makes a twisted amount of sense if you think about it long enough. And that scene with the bees, yes THAT scene, that pretty much put me over the edge (and that’s all I can say about that).

Was there anything I didn’t like in this film? Well, not exactly. I was uncomfortable with some of the more bloody moments, but that’s because I’m a generally squeamish person. It can’t be a complaint against the film because if I’m watching a rated R horror film, I know I’m going to be in for something messy. However, I do think that sub-plot with Helen’s husband was almost unnecessary. I kind of get why it’s in there, since it provides the final push Helen needs to realize she needs to give in to the Candyman (and it helps set up a fantastic closing sequence to the film), but it still feels like almost an afterthought given everything else going on. That’s really nitpicking though, as I loved pretty much everything else in this film.

Now that I’ve made it through the original Candyman film, I’m more excited than ever to see Nia DaCosta’s take on the story (especially since I’ve seen that Tony Todd will be in that film as well). I am also definitely adding Candyman to my list of must-see Halloween films that has slowly been growing since I managed to watch Halloween (1978) last year.

Let me know what you think about Candyman (1992) in the comments below and have a great day!

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Soundtrack Review: Tales From the Loop (2020)

Fox Music/Hollywood Records has released the digital soundtrack from the Amazon Original series, Tales from the Loop. From executive producer Matt Reeves and based on the acclaimed art of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop explores the town and people who live above “The Loop,” a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe – making things possible that were previously relegated only to science fiction. In this fantastical mysterious town, poignant human tales are told that bare universal emotional experiences, while drawing on the intrigue of genre storytelling.

 

The album features original themes by Philip Glass and score by Paul Leonard-Morgan. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Philip Glass is a graduate of the University of Chicago and the Juilliard School. Glass has expanded his repertoire to include music for opera, dance, theater, chamber ensemble, orchestra and film. His scores have received Academy Award nominations (Kundun, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) and a Golden Globe (The Truman Show). Paul Leonard-Morgan’s unique cinematic style of fusing orchestra with electronica has put him in high demand as a film composer, a producer and arranger for bands, and has led him to win a BAFTA award, and receive Emmy & Ivor Novello nominations. In 2016, Leonard-Morgan began working with Academy-Award winning director Errol Morris on a string of projects including the documentary feature The B-Side, the award-winning Netflix series Wormwood, and the newly-completed motion picture on Steve Bannon, American Dharma. Other credits include The Quiet One–the story of Rolling Stones founding member Bill Wyman, the feature Last Breath, the hit series reboot Dynasty for The CW, and Designated Survivor on Netflix.

Leonard-Morgan said (on working on Tales from the Loop):

“Collaborating with Philip Glass on Tales from the Loop was an incredible experience. Philip and I had a discussion with Nathaniel Halpern (showrunner) and Mark Romanek (executive producer) about their vision for the show, the incorporation of unusual instruments, and their shared desire of wanting the soundtrack to be an integral part of the show: ‘Music which could be listened to by itself, melodies which could be hummed, a soundtrack which will stand the test of time apart from the series.’ Philip went and scored a bunch of initial ideas, as did I, and we discussed where they all might work together. Both of us playing off each other’s sounds and melodies to create a truly unique score. Over and again, we kept coming back to the original idea: to make beautiful music, which would work hand in hand with Nathaniel’s brilliant visions and beautiful cinematography. The 8 episodes are so unique—they’re like nothing we’ve ever seen, and hopefully the score stays true to this. Melodies come back throughout the show, each guiding us through the world of the loop. During recording sessions every 3 weeks, the natural sounds of the solo violin and the solo cello gave a beautiful, haunting sound to the loop, becoming an integral part of the sound.”

Glass added:

“I’ve always tried to collaborate with people from many disparate perspectives; everyone from indigenous musicians to electronic musicians have expanded my musical sensibilities. Working with Paul was no exception and the intersection of our two styles has produced a score both unexpected and familiar that accompanies the series beautifully.”

The soundtrack for Tales From the Loop is like nothing I’ve ever heard for television before, and I don’t say that lightly. Television music, in my experience, is either quite minimal or very grandiose (think Game of Thrones for the latter). But Tales from the Loop strikes a middle ground that I don’t think I’ve ever heard until now. Everything, every single track, is perfectly symphonic, like something you’d hear in a concert hall. And I can’t emphasize enough how much of a good thing this is. This is music that can be enjoyed completely separate from the show as well as while you watch each episode. It takes phenomenal skill to make music that can thrive outside of the show and with Philip  Glass and Paul Leonard-Morgan in charge of the score it’s little wonder it worked out that way.

In hindsight, it actually makes a lot of sense that the soundtrack for Tales From the Loop would feel symphonic in nature. After all, Glass is well known for his concert works, and it’s only natural that that would bleed over into his work for film and television.

If you’re able to, check out the soundtrack for Tales From the Loop. It’s peaceful, it’s relaxing, and it’s like listening to a long, quiet symphonic work in a concert hall (and that’s a good thing).

Let me know your thoughts on Tales From the Loop (and it’s soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

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