Music Break: The Age of Adaline soundtrack & interview w/ composer Rob Simonsen

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I’ve been featuring various soundtracks on my Music Break Feature, so I’m thrilled that on my 71st Music Break post, we actually get insights from the composer of the piece I’m featuring: Rob Simonsen!

I’ve mentioned in my review of The Age of Adaline how much I adore the music. I’ve been quite obsessed with the dreamy, ethereal sound, listening to it for days on end from start to finish. I think the last romantic drama’s soundtrack that prompted a similar reaction was John Williams’ Sabrina (1995), it’s one of the rare soundtracks where I love every single track, just like this one.

Here’s a sampling of The Age of Adaline soundtrack:


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image courtesy of IMDb

Rob Simonsen is an American composer based in Los Angeles. When you look at his IMDb page, surely you’ve listened to a few of his music. He’s not only super talented but also prolific, with over 50 credits under his belt since his first film he worked on in the early 2000s.

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Image courtesy of IMDb

 

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The first film you did music for was a medieval fantasy Westender (in which you also starred in). What led you into working on that project?

Westender was a film I made with my best friends from high school. We initially intended to make a short, but the endeavor expanded as we started and we decided to turn it into a feature. I mentioned to the director, Brock Morse that I wanted to score the film and he was excited about that. It was nearly a 3 year process from beginning to end with the ongoing edits and reshoots. I wrote about 1.5 hours of orchestral music and that was my jump into film scoring. It premiered at Seattle International Film Festival, where I met Mychael Danna, who was a guest speaker of the festival. We hit it off and a year later we both moved to LA and I began assisting him.

As for The Age of Adaline, how did that project come about for you?

Lee Toland Krieger [the director of The Age of Adaline – ed] heard the score to The Spectacular Now and really liked it. He reached out to me with interest for Age of Adaline, I watched the film and loved it, then met Lee and we hit it off. It was a really great collaboration with him, and I consider him a good friend. We worked really hard on Adaline and I can’t wait to work with him again. He’s a fantastically talented guy.

I love the ethereal, dreamy sound of The Age of Adaline. What have been some of the inspirations for writing the score?

Ah, thanks! Lee and I talked a lot about the story of this woman trapped in time and the mysterious, supernatural angle of the story. So there were a lot of musical ideas born of conversations about story and character with him- about the way we wanted her and her world to feel. Musically I was listening to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ instrumental version of Serenade to Music, which is a piece that blows me away every time I listen to it. Also Holst’s Neptune, from The Planets.

The song Start Again (featuring Elena Tonra) has become one of my favorite songs now. Did you also write the lyrics for that?

Thanks again! No, the lyrics were by my good friends Nathan Johnson and Katie Chastain. They have a band project called Faux Fix, and they write great tunes together and I love their storytelling and perspective in their lyrics. I called them up and said “I have the opportunity to write a song that might go in the end credits of this film. It has to be done in 48 hours. You guys free this weekend?” They came over and we workshopped a little bit based off of a kernel of a tune idea I had put together from a piece of score.

We worked for a few hours and then they went home. 24 hours later they showed up with all the lyrics and a song structure and it was so perfect. We demoed the song and eventually had Elena Tonra sing the vocal. I’ve been a big fan of Elena’s for a while and she was gracious to lend her talents to the song.

I’ve been curious about the process of music composing. How early in the filmmaking process did you start writing the score? For example, does the script have to be completely finished before you can start, or do you work on it as the film is being shot?

It depends. Some films I’m brought on in the script phase, other films it might not be until near the final cut that I’m brought in. Each film has it’s own landscape and evolution of how the elements come together. Oftentimes the first thing I do is sketch out themes and send them to the director- kind of a general vibe check to make sure we’re in sync. That material then begins to find it’s way into the edit and scored cues and the boxes slowly get checked off as we progress.

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Is there a specific genre of film you enjoy working on? Was there any film you saw recently that you wish you had written the score for?

I love sci-fi films. It’s been great working on Adaline and other films like Nerve, both of which have a fantastical and slight sci-fi quality to them. I loved Ex Machina. I’m very excited to see The Arrival and excited for all the work my friend Johann Johannsson is doing.

Lastly, who are some of favorite composers who have inspired you?

So many! Prokofiev, Ralph Vaughn Williams, Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Aphex Twin, Bjork, John Barry, Philip Glass, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner. Of course John Williams. My mentor Mychael Danna. We live in such a marvelous time where we can devour music of all genres and times. I find so much music that’s inspiring.

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A photo of Rob when he recorded the score to Marc Webb’s “Gifted” in London last May

THANK YOU so much Rob for taking the time to chat with me about your beautiful work!


Hope you enjoy this week’s Music Break! Thoughts on The Age of Adaline‘s score and/or the interview?

Valentine Special – Who’s your favorite romantic on-screen couples?

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Hope it’s been a lovely day for you, wherever you are and whatever your love life is like. I actually don’t make a big fuss about V-day generally, especially the older I get. I actually told my hubby not to get me flowers this year, I mean, I still have a huge bouquet of roses from my dear brother for my birthday a few days ago, I wouldn’t know where to put another one.

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In any case, since I think in terms of movies, V-day always makes me think of favorite romantic pairings on screen. I’ve listed my top 10 three years ago, and the pairing of Nicole Kidman & Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge! is still my fave to this day!

Well, today I’m going to highlight ten of my recent favorite on-screen romantic couples, both on film and TV. Pictures do speak louder than words, and so here we go…

Click on each image to read my review of each film

Brooklyn
Eilis & Tony – ‘Brooklyn’
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Ruby & Josh – ‘It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong’
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Adaline & Ellis – ‘The Age of Adaline’
Belle
Belle & John – ‘Belle’
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Gabriel & Bathsheba – ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’
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Noni & Kaz – ‘Beyond the Lights’
Daredevil
Matt & Claire – ‘Daredevil’
Cinderella
Ella & Prince Kit – ‘Cinderella’
Creed
Adonis & Bianca – ‘Creed’
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Darcy & Lizzie – ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’


Now I turn it over to you…
Who are YOUR favorite recent cinematic romantic couples?

FlixChatter Review: The Age of Adaline (2015)

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A lot of the times, I anticipate films based on its director or cast, but in this case, it’s the premise that intrigued me. I wish there are more fantasy romance like this made. It seems that a lot of romantic films are either rom-coms or something utterly tragic. Then there’s the Nicholas Sparks variety which I tend to avoid.

The fact that it’s a fantasy romance, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy this film. But hey, we don’t have issues with a plethora of superhero movies requiring that, so why not a romantic film?

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Right from the start, I was intrigued by the protagonist, who basically becomes immortal after a car accident so she always looks 29 throughout the movie. We meet Adaline when she’s around 107 years old, who’s settled into her eternal existence, having to move every decade with a series of fake identities to prevent people from knowing who she is. The only person who knows about her condition is her only daughter (Ellen Burstyn) who looks like she could be Adaline’s grandma. Burstyn adds a lot of depth in her brief role here, but Lively holds her own against the experienced Oscar winner.

The way the story unfolds is pretty straightforward but it’s so beautifully-told with a series of flashbacks that are done pretty seamlessly. The use of VO narration can be irksome, but I don’t mind it so much here, even though it’s a bit overdone in the end.

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The first meet-up at a New Year’s Eve party is breathtakingly perfect. Two good looking strangers lock eyes from across the room that’s followed by a sweet flirtation in an elevator. Michiel Huisman‘s Ellis has all the qualities of a romantic hero – handsome, smart, successful and an old-school romantic, what more could you ask for? Surely Game of Thrones‘ fans are familiar with his um, work. Huisman is Dutch but his American accent is very convincing, but most importantly, he has a great chemistry with Blake Lively and you actually root for them to be together.

I haven’t seen anything Lively is in, apart from her brief role in The Town, but I think she did a fine job carrying this film. She’s beautiful and has a phenomenal figure that make those vintage clothes look amazing. She also has that classic look about her that fit the role. Some actresses might look too modern here, but Lively also has that quiet grace about her that is so elegant and bewitching. They initially wanted Natalie Portman in the role and she would’ve been good, but I think the fact that Lively is a bit of an unlikely casting actually works well for the film. That said, I feel that she might not have the dramatic chops to pull off some of the heavy emotional moments that a more skilled actress could bring to the role.

The supporting cast are particularly notable, especially Harrison Ford as Ellis’ father and his younger self, played by Anthony Ingruber whose physical resemblance is uncanny. Even their voice sound similar. I LOVE Ford’s performance here, he doesn’t do romantic roles often but he’s got that lovelorn look down pat here.

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Now, with a romance like this one, a certain degree of schmaltzy-ness is to be expected. Yet there’s a genuine sweetness and charm in this one that swept me off my feet. Yes there are moments where the dialog comes off corny and the plot is rather predictable, but nothing that would derail the film for me.

I was convinced this film was based on a novel, as so many films like this are, but it turns out it wasn’t. It’s written by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz and I love the idea of lost love interwoven here in Adaline’s enchanting long life. I hadn’t heard of the director, Lee Toland Krieger, but he’s certainly got style as this film looks positively gorgeous. The costume and cinematography are so beautiful to behold, and the set pieces fit each era perfectly. The various San Francisco locations, such as the library where Adaline works, look so charming here, especially in the night scenes.

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I also like the use of music, featuring vintage and contemporary songs over the course of Adaline’s life. It just sets the mood nicely and gives you that swoony quality the film aims for. I went into this film with neutral expectations, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. In fact I love it enough where I certainly don’t mind watching it again.

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Have you seen Age of Adaline? Well, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Labor Day Weekend Roundup: a goofy comedy, a road trip doc + a fantasy romance

It’s been quite a nice and mellow three-day weekend for me… the calm before the *storm* as it were, as the later part of September is going to be a pretty busy one for me. Twin Cities Film Fest is just a month away, but we’ll get a preview of the film festivities this coming Friday with the Fundraising Gala. I have a friend from out of the country staying with us the following week and then we’ll be taking a trip to Sedona, AZ and hopefully meet up w/ my pal Cindy C.!

Well, a good part of my weekend is full of script writing… AND dreaming of Deauville — Deauville American Film Festival that is…

Of course THIS is who I’d most like to meet…

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One lucky lady got to meet my French crush, Stanley Weber

Anyhoo, I didn’t go to the cinema all weekend but I must say my home viewing can only be described as eclectic.

Zoolander (2001)

At the end of his career, a clueless fashion model is brainwashed to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

ZoolanderFinally got around to seeing this movie. I’m familiar w/ the premise and it’s become such a pop culture phenomenon of sort that a sequel is in the works. I thought I’d watch it before it comes out next year. Crazy that it’s been 15 years since this came out and I think both Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson still look pretty much the same.

They’re both hilarious in this satire of the fashion modeling industry. There are actually some famous male models, like the outrageously gorgeous Tyson Beckford and Claudia Schiffer. In fact, this movie is worth seeing just for the cameo, esp. David Bowie! I expected it to be goofy good fun and it certainly didn’t disappoint. 

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Long Way Round (2004)

This documentary series follows actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on a motorcycle trip around the world. The two friends will travel through such places as Siberia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Alaska, before finally ending the journey in New York.

LongWayRoundMy hubby was watching this when I went downstairs to our entertainment room and we ended up watching a couple of episodes. I thought it was fascinating AND quite hilarious as the Scottish actor and his buddy prepare to go on this crazy motorcycle journey around the world for three months!

They also interviewed their wives (as well as their parents) and their reaction of this trip. But the funniest bits are all the challenges of all the logistics and training (medical, even self defense) as they’d go into some dangerous territories like Ukraine.

Of course the main draw initially is the fact that Ewan is a big film star, but after a few minutes we forget about that as he’s such a real and down-to-earth guy and this film is as much about Ewan & Charlie’s friendship as it is about the motorbike roadtrip.

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The Age of Adaline (2015)

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A young woman, born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.

I’ve been wanting to see this film for ages. There’s something about this romantic premise that beguilles me. I’m a huge fan of period dramas a la Jane Austen, so more on the old school romance so long as it doesn’t have the name Nicholas Sparks attached to it [shudder]. I have my full review ready so I’ll post that sometime this week.
….

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I also rewatched BELLE on Labor Day as I’m in the mood of period dramas. I absolutely LOVE this movie. I’ve seen it a dozen times and it gets me every single time… I have SO many favorite scenes from this film, I wish I could find the one where Davinier declared passionately, ‘I love her, I love her with every breath I breathe!‘ in that carriage [swoon] 😛

But I also LOVE this scene between Belle and John… Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid are absolutely perfect together [le sigh]


Well, that’s about it for my weekend. How ’bout you? Seen anything good?