Cliff Martinez

Only God Forgives Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, is a gorgeously photographed series of fascinating contradictions. Ryan Gosling is very much his character from Drive, but he’s also wildly different. There’s also an antagonist who simultaneously represents both god and the devil, and in terms of mainstream appeal, Drive is a Marvel film compared to Only God Forgives. Yet the latter features Refn’s most diabolical super villain in Kristin Scott Thomas. Contradictions. So it seemed natural that my interview with Refn and composer Cliff Martinez took place in a trendy bar in downtown Austin that began life as a seedy brothel. Ornate floral wallpaper looked down on overstuffed booths, adding a kind of Victorian flourish to a space that saw three decades worth of illegal happy endings. It seemed appropriate, and it also wasn’t surprising when more contradictions came pouring out.

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ogf

Anyone who has seen the trailer for Only God Forgives knows that director Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest promises to take viewers on a wild, intense ride through the back alleys of Thailand. Refn once again teams up with Ryan Gosling, who plays soft-spoken drug runner Julian, and composer Cliff Martinez to create a stylized and violent world that is nothing short of a living nightmare. Martinez creates a layered score that incorporates kinetic electronic elements with bold organs and Asian instrumentation that work perfectly with the sound design and sparse dialogue (a Refn favorite, these days anyway.) I spoke with Martinez about constructing such a commanding score, working with Refn again, unavoidable Drive influences, and the challenge of creating music that actually helps tell the story rather than just accent it.

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The Company You Keep

Robert Redford’s Jim Grant speaks a poignant line in his latest film, The Company You Keep, stating, “Secrets are dangerous things. We all think we want to know them, but if you’ve ever kept one yourself then you understand to do so is not just knowing something about someone else, it’s discovering something about yourself.” As the film’s ominous title suggests, The Company You Keep is about uncovering secrets and what doing so can mean for the people keeping them and those desperate to reveal them. Driven by dynamic performances from an all-star cast, The Company You Keep is as much about what is said as what is not said, all underscored by a restrained, but moving score from Cliff Martinez. Martinez’s rock band roots have made him no stranger to electrifying his scores and pushing the boundaries of standard orchestration. Unlike the thriller pulse Martinez created for last year’s Arbitrage (another story about a man who is not everything he first seems), he takes a different approach to The Company You Keep relying heavily on the use of one of his go-to instruments, the baschet cristal, to create music that hovers in the background like an unwanted thought, dissonant while still being memorable.

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Aural Fixation - Large

Have you ever looked at the expensive highrises that dot the New York City skyline and wondered what it would be like to run one of the companies housed within them? Not necessarily the long hours, tough decisions, and stress that would come with such a position, but the type of life that kind of work leads to – a life of privilege, beauty, and lack of consequences. A life where working above the fray causes you to feel like you may almost be above the fray itself. Director Nicholas Jarecki takes us past the velvet ropes and doormen into this decedent and stunning world, a world you usually only find in people’s fantasies, but one that is a reality for those select few able to afford it. While this life is unquestionably beautiful and enticing, the big businessman it is afforded to got a bit of a shake up when things started crashing down on Wall Street and those who may once have been viewed (and viewed themselves) as untouchable started to experience some undeniable cracks. Arbitrage focuses on the life of powerful businessman Robert Miller (Richard Gere), a man whose world is surrounded by rich mahogany, dollar signs, and the insides of town cars. His life is one you would expect for a man in his position, but Cliff Martinez takes a more unexpected route with his score, giving this stiff and almost antiquated environment some real texture and vibrancy. The juxtaposition of these classic settings with Martinez’s more modern, electronic sound helps create a […]

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The “Coffee Talk: Composers” panel is always a highlight of my LAFF-ing each year and this year may haven taken the cake as it not only featured my number one composer from last year (Mr. Cliff Martinez, thanks to his outstanding scores for Drive, Contagion and The Lincoln Lawyer), but it also began with panelists Martinez, Rolfe Kent (Young Adult), and Michael Penn (Girls) breaking out into an impromptu performance of the Lawrence of Arabia theme with Martinez on djembe, Kent on ukulele, and Penn on theremin. These odd instrument choices made it clear from the start that this was a lively group and the discussion would prove to be just as unpredictable. Moderated by BMI’s Doreen Ringer-Ross, it was apparent from the start that this trio all have a great deal of respect for one another, but it was hard not to notice the good-natured competitive tinge to their respective relationships as well. Read on for the ten things I learned during this year’s composer panel.

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Aural Fixation - Large

I probably listen to more scores than most people (or even most film fans) do and I realized that while the various scores filling my iTunes range from action (LOUD NOISES!) to drama (sad guitars) to comedy (funny guitars!) one fact remains consist across the board – the majority of these scores are composed by men. In a time where the ladies are starting to make their presence more and more known in film (which, let’s be honest, has been a veritable boy’s club up until the past few decades) with Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director for 2008’s The Hurt Locker to the ladies of Bridesmaids taking some of the raunchy comedy heat from the boys, it surprised me to see such a lack of a female presence when it came to who creates the music for these films. I am a lady and I (clearly) have a passion for music and know girls have just as much musical talent as the guys – so why is my gender lacking in the “Original Music by” section of IMDb? As I started looking into this question, I began to realize that the majority of female composers seemed to be working in television. Women seem to be much more prominent in the world of TV with The Chop Shop’s Alexandra Patsavas (who has placed the music for shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Chuck, and Gossip Girl) practically ruling the role of music supervisor and the duo of Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (“Wendy & Lisa”) composing the music for popular shows such […]

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2011 gave us a lot of great music (as I rounded up here), but there was one composer who stood out from the pack with his distinctive scores (two of which made my year-end list) for films that ranged from a backseat law practice (The Lincoln Lawyer) to a viral epidemic (Contagion) to a near silent stunt driver by day, getaway driver by night (Drive). Three very different films with three distinct scores, all from the same composer – Cliff Martinez. Martinez has garnered the most attention and praise for his score for Drive, but he also created impressive (and memorable) music for The Lincoln Lawyer and Contagion. The Lincoln Lawyer may not have been the biggest hit at the box office, but it was a decent film and it stood out in my mind more than I thought it would, thanks to its music. The same was the case with Contagion, a film I enjoyed well enough, but kept thinking back on thanks to its score. When I looked into who was behind these scores it was no surprise when I came to find Martinez behind the conductor’s baton for both.

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The 2011 Gift Guide: Music for Movie Lovers

Welcome to The Holiday Gift Guide, our yearly stroll through all the things you absolutely should have on your Christmas list this year. To begin, we encourage you to strap on your little, tiny headphones, and get ready for more giving suggestions from your favorite Rejects. Do you have a friend or family member on your Christmas list that always has their fingers on the pulse of the music scene, making buying them anything music-related nearly impossible? Have no fear – I turned to the silver screen to find music they may not have heard from movies they might also enjoy. And, as has been the trend lately with popular artists starting to compose for film, I rounded up some current composers and the bands you may not know they started out in. Plus a few artists you may not know who have begun composing for films. This list features movies that came out this year with kick-ass soundtracks as well as albums from artists-turned-composers. If you have someone in your life that is a music lover and into movies, then this is the list for you. And if you are that person, this list may give you some ideas of what to include on your own wish list. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list, but merely suggestions to help inspire ideas and give you a jumping off point. And if there is a great suggestion I overlooked, feel free to sound off in the comments and let our […]

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It’s difficult to walk away from Drive and not feel affected – whether by the performances, the style, the music or the overall feel of the film. Simply put: it leaves an impression. After watching Drive the first time (and the second), I could not get the distinct music and sound of the film out of my head. And I did not want to. From the moment the neon pink, italicized credits begin and the music kicks in, you know you are about to be taken on a ride. The catchy 1980s synth-pop is interwoven with an almost mellow, but never quite calming, score that works to highlight the quieter moments while keeping the tension in the darker ones. I got the chance to chat with Drive’s composer, Cliff Martinez, about the process of putting together his hypnotic score, working with director Nicolas Winding Refn, and some of his more surprising influences.

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When a young executive (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from a business trip to China, she returns with a bad cough and even worse headaches. Not long after, her young son appears to exhibit the same symptoms. Before her husband, the boy’s step-father played by Matt Damon, can even whip up a bowl of chicken soup, the boy and his mother are dead. The doctors are baffled by the mysterious disease, and soon more cases turn up around the world and scores of people begin dying. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as The World Health Organization work to their furthest limitations trying to identify the disease, track its spread, and develop a cure. In many ways, this film is the essence of drama – an examination of what it is that connects people. The word contagion by its definition is the communication, or sharing, of a disease, and Contagion connects us through the most ubiquitous objects in our daily lives. Director Steven Soderbergh lingers on shots of coffee cups, subway handrails, and doorknobs; silently inviting us to ponder on all previous users. This device is microcosmic of his larger mission: to illustrate how a singular event can connect people of divergent backgrounds, nationalities, cultures, and personalities. This is nothing new for Soderbergh, as he used the flow of narcotics into the U.S. to create connections between very different people in Traffic. He also examines how bureaucracy and the media would factor into a global catastrophe just as much […]

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