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As of Monday, February 23, 2015, Sonic Cinema is officially accepting filmmaker inquiries about having films reviewed on the site. That said, if a backlog exists in such inquiries, it might take a while to get to all of them. Thank you for your patience, and for sharing your art with us. -Brian Skutle


Actor Profile: Timothy J. Cox

One of the best things I’ve done in growing Sonic Cinema over the past 6-7 years has been embracing the idea of filmmaker requests of films they’re in or have made. It started slow—one in ‘06, one in ‘07, two in ‘08—but in 2009, the requests began coming in so fast it was difficult to keep up, and it’s been going that way ever since. One of the most prolific people in their requests, if not the most prolific, has been an actor named Timothy J. Cox, whose website you can check out here. It’s a good bet that you probably haven’t seen anything he’s been in, but if you’ve followed my reviews the past several years, you’ve no doubt seen his name several times. Some of his films I’ve reviewed on here include: “My Father, My Don”; “That Terrible Jazz”; “It’s Not You”; and “Trouble” are just some of the films he’s been in that have crossed my eyes. It’s always enjoyable to watch him in a wide variety of roles, in a wide variety of films. He is, truly, the definition of a character actor, never really playing the same character twice. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for me in the future.

I emailed Timothy some questions recently for a brief Q&A, and here are his responses.

1) Who/what inspired you to become an actor?

That’s easy: Jack Lemmon. Lemmon was the reason why I became an actor, specifically his performance in ‘Days of Wine and Roses’. He was so familiar up there on screen, like a relative, so natural and honest. Whether it was a comedic or a dramatic role, he brought so much variety and humanity to the work. When I saw that performance and saw that you could move an audience, as well as entertain them, I knew that I was an actor and that I was going to be one for life.

2) Is there particular material, or a type of role, that you find yourself gravitating towards?

Honestly, I do love supporting roles. It’s where I fit and where I have had success. It’s fun to play the shrink or the lawyer or the romantic lead’s best friend who says, ‘’Go get the girl, stupid’’. I’ve always said that I’d take the role of the Gravedigger over Hamlet any day of the week.

I just worked on the film ‘’Bulldog,’’ here in New York yesterday, where I played this school principal for two scenes. Both scenes were brief, but fun and then I was done. That’s what I like. I like to come on, do the job and then go on to the next one. A good supporting actor comes on, scores their points and then exits.

3) Do you prefer working on film or in theatre?

I’ve always been 50/50. Nothing beats the live reaction of an audience in the theatre. There’s something truly magical about the shared experience between actor and audience, but I also love the feeling of stepping onto a film set. It feels like home. It’s a different energy than the theatre. There’s a lot of waiting around, of course and you have to remain patient and ready, but when everything is firing on all cylinders, it’s quite exciting.

4) I’ve seen you in a lot of short films over the years, but very few (if any) feature films. Is there something that draws you to the short film format over features?

Shorts are a nice way for filmmakers to get their foot in the door in this business and for me, it’s been a fun way to work in a wide range of genres and roles over the years.

I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of great filmmakers, like Sean Meehan and with Sean specifically, on every project, it just gets better and better. More risks and challenges are being taken, which is great. Sean is someone that I know is going to make great shorts and features in the future. I just hope he keeps hiring me.

5) When it comes to bringing a character to life, do you prefer a script where all the information is on the page, or do you prefer having some blanks to fill in?

To me, it’s all in the script. The script has to be solid. If the script is good, then it makes your job as the actor so much easier. You just trust the material and the people around you. When the material is not so good is when you have to push up your shirt sleeves and then it becomes work. Acting shouldn’t be work. I mean, it’s called play for a reason. To me, acting is extended recess time, playtime for adults.

Thank you very much, Timothy, not just for your time in answering these questions, but also for sharing your craft with me. I can’t wait to watch more films with you.

Sincerely,

Brian Skutle
www.sonic-cinema.com


A Movie a Week


A Movie a Week: "Bring It On"

Here we are, at last, as we begin the seventh year of this series. The past few years, I’ve gotten painfully behind at times delivering these reviews, but no time was worse than the last part of 2014, when I basically had to do two reviews a week sometimes just to catch up. Now that last year is finished up, it’s time to start this year.

The “new normal” of my life without my father, and a lot of balls in the air at the same time, is starting to normalize. Part of what kept me so behind last year was my decision to take online courses in film music at the Berklee College of Music, and it was a wonderful choice, even if it was stressful at times. Now, I have a body of work I can share, and hopefully get my foot in the door of something I love. But this is about reviewing movies, my other big love, so let’s get to it.

This year will feature a lot of the same mix of old favorites with movies I haven’t seen before that has been something of a regular happening the past few years in this column, and that will start right off the bat. For this year’s “bookend director,” I decided to go with a filmmaker who isn’t as highly regarded as some of my other choices, but definitely a personal favorite of mine. He’s directed some of my all-time favorite genre films over the years, and the more I’ve watched them, the more they find a place in my cinematic memory. That’s the hallmark of a great filmmaker, and as with Alfred Hitchcock (last year’s bookend), Richard Donner knows exactly how to push an audience’s buttons, and entertain them easily.

This week, we’re one step closer to being up-to-date as I look back at “Ant-Man” director Peyton Reed’s first box-office hit, the cheerleading comedy “Bring It On”. Fifteen years later, this movie is still a winner. I hope you enjoy!

Brian Skutle
www.sonic-cinema.

“Bring It On” (2000)- A-
Peyton Reed’s “Bring It On” was considered a surprise hit when it came out in August 2000, but the truth is, when you see it, it’s not a surprise at all that the film found an audience. Jessica Bendinger’s wicked, witty screenplay has just enough vulgarity to have the appeal of an “American Pie” with the intelligent riffs of archetypes that made “She’s All That” and “Cruel Intentions” stand out in the deluge of teen comedies that was in theatres during that time. That it was brought to life by a talent cast just adds to the fun.

One of the strengths of “Bring It On” is how it turns the “underdog sports” formula not on football or basketball but on cheerleading. The focus on nubile women in tiny skirts is an obvious one for bringing guys to a movie they might otherwise avoid, but the truth is Bendinger’s script shines some light on the athletic aspects of cheerleading most people don’t really think about when they see squads do predictable routines during football and basketball games. This is the same savvy that would turn “Pitch Perfect” into another unorthodox hit for Universal a few years ago when they took on a cappella life in college. Not surprisingly, both scripts were written by women with a genuine interest in the subject beyond just making something different. This is intelligent comedy writing that plays off of both the characters and situations—I defy anyone not to enjoy this film. The endless direct-to-DVD sequels, however, you can probably skip.

The film follows Torrence Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) as she becomes the team captain of the award-winning Toros, a southern California high school cheerleading team that has won five straight national championships. They are the toast of the town, and the school, because the football team sucks. (As someone who was in a high school band that overshadowed our less-than-stellar football team, I could identify with the Toros.) Things start to fall apart early, though, as one of their members gets injured at the first practice. Tryouts are needed, and despite some pushback from some fellow seniors (Clare Kramer and Nicole Bilderback), Torrence is insistent on bringing a transfer named Missy (Eliza Dushku) on the squad—she’s a gymnast, and has no love for cheerleaders, but she’s unquestionably got talent. She also has some knowledge of the Toros’s routines, and how they were lifted from an inner city squad called the Clovers, led by Isis (Gabrielle Union). This news rocks Torrence to her core, and it’s not long before things really start to unravel. With a sixth National title on the line, Torrence and the Toros have to challenge themselves like never before.

The tone for the film is set in the first scene, which mixes cheerleading routine with Busby Berkley musical number and a smart-ass sense of humor into a wildly funny opening that gets right to the heart of Torrence’s anxieties about taking over the team. Dunst has been very hit-and-miss over the years when it comes to material, even in movies that really hit with audiences (see the first “Spider-Man”), but she has a great role to play here, with a lot of different emotions to play with different people, from the antagonism with Kramer and Bilderback to the cheerful friendship with Dushku to complicated love with Richard Hillman’s Aaron (her college-bound boyfriend) and Jesse Bradford’s Cliff (Missy’s old-school rock brother) and the leader vs. leader tension with Union’s Isis. She’s had more prestigious roles in films like “Interview With the Vampire” and filmmakers like Sofia Coppola and Lars von Trier, but this is definitely one of her finest moments on screen.

Sarcastic wit aside, this is a sincere piece of film comedy and underdog writing. It follows a lot of the genre formulas to a “t,” but Reed and Bendinger are focused on making a smart movie that plays to everyone first and foremost, and they succeed extremely well at it. It’s peppy, fresh and funny with some real emotions behind it. This isn’t just another teen movie but a sports film that can stand up to maybe not the top tier of the genre, but at least is just outside the top 10. That sounds like I’m overselling it, but dammit this movie works too well to be dismissed. Bring it on, indeed.

Previous “A Movie a Week” Reviews
“The Goonies” (1985)
“The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976)
“Conan the Barbarian” (1982)
“The Muppets Take Manhattan” (1984)
“Bound” (1996)
“The Lover” (1992)
“4 Little Girls” (1997)
“The Godfather Part III” (1990)
“Blue Chips” (1994)
“The Paper” (1994)
“Ace in the Hole” (1951)
“Shrek” (2001)
“Dogma” (1999)
“Daredevil” (2003)
“Spartacus” (1960)
“In a Lonely Place” (1950)
“The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1939)
“Wings of Desire” (1987)
“Mad Max” (1979)
“The Iron Giant” (1999)
“Au Hasard Balthazar” (1966)
“Alien³” (1992)
“The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997)
“The Little Mermaid” (1989)
“Clue” (1985)
“The Terminator” (1984)
“Romancing the Stone” (1984)
“Bring It On” (2000)

See Brian’s list of 2009 “Movies a Week” here.
See Brian’s list of 2010 “Movies a Week” here.
See Brian’s list of 2011 “Movies a Week” here.
See Brian’s list of 2012 “Movies a Week” here.
See Brian’s list of 2013 “Movies a Week” here.
See Brian’s list of 2014 “Movies a Week” here.


Music News

If you are a fan on Sonic Cinema, Brian's music, or the work of Cinema Nouveau Productions, and would like to show your support, a store is now available through Cafe Press, with T-shirts, hats, buttons, and other merchandise. A wide variety of designs and products are available. The store is Sonic Cinema Shop and can be found at the link provided. Thank you for your support, so I can continue to do what I love. -Brian Skutle


Musical Happenings: April 2015

It’s been nearly a year since I last updated on Sonic Cinema on my musical exploits. Truth is, I’ve been pretty busy with a lot of balls juggling in the air, so I haven’t been able to update quite as regularly as I’d prefer. But here we are, almost done with the first third of 2015, and it’s definitely been a ride.

Last year, most of the year saw my creative energies being focused on academic pursuits. If you’ll recall, in April of last year I started a 3-course certificate program through the Berklee College of Music online for Music for Film & TV. The last time I updated on my “Musical Happenings,” I had just finished my first course, Film Scoring 101, which confirmed a lot of my own previous experience in the subject, but also gave me a better understanding of the spotting process and syncing to picture than I previously had. Well, in December of last year, I completed the program with two As and an A-, and received my certificate in the mail in February. Now, it’s time to put this added experience into use, and get some changes happening in terms of my career.

Creatively, the courses I took through Berklee expanded my knowledge about the field of film music, heightened my appreciation for the art form, and gave me a lot of chances to spread my wings as a composer. The third course in the program was devoted to breaking down conventions of genre writing, and scoring a scene in that genre using the techniques we learned. This was invaluable to me, not only because it allowed me more exposure in some types of writing I hadn’t done before (like comedy and romance), but because it showed me just how limited some of my thinking as a composer had been in terms of film scoring. As with classical music, there are different conventions and theoretical ideas at play when scoring different types of scenes that can only be understood when you break down examples of those pieces. It was like Music Theory for Film Music, and if I had only taken that course alone, it would have been worth it, but all three courses had invaluable information to learn. The culmination of that last course was the creation of a demo reel of some of our work, which you can hear below.

In terms of looking for opportunities to apply my craft towards film scoring, it’s been relatively slow to start out, but I’ve actually got more potential resources than I think. One of the things I’ve been doing is reaching out to some of the filmmakers I’ve come in contact with in accepting review requests for Sonic Cinema, not necessarily asking them to consider using me, but maybe putting the word out with people they may know looking for a composer. More recently, though, I joined an Atlanta filmmakers meetup group I found online, and that is already heading in the direction of making a short film after two recent meetings. (I might even be doing production sound and the overall mix, as well.) It’s a very exciting project, already, and being able to be a part of it from the start has been great knowledge.

In terms of personal musical projects, the past year has been light on it. I eschewed my usual October composing due to class and personal responsibilities, although I did record a couple of pieces I had written in 2013, one solo harpsicord piece (“Haunted By the Past”) and one flute piece (“Into the Dark Alone”). Otherwise, there were only three original works that were for something other than classes. The first was a piece for band (a configuration I’ve wanted to write for for some time) entitled “Interludes for Winds, Marimba and Timpani”, followed up by an electronic piece called “Cosmic Energy”. The last piece was more personal, and actually partially inspired by my classes. After looking at positive emotional scoring, including romantic writing, a seed of an idea took hold, and turned into a piece dedicated to my wonderful girlfriend of now 2-plus years, Meredith. It’s a piece for strings, winds and synthesizer, and it’s called “Serenity Valley: A Melody for Meredith”, and it’s one of the very best pieces I’ve ever written, in my opinion. It won’t be the only one she inspires in the years to come, that’s for sure.

That’s all I have for now in terms of my musical endeavors. It’s been quite a transitional time for me in my life, and hopefully, the work I’ve done in the past year will lead to a dramatic transition that leads to the life, and career, I’ve wanted for years. Thank you all who have been following and supporting me all this time.

Thanks for listening,

Brian Skutle
www.sonic-cinema.com
brianskutle.bandcamp.com
“Creative Beginnings” at CDBaby
“Dark Experiments” at CDBaby
“Sonic Visions of a New Old West” at CDBaby
“Beyond the Infinite: A Musical Odyssey” at CDBaby
“Storytelling” at CDBaby
“Arpeggiations & Atmospheres” on BandCamp

(view news archive)