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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Errol Morris' Abu Ghraib doc: SOP: Standard Operating Procedure

doggieoscar8908-.jpgAn item about Danny Elfman getting an honorary doctorate reveals the title of Errol Morris‘ new documentary, on American torture practices: SOP: Standard Operating Procedure. (Elfman’s doing the ditty duties on this one; more on the degree below.)

Also Will Receive Honorary Doctorates
WINSTON-SALEM – Chancellor John Mauceri has announced that award-winning film composer Danny Elfman and best-selling author Rebecca Walker will speak at the North Carolina School of the Arts’ commencement ceremonies for college and high school graduates, respectively, on June 2 at NCSA’s Stevens Center.
“What an extraordinary day this will be for our School!” Chancellor Mauceri said. “Two great artists will celebrate NCSA – as we celebrate them – and elevate an already joyous occasion with their presence.”
Elfman, whose compositions range from TV’s “The Simpsons” and “Desperate Housewives” to feature films BATMAN and SPIDER-MAN, as well as purely orchestral works, will speak to the college graduates at the 1 p.m. ceremony. Walker, who at just 25 was named by Time magazine as one of the 50 most influential future leaders of America, will speak to the high school graduates at the 9 a.m. ceremony.
Elfman and Walker also will receive honorary doctorates at the ceremonies.
Elfman was invited to speak by Chancellor Mauceri, who recorded the composer’s “Serenada Schizophrena.” Elfman composed an overture for Chancellor Mauceri’s final concerts as director of The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra last September.
One of today’s most successful creators of movie music, Danny Elfman is also one of few who have managed to make the transition from rock musician to orchestral score composer.
The Grammy-winning, Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated writer has been toiling in the motion-picture arena since 1985, when director Tim Burton and star Paul Reubens — fascinated by Elfman’s playfully macabre music for the cult L.A. rock band Oingo Boingo — called him to write the music for PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE.
The Elfman-Burton collaboration continued with the clever and quirky music for BEETLEJUICE (1988) and reached a high point with the massive, Gothic score for BATMAN (1989), which won a Grammy for the composer — and legions of fans, who felt that his Wagnerian approach gave the comics’ Dark Knight a new and entirely appropriate sound.
Since then, Elfman has scored nearly all of Burton’s alternately spooky, weird and otherworldly cinematic excursions, including the touching EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990), with its delicately lyrical choral passages; the funhouse-from-hell music for the mad Penguin and Catwoman in BATMAN RETURNS (1992); the songs and score for the imaginative Halloween fable THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993); the ’50s-style sci-fi score for MARS ATTACKS! (1996); the intense and powerfully orchestrated SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999); and the percussion-driven PLANET OF THE APES (2001). Five of his eight Grammy nominations are for Burton films. The Elfman-Burton duo is responsible for the blockbuster CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, for which Elfman created not only the dazzling score, but wrote the songs and also sang the voices of all the Oompa Loompas. This was followed by the stop motion tale TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE. Elfman is currently writing the score to Peter Berg’s fall thriller, THE KINGDOM.
Elfman received his third Oscar nomination for his magical score for Tim Burton’s BIG FISH, which was also nominated for a Golden Globe. But the Burton scores demonstrate only one side of the Elfman persona – and constitute a fraction of his more than 40 scores (and contributions of themes or songs to a dozen more). His haunting music for the drama GOOD WILL HUNTING and his raucous sounds for the sci-fi comedy MEN IN BLACK won him dual Oscar nominations in 1997.
Elfman is equally proud of his small-combo score for the comedy MIDNIGHT RUN (1988), his music for Warren Beatty’s comic-strip adaptation DICK TRACY (1990), the romantic SOMMERSBY (1993), his ethereal BLACK BEAUTY (1994), the often dissonant score for DOLORES CLAIBORNE (1995), the urban funk of DEAD PRESIDENTS (1995) and the unsettling, eerie musical effects of A SIMPLE PLAN (1998). In addition to Burton, his other regular collaborators include Sam Raimi (DARKMAN, A SIMPLE PLAN, SPIDER-MAN, and SPIDER-MAN 2) and Gus Van Sant (TO DIE FOR, GOOD WILL HUNTING, the remake of PSYCHO).
An entirely different audience knows Danny Elfman for his classic television themes, including the famous, quirky and undeniably catchy “The Simpsons” and the creepy, atmospheric “Tales from the Crypt” (both 1989). His title theme for the current cultural phenomenon “Desperate Housewives” brilliantly sets the unique tone of the show.
Elfman remains in high demand for big action scores: Witness his success with the driving music for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1996), which he followed with the big-screen adventure of PLANET OF THE APES; SPIDER-MAN and SPIDER-MAN 2; the landmark action-comedy scores for MEN IN BLACK and MEN IN BLACK 2; RED DRAGON, the Hannibal Lecter thriller from director Brett Ratner (whose THE FAMILY MAN also boasted music by Elfman); and THE HULK, directed by Ang Lee.
Elfman, 50, loved movies as a kid and grew up in Los Angeles appreciating the efforts of composers like Bernard Herrmann (for the Hitchcock suspense films and Ray Harryhausen fantasy flicks) and Max Steiner (for many Warner Bros. movies). His years with the popular troupe Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo (in the ’70s), and later as the leader of Oingo Boingo (in the ’80s and ’90s), provided the theatrical training that would serve him so well as a film composer.

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