I watched Being the Ricardos on Amazon and liked it.
I always watch and enjoy Aaron Sorkin’s work. He operates at such a high level, it’s always educational. I try to listen hard to “crack the code” and it always escapes me—but it has to do something with the characters all being smart enough to express their experiences as if they were happening to someone else. (I must be getting old because for this one, I had to turn on the close captioning to make sure I heard the quips right.)
People laud his dialogue but he’s also a wizard at structure. Being the Ricardos is no exception, with the flashbacks and intersecting storylines, and the endings lining up perfectly—bam bam bam bam.
I even watched Sorkin’s least-known TV series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was him rather bizarrely writing himself as the sole author of a Saturday Night Live series (instead of The West Wing). I once saw one of the actors, Lucy Davis, at a Melrose coffee shop and told her I liked the show. She quipped, “So you’re the one.”
I was crestfallen when Sorkin left The West Wing. He said he never watched a single episode after he left because he couldn’t bear it. Well, that makes two of us. I tried watching the season premiere after he departed and it was all wrong. The characters were talking fast and bantering—but it was all sarcasm and snark. It didn’t have the ideas and the humanity—the soul—to make the flashy dialogue work. Not even close. Maybe it got better? I’ll never know.
Being the Ricardos doesn’t have the weight of something like The Social Network (obviously). Nicole Kidman does a great job as an android Lucille Ball. Javier Bardem looks about as much as Desi Arnaz as I do, but I understand the casting and he’s a magnificent presence. It’s kind of weird (mild spoiler) that the big hero at the end is...J. Edgar Hoover. It was nice to see Linda Lavin (“Alice” herself), John Rubinstein (co-composer of Jeremiah Johnson) and Ronny Cox in the framing interviews.
The score by Daniel Pemberton—I liked it. Pemberton is good and I liked his score for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I was really impressed while watching Being the Ricardos how he captured the mood and melancholy of the period, alluding to its aesthetics while remaining modern. It’s really sharp, sensitive work.
This morning some folks on the FSM board were discussing how apparently some of the Ricardos score sounds like Vangelis’ theme from Missing:
Eeek! It sure does. I don’t know Missing well at all, I didn’t pick up on it. It’s a pretty obscure work to use in a temp—it never even had a proper soundtrack album.
But the fact that “The End of a Dream” starts with a characteristic Vangelis “pad” from that era is a giveaway.
I’m always hesitant to point a finger about these things. Film music history is littered with rip-offs and “homages.”
Some, if not most, are temp-track rip-offs—“Make it like this, but different.”
These are usually pretty obvious, like in some big-budget comedy where all of a sudden the score is a sideways version of Beetlejuice.
The opening of The Abyss being Brainstorm is a pretty famous example that we film music geeks all noticed the second we heard it—and it was traced to an LP recommended to the production team for the temp score.
Elliot Goldenthal sued, successfully, Warner Bros. over his score to Titus being copied in the Tyler Bates score to 300. I wonder how many lawyers had to sign off on this statement:
Warner Bros. Pictures acknowledges and regrets that a number of the music cues for the score of "300" were, without our knowledge or participation, derived from music composed by Academy Award winning composer Elliot Goldenthal for the motion picture "Titus." Warner Bros. Pictures has great respect for Elliot, our longtime collaborator, and is pleased to have amicably resolved this matter.
But there are also examples of composers doing it on their own (a lot of James Horner’s classical rip-offs and self-plagiarism).
And, I’m sure, a few examples of people doing it unintentionally.
I once answered the phone maybe 25 years ago—it was Marc Shaiman, who asked me to listen to something on piano and tell him if I recognized it, because he was sure it was something and he was reasonably concerned. He proceeded to play a version of the love theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I informed him, and he was disappointed, but relieved to have nipped it in the bud.
There are only so many notes, and we spend our whole lives swimming in a sea of music, so how can this not happen from time to time?
In the case of Being the Ricardos—well, it is what it is.
I did like the score, and now I want to go back and listen to vintage Vangelis!