glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

Ottman, John (b. 1964)  
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  

To intensify the sense of frenetic and sometimes deliberately confusing action, Ottman utilized rapid cross cuts and jump cuts (involving the splicing together of the beginning and end sections of a continuous shot). However, he also sought to establish continuity among shifting scenes by employing visual and audio wipes (involving the layering of scenes over one another). In some places, he blurred the wipes in order to create a mood of sensuousness, later enhanced by the gliding melodies of his score.

Because Ottman felt that a love story would detract from the primary thrust of the film, he omitted most segments involving the relationship of Keaton with his fiancée. By keeping the allusions to love so minimal, Ottman was able to evoke a profound sense of loss, which he emphasized through his haunting music. Moreover, he created an emphatically world, with a minimal female presence.

Ottman was not able to work on the score until he competed the editing, and he had about three weeks to write all the music for the film. Although audiences probably expected hip, emphatically contemporary music, Ottman devised a lush, sensual score that often runs counter to the brutality of the action. As he explained in an interview with Mike Shapiro, "from the moment that the theme begins, the audience is immediately keyed in that this is going to be something they didn't expect."

Determined to create an effective title sequence with the limited resources at his disposal, Ottman appropriated footage of light reflecting in waves, which he complemented with elegant, almost classical music. As the film progresses, the theme evolves into soaring symphonic melodies, which endow scenes with mystical power. In contrast to Public Access, in which he had to rely on synthesizers, Ottman was able to exploit an extensive range of orchestral effects, despite constraints on studio time.

Utilizing the music to establish continuity of narrative, Ottman intended his score as an homage to film composers of earlier generations. Because the fates of all the men in Usual Suspects are controlled by one individual, Keyser Söze, the composer devised a single main theme, which he constantly altered to fit the principal characters and the actions in which they become involved. Recognizing that silence can sometimes be most effective, he omitted music from some of the climactic sequences.

For Usual Suspects, Ottman won a British Academy of Film and Television Award (BAFTA) for Editing, as well as a Saturn Award (given by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films) for Best Music.

The immediate commercial and critical triumph of Usual Suspects enabled Ottman to quit his day job and devote himself to film scoring and editing. Since 1995, he has been engaged continuously on various film projects, in which he has refined the techniques that he developed for Usual Suspects.

Horror and Thriller Scores of the Later 1990s

The success of Usual Suspects confirmed Ottman's reputation as a specialist in scores for dark and unsettling films. While he had occasional opportunities to produce lighthearted scores (for instance, the main theme and cues for several episodes of Fantasy Island in 1998), during the later 1990s he primarily was called upon to create music for routine horror and action films. Although such films normally would be scored in a simple and straightforward way, he consistently produced exceptionally intelligent and subtle musical compositions for these projects.

Ottman's determination to create complex and distinctive music has had its cost, as some of his most beautiful scores have been ruthlessly butchered. Occasionally, as in the case of Roger Kumble's Cruel Intentions (1999), he even has been dismissed from projects, and his completed scores have been entirely replaced by music that adhered more obviously to conventional expectations. Fortunately, he has released the original versions of some of the altered and unused scores on CD.

The first project on which Ottman worked after Usual Suspects was Ben Stiller's Cable Guy (1996), which starred Jim Carey in an unusually dark role, as an emotionally unbalanced cable installer who attempts to force his friendship on customers. Because this was Stiller's first film with a score composed especially for it, Stiller "was under the misconception that the film composer is on from day one of the shooting," Ottman remarked in an interview. Acceding to Stiller's demands in order to foster a good working relationship, he felt that he "was on the movie forever."

  <previous page   page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8   next page>  
Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about The Arts
Popular Topics:


Williams, Tennessee
Williams, Tennessee

Literary Theory: Gay, Lesbian, and Queer

The Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance

Romantic Friendship: Female
Romantic Friendship: Female

Feminist Literary Theory

American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969
American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969

Erotica and Pornography
Erotica and Pornography

Mishima, Yukio
Mishima, Yukio

Sadomasochistic Literature

Beat Generation
Beat Generation




This Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.