Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2017 Music in Movies (Part 4)

Please don’t stop the music. Part 4 of the yearly Music in Movies series continues. If you missed parts one, two, and three, they’re available here , here, and here. Let’s do it.

Dunkirk (composed by Hans Zimmer, with contributions by Benjamin Wallfisch, Lorne Balfe, Andrew Kawczynski, and Steve Mazzaro)

The Mole



Rag on the overkill volume levels all you want (seems to be a common occurrence in Nolan films), but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Hans Zimmer (along with company this time) has made another memorable score in Dunkirk. Desperation and constantly swelling tension describes Dunkirk to a T. Starting with The Mole around the 2:30 mark, the sound that most will remember—Nolan’s ticking clock—signifies the delicacy that is time in this film. Zimmer’s work here is atmospheric and bleak. Yet, it’s the type of musical pieces one feels throughout their whole body. He’s made a score in which his music is easily a bigger character than anyone that appears in Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic.

Atomic Blonde (soundtrack by various artists, score composed by Tyler Bates)



Finding the UHF Device

Viewing Atomic Blonde is akin to watching a music video from the 80’s. There’s bold style, vivid colors, and little substance. But boy, can it be fun to look at and listen to! Most of the music appearing in the movie is licensed, anything from A Flock of Seagulls to a cover of “Blue Monday” by HEALTH, truly giving the film the 80’s authenticity it’s going for. But the few synth-heavy score cuts by Tyler Bates do the job as well, adding a shady and dangerous sounding vibe to the events on screen.

The Big Sick (composed by Michael Andrews)

Two Day Rule

The Big Sick is charming from the get go in all of its sweet awkwardness. I’d like to think this opener of a song, Two Day Rule, is a wonderful foreshadowing of what the resulting relationship will be. Quirky, refreshing, yet a little troubling, like a rainbow that emerges after a long thunderstorm. Really does set the tone for the rest of the movie.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (soundtrack by various artists, score by Atli Örvarsson)

Hitman’s Bodyguard

One of the Good Guys? 

If most of The Hitman’s Bodyguard was like the tracks posted above, maybe it would be a better movie? Atli Örvarsson’s le motif drawa upon a couple of genres in funk, gospel, classical, and jazz to create a loose and fun theme with a lot of swagger. He then tapers it down for what serves as the movie’s most somber and reflective moment in One of the Good Guys? Unfortunately, Örvarsson’s contributions here to the music are rather limited, taking a backseat to licensed music, but i wish they weren’t.

Wind River (composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis)

Snow Wolf


Meth House

Three Seasons in Wyoming

Memory Time

Wind River

Wind River is easily one of the more somber viewing experiences of 2017. Cold and uncompromising, the heavy-string score and soft keys chills down to the bone, not unlike a harsh winter. The occasional vocals sound like people crying out for help where there is none in the open West that is Wyoming. This is a score that is very introspective and haunting. I’ve never experienced loss like some of the characters in Wind River, but after listening to the score, I feel like I have.

Logan Lucky (soundtrack by various artists, score by David Holmes)

Original Score Medley

Hearing Original Score Medley from Logan Lucky makes me wish there were more actual score music in the film. The piece by David Holmes is that good and fun to listen to; eclectic, southern funky, and kind of grungy all in one with the electric guitar, church organs, drums, and underlying 808s. A shame, in my opinion, Steven Soderbergh’s longtime companion was relegated to only one track. Once again, can you tell I’m more of a score person than a soundtrack person?

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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2016 Music in Movies (Part 7)

Welcome back to what is the final entry that deals with the music behind the feature films of the calendar year. If you missed Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, you can find those hereherehereherehere, and here. Let’s do it.

The Edge of Seventeen (various artists on soundtrack, composed by Atli Örvarsson)


Nadine’s Theme

The Edge of Seventeen uses licensed music to accompany its scenes and convey the feelings of the main character Nadine. But near the end, composer Atli Orvarsson delivers an original track that captures the awkwardness and trouble of being seventeen and seemingly alone in the world. It sounds profound, yet basic, tragic, yet somehow uplifting. It’s hard to describe, but it encapsulates so many emotions…which is sort of what being seventeen is like, feeling like you know everything one moment, and then discovering minutes later you don’t.

Jackie (composed by Mica Levi)



Walk To The Capitol


Regal and haunting are the sounds I hear in Mica Levi’s score of Jackie. Regal is an apt descriptor for the woman often known as “The Queen of Camelot.” Haunting is as well. The heavy and slow usage of strings makes for a sound that seems to paint the sad psyche of The First Lady in an obviously troubling period in her life. The Jackie movie I honestly don’t remember much of. Mark Hobin says it best in that it is “… a film that almost dares you to enjoy it.” Yeah, the score does tower over everything sometimes, but it still is quality work.

Lion (composed by Hauschka and Dustin O’Halloran)


Searching for Home


If Jackie‘s score is on one side of the volume spectrum, Lion’s score is on the other side. Co-composers Hauschka and Dustin O’Halloran opt for more of a quiet and subdued approach when it comes to allowing the music to tell the story of a few moments. Lion’s theme, heard consistently throughout, is a piece of music that feels befitting of a character who’s on a personal journey to make it home, equally tragic but hopeful and optimistic. Many of the songs also feature a tad bit of distortion that seems to illustrate the confusion the lead character goes through. On its own, the music is somewhat unmemorable, but in the film, it works better.

Nocturnal Animals (composed by Abel Korzeniowski)


Wayward Sisters

Off the Road


The Field



Table for Two

Wow, there is power that exists in just about every track of the Nocturnal Animals score. I have been been using “layered” a few times when writing about specific scores and cues, but the word probably applies the most to the music of Tom Ford’s latest. The score can be unnerving (Off the Road), hypnotizing (Wayward Sisters), and introspective (Table for Two). Minimalism seems to be a common thread in most of the memorable film scores this year. Composer Abel Korzeniowski relies mostly on rich strings and precise piano keys to inbue mystery and emotion into the proceedings. Adds a lot to the on-screen events, but works magnificently as a standalone listen as well.

Manchester by the Sea (composed by Lesley Barber)


 Manchester by the Sea Chorale

Floating 149 Strings Reprise

Plymouth Chorale

Yes, it’s true. Manchester by the Sea packs an emotional wallop. The most affecting scenes are the ones in which nothing is said, and the score done by Lesley Barber is completely highlighted. 2016 may be the year of the strings as it pertains to film music, and Barber’s usage of them here gives the production a “sea-like” and coastal feel. But it is the vocals that stand out the most in the chorales and the a cappellas. They speak to the soul, like going to church. I think Catholic when I hear the vocals, which hearkens immediately to Boston and Massachusetts, a state that has a large population of Catholics. I think it all goes hand in hand with creating the working class, everyman setting that Manchester by the Sea carries.

La La Land (composed by Justin Hurwitz, performed by Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Callie Hernandez, and John Legend)


Another Day of Sun

Bathroom Mirror/You’re Coming Right?

Someone in the Crowd

Mia and Sebastian’s Theme

A Lovely Night

I probably should have just posted the entire soundtrack, but most of my audience likes the highlighted tracks to click into! Regardless, there’s not much more I can say about the soundtrack and score to La La Land that hasn’t already been said and probably better than I can describe. Yes, soundtrack and score because both are key components to the storytelling.

Most of us know the big tracks, like the opening number on the freeway (Another Day of Sun), or the sunset duet (A Lovely Night). Every song that a cast member contributes to is memorable and important, yet the score by Justin Hurwitz a little more so, as it covers more emotion than the songs don’t always do. While inspired by the old-time musicals, this is extremely fresh and vibrant. Hurwitz says it best; as “…[the score] was never intentioned to feel or sound old-fashioned.” The music helps to tell the story. This feels and sounds like it could have happened in any decade.


This is the last post of the Music in Movies 2016 series. Granted, I’ve missed a few films, simply due to them not playing yet (Hidden Figures, Live By Night) or a lack of time (Moana). But I like to think I’ve got the bulk of them that deserved to be talked about and recognized. And again, these are my personal highlights. If there’s anything you think I missed, comment below!

To officially end it, my personal 10 favorites scores/soundtracks of 2016, taking into some account standalone listenability:

10. Nerve

9. Lion

8. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

7. Deadpool

6. Jackie

5. Moonlight

4. The Neon Demon

3. Arrival

2. La La Land

1. Nocturnal Animals


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