Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2017 Music in Movies (Part 6)

Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can’t. Part 6 of the yearly Music in Movies series ends here. Even though I missed a few things (ahem…Phantom Thread), I promise, we’re done with 2017 finally. If you missed parts one, two, three, four, and five, they’re available here , here, here,  here, and here. Groove out.

I, Tonya (composed by Peter Nashel, soundtrack by various artists)

Devil Woman

How Can you Mend a Broken Heart?

The Chain

The Incident

Music doesn’t completely play into I, Tonya’s storytelling like Baby Driver did, but still, the licensed soundtrack definitely paints a rebellious, edgy, and grungy tone that supports the fourth wall breaking aspects of the movie. Often times, these songs serve to tap into the psyche of Tonya, which is far from rosy. However, The Incident stands as a moody, uneasy track for the obvious moment that everyone associates Harding for.

Lady Bird (composed by Jon Brion)

Title Credits

Played during the opening sequence of the film, Jon Brion’s opener sets the stage for a warm, offbeat, and quirky experience. C’mon, there are oboes heard extensively! It kind of sounds like an average high school woodwind band. Perhaps that was the affect, pulling on the nostalgia strings?

Drive Home

Rose Garden

Summer in Sacramento

Lady Bird

Brion’s motif heard in the above three tracks might be my favorite motif/theme of 2017. Using that word again, it creates a very warm feeling despite sounding a little cold. The pieces are so layered, I feel nostalgia, introspection, and a sense of yearning the minute those keys are played and the hi-hat clicks and the descending call-response part comes on. The titular track of Lady Bird simply serves as an amazing coda to the film.

The Shape of Water (composed by Alexandre Desplat)

The Shape of Water

Elisa’s Theme

The Shape of Love

Decency

The Escape

Rainy Day

So rich and so ethereal is Alexandre Desplat’s score of The Shape of Water. The sounds and melodies that Desplat crafts are broad, deep, dreamy, and lush, befitting of Del Toro’s fantastical production. It’s impossible not to get sucked in, whether during the thrilling and even pulse-pounding moments during The Escape, or the opening narration played over the title track.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (composed by Carter Burwell)

Mildred Goes to War

Carter Burwell’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’s score has a outlaw/last stand/revenge feel to it. Honestly, that sounds a lot more interesting than the score sounds. But, the opener above paints the picture as a vengeful, methodical, almost spaghetti-western like tale that promises a scorched Earth left behind by it’s main character.

The Post (composed by John Williams)

The Presses Roll

Deciding to Publish

The Court’s Decision and End Credits

With the urgency The Post champions, it’s only right that John Williams makes a score that carries a sense of fitting weight and urgency. There’s a lot of power in many of these tracks that is punctuated by Williams’ precise sharp strings and swooping brass orchestra; one can feel the intensity of putting pen to paper and fingers to typewriter and unearthing something important.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (composed by John Williams)

The Supremacy

A New Alliance

The Last Jedi

There’s that guy again. C’mon, it’s John Williams, Star Wars. Little more needs to be said. Even for a non-Force geek like myself who couldn’t tell a Porgi from an Ewok (kidding…I think), there’s something undeniably epic about a Star Wars score and every sound of Williams’ orchestra. Bold, energetic, and vibrant.

All the Money in the World (composed by Daniel Pemberton)

The Minotaur

We Are Kidnappers

Paparazzi

Masterpiece

Police Raid

Sold to an Investor

Money Drop

Visuals do a lot when it comes to painting a picture of setting or time period, but a well crafted score can be just as important, if not more so. Daniel Pemberton’s work in All the Money in the World continues his great recent work. Whether giving life to a retelling of King Arthur, or painting different periods of Steve Jobs’ life, his sounds are always unique and go different places than most composers.

AtMinW is no different, combining classical Italian opera vocals and melodic instrumentation with street sounds and electric spurts that play up the thriller aspect when applicable. A score that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Call Me By Your Name (soundtrack by various artists, Sufjan Stevens)

Futile Devices (Doveman Remix)

Love My Way

Visions of Gideon

For all the love that songwriter Sufjan Stevens is getting for his Mystery of Love track as a potential Oscar Best Original Song contender, his other contributions to Call Me By Your Name are actually stronger. The lyrics to Futile Devices and Visions of Gideon are painful to listen to, not because they are bad, but so relatable, in the sense that love can be hard to verbalize and worthless to do so, but actions are ever present in the former song. The latter song is heartbreaking, remembering something that was so real and vivid but almost too real, using the Jewish prophet of Gideon to draw light parallels to Elio and his situation. A flooring way to end the movie.

Darkest Hour (composed by Dario Marianelli)

The War Rooms

History is Listening

Dynamo

The piano is such a dynamic instrument, able to convey feelings of love and tenderness, but also aggression and importance. The tracks above by Dario Marianelli, paired with a full orchestra, get at the urgency and importance of the seemingly impossible task that Churchill had in convincing his party to keep fighting in the midst of despair. Very business and processional-like.

Molly’s Game (composed by Daniel Pemberton)

Staring Down a Mountain

Area Codes

House of Cards

Scars

All the Beauty in the World

I fittingly end my look at 2017 films and the music that accompanies them with, in my opinion, the most dynamic film composer working today in Daniel Pemberton. He may very well be the best in the game right now at crafting a style for a particular movie. Molly’s Game is crisp and smooth. Sounds like more an adult drink than a film score, but that’s the truth. The metronome in Staring Down a Mountain paired with steel drums and a funky electric guitar creates a 70’s-ish vibe with. The whole score, whether brimming with energy or more sedated like the somber and reflective Scars, feels like clockwork, apropos to the content in Molly’s Game.

Photo credits go to zimbio.com, tinymixtapes.com, filmmusicreporter.com, people.com, jwfan.com, slashfilm.com, billboard.com, stereogum.com, and focusfeatures.com.

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Going to try something different this year to end this yearly series. Instead of ranking my favorite scores of the past year in cinema, I’m going to list my top 25 favorite tracks in cinema over the past year, and, my composer of the year. Again, all subjective, and just because a movie may have been generally deemed great or awful by the masses, I could really love one or two, or hell, maybe three or more, of the tracks on its score and the movie may be stellar or poor. These are the tracks I have found myself listening to often, working out to, falling asleep with, humming randomly, or just thinking a lot about.

Composer of the Year: Daniel Pemberton (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, All The Money in the World, Molly’s Game)

Top 25 of 2017

25. Paradise Lost (War for the Planet of the Apes)

24. A Long Way Back (Life)

23. Hitman’s Bodyguard (The Hitman’s Bodyguard)

22. Demonstration (Atomic Blonde)

21. Project Monarch (Kong: Skull Island)

20. The Last Jedi (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)

19. Wonder Woman’s Wrath (Wonder Woman)

19. John Wick Reckoning (John Wick: Chapter 2)

18. Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga (Get Out)

17. We Are Kidnappers (All The Money in the World)

16. Elisa’s Theme (The Shape of Water)

15. Staring Down a Mountain (Molly’s Game)

14. Visions of Gideon (Call Me By Your Name)

13. The War Rooms (Darkest Hour)

12. Original Score Medley (Logan Lucky)

11. Lady Bird (Lady Bird)

10. The Beast is on the Movie (Split)

9. History is Listening (Darkest Hour)

8. Supermarine (Dunkirk)

7. Growing Up Londinium (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword)

6. Futile Devices (Call Me By Your Name)

5. Main Titles (Logan)

4. The Shape of Water (The Shape of Water)

3. All The Beauty in the World (Molly’s Game)

2. The Mole (Dunkirk)

1. Sea Wall (Blade Runner 2049)

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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2015 Music in Movies (Part 6)

Apologies for the delay on this one, people! I knew that I had to watch a few more films with scores I knew were going to be good to amazing, and I would have felt awful not highlighting them.

Thanks for joining me on the 6th (and final) part of my year-end series. If you missed Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, you can see those herehere herehere, and here. Now, onto the selections!

Spotlight (composed by Howard Shore)

shore

The Story Breaks

The Directories 

Investigative Journalism

Delivering the News

Spotlight‘s score, despite it being somewhat solemn (obviously unsurprising given the subject matter), is the type of score I could use to get to sleep and/or late night studying, if I were still in college. The tracks rely on piano and electric guitar, and these and the other very few instruments featured in Shore’s composition are sort of reflective of Spotlight and its main narrative theme of uncovering the story with no frills or extraneous detail. The overall sound is very “probing,” inquisitive but not aggressively so, understated but still able to be felt. It’s a calm listen.

 Trumbo (composed by Theodore Shapiro)

shapiro

Eighty Words a Minute

Curriculum Vitae

Shapiro’s score for Trumbo is at its best when the tracks feel like something out of the mid-40’s and early 50’s, a time in which jazz was pretty popular in the world and the U.S. The two pieces help to further set Trumbo in the right time period, and I imagine they are supposed to embody the speed and somewhat improvisational work output Dalton had to undertake for his scripts, especially after returning from prison.

 Concussion (composed by James Newton Howard)

Concussion

There is an NFL Films-ish feel with this track. What I love about this piece (which opens the film), is how beautiful it sounds for the first half of the song, and then how it progressively gets more forceful and aggressive. It is reminiscent of a football game in some ways. At its peak, it is a marvel to look at, from the way the offensive line blocks to the picture-perfect spiral that a quarterback throws. But in the beauty always lies danger, fear, and the idea that every hit leaves its mark on a player.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (composed by John Williams)

williamsj

Rey’s Theme

March of the Resistance

Torn Apart

The Jedi Steps and Finale

The knock on John Williams’ latest musical contribution to the Star Wars universe (and to a large extent, Episode VII), is that it is derivative of earlier sounds, not exactly making any new themes of its own. Yours truly is nowhere near a Star Wars super fan, but it is impossible to go through life without being semi-familiar with the leitmotifs of Williams’ crown jewel. I actually think he does a great job of using these old cues (it’s what the people want to hear), but introducing new ones and themes, such as the beautiful Rey’s Theme, and March of the Resistance, sure to be staples

If anything, he shows restraint, because this is a trilogy. One has to assume that in the next film, more character themes will become more pronounced, more developed…more “hummable.” It’s hard not to feel the optimism for the future of the franchise, though, after hearing The Jedi Steps and Finale. It’s probably the most bold and voluminous track of the whole film, leaving you wanting more. One can only hope it is setting up future installments for big and fresh new adventures in a galaxy far, far away. I’d bet on it.

The Hateful Eight (composed by Ennio Morricone)

morricone

Overture

https://soundcloud.com/yusuf-abouhalima/ennio-morricone-overture-the

Neve #2

L’Ultima Dillgenza di Red Rock

I Quattro Passeggeri

I didn’t ever want to trust a composer with the soul of my movie“-Quentin Tarantino.

You made a wise choice to do so, QT. Apologies that some of the sounds are not true to what was heard in the theaters. But even at a octave lower, this is still one of the better scores of 2015. There’s something so amazing about how Ennio Morricone blends a multitude of genres within the whole score, and within a single piece. Starting with Overture and continuing through the rest of the score, Morricone infuses a sense of horror with some drama, legitimate tension, mystery, and even some comedy to enhance and even surpass what is being seen on the screen. A worthy winner of Best Original Score at The Golden Globes, and potentially The Oscars.

 The Revenant (composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto)

ryuichi

Main Theme

I think the easiest way to describe Sakamoto’s score (predominately done by him, but not solely), is minimalistic beauty.

Reached the end! My five favorite motion picture scores of the year:

5. (tie) Ex Machina/Mad Max: Fury Road

4. The Hateful Eight

3. Steve Jobs

2. Creed

1. Sicario

I may try putting some of these out earlier next year. To a great 2016 in movies, and the music that accompanies them!

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Movie Man Jackson Looks at: 2015 Music in Movies (Part 5)

Back with Part 5 of the year-end series. If you missed Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, you can see those herehere here, and here. Now, onto the selections!

Bridge of Spies (composed by Thomas Newman)

newman

Standing Man

Rain

Homecoming

Besides the news that Spielberg and Hanks were marrying their talents once again in a movie, the next biggest news surrounding Bridge of Spies may have been the fact that legendary composer and frequent Spielberg collaborator John Williams would not be composing Spielberg’s movie. To this date, Williams has scored all of Steven’s work, expect for The Color Purple and this.

While it is interesting to think about how Bridge of Spies‘ score would have sounded with Williams at the helm, I believe Newman does a great job of painting the respective scenes with the right tone without the sound being so in-your-face. Take Standing Man, for example, with its American idealistic feel, or Rain, with its shady and deliberate sound. And the rich-sounding end track of Homecoming is one that could be a little forced in other lesser movies, but when it is heard, the audience feels as if they’ve just returned from a long, foreign journey like Jim Donovan has. It’s a earned moment.

Steve Jobs (composed by Daniel Pemberton)

uncle

 It’s Not Working

Change the World

Revenge

I Wrote Ticket to Ride

The New Mac 

In lockstep with the three act screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin and the directorial aesthetic Danny Boyle employs, the score to Steve Jobs circa 2015 is divided up into three parts: 1984 (computer synths/analog), 1988 (classical opera), and 1998 (digital).

The tracks are not only representative of the stamps in time, but also what Jobs and, to some extent others, are feeling in the respective act. Pemberton score captures what technology can do in a positive fashion, and a negative fashion. At times, the score is inspiring, filled with genius and ideas like Steve. Other times, it is somber, downtrodden, and frosty, also like Steve could be. Sure, the script may be more loosely based than what most people prefer out of biopics, but I believe it sets out what Boyle was aiming for, “…an action movie with words.” A lot of care was put into making sure the right score and effects were used.

The Peanuts Movie (score composed by Christophe Beck, soundtrack by various artists)

christopheb

Better When I’m Dancing

Good Ol’ Charlie Brown

Skating

You can’t tinker with stuff that has been around for what amounts to the beginning of time. Exaggeration withstanding, Peanuts has been around for a while, and too much messing around with something as established as Schulz’s work could have made a lot of people upset.

Everything in The Peanuts Movie is safe, cute, and not much more than that. But, it is charming (that Meghan Trainor song is irresistible), and Christophe Beck does well with keeping old themes yet jazzing them up just enough to make them modern.

Spectre (composed by Thomas Newman)

tomspectre

Los Muertos Vivos Estan

Spectre may be no Casino Royale or Skyfall, but there seems to be a consensus that the opening scene is one of the best openers in the series, and it is hard to disagree. From the gorgeous tracking shot to the music, which gives pieces of the classic Bond theme while mixing native Mariachi sounds. Love, love, love it.

Backfire

Westminster Bridge

If there’s one criticism about Spectre‘s score, it’s that many believe it to sound too much like Skyfall’s, and essentially, it kind of is with it being a direct follow to that previous film. Many of the prior motifs and ideas are lifted, and while it isn’t all that new (like Spectre‘s story), why ruin a good thing, at least when it comes to the music? There’s a certain sound that is to be expected with 007, and unless the film is serving as an intentional reboot with a different theme (à la Casino Royale), I’m not of the opinion that it is necessarily a bad thing for Bond to sound the same, musically. Lazy? Maybe a little, but not a complete fail. Would love to see some new blood scoring the next film, however,

 Brooklyn (composed by Michael Brook)

brook

Packing for the Voyage

The Pull of Home

Goodbye Ellis

Michael Brook…scoring Brooklyn. On its own, Brooklyn doesn’t sound like nothing all that special, but in the film, Brook is able to strike the delicate balance of making the scenes moving, but not overly so to the point of eye-rolling sappiness. And subtly, there’s a nice distinction in the instrumentation between the scenes that take place in America, and those in Ireland. It all amounts to an old fashioned, homely feel of a motion picture score.

Creed (Soundtrack by various artists, Score composed by Ludwig Goransson)

goransson

Don’t Waste My Time (performed by Krept and Konan)

The Fire (performed by The Roots and John Legend)

Wake Up Everybody (performed by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes)

Creed‘s soundtrack may be a little of a mixed bag for some, especially if hip hop isn’t a preferred genre. But, I do find it cool that it has a Philadelphia theme to it, as many of the artists that appear on it, from Meek Mill to Harold Melvin are all Brotherly Love natives. Some of the more unique cuts are performed by Tessa Thompson, who gives a great performance in the movie as Bianca while adding to her character’s musical aspirations. And the fighter’s entrances are absolutely stunning, with Makaveli/2pac’s Hail Mary and Don’t Waste my Time playing during them. Why couldn’t Pacquiao/Mayweather produce this awesomeness?

Front Street Gym

The Sporino Fight

If I Fight, You Fight (Training Montage)

Conlan Fight

You Can See the Whole Town from Here

A little miffed at the YouTube quality (definitely seems to be down a pitch or two), but what is posted here is still high-quality stuff. I was not expecting Creed to be such a great film, or the pure theater experience that it is. I’ve seen it twice now, and even contemplating going a third time for that aspect alone. It will still be great on Blu-Ray, but not the same great as watching on the silver screen.

That feeling exists for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is the score that Ludwig Goransson has created. Again reuniting with Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, he bobs and weaves through emotional scenes that don’t feel hokey and hearken back to the old sounds of the first few Rocky movies, while punctuating ring scenes that are gladiatorial and so titanic. Despite using bits and pieces from previous entries (and rightfully so), Goransson uses those cues in the right places, but never to the point of complete laziness. Even with all of the more heralded big and bold films this year, which are great in their own rights, I’m not sure if I felt the pure energy surge that rushed through the body like Creed gives at times.

Photo credits go to pigeonsandplanes.com, variety.com, pmc-speakers.com, joblo.com, youtube.com, and filmmusicsociety.org

One more part to go!

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