Oscar History

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Entries in Soundtracking (29)


Soundtracking: "Atomic Blonde"

Chris looks back at one of the best soundtracks of the year, Atomic Blonde...

There’s no other film I wanted to musically take up residence inside this year more than Atomic Blonde. The film is loaded with techno pseudo-political new age and best played at full volume, featuring the likes of The Clash to A Flock of Seagulls. It’s a film that gifts us with the glory of Til Tuesday’s glorious “Voices Carry” not once, but twice!

While some might reduce its endless stream of songs to added set dressing (cue Daniel Walber’s Atomic Blonde installment of The Funiture here) or just another fabulous costume, it actually does some heavy lifting to both immerse us into a specific world of its the Cold War setting and distinguish the era apart from the cinematic cliches of the subgenre. The electric glamor and brutality has been some of the film’s major discussion points for how the film looks unlike your average Cold War film, but it’s equally crucial that it doesn’t sound like one either... 

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Soundtracking: The Grammy Nominees

Chris here. Soundtracks are rarely awarded prizes as musical entities themselves, so I just had to take the opportunity to dive into this year's Grammy nominees. The Grammy's have an eligibility calendar that is off-kilter to the Oscars, so you will find overlap between last year and the current year. Like Oscar past, La La Land dominates, but I suspect won't be asweep here either. This is the music industry after all, and Grammy loves firmly established acts even more than Oscar - could this be the chance for Lin Manuel Miranda and Moana to finally get a prize, or even Pharrell Williams for Hidden Figures?

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Soundtracking: "Lady Bird"

Chris talks the nostalgia and nuance of Lady Bird's soundtrack...

“I mean, what can I say? You’re Justin Timberlake.” Have you seen Greta Gerwig’s personal letters asking for song rights for Lady Bird? As if we needed these requests to Timberlake and Dave Matthews to prove that even Lady Bird’s music comes straight from the heart.

The film presents an incredibly specific pre-adulthood existence: Catholic high school in “the midwest of California”, and economic depression in the immediate psychological fallout of 9/11. Gerwig’s music choices are just as layered, presenting a nostalgia familiar especially to those who grew up during the era. Musically, Lady Bird lives in a time when school dances played childhood hits like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads” and even your dad had Alanis Morissette references. Every horned up party was backed by Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River,” the kind of song built to instigate sexy revenge-plot daydreams with the person you are currently making out with.

If their inclusion in the film don’t spark you as razor sharp, you probably didn’t grow up in that time. But I’d like to think this is just one of the ways that Gerwig makes Lady Bird’s experience come alive.

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Soundtracking: "Batman Forever"

Chris ponders the cultural death of the soundtrack and Batman Forever...

While this series is mostly curious on how music is used in the movies, it’s interesting to also consider a film’s soundtrack outside of them as well. There were times when film soundtracks were provided some of the most popular and culturally recognized music, but those days are essentially over. Perhaps one of the first films to birth the “songs inspired by” soundtrack moniker was Batman Forever.

And much of its songs are simply filler, either referencing characters or existing as discarded b-sides (make that c-sides) from hip artists with some. It’s merely a package to be merchandised and sold next to action figures and tie-in product. It started a model to be repeated in blockbusters to come, from The Hunger Games to Twilight to Space Jam.

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Soundtracking: "Frances Ha"

Lady Bird is a hit, so Chris is dancing in the street with Greta Gerwig to Frances Ha's soundtrack!

There aren’t many films that use music to capture a state of transition better than Frances Ha, particularly growing out of immature idealization. The film uses its heroine Frances’s addresses as chapter markers, but the flourishes of music notate her waning optimism and intensifying self-actualization. It’s like a variation on Woody Allen’s Gershwin obsession, but here it’s the character glamorizing her life rather than the film itself.

Music is an integral part of creating her internal fantasy. The twinkling, carefree instrumentals provide the lens with which we experience Frances’s world - or at least a more gilded version of how she envisions herself living in it. In tandem with the film’s precise editing and Greta Gerwig’s tremendous performance, the music choices make her everyday life a daydream that’s headed towards an inevitable collapse.

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Soundtracking: "Meet Me In St. Louis"

The 1944 Smackdown is coming, so Chris looks at that year's musical masterpiece...

They don’t get much more timeless than Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me In St. Louis. It’s a musical about the family unit, and fittingly almost all of the numbers take place in the home. Whether in party revelry or the everyday household ubiquity of the title song, music is as much a definitive tradition of the Smith family as anything else. Grandpa may screw up the words, and it may be past the youngest’s bedtime, but music is one of the things that bind them. It also helps when one of the daughters is Judy Garland, I suppose.

Though St. Louis has relatively few musical numbers (unless you count umpteen reprises of that title song), its percentage of classics is nearly as high as its joy levels. “The Trolley Song” is the kind of showstopper that wins by the charm of its performer and its carefree whimsy. The “chug chug chug” silliness is exactly the kind of giddy uplift you have when falling in love, especially when you are in a musical. No matter that it’s actually kind of a strange metaphor for Garland’s Esther to use about her crush. Of all the love songs in Judy Garland’s singular repertoire, it is the sweetest...

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