Great Music #31

Well hello there, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back to Great Music, the series where I just talk about music I like. Last time we did this was back in April. I’m not good at keeping up a consistent release pace for these posts. Oh well. Here we go.

So what’s on the menu this time? Bit of old school rock? Something from a famous movie? Nah, neither. This is a bit more… revolutionary (you’ll know why in a bit). Let’s first get something god damn straight: I don’t like nazis, they’re the fucking worst, get them the hell out. But since those sons of bitches don’t seem to go away any time soon, at least I can imagine it and get some catharsis from it… thanks to “Wolfenstein”. First released in 1981, “Castle Wolfenstein” was a stealth game with some shooting elements. Then in 1992 it saw a reboot of sorts with “Wolfenstein 3D”, a revolutionary (no, that’s not the part I meant earlier) game that really brought the first person shooter to the mainstream. Cut to 22 years and god knows how many games later, and we get “Wolfenstein: The New Order”, another reboot of sorts that shared some stylistic and thematic elements with “The Man in the High Castle” and “Inglourious Basterds”. That game was a huge hit among fans and critics (yours truly included). Then three years later, in 2017 we get the sequel, “Wolfenstein: The New Colossus”, a not quite as good, but still fairly enjoyable action game with some standout moments and characters. Now, the music of “The New Order” was good, but you can still tell that it played it a little bit safe, with composer Mick Gordon testing the waters a bit. After then making the acclaimed music for the 2016 reboot of “Doom”, you could tell that he had found his style and wouldn’t shy away from exploiting it like a motherfucker. Cut to “New Colossus”, where he (along with co-composer Martin Stig Andersen) brought his fucking A-game and gave us some of the best video game music of all time. I could’ve talked about any track from the OST and been just as happy, but I felt like I needed to pick one of the more unique tracks from it to truly justify this post. And that’s why I chose “Horton Hears a Revolution” (THERE IT IS!).

In the game, you play as American resistance fighter William Joseph “B.J.” Blazkowicz (voiced by Brian Bloom) as he tries to fight back against the nazi regime which had taken over the world in 1946, and still rules with an iron cross 14 years later. But he can’t do this alone, he has to gather allies. And at a point in the game he travels to New Orleans to try to recruit a resistance group led by southern preacher Horton Boone (voiced by Christopher Heyerdahl). And as he comes to their base, they start discussing the situation they’re in, which is accompanied by a bit of nice clarinet jazz… and Mick Gordon’s heavier-than-metal guitars and drums. You see, Mick likes to approach his compositions a bit differently compared to your John Williams or Michael Giacchinos of the world. Instead of the typical orchestrations of brass and woodwind, this crazy son of a bitch uses instruments typically found in heavy metal bands (and the occasional synth for good measure). It creates a heavy sound that fits the often satirical but still brutal style of the story and writing. And the way it is used to coincide with the jazzy clarinet is absolutely frickin’ wonderful, creating a mesmerizing chaos that honestly just takes my breath away every time I hear it, while also making me want to start a revolution against some nazi assholes.

Have a good one and enjoy.

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Quentin Rankantino

Howdy, motherfuckers. Today we’re doing something a little bit differently. Instead of reviewing something, we’re ranking stuff. And by we, I mean me. With the impending release of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, I have been rewatching all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies. So now that I got that task done, I have decided to rank them, from least favorite, to my top pick. So get your buckets of blood and Samuel L. Jacksons ready as we rank the movies of Quentin Tarantino, in a special post we call… Quentin Rankantino!

Number 9: Death Proof.

Coming in at the bottom is Tarantino’s grindhouse homage, “Death Proof” (fittingly used within the “Grindhouse” double feature). It’s not awful per se, but it’s Tarantula’s weakest movie by a mile. The pacing is wonky, and I don’t exactly find any of the characters particularly interesting. What gives it some points are the action scenes, which are a hard-hitting bit of fun. Also, Kurt fucking Russell… I don’t have much to say there, I just like Kurt Russell.

Number 8: Jackie Brown.

For our number 8 slot we make a huge god damn leap from “not that good” to “that’s really good”. In Toronto’s third movie, based on “Rum Punch” by Elmore Leonard, a stewardess (Pam Grier) gets drawn into a complex crime plot by the ATF. It can feel a bit cluttered at times, affecting the pacing a bit, which is why it finds itself so low on the list. But with that said, thanks to the stellar cast and one hell of a funky soundtrack it still stands out as a damn solid movie in this director’s filmography.

Number 7: Kill Bill Volume 1

Now, I know that Turntable considers “Kill Bill” one movie, but they were released as two, so I rank them as two. Now, I find the story and characterization a bit weak in this one… but it’s still a damn good movie, filled with stylish, batshit insane action and some fun performances.

Number 6: Kill Bill Volume 2

While I’d put both “Assassinate William” movies on the same level in terms of various technicalities, I still do prefer the second one, due to its slower, more character-driven journey. Yes, we do still get some crazy, well handled action, but it’s not quite as much as in the first movie… and that’s okay.

Number 5: The Hateful Eight

Tabernacle’s second western is quite the interesting tale of assholes trying to not kill each other… which is technically how one could describe all his movies to some extent. Hmm. Either way, this 2015 western-drama-thriller may be very slow, but it’s quite the electrifying experience, thanks in large part to the absolutely mesmerizing performances from its core cast. Plus, having a score from maestro Ennio Morricone certainly doesn’t hurt.

Number 4: Pulp Fiction

Oh how many watches am I gonna get shoved up my ass for this placement? That’s right, the fourth place winner is Tacheometer’s sophomore outing, “Pulp Fiction”. Often considered one of the greatest movies ever made (and I can see why), it tells the tale of many assholes and their overlapping stories. And it’s that story that brings it down a bit for me (*”Ironside” siren blares*). It’s fun to watch, but the jumping back and forth, especially between so many stories can make it feel a little, well, jumpy at times, which can every so lightly fuck with the pacing a times. But with the help from an amazing cast, great music, and the ever so fiery dialogue, it manages to still hold up quite well.

Number 3: Django Unchained

A mostly straightforward revenge tale, Tartarology’s “Django Unchained” still manages to entertain across its nearly three hour runtime thanks to a colorful cast, an amazing soundtrack, and some of the most blood-soaked shootouts I have ever fucking seen. It’s a bit of slavery drama mixed with a popcorn bloodbath. What’s not to love?

Number 2: Reservoir Dogs

At the number two slot is where we find Tatterdemalion’s cinematic debut, “Reservoir Dogs”, a heist movie that isn’t really a heist movie. Showing the before and after of a botched diamond robbery, the movie jumps back and forth as we get to know the various characters as they deal with this entire situation. It’s fun, it’s suspenseful, and it’s one of the most impressive debuts I have ever seen.

NUMBER 1: Inglourious Basterds

And we’re finally at the number 1 slot. Numero uno. Top of the pops. My favorite of Tangoreceptor’s movies. “Inglourious Basterds” is a clever piece of historical fiction, showing the stories of various people trying to kill nazis. From a group of Jewish-American guerrilla soldiers, to the British government, to a young woman seeking revenge… everyone is out for nazi blood, and it is one hell of a good time. Dramatic, funny, suspenseful, exciting, it’s everything one could want in a movie from this director. There’s a ton of great stuff within this movie that I don’t have the time (or current willingness) to write about, but all of it comes together wonderfully to make my favorite movie from this director.

So what do you think? What’s your favorite movie from Quantum Turnbuckle? Please tell me, I’d love to hear from y’all.
Have a good one.

Watch Dogs Legion E3 2019 Trailer

I promise, some day soon, I’ll stop writing E3 posts. But for now… MORE E3 BULLSHIT, WEEEEEE!

So through E3, legendary video game developer Ubisoft has revealed “Watch Dogs Legion”, which is the third game in the action franchise. The first one was about a lonely hacker seeking revenge. The second one I never played, but looks to be about some hackerific street gang. And this one is apparently about a near-future London that is under a totalitarian rule, and you have to use your hacking skills in combination with a sense of resistance to unfuck Great Britain. Two things:
1. I’m excited to see a major open world title set in a British environment for once… no reason, just fun to get away from the states or wastelands a bit.
2. Did Guy Ritchie write this fucking trailer? Because I’m getting very “Snatch”-seque vibes from it.
Either way, this looks to be interesting. I enjoyed the first “Watch Dogs”, even though I recognize that it has a fair bit of flaws. And people tell me that the sequel is even better. So who know, maybe third time’s the charm? “Watch Dogs Legion” is set to be released March 6th 2020.

What are your thoughts? Are you excited for “Watch Dogs Legion”? And fuck it… what’s your favorite Guy Ritchie movie? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake E3 2019 Trailer

Yes, more E3 stuff. Sorry, not sorry.

This is a big one. For the longest time, Square Enix have teased an HD remake of one of their most popular games. That game being “Final Fantasy VII”. And a few years ago, it was confirmed to be in development. Then it went quiet, then it surfaced, then it went quiet, up, down, left, right, ‘eeeey Macarena. Well, now thanks to Square’s E3 show, we have a bit more concrete knowledge of this game… like the fact that it’s real and will actually come out. I never played the original version of the game, but everyone says it’s great, so maybe I’ll give it a chance some day. But what I do know is that the original was a sort of turned-based role playing game, whereas it seems like this remake might be a real time action RPG, very reminiscent of 2016’s “Final Fantasy XV” (one of my favorites games of the last few years). Graphics look cool, the gameplay looks okay… yeah, sure, this could be neat. The “Final Fantasy VII” remake is set to be released on March 3rd 2020 for the Playstation 4.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you excited for the “Final Fantasy VII” remake? And what’s your favorite game in the series (if you’ve played them)? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy.

Marvel’s Avengers E3 2019 Trailer

Hello there. Time for more E3 stuff. So let’s… Assemble.

So thanks to E3, we finally have our first look/reveal of “Marvel’s Avengers”, an upcoming story-driven single player action game about… The fucking Avengers, I don’t need to explain who they are, their box office takings speak for themselves. So what’s happening here then? Well, shit goes awry, and the team has to save the world. And while I can’t say much, since there’s no real gameplay here, I do find this reveal a bit… bland, like they’re playing it safe. They lean into the aesthetics of the movies, and it all in general looks… meh. “Spider-Man”, the excellent Playstation 4 game released last year, shows that you can take established stuff and do something unique with it. And unless Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics gives us something more enticing in the near future, I will file this one under… meh. “Marvel’s Avengers” is set to be released on all major consoles on May 15th, 2020.

What are your thoughts? Are you excited for “Marvel’s Avengers”? And what’s your favorite movie based on a Marvel comic? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy.

Cyberpunk 2077 E3 2019 Trailer

Hello there, ladies and gents. It is that time of year again. The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 for short) has started, which means I will ramble on about various trailers and gameplay demos and such shown in there. So let’s kick it the fuck off with this first one.

So first up, here’s a trailer for “Cyberpunk 2077”, an upcoming sci-fi game from CD Projekt Red, a game developer most known for the mostly acclaimed “Witcher” series. It’s the year 2077, and you play as a dude or gal who has to navigate this cyberpunk world and complete some quests to advance a story. That’s all we (read: the idiot who wrote this piece) know right now. And this doesn’t show off any gameplay, just a bit of story. And it seems interesting. Maybe a bit of potential revenge, a bit of seedy underworld dealings, a bit of HOLY SHIT, KEANU REEVES. Yeah, that’s what sold me on talking about this trailer. I only really wanted to talk about it because it’s a trailer for a video game… featuring one of my favorite actors (who is having one hell of a year, by the way). I didn’t have much interest in it. But the cyberpunk stuff here had me somewhat intrigued, and then Keanu hooked me. Yes, I am that shallow sometimes. “Cyberpunk 2077” is set to be released on April 26th, 2020.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you excited for “Cyberpunk 2077”? And what’s your favorite sci-fi dystopia? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy the trailer.

The Great Villain Blogathon 2019: Wafner from Overlord

Well hello there, people. Hope you’re doing well. Today I will be going out of my regular review wheelhouse a bit. When it was announced that the lovely ladies of Speakeasy, Silver Screenings, and Shadows & Satin were hosting a blogathon about movie villains, I of course had to sign up. I actually took part in another one of these about two years ago, so I’m happy to join another one! So let’s stop it with the introductions and get into my pick for The Great Villain Blogathon 2019!

Last time I took part in a villainous blogathon, I went back a handful of years and talked about the T-1000 from “Terminator 2”. So this time I went for a more recent thing. And to give you a fair warning: There will be spoilers for the entire movie. So if you haven’t seen this movie and want to remain unspoiled, maybe go and give it a rental, watch it, and then come back.

Meine Damen und Herren… This is Wafner from 2018’s “Overlord”.

“Overlord” is a 2018 world war 2 action-horror film directed by Julius Avery and starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, and Pilou Asbæk. It’s about a group of American soldiers who crash behind enemy lines on the night of D-day to take out a nazi communications tower so that the landing on Normandy beach can happen. But as they make their way further into the compound, they find more than just nazi punks in there. To be exact, they find that the nazis are experimenting on the local population to try to create super zombie soldiers. Simple plot with a fun twist to it. Not revolutionary, but highly enjoyable. So how does Wafner (played by Pilou Asbæk) fit into this? Well, he’s a nazi captain that serves as the primary antagonist of the story. What’s interesting is that it takes about 20 minutes for us to even catch a glimpse of him, and even then it’s shrouded in darkness and at a distance. It’s not until the 33 minute mark that we finally get properly introduced to him, when he invades the private space of a French woman that helps to hide our heroes.

Wafner: “Do you hear zat?”. Chloe: “What?”. Wafner: “Sounds like our movie is failing at ze box office”.

Right in the first minute of his introduction he just gets under my skin. No, not because he’s a nazi, though that is certainly a turn-off. No, there’s just a certain creepiness to him. He’s not the over-the-top villain one might expect (yet), instead going for a more subtle and slimy creepiness, which is just perfectly delivered by Asbæk. And even though he does seem calm and composed, you can still sense that there’s a ruthlessness to him, which makes you not want to mess with him. Even when he’s captured later in the movie by our heroes, he has a way of getting under one’s skin.

Wafner: “Dood, you should totes inject me with zat”. Ford: “No nazi steroids for you”. Wafner: “Oh nein”.

What I like about Wafner is that he’s just a villain. So many movies these days try to give their villains actual depth, maybe even give them some qualities that we can sympathize with. And while I enjoy that to some extent, I prefer that they didn’t try that with Wafner here. He’s just a ruthless, smirking, villainous villain. He wants to create a super zombie army so the nazis can take over the world. As Wafner puts it “A thousand year reich requires a thousand year army”.

Eventually he manages to escape capture through cunning and deception. So he’s not just a ruthless nazi commander, but he’s also intelligent, which makes him an even more dangerous villain. But he doesn’t get away completely scot-free.

Gotta admire it when a guy can crack a smile even though half his fucking face has been blown off.

If he wasn’t dangerous enough already, he injects himself with the experimental super soldier serum, turning him borderline invincible. So you have an angry, ruthless, cunning, and creepy nazi captain that can’t be killed by conventional means. Makes for quite an intense finale. All boosted by Pilou Asbæk’s over-the-top yet excellent performance.

When asked what he likes to do during his spare time, an unusually reserved Wafner told us about his recent infatuation with making stop-motion films using the corpses of his enemies.

So that was a bit about Wafner from Overlord. He’s not particularly deep, but he’s quite intimidating and works incredibly well as a primary antagonist for this crazy genre hybrid. He’s an old school villain for the sake of having an old school villain, and I god damn salute that.
Once again I have to give a huge thanks to Speakeasy, Silver Screenings, and Shadows & Satin for letting me take part in this. I had fun. Plus, it gave me an excuse to rewatch one of my favorite movies of last year.
Have a good one.

While You Wait: Game of Thrones

Hello there, and welcome to a new thing. Not sure it it’ll be a recurring series, but if this gets a good response, then it might. Any way, hello everyone. With the final season of HBO megahit “Game of Thrones” arriving in less than two weeks, fan are eagerly anticipating it. But until then, some might be asking themselves what they could watch to tide them over until then. Well, I’m here to perhaps help with that in some regard, by giving you some personal recommendations for things that could maybe fill that void in some respect. And if you don’t give a shit about “Game of Thrones”, then you’ll at least have a few recommendations for things to experience. So let’s go.

This is While You Wait: Game of Thrones edition.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy (New Line Cinema, 2001 – 2003)

This entry should come as no surprise in the slightest. Big, epic fantasy with a grandiose story, a stellar cast, and tons of detail in props and filmmaking. Look, I am aware that this and “Game of Thrones” are very different in tone… style… language… amount of tits, but still, can’t talk about relevant recommendations for a major fantasy thing without mentioning another one.

Westworld (HBO Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 2016 – now)

While we’re talking about one major HBO series, we might as well talk about another one. “Westworld”, based on the 1973 film by Michael Crichton, is a series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, and follows a theme park that is built up like a giant wild west world (Hence, “Westworld”). But as expected, things may or may not go awry (wouldn’t be a show otherwise). Let’s see, big sweeping story (check), A-list cast (check), Ramin Djawadi making music (check), budget higher than what any of us make in a year (check), violence (check), naked people (super check)… yeah, this has a shitload in common with “GoT”, so that’s why I recommend it.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Softworks, 2011)

That’s right, there be video games on this list too. Released in 2011, “Skyrim” was the fifth mainline game in the “Elder Scrolls” series. In times of great political turmoil, you play as a character that almost gets executed, but gets “saved” by a giant dragon attacking the city that you’re in. And it doesn’t take long for you to find out that you’re Dragonborn, a mighty warrior destined to slay dragons and steal their souls. Political tensions, various factions doing their own shit within the kingdoms, epic fantasy, DRAGONS. Need I say more as to why a “Thrones” fan might want to play this? It’s not one of my favorites, but I still feel like it’s a good recommendation for fans of “GoT” who might want to get some game time in.

Berserk (OLM Inc, 1997 – 1998)

And now we move into something a bit older, but is a bit more of a recent watch for me. “Berserk” is a 1997 anime series based on a manga series of the same name by Kentaro Miura. It follows a highly capable swordsman named Guts as he joins a mercenary group called the Band of the Hawk, after its leader, Griffith, defeats Guts in combat. And so Guts, along with Griffith, and the other members of the group fight their way through the kingdom of Midland. And we do also get to see how Guts and Griffith’s actions affects the political climate in the kingdom, as well as how their bond evolves over the series. So it has both the big battles and political element of “GoT”, and it has the brutality of it… come to think of it, “Berserk” is probably even more brutal (and the series is allegedly very toned down compared to the original manga). Just a few details first… Skip episode one. I’m not kidding, skip it. It’s not even related to anything going on in the show, as it’s set after everything that happens. Maybe come back to it after finishing the other 24 episodes. And secondly, the ending (which I won’t fully spoil) has been a bit polarizing for people… and that’s all. Other than that, “Berserk” is great.

The Expanse (Alcon entertainment, 2016 – now)

So how do we go from high fantasy to sci-fi? Well, like in “Game of Thrones”, you can find a lot of political tension and character development in “The Expanse”. Set hundreds of years into the future, we follow various characters as they try to deal with their various situations while navigating the very dangerous political tensions between Earth and Mars. Need even more proof that this show is the “Game of Thrones” of sci-fi? It has been called the “Game of Thrones” of sci-fi by a fair amount of people. And I thank Amazon for picking it up after SyFy cancelled it.

Gladiator (Scott Free Productions, Univeral Pictures, 2000)

Epic battles, political intrigue (again), charismatic cast, big budget… do I really need to explain why Ridley Scott’s epic Oscar winner is one of the recommendations on this list? You all know why it is here.

The Dark Souls trilogy (FromSoftware, 2011 – 2016)

More video game goodness, and oh god, the traumatic flashbacks are rolling in. Admittedly I’ve only played the third game in the series, but based on my “enjoyment” of that, and the critical acclaim of the rest of the series, I feel confident in recommending them all. You play as a silent (not counting offs and ahs) protagonist who goes on quests that lead you across dark world where you’ll encounter strange creatures, interesting people, and pain… lots and lots of pain. It’s dark fantasy at it’s most bird-flipping. People love these games for their difficulty, and I do kind of appreciate the challenge from my playthrough(s) of the third game. Funnily enough, as I recommend this for “Thrones” reasons, these games take heavy inspiration from another thing on this list… that thing being “Berserk”.

The Revenant (Regency Enterprises, 21st Century Fox, 2015)

Ah yes, the 2015 movie that finally gave Leo his Oscar… and all it took was dragging himself through the dirt after getting his shit kicked in by a bear. Betrayal, brutality, cold, stellar acting, a gritty tone, these are things that make this movie good and also help make some of the “GoT” comparison a bit more valid.

The Godfather trilogy (Paramount Pictures, 1972 – 1990)

Now, how can I compare possible the most prolific gangster series of all time to one of the biggest tv shows of all time? Well, both are grand, sweeping, epic stories about family, legacy, and ruling over a kingdom of sorts. Some from an uncomfortable and pointy chair, and some in dark rooms in the mid-century United States. And yes, I am recommending all of them. The third movie is a huge step down from the first two, but it still has its moments.

Castlevania (Powerhouse Animation, Netflix, 2017 – now)

And for our final entry, let’s go a bit lighter. Don’t get me wrong, this show is dark, but at least it is allowed to get a bit over the top with its action. Based on the hit video game series, “Castlevania” follows Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), the last member of a long line of vampire hunters, as he reluctantly has to try to kill the king of all vampires… Dracula (Graham McTavish). Start with an epic fantasy, end with another. The animation is stellar, the plot engaging, and the characters very well realized. And to any stubborn people out there: This is a cartoon, not an anime. It may have some anime stylings, but it was entirely produced in the United States… so it’s a cartoon. But for those not stubborn: Watch this show, it’s great.

So those were some of my personal recommendations for those “Game of Thrones” fans wanting something to tide them over until April 14th, or maybe if something’s needed to fill the gap after the show ends. But I also ask of all of you, what other recommendations do you have that could fit this thing? Movie, show, book, game… any of them, I’m all ears.
Have a good one.

Great Music #30

Hello and welcome back to Great Music, the thing where I talk about music I like. And we’ve now reached the 30th one of these. And it only took us… three and a half years, hot damn. Not saying that number 30 in itself is an important milestone, just wanted to point out that I am slow when it comes to these things. Anyway, let’s get into it.

So what song do I wanna talk about today? And one rock track? Something from a movie? Nope. Today I wanna talk about something that was composed for a video game. Now, I am sure some of my followers here don’t really care about video games that much, and that is fine. But I just wanna take a second to talk about my favorite song that was made for one of my favorite games. Today we are talking about “Tears” from Max Payne 3.
In the third Max Payne game, our endearingly moody Max (voiced by James McCaffrey) is at the lowest point he’s ever been, but he get a new chance at life when he gets hired by a Brazilian businessman to be the bodyguard of his family. Max’s journey will lead him through hell and back, from the alleys of New Jersey to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Near the end of the game, Max has tracked down the person responsible for so much of the trouble he’s gone through, which has led him to a Brazilian airport. Max finds himself in the airport lobby, heavily armed bad guys all around. While giving up would be easy, Max knows he has to give it one more push if he wants to stop the big bad guy. Max sprints out of cover and the music starts blasting. The score for the game was composed by American noise rock band HEALTH (yes, the capitalization is part of the band’s name), who created a score that evokes the dark moodiness of the series while also adding their own flavor to it. And “Tears” is their masterpiece (for me at least) in that regard. A heavy track with a driving beat, perfectly suited for the “one more push” feel of the scene it plays in. But it also has lyrics that are a direct reference to the character himself. Many have interpreted it as Max’s long dead wife and daughter telling him to finally let them go and find his own path. And looking at the lyrics, that seems very likely. So long, Max has been stuck in the guilt of losing his family at the start of the first game, and finally it seems like he’s able to move on. It’s beautiful, poetic even. And when encased within the heavy and driving noise rock beat, it creates a unique musical feel and makes for one of the most memorable parts in any game I’ve ever played.  And even discounting the game for a second, I just love the song. It is very clearly not for everyone, but I absolutely adore it and wanted to talk about it today.

Have a good one and enjoy.

Academy Award 2019: Music Nominees

Well hello there. Around this time last year, I teamed up with some really cool people to cover that year’s Academy Award nominees. And we decided to do it again, splitting the nominees between us and discussing it on our blogs. And just like last year, I am covering the music nominees, because I’ve barely seen anything nominated for an Oscar this year, and these categories are the only ones I can do from my room for free in a perfectly legal manner. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Best Original Score
Let’s start with the scores first. No real reason, just seems reasonable. But before we get into that, we have a comment here from the lovely Maddy of FiveThreeNinety regarding what she considers a major snub:

HOW First Man was not even nominated baffles to me the point of not being able to see the actual contenders. I was convinced that was a sure win.
Thank you, Maddy. Your thoughts are much appreciated. Now, on with the nominees!

Black Panther – Ludwid Göransson

First up we have the score for Marvel superhero movie “Black Panther”, which I haven’t seen yet. I know, weird. Still, any thoughts on the movie itself do not matter, it’s what the music is like that matters. And not gonna lie, from what I’ve heard, the score by Ludwig Göransson is pretty stellar, mixing the typical superhero brass with a lot of African percussion and woodwind, and even a little bit of interesting electronica to create one of the more unique scores within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

BlackkKlansman – Terence Blanchard

Next up is the score from the latest Spike Lee joint, “BlacKkKlansman” (that stylization really fucks up my flow). A true story about a black police detective infiltrating the KKK. So what does Blanchard bring in for the music? Well, he gives us a score that mixes somber string work, march percussion, and even a little bit of blues guitar, creating an absolutely stunning sound that seeps into the soul and just creates a sense of dread. Yeah, it’s a good one.

Mary Poppins Returns – Marc Shaiman

From composer Marc Shaiman we have the score for “Mary Poppins Returns”, the sequel to the 1964 musical classic. And it’s a fairly standard score here. Not bad in the slightest, it’s just that we’ve heard this kind of stuff before in Disney movies for god knows how long. The sung songs are a lot of fun, and the main score is easy on the ears, so the music here is just a bit of good ol’ crowd pleasing.

Isle of Dogs – Alexandre Desplat

Next up, we have the score for Wes Anderson stop motion film “Isle of Dogs”, composed by one of my favorites, Alexandre Desplat. Mixing in a lot of Asian percussion and chorals mixed in with the occasional regular brass, strings, and piano, it makes for a fun and quirky sound that also has a nice emotional undertone.

If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell

Next up we have Nicholas Britell’s score for “If Beale Street Could Talk”, Barry Jenkins’ movie based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name. And holy fuck, this score hits hard. Somber strings, emotional piano pieces, and a general sense of sadness makes it a stunning feast for the ears. But you know what it reminds me of at times? Nick Cave’s score for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (still a mouthful), which has a similar sound. That’s not saying that “Beale Street” doesn’t stand out musically, because it really does.

And here’s a comment from Martin of Through the Silver Screen:

“Re-teaming with Barry Jenkins after his Oscar nominated work in Moonlight, Nicholas Britell did it again creating a score that was both beautiful and melancholic, capturing the joy and despair of the main characters beautifully. But by far one of the biggest snubs here was for Justin Hurwitz’s First Man score, which had it been nominated would surely have come back down to earth to win the statue. Ludwig Göransson’s wonderful work for Black Panther is also very much worthy of the gong, as it was grounded in the beauty of the continent of Africa.”

And here’s one from Nathan:

Best Original Score’s real winner (Justin Hurwitz’s First Man) inexplicably missed an Oscar nomination but Nicholas Britell’s If Beale Street Could Talk is a gorgeous, brooding composition that enriches the film’s tenderly melancholic exploration and portrait of love. It should, and probably will, win but faces stiff competition from Black Panther.

Biggest chance of winning: Isle of Dogs.
My pick: BlacKkKlansman.

Best Original Song
And now we move on to the second half of this post, the part where we talk about the best original song nominees. So let’s do it.

All the Stars – Kendrick Lamar/Sza – Black Panther

Man, “Black Panther”, raking in the nominations. So here we have “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA (apparently pronounced Sizza). I’m not the biggest fan of the style of music that this is, but I do also think that this sounds quite good and I can see why it was nominated. So yeah, it’s pretty good.

The Place Where Lost Things Go – Emily Blunt – Mary Poppins Returns

Remember how I said that the sung songs were the better part of the “Mary Poppins Returns” music? This still applies, because this is beautiful. The minimalist composition gives it a nice emotional tone, the lyrics are beautiful, and Emily Blunt’s singing is stunning and it really reaches into my heart. So yeah, this song is very good.

I’ll Fight – Jennifer Hudson – RBG

Not every day a documentary has a best original song. But “RBG”, a documentary about supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had it, and it’s the kind of grand, sweeping, soulful pop tune that you’d hear everywhere a few years ago. And I like thos kinds of tunes, so this kind of appeals to me. Is it the best example of this kind of song? No. But is it still a strong contender? Hell yeah.

When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings – Tim Blake Nelson/Willie Watson – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

In 2018, the Coen brothers gave us anthology western “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”, and that movie gave us this song. The singing for Nelson and Watson is stunning and just fits the whole quirky western singing. The small amount of instruments also gives it a small intimate feeling that just works so well for the story told in the song. It’s a charming little song that I kinda love.

Shallow – Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born

How many versions of “A Star is Born” do we have now? 46? What, only five? Okay. Anyway, this version stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, and people apparently like it a lot. And this song, “Shallow” is the song from it that got an Oscar nomination. So is it good? Very. I like this sort of ballad bordering a little on rock, pop, and country, as it makes it stand out with this nice blend of the three. And “Shallow” is a damn good example of it. And now, a comment from Maddy again:

If a Star is Born doesn’t win, I will shave my head. It is one of the best original songs for film in years, and that’s saying something looking at the past few winners.

We also just got in another comment, this from Martin of Through the Silver Screen:

“Though I love “All the Stars”, nothing is stopping Lady Gaga here. Given that the Best Actress statue will likely be out of her reach, this is one award Gaga will be deservedly holding at the end of the night. The moment in ASIB when she sings “Shallow” with Cooper in the film, just sends chills down my spine. Incredible.”

And here’s a comment from Nathan:

We’re not far from the Shallow now, where Lady Gaga will ascend to the stage to collect the award for A Star Is Born. You can’t really argue against it – it’s a fantastic, stadium-worthy song – despite my personal belief that Always Remember Us This Way is the movie’s crowning achievement. I’d be equally happy for Mary Poppins Returns’ The Place Where Lost Things Go to take it on the night, although A Cover Is Not The Book or Can You Imagine That? would have taken its place on my personal ballot.

Biggest chance of winning: Shallow.
My pick: When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings.

So now we’ve gotten through all the music nominations, and I gave some of my thoughts on them. But I’d also love to hear from you guys. What are your thoughts on the music nominees for the Academy Award of 2019? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.

The cool people I collaborated with:

Plain, Simple Tom

Through the Silver Screen

FiveThreeNinety

Perks of Being Nath (who also hosted our friend Ryan, because Ryan doesn’t do his own blogging anymore).

And that’s it. Have a good one.