Hildur Gudnadottir – Congratulations

Awards left to right:

Society of Composers and Lyricists/Bafta/Critics Choice/Emmy/Golden Globe/Oscar

Her surname may be unpronounceable to many but the award-winning success of her terrific score for Joker cannot be ignored. You either hate and dismiss it or like me, think it is one of the best ever and embrace it. It would seem that there is no middle ground with this one and thankfully it also seems the cheers outnumbered the boos.

Joker is a soundtrack for the age, and at last, firmly signals that a score does not have to be symphonic or melodic. Above all else what it does have to be/do is fit the film like a glove. I am not saying that the film itself would not have received the plaudits it has if Icelandic composer Hildur Gudnadottir had not done the score, Joaquin Phoenix alone would have elevated this film as would the inclusive direction of Todd Phillips. The score was another character playing a vital and unforgettable role namely the echo of all that was happening inside Joker’s fractured mind.

I saw the film in a packed cinema, at the end we all slowly shuffled out and not one single person said a word for quite a while. It had high impact and for me, being a soundtrack enthusiast for many years, her closing music stayed in my head for some time. Imagine watching the film without Gudnadottir’s participation, it would be difficult to imagine such is the symbiotic nature of her composition.

Over the past few weeks, I have read many comments about ‘why is she winning awards for her work – for Joker and her superb score for the TV series Chernobyl. It has been uncomfortable to read at times. I am sure some of it is down to the usual age-old question- ‘is this music or just noise’? ‘Well it’s much more than noise, it’s a state of mind and that’s exactly what this film was all about. The tortured and twisted mind of a comic book character who is reacting to the evils of a society in a world we are all aware of. Serious stuff that needed a serious slug of music to enhance Joker’s breakdown [or transference].

Another reason I write is to applaud the sheer number of Awards Gudnadottir has garnered, not just the ones I have mentioned but numerous others, plus we cannot ignore the history that’s been made. She is the first woman to win in the best original score category since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences combined all of the score categories into one in 2000.

And she is one of only seven women to be nominated in any score composition category, only three have won. Previously, Marilyn Bergman won an Oscar for composing for “Yentl” alongside Michel Legrand and Alan Bergman, Rachel Portman won for “Emma” and Anne Dudley won for “The Full Monty.”

After thanking her family and collaborators, Hildur ended her Oscar acceptance speech by saying “To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music bubbling within: please, speak up. We need to hear your voices.”





2015…The Other Scores

Vector 2015 Happy New Year background
Filmic Tracks

Now that the Oscars have signaled more or less, the end of the awards season I would like to list a few scores which either didn’t appear in any nomination lists or if they did, didn’t get the gong they deserved. It was a strange year for scores in as much as it started so slow and then [as always I guess] they came in their droves at the end of the year. Comedy scores were many and there was so much good stuff in the endless TV scores on offer.

I have waxed lyrically about some of these scores in the Reviews section of this blog and played tracks from all scores on my Filmic radio show on  Radio Nowhere so if you have some time on your hands and a comfy seat check out some of these brilliant scores which didn’t get the attention they deserved.

In no particular order:-

Ant Man  – Christophe Beck
The Man From Uncle – Daniel Pemberton
The Fantastic Four – Marco Beltrami & Philip Glass
Aesino’s Inocentes – Pablo Cervantes
Broken Horses – John Debney
Desert Dancer – Benjamin Wallfisch
Far From The Madding Crowd – Craig Armstrong
Lost Rover – Johnny Jewell
A Little Chaos – Peter Gregson
Listen Up Philip – Keegan DeWitt
Ex Machina – Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow
The Duke of Burgundy – Cat’s Eye’s
Gold Coast – Johan Caroe & Lasse Martinussen & Angelo Badalameti






The Revealing Revenant

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Every good word you have heard about The Revenant is deserved. It was almost an out-of-movie experience especially as you felt the cold and recoiled at the first arrow speedily entering through the Adam’s apple through to the back of the neck. But there are several moments when this poem to the landscape revealed it’s true self. These moments, for me, are part of the ‘immersive’ aspect of this film which is referred to in reviews and interviews. It’s down to the dogged direction of Alejandro G. Iñárritu who gave us a glimpse of his style in Birdman. I didn’t enjoy Birdman, his technique and the setting made it very claustrophobic which was obviously intended but for me it was a difficult watch. Here in the harshness and beauty of the great outdoors Iñárritu had the perfect canvas for his vision as did his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki [Birdman, Gravity, Children of Men].

Moment No.1 is seen many times in movies and it usually distracts me. The camera is behind an actor who is looking on a high ledge looking into the sun, the camera is pointing to what the actor can see. A lens flare occurs where a neat line of 3 or 4 dots bouncing off the sun onto the lens can be seen. It often happens in movies, a trivial thing but here, even though I did notice it, it did not take me ‘out of the film’. It enhanced the surrounding beauty which we were viewing and almost makes you put you hand over your eyes to shield the strong light.

Moment No.2 This is somewhat similar and perhaps another avoidable occurrence, something that perhaps another director would have rectified or was it that shooting was very much in the hands of the weather and the light that there was not another chance to re-do it. There was a scene where snow fell on the camera lens. Again it happens in other movies but here it made be feel colder almost tho the extent that I wanted shelter even though I had it.

Moment No.3 DiCaprio is is the ground crawling in agony due to his horrendous injuries. The camera is on exactly the same level as him and directly in front of him. Glass, DiCaprio’s part, is fighting for every breath he can breath. It’s painful and each breath gets longer and deeper than the last to the degree where his breath touches the camera lens and eventually it covers the entire frame. It was the most natural fade out from a scene at a point where you don’t know of he is going to live or die.

Moment No.4 This one I am sure was an accident but surely one which there was a decision to keep or not. In one of the fights Glass is struck in the face with a vicious looking knife, as the actor pulls away DiCaprio has a slash on his cheek and there is also a smattering of blood splashed onto the camera lens making you feel totally immersed in the fight.

Moment No.5 And this was totally manufactured [‘thought out ‘sounds better]. It’s the last scene where DiCaprio has succeeded in his mission and survived yet again. He looks all up at the sky, all around him and then stares defiantly straight into the camera almost as if to say ‘I am still here”. It’s the perfect ending.

Trivial as these five things may seem and regardless if manufactured or natural, they have stuck in my mind and perhaps meant more than they should but in this remarkable movie they enhanced my experience of it. Made it more real.

Will Poulter talking about Iñárritu’s directorial style,
“…. he makes us [actors] make-believe less”
Leo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass






Nope not a typo, first day back at work and luckily I am working at home meaning I get to listen to Soundtracks whilst working. As a member of the IMFCA we will shortly be starting our voting process for the Best Soundtracks of 2015 over several categories.

It’s exciting but it also means that we all have to be ‘up-to-date’ with Soundtracks listens and I have to tell you that 2015 seemed the busiest year ever in Soundtrack Land! I recently read that 50 films a month were released in the UK during last year, and it felt like it.

As much as I love films and film soundtracks this bothers me somewhat. It’s a question of quality … does the overflow mean that something has to give like the quality of a film? And as for scores there has been a fair bit of derivation [or …I have heard this before]. In the end though it does make the excellent scores stand out even more but my thoughts are that I would rather wait a bit longer to see a movie and hear it’s score if it’s going to be great than swim through hurried music which lap the shores.

As soon as I have done my voting with other IFMCA members I will publish my list here which should be in a few weeks time. Until then my ears are getting a full workout!listen-to-free-music-online-1167

SOUTHPAW by James Horner. My First Thoughts


This is one of 3 remaining soundtracks which will be released after Horner’s tragic death. The solemn and comtemplative feel of it makes it difficult to give a subjective view so I stress that this is not a review, merely my first reaction.

This a very different James Horner with dark shades and haunted by a questioning and sad piano. You recognise the measured tones immediately, this is a score where the space between each note matters.  Careful use [meaning not over the top] of drums send a distinct message of fear.

The cue A Long Road Back is led by the piano and as it develops, it is quite beautiful for a movie depicting such a savage sport. Horner uses electronic sounds, again with precision. They are at their strongest in Hope vs Escobar which runs for 8 minutes and 26 seconds. Again a measured use of these sounds are what makes it work.

There are many cliches which can fit into an action film and I am glad to say that Horner has not gone down that road. I will visit this score again once I have seen the movie. From this, my first listen, I would say it’s a raw meditation of sorts, reflecting both the inner and physical torture the film depicts.