Every four weeks, ORWAV explores the movie month ahead through the medium of song! Upcoming releases, notable births and anniversaries and a general celebration of the films, directors, technicians and performers that we love so much. After the last two months have brought us brilliant, beautiful and bruising films from The Martian and Junun to Sicario and Macbeth, we begin to hit Peak Awesome with releases aiming to inspire, shock, move… and get nominated for awards. With the long-awaited return of underappreciated genius Todd Haynes, plus others, let’s grab our cinema membership cards and head out for November…
We’ll dispense with the District-sized elephant in the room first of all: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is out soon, combining all sorts of exquisite things: Jennifer Lawrence, James Newton Howard – together represented here with the last film’s fantastic ‘The Hanging Tree’ – and, for the final time ever, actor-of-his-generation Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was once such a treat to catch a film, in a theatre, and see Hoffman’s name pop up somewhere; why not revisit that feeling while we still can?
Thomas Newman has two releases out this month, both quite different: Bridge of Spies, for Steven Spielberg, and the documentary He Named Me Malala (note that these come out within weeks of the Newman-scored Spectre). ‘Which Camera Now?’, from Malala, is a typically Newman-esque piece of wonky whittling and evokes an interesting sense of its subject’s sudden prominence (other tracks are entitled ‘Peace Prize’ and ‘A Fiery Speaker’); later, our playlist includes Spies‘ absolutely incredible ‘Sunlit Silence’ and ‘West Berlin’. The former in particular plumbs new depths for this veteran composer – we wouldn’t be surprised if they contributed to a 13th Oscar nomination.
On a decidedly less high-profile scale is the UK release of Sean Baker’s Tangerine. Finally. This extremely low-budget indie release should light up November not just for its production context (shot on iPhones) or its subject matter (it’s a good year for transgender protagonists), but also its vibrant soundtrack, largely culled on the cheap from SoundCloud. Tangerine itself is surely one of the year’s most dynamic films; we’ll sum it up by sticking in the pumped-up house-cum-new wave instrumental ‘Feelin’, by former Web Therapy composer Matthew Engst.
Mychael Danna, meanwhile, is making a big comeback this November (just don’t ask about his last three films – Transcendence, Devil’s Knot and The Captive… ) and collaborating with his brother Jeff on the score for Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. Danna’s finest moment is still his Oscar-winning Life of Pi score from several years ago; how will his Dinosaur work be received when compared to Michael Giacchino’s amazing, and considerably acclaimed, Inside Out score? To see us through this major cliffhanger, we’re whacking on Danna’s beautiful ‘Pi’s Lullaby’.
We also, naturally, have two more true-life stories based around a single great performance. The subject of upcoming Maggie Smith vehicle (har har) The Lady in the Van was very much real, and very much parked on Alan Bennett’s drive for several years. It’s a rather moving story ultimately, though only because protagonist Miss Shepherd is such a genuinely rounded character – and has a great fondness for art and music, including Chopin, whose ‘Impromptu in G♭ Major’ is included on the soundtrack and in our Playlist (the original score, by hardworking British composer George Fenton, is not yet on Spotify).
Then there’s Black Mass, which has a somewhat more ridiculous soundtrack. Scott Cooper is trying his darnedest to either literally become Martin Scorsese, or just invite loads of glowing comparisons to him. While he’s technically failed on both fronts, Cooper and his Music Supervisor have compiled a compendium of interesting tracks including intensely Scorsesean choices from The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers Band and – our Playlist selection – The Animals, with ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’. Not the greatest musical jukebox of all time, but certainly one that beautifully accompanies and accentuates that blistering Johnny Depp performance. Very much worth a listen.
But of course November has other high-profile films, in which all the elements come together. First there’s John Crowley’s Brooklyn – employing Michael Brook, who has scored and collaborated on films from Mission: Impossible 2 to Into the Wild to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. We celebrate his cerebral style with ‘He Slipped’, from The Fighter. Snatches of melody, lots of atmosphere – quite brilliant. It’ll be amazing to see what on earth he can come up with for this very different (certainly much more romantic) new release.
Steve Jobs and Bob Dylan are like two peas in a pod. Both started out as skinny, straggly-haired youths; both courted acclaim and controversy when they went electric. No matter how tenuous this comparison, Jobs himself certainly seemed to find it apt – at least, according to Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s new biopic, in which Jobs quotes Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changin” during his first keynote speech. A great song used well in a great movie. But then, if there’s one thing Boyle’s good for…
Finally, Carol is not only just about the best film of the whole season, but has just about the best soundtrack of the whole season. The Four Aces’ ‘A Garden in the Rain’ is our top pick from many glorious songs in the film. Todd Haynes, in his usual idiosyncratic manner, has kept his film just about straddling the line of recognisable classicism but imbues his soundtrack – and Carter Burwell’s original score – with a unique level of jazzy rhythm and pop soul far more deft and light than the film’s rather serious-minded marketing would have people believe. But forget the ins and outs of Haynes’ style – just let our glowing review speak for itself.
And that’s it for another month, connoisseurs. Film, and film music, is getting to almost unbearable levels of excitement as November brings another round of fantastic work to sort through; to fit in and appreciate. As we head into December we’ve got far too many great films and great scores and soundtracks to choose between in the ongoing question of what’s stood out the most in 2015. Check back next month as we start rolling out our overall Top 20, and the Playlist takes stock of an outstanding year…