Movie-watching is an entirely different beast in today’s times, with so many films now streamed at home, their soundtracks and scores at the mercy of our varying home speaker systems. Nevertheless, a great movie soundtrack stays with us, and composers still push boundaries and create unforgettable moments to this day. WABE music contributor Dr. Scott Stewart joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to share some of his top picks for fantastic recent movie and TV scores.
Some selected favorites of 2020 and 2021:
Mank, 2020, directed by David Fincher. A black-and-white biographical drama about the life of Herman J. Mankiewicz, screenwriter of the classic film “Citizen Kane.” Mankiewicz is played by Gary Oldman in the film. Its score, composed by Trent Reznor (of the band Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross, emphasizes jazz, uses authentic period instrumentation of the 1940s and was recorded in the musicians’ private homes during the pandemic. It received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Score” in 2021.
Cruella, 2021, directed by Craig Gillespie. A Disney film imagining the origin story of their own classic “101 Dalmatians'” villainous Cruella De Vil. Its stylish, 1960s British rock-inspired score was composed by Nicholas Britell, an Emmy-Award-winning American composer responsible for the soundtrack to the recent HBO hit drama series “Succession.”
A Quiet Place, Part II, 2020, directed by John Krasinski. Scott Stewart insists he is “not a horror movie fan,” and yet the soundtrack to this one demanded his praise. The film’s premise all but requires a compelling score, given that its characters are terrorized by vicious aliens who track humans via hypersensitive hearing – thus, almost no dialogue is spoken throughout the movie. The tense, atmospheric scores for both installments of “A Quiet Place” were composed by Marco Beltrami.
The Courier, 2020, directed by Dominic Cooke. This Cold War drama’s director visited “City Lights” this June, regaling with stories of working with Benedict Cumberbatch on his stirring portrayal of the British spy Greville Wynne. The score, composed by Abel Korzeniowski, evokes the lightfooted, yet somber waltzes of Russian popular music of the early 20th century.