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Re: I come to bury 2021, not to praise it. (Top 10, ATTN: Craig)
• Posted by: ArborArcanist   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Monday, January 17, 2022, at 6:44 p.m.
• IP Address:
• In Response to: I come to bury 2021, not to praise it. (Top 10... (AhN)

> TLDR: the ballot stuff
> 1. The Green Knight
> 2. Lupin S1
> 3. June Again
> 4. Tale of the Sleeping Giants
> 5. Claret
> 6. Masters of the Universe S1
> 7. The Curse of Turandot
> 8. Loki
> 9. The King’s Man
> 10. Wrath of Man
> Composer of the Year: Christopher Lennertz

> 2021. Or something.
> What a weird year. I was optimistic about 2021 for about 5.5 days, and
> then people tried to overthrow the US government. I got a little hopeful
> after getting vaccinated, and then a bunch of other people didn’t and then
> variants emerged. And that’s basically how the entire year played out,
> isn’t it? Good things happen, reason for hope, and then, like someone
> snapping the elastic band on your underwear, *thwack!* you thought
> this was going to be fun? Lmao you naïve idiot.

Despite the sobering presence of international events (especially in the US and Ukraine), antivaxxers seeing their time under the sun arrive, and a quarter of the people I know simultaneously catching COVID in December, I was somewhat cheered by local events. I volunteered with two local candidates (mayoral and MP), and to my surprise and delight, both of them got elected.

> Well, sometimes it was fun. Shohei Ohtani happened and brought joy to me,
> a person who doesn’t care at all about baseball. The week the Suez Canal
> got blocked was the funniest thing to happen all year. And some other cool
> stuff happened in my life. And the music’s been fun. Sometimes. As I kept
> muttering the last few weeks, it’s supposed to be fun! But also it was a
> very weird year. Like we had big scores again, but only kinda? And the
> music we had for some of them was…eh? A lot of the big name composers only
> had one score this year, and if you didn’t like that one then you came
> away disappointed. If two of them disappointed you, then you were in
> trouble. A lot of my list is TV scores this year, and I’m sure some of
> that is still pandemic related. Good thing I started including TV last
> year haha.

> That said, the alarmism, as usual, was overblown. “So was it a good year
> or not???” Screw you, I heard 130 scores this year and I tore my hair out
> whittling an 88 score long list down to 35. I’ve got 12 scores I wish were
> in my top 10 (which, ironically, wouldn’t have been a problem if I only
> did film scores). I’ve got a solid list of 25 for my top 20. Miss me with
> the “bad year” crap.

As someone who got into scores in the 2010-2017 era, I never understood the pessimism. Then again, I wasn’t spoiled as much as you 70s, 80s, and 90s babies were.

> With all that said, this does feel like the least consensus-y year we’ve
> had in a while. I suppose Masters of the Universe might win our poll. At
> the very least, its fans are the most vocal. And because of all that, my
> list is probably the weirdest and least consensus-y it’s ever been. Last
> year I was outraged my #1 wasn’t crushing it because it’s exactly the kind
> of score we claim to love. This year…I get it with my #1. I mean who here
> even likes thematic fantasy scores with a distinct sense of place and
> texture and world building and awesome choral writing? tongue Because of that
> part of me wants to talk about each of these scores since I don’t know if
> anyone else will. But a. I really want to keep it short this year, b. it’s
> not my responsibility to tell y’all what to listen to, c. that’s why we
> post here the rest of the year anyway, now’s not the time to force y’all
> to reevaluate or find something you hadn’t heard haha, and d. I feel
> really uncertain about my rankings this year, I think if I went through
> these top 30 again the order would change significantly.

> Lol I said I’m going to keep it short and it’s already been 580 words, but
> yeah, conciseness! Kipple suggested I use this line from a Matrix
> Resurrections conversation to describe everything on my list: “I like it
> because it punches stupid buttons in my brain that fire stupid chemicals
> that make me happy.” As wide a utility as that line has, I do want to do
> something different. For a given score, I’m going to highlight a 30-90
> second bit from it that I really want to talk about. (Sorry if the links
> end up being region-locked.) But only if I really want to. If a score was
> just really good and there’s nothing else to say, that’s fine too! I have
> a lot to say about one bit of my #1 and #11, and basically nothing to say
> about my #3 or #5. Oh well!

Oh, that was a Matrix quote! I thought you came up with that yourself!


> We’ll go 30 deep this year, broken into loose tiers. Not much to say on
> 21-30, but still…

> 30. The Matrix Resurrections (Tom Tykwer/Johnny Klimek) – Yep.
> Seriously.

Bookended with controversy.

> 29. The Claus Family 2 (Anne-Kathrin Dern)
> 28. Jungle Cruise (James Newton Howard)

A bit low, but happy to see it.

> 27. Man of God (Zbigniew Preisner)
> 26. Minari (Emile Mosseri)

> 25. Don’t Look Up (Nicholas Britell)

I love this one.

> 24. Luca (Dan Romer) – Best basketball score since…well, The Way
> Back I guess, but maybe even uh…what’s the one that Trevor Rabin scored?
> That was good. No one even gets the Luka Doncic joke, do they?
> 23. Eternals (Ramin Djawadi)
> 22. Fear Street Part 2: 1978 (Marco Beltrami/Brandon Roberts) –
> Beltrami did a whole lot this year. This was the best of it, 40 minutes of
> nervy nostalgia.

> 21. Gunpowder Milkshake (Frank Ilfman)
> Thirty to Ninety seconds I really wanna talk about:
> 20. Un Rescate de Huevitos (Zacharias M. de la Riva)

> 19. To Olivia (Debbie Wiseman)
> 18. Lost in Space, Season 3 (Christopher Lennertz/Alexander
> Bornstein) – Nice to see Bornstein getting work on this too, forgot he
> existed until seeing his credit here. Guess this takes the cake on best
> use of a Williams theme by not Williams in 2021. Maybe I’ll make a whole
> article out of that…
> 17. The Last Duel (Harry Gregson-Williams)
> Thirty to Ninety Seconds I Really Wanna Talk About: “Jean de Carrouges,”
> the whole track.
> Christian’s review lays out really well how perspective alters the tone of
> the music in this movie. This is the theme for Matt Damon’s character and
> he thinks he’s such hot shit that when we hear his theme during his POV,
> the percussion turns into a rock beat at 0:26. Like if it feels cheesy and
> dated like it’s something out of Gladiator, well…yeah, it does!

> 16. Tom and Jerry (Christopher Lennertz)

I still think this has the catchiest title theme out of any release this year.

> 15. Coppelia (Maurizio Malagnini) – Maybe it’ll go up with more
> listens. Or down. It’s such a weird score, a bizarre mishmash of styles.
> It intrigues me, as does Malagnini.
> 14. Encanto (Germaine Franco)
> TTNSIRWTA: “Abre Los Ojos,” 1:05-2:35
> This is the opening cue of the film and Franco has you hooked immediately.
> The soft string ostinato build to the first statement of the family theme
> is pure magic, going hand in hand with the scene as young Mirabel goes to
> the door to receive her gift. And then when the theme’s repeated on choir
> and then on oboe? It’s the best JNH cue of the year. When you go back to
> this after seeing the whole movie, knowing that moment is leading to
> Mirabel not receiving a gift (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s the premise of
> the movie lol), the thing that will keep her ostracized from her family
> for years, oh god it’s heartbreaking. If Hart doesn’t get nominations from
> the big awards groups, give every award to Franco. I’d have this a little
> higher but I decided to knock it down two spots for the songs.

I’m so puzzled by why I can’t click with this one. I just find it mildly pleasant.

> 13. Black Widow (Lorne Balfe)

> 12. Reminiscence (Ramin Djawadi) – A couple of scores that did
> conventional stuff very, very well.
> TTNSIRWTA: “Messed Up Love,” 0:00-1:30
> I should couch my affection for this score in the “stupid chemicals”
> defense. But also…nah this score is awesome. If the film was successful,
> we’d be looking back on this score as a modern noir classic. Djawadi just
> nails it in this cue, with the dirty, weary, sunken atmosphere of it all.
> The laconic drums, that guitar line that keeps looping and descending,
> perfect for your heartbroken depressed antihero. It is, as the kids say, a
> whole vibe.

At last, people realize the true glory of Djawadi!

> 11. The Underground Railroad (Nicholas Britell)
> TTNSIRWTA: “Welcome to Your Future,” 0:00-0:45
> I touched on this a little in my TV scores article, but I’ll elaborate a
> little more. A lot of high profile movies and shows about Black people in
> America end up focused on slavery or segregation, and some people have
> criticized Hollywood for always focusing on stories about Black people
> suffering. My understanding of this miniseries (based on a novel) is that
> it depicts the Underground Railroad as a literal train network, and Barry
> Jenkins uses a mix of harsh realism and dreamy fantasy at different points
> in the story. And it’s in some of those more dreamlike moments (I think?)
> that you end up with cues like this, where the weight of it all is lifted,
> and you feel the relief and wonder and possibility of what comes when you
> eliminate that suffering, and it’s overwhelming.

> 10. Wrath of Man (Chris Benstead)
> TTNSIRWTA: “Dougie,” 0:54-2:13
> Scores like this seem easy to make but hard to make well. I’ve noticed
> over the years that having a mix where all the layers of sound design are
> clear goes a long way towards my liking it. The crispness of the
> percussion in this score is a real highlight, and in the crescendo I
> linked no single part becomes too overwhelming and it never gets too
> messy. It’s an ugly score, but one where that harshness is clear instead
> of a muddy droning mess. The way that main theme slithers around (in other
> cues) is chilling.

Has anyone heard Benstead’s The Gentlemen?

> 9. The King’s Man (Matthew Margeson/Dominic Lewis)

I love the music of this franchise... The first two actually played a very prominent role in my teenage RPG games.

> 8. Loki, Season 1 (Natalie Holt) – I don’t think any composer has
> ever introduced themself with this much cosmic swagger.

The “green” Loki theme takes the cake for my favourite new theme of 2021.

> 7. The Curse of Turandot (Simon Franglen) – Okay, Avatar 2, here we
> come.

Ironically, I remember dreading Avatar 2’s score, only half a year ago.

> 6. Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Season 1 (Bear McCreary)

Heck yeah!

> 5. Claret (Oscar Martin Leanizbarrutia)

> 4. Tale of the Sleeping Giants (Panu Aaltio)
> TTNSIRWTA: “Bird Island,” 0:25-1:05
> I don’t know why, but the chord progression on that phrase reminds me of
> Daft Punk’s “Touch.” And it’s awesome. Need more music that’s as nimble as
> this.

> 3. June Again (Christopher Gordon)

I just realized that I didn’t see Buckley’s Chance. Oh well.

> 2. Lupin, Season 1 (Mathieu Lamboley)
> TTNSIRWTA: The build to the drumkit in “Gentleman,” 0:40-1:40, but also
> after the drums come in, basically to the end and into the next track
> “Cambrioleur.”
> This score is so goddamn cool. You’ve got the sleek strings, that cimbalom
> to add a touch of class, and then the drums to make it modern. Lamboley
> pulls from a lot of inspirations to paint the perfect picture of the
> contemporary classy gentleman thief. Dear men, what’s preventing you from
> being scored like this?

I really should watch the show…

> 1. The Green Knight (Daniel Hart)
> TTNSIRWTA: “Remember it is Only a Game,” 0:00-0:45
> Buckle up, this is the long one. And the reason for the whole gimmick. In
> this scene, the Green Knight has entered Arthur’s Court, issued his
> challenge, which none of the knights has the nerve to accept. In this
> version of the story, Gawain isn’t a knight yet, but just a 20something
> aimlessly drifting through life. But when he goes to court for Christmas
> (yes, it’s a Christmas score!), his uncle Arthur has him sit next to him
> during dinner, and assures him he’ll do great things. So when the entire
> court sits in silent fear in front of this monstrous and magical Green
> Knight (the torches all went out when he rode into the court), Gawain
> decides this is a chance to show his mettle, and he accepts the challenge:
> try to land a blow on the Knight, and in a year’s time he’ll go to the
> Knight’s chapel and receive the same blow in return.

> It’s at this point that this cue starts. As Gawain stands up to confront
> the Knight, Arthur offers him his own sword to use and reminds him “It is
> only a game.” And there’s this magnificent shot where it circles around
> Gawain holding Excalibur, probably like 120 degrees or so, maybe 150, and
> as he gazes at the sword, strings and choir swell oh so gently but
> powerfully, it gleams a little bit, and the shadows retreat for just a
> moment.

> The entire film is a revisionist take on the romance and chivalry and
> adventure of the original poem. Arthur and Guinevere are old and don’t
> have any children, there’s none of that Camelot romance. The whole film is
> somewhat cynical about the Arthurian mythos and the knights aren’t
> portrayed glamorously. That said, the film does seem to consider Arthur a
> good king, a kind if previously absent uncle, and someone trying to be a
> good mentor. And when the music swells as we circle around Excalibur, we
> feel that ancient power emanate for a moment, the strength and honor
> that’s, to paraphrase Tennyson, “made weak by time and fate, but strong in
> will.”

> And we haven’t even gotten to the core emotion of that moment, which is
> Gawain being handed friggin’ Excalibur from King Friggin’ Arthur.
> The weight of that moment for Gawain, the disaffected schlub, when his
> uncle sees him and recognizes his potential and gives him that vote of
> confidence and he sees Excalibur glow, it comes out softly in that
> crescendo but the impact is enormous. It floors me every time.

> It’s been a rough year for me on the school front. My research has
> stagnated multiple times, I’ve switched projects, I’ve bounced around a
> little bit on stuff. I’m afraid of drawing metaphors like this, but there
> have been times that I’ve felt a lot like Gawain in this movie, where he
> wanders around in a daze, stumbling from one problem to the next, screws
> up repeatedly, is unsure whether any of this means anything, tries to do
> things right but never quite picks up on the lessons of his misadventures.
> So as I struggled with my research projects, I kept thinking back to that
> moment when Arthur gave Gawain his sword, put his trust in him, and the
> magic and courage that moment sparked within Gawain. And I thought about
> the times my advisor has expressed their faith in me, even when I haven’t
> had any of my own, and my own hope that I’ll succeed soon and get this
> degree done. And I play those 45 seconds of music over again, and I
> remember, it is only a game.
> Okay well it’s not but I needed some way to end this spiel, you know?

Maybe one day I’ll click with The Green Knight. One day (but not this day).


> Composer of the Year: Nicholas Britell
> Lot of strong contenders. Beltrami and Britell both had a large output
> with a wide variety, and a lot of good stuff in both of their work this
> year. I give the edge to Britell for having the highest ranked score
> between the two of them. My runners up are Djawadi (Surreal unfortunately
> doesn’t count), Balfe (I wish I liked Black Widow and Wheel of Time a
> little more), and Lennertz…

> Wait, I just moved Lost in Space into my top 20, so he has two with Tom
> and Jerry. Britell and Djawadi each has just one.

> Oh frick, is it Christopher Lennertz? Hang on, let me do some mental math.

> …yeah, it’s Chris Lennertz, and I’m taking a leaf out of Craig’s book and
> giving a “Special Award” to that time in August 2020 when the man fought a
> goddamn bear. And I reserve the right to change this back to Britell if
> Succession S3 blows my socks off and he wrestles a wolverine.

Hah! While he’s not my pick, it’s nice to see him get your vote. Great year for the man.

> Composer of the year, but like how Time Magazine picked their Person of
> the Year in that they picked the most tiring and annoying option:
> Zimmer.
> Every goddamn month there was something going on with Hans. Either he’s
> yelling at someone on facebook or he’s running some new promotional junk
> or he’s grifting NFTs or some other nonsense. You know why Dario
> Marianelli is one of my favorite composers? Aside from the music? Because
> there is no “aside from the music.” Because he doesn’t exist in my mind
> when I’m not thinking about his music. I don’t know a damn thing about him
> as a person. Is he married? Does he have kids? Does he have siblings? Does
> he have beef with anyone in Hollywood? Does he have a sixth toe on his
> left foot? Did he ever vote for Burlesconi? Does he even still have
> Italian citizenship? I don’t know, and I don’t care. All I know about him
> is that he writes music for movies; and that music has won Oscars, enabled
> Joe Wright’s and Travis Knight’s careers, made women swoon, made me shiver
> in awe, helped at least 500 college students finish an essay late at
> night, and most recently made me think “Damn, I ought to give Secret
> Garden another go.” Hans refuses to let me not think about him. It’s an
> unending stream of bs when he doesn’t have new music out, and he’s even
> worse if one of his friends has new music out. I just wanted to enjoy the
> new Bond, argue about Dune when the score album (just the one album!) came
> out, and move on with my life. Please just write your music, it’ll also
> save us some of Clem’s hate-click harvesting when you give him less
> ammunition.

Yup, truly been insane.

> Also, an addendum: If you’re rich and famous, get the hell off of
> social media. Please. I’m begging you. You gain nothing from it, we gain
> nothing from it. If you can afford to have a publicist, you can give them
> your account.

> Miscellaneous reflections:
> The best things I wrote:
> Well, speaking of Hans’s friends, that Justice League review was pretty
> solid. Not often I let loose like that these days. Also pretty happy with
> that TV article from this past month. The second interview with Brian
> Tyler was another highlight for me. I also wrote a great thing related to
> Howard Shore but unfortunately it hasn’t been published yet, guess we’re
> just waiting for the opportune moment.

Tyler comes across so likable.

> Biggest disconnects:
> 4. Power of the Dog – Supposedly it’s going to win all the Oscars. Unless
> Dune does. I’d prefer this one, but also, there are plenty of better
> options on the short list. Like, I get it? But also, eh.


> 3. Foundation S1 – I’m just going to assume the next volume will clarify
> the whole thing. Otherwise, it’s familiar McCrearyisms that just make me
> want to listen to Da Vinci’s Demons again.

There are some fantastic thematic statements that didn’t make it to the album (second half), but if you can’t click with their introductory statements… Probably not for you. It took me three listens, watching the show, and his blog post, but once I had the full picture it fell into place for me beautifully.

> 2. Ghostbusters: Afterlife – I was going to write a whole thing about
> nostalgia and its value and drawbacks but I don’t want to bother anymore.

…I actually haven’t gotten to this. Damn.

> 1. Shang Chi – “[It]’s fine! That’s it. Nothing wrong with that, most
> [scores] are fine.” – Roy Kent, probably talking about Shang Chi’s score.
> No score this year prompted a bigger “lolwut?” in the praise from folks
> here than this one. It’s got some nice Chinese color to it, a bit of fun
> action, a couple themes that leave you with no impression on album but
> stick with you a little bit after you see the movie. And…idk I just don’t
> get what else there is to it. 4+ star ratings, top 20 and even top 10
> appearances, all for a score that sounds exactly like what you’d expect a
> white guy named Joel to write for a movie about a Chinese-American
> superhero. (Griswell I love you, no offense intended.)

I went in expecting to hate the score, and I ended up loving it myself.

> God, I can’t end on such a downer note. Um…oh, we had a crapload of
> musicals this year! Let’s rank the musicals!


> 1. West Side Story – Spielberg turning the classic into a rubble movie
> with the gentrification commentary dialed up. And then Rita Moreno…ugh.
> Brilliant.

Okay, this is good.

> 2. In the Heights – Arguably should be #1, think my Spielberg bias is
> coming through here. But this is also just impeccably staged and
> performed.
> 3/4. Encanto – Third act is severely rushed. And I only like a couple of
> the songs. (Though ironically, the strongest song is in the 3rd act.) But
> the movie is still really really good.

My friends are obsessed with it. I’ll rewatch it tomorrow, see if my feelings on it being “fine” change.

> 4/3. Schmigadoon! – Okay, haven’t seen this one, and Willis’ score I’d
> rate lower than Encanto’s, but the songs are much better and super funny.
> Didn’t hear/watch/get to in any way and I regret it: Annette, Tick Tick
> Boom, Vivo
> Heard but didn’t like: Cyrano. Sorry Kev :/
> Didn’t hear, didn’t plan to get to: Dear Evan Hansen

> And finally, to start 2022 with a proper laugh, a sampling of threads
> where someone complains about the quality of the music this past year:
> (featuring JBlough’s phenomenally bizarre Miami Dolphins tangent about the
> early 70s)

> And then Clint and I made some jokes about how the year might actually be
> good after all, everyone suddenly discovered their scores of the year, and
> we put that nonsense to rest for good. Or at least for 3 months…

> Happy 2022. Let’s be good to each other this year, folks. And hopefully
> the music will follow suit. This post is over.
> Rad-swaggity.

*bows and saunters off*

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