Reviews

Listen to These 3 Scores: ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ ‘Shirley,’ ‘Proximity’

I’ve recently watched three films that have scores I simply had to recommend. These three composers excel in crafting music that works seamlessly and compellingly with the films of which they’re a part. Here we go:

Terence Blanchard – Da 5 Bloods (Original Motion Picture Score)

Terence Blanchard is often the music maker for Spike Lee joints. He got his first Oscar nomination for 2018’s extraordinary BlacKkKlansman, but their journey together began in 1991 with Jungle Fever. (Another notable score of his is for my favorite Lee film, 25th Hour.) His latest work is for Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, a film about four African-American Vietnam War vets who reunite in-country to ostensibly recover their dead comrade’s remains. It gets considerably more complex from there, as this beautiful and often heartbreaking film tells the story of not only these men and the effect of war on them, but also their place in a war machine that never truly values them. (The film also touches on the impact of Western imperialism and “containment” on Vietnam.) Blanchard is one of the best film composers we have, and wastes not one note on resting on his laurels. He expertly captures the tender moments as equally well as he does the intense and violent passages that arise, but he never gets too sentimental or too overly amped-up on belligerent war tangents. Instead, he weaves a rich and rewarding tapestry with engrossing conviction.

Tamar-kali — Shirley (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Josephine Decker’s powerful and captivating film about horror writer Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss) demands a novel score and Brooklyn-based Tamar-kali delivers. You could say I’m quite obsessed with this score. She expertly captures the complexities of character and interpersonal power dynamics at play in the story of the woman who wrote shorts like The Lottery and novels like The Haunting of Hill House. Tamar-kali reminds me of Mica Levi or Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury in that she brings a preternaturally inventive freshness to film music. There’s just not much else like this out there. (Also check out her scores for Mudbound and The Assistant.)

Jermaine Stegall – Proximity (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

As you’ve probably read here, Parallels and Radio Wolf wrote a bunch of great songs for Eric Demeusy’s sci-fi film, Proximity. Complementing them is Jermaine Stegall’s captivating orchestral score. It has a classic panache to it, with driving and complex cues that cultivate excitement balanced out with subtle moments that help build a sense of foreboding. Stegall should most definitely score more sci-fi films.

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