Monday, February 19, 2018

Composing Greatness: #1. Oscars 2018 Edition - "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

Scene from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Welcome to a very special edition of Composing Greatness. In this limited series, I will be looking at the five scores nominated for this year's Best Original Score category. To avoid favoritism, the list will be done in alphabetical order of composers and feature the same guidelines as the original series. This is meant to explore the music behind the great films of 2017, and provide insight into what makes each of them special and whether or not they deserved to be nominated at all. Join me all week as I listen to the  music, leave some thoughts, and hopefully sway you to check out these wonderful, wonderful scores.

Series Composer: Carter Burwell
Entry: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Collaborators (If Available): N/A
Nomination: Best Original Score

Other Nominees:
-The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat)
-Phantom Thread (Jonny Greenwood)
-Star Wars: The Last Jedi (John Williams)
-Dunkirk (Hans Zimmer)

Note: Listen to the score here.

Exploring the Music
The area of the column where I will explore the music in as much detail as I see fit for each entry.

What's So Great About It?

The beautiful thing about a Carter Burwell score is that it does the trick without drawing attention to itself. His music has a very southern charm to it from the stomping drums of the opening to the Spanish guitar motif that plays throughout the other tracks. It may not be a showy production, but it definitely has an affecting quality that builds throughout the score. He finds the essence of this film without every going too saccharine or shifting too far into something boring and predictable. His melodies tend to be short and to the point, meaning that there's little room for monotony and mediocrity.

What's So Bad About It?

As great as Carter Burwell is, his understated work is a bit bland when compared to his more fleshed out scores. It's also a shame that this is only his second nomination after Carol, which is far superior and has more going on. The tracks here are too short to leave an impression, and there's nothing complex enough to find the overall production satisfying. It's the weaker of the major Burwell scores of 2017, though given how poorly Wonderstruck performed at the box office, there's a good reason why it failed to make the cut. The score has a nice homely feel that fits the film, but it's far from the most interesting thing that the composer has ever done.

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

I love Carter Burwell and feel that he has produced enough phenomenal work to deserve more Oscar nominations than what he currently has. However, there is something lacking in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that keeps me from loving it. With that said, it works perfectly within the context of the film, but it's mostly a nomination warranted by the recent wave of acclaim the film has received. I can only hope that it doesn't win, because it's possibly the least interesting score nominated this year, which is a shame. Burwell's Wonderstruck definitely deserved to be here instead, but there's plenty of reasons why it wasn't. It's good, but is it better than anything he did with The Coen Brothers that was overlooked? Not even close. 

Up Next: Alexandre Desplat - The Shape of Water (2017) for Best Original Score

Rank the Nominees

1. Carter Burwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

1 comment:

  1. I've seen Three Billboards twice and can't remember a single note of Carter Burwell's score. I've said it many times throughout this awards season: There are liars and then there are those who remember Carter Burwell's score for Three Billboards.