Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Composing Greatness: #3. Oscars 2018 Edition - "Phantom Thread"

Scene from Phantom Thread
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: Jonny Greenwood
Entry: Phantom Thread (2017)
Collaborators (If Available): N/A
Nomination: Best Original Score

Other Nominees:
-Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Carter Burwell)
-The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat)
-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?

After a decade of collaborating with Paul Thomas Anderson, I'm so excited to see Jonny Greenwood get nominated for what is probably his most accomplished score. It manages to have just enough of that avant garde style dropped into the mix with distorted pianos and elegant string orchestrations that sound a little warped. It's a classical score with a perverse bent that manages to feel at times like something beautiful. It fits the theme of the film, which is haunting in how it portrays an unconventional love story. Greenwood has always done well when it comes to reinventing the modern concept of score, and I love the way he uses motifs throughout this score not only in melody, but in different instrumental styles. 

What's So Bad About It?

For those who found There Will Be Blood to be a bit high pitched and niche, this is more of the same. The only difference is that it has better central melodies that capture something less anarchic. Even then, it's a bit slow and repetitive at points, capturing something that manages to also be a bit dull at points. Greenwood's ingenuity is able to keep this problem to a minimum, but it definitely will hit those not used to the screeching noises of string instruments, or care for the slow build that comes with each track. Much like the characters, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and how much of this style you can take will vary per person.

Did This Deserve an Oscar Nomination?:

As long term readers will know, I started this blog because of The Master in 2012. So of course I am ecstatic to see Jonny Greenwood finally make the cut. It's a beautiful piece of work, and I'd argue is one of his most accomplished works in general. As great as the central "Phantom Thread" motifs are, he manages to incorporate his off-kilter style throughout the score in fascinating ways. Had it not been for The Shape of Water, I would even go so far as to suggest that this should win. I love its rich tapestry of a score, and hope that this is the first of many times we shall be seeing him in this category. He innovates so well, and it's about time he got noticed. 

Up Next: John Williams- Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) for Best Original Score

Rank the Nominees

1. Alexandre Desplat - The Shape of Water
2. Jonny Greenwood - Phantom Thread
3. Carter Burwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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