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Friday, February 7, 2020

The Best Movie Soundtrack of 2019

There should be a litany of additional Oscar categories. In 2014, I advocated for a Best Soundtrack one. Here are my nominees for the  Best Soundtrack of 2019:

ONCE UPON A TIME... IN HOLLYWOOD
Dir. Quentin Tarantino, Music Supervisor Mary Ramos



It should not be a surprise to see a Quentin Tarantino film nominated in this category. Music and QT films are synonymous, whether it's Steeler Wheels "Stuck In The Middle With You" and Reservoir Dogs or Rick Ross's "100 Black Coffins" and Django Unchained, Tarantino has always spectacularly been able to use songs to elevate his story telling. And just like Tarantino is able to resurrect careers of former A-listers like John Travolta, he's able to take little known hits and B-sides and turn them into iconography. For instance, see "Brother Loves Traveling Salvation Show" by Neil Diamond. It's the main music bed for the film's trailer and runs throughout the film like a theme song. 

For me personally, a lot of what makes a great soundtrack is that it places the movie in a specific time, and no better way to represent the Summer of '69 in Hollywood than to play what was on the radio at the time while characters drive around the city.

BOOKSMART
Dir. Olivia Wilde, Music Supervisor Bryan Ling



Upon the re-watch of Booksmart, one of the things that really stood out to me, other than the great character development and jokes, was just how well the music set the tone of each scene. I can definitely see why the people behind the film don't want it to be known as the "female Superbad', but I do think it is the "2019 Superbad'. And what was more prominent in 2019 that rap and hip hop music. Ergo, the dominant beats and flows that appear and re-appear throughout the film are perfect. Plus, the trailer uses the best song you can for a trailer rn, "Nobody Speak" by Run The Jewels. 

LOOKING FOR ALASKA
Created by Josh Schwartz, Music Supervisor Alexandra Patsavas



OK, this is definitely a cheat since Looking for Alaska is a TV series created for Hulu, but I definitely wanted to give it a shout out for its incredible soundtrack throughout the series. The show is based after a 2005 book by John Greene of the same name, and the show smartly decided to set the 2019 show in 2005. Not only did the show not have to deal with everyone having a cell phone in their hand, but the viewer was treated to a soundtrack of classic 2005 music like "Feel Good Inc" by The Gorillaz and "All These Things That I've Done" by The Killers. As a Millennial, 2005 was a great music year for me and it's great to see it represented like it was in Looking For Alaska.

AND THE WINNER IS...

HUSTLERS
Dir. Lorene Scarfaria, Music Supervisor Jason Markey



Towards the beginning in the film, Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu's characters are strippers in a club tell the DJ "to play something with s beat".  The ambient noise of the strip joint changes and a banger blasts through your eardrums and the viewer is treated with a montage of J Lo showing Wu's character the ropes. It's the first of many awesome musical cues Lorene Scarfaria helps drop to elevate her film.

Recently, there have been a slew of directors making trying to make their movie Goodfellas, whether you have Todd Philips doing it with Ware Dogs or Craig Gillespie doing it with I, Tonya. Here you have Scarfaria doing it with Hustlers. I think what makes Hustlers one of the better Goodfellas knock offs is it use of music. Sneakily underrated in the 1990 classic is Scorsese's use of music, whether it's using the shitty back nine of Derek and the Dominos "Layla" to perfection over a murder montage or The Crystals "Then He Kissed Me" when Henry takes Karen to the Copacabana Club. Goodfellas uses pre-existing music in a brilliant way.

I think Hustlers follows in its footsteps musically of Goodfellas. Not only does the 2019 film have some smart on the nose drops like Usher's "Love In The Club" when Usher literally walks into the strip club or The Four Seasons' "Rag Doll" after the grandma of Constance Wu's character says she'd fuck Frankie Valli, but also smartly uses songs to properly date the film, which mainly take place in 2008 and 2013. Lopez and Wu purchase an Escalade and blast "Gimme More" by Britney Spears or when we hear Flo Rida's "Club Can't Handle Me". We're even treated to some perfect song/scene match ups like a remixed version of Fiona Apple's "Criminal" during our introduction to Jennifer Lopez's character as she dances on stage and steals the show. I also appreciated that the film DIDN'T blast Cardi B's "Money" at any point, because even though the rapper has a cameo in the film and the movie is about stripping like the song, it would be anachronistic for the time period. Overall, Lorene Scarfaria's Hustlers easily wins the 2019 award for Best Soundtrack.