The Spool's weekly interview podcast, in which film and TV critic Clint Worthington talks to actors, filmmakers, composers and others who make the movies and shows we love.
This week, we talk to composer Siddhartha Khosla about his twisting, mercurial score for Hulu's Only Murders in the Building, co-created by John Hoffman and Steve Martin. It's a charming, unassuming murder-mystery-comedy series buoyed by career-best work from Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selen Gomez, and as many twists and cosmopolitan affectations as the podcasts on which it's styled. And underneath it all is Khosla's score, a plinky, minimalist affair that makes sneaky use of circular motifs and chamber-music strings to weave its characters around the show's upper-crust New York environs. Singer/songwriter for the band Goldspot, Khosla is also a three-time Emmy-nominated composer for his work on NBC's This Is Us, and has also scored Looking for Alaska and films like Queenpins. And now, he joins us on the podcast to talk about Only Murders in the Building. Only Murders in the Building is currently streaming on Hulu. You can also listen to the score on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of 20th Century Studios. Website Patreon Twitter
36 min 58 sec
The latest film from director Edgar Wright, Last Night in Soho, is a time-twisting psychological thriller about a young woman named Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) who moves to London to enter fashion school. Once there, though, the sheltered Ellie finds herself haunted by dreams in which she's transported into 1960s Soho, viewing the young life of an aspiring singer (Anya Taylor-Joy) and the impending doom she may be hurtling towards. It's a film as informed by 1960s British gangster movies and kitchen sink dramas as it is by Italian giallo pictures and psychological horror, which fits Wright's innately cinephiliac style. References to the films of Ken Loach and Michael Powell abound, alongside the swinging '60s soundtrack with tracks from Cilla Black to Dusty Springfield. But alongside those groovy crate pulls is an atmospheric score courtesy of today's guest, Oscar and BAFTA-winning composer (and regular Wright collaborator) Steven Price. He's scored works from Joe Cornish's Attack the Block to Wright's own The World's End and Baby Driver. His most famous work is likely Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, for which he won an Academy Award and cemented himself as an idiosyncratic composer whose works blur the line between incidental score and sound design. Now, he joins me to talk about the eerie, time-warping score for Soho. You can find Steven Price at his official website here. Last Night in Soho is currently playing in theaters. You can also listen to the score on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Back Lot Music.
39 min 8 sec
Throw a rock at an LA-based thriller, and you can hit any number of stylistic signposts: neon lights, fancy cars, pumping dance clubs, androgynous threats in the night. But in Netflix's Night Teeth, the LA thriller gets some fresh blood - literally! - in the form of a sprightly, energetic vampire flick that still beats with the oddly warm heart of a John Hughes film. Night Teeth follows a young college student (Jorge Lengeborg Jr.) suddenly saddled with the responsibility of chauffeuring around two young women (Lucy Fry and Debby Ryan) for a night of debauchery. But naturally, it turns out they're vampires, and he's caught in the middle of a coup amongst the city's blood-sucking factions. To keep up with director Adam Randall's pulse-pounding style, Night Teeth makes great use of electronic, synth, and hip-hop music, anchored by an endearingly droning score from composer partners Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist. Together, the pair have scored works like Apple TV+'s Dickinson and NBC's Good Girls. Now, they bring their significant experience with textured, layered synths and hypnotic beats to Night Teeth's neon-soaked menagerie of mayhem. Together, the composers sat down to talk to me about their long road to getting the gig at Night Teeth, the complicated process of working around temp tracks, and treating their score like a mixtape for the characters' wild, supernatural night in LA. You can find Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist at their official websites. Night Teeth is currently streaming on Netflix. You can also listen to the score on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Milan Records.
36 min 8 sec
Grammy and Golden Globe-nominated composer Harry Gregson-Williams is no stranger to director Ridley Scott: First working with his brother, the late Tony Scott, on films like Enemy of the State and Spy Game, Gregson-Williams began working with Ridley on Kingdom of Heaven, and has scored several other films with him since (including his sprawling score for The Martian). But his latest score -- one of two with Ridley this year; he'll be providing the music for House of Gucci in a couple months' time -- takes them from the Red Planet to 14th-century France in The Last Duel, which is currently in theaters this weekend. Telling the story of the last true royally-sanctioned duel in medieval French history, Scott's latest is a Rashomon-like fable that flits between the perspectives of the three people involved: brutish knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), libertine squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), and Jean's wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer), whose alleged rape by Le Gris brings the two former friends to blows. While the score taps into the big, spectacular motions we'd expect from the director of Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, Gregson-Williams' approach plays with perspective in much the same way the film does. Themes overlap and warp depending on who's telling the story at any given moment, and certain scenes are scored in vastly different ways as we see them through new eyes. The medieval musical trappings are there, from countertenor voices to Gregorian chant evocative of the Catholic Church, whose reach informs much of the film's drama. But they also shake things up with guitar, taiko drum, and a host of other unconventional instruments that hone in on The Last Duel's intriguing streak of modernity -- a sharp reminder that the shame and pressure Marguerite experiences as a result of her speaking out against her rapist is hardly the stuff of history. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Gregson-Williams to talk about the unconventional modes of The Last Duel's score, his long working relationship with Ridley Scott, and what we might be able to look forward to in House of Gucci. The Last Duel is currently playing in theaters, and Harry Gregson-Williams' soundtrack is available on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of 20th Century Studios.
23 min 19 sec
Film scores don't often chart, but when they do, it's for good reason. In 2011, that happened to the piercing, airy, enigmatic score for Nicholas Winding Refn's neo-noir Drive, starring Ryan Gosling as a nameless Hollywood stunt driver turned getaway driver. It was a minimalist throwback to the car-based crime films of the '70s and '80s, fueled by Refn's own arthouse aesthetic and Gosling's stoic performance. But even more than Gosling's scorpion jacket, it's the music of Drive that endures in the pop culture consciousness a decade on. When the score came out, it reached #4 on the iTunes charts and reached the Billboard 200. Much of that is due to the classic synthwave tracks by Kavinsky feat. Lovefoxxx ("Nightcall") and College feat. Electric Youth ("A Real Hero"), to be sure, but it's also down to Cliff Martinez's moody, atmospheric scoring. Martinez, a Grammy-nominated composer (and former member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) who's worked most notably on the scores of Steven Soderbergh, pulled out some of his eeriest, most interesting work for Drive. Analog synths dance with a mysterious instrument called the Cristal Baschet to help sell the '80s-tinged mood. For the film's tenth anniversary (and on the eve of the soundtrack's rerelease on vinyl courtesy of Lakeshore Records), I sat down with Martinez to talk about his early days as a composer, how it feels to have a film score actually make the charts, and what exactly a Cristal Baschet is anyway. (Also, listen for a very surprising cameo from an out-of-breath Nicholas Winding Refn. I kid you not.) You can pick up the Drive Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 10th Anniversary Edition vinyl courtesy of Lakeshore Records.
31 min 36 sec
Given the sprawling nature of the decade-old Marvel Cinematic Universe, it makes sense that Phase Four would be dedicated to breaking apart the house they've built and changing around the pieces to see what happens. We've had alternate realities with WandaVision and Loki, of course, but Disney+'s latest, the animated What If...?, is a pure alternate-universe thought exercise. Overseen by Uatu the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), What If...? escorts us through an anthology of stories that plays merry hob with the Marvel universe as we know it, placing old heroes in new contexts and giving us a side of these superheroes we haven't seen before. What if Peggy Carter took the super-soldier serum? What if Thor grew up an only child? What if Black Panther villain Killmonger saved Tony Stark's life? These are the settings for What If...?'s nine episodes, often telling alternate versions of the stories we already know or plopping familiar characters in all-new settings. Such scope, married to the need to touch base with Marvel's existing musical catalog, needs the deft hand of someone like veteran composer Laura Karpman. A five-time Emmy winner (and Grammy winner for the album Ask Your Mana), Karpman has written scores for film, TV, video games, documentaries, and more since the '90s -- a major feat given that female film composers were even rarer now than they were today. In order to advance the cause of gender parity in film composing, Karpman co-founded the Alliance for Women Film Composers and is currently the first female governor of the music break of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Most recently, she (along with co-composer Raphael Saadiq) was nominated for an Emmy for their work on HBO's Lovecraft Country. On this week's podcast, Karpman talks to me about her early days breaking into the world of film composing, the creative freedom working with Marvel's open hand and resources provides, and the unique challenges of forging your own musical mosaic from the shattered glass of the Marvel Universe. You can find Laura Karpman at her official website here. What If..." is currently streaming on Disney+; you can listen to episodic soundtracks from the series on your music streaming service of choice, courtesy of Marvel Music.
24 min 21 sec
What lengths would you traverse to let go of your traumas? That's one of many premises swimming around in the hazy ether of Hulu's new series Nine Perfect Strangers. Created by David E. Kelley and based on the book by Liane Moriarty, the series follows nine people drawn for one reason or another to a mysterious wellness center called Tranquillum, led by an equally mercurial resort director plated by Nicole Kidman. Some of them are reeling from the suicide of a family member, like the Marconis, including Michael Shannon's Napoleon; others, like Samara Weaving and Melvin Gregg's wealthy influencer couple, bristle against marital problems neither of them can articulate. But as they all gravitate toward one another at this private retreat, they learn to surrender themselves to the ministrations of Tranquillum's all-too-perfect staff... even as they become lab rats in an experiment they can't possibly see coming. Swirling around the show's star-studded cast, which also includes Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Luke Evans, and more, is the score by Oscar-nominated composer Marco Beltrami (3:10 to Yuma, The Hurt Locker), alongside Emmy-nominated composer Miles Hankins (Being Serena). The two have worked together on several projects over the years, among them several projects by Nine Perfect Strangers director Jonathan Levine. Together, we chat about the origins of their collaboration, what draws them to working with Levine and trying to find the sound of the mysterious Tranquillum and the diverse characters that inhabit it. You can find Marco Beltrami and Miles Hankins at their official websites. Nine Perfect Strangers is currently streaming new episodes Wednesdays on Hulu. You can also listen to the score for Nine Perfect Strangers on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Endeavor Content.
26 min 45 sec
In the wake of Avengers: Endgame, the MCU has been taking bigger chances in Phase Four with smaller, lesser-known heroes, especially ones from communities not often represented in Hollywood. With Marvel's latest, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, we get the live-action film adaptation of '70s Marvel's answer to Bruce Lee, a superhero-flavored martial arts picture teeming with Asian and Asian-American representation. It's one of the more clearly-staged action films in the MCU, courtesy of Asian-American filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton, most known for quieter indie flicks like Short Term 12 and Just Mercy. The fights are inspired as much by Ang Lee as they are by Stephen Chow and Jackie Chan, with stars Simu Liu, Tony Leung, and others holding their own in impressive, frenetic action scenes. And at its heart is a tale of familial obligation, grief, and the need to forge your own path while also recognizing what came before you. To juggle this melange of tones and cultural touchstones, Cretton brought on his house composer Joel P. West, who crafts one of his biggest scores to date. In prior works like Short Term 12 and Mercy, West's work is small and intimate; here, he brings out all the big-money orchestral work Marvel cash can muster, tinged with just enough Asian influence in style and instrumentation to feel specific without exoticizing the setting (any more than a story about magical dragons and mystical arm bracelets can be, at any rate). West joins us to talk about the strange road to Shang-Chi, treading those cultural lines carefully, and what it feels like to score something this bombastic. You can find Joel P. West at his official website here. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently playing in theaters. You can also listen to the score for Shang-Chi on your preferred music streaming service courtesy of Marvel Music.
33 min 3 sec
Central to the horror-film feel of Nanfu Wang's new COVID-19 documentary, In the Same Breath, is the eerie, evocative score courtesy of Emmy-nominated composer Nathan Halpern. A prolific scorer of feature films, documentaries, and limited series alike, Halpern has brought his idiosyncratic approach to films as diverse as Chloe Zhao's The Rider, Swallow, and Minding the Gap. His upcoming scores include the Darren Aronofsky-produced thriller Catch the Fair One, and now, he joins us to talk about In the Same Breath, the differences in documentary and narrative film scoring, and more. You can find Nathan Halpern's official website here. In the Same Breath is currently streaming on HBO and HBO Max.
40 min 8 sec
In the Grand Theft Auto-like world of Free City, Free Guy's Guy (Ryan Reynolds) gets to while away the days as an NPC in his hyper-violent video game world with a host of licensed music, courtesy of Mariah Carey, Digital Underground, Frankie Valli, and more. But the incidental score to Shawn Levy's surprisingly charming adventure film comes courtesy of this week's guest, frequent Levy collaborator Christophe Beck. The Emmy-winning composer of Ant-Man, Frozen, and more, Beck worked with Levy to flesh out the more emotional character beats of Free Guy, while the licensed music did the work of building the game's sonic world. The results are sprightly and charming, Beck's full orchestral sound blending Guy's more innocent, hapless joie de vivre with the hard-hitting action that comes when he finally breaks free of his shackles and joins the game's world. For the podcast, Beck sits down with us to talk about the unique joys and processes of composing Free Guy's score, how he blended the real and video game worlds, and the challenges of trying to record orchestra sessions in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Free Guy is in theaters now. You can find Christophe Beck at his official website. Free Guy's original score is currently available on Spotify and other music streaming services.
28 min 11 sec
David Lowery's The Green Knight is a brilliant, mesmerizing take on the 14th-century Welsh poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, starring Dev Patel as a flawed, headstrong variant on the archetypal Knight of the Round Table. It's steeped in the ancient Arthurian traditions of chivalric romance, but muddied and tarred with the grit, fatalism, and pagan supernaturalism of the time in which it was created. It's a perfect assignment for Lowery, whose films, while diverse, are deeply thoughtful and steeped in an acute sense of the past. In both look and sound, The Green Knight straddles the line between the kind of brittle, supernatural dramas around which A24 has practically built their brand. (Also, considering its long delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent re-edits Lowery sent the film through in the interim, it also feels like the kind of film that was refined until it exactly matched the director's vision.) Part and parcel of that approach is Lowery's involvement of regular collaborator Daniel Hart, who brought him into the world of composition with his early shorts and his debut feature Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Since then, he's worked on numerous TV shows including The Exorcist and The Society, and composed music for This American Life and the podcast S Town. (And, of course, all of Lowery's films to date, including his mesmerizing score for The Green Knight.) His work here matches the curious, mournful approach Lowery takes to the material, mixing ancient rhyme with moody, groaning instrumentation to convey a world in which civilization clashes against the supernatural. It's as expansive in scope as it is intimately connected to Gawain's personal journey as a knight and hero. Hart talks to us on the podcast about the long, sometimes arduous process of developing the score for The Green Knight, the medieval delicacy of its instrumentation, and the "Apprehension Engine" he borrowed to make it. You can visit Daniel Hart's official website here. The Green Knight's official soundtrack is out July 30th courtesy of Milan Records. You can listen to it on Spotify or your music streaming service of choice.
41 min 11 sec
One of the best, most undersung action shows on television is Cinemax's Warrior, a stylish period piece based largely on concepts developed by the late Bruce Lee for a show that would eventually (and unfortunately) become Kung Fu. Charting the conflicts between Chinese gangs and the American police in San Francisco's Chinatown in the 19th century, it's a show that combines some of the best, clearest action on TV (thanks to Andrew Koji, Joe Taslim, and a roster of incredible martial artists and choreographers) with a tale of America's own reckoning with its racial animus. Adding to the cool factor is the show's jaunty, stylistically agile score, co-written by Reza Safinia alongside creative partner H. Scott Salinas. A multi-instrumentalist composer who's worked on shows like Snatch, P-Valley, and the Nicolas Cage film The Trust, Safinia scores with a decidedly meditative, deliberate approach -- no doubt aided by his years of connection to creative meditation, Daoist philosophies, and the like. On top of his scoring for Warrior (which just received a surprise renewal thanks to HBO Max), Safinia has also been hard at work on a set of dual concept albums, Yin and Yang, which explore the flowing musical conversation between classical and electronic music. Together, Safinia and I talked about those albums, the relationship between meditation and music, and crafting the hard-hitting score to Warrior. You can find Reza Safinia's official site here. Warrior is currently streaming on HBO Max, with a third season on the way. You can listen to the soundtracks for seasons 1 and 2, as well as Reza's albums Yin and Yang, on Spotify and other music streaming services.
41 min 9 sec
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands its reach into TV, so too does its musical palate expand in turn. And so it goes with Loki, the latest Disney+ series, which will see its season finale next week. It's been a wild ride, following Loki (Tom Hiddleston) through his misadventures with the Time Variance Authority, his unlikely friendship with TVA agent Mobius (Owen Wilson), and the ongoing quest to discover exactly who's behind the TVA's implicitly sinister plans -- with the aid of a female version of Loki named Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), to boot. It's a strange, twisty show that befits its always-evasive main character, one as indebted to its comic book origins as it is shows like Doctor Who That requires an equally enigmatic score courtesy of award-winning composer Natalie Holt -- she's a multi-instrumentalist who throws plenty of woozy '50s sci-fi flavor into the Mad Men-meets-Brazil environs of the TVA. She received an Emmy nomination for PBS' Victoria, as well as a Royal Television Society Craft and Design Awards for BBC's Three Girls. She's also scored films like Phyllida Lloyd's Herself, and TV shows like Wallander and The Honourable Woman. Holt joins us on the podcast from Los Angeles to talk about the eerie sounds of Loki, talk Wagner's influence on the score, and provide some select track commentaries for some of the series' most interesting cues. You can find Natalie Holt's official website here. Loki is currently streaming on Disney+, and you can find the first volume of the soundtrack (covering episodes 1-3) on Spotify and other music streaming services.
24 min 15 sec
When Ronald D. Moore's reimagined Battlestar Galactica premiered on The Sci-Fi Channel in 2003, it was a watershed moment for the genre. A gritty, moody, morally complicated redo of the cheesy '70s Glen Larson series, Moore's take on the show -- a space opera about a fleet of ships carrying the remnants of humanity to a mysterious planet called Earth, with a robotic enemy called the Cylons giving chase -- crystallized so many of America's post-9/11 fears about terrorism, splinter cells, and the tenuous lines between freedom and security. But more than that, it had some of the best cast, most intriguing characters, and incredible production design and special effects that were possible for cable television. And the cherry on top is the critically-lauded score courtesy of then-unknown composer Bear McCreary, whose success on the show has catapulted him to a career as one of the most prolific composers working in media today. Since Galactica, he's scored everything from The Walking Dead to Colossal to Godzilla: King of the Monsters, as well as Ron Moore's current show Outlander and video games like God of War. With all of that, though, his work still stems from his innovative work on Galactica, a highly unconventional suite of music that eschews big, bombastic Williams-ian brass for starker, more minimalist cues drawn from everything from world music to rock 'n roll. And now, the soundtracks for all four seasons of the show have been remastered and are available on music streaming services, as well as a new album of live concert renditions of some of the show's most iconic tracks, So Say We All. I've been a huge fan of his music since BSG, so it was a treat to bend Bear's ear for a solid forty minutes, talking about everything from his humble beginnings on the project to a breakdown of some of my favorite cues and the stories behind them. You can visit Bear McCreary's official website here. All four seasons of Battlestar Galactica's original soundtrack are available on music streaming services, and you can listen to So Say We All on Spotify here.
40 min 51 sec
During his all-too-brief stint on this Earth, John Belushi was one of comedy's greatest voices. A blustering buffoon one minute, a deeply intelligent trickster the next, Belushi's work on SNL, The Blues Brothers, and Animal House made him a household name in the blink of an eye -- before his life was tragically cut short by the very lifestyle that success gave him. RJ Cutler's documentary Belushi is a stylish, straightforward chronicling of the man's life -- what drove him, the good and the bad others saw in him -- fueled chiefly by archival commentary from Belushi's widow. Another major driver, though, is the blues and funk-heavy score by Tree Adams, a BMI-Award winning composer who's scored a host of TV shows from Californication and NCIS: New Orleans to The 100. Before he was a composer, he plied his trade as a touring musician (and still does) and brings a lot of that rock and roll energy to Belushi's score. There are the obvious Blues Brothers-fueled jams, to be sure, but the score as a whole seeks to capture Belushi's own musical background, as well as honors his funky highs and mournful lows. I spoke with Tree about his long composing history, the connections between Belushi's score and his own blues background, the graphic novel he's got cooking, and a whole lot more. You can find Tree Adams at his official website here. Belushi is currently streaming on Showtime, and you can stream the original soundtrack score (released by Passion Pictures Ltd.) to the documentary on Spotify and other streaming services.
38 min 55 sec
When the first Saw premiered in 2003, it rattled the foundations of the horror genre -- not just for its pioneering of gruesome, high-concept gory horror of a type that would come to be known as 'torture porn', but for its perversely iconic musical soundscapes. "Hello Zepp," with its grungy buildup and cacophonous, rising strings, quickly became a staple of the long-running Saw series, which is now in its ninth installment with 2021's Spiral: From the Book of Saw. Central to those disturbing melodies is composer Charlie Clouser, who got his start in the world of industrial music, working with the likes of Rob Zombie and Nine Inch Nails. He's scored every film in the Saw series since, one of the few creatives to stick around for every installment of Jigsaw's brutal, moralistic mindgames. With Spiral, though, it's a whole new ball game, with a new bag of tricks to set it apart from the grungier takes of Saws past. A soft continuation of the series, the Chris Rock-starring sequel takes a hard left into crime thriller territory, as a beleaguered beat cop (Rock) tracks down the culprit of a series of copycat murders one hot summer weekend. Clouser keeps the screeching metal more confined to the tongue-ripping "trap" scenes in favor of a warmer, more noir-tinged palate to suit the '70s-esque cop thriller direction in which the film dabbles. And yet, when he needs to, he plays the hits -- particularly a new version of "Hello Zepp," which sounds familiar but, in keeping with the series, has its own musical twists. For the podcast, I sit down with Clouser to chat about his loyalty to the series, the history of "Hello Zepp," and the ways in which Spiral changes the game. Spiral: From the Book of Saw is currently in theaters, and you can listen to the soundtrack on Spotify and other streaming services, courtesy of Lakeshore Records.
33 min 9 sec
In the wake of Game of Thrones' ending, virtually every streaming service has tried its hand at vying for prestige-fantasy drama supremacy, adapting book series filled with sprawling worlds and dense mythologies. The latest of these, Shadow and Bone, based on the Grishaverse novels by Leigh Bardugo, is one of the lushest and most intriguing in a good long while -- set in a war-torn steampunk world split by various warring nations. The largest of these, Ravka, is split by a mysterious black fog called the Shadow Fold, which proves dangerous crossing due to all manner of horrifying creatures that lie in the darkness. The only hope of destroying the Fold lies with a young girl named Alina, a cartographer who suddenly discovers mysterious powers that thrust her to the forefront of a battle for the very soul of the planet. Such expansive genre fare requires a deft musical hand to manifest, and Shadow and Bone has that in the form of Joseph Trapanese, who burst onto the scene in 2010 with his collaboration with Daft Punk for the iconic score to Tron Legacy. Since then, he's worked with Legacy director Joseph Kosinski on Oblivion and Only the Brave and scoring other works like Straight Outta Compton, Tron: Uprising, and The Greatest Showman (alongside John Debney). With Shadow and Bone, Trapanese offers up a muscular, global-sounding score that steps up to the mighty challenge of sketching out the varying worlds and colorful characters of the Netflix series. He combines electronic elements with traditional orchestration to sell the fantastical sweep of Alina's journeys, while also incorporating Slavic voice and instruments like gamelans and balalaikas to flesh out the Russia-inspired climes in much of the series' first season is set. I sat down with Trapanese for a lengthy chat about the challenges of scoring an entire series of such grand scope, the creative inspirations he took from the books, and the interconnecting, interweaving musical motifs of the major characters. In a first for the podcast, Trapanese also provides commentaries explaining his process for the cues "Erase the Past" and "Royal Archives Heist." Shadow and Bone is currently streaming on Netflix, and you can stream the entire soundtrack for series 1 courtesy of Maisie Music Publishing.
40 min 34 sec
When last we spoke to Henry Jackman (for Joe and Anthony Russo's creaky but sonically-fulfilling Cherry), he relished in the sense of freewheeling experimentation he got to enjoy on such a devil-may-care project. Now, he's back in the Marvel saddle with Disney+'s six-part limited series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which follows the titular Captain America sidekicks (played by Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan) as they adjust to life after the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan "retires" after Avengers: Endgame. Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, rejects the mantle of Cap because he doesn't feel he can handle the responsibility of representing a nation that doesn't represent him; Bucky Barnes, meanwhile, is still working through some culture shock after his deprogramming as the Winter Soldier. But the two will have to join forces, mismatched-buddy-cop style, to upend the plans of a mysterious group called the Flagsmashers, and contend with rogue elements like Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) and a new government-appointed Captain America played by Wyatt Russell. Returning to score these characters for the first time since Captain America: Civil War, Jackman brings his usual fanfare and frenetic action scoring to the table, expanding themes he originated in his previous work to a much larger, longer palette. Sam's theme, formerly a three-note quick motif between action beats, gets its own blues-tinged variation to pay homage to his Louisiana roots; Bucky, meanwhile, gets a softer, more melodic version of the Winter Soldier theme to contrast with the cacophonous shriek that heralded him in his debut feature. And the Captain America theme gets its own complications, now that the man holding the shield is a little less trustworthy than he used to be. Together, Jackman (now a new dad!) and I talk about all this and more, including the behind-the-scenes challenges (and opportunities) of rescheduling the show in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the show's approach to issues of Blackness in America, and expanding the often-underestimated Marvel musical canvas. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is currently streaming on Disney+, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Vol. 1 (Episodes 1-3) is available on digital courtesy of Marvel Music, Inc.
Corinna Faith's chilling supernatural horror film The Power charts one horrifying night in a dank, dreary hospital in 1974 London for Val (Rose Williams), a nurse in training whose idealism and naivete brushes up against the insular, competitive world of the hospital she's been assigned, one with its own morbid history of ghosts and the violence of the past. Stuck in the dark with little but her own fears, the animus of her colleagues, and the terrifying specter of a mysterious presence that haunts the hospital, Val's in for a bone-chilling night that will touch on not just her own personal traumas, but the collective trauma of abused and disbelieved women throughout history. Underpinning all of Faith's bone-chilling terror is The Power's score, courtesy of English avant-garde musician Elizabeth Bernholz, also known as Gazelle Twin, collaborating with composer Max de Wardener. Gazelle Twin's music (which you can hear in brilliant albums like Unflesh and Pastoral) is harsh, brittle, and confrontational, experimental works that jab a finger at the English patriarchy and advocate for the spirits of the dispossessed -- fitting thematic links to The Power's feminist fury. Together with de Wardener, himself an experienced composer with similar predilections towards deconstruction (see: Music for Detuned Pianos), the pair seamlessly meld droning '80s synths with eerie, delayed vocals and scratches that blur the line between scoring and sound design. It's harsh, disquieting work that absolutely nails Faith's sense of atmosphere, and chills to the bone even before you get to Gazelle Twin's distorted, ominous single that closes the film, "The Well." I had the pleasure of talking to Bernholz and de Wardener about their collaboration on The Power, how the film's themes and settings match their respective works outside the scoring world, and collecting the roster of rattles, scratches, and shatters in the score from the very same hospital in which The Power was filmed. The Power's original soundtrack is currently available digitally courtesy of Invada Records, with a vinyl release to follow.
35 min 14 sec
From 1963 to 1976, famed French serial killer Charles Sobhraj traveled the so-called Hippie Trail, the path counterculture enthusiasts took through Southeast Asia in the 1970s to escape the conformity of Western life and seek transcendence and culture in the Far East. There, he killed at least twelve people, gaining their trust with his good looks and charm before drugging them and eventually killing them after taking their valuables -- often with the help of accomplice Ajay Choudhury and lover/partner Marie-Andrée Leclerc. Sobhraj's story has been dramatized in many forms, the most recent being the Netflix/BBC co-production The Serpent, starring The Mauritanian's Tahar Rahim as Sobhraj and Doctor Who veteran Jenna Coleman as Leclerc. There, directors Tom Shankland and Hans Herbots chart Sobhraj's crime spree in sumptuous period detail, right down to the wide-collared costumes and groovy '70s needle drops. The show's got its flaws -- it's structured in an admittedly frustrating series of fragmented timelines that jump back and forth so often it's hard for its characters to cohere, and Coleman's performance is as affecting as her French accent is muddled. But one element that grips is Dominik Scherrer's eerie, period-warping score. The Swiss-born British composer is a regular collaborator with Shankland (he scored previous Shankland series Ripper Street and The Missing), and his score for The Serpent slithers appropriately between period grooviness and nail-biting suspense. Not only that, it's a score steeped in the Southeast Asian locations in which the show is set; he composed much of the score while shooting in Bangkok, and recorded a good portion of it in Thailand with Thai instruments and performers, leading to a sound that blends the slick '70s cool that Sobhraj exudes with the exotic locales in which he does his dirty deeds. For the podcast, I sat down with Scherrer to discuss the unique challenges of the project, that line between being period-appropriate and too on-the-nose, and working with some of the most interesting instruments and period synthesizers of the day to craft the haunting, tension-laden score for The Serpent. (He also talks -- and plays -- us through the winding tension of the series' title theme.)
37 min 6 sec
John Williams' score for the Star Wars films numbers among the most iconic, well-recognized soundtracks in pop culture history. But as the universe expands from the films into spinoffs, animated series, live-action shows, and a host of other media, other composers have had to take up the baton and translate the bombastic space opera sounds Williams developed for other corners of a galaxy far, far away. No one's done it longer (or more voluminously) than Kevin Kiner, who's spent nearly fifteen years scoring the myriad CG animated series set in the Star Wars universe. He's scored The Clone Wars from its original theatrical film all the way to 2018's The Final Season, for which he's currently nominated for an Annie for Outstanding Achievement for Music in an Animated Television/Media Production. He also scored all four seasons of Star Wars Rebels and is currently working on the first season of Clone Wars spinoff The Bad Batch. A thirty-plus-year veteran of film and TV scoring, Kiner's a chameleon who can work with the themes and motifs set by other composers and spin them into broader, more dynamic cues demanded by the rigors of television storytelling. That's borne out in his work for Star Wars, especially, where at this point he's written more music for the universe than John Williams himself -- while he finds moments to work in familiar motifs and themes, Kiner also carves out room for experimentation, which you can hear in the more synth-heavy scoring for Clone Wars: The Final Season. The Spool sat down with Kiner for a nice, long chat about his long composing career, the challenges of finding creative new ways to spin the most familiar film music in history, and the joys of composing with his sons Dean and Sean Kiner.
35 min 51 sec
Decades before Black Panther, Eddie Murphy gave us the first real glimpse of a fictional pan-African paradise with the country of Zamunda in John Landis' 1988 classic Coming to America, in which Murphy played the naive Prince Akeem finding love and playing fish out of water in the concrete jungle of Queens. More than thirty years later, Dolemite Is My Name director Craig Brewer brings us back to Zamunda with Coming 2 America, as now-King Akeem tries to figure out the future of Zamunda with the arrival of an illegitimate son from America (played by Jermaine Fowler). Unlike the first, which mostly took place in the fish out of water antics of Akeem in America, Coming 2 America lets us swim in the lush, vibrant world of Zamunda for much of its runtime, especially Ruth E. Carter's incredible costumes and Jefferson Sage's production design. Also playing a vital part is the score by Jermaine Stegall, who mixes traditional comedy scoring with a pan-African sound that evokes, but differentiates itself from, the theatrical bombast of the sound of Black Panther. Not only that, he spent weeks on set working with the choreographers and artists like Gladys Knight to help stage some of the dances and song performances that flesh out Zamunda's cultural fabric. I sat down with Stegall for a long, invigorating chat about searching for the sound of Zamunda, Stegall's reflections on the long mentorships with legendary composers that led to this moment, and the need for more opportunities for Black composers in the industry.
40 min 35 sec
"White lesbian films set in the past" is a budding subgenre in the last few years, stretching from The Favourite to Portrait of a Lady on Fire to last year's Ammonite (which we've covered on this very same show). But there's something intriguing about the latest entry in this rapidly-expanding field, Mona Fastvold's The World to Come, a 19th-century queer drama set on a quiet homestead in the rural areas of upstate New York. Abigail (Katherine Waterston), a pensive woman in a frigid marriage with her overworked farmer husband (Casey Affleck), finds an enticing escape from the doldrums and rhythms of farm life in the flirtations of Tallie (Vanessa Kirby), who herself needs a respite from her abusive husband played by Christopher Abbott. The World to Come styles itself as a tome of poetic yearning, from its muted, distanced presentation to the lyrical voiceover of Waterston reciting her florid journals she writes to pass the days and chronicle her feelings. Together, the two find freedom and joy, however, fleeting, amongst the grief and isolation of their circumstances, and the results are as gorgeous as they are tragic. Befitting the moodiness of the presentation is a similarly idiosyncratic score courtesy of musician and visual artist Daniel Blumberg, who makes his feature-film composing debut. An alumnus of London's free-jazz and experimental venue Cafe Oto, Blumberg leverages his love for improvisation and atmosphere into a fragile soundtrack that's foreboding and romantic in equal measure. Clarinets and strings fill the foggy New York air and the loaded silences between Abigail and Tallie, aided capably by fellow musicians like saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and vocalist Josephine Foster. We sat down with Blumberg to talk about how he came to score The World to Come, working with many of his experimental contemporaries, and the extent to which his work as a visual artist overlaps with his composing work.
27 min 25 sec
In a post-Endgame world, it's no surprise that brothers Joe and Anthony Russo are taking a step back from multi-billion-dollar superhero tentpoles into slightly smaller, grittier territory. Their latest, Cherry, based on the semiautobiographical novel by Nico Walker, certainly achieves that, though with no small amount of style. As the latest component of Tom Holland's post-Spidey career pivot to a Serious Adult Actor, Cherry casts him in the titular role of Cherry, a cynical Army vet who comes home from the hells of the Iraq war to succumb to opioid addiction (along with his waifish wife Emily, played by Ciara Bravo), turning to bank-robbing to fund their habit. Along the way, the Russos treat us to a jaundiced, blackly-comic version of Cherry's worldview, from his idiot friends to the myopic military leaders and soldiers he meets in his time in the service. And at the core of it all is Holland, leveraging some of that quirky Peter Parker energy to the role of a manic kid with nothing to lose. Undergirding the Russos' jaundiced style here, hitting somewhere between Stanley Kubrick and Harmony Korine, is the off-kilter, experimental score courtesy of Henry Jackman. He's spent the last decade or so scoring one blockbuster after another, an acolyte of Hans Zimmer's school who's scored everything from X-Men First Class to Captain Americas 2 and 3, where he first worked with the Russos. Cherry gives him the chance to try out a bunch of new, weird toys, including some whose provenance is unknown even to him, as you'll hear. The results are fascinatingly disorienting and tongue-in-cheek, which perfectly fits the overwhelming disconnect of Cherry's worldview. I sat down with Jackman to talk about working with the Russos as they transition out of superhero work, and the vast array of musical techniques and instruments he employed in his freewheeling experimentations with Cherry's score.
36 min 49 sec
One of the most talked-about films of last year is Lee Isaac Chung's Minari, a scintillating, layered tale of a Korean-American family trying to chase the American Dream that's racking up awards nominations all over the place -- though admittedly, strangely in Best Foreign Film categories even though the film features American characters in an American setting. It's a highly personal film for writer/director Chung, who based a lot of it on his own upbringing growing up in rural America to Korean-American immigrant parents, and the strange liminal state he experienced there. In the film itself, that's borne out in not just Chung's direction, but its pitch-perfect cast, including Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, and Youn Yuh-jung. But one of the film's most unexpected pleasures is its delicate, airy score, courtesy of composer (and friend of the show) Emile Mosseri. Ever since his breakout a couple of years back with The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Mosseri has forged a mighty body of introspective scores that crackle at the edges of his film's gentle psychologies. The last time we spoke, we talked to Mosseri about hopping onto the second season of Amazon's podcast adaptation Homecoming to play off the first season's paranoia-film needledrops. Here, he's in much gentler mode, sotto voce vocals pairing with gentle pianos and woodwinds to dance around Minari's struggling family unit with all the curiosity of a childhood memory. I got the chance to talk to Mosseri about the score and the film itself, both of which dropped on Friday. Plus, keep an ear out for an exclusive performance of a cue from the film's soundtrack, "Jacob's Prayer."
26 min 34 sec
At its heart, Ben Hozie's tingly, complicated Internet drama PVT CHAT (read our review here) is about connection or our lack thereof -- even as it's disguised as a lurid De Palma-esque thriller about a lonely young man named Jack (Peter Vack) who finds himself enamored with his favorite online dominatrix, Scarlet (Julia Fox, keeping up her New York bona fides after her big breakout in the Safdie Brothers' Uncut Gems). He's an insecure, pathological liar convinced that all human interactions are transactional; she's a cam girl who traffics in those very same transactions but occasionally lets her guard down when it comes to Jack. The two need each other in some ineffable way, even as the intricacies of their relationship aren't quite like the typical love story. And indeed, there's something of the Safdies' loose, improvisational energy in PVT CHAT, NYC musician and filmmaker Hozie taking a fly-by-night documentary approach to Jack and Scarlet's deeply unconventional romance, one which gets them in as much trouble as it flirts with the struggle to find personal fulfillment. Anchoring Hozie's curious mix of screwball romantic comedy and post-modern 21st century Internet age treatise is the minimalist, experimental score by music producer (and friend of Hozie) Austin Brown of Parquet Courts. The score is sparsely threaded throughout the film's modest 88-minute run time, but where it lands it has an impact: yearning guitars layer over Scarlet and Jack's more intimate moments, while Carpenter-esque synths punctuate the moments where their dynamic most threatens to crack. This week, I sit down with Austin about crafting the sparse score for the film, the times when the first-time composer wanted to go big, and the family affair of NYC's indie music scene coming together to create a feature film. Listen to our podcast interview with Austin, and listen to the PVT CHAT soundtrack on Austin's Bandcamp page here.
37 min 53 sec
Spend any amount of time in Film Twitter circles anytime in the last six months, and someone's bound to bring up one of the most resplendent musical moments in the hell-year that was 2020: ten minutes in Steve McQueen's groovy tone poem Lovers Rock. Two-thirds of the way through the film, the packed floor of a London house party in the 1980s slow dances to Janey Kay's delicate, flirtatious "Silly Games". They're so lost in the rhythms and gyrations that, even after the song fades out, the collective erupts with Kay's sumptuous lyrics, everyone singing together to keep the song going just a little bit longer. Those moments and more are some of the most vital components to the success of Small Axe, McQueen's five-film anthology about the lives of West Indian immigrant communities in England through the '60s, '70s, and '80s, humming and swaying with the reggae, disco, and rocksteady music that so infused themselves in those disparate neighborhoods. Whether it's the sweet sounds of the titular genre in the nearly-wordless Lovers Rock, or the Brixton-set underground protest music that feeds Alex Wheatle, or the top-40 R&B hits playing at the titular Mangrove Inn in Mangrove, Small Axe is little without the soundtrack that underpins all of its period authenticity and riveting snapshots of Black joy and solidarity in the face of racism and systemic oppression. Key to that process was music supervisor Ed Bailie, who sat down with me for the podcast to talk about the challenges of scoring for five different movies, finding the balance between crate-digging for obscure tracks and playing the hits, and working with collaborators to find just the right sound for McQueen's disparate stories. And along the way, we also touch on being cognizant of one's role as a white creative among Black collaborators telling Black stories.
38 min 48 sec
Even before the pandemic, before we couldn't leave our homes anymore, nature docs were my happy place. But luckily, the Sir David Attenborough Industrial Complex continues apace with BBC One's A Perfect Planet, which just started airing on Discovery Channel's new streaming service, Discovery+. This five-part series explores the planet on which we live, the natural forces that maintain our fragile ecosystems, and the life that lives on it: volcanoes, oceans, sunlight, and so on. If you've seen these kinds of shows, you know not just Attenborough's reedy, authoritative narration, but the big, bombastic scores that tend to accompany it. But for Ilan Eshkeri, for whom Perfect Planet is his fourth round at scoring an Attenborough-narrated nature doc series, he wanted it to sound a bit different. And that he does; the bigness and sweep are still there, but tempered by more muted, atmospheric orchestrations and the introduction of pop elements like guitars and drums. And the title track, "A Perfect Planet," makes wonderful use of several children's choirs to illustrate the fragility and innocence of the Earth, and the generations we'll be leaving the planet to after we're gone -- an even greater reminder of the need to take direct action on climate change. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Eshkeri, who's scored everything from Stardust to Ghosts of Tsushima, to talk about his motivations behind the project, how his own environmentalism fuels his scoring, and more.
30 min 29 sec
Awards season is upon us, which means all the studios and streaming services are breaking out their big guns. Luckily, one of the best films of the year comes to Netflix this weekend. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, based on the play by August Wilson and starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in his final role. A fictionalized snapshot in the life of the Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey, George C. Wolfe's film imagines her in a sweaty, muggy Chicago recording studio in the 1920s, trying to record her most popular singles for white Northern audiences, far from her comfortable Black Southern crowds. Of course, tensions rise over everything from artistic freedom, racial animus, and Coca-Cola. And all the while, Ma's trumpeter Levee, played by Boseman, tries to take advantage of their opportunity to stake his own ambitious claim in the music world. It's a vibrant adaptation of a riveting play, filled with staggering performances from Davis, Boseman, Colman Domingo, and the rest of the ensemble. And it tells a story about Black culture's impact on popular culture, and those artists' attempts to secure their own legacy in the face of a white world that wants to repackage it for their own consumption. The blues thrums at the heart of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, so it makes sense that Wolfe would tap jazz legend Branford Marsalis to pen the score. Not only does he punctuate vital moments with a burst of vivid jazz orchestration to throw us into Chicago in the Roaring '20s, he was also responsible for arranging every song you see and hear on screen. Luckily, I got the chance to talk to Marsalis, who's spent decades as one of the genre's foremost saxophonists and bandleaders. He spent three years as the head of the Tonight Show band for Jay Leno, and he's got plenty of stories to share both in and out of the story of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.
33 min 17 sec
Sometimes, less is more -- where some composers might look at Francis Lee's sumptuous queer romance Ammonite, with its period detail and bodies crashing against each other like waves against the rocky shores of England, and go for maximalism, Dustin O'Halloran and Volker Bertelmann (who also plays under the moniker Hauschka) are kings of restraint. That's an important quality to have, especially in something as transcendently dreamlike and wordless as Lee's latest film. Throughout Lee's delicate, brittle exploration of class, history, and queerness, the composer duo leans hard on simple, sparse counterpoints, pianos, and strings threatening to burst into the foreground but always holding back. It's a work of remarkable minimalism, existing in conversation with Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan's beautifully layered performances. It's not the first time the two have worked together, having met to build the score for 2016's Lion and working on several projects since. Together, they've built a clear sense of collaboration which bears out in Ammonite's intimate, complicated scoring -- which echoes the growing intimacy between Winslet and Ronan as, respectively, 19th-century paleontologist Mary Anning and a young woman she's tasked to care for. In the wake of Ammonite's arrival on VOD and select theaters, both O'Halloran and Hauschka stop by the podcast to talk about the way their collaboration has developed, the way their own sense of minimalism dovetails with Lee's, and the importance of score as a means to build texture and sound design.
29 min 53 sec
What happened to Timothy Leary? One minute, he was an anti-establishment rebel, spending ten years in prison after advocating for the "turn on, tune in, drop out" drug liberation culture of the '70s; the next, he was a government narc, informing on the same people he hooked in. One possible explanation lies in his exciting, deeply idiosyncratic relationship with Swiss-born Joanna Harcourt-Smith, the subject of Errol Morris' latest documentary My Psychedelic Love Story (which hits Showtime this weekend). Centered entirely on Harcourt-Smith's side of the story, Morris' latest doc is playful and intriguing in all the ways you'd expect of his interrogative, interview-centric approach to documentary filmmaking. It certainly helps, of course, that frequent collaborator Paul Leonard-Morgan is along for the ride, painting between the lines of Harcourt-Smith's lively, charming investigation of her own past, as much a mystery to her as it is to the audience. Was she really a CIA spy, a Mata Hari figure meant to take down one of the government's greatest counterculture nuisances? Or was she a lost, naive girl looking for the ride of a lifetime? Leonard-Morgan (no stranger to this podcast; we talked to him earlier this year about Amazon's Tales from the Loop) weaves an intricate blend of synths, driving strings, and percussion through Morris' kaleidoscopic, montage-heavy approach to Harcourt-Smith's story. Luckily, we managed to catch him in the final weeks of preparing the score to talk to us about working with Morris, the engaging mysteries of the film's subject, and the logistical complexities about recording live music during a global pandemic. Listen to our interview with Paul Leonard-Morgan, as well as an exclusive piano rendition of the film's main theme.
42 min 42 sec
The Nest, which marks filmmaker Sean Durkin's second feature film, his first since 2011's Martha Marcy May Marlene, sees him operating in the same sophisticated, glitteringly fragile mode as his debut. Charting the deterioration of a family in the 1980s after their fast-talking patriarch (a rivetingly brittle Jude Law) moves them to London to chase opportunity, The Nest soaks its characters -- particularly Carrie Coon as Law's anxious, suffocated wife -- in the ominous atmosphere of the cavernous Surrey estate Law buys for them to live in. It's far too big for the family of four, and its looming spaces threaten to swallow them whole. For Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry, it's his first feature film score to date. But he and Durkin collaborate on an airy, lounge-y sound that fills the corners of that huge, empty house and the status-saving parties our characters soak themselves in. Double bass collides with dissonant strings, crashing piano chords, and cymbals to create a sound that's not unlike the feeling of losing yourself in a fancy party you realize far too late you weren't invited to. For the podcast, The Spool sits down with both Durkin and Parry to chronicle the beginning of their collaboration, finding the scratchy little nooks and crannies of The Nest's world, and trying to encapsulate the anxieties of its central characters through music. (Plus, you'll hear a snippet from the film's score.)
33 min 35 sec
How do you put the urgency of the climate crisis to music? For Nathan Grossman's documentary I Am Greta (now available on Hulu), an intimate look at teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, composers Rebekka Karijord and Jon Ekstrand were inspired to take some less-than-traditional routes. Rather than creating something melodic and passionate, the two drew on their own backgrounds with experimental compositions and sound design. As a result, they crafted a driving, atmospheric score that not only cuts to the looming specter of climate change, but to the specificity and focus of Greta's unique mind. String arpeggios loop around the action like the thoughts swimming around Greta's head, while Karijord's 'voice organ' (an instrument she crafted herself from the sampled voices of dozens of male, female, and non-binary singers from around the globe) connects her struggle to the natural world she's trying to protect for herself and her generation. There's a sense of melancholy tinged with noble purpose in the score, bured in the mix of echoing synths and pizzacatto strings, layered throughout with the almost percussive 'oohs' and 'ahhs' of the voice organ. It feels like we're thrown into the always-racing mind of Thunberg, while also feeling the ticking time bomb of our environment quickly running out. It's effective, evocative scoring, which elevates the film beyond the perfunctory auspices of a lot of issue docs of its type. Listen to hear our interview with Karijord and Ekstrand on crafting the unique sound of I Am Greta, from the unique instruments they used to the way their collaboration has grown over several projects together. We also dig into one of the film's most important cues, "Fridays for Future," and how it became one of the most important tracks for locking down the ethereal, atmospheric tone of the score. (Note: this interview was recorded during that tetchy, uncertain week of the presidential election in nearly November, so keep that in mind when that subject comes up.)
32 min 1 sec
One of the best, strangest shows of the last few years was Lodge 49, a curious, sleepy, fascinating show that ran for two seasons on AMC until it was canceled in 2019. Created by author Jim Gavin, it followed a down on his luck Californian named Dud (played by Wyatt Russell) who mourns the death of his father and ends up finding a new sense of purpose in the membership of a fraternal organization called the Order of the Lynx. There, he finds all manner of colorful characters, all of whom are trying to find their way in a world of philosophical and financial uncertainty. It's a deeply strange show, that's frankly almost impossible to describe accurately -- think of it as a mix between Cheers and a Thomas Pynchon novel. There's a lightness and a melancholy to it, aided of course by the show's soundtrack, a groovy yet introspective mix of psychedelic and surf rock befitting the show's Long Beach setting. In between tracks curated by music supervisor and longtime music journalist Tom Patterson, the score (including its dreamlike theme) was crafted by LA-based musician Andrew Carroll of The Lonely Wild. He's a folk/country-rock guy in a similar stripe to Patterson's '60s-tinged soundtrack; his cues accompany these tracks wonderfully and lend the show a feeling of unexpected intimacy and grandeur. While it's been almost two years since Lodge 49's cancellation, it still lingers in the blood, and Carroll used that inspiration to craft a new EP out today, called You Are Here. A three-track blend of psychedelic rock and modern influences, it's a curiously fitting match to the times we're living in, from the isolation of "Vitamin C" to the dreamlike instrumentals of "Hackers in Love". To commemorate the EP's release, I sat down with Carroll to talk about the EP, collaborating with saxophone maestro Sam Gendel, and get some insight into his short-lived, but indelible work on Lodge 49. And in the process, I got him to break down one of the tracks he composed for the show, as well as offer us exclusive acoustic versions of the Lodge 49 theme and the song "Here/Now" from You Are Here. You can also purchase the EP from Carroll directly through his Bandcamp page here.
37 min 47 sec
For up-and-coming NY-based composer Jay Wadley, landing the composer gig for the latest from Charlie Kaufman, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, was a dream come true. It's the latest in a string of darlings he's lent his delicate, idiosyncratic work to in the last couple of years, from the plaintive piano of Andrew Ahn's thoughtful Driveways to award-winning Sundance darling I Carry You With Me. But decoding Kaufman's adaptation of Iain Reid's novel, a twisty, meditative tale on loss, memory, and the strangeness of relationships centered around a young woman (Jessie Buckley), her blinkered boyfriend (Jesse Plemons), and his batty parents (David Thewlis and Toni Collette), was no easy task. It required Wadley to put on many different stylistic hats, from crafting a Dairy Queen-like jingle that makes for one of the film's most macabre earworms, to scoring a seven-minute "dream ballet" that puts the music front and center. It's work that neatly slides into Kaufman's navel-gazing sensibilities, as chameleonic as it is deeply literary. Much like its characters, Wadley's score evokes familiar rhythms just enough to make you grasp for where you recognize it, flitting between genre and mood with the same kind of nightmare logic in which Kaufman's script revels. We spoke to Wadley about the challenge of scoring such a head-scratcher of a film, as well as the hard-scrabble work of making your own opportunities in the composing world (he, along with previous guest Trevor Gureckis, run the NY-based composing and sound production firm Found Objects). Plus, hear an exclusive performance of a cue from the film's score!
53 min 14 sec
Brooklyn-born artist Tamar-kali is relatively new to the composer scene -- her first feature-length score was her sparse, chamber-infused work on 2017's Mudbound -- but she's spent years before that as a vocalist, Afropunk musician, and composer for projects like the Psychochamber Ensemble and her own five-piece alt-rock group. Her sounds are ambitious, startling, and unexpected, leaning into the sparseness of voice and piano and string in ways that seem to creep into the psyches of her lonely, isolated characters. Josephine Decker's Shirley is no exception; a fictionalized snapshot of the life of American horror writer Shirley Jackson (a fuming, righteously angry Elisabeth Moss), Decker's film peers into her struggles with mental illness, agoraphobia, and the tricky tightrope of female genius in a male-dominated world that both celebrates and patronizes her. Tamar-kali's score is a perfect accompaniment to Decker's camera, yearning vocals brushing against pizzicato strings and lilting piano. It's beautiful and haunting at the same time, and traps you in Jackson's mind just as Jackson traps herself in her home. Shirley received a very positive notice from us at Sundance, and now that the film is available in virtual theaters and on Hulu, we sat down with Tamar-kali to talk about the film, working with Josephine Decker, her long-standing collaboration with Dee Rees, and her other ambitious projects on the horizon. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)
31 min 6 sec
You'll hardly meet a more ebullient man than Phil Rosenthal. He's got good reason to be happy: he's a multiple Emmy winner for creating, writing, and producing Everybody Loves Raymond, he's got a lovely family, and a Netflix show where he gets to run around the world trying new dishes and meeting new people. Somebody Feed Phil returns for its third season this weekend, featuring another five stops on Rosenthal's never-ending tour to eat everything on the planet. From Seoul, South Korea to Marrakesh to Chicago, it's a consistent delight to watch Rosenthal greet each new destination with a combination of wit, whimsy, and trepidation. Part of the joy of watching Phil go about his travels isn't just experiencing the sights and bites he does, but watching Phil throw himself into these new experiences with a trepidatious enthusiasm. "I'm like Anthony Bourdain," he told me once, describing his pitch of the show to Netflix, "but I'm afraid of everything." Granted, the world has changed quite a bit since the last time we saw Phil scarfing down exotic treats in far-flung locations. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed down much of the world, and the same restaurants and chefs he showcases are particularly hard-hit right now. And yet, as Phil explains in our interview, that might be the best reason of all to watch: in a time when we can't eat or go places, Phil can do it for us, and show us the world we can come back to once all the dust settles and we can return to some semblance of normal. Together, Phil and I talk about his relationship with food, how the pandemic is affecting the way we eat and order meals, and what his trip to Chicago revealed about The Spool's hometown. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)
30 min 47 sec
Amazon's Homecoming, based on the Gimlet Media podcast of the same name about a mysterious facility meant to rehabilitate combat veterans, but which carries its own secrets, was one of the most inventive and deeply strange TV series of 2018. Directed by Mr. Robot's Sam Esmail, the show was a twisty, timeline-hopping mystery carried musically by source tracks from noir thrillers like Vertigo and others; a compilation album in score form. Now Homecoming is back for a second season, which just dropped on Prime Video, and a lot has changed -- the script goes beyond the plot of the podcast source material, and star Julia Roberts is gone. Now, the tale of Homecoming and its labyrinthine plots are explored from a new angle -- a combat veteran (Janelle Monáe) who wakes up on a boat in the middle of a lake, with no memory of who she is or how she got there. In her search to recover herself, we find her connection to Homecoming and the company that's acquired it, headed by Chris Cooper as a reclusive billionaire. Returning cast members Stephan James and Hong Chau also return in expanded roles. The show is also different behind the camera -- Kyle Alvarez succeeds Esmail as director, and now the show sports a moody, spine-tingling original score courtesy of composer Emile Mosseri. A member of the indie rock band The Dig, he's branched out into film score composition in the last couple of years to stunning effect, from his score to The Last Black Man in San Francisco to his upcoming turns with Sundance favorites Kajillionaire and Minari. Now, with Homecoming, he has the added challenge of emulating the film noir inspirations of season 1 while making the score his own. The results are fascinating, both highly indebted to the sourced tracks of the first season while also finding eerie new corners for the show's universe to musically inhabit. We sat down with Mosseri to talk about these things and more, and even get him to play a cue from the Homecoming score ("Calico") for us. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)
30 min 2 sec
A futuristic park that simulates the Old West with human-like robot characters. A 1001-car-long bullet train that speeds perpetually along the remnants of a frozen Earth. These are the worlds of two of TV's most high-concept series to date, HBO's Westworld and TNT's Snowpiercer. Both adaptations of out-there science fiction films -- the former from Michael Crichton, the latter from Bong Joon-ho -- the challenge of adapting them to screen is still vast, even in the big-budget world of Peak TV. And yet, cinematographer John Grillo has worked on both, spearheading the visual look for Westworld's second and third seasons and acting as lead cinematographer for Snowpiercer, which itself took a long, rocky track to release. Grillo's work differs greatly in approach for each of these disparate sci-fi worlds: Westworld is vast and sprawling, contrasting the open plains of the Old West for futurist minimalism in its robot cowboy-less third season; Snowpiercer, meanwhile, is all cramped train cars and mining social drama out of the intricately-designed cars that make up its central setting. Each car is a different world, from the prison-like barracks of the tail to the neon-soaked bacchanal of the Night Car. The Spool sat down with Grillo to talk about the logistical challenges of shooting for TV, the ways both shows have had to change and grow to fit their specific tonal briefs, and whether he might like to take a break from robot revolutions and futuristic class metaphors for a simple, straightforward psychological drama. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Cards Against Humanity for sponsoring this episode!)
33 min 48 sec
Since we've been stuck inside for so long, I've longed for the open plains of the Western. Luckily, Kino Lorber's got our back; this year marks the twentieth anniversary of Nancy Kelly's sumptuous film Thousand Pieces of Gold, which they're celebrating with a remarkable 4K restoration, courtesy of IndieCollect, which you can find on their virtual screening service Kino Marquee. Critically acclaimed at the time but eventually lost to the annals of history, there's no better time to revisit it. Based on the novel of the same name by Ruthanne Lum McCunn, Kelly's Western tells the story of Lalu, played by Rosalind Chao long before she'd make waves with films like The Joy Luck Club and her extended stint on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. She's a young Chinese woman in the 19th-century who finds herself sold to a Chinese man who runs a brothel in a small Idaho mining town. Far from accepting her fate as a prostitute, though, Lalu finds ways to assert agency and free will in a world that is especially hostile to women, Chinese women especially. It's wild to watch this in 2020, in a world more openly aware of the misdeeds perpetrated against women, and especially women of color, and see the ways Kelly's sensitive lens handles the deep, theatrical nuances of Lalu's story. It's an especially wonderful early star turn for Chao, demonstrating remarkable strength and vulnerability as a woman forced to make something of herself. I've been a fan of Chao for years, and when it came time to cover Kino Lorber's restoration of this film, I leapt at the chance to talk to her. Now, for those who don't know, I co-host a Twitch livestream series for Consequence of Sound called COVID-EODROME, which you can find on COS's Twitch channel. A week or two back, my colleague Scout Tafoya and I were lucky enough to talk to the cast and crew of Thousand Pieces of Gold -- in addition to Chao, we spoke to her co-star Chris Cooper, director Nancy Kelly and editor/producer partner Kenji Yamamoto. But on top of that, I got the chance to speak to the lovely Rosalind Chao one-on-one for this show. Together we discuss her work on this film, the immense struggles she had as a young actress early in her career, and the ways her work has blossomed since then. And yes, we spare a little time to talk about Star Trek, too. Take a listen. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Cards Against Humanity for sponsoring this episode!)
40 min 24 sec
One of the strange new things about our post-COVID world, especially int he realm of entertainment, is that the demise, however hopefully temporary, of the movie theaters has evened the playing field somewhat -- blockbusters have to compete with small indies and genre movies on the VOD and streaming gridiron, which is exciting in its own way. Now, intimate gems like Andrew Ahn's Driveways have an incredible chance to be seen by others who might not otherwise give it a look. But it's well worth it; it might be one of the best films of the year to date. The second film from director Andrew Ahn, who made waves at Sundance in 2016 with his debut Spa Night, Driveways follows Kathy, played by Hong Chau, a single mother who brings her eight-year-old son Cody (played by Lucas Jaye) to upstate New York to help her clean and sell her late sister's house. When she gets there, though, she finds a whole hidden life her estranged sister kept from her -- a scrambled mess of hoarded boxes and loneliness. But as she works to understand her sister from beyond the grave in ways she didn't in life, she and Cody forge a surprisingly sweet relationship with the Korean war vet next door, played by Brian Dennehy in one of his very last screen roles. Ahn has a beautiful command of his camera and the tight-knit ensemble he's created. Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen's screenplay tells a beautiful story about the connections we have with each other, however tenuous, and the ways they can grow and drift with the passage of time. Chau and Jaye turn in wonderful work, the former is her lustrous, pained usual self, and Jaye is a remarkably sensitive young actor who puts in impeccable work. But the specter of Dennehy's passing lends this, his final major performance, an aching level of poignancy, a man who'd seen the world and was just beginning to recognize he was at the end of it. I got to speak to Andrew Ahn about working on Driveways, the adjustments you make as a sophomore filmmaker, and working with the late, great Brian Dennehy.
30 min 26 sec
While composer Michael Abels was awarded "Discovery of the Year" at the 2019 World Soundtrack Awards for his eerie, minimalist score for Jordan Peele's Us, he's hardly a fresh-faced up and comer. Before transitioning into film scoring, Abels was already an acclaimed orchestral and concert composer, having composed symphonies, ballets and operas for orchestras across the country. This history with classical music seemingly clashes with his unexpected, experimental work on the films of Jordan Peele, but in Cory Finley's Bad Education (premiering today on HBO), it allows him to return to a very familiar wheelhouse. Based on the true story of the largest fraud case in American public school history, Bad Education centers on the superintendent of a prestigious public school in upstate New York (a charming, complex Hugh Jackman), and the complex web of deceit, hidden desires, and lies resting just beneath the surface of his quest for excellence. Abels' score is lush, intimate, and reflective of Finley's uniquely arch approach to the material -- baroque, string-heavy requiems for forbidden love ("Eye Contact") clash with concert-band bombast that reflects Roslyn High School's razor-thin veneer of academic prestige ("Ave Noster Redemptor"). For Abels, it was a return to familiar forms, and he even mined his own history as an educator for inspiration. For The Spool, Abels sat down with us to talk about his score for Bad Education, how he gets into the mindset of the characters he scores for, and the complex dynamics of being a mixed-race composer in heavily white environments. He also talks us through the process behind crafting one of the score's cues, "Eye Contact", while performing it on the piano for us. You can listen to the full podcast above, and below listen to Abels' full score for Bad Education on Spotify (including the tracks he plays in the episode, "Eye Contact" and "Eye Contact -- Appassionato Alternate"). (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)
36 min 2 sec
Hulu's intense, melodramatic miniseries Little Fires Everywhere aired its finale earlier this week, capping off the intense tale of the Richardson family (led by an impulsive, blinkered matriarch played to a terrifying tee by Reese Witherspoon) and the ways they intersect with the impoverished Warren family (including a powerful Kerry Washington) in the sleepy suburb of Shaker Heights in the '90s. There were confessions, screaming matches, and Witherspoon delivering one of television's greatest shrieks. Based on the novel by Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere feels very much in tune with the kind of intense family dramas we can expect of this era of prestige TV -- slick, intense, and emotionally complex. Elena and Mia's battle of wills crosses lines of wealth, race, and privilege, creating a nasty little war amid the ostensible bliss of suburbia. But underpinning all of the difficult racial and class dynamics on which the drama hangs is its score, a novel collaboration between veteran film composer Mark Isham and Florence and the Machine keyboardist Isabella Summers. Between its main title tune (a baroque combination of crashing percussion, driving strings and a chutes-and-ladders piano riff underpinning it) and the tailor-made covers of '90s songs sung by up and coming vocalists handpicked by Summers, it's a surprising sonic landscape that pulls the viewer into the emotional reality of the show's gripping histrionics. Isham and Summers sat down with The Spool to chat about their collaboration on Little Fires Everywhere, the long and winding road to finding the show's sound, and how two musicians with backgrounds in pop music found a singular groove of their own. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)
30 min 56 sec
Just last month, in the early stages of America's encounter with the coronavirus, Chinese-American actor Tzi Ma had a haunting encounter in his neighborhood grocery store: someone shouted "you should be quarantined" from a passing car. It was a shocking example of anti-Asian bigotry that drove him to spearhead a social media campaign called #WashtheHate, in which Ma and other Asian-American actors and celebrities spoke out against prejudice and discrimination towards Asians and Asian-Americans. But of course, Ma is more often (and rightly) recognized for his decades of work as an accomplished character actor, from films like Dante's Peak and Rush Hour in the '90s to his recent boom of work in the 2010s and beyond in Arrival and The Farewell. In writer-director Alan Yang's Netflix drama Tigertail, Ma gets one of his most robust and complicated roles to date: Pin-Jui, a Taiwanese-American man and first-generation immigrant looking back on a life of sacrifice and dreams deferred. On the day Tigertail premieres on Netflix, I sit down with Ma to talk about the film, the responsibility of embodying an analogue for the filmmaker's own father, the complexities of "Facebook acting", and the importance of tolerance and community amid the isolation and division of coronavirus. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)
30 min 37 sec
Paul Leonard-Morgan is no stranger to composing for science fiction, lending a propulsive, industrial wall of sound to films like Limitless and Dredd, as well as video games like the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077. But with Amazon Prime Video's latest anthology series Tales from the Loop, he's in a milder, more contemplative mode -- delicate, thoughtful, and endearingly beautiful. Based on the 'suburban sci-fi' artwork of Swedish illustrator Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop tells the story of a sleepy, timeless town, under which lies 'the Loop', an research facility overseen by a mysterious institute conducting experiments on the nature of the universe. Along the way, the residents of the town feel its curious effects -- time loops, alternate universes, and the like -- and discover new things about themselves along the way. Closer to something like Arrival than Stranger Things, Tales from the Loop eschews bombast for something more akin to a tone poem. Episodes are slow, deliberate, heavily fueled by dusky visuals and restrained performances by the likes of Jonathan Pryce, Rebecca Hall and Paul Schneider, most of whom flit in and out of the episodes as we see the disparate ways the Loop's experiments reveal new things about these decidedly ordinary people. And underpinning this all is the score, a collaboration between Leonard-Morgan and the legendary Philip Glass that coats each stolen glance and mournful experiment with minimalist, arpeggio-laden wonder. Tales from the Loop is all about its atmosphere, and Glass and Leonard-Morgan's score mines a graceful elegance from the interdimensional magic surrounding Mercer, Ohio's denizens. In anticipation of the show's release, The Spool sat down with Leonard-Morgan to talk about Tales from the Loop's bittersweet magic, working with Philip Glass, and the ways the isolation that comes from our current historical moment is changing the ways composers and musicians collaborate with each other remotely.
27 min 51 sec
It's hard to find a more prolific genre TV composer than Jeff Russo. The guitarist-turned-composer has made quite a splash in the last five years, chiefly as Noah Hawley's go-to guy for eerie, experimental scores for shows like Fargo and Legion. But he's also cut his teeth on sci-fi prestige shows like Altered Carbon and thrillers like Counterpart and The Night Of. But one of his most unique challenges of late has been crafting the musical voice for CBS All Access's revitalized vision for the Star Trek franchise, with two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery and now Star Trek: Picard under his belt. While there are moments of bombast and melodicism to be found in the music of both shows (akin to the series' tradition from composers like Jerry Goldsmith and Michael Giacchino), Russo's approach for both series is often moodier, more contemplative. Just one listen to Picard's opening theme gives you an idea of how much more gentle and intimate his sound can be. In the wake of Picard's first season finale, The Spool sat down for a podcast interview with Russo to discuss his approach to scoring Trek's new series, juggling so many projects at once, and the responsibilities that come from being a part of a decades-long musical legacy. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)
23 min 22 sec
When Emily Ting was in her twenties, she returned to her father's toy factory in China to help out with the family business. Not only was it a formative experience for Ting herself, it formed the basis for her second narrative feature, Go Back to China, which is currently playing in limited release (and, if you're in Chicago, is playing at Facets Cinematheque this weekend). The tale of a spoiled fashion school graduate (YouTuber Anna Akana) forced to return home to work at her father's (Richard Ng) toy company, Go Back to China is a slight, but extremely warm-hearted and incisive look at the cultural rifts between Chinese and American culture, and of the conflicting bonds of family and responsibility. Fitting with her personal connection to the material, Ting's approach is intimate and approachable, never veering outside the confines of artifice. She, with the help of winning performances from Akana and Ng (as well as Lynn Chen as the family's put-upon sister), maintains a laser focus on her characters' idiosyncrasies and the bone-deep resentments that they have to reconcile. Leading up to the film's wider release, I sat down with Ting to talk about the ways Go Back to China dovetails with her personal life, the challenges that come with directing a second feature, and the strides Asian-American cinema has been making in the past few years. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)
38 min 3 sec
This Valentine's Day, it's important to remember that love can take many forms -- romantic, platonic, sexual, familial. The best love stories are tales of struggle, of people fighting for (and, in the non-sad ones) earning their partner's affection, regardless of the social and cultural barriers placed before them. It's been gratifying to see Céline Sciamma's exquisite lesbian romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire bandied about as the ultimate date movie for this romantic weekend; more people, in my humble opinion, should watch good movies, and Portrait is certainly one of those. But Portrait star Noémie Merlant has another unconventional love story to show us, as festivalgoers discovered at this year's Sundance Film Festival: Zoé Wittock's droll, darkly comic romance Jumbo. Here, Merlant plays Jeanne, an emotionally-stunted adult woman living a life of isolation and loneliness with her outgoing, divorced mother (Emmanuelle Bercot). She's withdrawn, strange, and finds little kinship with others. But love strikes her in the most unconventional ways (as it is often wont to do): in the form of the latest attraction at the amusement park where she works, an enormous tilt-a-whirl called "Move it!", which she affectionately calls Jumbo. Crafting a romance between a woman and an amusement park ride is no small feat, especially within the auspices of an otherwise genre-typical European dark comedy. But one of Jumbo's joys is watching the way Wittock and cinematographer Thomas Buelens bring the titular attraction to life -- a staggering combination of dynamic, programmable lighting in conjunction with sound design and Merlant's performance. Not only that, the divide between the straightforward confines of Jeanne's everyday world and the bold, presentational surrealism of her erotic fantasies with Jumbo was a bold stylistic and logistical feat, evoking the strangeness of Under the Skin as imposed onto a Quentin Dupieux-esque anti-comedy. Shortly after Sundance, I got the chance to sit down with Buelens to talk about the process behind crafting Jumbo's gargantuan love interest, his perspective behind the camera, and threading the needle between domestic comedy and full-on mechanical sex dreams. Take a listen! (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Snake People for sponsoring this episode!)
26 min 21 sec
There's something primal and primordial about the physical activity of dance and its ability to express passions and emotions words can't properly encapsulate; as Leonard Cohen once sang, "dance me to the end of love." In Levan Akin's stunning And Then We Danced, dance becomes the conduit for a forbidden love between a young dancer named Merab (a rousing, expressive breakout from Levan Gelbakhiani) and his mysterious, rebellious rival Irakli (Bachi Vilishvili). A touching, layered tale of queer love amidst the restrictive traditions of Georgian culture, it's one of the best films of last year, chiefly due to Akin's deft directorial hand and the loose, cinema verite approach to capturing the little details of Merab's world of dance. After spending more than a year spinning around the festival circuit -- it premiered to a rousing response at Cannes, and has made its way through OUTshine, Chicago International Film Fest and even this year's Sundance -- And Then We Danced is finally coming to wider release. It premiered last weekend in NY and LA, and is hitting Chicago's Music Box Theatre on Valentine's Day (Music Box Films has picked up the film for distribution). The Spool sat down for a lovely chat with writer/director Levan Akin about the film's origins, Akin's desire to open up the world (and Georgian culture in particular) to a greater tolerance of LGBTQ+ people, and the protests and secrecy that have hounded this film in its home country around its release. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)
28 min 42 sec
Child stars can often have a rough road in their early roles, especially if they're 'the kid' of the film, surrounded by adults and thrown into the daunting challenges of a film set. For Milan Ray, co-star of the Amazon Original Movie Troop Zero, having a group of other kids on set helped. As Hell-No Price, the headstrong bully-turned-best-friend of McKenna Grace's dreamer Christmas in Bert & Bertie's quirky kid dramedy, Ray has the unenviable task of putting forth a strong, boisterous personality while also allowing for key moments of vulnerability. Drenched in the sun-soaked affectations of 1970s Georgia (period outfits and Southern vernacular and all), Troop Zero gives its young stars plenty of whimsy to work from, and Ray is a particular highlight. Prior to this year's Sundance Film Festival, I caught up with Milan while she was in Chicago attending a screening of Troop Zero to talk about her life at the beginning of your career, her then-upcoming Sundance premiere of Charm City Kings, and what it'd be like if she got to fulfill Hell-No's goal of recording a message to send into the cosmos. (More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)
14 min 46 sec