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Golden Cages 2020: Best Score

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2020 is finally over but before we send it off to the trash heap it deserves to be in, it’s time for the third annual Golden Cages, Flixist’s extremely coveted prize! Each year the Flixist staff gets together to vote on the best and worst films of the year and gives you lovely readers our true and honest thoughts. Plus since there are no other awards shows this winter (suck it Academy!) we’re now the de facto voice of truth in the film industry. So read on dear viewer and see which films win our lovely little award!

It’s a fair bet to say that the score to Soul would be a top contender solely based on the names of the duo who cultivated it. In the world of cinema, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have a reputation of going above and beyond (or in the case, Before) and taking home statuettes along the way.

However, this time around the duo of Reznor and Ross don’t claim the honors as just their own. In a film centered around jazz, musician extraordinaire Jon Batiste provided the film’s trilly notes that mirrored the story of Joe Gardner as he reflects on his life and comes to terms with his dreams versus reality. Much like the music he was born to play, Joe’s life took improvisational turns, especially when he took a mistimed step into a manhole and entered the Great Before.

If the plot is the narrative, the music is the emotion. The most notable instance of this comes when Joe is alone at his piano after a moment he’s been waiting his whole life for. He pulls out souvenirs from the day–a seed from a tree, half a bagel, some thread, a lollipop, and a pizza crust–and puts aside the written music in front of him, spreading out these tokens of joy that previously seemed so mundane. The slow piano recreates not only the story of the day but of Joe’s entire life with a building resonance that leads to his ultimate epiphany.

Reznor and Ross are known for their experimentation in the studio, so to create a relatable aural for a world never before visited (it’s not heaven, it’s not hell) required some additional exploration that lands wonderfully with the story. The film’s excellent depiction of fast-paced city life mixed with a slower tempo pre-life creates boundaries in sound as much as the film does visually. Batiste’s ingenuity travels apace with Joe’s often hurried demeanor, while spectral sounds hit perfect synch with the otherworldly realm Joe finds himself in throughout the film. For this wonderful blend of sound, Soul earns our Golden Cage for “Best Score” of 2020.