The 2019 Golden Cages: Best Score


Another year of cinema has passed, which means it’s time for our second annual Golden Cages awards, the only end-of-the-year awards program featuring everyone’s favorite actor as a screaming statuette! Over the next two weeks leading up to the Academy Awards, we at Flixist will be announcing our winners across seventeen different categories for what we consider the best achievements in film in 2019. Why do we wait so long into the year to do this? Because we can! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the awards.

“Score” is here used as a bit of a nebulous term. How to broadly consider the sonic dreamscape to which a movie might take us, whether featuring the original work of a composer or an eclectic blend of pre-existing music? Flixist looked at the films whose soundtracks elevated their films most, transporting characters and audiences to a different place or time. And for the big award, Quentin Tarantino took us to 1969.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will garner fans as the years pass, I think. Tarantino has gone full Tarantino in his passionate homage to the medium he embodies; whereas something like, say, Kill Bill pays respect to spaghetti westerns and Hong Kong cinema, or Pulp Fiction to the hard-boiled noir of the late-’50s, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a love letter to the very act of making films–or creating anything, in a way. And to get us in the proper headspace, Tarantino uses his music.

There’s a bit of the expected and necessary, with José Feliciano’s “California Dreamin'” constituting an appropriately somber culmination for the characters of Hollywood, finishing another day under the often-deceptive sunshine. Meanwhile we catch the beginning of “Mrs. Robinson,” the ever-present Simon & Garfunkel song. But just before we get to that all-to-familiar melody Tarantino cuts, yanking us out of expectation.

But for all of the masterful use of music in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it doesn’t quite get better than the Stones. Upon Rick and Cliff’s return from their Italian/Spanish western shoots, Tarantino constructs a slow-motion-infused segment set to a terrific rendition of “Out of Time,” with the men returning to face, as the canny narration of Kurt Russell’s Randy notes, “the end of an era.” Meanwhile Sharon Tate, just next door, meets with friend Joanna Pettet, our own knowledge of the pending history that would tear her world apart. It’s an incredibly sad, bittersweet sequence made immortal by the expert use of music.

None of which is to highlight Tarantino’s clever and thematic use of radio ads, TV soundbites, off-screen movie bits and more in creating his tableau of sounds to accompany the many sites in Hollywood. For this, Best Score goes to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.