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Justin Hurwitz's FIRST MAN (2018)

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I'm looking forward to this one, score and even film. It might be the rare movie I go to see in theatres. Regardless of historical accuracy and story, I love Chazelle's camera work and style, so I know it's going to be a beaut to watch even if I don't enjoy it otherwise.

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7 hours ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

I'm looking forward to this one, score and even film. It might be the rare movie I go to see in theatres. Regardless of historical accuracy and story, I love Chazelle's camera work and style, so I know it's going to be a beaut to watch even if I don't enjoy it otherwise.

It got two thumbs up from Neil Armstrong's kids who especially pointed out the portrayal of mom and their family life.  Everyone accepts there will be dramatic license taken so think of it as broad brush strokes rather than history.  I'll reserve judgement till I see it but expect creative license.  I am told from people who have seen it you must see it in a big theater, preferably IMAX.

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My first question since I saw how many cues there was on the OST, yet it's only an hour...how much music is exactly missing / unreleased? I mean it's a 2 and a half hour film (almost) surely there is bound to be some great missing cues. I wonder why the release is so short..I thought it was going to be well over 2 discs based off the track-listing alone lol.

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I do believe the film is well researched.  Doesn't mean it's accurate but again we shouldn't expect accuracy but rather a good depiction of the tone, mood,and feel.  I believe Normandy vets felt Spielberg nailed the "feel" of Normandy but none of those characters actually existed.  They were an amalgamation of the type of people there.  I am sure some historian said "but it's inaccurate in its portrayal of the invasion because the people and backstory never happened".  It is generally considered one of the best depictions of what it was like for those of us who have no ability to comprehend it. 

 

I'm on a few hardcore space history enthusiast forums and many members were participants of the events and some loathe The Right Stuff because of its lose handling of history.  One in particular was John Glenn who told Jim Lovell while Apollo 13 was being made, "I hope they don't fuck up your movie as much as they did mine".  But "The Right Stuff" is probably the best film about the space race and nails that time and place, characters (with broad brush strokes), situations AND takes great liberties in its history.  What most found offensive is its portrayal of Gus Grissom which is totally fabricated for dramatic effect.  There was never a hearing where he was questioned and leaves demoralized as the suits say "we've tested these hatches under every circumstance and they never just blow".  This series of events is completely fabricated and unfair to Grissom who was a true hero and very respected astronaut. 

 

I've watched the actual Mercury 7 introduction which the film portrays as a bunch of bumbling fools and then John Glenn as the clearly dominant statesman.  The reality is they were all very poised with Glenn having a slight edge for the spotlight.  So the film exaggerated the event for dramatic purposes. I don't have a problem with that because I see that as a broad stroke portrait of 7 very different complex individuals as if the story teller only has one minute to convey time and personality within one scene. Read Michael Collins book "Carrying the Fire" if you are a humongous fan of the early space age.  He actually gives brief personalty summaries of all the living astronauts when he wrote the book (I think in 1974) and they are vivid glimpses into these people far from the specifics in The Right Stuff, but that film gets the overall tone right.  I anticipate the same in "First Man".   You get a sense for Mike Collins' personality from this book and here is an excerpt.  So I'll be more interested did they portray the person right rather than did he do or say that.

 

Michael Collins' assessment of unique astronaut qualities (for astronauts still alive when he wrote Carrying the Fire)...

Scott Carpenter: A nice guy, but kind of out of it. Left the program early when it became obvious that his one Mercury flight was all he was going to get. Got hooked on underwater exploration, later got into the wasp-breeding business (yes, wasp-breeding).

Wally Schirra: Oh ho ho! Could make a good living playing Santa Claus in a department store. This affability is backed up by a larger-than-life ego, but you have to admit that he is the only one to fly on all three in the series-Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. His Apollo flight was especially gutsy, coming after a fatal fire, but then the spacecraft wouldn't dare blow up with Wally on board.

Deke Slayton: The super straight shooter, honest, nononsense–grounded by the medics in an absurd auto-da-fé involving irregular heartbeats. Should have flown to the moon and back many times over by now, but has not gotten past his Houston desk, where he presides over all the astronauts and a lot of the engineers–and the program is better for it. The best boss I ever had, with the possible exception of William P. Rogers.

John Glenn: The only one I don't really know, as he was leaving as I was entering. One thing for sure, though, he's the best PR man in the bunch.

Gordo Cooper: Kind of went downhill. Flew well on Mercury, not a bad job on Gemini 5, but Apollo seemed too much.

Al Shepard: "Big Al," and big in many ways. Shrewdest of the bunch, the only one to get rich in the program, he ran the astronaut office as merely one part of his far-flung empire. No teddy bear, Al can put down friend or foe alike with searing stare and caustic comment.

Frank Borman: Aggressive, capable, makes decisions faster than anyone I have ever met--with an amazingly good batting average,· which would be even better if he slowed down a bit. Attracted to money and power, in the long run Frank will probably be the most successful of the group, not counting Neil, who will, of course, occupy a special place in history.

Jim McDivitt: One of the best. Smart, pleasant, gregarious, hard-working, religious. Thought by some to run a little scared, his thoroughness was legendary.

Pete Conrad: Funny, noisy, colorful, cool, competent; snazzy dresser, race-car driver. One of the few who lives up to the image. Should play Pete Conrad in a Pete Conrad movie.

John Young: Mysterious. The epitome of the non-hero, with a country boy's "aw shucks-t'ain't nothing" demeanor, which masks a delightful wit and a keen engineer's mind.

Neil Armstrong: Makes decisions slowly and well. As Borman gulps decisions, Armstrong savors them--rolling them around on his tongue like a fine wine and swallowing at the very last moment. (He had twenty seconds of fuel remaining when he landed on the moon.) Neil is a classy guy, and I can't offhand think of a better choice to be first man on the moon.

Jim Lovell: Like his good friend Pete Conrad (who inflicted the horrendous nickname of "Shaky" on him), he stands out in a crowd. A smooth operator, Shaky would do better in the PR world than in the engineering or technical end of things.

Tom Stafford: Fantastic memory and eye for technical facts and figures; does less well with people. Politically ambitious, Oklahoman Tom projects the image of a schoolteacher, rather than the professional pilot he is, or the romantic entrepreneur he would like to be.

Donn Eisele: Who? Lost in Wally Schirra's shadow on Apollo 7, Donn in 1972 became Peace Corps director in Thailand.

Mike Collins: O.K. if you're looking for a handball game, but otherwise nothing special. Lazy (in this group of overachievers, at least), frequently ineffectual, detached, waits for happenings instead of causing them. Balances this with generally good judgment and a broader point of view than most.

Buzz Aldrin: Heavy, man, heavy. Would make a champion chess player; always thinks several moves ahead. If you don't understand what Buzz is talking about today, you will tomorrow or the next day. Fame has not worn well on Buzz. I think he resents not being first on the moon more than he appreciates being second.

Rusty Schweickart: A blithe spirit, eager, inquisitive mind, quick with a cutting retort, not appreciated by the "old heads." Mildly non-conformist, with a wide range of interests, contrasting sharply with the blinders-on preoccupation shown by many astronauts.

Dave Scott: A Jack Armstrong, all-American boy, the last one you would expect to get involved in a shady stamps-for-sale deal, Dave should instead be remembered for his three stellar performances aboard Gemini 8, Apollo 9, and Apollo 15. One of the best.

Gene Ceman: Relaxed, jovial, a pleasant companion. After Scott, the second in our group of fourteen to make three flights, two of them to the moon.

Dick Gordon: Lots of balance, lots of common sense-one of the easiest to get along with. Likes to party, but never at the expense of getting next day's job done. If the New Orleans Saints don't start doing better, I'll be surprised (he's their VP now).

Al Bean: Pleasant, persistent, relentless pursuit of required information-give him an office boy's desk and within a week he will know what the president of the company does. Very pleasant fellow to be around, especially if you like spaghetti, which is all he eats on a trip.

Bill Anders: Intense, energetic, dedicated, no drink, no smoke, no nonsense-used to be inflexible and a bit immature until he became executive secretary of the National Aeronautics and Space Council in Washington, a job that would teach anyone humility and flexibility. Bill is now one of the Atomic Energy commissioners.

Walt Cunningham: Outspoken, blunt, small chip on shoulder; strange mixture of Marine fighter pilot and Rand Corporation research scientist; a complex man alternating between genuine warmth and outright hostility.

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I saw this yesterday (in an IMAX press screening). Was disappointed, including the score. But one good thing about it is the sound design in all the test and flight and spaceship sequences, with the metallic machinery creaking and expanding and blowing a gasket at any moment. It was all very "cowboy" at the time. But make no mistake -- this is far from the level of an APOLLO 13 or THE RIGHT STUFF.

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6 hours ago, Lockdown said:

 

I couldn't resist doing this.

Good shout. Think I need to dig up as much documentary footage as I can to re-create the it as close as possible to the film

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I really enjoyed it but doesn't reveal Neil as a convincing character.  The performances were very good (as expected).  Trivia: what was the first food and drink ever consumed on the moon?

 

My review:

Spoiler

I don't think it captures the 1960's astronaut persona.  As I predicted, it is very well researched, full of very small details.  Aside from the technical precision of the rockets, I imagine they went to the original specifications to make these models down to the instrument panels.  Michael Collins book is quite lengthy 512 pages and it mentions he was a bit nervous as they loaded up the Eagle lunar lander talking too much while Neil was very focused on the next objective.  In his quiet way, Neil made it be known to calm down and I appreciated this small moment was in the film.  Buzz Aldrin was really not close to reality but this was anticipated being a very broad stroke version of the character.  Armstrong is humorless in this film which is not accurate.  Though he was stoic, reserved, and intensely private, there was clear comradery evident in the transcript (the entire Apollo 11 transcript is available along with all other missions on NASA's website and some of the exchanges are downright hilarious...Apollo 12's floating turd).  Obviously the film doesn't need to dwell on humor of the character, but it fails to feel close to who he really was.  All these guys were fighter pilots then test pilots.  They had emotions but didn't have time to let their emotions get the best of them.  I wish the moon sequence was longer, but that isn't really the point of the film, so that might bum space enthusiasts.  This is much more of a personal story of the cost to family and lives to achieve the first man on the moon.  Mike Collins makes it clear their was deep respect in the crew because they all had a very specific job and all were needed to successfully accomplish the mission.  Buzz sort of seemed like dead weight.  Again, this is a nitpick because this isn't Buzz's story.  They were excited to be on this mission and were competitive with each other in a positive way.  Neil was not that sad as the film portrays him.  Yes he was deeply grieved by the loss of Karen as any parent would be but this wasn't as all consuming as the film portrayed.  Neil was deeply respected by the Astronaut core.  They even respected the achievements of their adversaries, the Soviet cosmonauts. The sense of hyper realism doesn't bother me.  For example speed and intensity of Gemini 8 docking malfunction is far more aggressive than what actually happened.  Since it was the first successful doc in space they erred on the side of caution by mission abort. It was no gentle roll but this was a situation of a very skilled pilot who did not want to jeopardize the mission. The lunar landing sequence was intense in reality but if you saw the actual video compared to what's in the film, well the movie is hyper realism.  I think that is fine because this depiction isn't for astronauts or aviators but layman.

 

I thought the music was effective as was the sound design.  It will certainly get nominated for sound and special effects.  I am not sure if they launch sequence was original footage cleaned up or CGI/models. The liftoff was VERY loud and the music was a bit covered over but I still thought it was effective as was the moon sound design (silence). 

 

Overall, the moon landing story is too big for one film let alone 20 minutes.  This film made a valiant effort in portraying a small piece of who he was.  Those like me who wanted a more complete and enlightened view of those events will be disappointed in this film.  It is sort of like asking an astronaut, what was it like to go to the moon.  The responses are never satisfactory.  The film lacks a sense of joy that is very present in The Right Stuff and Apollo 13.  These guys LOVED flying.  There really wasn't any sense of this spirit in the film.  It is something hard to convey to anyone who isn't an aviator but The Right Stuff came closest.  Here is a personal example, when I was learning to fly as a kid I soloed very young.  It was absolutely terrifying to be flying alone at 16 years of age.  I swore if just landed safely I would never fly again.  The moment I landed I was more obsessed with going back up.  There were many close calls to come (I was in a spin - absolutely horrifying, electrical failure at night, window flying open during take off, severe wind shear while landing, landing a Cessna between two Boeing's, getting caught in IFR conditions, etc., etc., but in a foolish way only aviators would understand, once I landed, the bug was still there and I just couldn't wait to see a sunrise from 10,000 ft as pilot in command, or stick my head out of an aircraft at 10,000 at 2am where you are above 90% of the atmosphere and can see stars all the way down to the horizon, or what its like strafing a cumulonimbus cloud that reaches 50,000 feet and you are just a few hundred feet away.)  The first time I was in a stall, a panicked and grabbed the control stick. This could be lethal if it had happened a few hundred feet above ground like in a take off/landing situation.  I freaking hated stalls.  Basically the plane falls like a rock because it loses lift.  I had to practice stalls to the point I could remain calm even when the aircraft lost lift and was falling from the sky.  I literally did hundreds of stalls in a row getting to the point where you knew the feel of an approach stall and had disengaged emotion from physics to remain calm when in danger.  Now magnify this a thousand fold for a fighter pilot and a thousand fold for a test pilot.  Now you get a sense for this stoic under pressure attitude of Astronauts.   Understand that pilots revere those who are more experienced/skilled.  Neil Armstrong was elite before he was an astronaut.  He was an X-15 pilot and from a group of test pilots who were also fighter pilots, he was at the top. Everyone who did what he did revered him.  Mike Collins for example already knew who he was when both of them were selected as Gemini astronauts.  They all wanted to be number 1 pilot but they also had respect even for their adversaries.  Listen to haw Neil describes X-15 at 18:00 of the documentary I like below.  That was an absolute thrill for them.  He literally says "one of the highlights of my life" which the film portrays as a dark spot where he was grounded and nearly lost control.  Ok, so yes, drama!  But it would have been nice if he said "so when are we going up again?" after the rough landing which would have at least shown a glimmer of the man.

 

Anyway, none of this is conveyed in this film. I absolutely loved Damien Chazelle's Whiplash which I thought was a masterpiece.  He seems to understand obsessive personalities and people who pursue dreams at all costs.  In "First Man", I don't think he fully understood the character or the subject as well as he did in Whiplash.  Maybe that's ok because I am not the target audience so this approach might be a more humanistic way to present Neil for those who could never understand those like him.

 

This is the Apollo 11 pre launch press conference and the question about failure that is in the movie.  Notice how completely different the attitude and boyish charm of Armstrong is from the humorless Gosling performance but it is an extreme paraphrase.

 

 

You'll learn far more about the real Neil Armstrong from this documentary but it is hard to experience a moon landing any better than what Damien Chazelle showed.  I was disappointed they didn't nail the sound of a launch.  I experienced a launch at Kennedy Space Center and the you can hear the sky rip apart.  The sound was very loud but you didn't feel it inside your body.  It was the wrong sound.

 

He was not the obsessed man on verge of madness from an unquenchable grief the film portrays him as. 

 

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I saw the movie last night and I must say I was astonished, deeply moved, and very pleased at the film and score (at one point it had me in tears, a rousing moment in the film accompanied by the most beautiful melody I've ever heard). I'm still digesting it but what's for sure is that I love it. My full review and thoughts are on the way. I haven't listened to the album, but I believe I have that beautiful theme down on my electric organ, or at least the Jerry variation of it.

EDIT: I'm not sure if the video will work. Sorry if you cannot.

 

2:13 of The Landing I knew my life was complete.

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8 hours ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

2:13 of The Landing I knew my life was complete.

 

That was quite a scene with an explosive and nicely voiced G minor chord.  I think part of why it was so arresting is we hadn't heard big music yet.  Lots of intimate music and extremely loud sound design but no big music.  I thought this was the family theme since we hear it when the family is playing around in a beautiful cue called Armstrong cabin.  I remember thinking how lovely it was on joyful people before the terrifying rockets are shown.  Perhaps it is more of a karen theme so interesting to have it here on the first expansive shot of the lunar surface and a tiny fragile ship.  Did you see it in IMAX?  Looking forward to your detailed review and our subsequent discussion.

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15 hours ago, karelm said:

Did you see it in IMAX?  Looking forward to your detailed review and our subsequent discussion.

I was very disappointed. My theater was only showing it in regular, and I wasn't about to go drive another half hour. I am considering looking for the IMAX showing, as I hear great things about it. I loved the movie though. Review is in progress.

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1 minute ago, Steve McQueen said:

Heard this score yesterday.  Was suitably impressed.  Will elaborate in the Score Thread.

I highly recommend the movie. If there was one film you should pay to see in theatres this year it would be First Man. And if you liked the score (great riff used in the beginning half, stirring and often eerie theme) you will most certainly enjoy at least one particular scene of which I cannot even begin to praise. ;)

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I’ll probably try my hand at a playlist taking out all the ambient electronic-only cues. The problem there, however, is that the playlist wouldn’t have a proper beginning. I was thinking I’d move “Docking Waltz” out of sequence to the start. It has that feeling like it’s the opening of a symphony, and I think it is jarring mixed in with the moodier material where it is in the middle of the album. Additionally, I think it would work well to bookend the album with the more romantic sections of the score, ending with the landing cues, of course. 

 

 

Thoughts?

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2 hours ago, Taikomochi said:

I’ll probably try my hand at a playlist taking out all the ambient electronic-only cues. The problem there, however, is that the playlist wouldn’t have a proper beginning. I was thinking I’d move “Docking Waltz” out of sequence to the start. It has that feeling like it’s the opening of a symphony, and I think it is jarring mixed in with the moodier material where it is in the middle of the album. Additionally, I think it would work well to bookend the album with the more romantic sections of the score, ending with the landing cues, of course. 

 

 

Thoughts?

 

I liked your idea of having "Docking Waltz" at the start.  But I also generally didn't care much for chronological sequence except for the last few tracks.

 

This is my attempt at a short, sweet OST listening experience.  I was maybe a bit too brutal with my cuts, but it's a very nice half hour listening experience I must say.  I essentially think of "End Credits" as a nice summation of the NASA material.  I like introducing the grief theme with "I Oughta Be Getting Home." and introducing the main version of the ostinato with "The Armstrongs."

 

Personally I love the sequence of the last 5 tracks.  "Crater" and "Quarantine" are the perfect note to end on, rather than the bombast of "The Landing."

 

Screenshot 2018-11-16 at 9.43.59 PM.png

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image.png

 

Here's what I came up with.  I think this plays very well.  In addition to trimming the ambient cues, I moved Docking Waltz and End Credits to the front, like they were concert suites being put first.  I also trimmed most of the theme heard in End Credits outside that track because that theme doesn't really develop and feels redundant by the end.  End Credits gives it enough development in that one track that that is good enough.  I kept most all of the instances of that harp theme/motif, though.  Maybe that would seem redundant to some, but I think that gives the score its moody heart.  It plays well reinforced, and maintains a strong narrative

 

This clocks in right at 40 minutes.

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FM.PNG

My album.

 

I thought it best to open with the Docking Waltz, which has nice spacey feel to it, really opening the album perfectly. The waltz, of course, is the introduction of the theme. Houston and End Credits cover the material of the Houston part of the film, the first act space. The Armstrongs, Sextant, and Squawk Box are three more mellow cues in the middle that continue the themes' presence. I Oughta Be Getting Home is a precursor for the Launch. Everything thereafter is fairly the same, with a few tracks from the OST cut out. I considered sliding in the Lunar Rhapsody, but took it out at the last second.

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10 hours ago, publicist said:

Isn't it nice for a change that people arrange a good album instead of hollering for a complete score?

The First Man OST is pretty complete, almost too complete. It has a lot of "mechanical whirring", so these albums cut out the hum and get you humming!

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10 hours ago, publicist said:

Isn't it nice for a change that people arrange a good album instead of hollering for a complete score?

All depends on the OST release and the music!

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I hope Hurwitz will be getting more and more opportunities to grow and rise as a composer. He clearly loves to learn.

He is now the same age JW was in 1965 and already has a clean streak of very good scores. He can become anything.

 

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He's a big band composer, who write memorable tunes. I'm sure he'll find a good niche to thrive in. But let's take the foot off the pedal before we start conferring messiah titles. He's only scored two (three?) films after all.

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I'm almost more excited at the prospect of future films with more collaborations with Damien Chazelle, which are so far all wonderful. To see them both move up in their respective areas would be great, almost like the new Spielberg-Williams as in a successful director-composer pair. However, I would like to see Hurwitz score someone else film too, just to see what we get.

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It seems that relative industry outsiders are the best hopes at bringing something interesting to the scene nowadays.

 

I'm curious to see Chazelle challenged by more unfamiliar territory and see how his instincts develop.

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Give him the type of movies that Zimmer used to score till circa 2008-2009. Maybe he will destroy the Sith and bring balance to the force.

 

But yeah, #nohype. Hurwitz might end up like old (new) Zimmer, or like Gia.

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5 hours ago, KK said:

He's a big band composer, who write memorable tunes. I'm sure he'll find a good niche to thrive in. But let's take the foot off the pedal before we start conferring messiah titles. He's only scored two (three?) films after all.

How do you know he doesn't have far greater range and is just asked to do that big band thing over and over?

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I don't. I just know he's been largely writing that kind of music since his time at Harvard. That's why I'd be curious to hear him outside of that sound.

 

Though I think First Man at least provides some opportunity to demonstrate some of that range, don't you think? And when I hear something like the landing cue, I'm not entirely sure he succeeds.

 

And don't get me wrong, I like the guy and I very much look forward to what he does next.

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He's good but already outrageously overrated. But he's good.

 

Having heard La La Land and First Man - in their melodic constructs they are very similar - so I can't say melodically I have seen anything different from him yet. First Man is a space movie yes, but the main theme has such a sense of florid romanticism about it - it could easily have been another theme in La La Land which had a similarly syrupy florid romance theme. 

 

But he's a good composer.

 

EDIT: Just also want to point out the outrageous hypocrisy of all these navel gazing millennial film critics who would instantly massacre any melodic burst from Williams as old-fashioned and dated and celebrate the same from cool kids Chazelle and Hurwitz and listen to it over Vinyl while sipping their soy lattes.

 

There is such hypocrisy in film criticism when it comes to discussing film scores. Hypocrisy and a narrow-minded myopic ignorance. 

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1 hour ago, KK said:

I like the guy and I very much look forward to what he does next.

 

Yep.  Very early days for him.  Let's see how things develop.  Watch career great interest etc.

 

1 hour ago, TheUlyssesian said:

There is such hypocrisy in film criticism when it comes to discussing film scores. Hypocrisy and a narrow-minded myopic ignorance. 

 

I've seen you dish out your fair share of it.

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