Saturday, February 13, 2016

My LAFCA Awards Presentation for Carter Burwell

I realized I had neglected to post this. At last month's Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards banquet, I had the pleasure of presenting the prize for Best Music Score to Carter Burwell for two films, Carol and Anomalisa. Sadly, Mr. Burwell couldn't be there to accept in person -- he was in New York that night at the opening of his wife's solo exhibition -- but I was very happy to give his award to the producers of Carol, who are (from left to right) Stephen Woolley, Elizabeth Karlsen and Christine Vachon. What I'm most proud about in this picture is that I refrained from gushing to Ms. Vachon about how much Safe means to me.

Anyway, here are the remarks I gave from the podium before presenting the award....
Carter Burwell has been a composer for more than 30 years, but in all that time, he really hasn’t scored many love stories. Working chiefly with the Coen brothers, he’s instead specialized in a kind of existential soundscape. You wouldn’t say that his scores are overtly emotional, but they do feel attuned to the mysteries and the richness of life. His music doesn’t tell you how to feel about the movie you’re watching — actually, his intimate, swirling compositions seem as curious about what’s going to happen next in the story as we are.  
Now, this might explain why his scores for Carol and Anomalisa are so piercing. These movies are love stories, but they’re cautious ones. And so Burwell provides suitably restrained but longing scores — like the movies’ characters, his music seems to be slowly waking up to the dream of a love that can last. And they’re remarkably different scores: Carol’s incorporates muted, exquisite pianos and strings. In Anomalisa, it’s practically a chamber piece that’s as handmade and fragile as the movie’s stop-motion puppets.  
In life, it can be hard to express ourselves authentically to people we’re just meeting, especially if we’re falling in love with that person and don’t know how he or she feels about us. Likewise, the characters in Carol and Anomalisa — for myriad reasons — have to be careful what they say. But that’s no problem: Carter Burwell speaks for them, and he speaks beautifully.  
All our winners (and runners-up) are here. The above photo was taken by the stellar Matt Harbicht.