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Oh Romeo, Romeo: Talking with Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist About Rosaline (2022)

Early in October I had the opportunity to speak with Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist about their work on the music for the recently released Hulu film Rosaline. This film presents the story of Romeo and Juliet with a notable twist: it is told through the perspective of Romeo’s ex-girlfriend Rosaline, who very much wants her boyfriend back.

The composing duo of Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist are well-known for their work on the television show Dickinson, as well as Good Girls and I Know What You Did Last Summer.

I very much enjoyed this interview and I hope you enjoy it as well!

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What did you think about the premise for Rosaline when you came in to work on it?

Well, I think we were intrigued. I remember reading Romeo and Juliet in school. And I’ve seen all the adaptations and stuff, but it’s never really stood out to me that there was a character named Rosaline. So when we first read the script, I was like, oh, is this just a made up character? But then I was really intrigued and loved the fact that Rosaline was in Shakespeare’s original writings. I thought that it was pretty brilliant. The way that there’s jokes throughout the film of the story not going [on track] or moments where the story seems like it might go back on track with the original Romeo and Juliet. So I thought that was really clever. A clever way to turn the story on its head for sure.

Was the music for Rosaline always going to be the Baroque pop that it was? Or did that get worked out over time?

I think it was discussed pretty early on. I think in one of our first score meetings they asked us, what do you think? And it was our first initial thought upon reading the score. And knowing what kind of music we usually write together, the filmmakers were looking for something that felt fresh and exciting, and could cover a lot of ground. So there’s a lot of comedy. But there are [also] a couple of action beats. There’s some suspense moments, and there’s obviously some romantic moments. But we also wanted to try and make it feel a bit original. We don’t want the music to be necessarily wallpaper, which can happen pretty often with a lot of scores. I think we almost played a joke, in a way, with our opening cue of the film. We do a sappy romantic cue, almost like you would expect to see. But then we start cutting in and out with dialogue to help these jokes land, and you realize we’re playing at a different angle here.

Yeah, we’re kind of playing into the joke. And our first thing on this project, our first task was to work on the cover songs that are featured in the movie. So that took us into the direction of the Renaissance instruments just because we were supposed to have the sounds that are supposed to be playing at a party where you’re supposed to see this band, this Renaissance band playing. So with that we really dove in headfirst into the harpsichord and lute and harp and all of these instruments that were popular at the time.

How deep did you dive? Did you limit yourselves right away? Did you experiment with all of them before settling on the ones you did?

It’s interesting because there really wasn’t that much to choose from. If there’s not somebody who’s able to play it, or that instrument doesn’t exist physically anymore, then that would have been a challenge. But also, before we even got to the recording [stage], we had to mock it up. We had to find instruments that actually had virtual and soft synth versions of that. So in a way it’s not that it limited us because we definitely expanded in some of the mock up stuff that wasn’t quite the same thing. But that definitely limited us because a lot of those instruments nobody makes them anymore.

I’d like to say it helped us make our decision quicker. And we also on top of all that, we had to find stuff that could lend itself to a pop style arrangement at the same time. So we had to find instruments that were versatile enough to actually play different things and play fast enough. Oh, yeah. So a bagpipe wasn’t really going to cut it.

Was it just experimentation to see what would be good?

Yeah, a little bit. I mean, for the songs we had to dive in right away. So like, we would both songs we actually knew fairly well, just from when they first came out. It was just kind of looking at how they arrange things and then rethinking them in terms of what our ensemble was. At first, I think we tried to do it as true to picture as we could. I think we eventually did sneak in a low bass, a little bit more of a thump to things. Yeah, it was just kind of really looking at the different parts, really listening to it closely. And seeing how close we could get with our Baroque ensemble.

I really noticed the bass thump during the the ball when Romeo’s looking for Rosaline. Um, that was weird hear hearing the modern bass thump in the Renaissance?

Yeah, I mean, the whole point with this film was to kind of mix things up a bit. So like, we were never going to go for a completely authentic Renaissance score. The whole idea was to mix contemporary synth stuff with the Renaissance sound.

So it was it was it was never planned to go traditional at all ever.

No, because we’re not traditional composers. If they wanted something more traditional, they could have gone for sort of more like the more pen and paper and the more orchestral composers, whereas I think we were hired because of our previous work on shows such as Dickinson and our electronic music and our synth sound. So I think it was always kind of in the cards for us to do electronics and renders some Renaissance sound. But to be honest, like, that wasn’t even, as the incident early conversations, it was like, they were kind of leaving it open to us.

So you’re mostly left to your own devices and how this went? There wasn’t a whole lot of direction?

No, I mean, it was a conversation between everyone, especially for those first couple songs. And then as we got into the actual score, we were talking to Karen Maine, our director, and generally the editor almost daily.

At the same time, they kind of trusted us to follow our guide as far as what we think [would] work musically. So in that sense, they left it up to us, but it was a very collaborative thing.

I noticed that several times the music seem to flip back and forth between a traditional sound for a Shakespeare story and the modern sound. How was it worked out when the music would flip like that?

I think we just follow our instinct really. We didn’t necessarily plan like this is a synth cue. This is a string cue, we just wrote to picture how we felt it would work using our palette of sounds and some moments just kind of felt like they needed to pull from one side a bit stronger than the other.

About the instruments, were any of them vintage?

Yeah, we had a whole mix of things. For our recording sessions, we had a really fun session with woodwind players who brought in a whole fun goodie bag of different style flutes from all eras. So I’d say it was a big mix of vintage, contemporary, and just kind of rare. There’s one key where we have a petzl playing, which is a German wooden flute, with a really distinct tone.

Our percussionist Hal Rosenfeld brought a whole bunch of percussion that’s been around since the Renaissance as well. So when we were recording all of the drums and the action sequences and whatnot, we had a harpsichord player, who, I suppose, is kind of an expert in the instrument in New York City. We had an excellent harp player who’s absolutely wonderful and absolutely slayed, especially when it came to playing the harp part of “The Boy’s Mine”, for example, which is a really complicated thing, which was definitely digitally done. So yeah, we had all of these incredible players that our contractor Sandy Park was able to find in New York City when it came to recording.

Was the recording done all together?

Yeah, we were able to record at Power Station in New York City for three days. So all the strings were in the same room at the same time, which was great. And it was the first time for us in years and years because of the pandemic.

Yeah, the lute, harpsichord, harp and whatnot, those were just all playing at the same time, but in separate rooms just to not have [the sound] bleed. And so we had more flexibility in terms of editing and mixing. And the percussion Is this single percussionist. But yeah, everything was recorded. We were all there in New York City with the engineer and other folks that helped with orchestrating and score prep. And it was really great. It was so nice to feel like we had a team like that.

Did you have specific musical themes for any of the characters? I couldn’t tell listening to it?

Yeah, we had. I mean, a lot of it all centers around Rosaline as a character. So we kind of when we first started writing, we did like the Rosaline action theme, the Rosaline scheming theme. And some of those got broken up a bit as we progress through the film. But um, yeah, we have Rosaline’s theme, we have a Rosaline and Dario theme. We have an action theme that reprises a couple of times. We have a theme that comes in, kind of, which is the scheming theme, for example, when Juliet and Rosaline have a scene together where they kind of start butting heads. So, a lot of these things get repeated subtly. So I’m glad that they didn’t really like hit you on the head too much. Because you never want that to be too obvious. But I’m glad that it wasn’t too much.

I mean, I think what the most obvious to me was Romeo’s because correct me if I’m wrong, but his had the most flourishes.

I think his moments on screen just lend themselves really well for more silly embellishment, just because of the comedy that he brought to the screen. So I think that whenever we see Romeo on screen, very often is when we would employ chimes or do some harp or something just because his character is such a big puppy of a character in the movie that we just felt like we could play into that comedy

What about Dario, does he have a bit of music of his own?

Well, anytime we have music with him, it’s always kind of connected to Rosaline. We have some action stuff with Dario, but that relates to the Rosaline action theme again. She really is our centerpiece and any character we come into contact with in really any musical theme is always threaded back to her

So since Rosaline was the centerpiece, how did you determine her sound? Because she’s not quite what I expected when I started the movie, she’s very modern.

Yeah, she’s very multifaceted and has a lot more sides to her than you get from the beginning of the movie. When she comes around towards the end of the movie, and, there’s just so many ups and downs, and she’s quite temperamental and instinctive, I think we tried to find, ultimately, [that] all the themes are Rosaline’s themes.

It’s just as Ian was saying, it’s like Rosaline interacting with different characters in different moments. But, we just thought it had to be sonically something that was somewhat witty and sarcastic, and whimsical, but also intense. So I think that that’s also where the synths and using more electronics kind of helped because in a way, the character that is portrayed on screen is so modern for the times: she wants to marry for love, she doesn’t want to marry just because she has to, she wants to be a cartographer. I think employing modern instrumentation really helped to externalize what’s really going on in her mind, which was very revolutionary, and ahead of her time.

How much time did you all have to work on Rosaline? Where were they in the process when you came in?

They brought us on close to the end of filming, because we had to get these song arrangements done for those masquerade ball scenes, and I think it was actually the last day of filming. So I think that was around September of last year. And then we really didn’t fully dive into the film until around December or January. And then we’re on a for a few months, kind of, it’d be like we’ve worked really hard for a week or two, and then they’d be working on the edit for a bit [and] it’d be kind of quiet. So a lot of back and forth. And then our recording sessions happened in early May [2022].

Is three days typical? Or is that shorter than usual?

Um, I think it really depends, for the films that we’ve worked on in the past, it’s usually been just a day of a recording session. So this was definitely much longer than we’re used to. It was really great that we were able to break it up. And we knew at the beginning, we knew that there was going to be a lot of recorded things at the beginning. So it didn’t really come as a surprise. I’m sure you know a Marvel movie will record for a week or two, but we just haven’t really gotten to that point. So this was definitely the longest amount of recording that we’ve ever done.

You mentioned other stuff you’ve done like Dickinson, how did working on this film compared to those projects?

There’s some similarities. And just like, a lot of the same formalities you go through when working on a scoring project. But I think this one just felt larger in scale for us compared to something like Dickinson. We joke that this was kind of like an evolution in a way. But yeah, it was good. Like, we love working with Karen Maine. I had worked with her previously, a few years ago on a film called Yes, God, Yes. And that was also remote, but Zoom and virtual meetings weren’t quite what they are now. So this one felt much more like we were actually in the room together as a collaboration. It was a great experience, especially because we would meet with them so often. You really feel like you’re part of a team.

Is there anything musically that you hope audiences notice in Rosaline when the movie comes out?

I hope that they just come away liking the film, and hopefully feeling like the score was a a fresh take on the genre.

I hope that they can get lost in the story and have a good time. Because we certainly had so much fun working on this film and on the score, so I hope that it kind of translates through and that people can watch this with a bunch of friends. Just have a really fun evening.

The modern songs that were covered in this film. Did you pick those? Or did the director pick those?

Those were mainly coming from Karen Maine and Maggie Phillips and the music supervisor. We had a little input later on when we were deciding between a couple different options. But they ultimately decided which songs were going but then leave it up to us how we would want to arrange them.

Was it their idea to have Rosaline sulking to “All by Myself”?

Yes, yeah, that was always there from the temp [score], you know, that that was there from the first cut that we saw of the movie, especially since they wanted the joke that happens in that scene to land in a very specific way. I mean, the way the music changes, well, just the way that the it goes from score to just the single violin that’s in the room playing.

Oh, it works. That was one of my favorite moments. It works very well. Amazing. IS there anything else you wanted to make sure people know about Rosaline, a favorite moment, a moment that was difficult to work on.

I mean, my favorite moment is definitely when [Dario and Rosaline] are galloping through the countryside. You know, it’s like the big kind of montage moment. And it’s a cue that’s on the soundtrack. That’s called “Horse Escape.” And then definitely the hardest parts were the comedy parts. Just because we had to work around dialogue and work around the comedy that was being delivered by the actors. So it definitely felt challenging to not step onto the dialog and be able to kind of help the picture be funnier instead of taking away from it.

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I want to say thank you to Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist for taking the time to speak with me about their work on Rosaline. The film is currently available on Hulu and I highly recommend checking it out when you have the chance.

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Composer Interviews

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Soundtrack News: ‘Fireheart’ Original Soundtrack is Available Now

The original motion picture soundtrack for the new animated film Fireheart with music by Chris Egan is now available courtesy of Milan Records. This 31-track album is available now on all major streaming platforms and the film is now streaming on Hulu.

Chris Egan is a London based composer & conductor for Film & Television. Recent work includes scoring the feature film Fireheart staring Olivia Cooke, Kenneth Branagh & William Shatner, Apple TV’s ground-breaking nature series Tiny World narrated by Paul Rudd (composed with long-time collaborator and friend, Benjamin Wallfisch) and both series of The Spanish Princess for Starz.

Fireheart stars sixteen-year-old Georgia Nolan, who dreams of being the world’s first-ever female firefighter. When a mysterious arsonist starts burning down Broadway, New York’s firemen begin vanishing. Georgia’s father, Shawn, is called out of retirement by the Mayor of New York to lead the investigation into the disappearances. Desperate to help her father and save her city, Georgia disguises herself as a young man called “Joe” and joins a small group of misfit firefighters trying to stop the arsonist.

TRACKLIST

  1. Untrained and Unstoppable 2:05
  2. The Nolan Family 1:22
  3. Brooklyn 1920 – I Have to Tell Her 3:18
  4. Secret Training 1:20
  5. NYC Firehouse 2:14
  6. Georgia C’mon 1:05
  7. Mayor Jimmy Murray 1:32
  8. Are We There Yet? 2:34
  9. Hose Pipe Games 0:50
  10. Not a Real Fireman Yet 2:15
  11. Theatre Investigation 2:30
  12. Gotta Fly 1:51
  13. I Think You’re Amazing 0:38
  14. Last Minute Change 0:39
  15. Taxi Cab 0:27
  16. Morning Captain 2:01
  17. Fast Learner 2:11
  18. The First Firefighter 0:55
  19. Reaction to Sound 1:50
  20. Great Job Team 0:59
  21. It’s a Trap 1:36
  22. Nooooo 1:18
  23. The Lair of the Arsonist 2:20
  24. Actually Daughter 1:30
  25. Supreme Fury 1:48
  26. Rescuing Dad 1:24
  27. Just Doing My Jon – Mayday Mayday 2:57
  28. Let the Show Begin 2:33
  29. Showtime 4:09
  30. My Dad’s Name is Shaun Nolan 4:18
  31. End Credits 2:29

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Behind the Score of ‘I Am Greta’: Talking with Rebekka Karijord About the Documentary’s Music

I recently got the opportunity to speak with composer Rebecca Karijord about her work with composer Jon Ekstrand on the recently released documentary I am Greta. Rebekka Karijord is a composer, musician, and playwright originally from Sandnessjøen in northern Norway. Over the course of her early career, she developed her unique voice by experimenting as a musician, actor, playwright and composer, working alongside directors including Joachim Trier, Margreth Olin and Nina Wester. She also began recording and releasing solo records. Her first album, Neophyte, arrived in 2003, a collaboration between Rebekka, Mattias Petterson and Malin Bång, and was followed up in 2005 by Good or Goodbye.

It was really exciting to get to talk with Rebekka about her work on I am Greta, and I hope you enjoy this interview.

How Did You Get Started With Composing for Film?

I’ve been writing for film, theatre and modern ballet for more than 15 years now. I worked as an actor from when I was 12 years old, but the music took over more and more in my life and work. When I decided to stop acting in films, the directors I had worked with started asking to use my music in their projects. So, it was a very organic, safe transition. And a career shift I have never regretted.

 How did you get connected with I am Greta?

Jon invited me in to the job with him, after the producer reached out to him. We had done one project together from before that, an HBO series. 

How did you and Jon approach scoring this documentary? Is it very different from scoring a film or are they more similar?

The most significant difference between scoring a documentary and a fiction film is usually regarding when in the process the editor and director wants the music. A lot of documentary film makers want to edit the whole film to a final score, or close to complete sketches. With a fiction film, I usually write the music after picture lock. With Greta, we actually decided to start writing once the editing was locked, since we wanted the score to have a homogenous, “big film” feel to it. 


Were you and Jon given a lot of time to work on I am Greta?


No, due to covid everything was pushed and the post production time was very slim. So, I think we had six weeks to write the whole score. There is a lot of music, so that was quite challenging. 


How did you decide on which instruments to use to symbolize the Earth, Greta herself, and other important elements? Was there some experimenting with different sounds before you and Jon settled on the final result?

Yes, for sure we tried out different things. But when Linnea Olsson (our solo cellist) came in the studio, everything fell in place. Her tone really matches the energy of the natural world in the film. As for Greta herself, I think it might be the piano. I feel the synthesizers and the voices stand for the movement. 


I’m curious, why does it say in the PR that the music “couldn’t take too much sentimentality.”?

Well, Greta is not a very sentimental person. She is super focused and clear when it comes to the climate questions. Emotional, yes, but never sentimental or self-conscious. She is also a very present person in people’s brains right now, and there are many strong opinions about her, and that made this film a bit tricky to score. Music is a really strong tool, and can be very leading. We wanted the music to be more observing and underlining, than leading. Therefore, we tried to work more with energy, tempo and repetition, than melody. There are melodic elements, but they are more in the background. 


Which part of the score do you hope audiences notice the most?

 I’m not sure, but I hope the music makes the audience feel more, think more, reflect more. I hope it can help to inspire change, I hope it lifts Greta’s message. 


Speaking of, do you or Jon have a favorite part of the score?

We have two favorite spots; One is at the cue called “Fridays for Future,” which was long called “Viral.” There is a collage of the children all over the world joining in, and especially one girl really touches me. She sits in her bedroom with a raised fist and says, “Today we stand behind you, and on Friday we will stand next to you!” It really melds well with the music right there, and actually still touches me every time. 

The other place is a music cue called “Trolls,” a part where we see a lot of the internet trolls’ comments and threats that Greta is receiving. It’s absurd with these older, white, male world leaders bullying her. Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, and then at the end of the scene she starts dancing, carefree, liberated, as if to her very own internal melody. We had a long, drony sequence written to that scene and felt something was missing, and I sat down and improvised by the piano without seeing the images. When I stopped, Jon, who had been in the control room, came out with tears in his eyes. The piano totally married her movements. It was art by accident for sure, and is still our favorite musical spot in the film. 

I’d like to say thank you to Rebekka Karijord for taking the time to speak with me about her work on I am Greta.

Let me know what you think about I am Greta (and its music) in the comments below and have a great day!

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To the Future: A Talk With Halli Cauthery About the Music of ‘Future Man’ Season 3

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk with composer Halli Cauthery about his work on the third and final season of Future Man. The Hulu original series Future Man  was co-created by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. His credits also include the Netflix/DreamWorks animated series Turbo F.A.S.T., for which he received an Emmy nomination in 2016; the critically-acclaimed thriller The East; Bernard Rose’s 2015 film adaptation of Frankenstein; the Shrek Halloween television special Scared Shrekless; as well as the Lifetime Television film Living Proof.

He has worked extensively with composer Harry Gregson-Williams, contributing additional music to such films as Cowboys & Aliens; Unstoppable; Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time; Shrek Forever After; X-Men Origins: Wolverine; and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian; as well as Bee Movie and Winter’s Tale alongside Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams. He has also worked with Henry Jackman (Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle; Captain America: Civil War; Pixels; Turbo); Danny Elfman (Hellboy 2: The Golden Army); and Bryan Tyler (Iron Man 3).

How did you get started with composing for film and television?

I got my start working under the mentorship of the renowned composer Harry Gregson-Williams. After completing my postgraduate studies some years ago I lived in London for a while, working as a jobbing musician, playing in orchestras around the city (my initial musical training was as a classical violinist at the Yehudi Menuhin School), as well as teaching, and writing music for the concert hall. But I soon began to feel that, if I wanted to earn a living writing music, the smart move would be to go into film and TV. And so I got in touch with Harry – whom I had known years earlier when I was a young kid and he was a singing teacher at the same school where I used to go for my after-school violin lessons! – to ask for advice. We re-connected, he invited me to come to California for a few months to see the process of film-scoring for myself, and soon I was working as his assistant, and he became my mentor.

What did you think of Future Man when you started working on it?

I thought it was utterly mad in all the very best ways! I loved it: it was funny, clever, silly, jam-packed with quotable lines and memorable characters, and just delightfully weird… I knew straight away that it was going to be a blast scoring it. And I wasn’t wrong!

Did you know, going in, that season 3 would be the last for Future Man?

Yes, we were all aware of that. Which is a double-edged sword: very sad to say goodbye to it, obviously, because I’ve enjoyed myself immensely; but at the same time, knowing that you have a definite end point to build towards can be very useful creatively.

Where did you start in the scoring process for season 3? Did you build off the previous seasons or did you start in a completely new place?

It’s a little bit of both. In the first place, if I interpret the question very literally, I did technically start in a totally new place, because the first piece of music you hear in season 3 is the ‘Monday Night Football’-style music accompanying the ‘Running Man’-type TV show that the main characters are forced to take part in during episode 1. In a more general sense, though: the great advantage of coming back to a show in its third season is that much of the underlying musical architecture is already in place: I already know what the ‘sound’ of the show is, and I already have a network of existing themes because those things have been established from season 1. (For example, I already have a Josh theme, a ‘Resistance’ theme, a Tiger+Wolf theme, and so on.) Having said that, with each new season there are always new characters and new situations that require new themes and sound worlds. Most obviously in the case of season 3, there are the scenes set in Haven, the ‘realm outside of time’ that the main characters become trapped in during the second half of the season. These required completely new music and a new ‘sound’ from the previous seasons.

A related question: did anything specific inspire the sound of Future Man, be it season 3 or any previous season? How did you come up with the sound for this season and series in general?

Haven inspired a slightly more unconventional approach during season 3. When you are depicting a place that’s supposed to exist outside of time and where the usual physical laws of the universe don’t always apply, that’s a pretty big invitation to do something different and get weird, musically. So I took the opportunity to experiment a bit with sound manipulation: taking audio and time-stretching and/or compressing it, reversing it, etc. to achieve strange effects. I also took the opportunity to write some twelve-tone music; and, for added ‘off the wall-ness’, to combine this with a part for a microtonal piano. The result is very trippy!

How much time did you have to score season 3 of Future Man?

I began working on season 3 in October, and we wrapped early in March – just in time, as it happened, before we all went on lockdown! It was a slightly shorter production schedule this season, with eight episodes as opposed to the thirteen that comprised seasons 1 and 2.

What instruments were used in the scoring process? I like how several pieces of the soundtrack have a traditional “sci-fi” sound.

Throughout the show’s run the score has consisted of a mixture of synth elements and traditional orchestra, sometimes combining the two within the same music – the synth elements tending to be utilized during the more futuristic, sci-fi moments. In addition, during season 3 I’ve occasionally had to dig into certain specialized types of ensemble: an example would be the Medieval-style music in season 3 when the three lead characters find themselves in Medieval France; this required the full complement of crumhorns, shawms, recorders and so on! I also recorded myself doing a bit of fiddle playing for a scene set in 17th century North America, playing a traditional folk tune called ‘Rambler’s Hornpipe’.

 Last question: do you have a favorite part of the soundtrack?

A few examples spring to mind: in season 3, I would pick out the twelve tone music I mentioned earlier, as well as the over-the-top orchestral piece accompanying the final gag in the last episode. From season 2 I rather like the ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ parody from episode 4, as well as the Renaissance-style version of the ‘Resistance’ theme heard numerous times throughout the season. And season 1 contains one of my favourite episodes of all: the one set in James Cameron’s ‘Smart’ house, which gave me the opportunity to write an episode of score full of music in the style of music from Cameron movies!

It was a great pleasure to learn more about Halli Cauthery’s work on season 3 of Future Man and I’m very thankful for the opportunity.

See also:

Composer Interviews

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My Thoughts on: The Terror (season 1)

I was initially inclined to avoid The Terror because the premise didn’t seem to be the kind of story I would be interested. However, once I saw the entire season was up on Hulu, I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did. The Terror, befitting its name, is terrifying.

The Terror is based on a 2007 novel by Dan Simmons and sets out to explain what really happened to Sir John Franklin’s doomed Arctic expedition, which set off in HMS Terror and HMS Erebus to find the legendary Northwest Passage and was never seen or heard from again. The story is largely based on what is believed to have happened to the expedition (the ships got caught in the ice, eventually they started to walk south, and ultimately they all died, and in all likelihood they suffered from lead poisoning).

TERROR_101_am_1121_0316-RT-1014x570.jpg

However, woven in-between the facts is a supernatural narrative that I found surprisingly believable. Deep down, I know monsters like the Tuunbaq aren’t real, and yet…the Arctic, especially as it appeared in the late 1840s, was so remote and so icy that it feels like the sort of place the last of the supernatural monsters would have survived. After all, man had swarmed everywhere else, it makes sense that monsters native to these cold, foreign areas, would still survive long past time time other monsters disappeared.

I really liked the inclusion of the Inuit in the story’s narrative. The Inuit’s accounts of Franklin’s expedition were derided for many years, especially their accounts of cannibalism, because of course there’s no way proper British sailors would revert to savage actions like that (read heavy sarcasm here). In The Terror however, the writers really sought to portray the Inuit properly, contrasting their ability to survive in the snowy wilderness with the complete inability of the British to survive this hostile environment (contrast Silna/Lady Silence with any of the British characters).

TERROR_107-nive-nielsen-lady-silence-1200x707.jpg

One thing that surprised me is how the character of Sir John Franklin (Ciarán Hinds) departs/dies relatively early in the season. For some reason, as the leader of the expedition, I thought he would be around much longer, but the show does not suffer in his absence.

Honestly, I enjoyed first season of The Terror a lot more than I thought I would when I started the first episode. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, because it will leave you spellbound until the bitter end.

What did you think of the first season of The Terror? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Assassination Classroom (2015-2016)

I have loved anime ever since I saw my first episodes of Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z in the 90s and I’m always on the hunt for (relatively speaking) new series to watch, which is easy to do as Hulu contains a wealth of anime. That’s how, last year, I stumbled across the magnificence that is Assassination Classroom.

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Based on the manga by Yūsei Matsui, Assassination Classroom follows the “end class” (full of academic and social misfits) of Kunugigaoka Junior High School who are given the task of killing their new teacher, a strange yellow octopus (with a smiley face for a head) before he explodes and wipes out the Earth the following March. To this end, the students are trained in various assassination techniques by Mr. Karasuma and Irina Jelavić (dubbed “Professor Bitch” by the class), all with the aim of taking their teacher, Koro Sensei, out.

Assassination Classroom Opening (2015)

One of the best parts of the series is watching how the assassination plans evolve over time. This culminates (in my opinion), in an arc where the class attempts to assassinate Koro Sensei on a remote island during summer vacation. The plan is so intricate that it nearly succeeds…but it still falls short. In fact, none of the students plans work out, but that doesn’t hurt the series at all because every attempt brings with it a new lesson about life. While strange looking, Koro Sensei is a grade-A teacher who genuinely wants his students to succeed in life (as well as killing him). In fact, as I watched the series through the first time, it slowly dawned on me that many of Koro Sensei’s tips about assassination were actually skills and ideas you could apply in real life.

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There are some parts of the series that are really upsetting to me and I want to highlight a few of them. First of all, if bullying bothers you then several episodes will be difficult to watch. The rest of the school is trained to hate the End class on principle, with most events rigged to ensure that this class stays at the bottom. It’s really uncomfortable to watch but thankfully the series moves away from that aspect over time. Another episode that upsets me is one that introduces Mr. Takaoka, a (brief) replacement for Mr. Karasuma. Just the way this character is drawn is enough to set you on edge (I think they made his smile look fake on purpose) but what he does is even worse. It comes out that Takaoka employs sadistic training methods and rewards the smallest complaint with punches and slaps. However he does receive an epic comeuppance from Nagisa Shiota (a student who narrates most of the episodes), which partially makes up for what happened before.

Koro Sensei is by far the best part of the series; he has dozens of different quirks, facial expressions and quips that will leave you giggling more often than not. I love how his face changes to reflect his mood. He’s a character that grows on you very quickly.

I enjoy Assassination Classroom very much; I love the twists and turns the story takes and by the end of the series I was very much attached to the fates of each character. If you’d like to check out Assassination Classroom, the complete series is currently available on Hulu. If you’ve already watched the series, let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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