LIVING WITH LUDWIG
WE TALK TO A COMPOSER IN THE COMEDIC COMMUNITY
Folashade Alford, Union Staffer
Music is an integral part of TV and movies, having the ability to tug at your emotions and set the mood for a particular scene. I got a chance to sit down and talk to Ludwig Goransson, a newly established composer who’s worked on films like Molly and Me, I Love You, Man, and most recently 30 Minutes or Less, and television shows like Community, Happy Endings, and New Girl (expected to be amazing). Goransson is relatively humble, which is astonishing compared with how talented he is. He’s also hilarious and had no problem messing with my somewhat gullible nature, not to mention he’s got the cutest Swedish accent (it matches his adorable face). I also got to hear previews of Childish Gambino’s upcoming album as well getting an inside look to how music can literally set a scene.
UW: How did you get your start in composing?
LG: I remember the time when I wrote for an orchestra in high school that was the first time I got introduced to that kind of music, so after that I fell in love. I got in [to USC] and right after undergrad in Sweden I moved here to LA and started my film music education for one year.
UW: How old were you when you moved here?
LG: That was 2007 so I must’ve been 22? I’d never been to America, didn’t know anyone. I kinda felt like the smallest man on earth. It took one or two years to get a life here and to make friends. Everyone told me everyone in LA is gonna be shallow. When I moved here I thought everyone was really open, talkative, and social. You could sit in a bar and talk to anyone and that would never happen in Sweden.
UW: How long have you been officially composing music?
LG: I guess I started composing in general when I was 11 or 12. I remember I always wanted Nintendo but my parents never gave me one. Then my dad gave me a portable recorder when I was 11 and I didn’t know what to do with that. It became serious when I was in high school because I went to a really good music school. In college I started writing music for commercials and small student movies and whatever I could find.
UW: Which do you prefer composing for?
LG: It’s super different. Working on a TV show I have maybe six days per episode to finish the score. The scenes are so much shorter, so it’s like 25 seconds of music here and here. Which is fun, but I prefer writing longer forms, two or three minutes. Then you can work with the music in another kind of way and develop things.
UW: How long did you have for 30 Minutes or Less?
LG: Well, the movie wasn’t really a normal kind of experience because someone got fired so they were panicking for someone to score it. I had two weeks. Usually it’s around two months.
UW: When you’re scoring music, how closely do work with the writers?
LG: The routine is I go to Paramount once a week and watch the episode with the producer, director, show creator, and my music team. We watch it with the temporary music and talk about where we want the music to start and end and what kind of feeling we want. For the western episode [of Community] there was already music by Ennio Moricone, which is hard to beat.
UW: Do you have any side projects you’re working on?
LG: Well Troy [Donald Glover] from Community is a rapper. I’m producing and co-writing the music on his new album Camp. We’re almost done.
UW: How did you start working with Donald Glover?
LG: I scored one of the shows of Community that had Troy and Abed singing “Somewhere Out There”. They came to my studio, we recorded and had a great time hanging out. That was the first time I met Donald and three months later he sent me an email saying he was putting out his third album and he wanted me to mix it. I didn’t know he was making music and I was like, okay this guy’s cool.
UW: Were you skeptical?
LG: Yeah, so he sent me a track I think it was “So Fly” or something.
UW: That’s my favorite!
LG: [Laughs.] That’s your favorite? I was like, oh, man, this is really, really good. I guess we had a fun time together so we continued working. He never had a live show before.
UW: Do people mostly just approach you or do you see things that you would love to be a part of?
LG: No, it’s not like I approach people to try to be on their shit. I’ve always been lucky enough to have people recommend me. I got a job with a composer, Theodore Shapiro. I helped out updating his software and playing guitar. One day he got a call from the directors of Community because they did You, Me, and Dupree together. If you do a good job on something, that will pay you off later.
UW: Have you ever been given a terrible movie to score?
LG: I remember doing that a lot when I went to USC and even though this is supposed to be one of the best film schools, so many shitty student films are being made. The problem was I’d said “yes” before I’d seen the movie. Nowadays it might suck, but you’re getting paid. I’m really lucky to be able to just fuck around and get paid doing it.
SYMPTOMS MAY VARY
SODERBERGH'S CONTAGION HAS LESS CLOSURE THAN THE STOMACH FLU
Ingrid Rosales, Contributor
There’s nothing wrong with a decent movie—I support them, actually. But when you’re handed a strong cast and foundation, and only deliver “decent,” it actually becomes incredibly underwhelming.
Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Scott Burns, is summarized in its title. The thriller tracks the way a deadly virus can spread across the globe, and shows how fear can quickly create a frightening mob mentality within an area. The film also follows the lives of several people, many of which are struggling to survive through the pandemic (Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law), while professionals attempt to handle the growing situation (Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard).
Contagion is distinct from all other movies that have been made with a similar premise, in that it starts at the beginning – before the inevitable rioting, before the large death tolls, and before the isolated cities. It uniquely captures the medical side of the situation, and explains the process of a viral spread in a smart, and almost pedantic fashion. It is never pretentious, but is more or less presented like an episode of How Stuff Works.
The acting bill for this movie is large and intimidating, and at one point during the film, it almost feels like you’re participating in the most intense game of “Name all the Actors” that you’ve played in your life: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, that French actress, the dude from Breaking Bad, Morpheus, the guy from Just Shoot Me, that kid that had a show on Comedy Central…
No doubt that there are some huge names attached to this movie, and with such a huge cast, outstanding performances from each is expected.
The good news is that acting-wise, no one choked and croaked (except Paltrow, but that’s actually literal, and you already knew that from the posters). And no one stole scenes or outshone the rest of the cast, which is good or bad, depending on how you look at it.
The bad is the reason why no particular actor stood out, and that’s due to Contagion’s own affliction: its underdeveloped plot. Every performance is solid, satisfactory, but never outstanding because the movie keeps jumping from person to person. Almost immediately, there is an emotional disconnect since the film is trying to include everything in it, and so it’s hard to feel any sort of empathy for any character.
It almost feels like a bad doctor’s visit: Your doctor sits you down, describes your ailment and possible fatality by throwing names of nondescript victims that hardly mean much to you, and then promptly throws you out without any closure – which is definitely what Contagion is missing.
It’s not that any of the characters aren’t interesting. There are unique stories being told, but some are rushed, some are left at the edge of the cliff, and others are plain confusing. The only closure the audience receives is for Mitch Emhoff (Damon), and even then, it’s only so rewarding.
As a whole, Contagion is intelligent and refreshing in the material it presents, but while it delivers a strong beginning, it loses steam and fails to conclude its plots in the same way. Nevertheless, it’s sure to spread paranoia among movie audiences due to its content. My suggestion? Stay in with a bowl of ramen and watch the Discovery Channel. It has the same effect for a cheaper price.
JIHAD TO SEE IT
FOUR LIONS' SATIRICAL CURE FOR GRIEF IN CULTURAL DISPARITY
Melissa Casas, Contributor
Got a case of the 9/11 blues? With the global media marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in NYC, it’s hard to avoid the melancholy vibes that latch onto you like star-spangled, blood-sucking leeches. If patriotic television specials and gloomy nostalgia aren’t your cup of tea, the Union Weekly has the alternative in the form of cinematic genius from across the pond.
Four Lions, directed by Chris Morris and released in November 2010, is a satirical tour de force that is proud to call the murky, offensive genre of black comedy home. The film hails from England and has a multitude of British slang and references to the Islamic faith; though some of these cultural words and witticisms might stump even the most worldly of viewers, they add to the movie’s idiosyncratic charisma. The movie follows the tale of a rag-tag team of jihadists who seek to join the holy war against the superficial Western imperialists that they are forced to co-exist with. Omar, Waj, Barry, and Faisal ultimately set out to become martyrs; in other words, to strap bombs to themselves and commit suicide during a primetime public event. Unfortunately for the quartet and an apprentice that they later acquire, they seem to be more of a danger to themselves than to anyone else.
Although Omar takes the role of leader and attempts to patiently guide his companions, blunders ensue and hilarity takes over. Waj is Omar’s dim-witted sidekick who is reminiscent of moronic characters from other TV shows and films that we all know and love (nose-picking Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons, weather-predicting Karen Smith in Mean Girls, the list goes on and on). Barry, the “invisible Jihad,” is a recent convert to Islam who makes up for his light skin color with passion for the group’s cause and a rugged personality. Faisal, the brains behind technical side of the mission, is a shy hanger-on who seems as if he would rather spend time with his bomb-carrying crows than with anyone else.
Jokes range from fears of forced bestiality to intricately-woven swears and to chickens being taunted, because every good movie includes a chicken or two (The Social Network, anyone?). Aside from the satire that makes this film more of a brilliant farce than a serious melodrama, emotion is visible underneath all of the gags and makes you feel for the main characters as they question their motives in their struggles to discover themselves.
If this film leaves you pondering the jihadist dogma and all of its intricacies, congratulations! You’re a critically-thinking filmgoer. If this film only serves to get King Harvest’s classic “Dancing in the Moonlight” stuck in your head, I’ll have done my job.