If there’s one characteristic Barry Jenkins and composer Nicholas Britell share, it’s that they’re masters of tone. Both know how to eloquently paint the dramatic gravitas of a scene, to gracefully touch our emotions, without weighing down.
Tone is everything: It’s the beautiful takeaway in Jenkins’ Oscar-winning best picture Moonlight and it’s the vibrant style he carries over in his feature adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 love story If Beale Street Could Talk from Annapurna Pictures.
Where the duo begin in their musical conversation isn’t necessarily where they end, i.e., Britell concentrated on the sound of brass during the orchestral onset for Beale Street, writing pieces for trumpets and flugelhorns, and cornets and French horns before discovering cello. The final musical result: a balance between the phenomenal beauty of life and the horrors of injustice which go hand in hand in this tale about two destined lovers separated by the grave lies of society.
Britell received his first original score Oscar nomination for Moonlight in 2017 for expressing the musical sound of poetry with a mixing style known as “Chopped ‘n’ Screwed,” in which a track is layered on top of itself and slowed down a few octaves. With Beale Street, the composer, who works non-stop (he’s written the original score for Adam McKay’s Oscar-nominated Vice, his HBO drama series Succession, and is also composing for Jenkins’ Amazon series The Underground Railroad), counts his second Oscar nom. For Jenkins, who has an adapted screenplay Oscar for Moonlight, he earns his third Oscar nom here with Beale Street in the same category.
Beale Street also has a best supporting actress Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win for Regina King’s turn as strong-willed mother Sharon Rivers, who goes the distance to prove her future-son-in-law’s innocence as he’s been accused of a crime he didn’t commit.
Take a listen to our sitdown with Jenkins and Britell: