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kottke.org posts about Westworld

The Westworld season two soundtrack covers Kanye & Nirvana

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2018

One of my favorite aspects of HBO’s Westworld is the music, particularly the acoustic covers of modern rock and pop songs, many of which sound like they could be coming from a player piano in the show’s Old West saloon. The first season’s soundtrack, composed by Ramin Djawadi, featured covers of songs by Radiohead, Amy Winehouse, and the Rolling Stones. The second season is starting in just a couple of weeks, but they’ve already released two new covers from this season’s soundtrack: Heart-Shaped Box by Nirvana and Kanye West’s Runaway.

Djawadi, perhaps best known as the composer of the Game of Thrones theme song, spoke to Pitchfork about the rationale behind the cover songs:

What I love about that is it just comes out of nowhere and you don’t expect it at all. You see the settings and the way people are dressed and even though you know it’s robots and it’s all made to be modern entertainment, you would think the people in control would make everything authentic, including whatever is played on that player piano. It would be from that time period. And when it’s not, it’s that subtle reminder that, ‘Wait, there is something not right. This is not real.’ It’s just such a powerful tool that only music can do.

The full spoilers for season two of Westworld

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 10, 2018

Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are the creators and producers of HBO’s Westworld. Last night, they released a 25-minute-long video on YouTube that they say contains the full spoilers for season two of the show. (Update: it’s a rickroll. Har har.)

Nolan shared the rationale for the unusual move on Reddit (which I’ve read three times and still don’t understand from a logic perspective):

I greatly enjoyed watching the friendly folks at this subreddit guess the twists and turns of the season.

It creates a larger problem for us, though, in terms of the way your guesswork is reported online. ‘Theories’ can actually be spoilers, and the line between the two is confusing. It’s something we’ve been thinking about since last season. The fans of Game of Thrones, for instance, rallied around and protected the secrets of the narrative in part because they already knew those secrets (through season 5).

We thought about this long and hard, and came to a difficult (and potentially highly controversial) decision. If you guys agree, we’re going to post a video that lays out the plot (and twists and turns) of season 2. Everything. The whole sordid thing. Up front. That way the members of the community here who want the season spoiled for them can watch ahead, and then protect the rest of the community, and help to distinguish between what’s ‘theory’ and what’s spoiler.

I have not watched it and won’t1 but from the comments in the thread (spoilers!), it appears legit. Orrrrr, it’s some elaborate troll by Nolan et al. to flood the zone with fake spoilers, to misdirect hardcore fans. Or maybe since Westworld contains many levels of fakes and artifice, I wonder if they’re doing this as part of an ARG, creating another layer of trickery and misdirection for the show? I guess we’ll see!

Update: LOL, I have been duped. SPOILERS: that video is mostly of a dog in front of a piano with the Westworld theme playing. And an olde tyme rendition of Never Gonna Give You Up. Hanging my head in deep shame.

I still believe that it would be cool if the show could somehow work in a release of faux spoilers into the main plot of the show. That would be impressive, more so than another rickroll.

  1. I am not a personal fan of spoilers; I prefer to watch/read/listen to things with as little foreknowledge as possible. But I also feel that good literature and films and TV shows are mostly unspoilable. If the plot is the only thing your book or movie has going for it, it’s probably not very good in the first place. Knowing what Rosebud is or the endings of various Hitchcock thrillers does not take anything away from the mastery of Citizen Kane, Vertigo, or Rear Window.

Insights on animation from Brad Bird

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2016

With The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles under his belt, Brad Bird is one of the most respected and accomplished animated filmmakers out there. For this video, Kees van Dijkhuizen Jr. pieced together a number of interviews and commentary tracks of Bird talking about how he approaches animation. Among the topics he discusses are the pleasures of sneaking around, the advantages of slowing down, and an appreciation of keeping the lights low.

At one point, Bird talks about how some makers of animated movies create scenarios that are too fantastic and then are, later on in their films, unable to interject a true sense of danger into the plot.

The mistake that people often make with animated films is that they love the gravity-defying aspect of it. But, if you defy gravity and then later on need to feel danger, you have a really hard time convincing the audience.

Contemporary superhero movies, even the good ones, often have this problem, and I wonder if it’s because they are essentially made like animated films with too much of the gravity-defying aspect. With CG and flawless green screens, you can essentially make anything happen on the screen, which somewhat counterintuitively lowers the stakes of what you’re watching.

I thought Westworld was going to have the same problem. The first few episodes were boring because they were set in a world where no one could get injured or killed. Park visitors could roll up to a Western town with a few guns and kill all of the inhabitants without much effort and at no personal risk. There were no stakes and it totally broke the fourth wall. But from the way the last few episodes have gone, it’s apparent the danger will come (from elsewhere) and that having the audience (both of the HBO show and the park’s paying patrons) consider the fourth wall is part of the point.

Anthony Hopkins can still bring it

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2016

When Westworld started, I thought Hopkins’ character, park founder Robert Ford, was going to be a relatively minor player, an accomplished but past-prime actor popping up occasionally to function as a one-man chorus interpreting a tragedy for us. But as Evan Puschak shows in his breakdown of the Oscar winner’s performance in a single scene from Westworld, Hopkins is still near the height of his powers and Ford is at the center of the narrative. (Shout out as well to Jeffrey Wright and especially Thandie Newton, who along with Hopkins has been the stand-out performer so far.)

The western rock covers in Westworld

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2016

I haven’t quite figured out if HBO’s new show Westworld is any good or not,1 but I’m sticking with it at least through the first season. One of the fun things about the show — ok, maybe the only fun thing, Westworld takes itself pretty seriously — is the western-style covers of rock songs by the likes of Radiohead, Soundgarden, and The Rolling Stones. There’s a mini playlist of the main theme and some of the covers — Paint It Black by the Stones and Radiohead’s No Surprises — up on Spotify.

Oh, and here’s one of the most popular fan theories out there: the multiple timeline theory.

Update: The entire “two-disk” album from season 1 is up, which includes original music as well as covers like Radiohead’s Exit Music (For a Film). LOL.

  1. The show is giving off some serious Lost vibes. Lost, if you’ll remember, started off very strong and then the people running the show got lost themselves and had no idea how to keep the whole thing from being an incoherent wreck. Thinking they’d turn it around somehow, I watched until the very end, and, disgusted by the ending, have never thought about it again, except in a context like this. Westworld, don’t play me like that!