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Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) in the Safdie brother's Uncut Gems. Imagine a synth playing over this image. Julieta Cervantes/A24
The Josh and Benny Safdie-directed Uncut Gems revolves around Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a jeweler in New York City's Diamond District who is a compulsive gambler, cheater, and liar. He's also an asshole. When a valuable "uncut" black opal mined in Ethiopia comes into Howard's possession, he sets up a series of anxiety-inducing and self-destructive bets and lies that wobble uneasily before all falling down. The internal and external chaos of Howard is echoed in the film's excellent score, which seems to locate itself in outer space.

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Composed by Daniel Lopatin (a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never), Uncut Gems' soundtrack is synth-heavy, cosmic, glittery. While it suggests an undercurrent of scuzz, the grandeur of the score's heights shimmers like the colors in the karmically-fucked black opal at the center of the film. It's a shame that Uncut Gems was not nominated for Best Score at the upcoming Oscars. Some have made the connection between this film's score and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's work on The Social Network, which was nominated for an Oscar and won.

In a recent "Behind the Soundtrack" documentary, Lopatin talks about the connections between his synthy, far-out score and the film's tumult. Let's hear and dissect a couple of the songs Lopatin talks about in the documentary:

"The Ballad of Howie Bling"


One of the very first pieces of music we hear in Uncut Gems is "The Ballad of Howie Bling," which plays over a microscopic journey inside an "uncut" opal during the film's title sequence. Lopatin wanted the ballad to mirror the gem's colors and the way that light moves through it, and also saw the ballad as the "base" for the beginning and ending of the film. He used a Moog synthesizer to create the track, riffing off of a sweeping two-chord progression that brushes some high frequencies before echoing into a darker, broader sound. There are also lots of choral voices that remind me of the anchovies from Spongebob.

"Fuck You Howard"

Lopatin also breaks down "Fuck You Howard," which plays over a scene in the film where Howard and his mistress Julia (Julia Fox) get into an explosive fight outside of a club. At the fight's climax, Julia screams at Howard and storms back toward the club, slowly calming herself down. Lopatin saw Julia's retreat as a chance to score this character's inner world. "We knew we wanted a screaming synth thing right on a specific beat where Julia...yells back and regains her composure and her poise and her power," says Lopatin.

Off a suggestion by co-director Benny Safdie, "Fuck You Howard" was inspired by several different versions of Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 88 in G Major. The result is a composition which—in the first half—almost sounds like the track is actually screaming, mimicking Julia's hysterics outside the club. In the back half, the sounds undergo a "temperature change" segueing from Haydn and into something calmer and more ambient.

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For more insights into the music behind the film, check out the documentary featuring Lopatin and Josh Safdie below.