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NOT EVEN NOMINATED, PART FIVE

THE YEAR IN FILM MUSIC: 1984

By Scott Bettencourt

THE REAL NOMINEES:

INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM - John Williams
THE NATURAL - Randy Newman
A PASSAGE TO INDIA - Maurice Jarre (the winner)
THE RIVER - John Williams
UNDER THE VOLCANO - Alex North


THE "FINALISTS"

GHOSTBUSTERS - Elmer Bernstein

This lavishly produced supernatural comedy is still the highest grossing film Bernstein ever scored, and thanks to a genuinely clever script (which is actually a better evocation of H.P. Lovecraft's writings than most official Lovecraft adaptations) and the great Bill Murray, it holds up as well nineteen years later. The third of four films Bernstein scored for director Ivan Reitman (not counting Reitman productions like Heavy Metal and Space Hunter), the film utilized both Bernstein's skill with large scale fantasy and his deftness with comedy -- even his beloved (and frequently overused) ondes martenot was completely appropriate. However, Reitman replaced Bernstein's music for one major sequence (when the ghosts are let loose into the city) with a rock song, another sign of Reitman's excessive interest in record sales which may have contributed to the eventual breakup of their collaboration. The high-selling soundtrack album only featured two Bernstein cues amidst all the songs, with no score album released to this day. (Ghostbusters received 2 Oscar nominations)

GREMLINS - Jerry Goldsmith

One of Goldsmith's all-time highest grossers, this was the first feature he scored for director Joe Dante and was dominated by the atypically goofy "Gremlins Rag," essentially a reworking of his monster-on-the-wing theme from the final Twilight Zone: the Movie segment. His theme for the cuddly Gizmo skirted the edge of cloying, but his opening "Late For Work" theme was charming and delightful, and Dante's direction encouraged Goldsmith's eccentric streak, the composer even providing synthesized cat yowls in one cue. Maddeningly (especially considering producer Steven Spielberg's clout and professed love of soundtracks), the Gremlins soundtrack LP was a "mini-disc" featuring only 15 minutes of music on each side and only one side of score, omitting such highlights as the evocative Chinatown opening and the exciting department store finale.

GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES - John Scott

Scott was always far too talented for the many B-movies he was saddled with in the sixties and seventies, and I can't help wonder if when he was scoring films like Trog and The People That Time Forgot that he had any idea he'd go on to score an A-list, megabudget version of similar material. This is still the highest profile film Scott has ever scored, a lavish (though unsatisfying and wildly uneven -- original adapter Robert Towne famously used his dog's name as a pseudonym and still received an Oscar nomination for the script) -- reworking of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels which was director Hugh Hudson's first film after Best Picture winner Chariots of Fire. Scott rose to the occasion with one of his finest scores, featuring a suitably noble main theme and a terrific cue, "Dance of Death," for the scene where Tarzan/Greystoke goes apes**t in public. (3 Oscar nominations)

THE KILLING FIELDS - Mike Oldfield

David Puttnam's productions of Midnight Express and Chariots of Fire had won Oscars for their electronic scores, so it was a big surprise that Oldfield's jagged, modern score for this Best Picture nominee didn't even receive a nomination. Oldfield, most famous as the composer of "Tubular Bells," wrote a score with some of the same visceral impact of Moroder's Midnight Express but with less of a pop-oriented sensibility, using harsh sounds to reinforce the film's impressive depiction of the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror in Cambodia, while making little attempt to evoke the Asian setting musically. When Puttnam and Fields director Ronald Joffe collaborated next, the result was The Mission, whose Ennio Morricone score was one of the most surprising Oscar non-winners of all time. (7 Oscar nominations)

STARMAN - Jack Nitzsche

Though it was not a boxoffice hit, Starman received surprisingly good reviews for a John Carpenter film, and the movie took an unusual, "chick flick" approach to the classic alien-on-Earth story. The alien takes the form of a handsome naked man, a clone of the heroine's late husband, and after he impregnates her he tells her the child will grow up to be a teacher -- sci-fi doesn't get any more Lifetime Television For Women than this. This was the second Carpenter film which the director didn't score himself, and Jack Nitzsche was fresh off his Oscar win for Officer and a Gentleman's theme song "Up Where We Belong," and had also scored One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for Starman producer Michael Douglas. Nitzsche's score was largely electronic, with a simple, breathy sounding love theme (a bit too simple -- the end title repeats it incessantly with no real musical development). Despite its musical limitations, the score was well reviewed, with one mainstream critic even comparing its emotional impact to the scores of Golden Age Hollywood. (1 Oscar nomination)


FIVE MORE OUTSTANDING SCORES OF 1984

BODY DOUBLE - Pino Donaggio

Just as Brian DePalma had essentially remade Psycho twice (as Sisters and Dressed to Kill), he followed his Vertigo reworking Obsession with yet another try, replacing acrophobia with claustrophobia and forsaking the lush settings of Italy and New Orleans for Hollywood's porn industry. Though Donaggio's music (not surprisingly) didn't reach the orchestral peaks of Herrmann's Obsession and Vertigo, his score for Body Double was one of his finest, bringing impressive variety to DePalma's inane and implausible storyline. There was a lightly romantic main theme for the main title sequence of Craig Wasson driving home to his unfaithful girlfriend (which used Hitchcockian phony looking rear projection), a rhythmic motif for the murderous "Indian" (whose true identity is obvious from the moment he appears onscreen), and, most famously of all, a hypnotic synth melody for Melanie Griffith's seductive dance, music that reportedly became a staple of actual porn films. There is still no official release of the film's score, though six cues were included on the Milan compilation Donaggio - DePalma: Love and Menace.

THE COTTON CLUB - John Barry

Robert Evans and Francis Coppola's famously troubled musical drama about the Harlem nightclub was, despite its flaws, a lavish and highly entertaining film, and even though the club songs drew most of the attention, there was still room for John Barry to write a first-rate orchestral score, romantic as always and elegantly evoking the period. Though there were originally plans for a two-disc soundtrack of the songs and score, the predicted failure of the film led to merely a one-disc soundtrack album (later released on CD but unfortunately unexpanded) featuring only two Barry cues.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA - Ennio Morricone

For Sergio Leone's final film, Morricone produced a suitably lovely and elegiac score, one of his most beloved efforts -- nearly twenty years later, fans are still outraged that a bureaucratic snafu led to it not being submitted for Oscar consideration. The film was notoriously released in the U.S. in a heavily butchered version with its running time reduced by an hour and half and its structure made strictly chronological (the recut was done by Police Academy editor Zach Staenberg, who 15 years later would redeem himself with his Oscar winning work on The Matrix). Only when the film was re-released in its original version (now available on DVD) was its scope and power made clear. The Morricone soundtrack (expanded in 1998) suffers from a sequencing problem -- the first three cues introduce the three main themes and they're all wonderful (especially Deborah's theme) but the rest of the album mostly plays like repetitions of those three themes, though I don't know what sequencing of the album would improve it.

SUPERGIRL - Jerry Goldsmith

Though Goldsmith became an A-lister years before John Williams did, Jaws and Star Wars put Williams securely at the top of the Hollywood composer hierarchy, and there have been many times since when it seemed like Goldsmith was stuck following in Williams' footsteps -- Star Trek instead of Star Wars, King Solomon's Mines after Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dennis the Menace following Home Alone, and so forth. The most obvious example of this trend was the Salkinds' attempt to spin off their Superman franchise in a new direction. David Odell's campy script pitted Helen Slater's Supergirl against a would-be witch played by Faye Dunaway in full Mommie Dearest mode, and the film lacked the genuinely epic feeling and striking visuals of the 1978 Superman (Superman's cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth died before Superman's release, and designer John Barry died only a few years later). Though Supergirl's essential silliness and more limited scope didn't leave room for the kind of epic score that Williams gave Superman, Goldsmith still gave the film (which is a true guilty pleasure) his all, with a rousing Supergirl theme (reminiscent of "Beautiful Dreamer"), a soaring love theme, and an especially dynamic motif for the "Monster Tractor" sequence (like the recent Hulk, Supergirl suffered from a lack of worthy adversaries for its superheroine). The well sequenced Varese soundtrack (one of their earliest CD releases) was expanded years later by Silva, and though the sound quality was disappointing, the extra cues (including some alternates) demonstrated how much effort and care Goldsmith had put into his work. But, not surprisingly (the film was originally to be released by Warners but pawned off onto Tri-Star), there was no Supergirl II.

2010 - David Shire

Genesis musician Tony Banks was originally signed to score this beautifully mounted but wholly unnecessary sequel to the Kubrick-Clarke classic, but the collaboration with writer-producer-director-cinematographer Peter Hyams didn't work out and David Shire was hired. Shire contributed some of the finest electronic film music ever written, climaxing with a triumphant orchestral theme reminiscent of Goldsmith's Alien. Unfortunately, Hyams ultimately dialed out much of Shire's work, but the A&M soundtrack release (another early score CD) contained much of the omitted material.


THE REST OF THE YEAR IN FILM MUSIC:

John Addison scored one of his final features which was also the last feature starring vehicle for Katharine Hepburn, the barely-released black comedy GRACE QUIGLEY.

James Bridges' L.A. drug thriller MIKE'S MURDER went through a lengthy period of rewriting and reshooting after unsatisfactory test screenings (the gruesome depiction of the titular murder was apparently too strong for test audiences, and was omitted from the release version), and one casualty was Joe Jackson's original score, replaced by a typically elegant and effective John Barry score. Barry also wrote a delightfully romantic score for the forgettable UNTIL SEPTEMBER, featuring several main themes including a gentle main title cue and a warm love theme.

Exchanging the orchestral styling of Cujo for a more modest palette, Charles Bernstein gave the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET a suitably spooky and jangling electronic score featuring a memorable main theme.

Elmer's son Peter Bernstein scored the trashy Bo Derek romance BOLERO, while his father conducted and received credit for scoring the "Love Scenes."

Michael Boddicker's electronic score for THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI: ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION featured a catchy end title theme, but the overrated film's blend of sci-fi and comedy could have used a more imaginative and orchestrally varied score.

After years of Emmy winning TV scores, Bruce Broughton scored his first major studio feature. Unfortunately, that feature was the dismal sci-fi comedy THE ICE PIRATES (one of the worst genre films of the decade), and even a composer of Broughton's gifts was unable to make this travesty any more palatable.

After Pino Donaggio's music was rejected, Dave Brubeck was hired to score Cannon's Agatha Christie adaptation ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE, and his reworking of his own classic jazz themes was strikingly inappropriate for this small-scaled British mystery, resulting in one of the most distracting and misconceived scores ever written.

Paul Chihara gave the underrated thriller IMPULSE a disarming Americana main theme and effective suspense cues. He also scored Louis Malle's misfired remake of Big Deal on Madonna Street, CRACKERS.

Broadway composer Cy Coleman wrote a distractingly jaunty score for the Sidney Lumet comedy (three words you rarely see together) GARBO TALKS.

Michel Colombier scored two films better remembered for their songs -- PURPLE RAIN, whose song score won Prince an Oscar, and AGAINST ALL ODDS (scored with Larry Carlton), featuring the popular Phil Collins title tune.

Bill Conti wrote a retrained and effective score for the film version of the hit play MASS APPEAL, and continued his typecasting as the sports movie composer with the biopic THE BEAR and the surprise smash THE KARATE KID, which featured a warm and sprightly main theme. He also reteamed with Private Benjamin director Howard Zieff for the remake of Preston Sturges' UNFAITHFULLY YOURS, which gave music unusual prominence -- the protagonist (Dudley Moore) was a symphony conductor and film composer.

James Horner's 48 Hrs. style percussive score for Walter Hill's STREETS OF FIRE was rejected in mid-recording, and Hill's other main musical collaborator Ry Cooder was brought into write a more rock-ish score. Cooder also scored one of his most critically acclaimed films, the Wim Wenders drama PARIS, TEXAS (which brought Dean Stockwell out of premature retirement).

Carl Davis wrote his most accessible score for the true life horse racing drama CHAMPIONS, featuring a stirring main theme with some of the same appeal as Vangelis' Chariots of Fire.

Fittingly, George Delerue scored the final film of his most frequent and famous collaborator, Francois Truffaut, CONFIDENTIALLY YOURS. Delerue gave the black-and-white romantic mystery a charming main theme but the rest of the score was subdued and nearly as forgettable as the film itself.

Loek Dikker scored what is arguably Paul Verhoeven's finest film, the Dutch erotic thriller THE FOURTH MAN, giving the hallucinatory story a wonderfully brooding and evocative score.

Klaus Doldinger's peppy score for THE NEVER ENDING STORY, for Das Boot director Wolfgang Petersen, was augmented in the U.S. with additional cues by Giorgio Moroder, including the oddly memorable title song.

Harold Faltermeyer wrote his first two feature scores for the newly joined producing team of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, who over the next two decades would change the face of Hollywood filmmaking for the worse. The romantic drama THIEF OF HEARTS (the directing debut of Officer and a Gentleman writer Douglas Day Stewart) is largely forgotten, but the enormous hit BEVERLY HILLS COP featured the composer's most famous piece of music, the maddeningly catchy "Axel F."

Robert Folk scored Tom Hanks' first starring vehicle, BACHELOR PARTY, as well as the first of the POLICE ACADEMY movies. He also scored the Vietnam war romance (three more words you rarely see together) PURPLE HEARTS.

Brad Fiedel wrote his signature score, THE TERMINATOR, with driving action cues and a genuinely memorable main theme.

Ernest Gold's final feature, the adventure film SAFARI 3000, received an extremely minimal release.

Besides Gremlins and Supergirl, Jerry Goldsmith rejoined director Michael Crichton for RUNAWAY, which featured his first all-electronic score (assisted by his son Joel). The score featured thrilling action cues (especially "Lockons") and a main theme similar to his later, Oscar-nominated Hoosiers. He also scored the dreadful Steve Martin vehicle THE LONELY GUY, which, despite a catchy main theme, proved again that comedy is not Goldsmith's strong suit. To add insult to injury, the soundtrack was a "mini-disc" with even less music than the Gremlins LP, featuring only two score cues and the Goldsmith theme song (I know, this sounds like the old joke -- "Such terrible food. And such small portions.").

Charles Gross wrote a restrained score for one of the year's three high-profile farm dramas, COUNTRY, and the music, performed by George Winston, Mark Isham and Michael Boddicker among others, was released by Wyndham Hill.

Dave Grusin had an unusually prolific year with five films released. His strongest work was for the underrated John LeCarre adaptation THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL, finding a more appropriate tone for the spy thriller than he did for Three Days of the Condor. He wrote a suitably delicate score for the 40s romance RACING WITH THE MOON, and adapted his own jazz pieces for the Streep-DeNiro drama FALLING IN LOVE. His work on THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE was overshadowed by the prominent use of Frank Sinatra's classic rendition of "Summer Wind," and he also scored Rob Cohen's little seen comedy-thriller SCANDALOUS, an unusually small scale assignment for the A-list composer.

Herbie Hancock wrote a sparse, harsh score for the Best Picture nominee A SOLDIER'S STORY.

The campy adventure film SHEENA seemed like an ideal opportunity for a rousing adventure score, but Richard Hartley's music was disappointingly muted and repetitive.

Lee Holdridge wrote his most popular score for the hit comedy SPLASH (a strong contender for "Outstanding Scores of the Year"), highlighted by a genuinely moving love theme, "Love Came For Me." Henry Mancini was unavailable for the Blake Edwards comedy MICKI & MAUDE and Michel Legrand was originally hired but also became unavailable, so Holdridge got the job, incorporating an original Legrand song.

Only two years after his breakthrough score for Star Trek II, James Horner seemed to have lost interest in the series, as his music for STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK was largely a rehash of its predecessor, though he contributed a new Klingon theme and gave it a terrific, slow rendition in the cue "Sunset on Genesis" (sadly, not included on the soundtrack album). He also wrote a modest and delicate score for the little seen drama THE STONE BOY.

Mark Isham followed up his Never Cry Wolf score with a similarly effective and unusual score for the period romance MRS. SOFFEL, the starkness of his music matching the film's wintry prison setting.

Maurice Jarre proved surprisingly adept at parody with his rambunctious score for the Zuckers/Abrahams comedy TOP SECRET!, featuring a genuinely stirring love theme. He also write a lively electronic score for the imaginative B-movie DREAMSCAPE.

John Kander wrote an extremely sparse score for the Oscar winner PLACES IN THE HEART, whose period songs were produced by Howard Shore.

Mark Knopfler reunited with Local Hero director Bill Forsyth for the underrated comedy COMFORT AND JOY, and also scored the downbeat Irish romantic drama CAL.

Henry Mancini's only score of the year was for the largely forgotten Paul Newman directed drama HARRY & SON (he scored four projects for Newman).

Brian May reunited with a fellow Australian, Patrick director Richard Franklin, for the uneven youth-oriented adventure CLOAK AND DAGGER, doing well with the action but less successful at finding the proper delicate tone for the juvenile element. He also wrote a big scale light adventure score for THE TREASURE OF THE YANKEE ZEPHYR.

John Morris scored the hit Gene Wilder comedy THE WOMAN IN RED, though the original Stevie Wonder songs (including Oscar winner "I Just Called To Say I Love You") garnered all the attention. He also scored the flop 30s gangster parody JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY, which was Michael Keaton's first starring vehicle after his breakthrough role in Night Shift.

In his first year of feature scoring, Thomas Newman scored only youth oriented films (a genre he was largely typecast in until Men Don't Leave broke him out into more grownup terrain) -- the rebel teen drama RECKLESS (written by Chris Columbus, and the directorial debut of James Foley), the Randal Kleiser comedy GRANDVIEW U.S.A., and the needs-no-further-description REVENGE OF THE NERDS.

Lennie Niehaus began his tenure as Clint Eastwood's in-house composer, scoring two Eastwood productions -- the kinky cop-thriller TIGHTROPE, and the Eastwood/Reynolds teaming CITY HEAT (which was originally to be directed by Blake Edwards, and in that case presumably would have had a Henry Mancini score).

Jack Nitzsche wrote an atypically traditional score for the Bill Murray remake of THE RAZOR'S EDGE (conducted by Stanley Black), but as with Starman, the composer's musical limitations were made clear in a (admittedly lush) main theme that tended to repeat rather than develop.

Alan Parker continued his trend of unusual scoring choices by hiring rocker Peter Gabriel to score the Vietnam era drama BIRDY, and Gabriel wrote an effective and unusual score, incorporating some of his own pre-existing pieces.

Basil Poledouris wrote his third score for director John Milius, the Soviet-invasion adventure RED DAWN, featuring a suitably stirring main theme (which sounded like a cross between "Taps" and "Fanfare For the Common Man") and energetic action cues. He also followed up his beloved Conan score with CONAN THE DESTROYER which, though not quite the musical feast of its predecessor, was lively and enjoyable, featuring a new Conan theme. He also took two rare ventures into comedy, the Goldie Hawn vehicle PROTOCOL and the college farce MAKING THE GRADE.

Leonard Rosenman scored one of his few features of the decade, the Australian drama HEART OF THE STAG.

Craig Safan gave THE LAST STARFIGHTER what has proved to be his most popular score, a lively orchestral work featuring an exciting opening that sounds like an Elmer Bernstein take on the Indiana Jones march.

After a prolific 1983, Lalo Schifrin was represented only by the James Garner comedy TANK.

David Shire worked with frequent collaborator director Paul Bogart on the third and final Oh God comedy (yes, kids, they did make three of them), OH GOD! YOU DEVIL.

Though it was not his first feature, ROMANCING THE STONE was Alan Silvestri's first high profile film (as well as his first for Robert Zemeckis), and though his rhythmic pop score was effective in context, it showed little indication of the outstanding scores that would shortly follow.

Fred Schepisi directed his first big budget American film, the sci-fi drama ICEMAN, and his regular composer Bruce Smeaton wrote a powerful score featuring a striking and elaborate main theme which perfectly complemented the amazing performance by an unrecognizable John Lone as the unfrozen caveman.

Michael Small wrote one of his few electronic scores for the underrated family drama/thriller FIRSTBORN.

Fresh off the success of their Risky Business score, Tangerine Dream reached a peak of Hollywood popularity, scoring the Stephen King adaptation FIRESTARTER, the conspiracy thriller FLASHPOINT (featuring a hilariously literal end title song -- not by Tangerine Dream -- which recapitulates the plot "Guns of Navarone" style), and the well reviewed indie drama HEARTBREAKERS.

The chameleonic Ken Thorne scored the Tom Selleck caper film LASSITER in a period jazz style.

Having hired Queen to score his production of Flash Gordon, producer Dino De Laurentiis took a similar tack by hiring Grammy winners Toto to score the stunningly designed David Lynch adaptation of DUNE, and their lively, pop symphonic score was an impressive try at challenging material.

Vangelis was an unusual choice to score the historically accurate but dramatically unsatisfying film of THE BOUNTY (with a remarkable cast -- Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, and Laurence Olivier), and his brooding synth score was reasonably effective but unlikely to challenge the memory of Bronislau Kaper's epic score for the 1962 version.

Ken Wannberg wrote an exciting score for the time travel B-movie THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT, with a driving, Goldsmith-esque main theme and suitably propulsive action music.

Patrick Williams tied with Dave Grusin as the year's most prolific composer, scoring mostly comedies -- the acclaimed Steve Martin vehicle ALL OF ME, the Dudley Moore/Eddie Murphy flop BEST DEFENSE, the Richard Dreyfuss/Susan Sarandon romance THE BUDDY SYSTEM, Jonathan Demme's SWING SHIFT, and a drama, MARVIN & TIGHE, featuring guitar solos by Earl Klugh.

Christopher Young reunited with the makers of Pranks for THE POWER, with a main theme that sounded like Saint-Saens' "The Aquarium" arranged by Bernard Herrmann. He also contributed a lighthearted adventure score for the obscure HIGHPOINT.


REJECTED

MIKE'S MURDER (Joe Jackson)
ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE (Pino Donaggio)
STREETS OF FIRE (James Horner)


These are all the score LPs from 1984 movies produced around the time of their films' release (titles with an asterisk also received a CD release around the same time):

Birdy, Bolero, The Bostonians, Cal, Champions, Conan the Destroyer, Country*, Dreamscape*, Dune*, Firestarter, Flashpoint, The Fourth Man, Greystoke, Heartbreakers, Iceman, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom*, The Killing Fields*, Lassiter, The Last Starfighter, Marvin and Tighe, The Natural, The Neverending Story, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Once Upon a Time in America*, Paris Texas, A Passage to India, The Philadelphia Experiment, The Power, The Razor's Edge, The River, Runaway*, Sheena, Splash (re-recording), Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, Starman*, Supergirl*, Top Secret, 2010*, Until September

Gremlins and The Terminator each had a soundtrack LP release with score on one side and songs on the other.


In preparing these summaries of film music years, I realized that I'd been leaving out an important perspective, that of the late critic Page Cook. For many years, Page Cook's film music columns in Films in Review (along with Royal S. Brown's reviews in High Fidelity) were much pretty much the only regular film music criticism around, and Cook would also sum up the year's best and worst in a yearly piece. (Cook's summaries of the years 1980 through 1983 follow at the end of this column)

PAGE COOK'S BEST AND WORST OF 1984

TOP FIVE SCORES OF THE YEAR (in alphabetical order)

Fort Saganne - Philippe Sarde
Iceman - Bruce Smeaton
The Natural - Randy Newman
Red Dawn - Basil Poledouris
Under the Volcano - Alex North

HONORABLE MENTION: Champions, Gremlins, The Last Starfighter, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, To Be Or Not to Be, The Woman in Red

WORST OF THE YEAR: The Bounty, Dreamscape, Dune ("an aural imbroglio"), Falling in Love, Garbo Talks, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Razor's Edge ("anachronistic and mosquito-brained schizophrenic snippets"), and Supergirl ("out and out drivel").


FROM: "Joe Esrey"
SUBJECT: Chariots of Fire
 
For what it's worth, I too remember more about Chariots of Fire than just the music and the shots of people running on the beach, despite the fact I still haven't even seen most of the film yet. I'm amazed you singled out this particular Best Picture winner as one people don't remember; it's surely better-remembered than even some more recent BP recipients.


FROM: "Randy Derchan"

SUBJECT: 1983
 
Chariots on fire? What? What are you guys talking about? Just kidding.

Just a note -- I think Hammet was 1982. I could be wrong. As far as fond memories go, you brought back some bad ones as well. There were quite a few stinkers among that crowd. I still want my money back on some of those films. 1983 -- The year of Giorgio Moroder.

Hammett is often listed as a 1982 film, possibly because that was the year it screened at film festivals, but I go by a film's L.A. release and I believe it didn't open in L.A. until 1983. The film spent a long time in post-production with a major chunk of the film rewritten and reshot, with Towering Inferno cinematographer Joseph Biroc replaced by Point Blank's Philip Lathrop for the new footage.

FROM: "Ian Smith"

SUBJECT: Re: NOT EVEN NOMINATED, PART FOUR
 
Glad to see BRAINSTORM remembered. I think it's my favourite Horner score, back from the early Horner days when his music still felt fresh and original. If ever a Horner score deserved re-releasing as a complete edition, this is it. I'd also like to point out that the old Varese Sarabande album was a re-recording, I believe, by Horner himself, so the actual score from the film has never been released on album. Correct me if I'm wrong--
You're absolutely right. The Varese Brainstorm LP/CD was a re-recording.


MORE PAGE COOK

1980

BEST SCORES OF THE YEAR

1. Carny - Alex North
2. Pilate's Easter - Edward David Zeliff
3. Tess - Philippe Sarde
4. The Awakening - Claude Bolling
5. The Final Countdown - John Scott

HONORABLE MENTION

The Elephant Man, The Long Riders, Tom Horn

WORST SCORES OF THE YEAR

A Change of Seasons, The Competition, Flash Gordon, The Formula, Heaven's Gate ("rarely has such musical drool saturated the screen"), Inside Moves, Raise the Titanic, Resurrection ("mindless meandering"), Seems Like Old Times, Somewhere in Time.

Eagle-eyed readers may be surprised at the inclusion of a film as obscure as Pilate's Easter, by a composer as little known as Edward David Zeliff. One of the main reasons that Cook was (and is) such a controversial figure in the world of film music journalism is that he had an indefensible tendency to write about films and composers that did not actually exist. As far as I've been able to determine, this is one of those cases.


1981

BEST SCORES OF THE YEAR

1. Eye of the Needle - Miklos Rozsa
2. Ghost Story - Philippe Sarde
3. History of the World Part 1 - John Morris
4. Dragonslayer - Alex North
5. Masada (TV) - Jerry Goldsmith, Morton Stevens

HONORABLE MENTION

Heavy Metal, Jane Austen in Manhattan (Richard Robbins), Only When I Laugh, Priest of Love (Joseph James), Whose Life Is It Anyway?.

WORST SCORES OF THE YEAR

Arthur ("coarse grovelings"), Body Heat ("odious drivel"), Buddy Buddy ("witless baggage"), Endless Love ("slurpy sludge"), Escape From New York, Lion of the Desert, Mommie Dearest, Neighbors ("obtrusive nonsense"), Prince of the City ("unrelated flotsam"), Raiders of the Lost Ark ("the year's saddest excuse for a score"), Rich and Famous, Southern Comfort, Taps, Tarzan the Ape Man, True Confessions.

Cook's annual "Bete Noir" award went to Dave Grusin for Absence of Malice, On Golden Pond ("tinkling saccharinities") and Reds.


1982

BEST SCORES OF THE YEAR

1. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial - John Williams
2. Conan the Barbarian - Basil Poledouris
3. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - Miklos Rozsa
4. Quest For Fire - Philippe Sarde
5. Poltergeist - Jerry Goldsmith

HONORABLE MENTION

The Beastmaster, The Dark Crystal, Evil Under the Sun, Five Days One Summer, Night Crossing, The Secret of NIMH, The Sword and the Sorcerer.

WORST SCORES OF THE YEAR

The Beast Within, Cat People, Deathtrap ("Baroque droolings"), Firefox ("bird-brained galumphings"), Forbidden World, Gandhi, An Officer and a Gentleman, Rocky III, Six Weeks, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ("hysterical hodgepodge"), Tempest ("sound doodlings"), The Thing, Tron ("appropriately vile").

Another controversial aspect of Page Cook's writings was his inconsistency. He might pan a score one year and then later, when the composer became one of his favorites (Alex North, John Morris), the score would be referred to as a classic. On a similar note, it's hard to fathom how Horner's Star Trek II could be one of 1982's worst scores while just two years later Star Trek III (which is largely reworkings of II's "hysterical hodgepodge") should be one of 1984's better scores.


1983

THE BEST SCORE OF THE YEAR

Under Fire - Jerry Goldsmith

RUNNER UP

Twilight Zone: The Movie

HONORABLE MENTION

Blue Thunder, Cross Creek, Octopussy, WarGames

WORST OF THE YEAR:

Brainstorm, The Dresser, Gorky Park, Krull, The Osterman Weekend, Return of the Jedi ("nonregenerative and overblown"), The Right Stuff ("the year's most hideous major score"), Scarface, Silkwood ("solemnity via somnambulism"), Star 80, The Sting II, Sudden Impact, The Year of Living Dangerously ("blatant horrors").


Thanks again to reader Marc Levy for inspiring this series. Earlier columns in this series covering the years 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983 are accessible on the website.

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