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By Scott Bettencourt


CROSS CREEK - Leonard Rosenman
RETURN OF THE JEDI - John Williams
THE RIGHT STUFF - Bill Conti (the winner)
UNDER FIRE - Jerry Goldsmith


THE DRESSER - James Horner

Following his two smash his in 1982, Star Trek II and 48 Hrs., James Horner had a whopping seven films released in 1983. Though there were no boxoffice smashes in that septet, he did manage to score one of the year's Best Picture nominees, an adaptation of the acclaimed play by Ronald Harwood (who 19 years later would win a screenwriting Oscar for The Pianist) which paired Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay (recreating his stage role) as an aging actor and his devoted dresser during World War II. Horner's score was effective but sparing, featured only in the opening and closing reels and dominated by the kind of choral work he also used in that year's Krull and Testament (among others). None of the film's music has ever been released on CD or LP. (The Dresser received 5 Oscar nominations)

RUMBLE FISH - Stewart Copeland

In the late 70s and early 80s, the Academy was unusually receptive to nontraditional scores, giving Oscars to the synth-dominated Midnight Express and Chariots of Fire, and at the time I was greatly surprised that this debut score by The Police's percussionist not only didn't win but wasn't even nominated. His catchy rhythms and inventive instrumentation (which included a typewriter and a kazoo -- Copeland could be considered the near ancestor of Thomas Newman) were a perfect complement to the stunning black-and-white visuals (with occasional splashes of color) of director Francis Coppola and cinematographer Stephen Burum, and also featured a terrific theme song "Don't Box Me In," co-written with vocalist Stan Ridgway. Though Copleland's sound remains distinctive to this day, nothing he has done since compares in quality or impact.

SILKWOOD - Georges Delerue

This effective dramatization of the life and death of nuclear plant worker Karen Silkwood was director Mike Nichols' first fiction film feature in eight years, and featured outstanding performances by Meryl Streep (no surprise) and Cher (big surprise). Delerue had composed a lovely score for Nichols' Day of the Dolphin ten years earlier and received his second Oscar nomination for it. His twangy opening theme for Silkwood overplayed the Americana but for the later, more serious parts of the film his music was typically restrained and moving (4 Oscar nominations)


Goldsmith received his Oscar nomination in 83 for his acclaimed Under Fire score (even Pauline Kael, no fan of film music, called it some of the greatest film music ever written), but his Twilight Zone score was even better, arguably one of his masterpieces. This four-story anthology film inspired four individual and distinct scores from the composer, who had scored seven episodes of the original TV series. John Landis' "Time Out," the first segment (infamous for the on-set deaths of Vic Morrow and two children) was the only one of the four segments not based on an original episode but was the one which most resembled the classic show in its modest production values, morality-tale plotline, and Goldsmith's percussive small-ensemble music. "Kick the Can" is the only time Goldsmith has composed music for film directed by Steven Spielberg (not counting the controversy over who really directed Poltergeist), and the music is suitably lush and charming. Joe Dante's "It's a Good Life" featured an especially haunting and evocative main theme, and though some of his music for Rob Bottin's stylized monsters was dialed out, Dante hired the composer for his next eight feature films, including this fall's Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The last and best segment, George Miller's superbly directed "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," was driven by John Lithgow's unforgettable, tour-de-force performance and Goldsmith's relentless music, featuring a fiddle theme for the creature on the wing which he would rework a year later for Dante's Gremlins (over a decade later, Goldsmith was originally hired to score Miller's production Babe, but alas the collaboration fell through). The dazzling end title cue omitted the tense, non-melodic "Time Out" music while presenting a gorgeous medley of the other three segment scores. The superbly produced soundtrack album, featuring nearly all the best cues arranged into suites, also included the first Goldsmith music heard in the film -- a source song called "Nights Are Forever," arranged by James Newton Howard. (Nineteen years later, Howard paid homage to Goldsmith's score to the classic Twilight Zone episode "The Invaders" -- about aliens invading a remote farmhouse -- in his score for Signs.)


The first of five films Jarre would score for director Peter Weir, this atmospheric and lushly photographed romantic thriller was the start of a new era in Jarre's music. While his earlier scores tended to be vividly melodic and boldly orchestrated, his Year score was more subdued and ambient, using authentic gamelan orchestrations to depict its Indonesian setting with unusual accuracy. However, one conspicuous example of Weir's hands-on approach to film music was his prominent use of "L'enfant" from Vangelis' Opera Sauvage, which was effective in context but may have hurt Jarre's chances at a nomination (and was destined to confuse record buyers who picked up the Varese score album).


BLUE THUNDER - Arthur B. Rubinstein

Despite an often sophomoric tone (the heroes spend an alarming amount of their flight time spying on women) and uneven direction from John Badham, this action thriller benefited from outstanding flying sequences, a terrific performance from the irreplaceable Warren Oates, and one of the decade's best action score, courtesy of Badham's Yale classmate Arthur B. Rubinstein. The score revolves around a catchy main theme and features a skilled (and highly appropriate) use of electronics, the music growing in excitement and culminating in the galvanizing "River Chase."


Tom Selleck nearly played Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and two years later got his chance to star in an old fashioned romantic adventure (his first movie vehicle after rising to stardom on TV's Magnum P.I.), and though the results were less than memorable (there was no clamor for Patrick O'Malley and the Temple of Doom), John Barry's score is still as charming and lovely twenty years later. As with his more famous scores like Out of Africa, Barry largely ignored the exotic setting in his music while concentrating on the romantic elements, and his gentle love theme was accompanied by rousing (but not TOO exciting -- this is later Barry, after all) adventure music.

KRULL - James Horner

Krull was a failed attempt at a Star Wars-style fantasy franchise which made a dull thud at the boxoffice, and despite Stephen Grimes' lavish, imaginative sets and early supporting performances from Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane it is barely remembered today -- except by film music fans, as its music is so popular it has inspired three different score CDs, each longer than the previous. Of Horner's seven scores of the year, this is his most popular, as he wrote music as rousing as his breakthrough score for Star Trek II (even for scenes when nothing much exciting is going on, like the "Quest For the Glaive" sequence, which consists largely of rock climbing) with the added bonus of one of his finest love themes.

OCTOPUSSY - John Barry

Barry's presence was sorely missed in For Your Eyes Only, a comparatively low-key and genuinely Fleming-inspired Bond that would have been an excellent fit for his restrained and elegant style of Bond scoring. Luckily, Barry returned for the overlong but underrated Octopussy, giving the occasionally campy proceedings a typically fluid score with a fittingly Indian flavor, and featuring a terrific "Chase Bomb" motif which brought back fond memories of the classic safecracking cue from On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The theme song, "All Time High," may not have been one of the classic Bond ballads, but its melody was used terrifically in the body of the score.

TESTAMENT - James Horner

Yes, even more Horner (with seven scores and all the youthful exuberance his music showed in 1983, it's hard to ignore him). This low-key drama, made for PBS but released theatrically, featured early work by Kevin Costner and Rebecca DeMornay in small roles but was dominated by Jane Alexander's moving, Oscar nominated performance as a mother trying to keep her family together and safe in the aftermath of nuclear war. Horner's restrained, often choral score beautifully complemented the emotions without lapsing into overstatement. The film is one of the great, unheralded tearjerkers of the decade, and it's a shame that director Lynne Littman hasn't made a high-profile feature since.


In one of the oddest composer castings of all time, John Addison was hired to score the sci-fi parody/homage STRANGE INVADERS, but he proved surprisingly well suited to the task, composing a lively and varied score which built to an emotionally rich finale.

John Barry gave the troubled but entertaining HAMMETT a suitably noirish score with an Oriental flavor.

Charles Bernstein wrote perhaps his finest feature score for, of all things, CUJO, his brooding orchestral music supporting the underlying seriousness of this surprisingly good Stephen King adaptation. He also wrote an electronic score for the visually stylish, well acted horror film THE ENTITY.

While not quite the musical feast of his Heavy Metal score, Elmer Bernstein's music for SPACE HUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE was energetic and charming, at times emphasizing the space Western elements of the story, and far better than the dingy looking 3D film deserved. Bernstein reunited with Great Santini director Lewis John Carlino for CLASS, giving the college sex comedy a charming score with an infectious main theme. He also received an Oscar nomination for his Mozart adaptations for John Landis' TRADING PLACES.

Howard Blake wrote a pleasantly spooky orchestral score (at times reminiscent of Goldsmith's Poltergeist) for the trashily enjoyable AMITYVILLE 3-D, using none of Lalo Schifrin's music for the previous films in the series. He also scored the military drama THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE, and though there has never been a soundtrack release the main theme was released as sheet music.

Roy Budd gave the terrorist thriller THE FINAL OPTION a typically rousing orchestral score, though the most memorable element of the film remains Judy Davis' eccentric performance as the villain.

John Carpenter gave the score to his own film version of Stephen King's CHRISTINE a catchy main motif, but for a Carpenter film the music was atypically dominated by songs.

Along with his Oscar winning score for The Right Stuff, Bill Conti gave BAD BOYS a dramatic orchestral score highlighted by a moving main title cue.

For his widescreen adaptation of the teen-lit classic THE OUTSIDERS, Francis Coppola hired his own father Carmine Coppola to give the film its lush, unapologetically old-fashioned score, including a theme song, "Stay Gold."

Normally hired for comedies and intimate dramas (like the aforementioned Silkwood), Georges Delerue wrote an unusually bold and stirring adventure score for THE BLACK STALLION RETURNS (which really deserves to be in the "Five More Outstanding Scores" part of this column), complementing the usual delicacy of his music with a rousing surge of energy. He worked in more typical terrain with the big screen soap opera MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD, and scored James Toback's romantic thriller EXPOSED.

From the director of the absurdly entertaining Star Crash, HERCULES featured a lively B-movie score by Pino Donaggio to accompany the film's sub-Harryhausen effects.

Charles Fox scored the failed comedy-mystery TRENCHCOAT, one of the last of Disney's attempts at more grownup fare before the creation of Touchstone Pictures helped revitalize their fortunes, and wrote a lively score for the amusing STRANGE BREW, a "Doug & Bob McKenzie" vehicle that incorporated elements of Hamlet.

Jerry Goldsmith's score for PSYCHO II was a bold attempt to move in a different direction from Bernard Herrmann's superlative score for the original, using a gentle main theme to reinforce Norman Bates' emotional innocence, but the music didn't always work well onscreen and his 1978 Magic score covered similar territory with greater effectiveness. The international thriller THE SALAMANDER finally received a brief release, and Goldsmith wrote an exciting action score with a first-rate main title, but the film and score have barely been seen or heard since.

Jerry's son Joel Goldsmith gave the amusing Steve Martin comedy THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS a peppy and effective comedy score, with no echoes of his father's work.

For those who feel the three scores mentioned earlier aren't enough James Horner for one year, the composer (who turned 30 in 1983) had four more: his replacement score for SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES was a favorite of author Ray Bradbury's, though his warm evocations of Midwest childhood were far more satisfying than his main theme, which owed a fair debt to John Williams' Imperial March; BRAINSTORM is another fan favorite, with gorgeous choral cues and an overwhelmingly powerful cue for Louise Fletcher's fatal heart attack; UNCOMMON VALOR, sort of a foretaste of 1985's Rambo, was a fun military adventure score though during the finale the composer slipped into familiar Battle Beyond the Stars territory; and GORKY PARK, which featured another terrific love theme but its transposition of 48 Hrs. style urban action to a Russian setting seemed a bald attempt to give a slowly paced film some needed energy, and the results were more satisfying on the CD than in the context of the movie.

After earlier composers proved unsatisfactory, director Carroll Ballard hired Mark Isham to write his first feature score, for NEVER CRY WOLF, and the composer's evocative, offbeat sounds were an effective move away from the lighthearted orchestral cliches that tend to dominate scores for nature films.

Trevor Jones followed up The Dark Crystal with another large scale orchestral score, for the barely released pirate film NATE AND HAYES, from a screenplay co-written by, of all people, John Hughes.

The people who sign the paychecks refused to allow David Cronenberg to use his usual collaborator Howard Shore for THE DEAD ZONE, so Michael Kamen was hired and produced one of his finest scores, terrifically matching the somber, tragic mood of the Stephen King story, though his memorable main theme owes a healthy debt to Sibelius.

Mark Knopfler wrote his most popular score for the Bill Forsyth comedy LOCAL HERO, the composer's evocative music matching Chris Menges' gorgeous photography of the Scottish countryside.

Michel Legrand scored the first non-Broccoli James Bond film since Casino Royale -- NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, a lavish but surprisingly dull remake of Thunderball which brought Sean Connery back to the role that made him a star for the final time. Legrand's disappointing score only made John Barry's Octopussy gleam more brightly, though the title song does have its own cheesy charm. Far better was his work on YENTL -- the song score won Legrand his third Oscar, but his incidental music was even better but sadly has never been available outside of the film.

CURSE OF THE PINK PANTHER, Blake Edwards' attempt to restart the series with a new lead -- Ted Wass as bumbling American detective Clifton Sleigh -- was a clumsy failure (despite an amusing cameo from Roger Moore). However, Henry Mancini gave Sleigh an utterly charming theme. Maddeningly, this is the only score in the Pink Panther series to have none of its music released on LP or CD. Later that year, he wrote a sparse score for Edwards's remake of Truffaut's THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN, featuring an original song, "Little Boys."

Brian DePalma apparently sought an American Gigolo ambience for his glossy, epic length remake of SCARFACE, hiring not only Gigolo's ace designer, Ferdinando Scarfiotti but also its composer, Giorgio Moroder. Moroder's inevitably synth based score helped maintain the film's pace and momentum, though his shrill motif for the gangster's obsession with his own sister showed a bit of a heavy hand.

Despite his extraordinary prolificness, Ennio Morricone was represented on U.S. screens by only one movie -- the 3D adventure TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS, featuring an uncharacteristically dull score.

As all too often happened, John Morris was used only for comedies -- the unfunny pirate spoof YELLOWBEARD and the Mel Brooks remake of TO BE OR NOT TO BE.

Jack Nitzsche scored producer Stanley Jaffe's directorial debut, the missing child drama WITHOUT A TRACE, and Jim McBride's L.A. set remake of Godard's BREATHLESS.

Michael Nyman's music for the critically acclaimed THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT, the first widely released feature from arthouse perennial Peter Greenaway, balanced the appropriate period feeling with the composer's trademarked minimalism.

British composer Alan Parker unenviably had to follow in the footsteps of John Williams with his score for JAWS 3D, and while his main title motif was catchy, the rest of the score was all too suited to the cheesy but enjoyable onscreen happenings.

The barely released comedy PRIVILEGED was the directorial debut of Michael Hoffman (One Fine Day, The Emperor's Club) and featured not only "Hughie" Grant in his first major role but a score by 22 year old Rachel Portman.

Though he continues to work steadily in television, winning three consecutive Emmys for his longform work, Laurence Rosenthal scored his last two big studio features in 1983 -- the Rodney Dangerfield comedy EASY MONEY and the biopic HEART LIKE A WHEEL, which earned Bonnie Bedelia acclaim for her performance as race car driver Shirley Muldowney.

THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER was released in the U.S. and featured Bruce Rowland's most popular score, mixing an orchestral adventure sound with more modern rhythms.

For Tony Scott's directorial debut, the gorgeously photographed vampire story THE HUNGER, Michel Rubini and Denny Jaeger wrote disturbingly harsh and effective horror cues, balanced by some gorgeous classical selections.

Arthur B. Rubinstein followed up Blue Thunder with another John Badham hit, WARGAMES. Rubinstein's score was uneven, featuring some rousing passages but straining too hard to make the climax seem climactic, and not helped by a weak end title which was actually a last-minute substitute for a dropped song. His third score of the year, DEAL OF THE CENTURY, secured his place as 1983's composer for military hardware, as his action cues were the highlight of this failed black comedy (directed by no one's idea of a comedic filmmaker, William Friedkin).

Ryuichi Sakamoto received his first wide exposure in the West with his score for the World War II prison drama MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE, featuring a memorable main theme and Sakamoto himself in a major role.

Philippe Sarde gave the uneven but charming LOVESICK one of the most rapturous love themes of the decade, though it took 18 years for his music to see a soundtrack release (from Varese, in a compilation with Sister Mary Explains It All).

Lalo Schifrin was nominated for an adaptation Oscar for his arrangements of Louis Chauvin's ragtime compositions (with some inevitable Scott Joplin thrown in) for THE STING II, and had three other films released during the year -- Dan Aykroyd's first starring vehicle, DOCTOR DETROIT; the fourth Dirty Harry film, SUDDEN IMPACT (for which Schifrin expanded his mournful Harry motif into a ballad, "This Side of Forever"); and the final Sam Peckinpah film, the Robert Ludlum adaptation THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, for which Schifrin wrote an uncharacteristically Mukak-ish score.

Two years after Only When I Laugh, David Shire returned to Neil Simon territory with MAX DUGAN RETURNS but with less satisfying results -- neither the jauntiness of the music nor the performances of Jason Robards, Donald Sutherland and Matthew Broderick (in his film debut) could mask the feebleness of the script

Though he wasn't hired for Cronenberg's Dead Zone, Howard Shore's collaboration with the director was represented earlier in the year with VIDEODROME, whose electronically processed score is one of the composer's most experimental works.

Michael Small wrote one of his trademark elegant paranoia scores for the slick, enjoyable STAR CHAMBER, featuring a suitably powerful main theme.

Tangerine Dream gave RISKY BUSINESS a genuinely evocative and surprisingly effective score -- the film was their biggest hit, both critically and commercially, and is arguably their finest work. They also continued their collaboration with Thief director Michael Mann on the visually stunning but dramatically unsatisfying art horror film THE KEEP, though at one point it was announced that the film's score would feature Laurie Anderson's "O Superman" (Mann reportedly had star Scott Glenn model his line readings after Anderson's vocal style).

Richard Lester's disappointingly goofy SUPERMAN III allowed composer Ken Thorne freer rein than he had on the adaptation score for Superman II, and he wrote a charming comedy cue for the slapstick opening credits sequence.

Ken Wannberg scored one of the year's most undeservingly obscure films (which is about to get a DVD release), the witty man-vs-rat thriller OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN, giving the film his usually glossy professionalism and a main theme which sounded a little like an orchestral version of John Carpenter's classic Halloween theme.

Patrick Williams was brought in at the eleventh hour to rescore the John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John reteaming TWO OF A KIND, basing his score on the film's hit song "Twist of Fate."


TWO OF A KIND (Bill Conti)

These are all the score LPs from 1983 movies produced around the time of their films' release:

The Black Stallion Returns, Blue Thunder, Brainstorm, The Draughtsman's Contract, Educating Rita, The Final Option, Gorky Park, Heat and Dust, Hercules, The Hunger, Jaws 3D, Krull, Local Hero, The Man From Snowy River, Octopussy, The Osterman Weekend, Psycho II, Return of the Jedi, Risky Business, Rumble Fish, Silkwood, The Sting II, 10 to Midnight, Terms of Endearment, Treasure of the Four Crowns, Twilight Zone: the Movie, Under Fire, WarGames, The Year of Living Dangerously.

Superman III received a soundtrack release with Ken Thorne's music on one side and Giorgio Moroder songs on the other, while cues from Sudden Impact were released on a Dirty Harry compilation featuring music from the previous three films in the series.

FROM: "John Takis"
SUBJECT:  Not being me--
Dear Scott,
Bravo! on your excellent series of "Not Even Nominated" articles. Please assure Mr. Levy that my Oscar knowledge (and -- dare I say it -- knowledge of film score history in general) pales in comparison with yours. As I have little time for exhaustive research of this kind while I wrap up my BA degree, I'm afraid any articles I wrote on the subject would be significantly less comprehensive. I'm flattered, though. And I hope Mr. Levy enjoys my upcoming work for FSM.
(P.S. Boy, 1982 is some kind of miracle year in film score history -- especially for Goldsmith. Whew! It just had to be the year Williams blew away all competition with E.T., too. Oh, well: with Goldsmith's luck, he would have lost to "Sophie's Choice". Anyway, anyone who hasn't picked up Intrada's expanded "Night Crossing" really ought to. A true powerhouse of a score -- gorgeous, terrific themes, lengthy developed passages, and some of the fastest trumpet-playing I've ever heard! I picked this up used, not knowing what to expect, and it completely blew me away.)
Thank you for the exceedingly kind words. However, if you ever find the time to write "Overlooked by Oscar: Filmscores Ignored by the Academy" (Marc Levy's original suggestion for this series), I'd be happy to put it on the site.

FROM: "Thomas Clement"

Following his Oscar winning, smash-hit-record score for Chariots of Fire (these days his music is just about the only thing people remember from that Best Picture winner).

People? All people? Every single-dingle person? Wow, what a turn-around. Popular film, winner of slews of awards and seller of mega tickets and tape, now forgotten? I only ask that you please reference the surveys you're basing this development on. If not, perhaps you could elaborate on who and what accounts for the profile of "people" as I no longer seem to fit it (or missed the last meeting).

Hey, maybe I'm the one person who still remembers the music AND the movie? Shouldn't I get a write-up somewhere "Lone hold-out both recalls and enjoyed Chariots of Fire! Scientists baffled!"

Or maybe it's more sinister. Let's look at it through the lens of PC and extrapolate that your sentence, "Cloaks a disturbing anti-Semitism / anti-Christianity / anti-track-and-field / that attempts to quell any dissent before it can even be uttered." Sometimes it feels good to get all PC, silly as it is.

Perhaps you meant to write "Following his Oscar winning, smash-hit-record score for Chariots of Fire (these days his music is just about the only I remember from that Best Picture winner) but you were afraid it would make you sound too addled.

Never forget, the journalism gods are watching (what else do they have to do?). Please refrain from the inane.

I would hardly deny that Chariots of Fire's fans remember the film vividly  -- that's what makes them fans, and when I said "people" I meant "most people" not "every living person on the face of the Earth." There are many Best Picture winners whose reputations have been maintained and even grown over the years, whose many moments have become classics and cultural touchstones -- Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, All About Eve, The Sound of Music, the first two Godfather films, Annie Hall, just to name a few. But not all seventy-five films are undying classics, even if they all were "winners of slews of awards and sellers of mega tickets" at one time. Dances With Wolves was an enormous surprise hit and a Best Picture and Director winner, but after only one flop (The Postman), people were suggesting that Kevin Costner shouldn't direct anymore, as if they hadn't anointed him King of Hollywood a mere seven years earlier.

I still believe that if you asked the average person what they remember about Chariots of Fire (if they've even heard of it), they'd only recall the theme music and shots of people running on the beach -- if even that. And no, I haven't done any survey, it's just my opinion -- like pretty much everything else in these columns.

If it's any consolation, this week's screening of Chariots of Fire at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (as part of their "Facets of the Diamond" Best Picture series) attracted an audience of around nine hundred people, all of whom are guaranteed to remember more than just the theme music -- even if the only other thing they remember is Alice Krige appearing in person.

And I hope your "anti-track-and-field" remark means the "anti-Semitism" line was meant entirely in jest. If I'd lumped Chariots in with such Oscar winners as Gentleman's Agreement, Fiddler on the Roof, Yentl, Schindler's List and The Pianist as forgotten films, then you might have a point.

I certainly don't feel a film has to be widely remembered to have value. My all-time favorite film is a low-budget comedy called Kicking and Screaming, starring Josh Hamilton, Olivia D'Abo and Parker Posey, and pretty much NOBODY has ever seen it. But that doesn't mean I love it any less. Quite the reverse.

And as far as "attempts to quell any dissent before it can even be uttered" are concerned, I'm printing your nasty letter, aren't I?

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