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By Scott Bettencourt


FIELD OF DREAMS - James Horner
THE LITTLE MERMAID - Alan Menken (the winner)



During this era, director Bruce Beresford's most frequent musical collaborator was Georges Delerue, but it's possible he was unavailable for Daisy because of another, similar assignment -- Steel Magnolias. With this film, Hans Zimmer became the first (and thus far only) composer to score two consecutive Best Picture winners. This warm, lighthearted score sounds little like anything else in the Zimmer canon, though it does feature a Zimmerish mix of acoustic and electronic instruments. The main theme is mildly reminiscent of the classic "Shortnin' Bread" while evoking a gentle drive on a warm Southern day. Despite this film's many Oscars and surprise boxoffice success, it was Zimmer's score for another, far less successful 1989 film that would prove to be the most influential for both Zimmer's career path and the sound of film music for the next 13 years -- Ridley Scott's Black Rain. (Driving Miss Daisy received 9 Oscar nominations)


Paul Mazursky's films are not generally remembered for their memorable scores, but in the late eighties he formed a brief but productive partnership with composer Maurice Jarre. Mazursky's flop Moon Over Parador featured a lively, Latin-themed score from the French composer, while Enemies, a Love Story, a dark comedy based on Isaac Bashevis Singer's story of a Holocaust survivor and his three wives, featured a terrific, Klezmer-themed score (with clarinet solos by Gloria Friedman) that managed to give the film energy and an authentic atmosphere without sounding like a needless reminder that the characters are Jewish. The film is arguably Mazursky's finest (along with Next Stop, Greenwich Village) and is highly recommened -- you'd hardly believe the same man went on to make The Pickle. (3 Oscar nominations)

GLORY - James Horner

Glory is a classic piece of Oscar bait, boasting historical subject matter with liberal values, an A-list production, and a gallery of impressive performances including Matthew Broderick's restrained, moving portrayal of Robert Gould Shaw and truly stunning work by the cream of America's acting crop -- Morgan Freeman, Andre Braugher, and Denzel Washington (in his first Oscar winning performance). The real surprise is that Glory received relatively few nominations, shunned for Best Picture (it's far more memorable and emotionally satisfying than that year's winner, Driving Miss Daisy) and Best Director (it's enormously better than anything Edward Zwick has made before or since). Another great surprise was the omission of a Best Score nomination for James Horner (though he was nominated for Best Picture nominee Field of Dreams) -- though as usual his score suffers from his usual lazy cribbing (of its two main themes, one is based on a Prokofiev motif and the other owes a debt to John Williams' Empire of the Sun), it's still a moving and richly satisfying work, arguably the pinnacle of his career, and is equally rewarding in the context of the film as it is on the Virgin soundtrack CD. Though his current work displays his usual skill and professionalism, nothing he's written since has displayed such sheer emotional power. (5 Oscar nominations)

HENRY V - Patrick Doyle

Henry V was a remarkably promising feature directorial debut for actor Kenneth Branagh (who received both Best Actor and Director nominations), with a staggering cast (including Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi, Alec McCowen, Ian Holm, Robert Stephens, Robbie Coltrane, Judi Dench, Paul Scofield and Christian Bale), a confident visual style, impressive battle scenes and a level of energy and sense of life rare for a Shakespeare movie (it shouldn't be a surprise that filming centuries old blank verse is no easy task). Though Branagh has yet to fulfill Henry V's promise, his directing career alternating uneven Shakespeare projects and unsatisfying modern stories, his film proved an excellent scoring opportunity for another first timer, Patrick Doyle, who has gone on to a much more rewarding feature career than his director. His Henry V score, unenviably following in the footsteps of William Walton's classic work for the 1945 Olivier film, is an orchestrally varied, richly symphonic work and an unusually assured score for a first timer. Though the score has its minor lapses (in the final scene between Branagh and Thompson, the music keeps starting and stopping distractingly, indicating the scene is ending before its time), it remains one of Doyle's most popular and acclaimed works and is a worthy addition to the canon of Shakespeare film scores. (3 Oscar nominations)

PARENTHOOD - Randy Newman

Parenthood was the first of two films Newman scored for Ron Howard, before the director settled on James Horner as his regular composer of choice. The film is one of Howard's most enjoyable and modest efforts, with an outstanding cast (including stellar work from Dianne Wiest and early roles for Keanu Reeves and Leaf [Joaquin] Phoneix) and a consistently amusing script by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. The score is one of Newman's more minor works, mostly transitional cues and the occasional underlining of the film's big emotional moments, though Newman does provide a big Western pastiche setpiece for Steve Martin's impromptu "Cowboy Gil" kids' party act, as well as contributing one of his most popular movie songs, "I Love To See You Smile." (2 Oscar nominations)

* This was an exceptionally difficult year to pick only five additional "finalists," as there were many plausible scores to choose from including Always, Batman, Dead Poets Society, My Left Foot, Old Gringo and Steel Magnolias.



Terry Gilliam's previous film, Brazil, was made on a remarkably small budget considering its breathtaking design and visual scale, but Munchausen was given many times the money -- not enough, as it turned out, causing budgetary problems which nearly sank the film -- but still sufficient to allow for inventive visual effects, gorgeous Giuseppe Rotunno cinematography and stunning production design from Dante Ferretti, resulting in the most opulent film Gilliam has yet made. While his Brazil score was largely a mix of incidental cues and adaptations of the title song, Michael Kamen was inspired by Munchausen to write his grandest and most satisfying score, with two strong main themes -- a catchy melody for the Baron (reminiscent of the old standard "Pack Up Your Troubles") and a lovely waltz, as well as a variety of fresh and imaginative cues for the Baron's adventures, culminating in an elaborately scored battle sequence.

BATMAN - Danny Elfman

Whether or not Danny Elfman's Batman score is the best of the year -- and it is first rate, with a memorable main theme, thrilling action cues, and even a skilled use of motifs from Prince's lucrative but irrelevant song contribution -- it is probably the most important. It established a new musical sound for movie superheroes, owing more to the psychological gloom of Bernard Herrmann than the expansive optimism of John Williams, and it showed that Danny Elfman was capable of far more than just goofy comedy -- even 14 years later, he's still Hollywood's knee-jerk choice for comic book adventure with such films as Spider-Man and Hulk.

MY LEFT FOOT - Elmer Bernstein

Despite being one of the top composers in cinema for nearly a half century, Bernstien has scored only three Best Picture nominees (even Bill Conti has scored more) and no winners, despite To Kill a Mockingbird's deserved status as a beloved classic. Director Jim Sheridan's debut feature was the third, an emotionally wrenching (but never mawkish or heavy handed) biopic of writer Christy Brown, played by Daniel Day-Lewis in one of the rare "handicap" performances that genuinely deserved its Oscar. Bernstein's score was part of his brief streak of Irish-themed films (from Da in 1988 to Frankie Starlight in 1995), and his music was as subtle, moving and emotionally rich as ever without succumbing to Celtic music clichés. (Sheridan's latest film, the overrated In America, is similarly blessedly free of such heavyhanded Irish-isms -- since the director and composers are Irish, they felt no need to musically remind the audience of their protagonists' country of origin)


Goldsmith's classic score for the first Star Trek film was a hard act to follow, and at the time his Final Frontier score seemed mildly disappointing, lacking the beauty and grandeur of his ST:TMP music though it did rework his classic "Enterprise" and "Klingon" themes. In retrospect, this score is actually one of Goldsmith's finest of the era, for what is arguably the worst film of the series. (Though the film has its defenders, the combination of a weak storyline, a poor script by David Loughery, Bran Ferren's subpar visual effects and William Shatner's clumsy direction make it a film for Goldsmith fans and diehard Trekkies only) Goldsmith provides typically thrilling action music as well as a variety of motifs (one of which he reused as a major theme in First Contact and Nemesis), but the score's highlight is the main title theme "The Mountain," a beautiful melody illustrating the friendship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The original soundtrack CD was a decent selection of highlights but missed a lot of wonderful material, including some of the best Sybok music and a reprise of the "Mountain" theme. Unfortunately, the film's low rank on the Trek totem pole make an expanded score CD release unlikely in the near future. Damn.


This Holocaust drama was the first feature scored by Eidelman to receive wide attention, and though this fact-based story of a Jewish boxer at Auschwitz didn't receive quite as much attention as the filmmakers had hoped, the film was a well-acted and engrossing drama, starring recent Oscar nominees Willem Dafoe, Edward James Olmos and Robert Loggia. Eidelman's impressive score begins with a surprisingly lively main title theme (which was used four years later in TV spots for Schindler's List) and includes powerful symphonic/choral cues for the Auschwitz sequences. The Varese Sarabande CD features a generous amount of the film's score, recorded in Rome. This score might have helped Eidelman become an A-list composer if anyone had actually seen the film.


Angelo Badalamenti's score for COUSINS, Joel Schumacher's most modest and enjoyable film, featured a charming love theme. He was a surprising choice to score NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION, and his music was ultimately forgettable.

Bruce Broughton's edgy score for the drama JACKNIFE was a change of pace for the composer but didn't quite work in the context of the film.

Carter Burwell scored the little seen hypochondria comedy CHECKING OUT.

Broadway composer Cy Coleman never quite found the right tone for his third score for director Sidney Lumet, the all-star caper FAMILY BUSINESS.

Bill Conti reunited with some familiar collaborators -- he scored the Stallone prison drama LOCK UP, featuring an especially exciting football game cue, and scored two films for director John G. Avildsen, the biopic LEAN ON ME and the inevitable THE KARATE KID PART 3. He also scored the dark kidnapping thriller COHEN AND TATE, whose biggest claim to fame is probably its remarkably small grosses.

Michael Convertino wrote one of his finest scores for the offbeat British film QUEEN OF HEARTS, but the film has been little seen since.

Ry Cooder wrote an appropriately harsh score for Walter Hill's enjoyable noir, JOHNNY HANDSOME, but the director reportedly rearranged and eliminated many of the cues -- if this is how Hill treats his favorite composer, it should be no surprise he's rejected scores by Bernstein and Horner.

Carl Davis wrote a lush and romantic score to Ken Russell's film of D.H. Lawrence's THE RAINBOW, and the CD not only included alternate versions of major cues but also amusing liner notes about their rejection -- the director asked his composer "Do you really think a trumpet is an appropriate instrument for a young girl?" He also scored the little seen ghost story THE GIRL IN A SWING and the fact-based British political drama SCANDAL.

Though Georges Delerue didn't score Bruce Beresford's Driving Miss Daisy, he did score one of the director's less reputable films, the comedy HER ALIBI, and his main title mystery music was especially charming. He had a much greater success with STEEL MAGNOLIAS, giving the film his usual effervescence, and worked in darker territory with Agniezka Holland's TO KILL A PRIEST, which went unreleased theatrically in the U.S.

Though Randy Edelman could never truly take the place of Elmer Bernstein (who could?), his GHOSTBUSTERS 2 score was one of his strongest and most musically varied efforts. He also scored the comedy TROOP BEVERLY HILLS.

Cliff Eidelman scored two obscure, low budget entries, the vampire thriller TO DIE FOR and the romantic comedy ANIMAL BEHAVIOR.

Harold Faltermeyer gave FLETCH LIVES his bouncy theme from the first film, and wrote effective but forgettable synth-pop music for TANGO AND CASH.

One of George Fenton's finest scores was wasted on the unamusing but beautifully mounted remake of WE'RE NO ANGELS, but luckily his score was later released as a Varese Club CD.

Brad Fiedel worked in a variety of genres, returning to familiar territory with FRIGHT NIGHT PART II and scoring the tearjerker IMMEDIATE FAMILY and the courtroom mystery TRUE BELIEVER.

Elliot Goldenthal scored his first two major films, writing an appropriately offbeat score for the acclaimed DRUGSTORE COWBOY, and providing an intriguing score for PET SEMATARY which featured a main theme distractingly similar to Lalo Schifrin's The Amityville Horror.

Jerry Goldsmith wrote a lively comedy score for Joe Dante's abysmal THE 'BURBS, contributing several major motifs including a parody of his own classic Patton. He wrote one of his rare all-synth scores for CRIMINAL LAW, and the music was effective but overall one of his least inspired efforts. Goldsmith reunited with Rambo director George Cosmatos for LEVIATHAN which was pretty familiar territory for the composer -- basically it's just Alien in an underwater lab -- and though his music hardly compared to his butchered masterwork, it featured many exciting cues and a first rate main title theme.

Dave Grusin worked indigenous African elements into his score for the anti-apartheid thriller A DRY WHITE SEASON.

Marvin Hamlisch made two of his occasional returns to feature scoring with the disappointing comedy-mystery THE JANUARY MAN and the barely released John Travolta comedy THE EXPERTS.

Being one of the few major composers of Latino descent probably helped Lee Holdridge get the job of scoring OLD GRINGO, and his lush, melodic score was one of his finest efforts but this attempt at Oscar bait was largely forgotten and it didn't do as much for the composer's career as it should have.

James Horner wrote one of his most emotionally rich scores for the drama IN COUNTRY, which still has never seen a legit CD release. His music for HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS was lively but notoriously derivative of other composers (Rota, Elfman, Grusin), while his DAD score was overfamiliar and featured too much synth work.

James Newton Howard wrote some exciting, Goldsmith-ian cues for his first collaboration with Fugitive director Andrew Davis, THE PACKAGE. He also scored the Gregory Hines vehicle TAP and the sequel spawning sports comedy MAJOR LEAGUE.

Maurice Jarre's score for frequent collaborator Peter Weir's DEAD POETS SOCIETY was restrained and featured a memorable main theme, which was evoked five years later by Thomas Newman's The Shawshank Redemption. He also scored the children's film PRANCER and the romantic comedy fantasy CHANCES ARE.

Trevor Jones wrote a suitably bluesy main theme for the romantic noir SEA OF LOVE.

Michael Kamen had a remarkably prolific 1989: He wrote an effective action score for the final Timothy Dalton James Bond film, LICENCE TO KILL, but the score never developed a distinct personality of its own and suffered from not having a Kamen-composed theme song to tie things together (a failing common to most of the post-Barry Bonds). He reunited with Eric Clapton and David Sanborn for the LETHAL WEAPON 2 score, and the jazzy music seemed better integrated into the film than it did in the original, and the percussive cues for the South African villains were a highlight. He wrote a typical Kamen action score for RENEGADES and scored yet another Joel Silver production, the camp classic ROADHOUSE. Kamen also wrote a rejected score for John Frankenheimer's underrated DEAD BANG (replaced by Gary Chang), but some of his distinctive sound is still heard in the film and he received an "Additional Music" credit. He also scored Caleb Deschanel's remake of CRUSOE, and if that weren't enough credits, he collaborated with David A. Stewart for Robert Wise's final feature, ROOFTOPS and scored an English drama starring Denzel Washington, FOR QUEEN AND COUNTRY.
Bill Lee's orchestral jazz score for his son Spike's DO THE RIGHT THING was unusually demonstrative, the kind of score that would have been slaughtered by the mainstream critics if it had been written by a Hollywood film composer.

Henry Mancini scored Franklin J. Schaffner's final film, the Vietnam vet drama WELCOME HOME. He also scored Michael Crichton(who hasn't directed a film since)'s hugely disappointing courtroom mystery PHYSICAL EVIDENCE (which was originally developed as a Jagged Edge sequel), providing some pleasant Mancini-style suspense cues for the finale.

Harry Manfredini wrote a livelier, more expansive score than usual for the most obscure of the year's underwater sci-fi thrillers, DEEPSTAR SIX. He also worked in more familiar terrain with THE HORROR SHOW (aka House III), but shockingly did not score the year's Friday the 13th movie.

Cliff Martinez and director Steven Soderbergh made their film debuts with SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, but Martinez' ambient score was so discreet that it's surprising there was even a soundtrack released.

Ennio Morricone wrote powerful music for the Vietnam War drama CASUALTIES OF WAR, but in the context of the film the music too much reinforced Brian DePalma's heavyhanded direction, while his music for the historical drama FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY never seemed to find quite the right approach. His most popular score of the year was CINEMA PARADISO, a moving and nostalgic work featuring a love theme composed by his son Andrea.

David Newman contributed a lively and imaginative score for the surprise hit comedy BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, and an especially clever and energetic one for THE WAR OF THE ROSES. He wrote a charming score for the caper comedy DISORGANIZED CRIME, and also scored two barely released children's films, LITTLE MONSTERS and the animated THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER. He also strayed from comedy with the medical school drama GROSS ANATOMY and wrote a quirky, percussive score for the cult comedy HEATHERS, slightly reminiscent of his brother Thomas' music.

Thomas Newman reunited with Desperately Seeking Susan director Susan Seidelman for the mob comedy COOKIE.

Though much of its music was classical pieces, VALMONT, Milos Forman's beautifully mounted but flat reworking of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, featured an original score by ace orchestrator Christopher Palmer, and some of his contribution pleasingly evoked the master, Miklos Rozsa.

Basil Poledouris wrote a characteristically sweeping adventure score for FAREWELL TO THE KING and an unusually sparse score for the Belushi biopic WIRED.

Graeme Revell wrote his breakthrough score for the thriller DEAD CALM, which featured an inventive use of percussion and breathing sounds.

Richard Robbins got a rare chance to score a Merchant-Ivory film that wasn't a period drama with SLAVES OF NEW YORK, and his score was pleasantly bouncy.

Philippe Sarde had an unusually eclectic year, providing lush, symphonic music for THE BEAR as well as much sparser scores for the dramas LOST ANGELS and MUSIC BOX.

John Scott's score for the Depression era drama WINTER PEOPLE featured some distractingly modern sounding cues but also benefited from one of the composer's finest love themes.

Though Marc Shaiman was a year away from writing his first feature score, he arranged the songs for the hit WHEN HARRY MET SALLY.

Howard Shore's score for the crime drama AN INNOCENT MAN was an enjoyable mix of his usual brooding style and some entertaining 80s cheese, and he wrote an amusing pastiche score for the terrible comedy SHE-DEVIL.

Alan Silvestri's score for THE ABYSS featured some strong melodies and exciting cues, though some parts were overly derivate of Close Encounters and Brainstorm. His music for BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II was by far the weakest score of the series, largely variations on material from the first film. He also scored the Tony Danza comedy SHE'S OUT OF CONTROL, the kind of assignment many Silvestri fans wish he would pass on.

Michael Small worked with his regular collaborator Alan J. Pakula on the director's atypical, quasi-autobiographical comedy-drama SEE YOU IN THE MORNING.

Tangerine Dream wrote one of their best scores for the too-little seen apocalyptic romance MIRACLE MILE, whose opening credits featured an especially deft juxtaposition of music and title graphics.

Colin Towns wrote an appealingly lush Gothic score for the black comedy VAMPIRE'S KISS, most remembered for the scene where Nicolas Cage eats a live cockroach onscreen.

John Williams' only score of 1989 to not be nominated for an Oscar was ALWAYS, Steven Spielberg's beautifully photographed but unsatisfying remake of A Guy Named Joe. Williams' music was lovely as always and surprisingly restrained for such a tearjerker story.

Gabriel Yared wrote a brooding, psychological score for the French biopic CAMILLE CLAUDEL, and scored another biopic, ROMERO, starring Raul Julia as the Archbishop of El Salvador.

Christopher Young did a first rate job filling in Howard Shore's musically brooding shoes with his score for THE FLY II, while staying true to his own distinctive orchestral style.

Although the film itself only did moderate business, BLACK RAIN featured a Hans Zimmer score which, for better or worse, helped determine the sound of movie action music for the next fourteen years and counting. His score for the overrated British supernatural drama PAPERHOUSE (featuring additional music by his mentor, Stanley Myers) received great reviews but was too dependent on loud musical stings, and he also scored the gay thriller WONDERLAND (known as The Fruit Machine in the U.K.)


DEAD BANG - Michael Kamen

These are all the score CDs from 1989 movies produced around the time of their films' release -- by this time pretty much every LP received a simultaneous CD release:

The Abyss, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Apartment Zero, Back to the Future Part II, Batman, The Bear, Black Rain, Blaze, Born on the Fourth of July, Camille Claudel, Casualties of War, Cousins, Criminal Law, Dad, Deepstar Six, Do the Right Thing, Drugstore Cowboy, Enemies A Love Story, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Farewell to the King, Field of Dreams, The Fly II, Glory, Heathers, Henry V, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Johnny Handsome, Lethal Weapon 2, Leviathan, Licence to Kill, The Little Mermaid, Miracle Mile, Music Box, My Left Foot, Old Gringo, Paperhouse, Parenthood, Pet Sematary, The Rainbow, Sea of Love, sex lies and videotape, Shocker, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Steel Magnolias, Three Fugitives, Triumph of the Spirit.

In Part Nine of this series, I forgot to include Page Cook's choices for the best scores of 1988 from Films in Review magazine (he did not provide a list for 1989):

FAVORITE SON [TV] (John Morris)
WITHOUT A CLUE (Henry Mancini)

He also expressed his admiration for Stephen Cosgrove's score for The Lovers; as far as I can tell, both film and score are yet more figments of the late Mr. Cook's imagination.

FROM: "Steven Awalt"
SUBJECT: Not Even Nominated Correction

In your great series of articles "Not Even Nominated", for the year 1988, you mention that WILLOW is James Horner's only film for producer George Lucas. Horner actually also scored again for Lucas the same year on THE LAND BEFORE TIME (a co-production between Steven Spielberg and George Lucas).

Steven Awalt
A Steven Spielberg fansite

Thank you for the correction. I had completely forgotten that Lucas was involved with Land Before Time. And I would have printed your letter even if you hadn't referred to these articles as a "great series."

Thanks again to reader Marc Levy for inspiring this series. Previous articles in this series covering the years 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988 can be accessed on the website.

Our webmaster has helpfully figured out how to funnel most of our spam into a junk mailbag. However, to be sure that your letter gets read, please make your subject heading as specifically film music related as possible. Thank you.

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