NOT EVEN NOMINATED, PART TEN
THE YEAR IN FILM MUSIC: 1989
By Scott Bettencourt
THE REAL NOMINEES
BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY - John Williams
THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS - Dave Grusin
FIELD OF DREAMS - James Horner
INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE - John Williams
THE LITTLE MERMAID - Alan Menken (the winner)
DRIVING MISS DAISY - Hans Zimmer
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)
ENEMIES, A LOVE STORY - Maurice Jarre
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.
FIVE MORE OUTSTANDING SCORES OF 1989
THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN - Michael Kamen
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
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)
STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER - Jerry Goldsmith
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.
TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT - Cliff Eidelman
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.
THE REST OF THE YEAR IN FILM MUSIC
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
Broadway composer Cy Coleman never quite found the right tone
for his third score for director Sidney Lumet, the all-star caper FAMILY
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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):
DANGEROUS LIAISONS (George Fenton)
THE DECEIVERS (John Scott)
FAVORITE SON [TV] (John Morris)
MONKEY SHINES (David Shire)
WINTER PEOPLE (John Scott)
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
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."
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
A Steven Spielberg fansite
Thanks again to reader Marc Levy for inspiring this series.
Previous articles in this series covering the years 1980,
can be accessed on the website.
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