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The "End of" Wrap Up

(...The Year/Decade/Century/Millennium...)

1M1 1/3/00

By Jason Foster

First off, let me apologize for my absence of late (in case anyone noticed and/or cared). Due to some recent commitments, my writing time -- and free time in general -- has been greatly reduced. However, I hope to once again contribute on a regular basis when the New Year gets rolling. But for now, I give you my final column of the year -- a look back at all that was grand for film music lovers in 1999.

For the first half of 1999, much of the focus was on STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE. We all eagerly anticipated the release of a new STAR WARS score by John Williams, which was to arrive in late April. Our first taste of the new score came on April 27th, when "Duel of the Fates" found its way onto MP3. For many, it was everything they thought it would be. For others, the extreme level of hype had led to a seemingly inevitable disappointment. Personally, I liked it. But with all of the buzz surrounding Williams's music, some other good scores seemed to get overlooked a bit -- scores like Don Davis's THE MATRIX and Marco Beltrami's THE MINUS MAN to name a couple. I was particularly impressed with Beltrami's work, as it was a nice departure from the now tired horror/suspense genre he had been stuck with for some time. If I were his agent, I would make sure he didn't score any more horror films for at least a couple of years. He seems to be able to handle himself quite nicely outside of those walls.

As far as new CD releases of older scores, this year had its share of treasures. FSM's own "Classics" series was in full swing and we finally got the original recordings of things like PATTON and FANTASTIC VOYAGE, among others. Other labels did their part as well. Silva gave us the re-recording of John Barry's highly sought after score to RAISE THE TITANIC and a complete recording of Jerry Goldsmith's RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD, PART II, while Varese's long-awaited AMAZING STORIES album finally arrived. Rhino's second volume of music from THE SIMPSONS ("Go Simpsonic") gave us more of the great music and dialogue from arguably the best show on TV. Overall, this year finished out above average in terms of issuing older scores on CD. While we were supposed to get Rhino's complete edition of John Williams's SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE this year, various factors conspired to keep it just out of our grasp. However, it appears that we will all finally be able to listen to this great score in complete form in early February 2000.

DVDs really came into their own in 1999 with many releases featuring isolated scores, composer commentary, or both. Perhaps the best use of this technology as far as film music is concerned was the ALIEN DVD, which featured Jerry Goldsmith's "intended" score isolated in stereo, as well as the score as it appears in the film. It seems only logical that DVDs will offer more and more in the ways of film music as we head into the 21st Century. Personally, I think it should be required for all DVDs to have isolated scores with commentary. Who's with me?

The year wasn't without it share of controversy in the film music world, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences changed the rules governing the scoring awards, which was met with mixed reviews. I plan to devote a future column to my feelings on the new rules, so I'll hold off on discussing it further until then.

Since so many other people are doing their own "best of" lists, I decided that I should be no different. Below are several "awards" I've come up with. To save time and space, I won't go into my reasoning behind the choices, but if you're curious, feel free to drop me a line.

SCORE OF THE DECADE: SCHINDLER'S LIST (John Williams)

COMPOSER OF THE DECADE: John Williams

BEST UNRELEASED SCORES OF THE DECADE: JOE VS THE VOLCANO (Georges Delerue) and METEOR MAN (Cliff Eidelman)

BEST SURPRISES OF THE DECADE: Thomas Newman, Elliot Goldenthal, and Carter Burwell

BEST PROMO RELEASE: DAVID SHIRE: FILM MUSIC

BEST TV SCORE: LONESOME DOVE (Basil Poledouris)

BEST YEAR FOR NEW SCORES: 1993, 1997 (tie)

REJECTED SCORE THAT SHOULDN'T HAVE BEEN REJECTED: INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD (Miles Goodman)

MOST UNDERRATED SCORE: YEAR OF THE COMET (Hummie Mann)

MOST OVERRATED SCORE: THE MUMMY (Jerry Goldsmith)

SCORE THAT NEVER GETS OLD: RUDY (Jerry Goldsmith)

Finally, someone e-mailed me awhile back and asked what some of my favorite cues were from this decade. Well, I gave it some thought and I can't list them all. But here are some of them, listed in release order.

"Finale" from HOME ALONE (John Williams)

"The Buffalo Hunt" from DANCES WITH WOLVES (film version) (John Barry)

"Prologue" from JFK (John Williams)

"Maggie Goes to Scotland" from YEAR OF THE COMET (Hummie Mann)

"The Player" from THE PLAYER (Thomas Newman)

"A Hero's Welcome" from CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS: THE DISCOVERY (Cliff Eidelman)

"Journey to the Island" from JURASSIC PARK (John Williams)

"The Final Game" from RUDY (Jerry Goldsmith)

"Theme" from SCHINDLER'S LIST (John Williams)

"Big Screen Kiss" from DEMOLITION MAN" (Elliot Goldenthal)

"Battle of Little Round Top" from GETTYSBURG (Randy Edelman)

"The Wagon Chase" from WYATT EARP (James Newton Howard)

"Suite" from FORREST GUMP (Alan Silvestri)

"So Was Red/End Credits" from THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (Thomas Newman)

"Main Title" from THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT (Marc Shaiman)

"Finale" from SEVEN (Howard Shore)

"Zoom B" from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (Danny Elfman)

"Main Title" from BREAKDOWN (Basil Poledouris)

"Bloody Christmas" from LA CONFIDENTIAL (Jerry Goldsmith)

"Conspiracy Theory" from CONSPIRACY THEORY (Carter Burwell)

"Hymn to the Fallen" from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (John Williams)

"Anthem #2" as used in THE TRUMAN SHOW (Philip Glass)

"Duel of the Fates" from THE PHANTOM MENACE (John Williams)

Trust me, there are many more. These were just off the top of my head and I'm sure I left off something really great.

I have several hopes for film music in the next decade. One is that composers will be given more freedom when writing a score and, given the opportunity, will become more creative. In other words, I hope more filmmakers are willing to challenge the conventional ways of doing things to come up with something new and refreshing. Another is that we will see material produced about composers and film scoring in general. Perhaps someone will make the definitive documentary on the industry -- six hours long with rare session footage, tons of interviews, and everything you've always wanted to know. Perhaps that's a bit of a stretch, but something along those lines would be nice. Finally, I would love to see more publications devoted to film music -- or at least more existing periodicals devoting more space to cover film music.

Film music appreciation is leaps and bounds from where it was when we started the 1990s. This was a decade in which film music was studied and appreciated more than any other time in history. It made its presence known to the point of almost being considered a "mainstream" form of music. The fan base is growing at a rapid pace. More and more people are starting to notice and become interested in film music.

This decade we had a score-dominated soundtrack reach and stay at #1 on the Billboard charts. We had a lengthy segment of this year's Grammy awards devoted to music in film, featuring live appearances by John Williams and James Horner. We had music videos and radio single of score cues. To my knowledge, 1999 marked the first time that a piece of instrumental film music was the #1 requested video on MTV for a few days. And yes, that video also featured lots of footage from a new STAR WARS movie, but still. Film music is no longer considered just "background music" and it's no longer just the music of sci-fi geeks. I think the next ten years will see a tremendous boom in terms of its popularity among "regular" people. It will be interesting to see. But even with all of these good things, there has also been the heavy criticism of late concerning the poor output of film music in the past few years. But since that's already been discussed to death, I'll leave it alone.

Well, that's it. That's my hastily assembled wrap up of film music in the 90s. Thanks to everyone who read my column over this past year. I look forward to writing many more in the new millennium.

Happy New Year!

Comments: jgfoster@ix.netcom.com

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