Thursday, August 22, 2013


I want to start a new feature on this blog that is akin to the You Tube Film Music Cue of the Day, in that it deals, once again, with one of the great passions of my life:  FILM MUSIC.

I have a huge document called My Top Scores List in which I have picked the Top 5 Film Scores for each year since 1980 along with some commentary on my choices.
You can imagine that by now the list is fairly long and contains a lot of info that I think is blog-worthy so I'm going to start publishing excerpts from the list right here on my blog.

without further ado
Here is Film Music Musings

So now here comes the best scores of the 90s.  A difficult decade but with standout scores nonetheless.

Best of the 1990s

10. Mission to Mars - 2000 This might be a bit of a cheat in that this score came out in 2000 but I had to include it as Ennio Morricone brings the essence of wonder and triumph to this science fiction movie. From beginning to end, the craftsmanship of this music shines through as does it undeniable uniqueness (an organ in space?). This score culminates in some of the greatest finale music in a movie since Star Wars or ET. The maestro brings the stars and planets and majesty to us in this score and does it all so well that it cannot be ignored.

9. Bram Stoker's Dracula - 1992 Wow!!! Who is this composer? What's his name and more importantly, how do you pronounce it? No matter, Wojeich Kilar hit the film-score world with a creepy, rumbling bass-line with riff-upon-riff piled onto it that absolutely fit this off-kilter adaption of the Dracula story. From horror to the sublime, this is another score that is actually better than the movie. Meticulous and religioso-mysterious, this score assaults and exalts the listener throughout. A perfect complement to Francis Ford Coppola's most exotic film. This one is a keeper. Now if only I could pronounce the composer's name.

8. Titanic - 1997 THE MOVIE EVENT of the decade yielded up one of James Horner's finest efforts of the decade. After establishing the "Rose" motive, you can listen to this score and in a true Wagnerian way tell when Rose is on the screen and what kind of trouble or mood she is in. The opening title is one of the great mounful tunes (perhaps along with the entire score to Schindler's List) of the decade revealing to the audience that what is coming is going to be emotionally wrenching and for the next three hours he proceeds to do just that. Superbly constructed and executed, this film and score is a true highlight of the decade.

7. Jurassic Park - 1993 1993 was perhaps the best year for film music of the decade. Besides Edelman's Gettysburg, Patrick Doyle gave us Much Ado About Nothing and James Horner contributed The Pelican Brief but the year really belonged to John Williams who composed his Academy Award-winning score for Schindler's List and the thrilling adventure score for Jurassic Park. Revisiting the style of Jaws with its suspense-driven themes, Jurassic Park ventures further into grandeur and awe as the dinosaurs are first seen onscreen. And only Williams can write for a helicopter ride (he did it in The Towering Inferno and does it differently and better here). Strangely, this score (like the also-brilliant Phantom Menace) was not nominated for an Academy Award, but Williams still won that year, just for the wrong score.

6. Bicentennial Man - 1999 A guilty pleasure of mine. I JUST LOVE THIS MOVIE! Horner is in top form here, but this is not the action of Apollo 13 or the more bombastic parts of Titanic, this is the more contemplative, beautiful (one could say Romantic) Horner. Reminiscent of Braveheart in some of its more soaring moments but even more rich and with a slight humorous edge, this score touches every emotion and represents a sort of middle ground between Apollo 13 and Titanic in Horner's output for the decade.

5. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - 1991 This one is just plain FUN. I loved this movie. From the first notes of the overture I knew it was going to be something special. All the adventure and romance is right in this Michael Kamen score. OK, OK, so there were a ton of orchestrators, who cares, the music turned out great. Before Titanic broke all the records for a theme-song related film score, there was Everything I Do (I Do It For You). Robin Hood lives (even without a British accent). Korngold would be proud.

4. Apollo 13 - 1995 1995 was Horner's year. He put out three really great scores in Braveheart, Casper, and Apollo 13 and two other good, but mediocre scores, Balto and Jade. But this score takes the prize. One only needs to watch the 10 minute Launch cue and this score's greatness becomes apparent. Besides Titanic in 1997 and Bicentennial Man in 1999, this is Horner's supreme effort of the 90's and a culmination of his style that he had been building up to this point.

3. Gettysburg - 1993 A powerful score for a powerful movie that wouldn't be half as powerful if not for the powerful score. Whew!!! There are moments in this film that consist of nothing but gun-shots, cannon blasts, and the music of Randy Edelman. Likewise, the profound (almost Shakespearean) speeches are perfectly complemented by Edelman's music. From Chamberlain's speech about freedom, to Armistead's speech about the South, Edelman's music is there in support, never overwhelming but always exactly portraying the emotion of the moment. The best epic movie of the decade that I was fortunate to see on the big screen, this one may also be the best movie of the decade.

2. Shakespeare in Love - 1998 One of the best scores of the decade for THE BEST movie of the decade. John Madden's take on a writers-blocked Shakespeare is brilliant in every way, including this score. From the opening chords, one is transported to an idealized Elizabethan time of acting and poetry. Stephen Warbeck (after scoring the earlier Mrs. Brown for Madden) simply exploded on the film-score scene. From sparse simplistic motives, Warbeck builds a score with crescendo and instrumentation that is a delight to the ears. He even gets a chance to throw some Baroque-sounding dance music into the score. You just can't beat that.

1. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - 1999 John Williams reopens the Star Wars book and creates a score that is so much better than the movie that Lucas gave us. This movie is so bad but this music is so good that it makes you believe Williams is the greatest film composer of all time (and one could make an argument for that). A wall-to-wall score, this one never lets up. From the opening credits to The Flag Parade to Anakin's Theme to Duel of the Fates, this one has everything and what would you expect from Williams and Star Wars but the best score of the decade for, quite possibly, the worst movie of the decade.

Very near misses - The Mask of Zorro by James Horner
                                  Nixon by John Williams
                                  Forrest Gump by Alan Silvestri
                                  Much Ado About Nothing by Patrick Doyle
                                  Star Trek: First Contact by Jerry Goldsmith

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