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January 17, 2002 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-01-17

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16B - The Michigan Daily - Wetend, etc. Magazine - Thursday, January 17, 2002
The top 10 film scores of the 1990s


By JIM Schlff
Daily Fine/Performing Arts Editor
The 1990s - two years of Bush,
eight years of Clinton and ten years of
great film scores. Though it's probably
impossible to categorize the best sound-
tracks of the decade, one common
theme that runs through each of them is
superb craftsmanship. Some artists,
such as Rachel Portman, established
their careers in the decade, while others,
like John Williams, continued to experi-
-ment with new sounds and expand their
repertoires. In all, it was a pretty memo-
rable decade for film scores and below
are the 10 best.
10. "Green Card" - Hans
Zimmer - 1991: The trailer for this
movie said, "If you liked 'Pretty
Woman,' give 'Green Card' a try." What
the trailer should have said was, "If you
liked 'Pretty Woman,' skip 'Green Card'
and just buy the soundtrack. While
Gerard Depardieu's oafish romantic
lothario failed to -
capture the hearts
of audiences,
Zimmer's fantastic
score grabbed the
attention of listen-
ers. "Green Card"
is Zimmer's most
and perhaps finest
film score.
Through an
orchestra of syn-
thesizers, Zimmer
created an entirely
original sound,
combining quick African drumbeats ana opiae aimalk eoy
aomplicatd m arim a-lk mld
He's also incredibly attune to the roman-
tic side of the film, adding a simple,
Chopin-esgque piano flare to the music
Even though Zimmer's work or
"Gladiator" was showered in accolades

he has yet to replicate the
brilliance of "Green Card."
9. "The Cider House
Rachel Portman
- 1999: While A
many critics balked
at the idea of this
film receiving seven
Oscar nominations,
"The Cider House
Rules" deserved to
be recognized for its
outstanding sound-
track. Composer
Rachel Portman, an
Oscar winner for
the Gwyneth
Paltrow vehicle,
"Emma" (1996),

Rules" -


outdid her previous successes with this
lush score. Utilizing a pastoral theme a
la Aaron Copland, Portman created a
distinctly American sound - instantly
hummable and a perfect companion to
the New England setting of the film.
Portman's sweeping string themes -
almost signature com-
ponents to her works
- are perhaps the
most beautiful of the
d e c a d e.
8."Pleasantville" -
Randy Newman -
1998: He's been nom-
inated for 13 Oscars
and has yet to receive a
statue. That's a shame
because Newman,
often considered one
of the most adept
singersongwriters in
Courtesy of Varese Sarabande the music industry, has
produced a remarkable set of film scores
.over the years. "Pleasantville" stands as
i-one of the crowning achievements of
Newman's career. A homage to and a
satire of family sitcoms of the 1950s,
n "Pleasantville" featured a soundtrack of
favorite tunes from the era, including

Etta James' "At Last." While these tunes
fuel some of Reese Witherspoon's "I'm
pasty!" moments, Newman's score is at
the sentimental
S ,EA TY heart of the film.
The citizens of
Pleas antv ille
opened their eyes to
a world of color
they never knew
existed and the
audience opened
their ears to
Newman's full-
orchestral sound.
7. "American
Beauty" -
Thomas Newman
of Uni/Dreamworks Records - 1999: Thomas
Newman comes from a distinguished
pedigree of film composers (his father
is 20th-century film giant Alfred
Newman), but he has developed a style
all his own - and his score to
"American Beauty" is the most innova-
tive soundtrack of the decade. From the
opening shot of the film, panning over
the bleak winter suburban landscape,
Newman's music evokes a feeling that
is both beautiful and haunting. His
score shifts through as many moods as
the characters do: Instead of one recur-
ring theme, Newman utilizes little snip-
pets of contrasting styles. The score
also fills in emotional gaps where
words fail: The heart of "American
Beauty" is in its tender, unspoken
moments - and Newman's music
makes them resonate even more.
6. "Jurassic Park" - John
Williams - 1993: John Williams' is
so vast it could easily fill a top 10 list
of its own. When singling out individ-
ual works from the 1990s, it's impossi-
ble to overlook "Jurassic Park."
Perhaps no other composer is as deft at
picking up the subtle nuances of film
as Williams: His orchestrations are
always timed perfectly with the actions

on-screen. In "Jurassic Park," the audi-
ence senses the fear when the cast is
running from the velociraptors - not
just because of the looks on their faces,
but also because Williams' score
becomes suddenly tense, eerie and
unforgiving. And that trademark
Williams theme, soaring like the heli-
copter above Isla Nublar in the film's
final scene, adds to the wonder of the
dinosaurs Spielberg created.
5. "Dances With Wolves" - John
Barry - 1990: Barry's presence in
film has declined somewhat since the
1980s, when he was characteristically
assigned to romantic films such as "Out
of Afric" We get a sense of Barry as a
composer with an eye for location with
his "Dances WITH Wolves" score, one
of his best. His themes are undeniably
suited to the American West - we can
picture the mountains, forests and wild
animals through his epic sounds.
Perhaps with a resurgence of the epic
Western will we see a resurgence of
Barry in the world of film scores.
4. "Rudy" - Jerry Goldsmith -
1993: Some actors are typecast for cer-
tain types of roles. Some film com-
posers are suited for certain types of
films. Jerry Goldsmith is the Arnold
of movie scores.
From "The
Mummy," to
"Congo" to "The
Last Castle,"
Goldsmith has
become the musical
staple of dramatic
films. Goldsmith's
tmusic to "Rudy"
explores both his
penchant for bom-
bastic, fanfare-4
tfilled brass themes
and slower, more
delicate woodwind melodies. If there's
one thing Goldsmith's music does -

better than anyone else's - is that it
conveys excitement. We feel the rush as
Rudy storms the Notre Dame football
field, spurred on by his own personal
cheering section: D-Bob, his parents
and the heartpounding music of Jerry
3. "The Shawshank Redemption"
- Thomas Newman - 1994:
Newman's score to "Shawshank" isn't
remarkable for what it does but for what
it doesn't do. Powerful themes such as
friendship, loyalty and trust between
prisonmates are explored in the film,
but Newman's score never goes over the
top. His quiet, understated piano pas-
sages and string anecdotes carry
"Shawshank" through its most touching
moments. Even Newman's two-note
chords, simplistic as they sound, carry a
powerful musical
message. The
movie's theme song,
played over the clos-
ing credit, is per-
haps the most mov-
ing of the decade.
2. "Schindler's
List" -- John
Williams - 1993:
Though "Star Wars"
is probably John
Williams' master-
piece, "Schindler's
List" is easily his
Courtesy of Philips Records' finest dramatic
score. Itzhak Penman's violin serves as
the voice of the victims of the
Holocaust: It weeps, as do the millions
of Jews and others who suffered during
the war. Williams' music is the welcome
accompaniment on the four-hour jour-
ney that is "Schindler's List." His
themes become hopeful and uplifting
only at the film's end, when we see the
Schindler Jews placing rocks on their
savior's grave. Through "Schindler's
List," the audience was exposed to the
unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust
and some of the most hauntingly beau-
tiful solo work ever created for film.
1. "Shine" - David Hirschfelder
- 1996: "Shine" tells the story of
musical genius David Helfgott, driven
mad by an abusive, authoritarian father.
Helfgott's brilliant piano playing lends
itself to a who's-who of classical music
for the film's soundtrack, including
Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Liszt and
Vivaldi. While these composers' pieces
are showcased in "Shine," it is
Hirschfelder's score that creates the
film's emotional center. His "hybrid
sound" - consisting of piano, chamber
orchestra and some of the film's dia-
logue and sound effects - is adept at
conveying the film's dark moments.
And as Helfgott makes his ascent into
normalcy at the film's end, it is equated
again with Hirschfelder's superlative
score - the most heartfelt, versatile
and uplifting of the decade.



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