Saturday Soundtrack -Maximilian Peter on the best in Film Music 1997

The First Wives Club (Marc Shaiman), One Fine Day (James Newton Howard), Mars Attacks! (Danny Elfman), Independence Day (David Arnold), The Ghost and the Darkness (Jerry Goldsmith)

Saturday Soundtrack is a year long series, initiated and developed by music composer Maximilian Peter. Every Saturday, Max picks out the cherries of the past 55 years of film music, covering one year per week. With well researched articles and music samples he gives an extensive insight into the film industry through the eyes of it`s music.  Stay tuned!

1997 was the year of James Cameron´s epic disaster movie Titanic, one of the most successful films of all time. It won eleven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Score. Only the movie Ben Hur (1959) managed to win eleven Oscar several decades before.

Titanic was a film phenomenon. It was not only one of the most financially successful films of all time, it also sparked new interest in the sinking of the ship Titanic. The film´s success was surely the main reason for the success of James Horner´s emotional soundtrack. His music for the film became one of the most famous film scores of the digital era – a romantic, dramatic and Oscar-winning score that sets the emotional tone for the film. But was Titanic really the best film score of the year? 1997 had a lot of great scores of dramatic power: John Williams´ music for Amistad, the score for Good Will Hunting composed by Danny Elfman, Philip Glass´ soundtrack for Kundun and Jerry Goldsmith´s composition for L.A. Confidential. All of these scores, plus Horner´s Titanic were Oscar-nominated for Best Original Dramatic Score in 1997. A strong list in a strong film music year. And each score deserved the nomination in the category.

John Williams´ opening choral composition for Amistad has a great catchy tune, African rhythms and memorable melodic stuff, and beats the pants off the rest of his score. Danny Elfman´s music for director Gus Van Sant´s Good Will Hunting belongs to his most important works he contributed to the drama genre, but his score for Men in Black (also 1997) is even more effective and has the typical ´black comedy´-music-style we love and know from his scores for Tim Burton-movies like Beetlejuice and Mars Attacks!. By the way, Elfman´s cool and rhythmic music for Men in Blackwas also nominated for an Academy Award, but in the category Best Original Musical or Comedy Score. However, the strongest score and competitor to Horner´s dramatic music for Titanic in the Best Original Dramatic Score category was Jerry Goldsmith´s L.A. Confidential. Goldsmith, who wrote the masterful music for Roland Polanski´s classic film Chinatown in 1974, was a logical choice to compose the music for Curtis Hanson´s extraordinary neo-noir crime film since Hanson and Goldsmith worked together on the adventure thriller The River Wild in 1994. L.A. Confidentialbased on James Ellroy´s fabulous novel of the same title from 1990 and Hanson did an excellent job in directing the film adaptation of the book. Los Angeles-born composer Goldsmith created a score that underlines the complex story and the visuals in a perfect musical way. Without question, it is the most dramatic score for a film in the Oscar-competition of 1997 – a dark, thunderous one. The best cue is called ´Bloody Christmas´. It shows the dramatic and ´´masculine´´ structure and style Goldsmith chose for the masterful film. In the same year, the artist wrote two further outstanding scores: the adventurous soundtrack for the survival thriller The Edge and the one for Wolfgang Petersen´s action hit Air Force One. Both compositions have majestic main themes and satisfy because of the unique action music. Air Force One´s cue ´The Hijacking´ is a masterpiece in action scoring and belongs to the very best action material Goldsmith has ever written.

Carter Burwell´s work for Richard Donner´s thriller Conspiracy Theory was also one of the top scores of the thriller genre, although, the composer ´´integrated´´ some kind of comedy in his music (the film is more a thriller with comedy-elements than a thriller in the style of L.A. Confidential orThe Edge, with wonderful performances by Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart and Mel Gibson, who played the protagonist Jerry Fletcher). Carter Burwell´s score for the movie is one of his liveliest works, including a jazzy main theme that shows all of the composer´s quality in one single cue. Great! By the way: the screenplay for Conspiracy Theory was written by Brian Helgeland, the same guy, who wrote the Oscar-winning Adapted Screenplay for L.A. Confidential in the same year.

Another great score (pure comedy this time!) is Alan Silvestri´s one for MouseHunt. It was almost a shame that his funny score didn´t get recognition at the following award season. Perhaps the competitors were to strong: AnastaciaAs Good As It GetsThe Full MontyMen In Blackand My Best Friend´s Wedding. All of these scores were nomanted for Oscars in the category Best Original Comedy or Musical Score. Anastacia(composed by David Newman) and My Best Friend´s Wedding (written by James Newton Howard, again with the wonderful Julia Roberts in the leading role) are soundtracks written for big orchestra, with strong themes and emotional melodic lines. The scores for The Full Monty (by composer Anne Dudley) and As Good As It Gets (created by Hans Zimmer) have smaller ensembles and go the more intimate musical way. Anne Dudley´s work won the Oscar. So she and James Horner won awards in the music categories at the Oscars. Horner even won a second award at the Academy Award ceremony – in the category Best Original Song –, of course for his song ´My Heart Will Go On´ (performed by Celine Dion). He shared the award with lyricist Will Jennings.