Batman (Danny Elfman, 1989)
When Tim Burton’s Batman was released in 1989, it took the box-office by storm, instantly earning the love of both hard-core comic book aficionados as well as people unfamiliar with said property. One of the most iconic aspects of this new take on the caped crusader was its Wagnerian dark gothic score composed by Danny Elfman. But although John Williams’ effort for Superman received an Oscar nod in 1978, Elfman did not merit a nomination for his tremendous work here. The film went on to deservedly win an Oscar for Best Art Direction and… that was it. In a year which saw Alan Menken walk away with the Best Original Score Oscar for Disney’s The Little Mermaid, it’s safe to assume that something went wrong somewhere for Elfman to not secure a nomination for his genre defining contribution.
The Hunt for Red October (Basil Poledouris, 1990)
This 1990 American submarine spy-thriller film helmed by veteran action director John McTiernan was an adaptation of Tom Clancy’s bestselling novel of the same name. At the time of its release it was received well by critics and audiences both, who praised the film’s technical achievements as well as Alec Baldwin’s standout performance as covert agent Jack Ryan. Poledouris whose previous efforts have been the likes of RoboCop and Conan the Barbarian really stepped up to the daunting task, truly delivering one of his finest efforts here. The seamless blend of choral, orchestral and synthetic elements is absolutely sublime. Just listen to ‘The Hymn for Red October’ and you’ll get an idea as to what I’m talking about. But once again, the Oscars’ turned a blind eye (or ear) and in doing so failed to recognize one of the most memorable scores to come forth from the 90’s.
Glory (James Horner, 1989)
Edward Zwick’s American epic civil-war film Glory, was based upon the Union Army’s second African-American regiment and their heroic actions at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner. Critically lauded for its poignant storytelling and strong performances it went on to bag multiple Golden nudies including a win for Denzel Washington in the Best Supporting actor category. Sadly, fate wasn’t too kind to James Horner, the man who composed the beautifully sweeping score for the film. He did however nab a nomination for the fantasy-drama Field of Dreams the same year, but come on, seriously? All it takes is just one listen, to determine which was the superior work. And in this instance, it is Glory that should have been chosen over Field of Dreams, no doubt about it.
Beyond Rangoon (Hans Zimmer, 1995)
Nowadays there’s nary a film score that doesn’t come under the purview of film composer Hans Zimmer. For better or worse, he’s changed the face of his industry forever. But back in the early and mid-90’s he was an up and coming talent, which pretty much meant that some of his efforts went under Oscar’s radar. And that’s genuinely sad, because in my opinion, some of Zimmer’s best efforts actually hailed from this period. While 1994’s The Lion King swept awards season the year before and Crimson Tide received praise the year after, it is the talented musicians’ effort for this particular underrated film that truly should have garnered a nomination. This was Zimmer before he allowed his overly obnoxious synthesizers to take greater prominence. This was Zimmer striking the ideal balance. But alas, it didn’t get the attention it deserved. And thus, one his finest work went unacknowledged.
The Ghost and the Darkness (Jerry Goldsmith, 1996)
Ah, the 90’s. This was undoubtedly the era in which some of the best film scores were produced. Jerry Goldsmith is one of those rare breeds of composers who, having made his start in the early 60’s-with such acclaimed scores as Planet of the Apes, Patton, Chinatown and The Omen-continued to churn out amazing music till the late 90’s. His body of work can be compared with only the likes of John Williams or John Barry, who are also of the same vintage. But in my opinion, he was unfairly robbed of a nomination for his music here, with The Ghost and the Darkness. Blending African chanting and exotic indigenous instruments effortlessly with Western orchestral elements, Goldsmith created one of the most unique ethnically charged, action-horror scores of all time. The film won an Oscar for Best Sound Editing in 1997, but it’s a damn shame Goldsmith’s work was unappreciated during awards season.