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Section Header
Elliot Goldenthal
(1954-)
Reviews in Filmtracks'
Top 100 Traffic Ranks:
#97.  Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
(updated daily)

Filmtracks Editor's Recommendations:
Frida

Biography:
In May 1954, Elliot Goldenthal was born in Brooklyn, New York, and as a child he studied piano. His interests included jazz and rock, and once he reached his teenage years, he played piano and trumpet and also sang in a touring blues band. He composed a ballet at age 14 that was given a full performance at his high school. In 1972, Goldenthal came under the influence of Aaron Copland through an introduction by Leonard Bernstein. He stayed at Copland's house and they would play four hands on the piano. Goldenthal, in his learning process, would continuously ask Copland questions of every musical kind. Encouraging him in music were his house­painter father and seamstress mother. He would lock himself in his room and listen to everything from Jimi Hendrix to Charlie Parker to Gustav Mahler. Citing the many classical composers who indulged in considerably varied outputs, he claimed that it is a healthy thing for a composer to be skilled in eclectic and dynamic styles.

With his first major influence being Louis Armstrong, Goldenthal attended the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, where he was a student with both Copland and John Corigliano. Soon, his idol would be legendary composer Bernard Herrmann. After earning both his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in musical composition, he would write extensively for full orchestras as well as chamber and vocal compositions being published by G. Schirmer. His talents and education have led to a successful career on the small stage, and he now divides his time between composing for films, theatre and the concert hall. Goldenthal's film career began in 1979 with the score for Cocaine Cowboys. After a ten year interval he scored the first of his major movies, Pet Sematary, in 1989. His mastery of a wide variety of styles and types of instrumentation has made him a competent choice to score projects in many genres of film.

In 1980, a mutual friend arranged for Goldenthal to meet the director Julie Taymor, saying, "I know a person whose work is just as grotesque as yours." The match was a success; Goldenthal rose to prominence in 1988 for his Obie Award-winning work on "Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass," a collaboration with Taymor, who would become his wife. The popular, critically acclaimed theatrical oratorio was based on the short story of Horacio Quiroga and the Requiem Mass. First performed in New York City, it subsequently toured festivals in Edinburgh, France, Jerusalem, Montreal, and San Francisco, garnering the American Arts and Letters Richard Rogers Award and the Critics Choice Award at the Edinburgh Festival in 1990. The following year, Goldenthal also scored Gus Van Sant's film Drugstore Cowboy, continuing to alternate between stage and screen throughout his early career.

In 1990, he composed "Shadow Play Scherzo," commissioned by ASCAP in honor of Leonard Bernstein's 70th birthday. The piece was performed by the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra at Town Hall in New York City. Later that year, he was commissioned to compose a new work for the Haydn-Mozart Chamber Orchestra commemorating the 75th anniversary of Ebbets Field, former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. Titled "Pastime Variations," it was performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music that same year. His other stage credits include the musical "The Transposed Heads" (based on Thomas Mann's novella, performed at Lincoln Center Theater and the American Music Theater Festival in Philadelphia), "The King Stag" at the American Repertory Theater, and the musical "Liberty's Taken" (produced at the Castle Hill Festival). Goldenthal has also composed incidental music for Shakespeare's "The Tempest," "The Taming of the Shrew," "Titus Andronicus," and "A Mid Summer Night's Dream."

Goldenthal returned to film in 1992 with his score to David Fincher's Alien 3, and earned his first Academy Award nomination for his work on Neil Jordan's 1994 film Interview With the Vampire. He and Jordan remained regular collaborators in the years to follow, teaming on pictures including Michael Collins (for which he would receive his second Oscar nomination), The Butcher Boy, In Dreams, and The Good Thief. In 1995, Goldenthal would replace Danny Elfman as the composer of the Batman film franchise, scoring Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Arguably Goldenthal's most acclaimed project is 1996's "Fire Paper Water," an oratorio commissioned by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Vietnam War; the Sony Classical recording of the piece featured soloist Yo-Yo Ma. The oratorio received its East Coast debut with Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra in critically acclaimed performances in Boston, in New York at Carnegie Hall, and at the Kennedy Center.

After reuniting with Taymor on a limited New York stage adaptation of the Carlo Gozzi fable, "The Green Bird," Goldenthal was commissioned in 1997 by the American Ballet Theatre to compose a ballet inspired by Shakespeare's "Othello." It debuted at the Metropolitan Opera that year and was eventually released on DVD in 2003. Choreographed by Lar Lubovitch, it one of the most acclaimed events of the 1997 dance season. In 1999, Goldenthal would score Taymor's first feature film, Titus, providing a diverse musical piece that the composer considers a strong compilation of his styles. Following a massive score for the film adaptation of the Final Fantasy video games in 2001, Goldenthal would once again collaborate with Taymor for Frida in 2002, for which Goldenthal would receive his first Academy Award win. With his name in the popular awards spotlight, he would score the 2003 action drama S.W.A.T..

Along with his Oscar recognition, Goldenthal has received Grammy nominations for Batman Forever and A Time to Kill in successive years. He would receive nominations for the Chicago Film Critics Award for Michael Collins, Heat, and The Butcher Boy (also in successive years). In 1998, Goldenthal was honored with the prestigious L.A. Film Critics Award for Best Original Score for his work on The Butcher Boy as well. His other awards include the Arturo Toscanini Award, the New Music for Young Ensembles composition prize, the S tephen Sondheim Award in Music Theater and New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Living most of the time in New York, Goldenthal continues to collaborate closely with his wife while maintaining his presence on and off the big screen.

The next collaborative with Taymor was "Grendel," an opera based on the Beowulf legend to be performed at the Los Angeles Opera in 2005 and at the Lincoln Center Festival thereafter.


Additional Quotes:
"I've discovered that I don't have that much talent, really. If I work on something for ten years or three weeks it's not going to make a difference. It's not going to get any better. No matter how many years I work on something I'm never going to get to Beethoven's level." -- 1997, on preferring a short deadline

"I love working with English musicians, especially the strings. They don't play with excessive vibrato. Strings use too much vibrato in the States" -- 1997, on recording in London

"I think every film score that I do is the best film score that I've ever composed. I will say that in terms of strong film scores that I've composed that Cobb, Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy, Drugstore Cowboy, Alien 3, and Titus are the ones that stand out." -- 1999, on his own perception of his best score

"In any professional relationship you develop a trust with the person you're working with. Trust meaning that they'll give you at least the option of recording what you're doing and letting your ideas come alive. But at the same time, you're working with a director who has a particular vision, like any other director, and you have to yield to the directors vision. You can not say: this is what I want to do in your film." -- 2000, on working with Julie Taymor as opposed to other directors

"It was not very difficult in terms of conception, in that it's very clear that the hero is the hero, the villain is the villain, the zany is the zany, the love interest is the love interest. There wasn't much subtlety there so it made the music pretty easy." -- 2001, on the Batman scores

"I say we've spent 20 years being happily unmarried. Julie's late father used to refer to me as his 'son-out-law.' Actually, I think of us as Ozzie and Harriet." -- 2002, on his marriage after collaborating with Taymor on Frida




Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal, 2003


"Bring Fellini back from the dead, and let me work with him!"
-- Elliot Goldenthal in 2000

No modern film composer has applied his talents in as wide a spectrum as Elliot Goldenthal. With strong influences from the legends of the classical and jazz genres, Goldenthal has made a career out of interpolating these favorite genres into schemes and styles that range from the post-modern to the highly unusual. A humble composer, Goldenthal's music dances between atonal dissonance and grand harmony, sometimes in a single cue. Usually present in his works is an introverted, brooding sense of darkness that has stolen the hearts of many Danny Elfman enthusiasts. By the late 1990's, Goldenthal had been recognized with several nominations for major awards, and the composer would finally win an Academy Award for his well-researched score for Frida in 2003. His collaboration with his wife, director Julie Taymor, has led to Goldenthal's most well respected efforts. With all of his works, Goldenthal's fans have delighted in expecting the unexpected.

His versatility is as great as his orchestral creativity. Many casual film music fans may be unaware that there is a reason for Elliot Goldenthal's rather sparse ten-year career in major film score composition. The lack of a prolific scoring career has been due largely to an equally active career for commissioned projects such as concerts, chamber pieces, and ballets. The mid-1990's were years that featured several large-scale commissioned works from Goldenthal, with the huge symphonic piece "Fire Water Paper" in 1996 leading to a handful of projects directed by Taymor. His theatrical writings have also led to recognition by the Tony awards for "Juan Darien," and his small arthouse scores have been performed during plays around the country. His chamber pieces, written usually for a specific occasion, have been performed in countless venues as well. Despite an output of only one or two film scores per year, Goldenthal's influence over the film score industry remains one of intrigue and high style.



 Filmography/Reviews at Filmtracks:  

(see legend below for information on abbreviations and codes)
 Title FRVRVT CTRD TR DatesNotes
2010:
The Tempest
2009:
Public Enemies
2008:
(none)
2007:
Across the Universe
2004-2006:
(none)
2003:
S.W.A.T.***2.3093456|||35409/03 - 03/09
Othello (Ballet)***3.1016316|1,15207/03 - 03/09
2002:
Frida (AW)*****3.292,24574||15412/02 - 03/09
The Good Thief
2001:
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within****3.945,364156|||9706/01 - 01/09
2000:
(none)
1999:
Titus***2.9348653||97106/03 - 03/09
In Dreams***3.041626||1,25207/03 - 03/09
1998:
Sphere**2.506123||78303/98 - 07/07
1997:
The Butcher Boy
Batman & Robin***2.8374033||25705/03 - 03/09bootlegs
1996:
Michael Collins (AW)****3.525440||63610/96 - 09/08
A Time to Kill
1995:
Heat****3.1526126||76208/03 - 07/08
Batman Forever (AW)**2.9178450|||25204/03 - 01/12all albums
1994:
Cobb****2.83951||1,75002/12
Interview with the Vampire (AW)***3.911,01837||51406/03 - 03/09
Roswell (TV)
1993:
Golden Gate***2.711221|1,35407/03 - 03/09
Demolition Man**2.841976||67910/96 - 02/06
1992:
Alien 3**2.951,72837||24807/98 - 08/06
Fool's Fire (TV)
1991:
Grand Isle
1990:
Criminal Justice (TV)
1989:
Drugstore Cowboy
Pet Sematary
1981-1988:
(none)
1980:
Blank Generation
1979:
Cocaine Cowboys


Legend:
Status:
N
- indicates a new review that has been published in the last 90 days
R
- indicates an older review that has been significantly revised in the last 90 days
Awards: AW - indicates that the music won or was nominated for a major award
Ratings: FR - Filmtracks Rating ("Varied" indicates a split rating with no overall designation)
VR - Viewer Rating (overall average)
VT - Vote Total (for viewer ratings)
Comments: Comment Total (the number of messages posted in the review's comment area)
Review Depth: ||||| - Massive Review (over 4,000 words)
|||| - Very Long Review (between 2,200 and 4,000 words)
||| - Long Review (between 1,200 and 2,200 words)
|| - Average Review (between 800 and 1,200 words)
| - Short Review (under 800 words)
Traffic Rank: Popularity Rank (lower numbers indicate more cumulative reads; new reviews take time to climb the ranks)
Dates: 1st - indicates the month and year during which the review was first published
2nd - indicates the month and year of the review's most recent significant revision (if any)


   
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