At a newly stripped-down American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers Screen Music Awards, its 31st annual, at the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom on Thursday night, Craig Armstrong gave a soft-spoken expression of appreciation as recipient of the ASCAP Henry Mancini Award, a career laurel previously bestowed on such movie maestros as Angelo Badalamenti, Michel Legrand, Ennio Morricone and Elmer Bernstein.
Director Oliver Stone, who has collaborated with Armstrong on “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and the upcoming “Snowden,” presented the award to Armstrong, proving even more soft-spoken than the composer, who credited the directors he worked with as inspiration.
One of those directors is Baz Luhrmann, whose films “The Great Gatsby” and “Moulin Rouge!” benefitted from Armstrong’s emotionally rich underscore, and who expressed his appreciation via videotape.
The Armstrong tribute, which included poignant interpretations of Armstrong’s music for “Gatsby” and “Love Actually” by the Calder Quartet, was preceded by an equally moving paean to James Horner, the Oscar-winning composer behind such films as “Titanic” and “Braveheart” who died last June.
Morricone, who just won the Oscar last month for his original music for “The Hateful Eight,” was also honored by ASCAP for that same work as composer of the Film Score of the Year, while Bear McCreary (“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” “The Walking Dead”) won his second ASCAP TV Composer of the Year laurel. In addition, Austin Wintory picked up his second consecutive Video Game Score of the Year trophy for his work on “Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.”
Overall, a total of 138 awards were presented for the most performed music on television, film and video games for the year (hence the change in the kudofest’s title to the all-encompassing “Screen Music Awards”), most of them behind the scenes, taking a cue from the Grammys, and perhaps influenced by another performing rights organization with the briefest of awards ceremonies, SESAC. Instead of the usual cattle call to the stage as in years past, with the honorees pausing for a photo op with ASCAP brass, this show concentrated on the most high-profile categories presented in a more competitive-seeming format, with more live entertainment and less flash-bulb pauses in the action. In a way, the ritual managed to camouflage, however intermittently, citations measured in commercial success.
These honors included the Top Box Office Films kudo to Michael Giacchino (“Jurassic World”); the Most Performed Themes & Underscore award to David Vanacore (“The Apprentice,” “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader”); the Top Network Series citation to producer Timbaland (“Empire”), his first ASCAP honor; Top Cable Series honors for James Levine (“Rizzoli & Isles”) and the Top Streaming Series award to Scott Doherty and Brandon Jay (“Orange Is the New Black”).