The Society of Composers & Lyricists has been around for nearly 75 years, but not until this year did the organization start its own annual awards program for music appearing in film, TV and videogames — and the nominees announced Tuesday for the inaugural show are certain to be scrutinized as a bellwether for what to expect as the Motion Picture Academy’s music branch votes on shortlists for the song and score categories.
As expected, Hildur Gudnadóttir scored nominations in film and TV categories alike, with nods for her work on “Joker” and “Chernobyl,” respectively. The latter limited series already won her an Emmy, and she’s being seen as a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for scoring the blockbuster supervillain origin story.
The SCL Awards have instituted separate categories for scores of studio films and independent films. In the studio division, Gudnadóttir’s “Joker” music will face the scores written by Michael Abels for “Us,” Michael Giacchino for “Jojo Rabbit,” John Powell for “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” and Alan Silvestri for “Avengers: Endgame.”
Nominees for outstanding original score for an independent film went to Jeff Beal for “The Biggest Little Farm,” Kathryn Bostic for “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” Alberto Iglesias for “Pain and Glory,” Howard Shore for “The Song of Names” and Gabriel Yared for “Judy.”
Although most of these nominees have been much discussed in the overall awards conversation, “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” is a surprise as a two-time nominee at the SCLs, with Bostic being up not only for score but for original song for visual media, with a nod for the movie’s theme song, “High Above the Water,.”
The other four nominees for outstanding song are much more on the radar: “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen 2,” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez; “Stand Up” from “Harriet,” by the film’s star Cynthia Erivo along with Joshuah Brian Campbell; “Speechless” from “Aladdin,” by Justin Paul, Benj Pasek and Alan Menken; and “I’m Standing With You” from “Breakthrough,” by the contemporary champion of movie song nominees, Diane Warren.
So who got left out? If you look to the seven recent nominees in the song category at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards, there were four selections there from major pop and rock figures — Beyonce’s “Lion King” tune, Elton John’s “Rocketman” end theme, Thom Yorke’s “Motherless Brooklyn” contribution, and a lesser known Aloe Black song in “Hobbs and Shaw” — that got passed over for the SCLs. So if the Society is sending out any message with its nominations, it’s that they’re unimpressed if songwriters also do double duty as pop stars.
As for who missed the cut on scores, some of the more notable omissions include Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders for “Ford v Ferrari” (which actually won for feature film score at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards), Terence Blanchard for “Harriet,” Alexandre Desplat for “Little Women” and Randy Newman for “Marriage Story.”
Also notably missing among the most talked-about contenders was Thomas Newman’s score for “1917.” However, that oversight wasn’t intentional — the SCL said “1917” wasn’t completed in time for submission. Not to worry that one of 2019’s most buzzed about scores will really go overlooked at the SCLs: the org is giving a Spirit of Collaboration award to Newman and the director of “1917,” Sam Mendes.
The TV and interactive media awards will be just as coveted by the eligible talent, even if there’s less possibility for influence on other impending awards in those categories.
Nominated for best score for television or streaming production, besides Gudnadóttir, are Kris Bowers for “When They See Us,” Nicholas Britell for “Succession,” Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein for “Stranger Things,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for “Watchmen” and Adam Taylor for “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
The category of original score for interactive media has just three nominees: Neal Acree for “Rend,” Gordy Haab and Stephen Barton for “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” and Austin Wintory for “Erica.”
The influence of the SCL nominations on the Oscars could be heightened, in theory, by the fact that voting on the Academy’s songs and score shortlists opens this Friday and closes four days later.
For the SCLs, final voting opens Dec. 12 and closes Jan. 3.
The ceremony will be held January 7 at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Prior to this year, the SCL has not given out annual awards for contemporary work but only lifetime achievement awards. That tradition will continue, separately, at the org’s holiday events on both coasts. At the LA. holiday party, Alan Menken (who happens to be up at the new awards show for “Aladdin”) will be honored with a lifetime achievement trophy. In New York this month, Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and David Yazbek will receive ambassador awards.