In a possible preview of what may take home Oscars for music, “No Time to Die” songwriters Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell and “Encanto” composer Germaine Franco won Society of Composers & Lyricists awards Tuesday night at Los Angeles’ Skirball Center.
Franco’s Colombian-flavored music for “Encanto” took the award for outstanding original score for a studio film, overtaking scores for “Dune” and “The Power of the Dog,” among others, in the balloting. Daniel Hart’s medieval sounds for “The Green Knight” won original score for an independent film. “Encanto” is Oscar nominated, while Hart was short-listed for the Oscar but didn’t make the final five.
During her acceptance speech, Franco asked all the women composers to stand, honoring her colleagues in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Billie Eilish’s Bond theme won outstanding original song for a drama or documentary, while “Just Look Up” — by Ariana Grande, Nicholas Britell, Kid Cudi and Taura Stinson, from “Don’t Look Up” — won in the category of original song for a musical or comedy.
Eilish and O’Connell sent a video message thanking SCL and noting how proud they were to be recognized by “some of the great composers and lyricists of our time.” “No Time to Die” is favored to win on March 27, having already won a Grammy and a Golden Globe, and the SCL honor may be an indicator of which way voters are leaning. “Just Look Up” was short-listed but didn’t receive an Oscar nomination; Stinson accepted on behalf of her team.
The score for HBO’s “The White Lotus,” by Cristobal Tapia de Veer, won outstanding original score for television (beating out such shows as “Succession” and “Loki”), while the music for “Battlefield 2042” by Hildur Guðnadóttir and Sam Slater, took the award for outstanding original score for interactive media. This was Guðnadóttir’s third SCL win.
A new award for “emerging talent,” named after legendary composer David Raksin (“Laura”), went to Stephanie Economou, who recently scored Netflix’s “Jupiter’s Legacy.”
Host Aloe Blacc kicked off the evening with snark directed at the Academy’s controversial decision to award the original-score Oscar in pre-taped, edited form: “Welcome to an award show so brave, so daring, we actually honor composers live during the main event and not on some pre-recorded nonsense.”
SCL president Ashley Irwin disparaged the Academy decision as part of “a disappointing trend among decision-makers everywhere…. We will not sit by as our art form gets cast aside like some kind of disposable commodity.” He cited SCL initiatives including “fighting for copyright reform, equitable streaming royalties, proper credits and yes, even the return of ‘best original score’ to the Oscars’ main event.”
The annual Spirit of Collaboration award, given to a composer-filmmaker team, went to Carter Burwell and his longtime filmmaking partners Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. Burwell also took the moment to speak out about the Academy’s decision. Explaining that he was a New Yorker who eschewed politeness in favor of frank honesty, he said simply, “Fuck the Academy.”
Burwell has scored 17 of their films, most recently Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” with earlier titles including “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski” and “No Country for Old Men.” Burwell led a small ensemble of musicians in a suite of music from Coen Brothers films.
Other SCL nominees also spoke to Variety about the Academy’s decision, including Taura Stinson (“Don’t Look Up”), Christophe Beck (“WandaVision”), Jeymes Samuel (“The Harder They Fall”) and Diane Warren (nominated for “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days” and “(Never Gonna) Tame You” from “The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses”). All were in agreement, with Samuel saying, “I think that’s a real shame. Film doesn’t work without music.”
This was the third annual SCL awards, given by the organization that represents professional composers, songwriters and music professionals active in the media-music business. The evening also featured performances by Grammy winner Judith Hill and Grammy-nominated writer-performers Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear (“The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical”).
Sasha Urban contributed to this story.