Music supervisors Emmy-worthy. Your move, Oscar.
In a bit of pleasant news -- a rarity these days -- music supervisors are now eligible for Emmys. I’m pleased that after an eternity of being treated as a the cherry on top of the cinematic sundae, the last line item on every budget, and a way of dressing up a sow’s ear as a silk purse in many cases, this oft-neglected field of endeavor at last gets its due.
The television academy will recognize nominees in this field at this year's ceremonies.
For a long time, the argument held that the role did not involve a level of craft or artistic inventiveness commensurate with other award-worthy professionals working in film. But come on...if a casting guy or a reality host or the person who puts distressed jeans on beautiful people and calls it costume design can get a Emmy, how is that any more of an artistic achievement than placing a Sharon Van Etten song against an episode-ending scene to stirring emotional effect?
It isn’t, and now it’s official. Moving forward, I get the pleasure of seeing a lot of lovely folks I have known and run with for years snag Emmy nominations. And Emmy awards.
It’s no secret that I love reflected glory. Sometimes, it’s the best kind, to be honest.
It will be tough to pick favorites in this field. A lot of deserving projects will get shorted, just as they do in all categories. No doubt, high-minded fare that elicits Emmy love in other categories will be favored. Just limiting it to new shows offers no shortage of beautifully supervised series, among them “Baskets,” “Legion,” “Stranger Things,” “Atlanta,” “Search Party,” “Westworld,” “Love,” and “Queen Sugar.” Plenty of established shows will get a look, as well, among them “Scandal” (and all of the Shondaland shows, arguably), any number of Ryan Murphy projects, “The Blacklist,” “The Walking Dead,” any and everything on HBO, and too many more to list here. It’ll be intriguing to see how it all plays out. Let the prognosticating and debates begin.
The Guild of Music Supervisors deserves kudos for diligently building the case to add this category. Congratulations to them. It’s a terrific young organization, and this represents a big win.
With The Academy Awards looming, the question is, will Oscar be next?
They should be. Films like “American Graffiti,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Clueless,” the “Twilight” series and so many others would not have had the cultural impact they did -- would not EXIST -- without the creative work of music supervisors. Some of the winners and nominees at the recent Guild awards would certainly have been in the mix for this year. Here’s how it could have played out...
- Steve Gizicki “La La Land”
- Maggie Phillips “Moonlight”
- Chris Douridas “Captain Fantastic”
- David Mackenzie and Jake Roberts “Hell or High Water”
- Julia Michels and Julianne Jordan “Trolls”
(For any music supervisor reading this and thinking, “How could you leave me off this list?”... please remember, this is all fictional. And in the name of God, check yourself.)
Alas, there is no music supervisor Oscar...yet. So I’ll just let that award play out in my head. (DM me and I’ll tell you who “won.”) Let’s instead focus on the treasure trove of talent that IS up for music awards this weekend.
The composers who received Best Original Score nominations this year might be the most exciting group of cool talent ever to vie for the industry’s top award. Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka for “Lion.” Nicholas Britell for “Moonlight.” Justin Hurwitz for “La La Land.” Micachu for “Jackie.” That’s a really exciting group, and a lot of inventive, adventurous music. The more established Thomas Newman -- who has been nominated 13 times with no win to this point -- is also recognized for his nice work for “Passengers” (a movie that only J-Law’s accountant loved). The entire group, including Newman, is as likely to have been influenced by Phillip Glass as John Williams. There is more prepared piano in these assembled scores than there is French horn.
Nothing against French horns, but you feel me.
I’m rooting for Dustin and Hauschka, whose score guides “Lion”’s restrained emotionalism to powerful effect. Hurwitz will likely get this done, and that’s great too. His “La La Land” score is charming and memorable, a smart fusion of throwback traditionalism and cutting edge hip.
On to Best Original Song. Two charming songs from “La-La Land,” Justin Timberlake’s “I Got This Feeling!” from “Trolls” (Grammy winner, and arguably the best pop song of the past year), a beautiful song from “Moana” by Lin-Manuel Miranda (whose win would put him in the vaunted GOTE category at 37 years of age), and a solid Sting song from the documentary “Jim” (this is his fourth nod without a win…never underestimate the power of Oscar voters wanting to be in the same room with Sting).
This is a nice group of songs, and all have their charms. It’s certainly a vast improvement over my youth, when for years, this category was a source of consternation and rage for me. I’d seethe as all manner of lite rock junk got nominated and won. In 1984, Stevie Wonder, a musical hero and 99 percent beyond reproach, won for “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from the abysmal “comedy” “The Woman in Red.” This is probably the worst song Stevie Wonder ever wrote (“Don’t Drive Drunk” is a close second) from what could be the worst movie of the amazing Gene Wilder’s career. That’s kind of impressive, in a way. The rest of the ‘80s into the ‘90s saw a succession of nominees and winners that now comprise KOST-FM’s “Love Songs on the KOST” playlists. Break out the chablis and cuddle up with that special someone.
Recent winners have been a vast improvement, including “Falling Slowly” from “Once,” Adele’s “Skyfall,” Three 6 Mafia’s” “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” and John Legend and Common’s “Glory.” That being said, the category has recently become formulaic in different ways. This year follows a familiar recent patter: songs from musicals go head to head with songs from tentpole animated features, and throw in an earnest song from a documentary for added street cred.
Again, this year’s crop are all wonderful songs. Still, it would be exciting to see other Oscar-caliber films proffer original songs to go toe-to-toe with them. I enjoyed “Hell or High Water”s song choices, but why couldn’t Gillian Welch and David Rawlings have written a new song for it for a key scene? I’d love to see them up for an Oscar one day. Or imagine Frank Ocean crafting a new tune for “Moonlight.” Or a new Jónsi & Alex track for “Captain Fantastic.” Lots of exciting possibilities, many of which may have been explored or floated, for all I know.
The Music Supervisor Oscar will eventually become a reality, if not next year. The addition of this category could compel filmmakers to entrust these professionals with even greater say in the role music plays in their projects. That could lead to more original songs being created for a wider range of projects, and even more exciting nominees in the mix for Best Original Song. It could also influence the adventurous skew of the composing world that we’re currently enjoying.
Wherever it goes from here, and whoever wins these awards, it’s a particularly exciting time for the marriage of music and visual media. The future will bring us even greater gifts. Can’t wait to see. And hear them.