Friday, February 21, 2014

One Category at a Time: Sound Editing

As it is in Best Sound Mixing, the competition for the Best Sound Editing trophy seems to be pretty well sewn up. Even though a 4/5 overlap with the former category makes a separate analysis of the latter somewhat redundant, let's take a look at the nominees anyhow. After all, last year saw the first time ever that the two sound awards were split between three films, so clearly the Academy doesn't always lump the two together -- often, but not always.
After a timid release that drove me up the wall with its coy reluctance to go wide, I was ultimately grateful to find that All Is Lost was worth the wait. However, opening quietly and never playing on more than one screen per major city is not the way to win Academy votes, and at the end of the day, the only nomination it could scrape together was a token tip of the hat for its excellent sound design by Richard Hymns and Steve Boeddeker (the latter of whom should have won an Oscar last year for Beasts of the Southern Wild). No doubt a shame for such a fine film to be so under-recognized, but the distributors have no one to blame but themselves. This being its sole nomination makes it the least likely to win.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug pulled off an unlikely duo of nominations for its aural elements that, in retrospect, turned out to not be so unlikely. The film is action heavy and boasts some great sounding creatures, most notably the titular dragon, whose vocal recordings by Benedict Cumberbatch are filtered and distorted beyond recognition. Brent Burge did Oscar-worthy work on The Adventures of Tintin a couple years back, so it's nice to see him earn his first nomination. Can't wait to hear what he's got cooking for Peter Jackson's upcoming sequels.
Wins in recent years for the likes of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty (both by Paul N.J. Ottoson) suggest that the Afghanistan war drama Lone Survivor might have been a darkhorse contender were this a closer race. Wylie Stateman is clearly respected by his peers, having been nominated seven times now, but that first win still eludes him. He should have won last year's contest for Django Unchained, which makes him officially overdue for a win in my books. But with the Best Picture contenders he's up against, a win seems improbable.

One of those aforementioned Best Picture contenders is Captain Phillips. Oliver Tarney's authentic sound effects are nicely showcased by an immersive sound mix, and given the clout that a Best Picture nomination carries, it's enough for me to speculate that Tarney (enjoying his first career nomination) is running in second place.
But the Best Picture contender he's running behind is pretty far ahead in this race. Gravity's sound editing soars far above this pack for its seat-shaking vibrations and stands out for the noticeably crucial role it plays in the storytelling. A few years back, Glenn Freemantle was in the unfortunate position of being one of the only Slumdog Millionaire nominees to not go home with an Oscar, although the near sweep for that film suggests he may have been awfully close. One gets the impression that his pending victory for this film is going to be by a much more comfortable margin.

Will win: Gravity
Runner-up: Captain Phillips

Should win: All Is Lost
Should've been nominated: The Conjuring

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