Friday, February 17, 2017

One Category at a Time: Best Sound Editing

Earlier today I outlined my thoughts on the race for Best Sound Mixing, and now I'm doing the same for its sister category Best Sound Editing. I did consider covering both predictions in a single post, but it occurred to me that this may be one of those rare years in which we see a split between the two sound categories.

What could make it an even rarer occurrence is that the split might be between two films nominated in both contests, which as only ever happened once (between Slumdog Millionaire and The Dark Knight). The reason such wealth-sharing is so uncommon is that the Academy often struggles to differentiate these two aural disciplines, unless they receive some sort of "obvious" and oversimplified direction, like 'musicals = sound mixing' and 'action = sound editing'.
That line of thinking is what could make Hacksaw Ridge one of the lucky films that manages to win something over La La Land on Oscar night. I already mentioned in my previous prediction post that war films have stumbled in Best Sound Mixing lately, but they are still mainstays in Best Sound Editing. It may smack of simplistic voting on the Academy's part should it come to pass, but supervising sound editors/re-recording mixers Robert Mackenize and Andy Wright will certainly deserve a hearty congratulations anyway. Due to a largely unusable production audio, they had a huge task in creating the dense and detailed soundscape heard in the final product.

But the question of a La La Land sweep still lingers. Could a musical win this category? There's no precedent for it. In fact, besides the animated Aladdin doing so 24 years ago, there's no precedent for a musical even being nominated here. Will it become the default choice across the board, or will voters consider it an obvious mixing achievement and consciously opt for something else? And if many do decide to go for something else, is the aforementioned Hacksaw Ridge the automatic alternative?
I can't imagine I'm the only one who would instead go for the unforgettable alien vocals and stifling sonic headspace of Arrival, a respected Best Picture nominee at risk of going home empty-handed unless fans can concentrate their efforts somewhere. But could renegade votes serve more as an opportunity for La La Land to sneak up the middle than to actually put Arrival in spoiler position? Anyway you slice it, this feels like a close race.

The remaining two nominees don't have nearly as much heat as the first three, but their inclusion was hard earned. Deepwater Horizon thrives by its bombastic yet informative sound effects, and Sully repeatedly whitens our knuckles with the same terrifying crash landing sequence again and again (among other aeronautical flashbacks). Mind you, it's rare to win this prize without a corresponding nomination for Best Sound Mixing, which both of these lack.

Will win: Hacksaw Ridge
Could win: Arrival

Should win: Arrival
Should be nominated: The Shallows

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