Saturday, 4 February 2012

Incoherent Oscar: Sound Mixing

More potentially illogical ramblings on the Oscar race, category by category. Now on to arguably, one of the two most disregarded categories.

THE NOMINEES: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Hugo; Moneyball; Transformers: Dark of the Moon; War Horse

The sound mixing category, or historically just the sound category, rewards films for their overall sound design. Curiously, or perhaps not, a few best picture contenders always turn up here and this year it’s no different. Among the films which didn’t make the cut, I’m particularly surprised that The Artist appreciation didn’t spill over to here, and I’m a bit surprised and disappointed at the same somewhat that there was no love for Super 8 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Still, it’s a generally solid group of nominees, and a slew of them have a lot of good work behind them.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
Not to trivialise the nomination, but you just know that Fincher’s use of music requires that the sound mixing team noteworthy for all the transitions they must undertake. But, to continue, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoois a thriller for the most part and it demands a winning soundscape to ensure that the cinematic conceits which come with the genre succeed. And, then, it’s helmed by a multi-nominated group with 19 sound mixing nominations between them. Bo Persson is the only first time nominee of the group. David Parker, an Oscar winner for his work on The Bourne Ultimatum and The English Patient (yay) is a seven nominee, Michael Semanick, winning Oscars for work on the final chapter of The Lord of the Rings and King Kong. Klyce has been nominated thrice here (for Fincher’s last three films) and twice in the sound editing category for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Fight Club

Hugo: Tom Fleischmann and John Midgley
I’m never certain about this category (and I’m oddly remiss about checking to see what the odds on favourite to win are – I love predicting in a bubble, assess that in your own time) but I’m thinking that this could be Hugo’s award to lose, although there are oddities in this category (from where I’m sitting at least) like Slumdog beating Benjamin Button - generally, but here specifically or Avatar losing to The Hurt Locker so I suppose nothing is proven. But, Hugo with its numerous technical marvel makes significant use of its sound design. Not only does it have those special sound effects (it’s also nominated there) but it also has the added fun of merging Shore’s score, and this is the place where the blend of dialogue, special effects and music recognised. Neither Midgley nor Fleischmann have won, though the former has been nominated twice (last year included for his work on The King’s Speech) and the latter five times. As an aside, how bizarre is it that The Aviator lost the sound mixing award? Of all things – Fleischmann should have won his Oscar for that. Craziness!

Moneyball: Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
This is the surprise, but not really a surprise, nominee (it did show up at the ACE, after all) and it’s a disservice to assume it to be the “fifth” nominee when the work done – although less obtrusive than its peers – is hardly suspect. The roaring crowds, the rehearsal footage, even the very subdued score it’s all adding together to create a working sound design to benefit the film. A likely winner? Doubtful, in the grand scheme of things I suppose, but hardly an unjust contender. Adair, Bochar and Giammarco are first time nominees. Novick is a multiple nominee winning his first award just last year for his work on Inception.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
If people are harbouring on Moneyball being an oddball nominee because it’s so restrained then people are harbouring about Transformers’ nomination because of its film quality, which elicits (from me) an “ooooookay, then.” Onward. The film is devoted to its special effects, whether visual or aural and all those crashing crescendos are all about sound, not just the special sounds (it’s nominated for sound editing, too) but the entire sound design. And, then there’s the fact that’s its team is a proven one. Haboush and Devlin have three and four nominations each and Summers (the lucky bastard) has FOUR wins (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Jurassic Park, Titanic and Saving Private Ryan). It’s Russell, though, with FIFTEEN nominations and not a single win that’s the big name here. Is it his “time”? Who the hell knows, right?

War Horse: Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson
We’ve got war, we’ve got loads of music, and we’ve got a nominee. I’m oddly coming up blank when it comes to discussing the sound design for War Horse. It’s not just war and music, after all. Or, maybe it is – and that’s not a bad thing. If we’re going to charge Spielberg with an excess of nostalgic nods, the film makes good on it aurally. It sounds like one of those oldies, and that’s a compliment. And, the team is proven, so it’s no surprise. Wilson, himself, is a new nominee but the other three have 31 nods between them. Rydrstrom and Nelson both won for Saving Private Ryan and Johnson and Rydstrom won for Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Titanic. Rydstrom also won oon his won for Jurassic Park (also racking up two wins for Saving Private Ryan and Jurassic Park in sound editing).

ALTERNATE: Transformers: Dark of the Moon
A cakewalk for Hugo? Making good and giving the win to Russell for Transformers? Which sound design do you see taking the prize?

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