Can ‘Slumdog’ really make a clean sweep?

Posted by · 9:40 am · February 16th, 2009

As we all know, this was a(nother) exceptionally good weekend for “Slumdog Millionaire,” as it nabbed a quartet of technical guild trophies, from the cinematographers, editors, art directors and even, in an especially unlikely coup, the sound mixers. With just the costume designers left to weigh in, this means that Danny Boyle’s film has not come up empty at a single guild ceremony all season — it is an unprecedented hot streak.

With voters seemingly incapable, on any given ballot, of not checking the box alongside the word “Slumdog,” the film suddenly poses a very real threat of nabbing 9 awards, sweeping every category in which it is nominated at the Oscars. Nathaniel Rogers, for one, is predicting such an outcome, and thinks that the key to everything lies in the usually unheralded sound categories:

It might sound odd to say but I believe these are the key categories of the night. If they announce them early and they both go to Slumdog Millionaire we have a sweeper on our hands and you’ll watch it win all 9 of its categories. If it loses both it will likely be a more traditional night when several film get a couple of statues each. But these two categories are clearly where Slumdog is most vulnerable to defeat. Voters could also opt to improve WALL•E or The Dark Knight‘s statue total … (But) the biggest problem for both the robot and the batman is, I fear, each other. Which might have also been the case in the best picture nomination battle.

I completely agree. The two sound categories are among the races causing me the most head-scratching as I finalise my predictions. As a technical feat of sound design, “WALL-E” would appear to be the connoisseur’s choice, but the fact that it was passed over by the guild raises a questionmark. “The Dark Knight” fits the same “acclaimed action movie” profile that netted “The Bourne Ultimatum” a brace of wins here last year. But aren’t the Academy members who don’t know much about the craft, but do love “Slumdog,” simply going to check off the film’s name twice more?

There’s a chance they could divvy up the sound awards, but technical history suggests otherwise to me. In the 27 years that Best Sound Editing has been a competitive category (they previously had an on-off Sound Effects award), they have never split the two awards between two films nominated in both races — which is the case for all three films. I’m fairly sure that whichever film wins one is also taking the other home.

Which makes, for me, Best Sound Editing the real one to watch. Why? Because “Slumdog Millionaire” doesn’t at all fit the profile of a typical winner in this category, which almost always favours loud, action-heavy fare. It’s not unusual for a Best Picture juggernaut to carry Best Sound Mixing along in its sweep, but the other, previously narrower, category tends to be more selective. If “Slumdog” can win that, it can win anything.

By comparison, its other seven categories look like a doddle. I think we can safely say that Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing are in the bag, while Original Score and Cinematography (thanks to that handy ASC win) seem to be heading that way too.

Some still doubt it can win Best Song, but in a category that has repeatedly opted for the more left-field choice in recent years, “Jai Ho” (which I’ve been predicting since November) looks more like a winner to me than “Down to Earth.” It doesn’t hurt that it’s become the film’s rallying cry in recent weeks. All of only leaves the sound races to complete the sweep. I’m not convinced the voters will stop there.

Of course, the guild wins are a little misleading in one respect — unlike the Oscars, guild awards allow their voters but a single category in which to honour a film, meaning the massive contingent of “Slumdog” fans can converge there. Since the Academy Awards allow voters to pick and choose the categories in which to express their affection, which in recent years has led to numerous of mini-hauls of 3 or 4 gongs. In a year this weak, however, with the competition so undivided, I think we may just see “Slumdog” run unopposed.

→ 18 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

18 responses so far

  • 1 2-16-2009 at 10:18 am

    A.J said...

    Sound Mixing is one thing, but if WALL-E losses Sound Editing that would be a huge upset. Possibly the biggest of the night.

  • 2 2-16-2009 at 10:34 am

    red_wine said...

    There’s nothing much to say Guy, everybody is just watching awe-struck. Its like the 2004 US Election, you smile indulgently at first, then laugh nervously and then stare in disbelief as it actually happens.

    Slumdog will eventually hurt itself by a sweep I think. Its not the film’s fault that it is winning every award on earth, but I have a feeling that after it sweeps the Oscars, even 7 wins, the critics are gonna savagely tear apart the film and it will end up one of the most reviled Oscar winners of the decade.

  • 3 2-16-2009 at 10:37 am

    c_p_t said...

    I am not one of the Slumdog “haters” and believe it does deserve most of the awards it will probably get on the night, but I will admit if it wins any of the sound categories, it will be pathetic. Wall e surpasses Slumdog in both sound editing and mixing and I’ve spoken to a lot of people who agree. If Slumdog sweeps it will just show how out of touch the Academy really is.

  • 4 2-16-2009 at 10:43 am

    N8 said...

    c_p_t said it better than I could. I’ll be sick to my stomach if Ben Burtt doesn’t win AT LEAST one Oscar for his remarkable achievement on WALL-E.

  • 5 2-16-2009 at 10:45 am

    Mike said...

    “I have a feeling that after it sweeps the Oscars, even 7 wins, the critics are gonna savagely tear apart the film and it will end up one of the most reviled Oscar winners of the decade”

    I agree red_wine 100%. The blogosphere has for the most part been wary of all the Slumdog hype. But once the TV entertainment shows and newspaper critics begin to deconstruct the inevitable 6+ awards the morning after, there will be a huge backlash brewing, much like Crash in 2006.

    Regardless, Fox laughs it off while basking in Oscar gold and BO cash.

  • 6 2-16-2009 at 11:01 am

    pom_pom said...

    I think a lot of people love this film, but want the Academy to spread the love a little bit.

    I think most people agree that No Country for Old Men was beautiful craft that was at the very least in an ‘Oscar-worthy’ tier. It won a respectable 4 awards…. but what would have happened if it had won 6 or 7 or all 8? There would have been huge backlash immediately, for the mere fact that none of the other giant films got any recognition. I do agree that Slumdog will probably take some heat over its award haul, especially if Milk goes home empy handed.

  • 7 2-16-2009 at 12:17 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I’ve been going back and forth with a top industry sound mixer that thinks Slumdog will win both sound categories, so this is certainly an idea I’ve been turning over in my head. I might just cave and go ahead with predictions for song and sound editing to finish the sweep later this week…

  • 8 2-16-2009 at 12:19 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    red_wine: Your hyperbole comparing this first to “A Beautiful Mind,” now to the 2004 election, is out of control and borderline irritating.

    You hated the movie. Get over it. There are plenty of us who actually think it deserves the lion’s share (but even I will say loud and clear that it doesn’t deserve to sweep).

  • 9 2-16-2009 at 4:42 pm

    Mantas said...

    I really don’t think it’ll be reviled by the critics even if it sweeps just like No Country wouldn’t have been looked at as anything less if it had won more then 4 awards. You guys are forgetting that its really only the blogosphere that seems to have tired of Slumdog, the critics themselves were also showering the film with awards.

    Its ridiculous to compare it to one of the weaker BP like A Beautiful Mind since those films weren’t critical success at any point in the race. Slumdog is and it will remain loved even the morning after the Oscars.

  • 10 2-16-2009 at 5:17 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Yeah, I’m not buying this whole “Slumdog”-backlash projection. The films that receive fairly immediate backlashes in the wake of Oscar victory, like “A Beautiful Mind” or “Crash,” are the ones that had a mixed-to-mediocre critical reception in the first place.

    Whether you like it or not, “Slumdog” is a critics’ darling and an audience favourite, which already makes it a more credible choice than many. (And I have to say, in this weak field of nominees, I think it deserves 6 wins comfortably.)

    Of course, there’s a chance the film might date, but there’s very little way of telling right now.

  • 11 2-16-2009 at 5:31 pm

    red_wine said...

    Kris Tapley, I rather liked Slumdog, whats there to not like? Its a good movie, I could never say its mediocre. Its entertaining, I don’t mind watching it again, but I also think it is not Top 10 material and all this glory is coming at the expense of better films that would definitely have benefited with a little bit of exposure.

  • 12 2-16-2009 at 8:47 pm

    Sound Designer Dan said...

    I wouldn’t say that the Academy is out of touch if they choose Slumdog for Sound Mixing/Sound Editing. It’s just that they don’t know what the category is all about.

    And Guy, isn’t SOUND MIXING (not sound editing) all about loud, action fare. Sound Editing is about the creation of sounds and the soundtrack itself. Sound mixing is all about taking all those sound edits and mixing them for the benefit of the picture.

  • 13 2-16-2009 at 11:28 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I don’t think the Academy at large really gets what the difference is between the two. Not that the knowledge is hard to come by. We seem to spell it out here every year for those who aren’t aware. But more often than not, it’s simply they’re favorite film of the lot. And the louder the better, in either category, really. That’s the extent of their awareness, I’d say…

  • 14 2-17-2009 at 1:30 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Sound Designer Dan: I know the difference. (I’m no expert, I admit, but I’m getting more attuned to sound work over the years.) I’m talking about the Academy’s tastes here. Take a look at the winners in Sound Editing lately. From Pearl Harbor to The Incredibles to Letters from Iwo Jima — films without action and/or battle scenes hardly get a look-in.

  • 15 2-17-2009 at 4:49 am

    Alana Smithee said...

    Regarding the Cinema Audio Society. Only Slumdog and Quantum of Solace were finalists for that award that sent screeners to the group. These are working people who don’t have as much time as others to go to screenings and depend on watching those screeners to determine their votes. Why TDK, Wall-E or Iron Man did not send screeners makes me wonder if they care.

  • 16 2-17-2009 at 8:37 am

    Brabs said...

    If they sweep I’m gonna blow my fucking brains out!