TECH SUPPORT: Best Sound Editing — Volume I

Posted by · 7:55 am · July 23rd, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the FallenZoom. Smash. Bang. Grunt. Zap. Splash. Screech.

A single sound effect can capture a character, emotion or setting. And creating such sounds is no easy task, requiring creativity, ingenuity and constant communication with the other filmmakers to best capture the feel of a film.

The manifestation of these aural components — as well as their integration into the overall soundtrack of the film — is recognized by the Academy with the award for Best Sound Editing.

I suspect we’ve seen at least two – very possibly three or even four – of this category’s eventual 2009 nominees already. (At this point last year, we had seen four of five!)  Blockbuster entertainment tends to rule the day.  Let’s take a look.

Though I doubt it will be able to win, given the failure of its predecessor to do so, I am pretty confident that massive box office, not the complex mechanics involved, will manage to bring “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” into the final five. Michael Bay’s films do well with the sound branch.

Also from the summer, another film I strongly expect to enter the fray is “Star Trek.” Against all odds, the film managed to be a very successful reboot to this franchise and sound effects were pivotal to its success. While the series has only been embraced by the category intermittently, if there is one category where I expect this film to score, this is it. The sound effects were impressive and with a wide range.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” has managed to garner excellent reviews and box office, even by the standards of the series. There can be no doubt that sound effects were integral in the creation of the characters, mood and scenes in the film. That said, it would be somewhat odd if the sixth film in the series was the first one to manage a nomination in the sound categories.

UpPixar has proven itself a safe bet in this category this decade with nominations for “Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” “Ratatouille” and “WALL-E,” as well as a win for “The Incredibles” (the only Pixar film to win a second Oscar to date). I’ll be the first to admit that I was quite surprised when “Cars” did not join this group, which leaves me less than convinced that “Up” will be able to join it, if only because the sound is not as integral as it has been to these films in the past. Even so, the popularity of the effort, and the likelihood of a Best Picture nomination, makes me think that “Up” remains a solid bet.

“Public Enemies,” on the other hand, is relying on a “Road to Perdition”-style respect for its fine crafts work to end up a contender. I’d say it is a possibility – Mann assembled a fine sound crew for this film – if hardly a sure thing.

“The Hurt Locker,” meanwhile, has already proven itself a massive critical success. The extent to which the Academy will embrace it remains to be seen. Nonetheless, should it be revived with critical citations come year’s end, this is, after Best Film Editing, Cinematography and Sound Mixing, one of the first spots I would expect a nomination.

Shortly arriving in theaters will be Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” The “Kill Bill” films never managed to find a home in the sound categories despite top-notch work. But for some reason I think this is a more likely possibility than those, if largely because the sound effects (war-focused) are more in line with what this category normally embraces. Even so, Tarantino is hardly typical AMPAS fare as of late.

“The Wolf Man” is one of my most anticipated films of the year.  I’m a huge fan of not only this character but also the casting of Benicio Del Toro and the crew that has been assembled. Sound work here will require creativity and will be pivotal in capturing the character. I’m hoping for the best.

An adaptation I personally find rather absurd in concept is “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” Even so, it cannot be denied that these sorts of sounds – war, planes, crashing Eiffel Towers – are the sort that the category embraces. Let’s see if the film is not terrible first.

2012Another film I am doubtful of is “2012,” Roland Emmerich’s umpteenth foray into the disaster genre. However, like “G.I. Joe,” the nature of the plot and the work is such that a nomination in this category must be considered.

If Paul Greengrass’s “Green Zone” makes it out this year, I would also consider it a contender. But the lack of a firm release date, as well as Universal also holding on to “Public Enemies,” makes me skeptical.

At the end of the day, however, the most likely film of those yet to premier to show its face in this race would be James Cameron’s “Avatar” (getting the Comic-Con tease this afternoon).  Particulars on the production is still quite elusive, but I suspect it will be technically dazzling (as Cameron always is) and the sci-fi nature of the film makes this seem like a natural fit.

Undoubtedly, however, some unexpected surprises could yet emerge. I certainly didn’t see “Slumdog Millionaire” or “Wanted” as likely nominees in this category at this point last year…and the latter had already opened!

→ 8 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Tech Support

8 responses so far

  • 1 7-23-2009 at 10:31 am

    brian said...

    It might be interesting to read why you expect to see nominations for some of these films more in depth than “sound effects were impressive and with a wide range.” What made them so impressive? I ask not to be a dick, but because I don’t know anything about sound.

  • 2 7-23-2009 at 12:12 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    the lovely bones and where the wild things are, especially the latter, hmm

  • 3 7-23-2009 at 12:13 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    shutter island as well

  • 4 7-23-2009 at 12:49 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Star Trek was done by Ben Burtt. Guaranteed a nod.

  • 5 7-23-2009 at 8:17 pm

    N8 said...

    “Star Trek” and “Transformers”, definitely. But I’m thinking Pixar will miss here. After the audio work of “WALL-E”, “Up” simply pales in comparisson.

    I think “The Hurt Locker” is a stronger contender than most make it out to be. The sound branch like to find room for at least one Best Picture nominee, and if “The Hurt Locker” does get nominated for Best Picture, I think it’s chances are better than any other Best Picture hopefuls (at this point in the year, at least).

  • 6 8-06-2009 at 12:00 pm

    Joel said...

    For Sound Mixing, I’d say The Hurt Locker, 9 (which nobody mentioned), Star Trek, Transformers, and 2012, with Transformers winning.

    For Sound Editing, I’d say Avatar, District 9, Public Enemies, Transformers, and 2012, with Transformers winning again.