TECH SUPPORT: Best Sound Mixing — Volume II

Posted by · 5:53 pm · November 12th, 2009

Sharlto Copely in District 9As a recap from the last time we covered this field, the category of Best Sound Mixing (formerly known as merely Best Sound) rewards re-recording mixers — individuals who mix music, dialogue, effects and everything else into the soundtrack we ultimately hear — as well as production sound mixer — those responsible for capturing the sounds on set as they are recorded.

As we’ve noted, LOUD films tend to be rewarded here. Blockbusters, either science-fiction or action-based, are also cited frequently. War films and musicals also tend to show up, especially when they are in contention in the Best Picture race.

Two big contenders are still unseen: Rob Marshall’s “Nine” is very likely to score here, given the branch’s love of musicals. Barring the film being a disaster, I just can’t see it missing.  Last year’s winner in the category, Richard Pryke, is on board.

The other big title that is still unseen is James Cameron’s “Avatar.” I’m still not sure how the film will ultimately perform. However, it cannot be denied that Cameron’s films have excelled here. I’m sure the film will have an interesting soundscape, and mixing legends Gary Summers and Andy Nelson are on board.

A May film still likely headed to a Best Picture nomination is Pixar’s “Up.” Three of the studio’s last four films were cited by this branch. However, the film isn’t as memorable for its aural qualities as “The Incredibles,” “WALL-E” or even “Ratatouille.” But Pixar favorites Michael Semanick and Tom Myers have nevertheless done quite well here in the past, so a nomination is certainly very possible.

Also released in May to immense critical acclaim was J. J. Abrams’ “Star Trek.” I still maintain that the film has an easier road toward a Best Sound Effects nomination, but mixing giants Andy Nelson and Anna Behlmer will ensure this film at least gets considered here.

The Hurt LockerThough not nearly as big a hit, Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” is looking increasingly likely as a Best Picture nominee. As it is also a war film, it is a definite contender in this category. That said, despite the war setting, it is much more modest than typical nominees from the genre.  Former Oscar nominees Paul Ottosson (“Spider-Man 2″) and former BAFTA nominee Ray Beckett (“A Room with a View”) are on board.

At the other end of critical opinion, but also the other end of box office, is Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” Greg P. Russell has been nominated in seven of the previous nine years this decade, adding to his list of 12 nominations without a win. Such respect, combined with sharing the credit with four-time winner Gary Summers, not to mention the film’s fiscal success, will likely result in a nomination.

I very much doubt that Russell’s former partner, Kevin O’Connell (of infamous 20-nods-without-a-win notoriety) will be able to enter into the race for Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies.” While I used to think that Mann’s reputation and O’Connell’s name could overcome the film’s failure to click, it seems to be pretty much forgotten, as far as I can tell.

Throughout the year, I have been skeptical about Roland Emmerich’s “2012.” The reviews are very much what I expected, and I doubt the film will be viewed as original enough, or a big enough hit to overcome that. Eleven-time nominee Rick Kline is on board the sound crew – and he’s yet to win a statuette.  I wouldn’t completely rule this out.

I mentioned “Inglourious Basterds” here in Auguest and I still feel a nomination for the crew, led by three-time Oscar-winner Michael Minkler, is very possible. The film was well-reviewed, is set in war-time and has lots of explosions and gunfire. There is the issue that the “Kill Bill” films were egregiously snubbed here. However, this effort, while not typical Oscar fodder, was certainly moreso than the “Kill Bill” efforts. Then again, that’s not saying much.

Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock HolmesI also continue to believe Neil Blomkamp’s “District 9” may very well find a home in many categories, with this being one of the most likely. Veteran Oscar winner Michael Hedges is on board, which only leads me to be more confident in the film’s chances. Hedges will also be contributing to Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones” this year.

There is one film that I feel, should it prove a success, could score here, even though I didn’t mention it last time. I’m speaking of Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes,” which obviously is taking a more high concept, action angle with the traditionally low key material. The film’s success is still very much in doubt, and production sound mixer Chris Munro is the only member of the crew to have tasted Oscar success before.

It’s hard to believe we’re just a few weeks away from precursors rolling in, no? The group of contenders appears to be coming together. All this having been said, last year’s eventual winner in the field – “Slumdog Millionaire” – wasn’t being considered heavily here.  Things can change in an instant.

What are your thoughts on the sound mixing filed this year?  Have your say in the comments section below!

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13 responses so far

  • 1 11-12-2009 at 6:07 pm

    N8 said...

    “While I used to think that Mann’s reputation and O’Connell’s name could overcome the film’s failure to click,…”

    I don’t think most Academy members even know O’Connell’s name, otherwise he’d have won something by now.

  • 2 11-12-2009 at 6:39 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    N8: The sound mixers certainly do, and they’re the ones who nominate. So Gerard’s point is quite sound (no pun intended).

  • 3 11-12-2009 at 6:40 pm

    aspect ratio said...

    Even though The Hurt Locker is a likely BP nominee, and a war film to boot, I personally didn’t find it to be THAT intensely aural like most war films tend to be with bullets whirring and explosions. I can easily see it miss out in the sound categories because it’s really not on the sonic level of for example Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan.

    Right now I’m gonna say Avatar, Transformers, Nine, Up and Star Trek will be the five nominees.

  • 4 11-12-2009 at 6:59 pm

    JJ (formerly John) said...

    Avatar, Nine, Star Trek. 2 other slots …

    Up? Is it that deserving?
    Ditto Transformers (such NOISE).
    District 9? I see that more of sound editing
    Hurt Locker (wasn’t overly impressed).
    2012 – No.

  • 5 11-12-2009 at 7:37 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    im thinking lovely bones is being underestimated here, district 9 has a good shot, up just has to, inglorious as well, and avatar will eventually win i feel

  • 6 11-12-2009 at 8:36 pm

    N8 said...

    Kris: Touche. But that’s why I said “most” Academy members wouldn’t know his name, and I think it’s reasonable to assume that the Academy in general wouldn’t be able to tell the guy apart from the hundreds of other sound artists in the biz (a frustrating thought for those of us who can).

    Now that I think of it more carefully, I could see “Public Enemies” still getting nominated here, simply on the basis that this branch has produced some very unpredictable nominees in recent years, regardless of how memorable the film was.

  • 7 11-12-2009 at 8:55 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Early on I thought Enemies had a shot, a la Scott Milan/Road to Perdition, etc., but the mix was awful (because Mann is damn near deaf as it is).

  • 8 11-13-2009 at 12:22 am

    Ali E. said...

    this looks like the most probable list to me:

    The Hurt Locker
    Star Trek
    Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen

    but I don’t know how District 9 would miss it too. It definitely deserves to be there. I don’t know which film could it replace from that list, but I hope it will get in instead of Transformers…

  • 9 11-13-2009 at 12:41 am

    It's Political said...

    This is a political category that usually goes the way of the big studio films (just by voting numbers and “block” voters who go for big studio films or musicals).

    That means as good as Hurt Locker is in other categories, it is likely going to be nixed on sound.

    Star Trek
    A Serious Man (or alt. Inglorious Basterds)

  • 10 11-13-2009 at 5:19 am

    aspect ratio said...

    (Snark alert)

    “because Mann is damn near deaf as it is”

    Mann must be going blind too the way that Public Enemies looked. I hope someone buys him a new camera for Christmas so he can retire his circa-1999 consumer digital camera. Not that the movie would’ve been great just by having been shot properly, but I feel genuinely bad for all parties involved who went to all that trouble of making a period piece (art direction, costumes, etc.) and have it be butchered by being shot on what looks like a cheap digital camera.

    Even I have used a Red One on a project, a professional digital camera that offers all the luxury of the digital format with the film-like high quality of celluloid. Apparently Mann has never heard of it, or he simply loves having his movies look like eyesores these days..

  • 11 11-13-2009 at 1:14 pm

    Peter said...

    Good for It’s Political for mentioning A Serious Man in this category. I’m definitely biased toward this film, nonetheless, I like the idea of Sound Mixing thought of as Best Sound rather than Most Sound.

  • 12 11-16-2009 at 10:26 pm

    Linda said...

    I can say Harry Potter and the Half_blood Prince has a pretty decent Sound Mixing especially the 1st 30 minutes of the film and the scene at the cave….

    I wonder who’s the sound mixer though