Welcome to Last Cinema Standing’s Countdown to the Oscars, our daily look at this year’s Academy Awards race. Be sure to check back every day leading up to the ceremony for analysis of each of the Academy’s 24 categories and more.
Best Sound Editing
The nominees are:
La La Land
The two sound categories can be difficult for those unfamiliar with the nuts and bolts of filmmaking. I have covered the differences between sound editing and sound mixing in depth before. For that explanation, click here. Today, we are discussing Sound Editing, so briefly, when you here “sound editing,” think “sound effects.” This is the gunshots, the explosions, the footsteps, and the heartbeats. If you hear a noise other than an actor speaking dialogue, there is a good chance someone on the sound editing team was involved.
Since the category expanded to five nominees 10 years ago, there have been 11 winners, including a tie in 2012, and only one of those films could be classified as anything other than an action movie. On top of that, four of the winners have been war films. The Academy likes its sound effects big and booming, the more, the better. The last seven years, the award has gone to a Best Picture nominee, although in 2012, Best Picture-nominated Zero Dark Thirty tied with Skyfall.
So, this is easy then, right? We are looking for a critically acclaimed, Best Picture-nominated action-war film, and wouldn’t you know it, Hacksaw Ridge fits those criteria to a T. But wait, there is a monkey wrench in the works this year. We have discussed at length the overall popularity of La La Land within the Academy, but try this on for size: Before La La Land, no musical had ever been nominated – nominated! – in the Sound Editing category. This new wrinkle could create some suspense in a category that rarely features any.
Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright pulled double duty on this film as supervising sound editors and re-recording mixers, and both are nominated in both sound categories this year. It is an uncommon feat but not unheard of, and the double nominations represent both men’s first recognition by the Academy. Not being as well versed in Australian cinema as I perhaps should be, much of their career work has escaped me, but Hacksaw Ridge is a virtuosic achievement of sound editing.
Iatrou is a first-time nominee, while Lee, who also served as a re-recording mixer, is a first-timer joining Mackenzie and Wright as a double nominee in both sound categories. I have no standing or basis for suggesting their work on this film is anything less than awards worthy, but for a film that is essentially wall-to-wall music, I just don’t know how anyone can tell one way or the other. In any event, good on Lee and Iatrou for breaking through that musical barrier.
Supervising sound editor Sylvain Bellemare, a first-time nominee, is absolutely prolific. A quick glance at his IMDB page reveals more than 100 credits and more than 20 over just the past two years alone. I do not know Mr. Bellemare, but he does not seem to like having free time on his hands. In any event, his work on Arrival is admirable, but it is probably the least likely to win of the three Best Picture nominees cited here.
Supervising sound editor Wylie Stateman has been around forever. His first credit goes back to 1980, and he has picked up eight Oscar nominations along the way, his most recent coming for another Berg picture, Lone Survivor. Stateman has also been Quentin Tarantino’s sound editor of choice since the Kill Bill saga and picked up nominations for Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. This is co-nominee Renee Tondelli’s first recognition from the Academy, though she was the supervising dialogue and ADR editor on both Lone Survivor and Django Unchained.
The crafts are solid all around, and the sound editing is right at the head of the class, particularly during the film’s imagining of the infamous plane crash in the Hudson River. Supervising sound editors Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman have 15 nominations and four Oscars between them. They shared Academy Award wins for their work on two previous Eastwood projects, Letters from Iwo Jima and American Sniper. The nomination will probably have to be the win here, but at least someone is carrying the flag for Sully at the ceremony.
The final analysis
The clear, abiding popularity of La La Land notwithstanding, I won’t bet against the war film here. Even eventual Best Picture winner Birdman lost this category to American Sniper. The big Hollywood musical will take home many awards on Oscar night, including probably the Sound Mixing award, but it will not get this one. First, even in the years since the expansion of the top category, few Best Picture nominees have gone home empty-handed, and this is the most logical and likely place to reward Hacksaw Ridge. Second, historic as its Oscar presence is, I just do not see La La Land ending 50-plus years of musical futility here.
Will win: Hacksaw Ridge
Should win: Hacksaw Ridge
Should have been here: Moana
Tomorrow: Best Sound Mixing