The Oscar Project
Today I’m looking at the films nominated in the Best Sound category. This is a combination of what used to be two categories, Best Sound Design (the selection of sounds that go into the film from various sources) and Best Sound Editing (the mixing and balancing of those sounds to ensure they feel natural as part of the film). There is a great article from last month on the Antares Tech website titled What’s the Difference Between Sound Design and Sound Editing? that I urge everyone to check out to help understand this difference.
That said, as of two years ago, the category was combined into one that covers both the sound design and sound editing aspects of film. The list of nominees is nearly the same as what I covered yesterday for Best Visual Effects.
All Quiet on the Western Front
There are five names nominated for this film, Viktor Prášil, Frank Kruse, Markus Stemler, Lars Ginzel, and Stefan Korte, and all of them are first time nominees. As with yesterday’s post, I have to compare this film to past war epics Saving Private Ryan and 1917. Both films won their year, with Private Ryan taking home both the Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing categories. 1917 only won for Best Sound Mixing, but was also nominated for Best Sound Editing. Interestingly, Stuart Wilson was one of the winners for that award, and he is nominated again this year for The Batman below.
Regarding the film itself, I think the sound is one of the most important elements in this film, as with many war films. There is such a range of sound in a good war film, from the explosions and small arms fire of the battlefield to the crackling of a fire on a cold night behind the line as soldiers prepare for battle. I never expressly noticed the sound design in this film, which tells me that it did the job perfectly. The loud portions were appropriately loud, and the softer moments were quiet enough to allow the viewer (and the characters) a moment to ponder everything else going on around them.
Avatar: The Way of Water
Unfortunately, I still haven’t had a chance to see this film, which puts me at a disadvantage for comparing it to the other four in the category. Based on the names attached to the nomination for this film (Julian Howarth, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Dick Bernstein, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, and Michael Hedges) I have to give it a strong chance to take home the prize here. Howarth and Bernstein are first time nominees, but the other four all have at least one win under their belt, with the exception of Whittle. Several of those wins came from previous Cameron projects including Titanic and Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
If this film is anything close to the original in terms of sound, there is plenty of balancing between the natural world of the Na’vi and the technological world of the humans. Add in the complexity of sound under water, and I’m sure this group had plenty of challenges to overcome.
As I mentioned above, Stuart Wilson has been previous nominated in this category, including for three Star Wars films (The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and The Last Jedi) and most recently winning the Oscar for 1917. His shares the nomination with first time nominees William Files and Douglas Murray as well as Andy Nelson, a 21-time nominee and 2-time winner.
Looking at the franchise history, Batman Forever received nominations for both sound categories in 1995 while The Dark Knight won for Best Sound Editing in 2008. Other nominated superhero movies include Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, Iron Man, Black Panther, Joker, and the only other winner I was able to find, The Incredibles. This doesn’t bode well for this film winning the award, though I have to say that one of the more positive aspects of this film for me was the sound design and editing. I have been famously lukewarm on The Batman as a whole, but absolutely loved the soundscape these creators put together for the film. One other potential knock against it this year is that Nelson is also up for our next film.
Again, a film I haven’t yet had the chance to see, but the latest in a series of Tom Hanks films I will be adding to my watched films in 2023 very soon (after A Man Called Otto and Bachelor Party for my 52-week movie challenge). As noted above, multiple nominee and winner Andy Nelson is among the group of nominees for this film which also includes multiple nominee David Lee (with a win for The Matrix), and first-time nominees Wayne Pashley and Michael Keller.
This film is the outlier in terms of what goes into the sound mix, focusing more on the blend of Elvis’s great music into the overall soundscape, combined with crowds and everything else going on. I’m not sure if that can compete with the big action films in the category, however, you only have to look back two years to see Sound of Metal winning this category for a non-action film, and back in 2018, the musically focused Bohemian Rhapsody won both sound categories over films like the original Black Panther and First Man.
Top Gun: Maverick
Finally, the individuals nominated for Top Gun: Maverick (Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon, and Mark Taylor) don’t have much experience at the Oscars, but do have several nominations and one win for Weingarten’s work on 1917.
The obvious focus of this film has been on the visuals, and the stunning effects and cinematography of the aerial scenes, but the sound deserves some attention as well. There are plenty of times in this film where the sound is brought down and allowed to be quiet, and that makes the louder, more frantic moments even more impactful. Unfortunately, I don’t think this group will win the award, but it could some as a surprise spoiler.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?