a theatre, film & pop culture review
As most sound effects are created in the studio in order to enhance a film, it’s slightly bizarre to think that Tron: Legacy won’t win, given that Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague invented an entirely new aural realm for the film’s video game universe. Sure, it’s ’80s cheesetastic, but it’s exactly what the film requires. The Academy, however, favors more realistic sounds, preferably from big, action-packed summer blockbusters, and thus Inception most nicely fits the bill. One of the most impressive aspects of this visual stunner of a film is actually its amalgamation of sound by director Christopher Nolan’s go-to sound effects guru, Richard King. Frenzied fisticuffs, wildly screeching tires, unhinged locomotives…you name it, King traveled the world to collect and create it. It’s time he also collected his third Oscar (after The Dark Knight and Master and Commander).
Toy Story 3 is book-ended by spiffy action sequences that incorporate the expertise of sound designers Tom Myers and Michael Silvers, but Pixar’s history in this category is not a good one, having only won once before despite repeated nominations. Unstoppable on the other hand is nothing but sound. In addition to the constant “tense” musical scoring, Mark P. Stoeckinger crams the film full of tires screeching, trains chugging, whistles blowing, gravel crunching, glass shattering, and so much more it’s impossible to list it all. It’s actually quite impressive, as the sound is what drives the otherwise uninteresting film, constantly raising the stakes and pushing the action forward. Unfortunately, Unstoppable is on sound-overload, and at some point it just comes across as noise. Thinking of True Grit, it’s hard to recall sound specifics, and while that could be a good thing for a Coen Brothers Western (demonstrating cohesiveness rather than the ostentatious like its co-nominee, Unstoppable), Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey’s nomination seems to be a bit of a head-scratcher. And we all know that Aronofsky’s Black Swan wouldn’t be nearly effective without the creepy, tension-fueled, paranoid sounds (wings flapping, anyone?) created by Craig Henighan.